Fresh sumac was part of my CSA share two weeks in a row. These little red drupes are tart and tangy, and a typical American preparation is sumac lemonade, which involves soaking the fruits in cold water and sweetening it to taste. I wanted to stretch mine a little further, so I went middle-eastern with it. I’m talking about za’atar, people.
There are an endless number of za’atar recipes– some with oregano and marjoram, some with black pepper or fennel, and some with no sumac at all– but I decided to keep mine pretty basic. In order to make the most fresh and delicious za’atar possible, I started with whole versions of all the ingredients. I dried the thyme by roasting it at the lowest possible temperature for my oven– 170°F. I left the door cracked and checked it after a couple of hours. The sumac, sesame, and cumin were each toasted in a dry pan over medium heat. I took the sumac and cumin off when they became aromatic, but I roasted the sesame until it was a lovely golden color. Each spice got a whiz in my grinder and was sifted through a fine mesh sieve to eliminate any large chunks (except for the sesame, which I left partially whole). A touch of cayenne gives this za’atar a little kick.
1/4 cup ground sumac
2 tbsp ground cumin
2 tbsp sesame, toasted and roughly ground
2 tsp sea salt
3 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
Combine and store in a cool, dry place. Yields a little over a half a cup.
This spice mixture is excellent on roasted vegetables and meats, sprinkled over hummus, or dusted on flat bread dough before it goes in the oven. Let me know how you use it!