Every Christmas when the boxes arrive from Vicken’s mom who lives in Turkey, I get SO excited!! Why? Because they contain food, of course! The exact contents of the boxes vary slightly from year to year, but there are always lots of Syrian pistachios, Syrian olive oil and za’atar. And it’s the za’atar that makes me do a little jig of excitement every time! Za’atar is a mix of sesame seeds and spices, including thyme and sumac, that you mix with olive oil to make into a spread. It is unlike anything else I’ve ever had, but I’ve been hooked on it since the first time I tried it! Even though we try to pace ourselves, we go through large quantities of it quickly.
You just mix one part za’atar spice mix with an equal or slightly lesser part olive oil to achieve a paste that can be easily spread, and you’re done. Traditionally it is spread onto a flatbread, such as pita bread, but I just eat it on any kind of toasted bread we have on hand. It’s excellent for breakfast or a snack. Recently I even made these za’atar swirls that turned out really well.
I’ve gone through withdrawal when we’ve run out of the Syrian za’atar and looked around Davis for it and actually found it in small quantities at the International Food Market in the 8th St shopping center in east Davis. The stuff they sell there is a little different, as there are many different variations of za’atar from different regions in the middle east. My guess is that you could find it more easily in the Bay Area or near LA.
I know mixing a spice mix with olive oil doesn’t exactly qualify as cooking, but seeing as how this has made up a majority of my diet for the last month, I thought it was worth sharing. If you ever run into it, get you some! You can thank me later.