Za’atar encompasses such a wide range of flavors that it can be the bright note that both enlivens and anchors sliced tomatoes, the unifying force in a salad of refreshing smashed cucumbers and salty, fatty feta, and the replacement for lemon and herbs on a roast chicken. Consider adding it when you're looking for a spice mix that's earthy, savory, and tangy, all in one. In the Middle East, za'atar is often eaten with oil-dipped bread or labneh, or spread onto flatbread dough before it’s baked into man’oushe.
If you’re cooking with za’atar, you don’t need any other spices—it can hold its own. But I’m not going to stop you from pairing it with garlic, fresh tender herbs, lemon, toasted nuts, and chile flakes.
And if you’re not going to be heating up za'atar in the cooking process, you can bring out the most flavor by blooming it in hot oil or butter. Heat the fat in a small skillet, take it off the heat, and add the za'atar—then drizzle over popcorn or toast.
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