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Saturday, November 17, 2012


Excellent Ingredient of the Week
Za'atar is a spice blend from the middle east which comes in a variety of combinations. The basic formula is ground dried thyme, oregano, marjoram, or some combination thereof, mixed with toasted sesame seeds, and salt, and sumac. Some commercial varieties also include roasted flour.

Traditionally, people throughout the fertile crescent, Iraq, and the Arabian peninsula made their own variations of za'atar, which was unknown in North Africa. Recipes for such spice mixtures were often kept secret, and not even shared with children or other relatives. Some varieties may add savory, cumin, coriander or fennel seed. One distinctively Palestinian variation of za'atar includes caraway seeds, while a Lebanese variety sometimes contains sumac berries, and has a distinct dark red color. Za'atar, both the herb and the condiment, is popular in Armenia, Iran, Egypt, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, the Palestinian territories, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, and Turkey. It is commonly eaten with pita, which is dipped in olive oil and then za'atar. Za'atar is used as a seasoning for meats and vegetables or sprinkled onto hummus. There is also something called fresh za'atar, the herb itself, rather than the condiment, is also used in a number of dishes.

So what do I do with it? I do what Nigella Lawson does, I throw it on chicken. This recipe delivers amazing results with virtually no effort.

za'atar chicken

1 chicken, cut into 8 pieces or 8 mixed chicken pieces
1/4-1/2 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons za'atar spice mix
(you can buy za'atar at Ziggy's or Talin or make your own mix)
salt, to taste

In large mixing bowl or resealable plastic bag, combine chicken, oil and za'atar. Rub spices and oil all over chicken pieces. Cover (or close) and refrigerate 2 hours to overnight. Transfer chicken to baking sheet, skin side up. Roast in preheated 425°F oven for 45 minutes. Sprinkle with salt.