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Homemade spice blends have been closely guarded family secrets and have flavored Middle Eastern food since the middle ages. As with many regional blends there are countless versions that vary from region to region, village to village and even family to family.
Za'atar is also known as Zaatar, Zahatar Za'tar and Zahatar. This seasoning is a delightful blend of dried herbs, sesame seeds, and sumac, and usually salt. The regional variations can be quite different - think of it like the various salsas that we use in the US. While there is no right or wrong salsa practically everybody can find a variation they like best (chunky, with black beans, hot, mild, etc.).
Typically used as a table condiment (much like we would use pepper), Za'atar is sprinkled on dishes. In Lebanon it is believed to clear the mind and provide strength and is commonly used with breakfast dishes. We like to follow this lead and use it sprinkled over our morning oatmeal or eggs for a zesty twist.
Za'atar is often stirred into olive oil and used as a dip or made into a paste for soft flatbreads and vegetables or applied to bread prior to baking. Za'atar also works exceptionally well as a dry rub for chicken, lamb and seafood (especially fish) and partners well with cauliflower and potatoes.