Zhatar's Herby Deliciousness

A few weeks ago, I picked up a little book that I have come to adore, A Handful Of Herbs. It’s tiny and really only has a handful of recipes and gardening tips… but the recipes are good, the tips are fun, and the photos, of course, are gorgeous. I have come to love to leaf through its mere 120 some-odd pages. The first recipe that caught my eye was one for something called zhatar. It is a Persian spice mixture that I had never heard of that mixes thyme with sesame seeds and salt to make a dry rub that is often sprinkled on hard boiled eggs. It sounded intriguing, and I made a little note to myself to come back an try it. Imagine my surprise when a project that I am working on for a client (the thing that has kept me so busy, I haven’t had a chance to blog) included a recipe that included zhatar!

The recipe for zhatar (sometimes zaatar, sometimes za’atar) seems to vary by region, but usually includes the combination of thyme and sesame with ground sumac. The dish that I was preparing for my client also introduced ground pistachios into the mix. Yum! It may not be traditional, but I highly recommend it. I also like throwing some red chile flakes into the mix for a little kick.

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You can use the zhatar on eggs, like I did with these poached eggs over hashed fingerling potatoes. But, it’s also fantastic on yogurt with a little lemon and olive oil mixed in, or sprinkled on top of hummus.

By the way, I received a fantastic treat in the mail today! The first issue of Edible Seattle. This is a magazine that I’d be excited about regardless, but it is all the more fun because it is packed with my photos (including the cover shot!) and an article I wrote last fall on Maria Hines of Tilth. The magazine should start showing up on shelves soon!

200804161833In The Kitchen Maria Hines0078

Lara’s Zhatar
I’m foregoing spoon measurements here… just add the ingredients in about equal parts.

1 part pistachios
1 part thyme leaves, fresh or dried
1 part turkish oregano (optional)
1 part sesame seeds
1 part red chile flakes (optional)
salt to taste

Grind the pistachios in a spice grinder until you have course crumbs. Mix with the remaining ingredients. Sprinkle on stuff.

This mixture should keep for at least 1 week in a sealed plastic bag.

  • http://www.mattikaarts.com/blog matt wright

    Ohh, great looking photos, and a spice blend that I have never used, let alone even heard of! Sounds like a great little book too. I don’t have much of an idea on growing herbs, so it could be useful. Somehow my rosemary plant survives despite of me, but that is about it!

    Great news about Edible Seattle. The two photos you show here look awesome. That has gotta be pretty exciting for you. “lara – the magazine” as it should be called.

  • http://kalynskitchen.blogspot.com Kalyn

    I really love Zaatar, one of my favorite Salt Lake restaurants has it on the table. Never thought of using it on boiled eggs though. Great photos as always!

  • http://www.mangopowergirl.com Mango Power Girl

    Zhatar, I’ll have to try, but I am dying to get my hands on Edible Seattle :) Gorgeous shots and I want to know what was involved in that shoot where the cows are grazing in a perfect field with the mountains in the back – I bet you had fun! Congrats on the first issue and looking forward to seeing more of your local work.

  • http://www.cannelle-vanille.blogspot.com Aran

    Gorgeous, gorgeous photos as always!

  • http://www.onfoodandwine.com andreea

    like the sound of this herb mix. althouhg i have no idea what sumac is :) (probably it has another name around here)
    congratulations on the magazine. gorgeous photos.

  • http://caseyellis.blogspot.com Casey

    Nigella Lawson has a recipe for za’atar chicken with a tomato/cucumber/pita salad that’s sensational. I think the recipe’s on line somewhere. Worth seeking out.

  • http://dublab.wordpress.com dlab

    @ andreea,

    Sumac is a berry that I had never heard about until I ate some at a Persian restaurant. They keep a shaker full of ground sumac on the table. My friend Mohammed’s dad had me sprinkle it on my kabobs (he calls it “Iranian A1″). It is sort of brownish-purple in color and tastes great… my only issue with it is I am reluctant to use it with fish or chicken (even though it tastes great on those) since it’s got a tendency to bleed purple…

  • http://familyfriendsandfood.blogspot.com patsyk

    Zaatar sounds interesting, I’ll have to give it a try sometime. Sumac may require some searching though… did you have to go searching for that spice before you made it?

    Fantastic pictures! Congratulations on the magazine as well! How exciting!

  • http://cookingallday.wordpress.com Jesper

    Za’atar is great for drizzling on various Syrian and Lebanese dishes or as they do in Damascus mix it oil and spread on a flat bread before baking on high temp. In the Damascus souk the spice is found everywhere in big, neatly arranged triangular piles that look really amazing.

  • http://www.salistudio.com Natasha

    Love Za’atar have a jar of fresh herb from the mountens near Jerusalem.
    Lovely with fish and olive oil.

  • http://vegeyum.wordpress.com Vegeyum Ganga

    I love zahtar and dukkah, and use them both a lot. I like your recipe.

    Both mixes have so many uses. You can see my version here.

  • http://www.naturalcuisine.blogspot.com Lore

    I’m all for a mix that includes sesame seeds and pistachios, Zhatar sound great!

  • http://www.andreasrecipes.com Andrea

    I love za’atar on flatbread! Used to get it at little take away places in Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia. The flatbread was fresh out of the oven with the za’atar and olive oil mixture on top. Yum! I’ve seen za’atar mix at some international grocery stores.

  • http://closetcooking.blogspot.com/ Kevin

    Zhatar sounds tasty. Nice photos!

  • http://desertcandy.blogspot.com Mercedes

    Za’atar is a Levantine mixture not Persian. It does not traditionally contain pistachios. Za’atar is made from a special kind of wild thyme that grows only in the mountainous regions of Lebanon and Syria. The herb is then mixed with sesame seeds and salt, sumac is sometimes added, often in a Jordanian blend. Try reading up on za’atar in Claudia Roden or Paula Wolfert’s work.
    What you describe must be an unusual Persian spin on a Levantine mixture, it certainly sounds delicious, but maybe you should amend the title to “Persian Za’atar” to make it more accurate.

  • http://www.cookandeat.com/ L

    Mercedes – you are right… my recipe is definitely my own spin on the mix, and not a traditional recipe, hence I called it “Lara’s Zhatar.” And, thanks for the recommendations on where to read more (I have the Roden book, but for some reason didn’t think to look there!).

    On an unrelated note, I found another reference in the April Body & Soul magazine to zhatar.

    -L

  • http://www.helengraves.co.uk Helen

    Zhatar is one of those things I’ve been meaning to try for ages but I just haven’t got round to yet. I love the idea of eating it on eggs.

  • http://swirlandscramble.blogspot.com MariannaF

    Hmm this looks great. I’ve never seen pistachio in zaatar before though. I’ve seen green + brown zaatars (the brown one I posted about here: http://swirlandscramble.blogspot.com/2008/02/little-bit-of-this-and-little-bit-of.html). In Syria there is a popular belief that if you eat zaatar it makes you smarter, they used to feed it a lot to students before exams!

  • http://www.figandcherry.com Christie @ fig&cherry

    I agree with Mercedes, I don’t think it’s traditional to put pistachios in the mix. My father is Lebanese and the best way to eat it is for breakfast mixed with olive oil – then you roll up little bits of Lebanese pita bread and dip in. We often eat it this way accompanied with fresh halloumi cheese. Delicious.

  • http://www.cannelle-vanille.blogspot.com Aran

    Hi Lara! I love your photos so much… the clean, bright compostiong… gorgeous! I saw zhatar a few days ago at a specialty store and I didn’t know what it was so now I know!

  • http://steamovencooking.wordpress.com Tenina

    Hi Lara, Love your site, happened across it from someone elses…as you do.
    Lovely food and inspiring pics…something I still need to work on! I agree with you about the photo thing…must have for drool factor!
    Blogrolling you!

  • http://dolce.swaymyway.com Eunice

    I have no idea how I chanced upon this website, you are wonderful! These look GREAT and succulent. 😀 Mouthwatering!

  • http://www.almostvegetarian.com almost vegetarian

    I keep tripping across recipes for za’atar and tripping across recipes for za’atar, but I have never gotten around to making it.

    But I look at those gorgeous pictures and I think, it’s time.

    Thanks for the nudge.

    Cheers!

  • http://www.mangopowergirl.com Mango Power Girl

    Lara – Your work in Edible Seattle looks EXCELLENT! Lovely photos as usual and I really enjoyed reading about Maria. Love the overall content, too … I could not put it down once I started reading … I hope I can contribute to it some day :)

  • http://www.mangopowergirl.com Mango Power Girl

    Lara – Your work in Edible Seattle looks EXCELLENT! Lovely photos as usual and I really enjoyed reading about Maria. Love the overall content, too … I could not put it down once I started reading … I hope I can contribute to it some day :)

  • http://www.mangopowergirl.com Mango Power Girl

    Lara – Your work in Edible Seattle looks EXCELLENT! Lovely photos as usual and I really enjoyed reading about Maria. Love the overall content, too … I could not put it down once I started reading … I hope I can contribute to it some day :)

  • middy

    yum yum
    za’ater… although isnt a delicacy from my own country..but having lived most of my life in the middle east esp in saudi.. i happen to know about all these herbs and other arabic dishes.. so when i say try it,,,i know what i am talking about :)

    just a little way that we eat it..

    za’atar
    pour evoo (extra virgin olive oil)over it
    and then with pita or such bread
    and any soft cheese like puck,kiri,philidelphia a cube

    eat this cheese and bread with now “za’atar oil” and enjoy the taste of arabian delights

    happy cooking :))))

  • Jenet

    I’ve also grown up eating this and it is delicious! Mix za’atar with EVOO and spread on pita bread. Then, toast the bread … it’s delicious warm! Enjoy… and by the way, if you do mix with EVOO it will last for a few weeks on your counter, at room temperature…not in the fridge.