Za’atar is a fragrant and delicious spice mixture popular throughout the Mediterranean region of the Middle East. My version of za’atar for the Spring Rollover Menu contains pistachios, which add a distinct nuttiness to the finished blend. I also love the slight crunch that they add, since I love when toppings not only add flavour — but texture too!
The base ingredient of tradition za’atar is sumac, a spice that comes from the berries of a wild shrub, which grows wild in the Mediterranean (and here in North America too!). Notably, sumac grows in Iran and therefore is an essential ingredient in Arabic cooking that lends a lemony-like sourness and astringency to any dish. When the berry is dried and ground to powder, it has a tart, sour, lemon-y taste that is delicious sprinkled on so many things. This is how you will see it in stores, in its ground form with a deep reddish brown colour. You can purchase sumac at most Middle Eastern grocers, spice shops, and of course online.
Aside from just being a zippy addition to foods, sumac has many delightful health benefits. For example, the deep pigments found in the berries are attriibuted to the high concentration of anthocyanins! Anthocyanins help to decrease the risk of heart disease and cancer. They may also aid in the prevention of macular degeneration by protecting the eyes from free radical damage, increasing circulation and stabilizing collagen structures (which hold tissues together). You can also find anthocyanins in deeply-pigmented foods such as blackberries, blueberries, black rice, grapes, and açaí.
Once made, this keeps for about a month in an airtight glass container. Try sprinkling it on salads, grain bowls, and avocado toast!
- In a dry skillet over medium heat, toast sesame seeds until fragrant. Remove from heat and place in a jar.
- Place remaining ingredients in the jar and give it a good shake. Store in a cool, dark place for up to one month. Say thank you and enjoy!