8 March 2008

Zataar or Za'atar or Zahtar or Dukka or Duqqa - 3 Recipes

Kalyn of Kalyn's Kitchen is the talented founder of the Weekend Herb Blogging event each week. She is in her third year of this event. Over two years of fabulous recipes submitted by talented bloggers all over the world using a myriad of herbs. What more could we ask for!!! I am submitting these recipes to Anna from Morsels & Musings who is hosting this weeks event.

The seasons in Canada are varied with cold winters and hot summers. It also varies from one end of the country to another. Here in Western Canada I am headed to the local greenhouse this morning to pick up some pansies for my flower pots...I sat outside on my deck late yesterday afternoon. My parents, however, in Eastern Canada just shovelled out yet more snow from the latest snowstorm with no end in sight. They say Wiarton Willy needs to be fired!!!! But... this is Canada with all it's variations.

Just like the seasons and geographic differences of Canada the spice blend za'atar is a mesh of contrasts and underlying mystery as well. I have a jar of Za'atar in my spice cupboard which I usually mix with our local goat cheese to spread on crostini or crackers. This is all I had for supper last night while having a few fleeting moments before I headed off to work again. Za'atar, aka duqqa (doo-khah), is a Middle Eastern mixture of ground seeds and nuts with a variety of uses. The commercial za'atar will last forever while my homemade will last only a few months. I found the za'atar at one our local wineries and eventually became curious on how to prepare this spice blend myself. During my research throughout the net I was overwhelmed with the variety of spice blends that fall under the category za'atar. These mix of spices is well known in the Middle East and parts of Turkey. It's name literally means "thyme" and thyme has the most dominant fragrance of the ingredients used.

Aglaia Kremezi, winning cookbook author and journalist says, "The Lebanese believe that za'atar gives strength and clears the mind. For this reason before leaving home on exam days, all school children eat a slice of bread spread with a mixture of za'atar and olive oil. The traditional recipe for za'atar calls for thyme, but savory, which has a aroma similar to a combination of oregano and thyme, works much better." I think I need a liberal dose of za'atar every morning!!!!!!

I discovered that:

1) Za'atar is an herb, Thymbra spicata, which has a slight minty flavour. Some are salty flavoured and quite rare and some are lemony.

2) The term also refers to a family of various local herbs such as hyssop, marjoram, oregano and thyme.

3) It is also the name for the commercial blends which will often contain three kinds of za'atar. The herb blend Za'atar is prepared from dried thyme or hyssop and mixed with toasted sesame seeds, and salt. Other herb combinations for green za'atar may include savory, oregano, cumin, or fennel seed. Red za'atar has sumac added to the mix.

Try dipping pieces of baguette or country bread into good olive oil and then into za'atar, or, as a spread mixed with some hummus or smashed chickpeas for pita or naan. It is used to flavour meats and vegetables, or mixed with olive oil and used as a marinade for olives. The taste of za'atar can be tangy, herbal, nutty or toasty depending on the blend of herbs and nuts used. The combination is endless I am sure because as it is with many things there are as many variations as there are cooks. Here I offer 3 variations depending on what you have on hand. I have tried all 3 and don't really have a preference :D


(from Ace Bakery)

1 cup (240 mL) chopped hazelnuts
¾ cup (180 mL) white sesame seeds
½ cup (120 mL) poppy seeds
10 white peppercorns
¼ cup (60 mL) cumin seeds
½ cup (120 mL) coriander seeds

Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Mix all the ingredients on a baking sheet and roast for about 5 minutes or until the seeds look golden. Remove from the oven and let cool. Spoon the mixture into a resealable plastic bag. Close the bag and, using a rolling pin, roughly crush the seeds and nuts, taking care not to reduce them to paste. This should take about 1 to 2 minutes. Alternatively, use a mortar and pestle. Zataar will last 1 month if stored in a tightly sealed container.
Makes 2 cups (474 mL)


(from Aglaia Kremezi)

1/2 cup excellent-quality mediterranean savoryor thyme
1/4 cup sumaq
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons sesame seeds

Grind the savory, sumac, salt and sesame seed in a spice grinder or clean coffee grinder until you obtain a fine powder.

(from Redacted Recipes)

2 teaspoon oregano
2 teaspoon dried basil
2 tablespoons ground thyme
1 teaspoon whole thyme
2 teaspoon savoury
2 teaspoon ground marjoram
1/2 teaspoon whole dry marjoram
1-2 tablespoon ground sumac berries
1/4-1/2 cup unhulled, toasted sesame seeds, ground coarsely
1- 1/2 teaspoons salt (or to taste)
1 tablespoon dried ground lemon peel or zest of two lemons, very finely minced

First grind the sesame seeds then crush everything together with a pestle.

Green zahtar variation: Omit sumac and replace with ground and whole thyme or marjoram, fenugreek leaf (exotic flavor) or dried parsley.

You are reading this post on More Than Burnt Toast at http://morethanburnttoast.blogspot.com. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author/owner of More Than Burnt Toast. All rights reserved by Valerie Harrison.
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  1. Val, timely post...I'm playing around w/ Zataar too.

    Did you see Ricardo recently make Dukka?

  2. I didn't see that part of an episode Peter. I imagine he has a lovely version of the za'atar as well....so many choices...good thing they are all excellent!!

  3. Very interesting post, Val. I am intrigued by za'atar, zataar and zahtar!

  4. Very interesting post, Val. I am intrigued by zataar, za'atar and zahtar!

  5. Call it whatever you want, I think it very delicious. I too have tried a number of versions. I like it with lamb.

  6. Neat - I didn't know za'atar could vary so much in its ingredients. I recently made some za'atar (you can see it here).

    Peter - I saw Ricardo make Dukka. It looked really good.

  7. Wow, very interesting, never heard of anything like this :) Sounds delicious, Margot

  8. Sounds good to me! It should be made mandatory!

  9. I don't know that I've had Zataar before, but the research you did has me thinking. I have been doing up a few spice blends myself and can tell it can get to be quite interesting. Great idea! And cheers to your nice weather. I have family & friends on the East Coast of the US and they're really getting some rotten weather.

  10. Sigh.. yet another foodie thing I've never heard of!

    Hey, I'm a happy camper now that your site loads more quickly with the foodie blogroll thingie fixed!

  11. This look delicious Valli!!! xxxGloria

  12. I've had Zataar in restaurants here,but I had no idea that it was merely the name for a blend that included sesame seeds, and that the ingredients could vary. I guess I thought it always had just sumac, thyme and sesame seeds. Great post and very informative.

  13. This is a new one to me.

  14. I can't say that I ever had this, but I would love to try it, I love all herbs ( except not that crazy about taragon, sorry)And btw Val, its wonderful how fast your blog loads! YAY

  15. Yes, Jenn and her soon to be husband have been working non stop to reorganize the Foodie Blog roll.We now have out own web site!! They now have over 1,000 members:D

  16. Oh these look absolutely fabulous val- I'm definately starring this one!

  17. Another new day, another new discovery Val! Living & learning. A few days ago was here & saw pita bread & falafel. Made that for lunch today, with the option of lebanese chicken kebabs too...delicious like you wrote!! Zataar is something I've never heard of...lovely post, pansies & all!

  18. Hi Val I have read about zataar but as yet not used it. You really have tempted me once again with your fab creations!! way to go Val....

    Rosie x

  19. Za'atar sounds pretty interesting. I will have to try it.

  20. What an informative post Val! I have heard of zataar but have never ventured there. Sounds very flavorful. I like your little spreading knife also!
    Planting flowers !!! Spring must be very close for you. Yea!!!!

  21. Wiarton Willie is my neighbour and I have been cursing him daily, I'm sick of this snow.

  22. This is a new one for me, but it sounds delicious!

  23. Terrific post, Val! I like it all, and will be making my own soon. Love all the textures and spices.

  24. I've never had za'atar. Only recently heard of it actually. Now I must find some of my own!

  25. I am looking for Thyme (Zatar) made in Syria-Aleppo by Ahmed Fateh Sarmini & sons. Gramdma always used it but I can't seem to find it. It was imported by Nerses Import & Export. Ing. thyme.cumin.fennel.cor-lemder.wheat.aniseed.sum-ach.sesane seed.salt. Best I have ever tasted. May have to try to mix it myself.
    Sherri Daher


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