Za'atar, to me, is perfectly exotic. Despite the fact that my Moroccan grandmother came over to taste these recipes, and scoffed "Za'atar!" in her perfect Arabic accent, as if she was shocked someone could not know about za'atar. That was then followed it by, "I don't like it." (She usually gives better advice.)
Za'atar, as with most Arabian and North African spice blends, comes in many iterations: maybe as many as there are grandmothers cooking in the area today. The one that I used (and that I believe to be most commonly sold in the US) is the Lebanese version, and contains the combination of dried thyme, white sesame seeds, salt, and sumac all in the same jar. Thus, the resulting combination is complex, with notes of salinity, nuttiness, astringence, and resin.
It is often brushed onto pita after a brash coating of olive oil and then grilled, much like a tempting flatbread I saw Tyler Florence create out of Za'atar and pizza dough. This recipe coats salmon in the blend for a Middle Eastern kebab, served with a simple lemon yogurt sauce.
About the author: Kerry Saretsky is the creator of French Revolution Food, where she reinvents her family's classic French recipes in a fresh, chic, modern way. She also writes the French in a Flash series for Serious Eats.
- 5 ounces boneless, skinless salmon fillet, cut into 1-inch cubes (about 8 pieces)
- 1 to 2 tablespoons light olive oil in the pan
- 1/4 cup plain yogurt
- Lemons, to slice for the kebabs and for zest and juice to mix with the yogurt (you could also try preserved lemons)
- Short bamboo skewers (3 inch), soaked in water for 30 minutes
Thread the salmon on the skewers, 2 cubes per skewer.
Heat a skillet on medium high heat. Add the oil, and sear the salmon 1 minute on each of the 4 sides.
Meanwhile, mix the yogurt with lemon zest and lemon juice to taste. Serve the salmon kebabs with the sauce.