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Here's my blend, based on a perusal of the ingredient lists of several varieties available at my favorite Middle Eastern Market. (I don't like and can't eat peppers, fresh or dried, including paprika, chili powders, etc.) Remember, if you are using sesame seeds, that they will go rancid quickly, so make only a small amount at a time. Enjoy!!
¼ c. brown sesame seeds
1 T. dried marjoram leaves
1 T. dried thyme leaves
2 tsp. salt
Toast sesame seeds in a dry, heavy skillet. Shake to prevent burning. Once they start to pop, they’ll start to turn dark brown very quickly, but keep shaking them to make sure that all are toasted.
Put the sesame seeds in a spice grinder and then pulse very quickly three times. Add the marjoram and thyme and pulse another two or three times. You want the mixture to be coarsely, not finely, ground.
Pour the ground seeds and herbs into a small bowl and add the salt. Stir well.
It will smell delicious and you will want to eat some right away. Put a pinch or two of za’atar on a small plate and drizzle a few drops of olive oil on it, then use a small piece of pita or other bread to sop up the spice and oil mixture.
P.S. I know it's not authentic, but I like just the tiniest pinch of mace or nutmeg in this . . . not enough to identify. It just goes really nicely with the marjoram and thyme combination.
You need sumac berries. It's a common plant often found by the side of the road, high in vitamin C and used sometime in teas..to make a 'lemonaid' drink.
Although, you might to find someone to point it out first if you forage.
Interestingly, Ana Sortun's book Spice, Flavors of the Eastern Mediterranean, does not give a recipe for Za'atar. She tells how to mix other spice blends, but uses purchased Jordanian blends. The mix has sumac, sesame seeds, salt and "the essential bright green herb (za'atar) itself." Thyme, oregano and marjoram will get close to the taste. Sumac is available from Middle Eastern markets and mail/online sources -- wildcrafting is iffy unless you really know what you're doing (and it's in season).
I'd be really careful about picking sumac berries, as there is one species in North America (at least one) that is deadly poisonous. I agree though that it's a good ingredient to put in za'atar. ;o)
I think the poison sumac has white drupes, instead of the red. We used to use the red ones to make a kool-aid substitute in girl scout camp when I was a kid.
sumac (can be bought in Middle eastern stores) or Penzeys
I live in Jerusalem -- the woman in my office who makes her own lovely version says it's simply dried sumac, toasted sesame seeds and salt. No quantities given, but it looks like 4 parts sumac to 1 part sesame seeds.
I'm a bit late to the conversation, but as susang mentions, zataar itself is a particular wild thyme that grows in the Levant. You can get close with the other stuff, but the real thing is, well, the real thing!
my father use to use: sea salt, thyme and sumac
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