Friday, October 10, 2014
Every morning I sit down at the breakfast table and inhale the aroma of my food for a moment before I begin eating. The fragrance is nutty and exotic. I close my eyes and hear the muffled murmur of the lunch crowd at Layla’s, where I first tasted za’atar on soft flat bread drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with herbs and seeds. Thyme, oregano, marjoram, sesame seeds, sumac, salt—za’atar comes in many combinations, depending on the country, the region, and even the household. It is the flavor of the Levant and Arabia, and of Northern Africa. It has been a staple in the Eastern and Southern Mediterranean since at least medieval times. Traditionally dried in the sun, the mixture is then spread on dough and baked as bread, or used as a seasoning for meat and vegetables, or sprinkled onto hummus and yogurt or labneh.
I enjoy it every morning sprinkled on top of Greek yogurt swirled with olive oil. I dip in cherry tomatoes and pita and … . Heaven.
You can buy the mixture already made at Middle Eastern and Indian markets or try making it yourself.