These mix of spices is well known in Middle East, and parts of Turkey that is close to Middle East. Its name literally means “thyme” and thyme has the most dominant smell among many ingredients mixed.
Amon many uses of this mix, the one I am used to goes like that: take a piece of bread, dip it into olive oil and later dip into za’atar. In my childhood memories, we had za’atar on every breakfast table. It seems like in those days the only worry we had was to decide between the choice of olive oils to dip in; the green olives in lemon squeezed olive oil or the one in the black olive cup.
You can see some other recipes calling for za’atar every now and then. Nigella Lawson, in her â€œForever Summerâ€, uses it in two different ways; sprinkling over olive oil drizzled pita bread or as a chicken coating. Both ways create a delicious result. Every Middle Eastern knows that..
This za’atar recipe is just to give you an idea of what goes in there (at least the way I know) and what the suggested proportions are. Once you start tasting it, you would know what to add into the mix and develop your own za-atar to enjoy. Below you see two versions in our kitchen: the one on the left is what I have made, the other one is made by my aunt. Both taste similar but very different in color. My only explanation for this is the color of watermelon seeds used.
- 2.5 oz (~75 gr) roasted chickpeas (available in Middle Eastern stores)
- 2 oz (~ 50 gr) watermelon seeds (again from Middle Eastern stores or your own watermelons. If not, you can omit this)
- 2 oz ( ~ 50 gr) unsalted roasted peanuts
- 4 Tbs thyme
- 1 tsp sesame seeds
- 2 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp red pepper flakes (or less!)
- 2 Tbs sumac
All you have to do is to mix these ingredients in a food processor and voila! If using the watermelon seeds, make sure to grind them well. You can also run the mix through a strainer if it comes to that. If you like, spoon in a tablespoon of sesame seeds and mix with a spoon—looks nicer :) Keeps in a dry, air tight container a long time.