While recipes vary throughout the Middle East depending on region and availability, za’atar is a citrusy, herbal, and woodsy spice blend that takes dishes in many delicious directions. Za’atar translated from Arabic refers to a collection of herbs: marjoram, oregano, and thyme, but has come to mean the entire blend of sesame seed, sumac, and the spices. The blend, a staple in the Middle East for centuries is found on Manesh, which is a flatbread with a thick topping of za’atar widely consumed for breakfast in the region. Most Middle Eastern grocery stores carry this herb mixture, however, the quality of za’atar varies widely.
If you are unfamiliar with it, Sumac is the ground berry from the Sicilian sumac plant, Rhus coriaria with a deep red color and delightfully tart and tannic taste.
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