Manakeesh menus are notorious for containing a special ingredient called “za’atar”. Za’atar is a blend of spices that are especially coveted and commonly used in a Middle Eastern restaurant. This mix typically contains dried herbs (like marjoram or thyme), dried sumac, and sesame seeds. Some, like our recipe, add extra goodness to the mix.
The Rich History of Za’atar
Za’atar goes back to Biblical times and even beyond to Ancient Egyptian roots. The work “za’atar” means “wild oregano”. In the Bible, it was referred to as “ezoy”. The Hebrew origin of the word is “hyssop”.
Za’atar is traditionally for the body, mind, and for the spirit. It is tied into many religions and in meditation as well. The ingredients within the blend are said to hold medicinal, sometimes even magical, powers. It is appreciated not only for its spicy taste, but for the fact that it is believed by many to heal everything from a headache to diseases.
There are a number of manakeesh menu items that uses za’atar. It is used as a rub for fish, lamb, beef, chicken and can even be sprinkled over hummus, baba ganoush, or Labnch. Za’atar is delicious when used as a main ingredient in a flavorful marinade. Here is the perfect way to make the spice blend:
Only use very fresh ingredients or the result will not be as delicious. Middle Easterners are careful to use only the best spices and other ingredients which means they are always fresh.
Buying your ingredients in a Lebanese bakery or from a manakish catering service or ethnic food shop is imperative to assure the genuine taste. You wouldn’t expect cheap hamburger meat to taste like an angus steak, so you cannot expect cheap imitation brands to taste life authentic ones.
Add a Dash of Love
Ask any Lebanese bakery or manakeesh restaurant and they will tell you, the best za’atar is made with love, in respect to the traditions of old that have been passed down through the ages.
The ULTIMATE Za’atar Recipe
- 1 Tablespoon crushed dried thyme (or, you can use oregano instead)
- 1 Tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 Tablespoon coriander, ground
- 1 Tablespoon or more of toasted sesame seeds
- 1 Tablespoon sumac
- ½ teaspoon of coarse Kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon or more of aleppo chili flakes if desired
Mix all of the above ingredients together in a small bowl. Store in an airtight container, preferable glass. Use when desired and keep out of the sunlight or extreme heat or cold, if possible.
Keep the Tradition
It’s important to respect the countries from which this fine combination of flavors comes from. You can use it with love on your favorite dishes, give it as gifts for birthdays or other occasions, or keep it all to yourself. The choice is yours as long as you honor from wince this Za’atar came from and the many years it took to perfect it from the Middle Eastern culture all the way to your own kitchen.
Visit Al-deewan Bakery for the best Lebanese food Toronto.