One of my favorite things to do on a rainy day or when I’m feeling bored or blue is to roam through an international grocery store. There’s awesome smells, neat things to look at, and interesting ingredients to buy. A few weeks ago I went to buy my favorite sparkling lemonade and I noticed a bag of bright green spices called Za’atar. I picked it up, smelled it vigorously like the nerd that I am, and knew I had to buy it. If the word “verdant” had a smell–it would smell like za’atar!
Za’atar is a Middle Eastern spice blend of wild thyme, dried sumac, sesame seeds, and salt. The first time I cooked with it, I decided to go simple and just rub it on some chicken. Since then I’ve roasted potatoes sprinkled with za’atar, swirled it with olive oil for bread dipping, included it in chicken soup, and even made a little vinaigrette with it. It’s really, really versatile and will be a staple in my kitchen from now on.
Za’atar and Lemon Roasted Chicken
serves 4 to 6
1 whole chicken (about 3 or 4 lbs), cut into 8 pieces
1 lemon, zested and sliced into eights
a handfull of kalamata olives
salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Toss the chicken pieces in a generous amount of olive oil. Season with the za’atar, salt, and pepper. Lay in a single layer in a roasting pan and sprinkle with lemon zest. Top with lemon slices and kalamata olives. Bake at 375 degrees for about 35 minutes or until chicken reaches the appropriate temperature. Broil a little to get the skin extra crispy.
I cooked up a batch of tri-color quinoa and blanched some asparagus to go with the chicken. Try adding the roasted olives to the quinoa, along with a sprinkle of za’atar!
If you’re interested in more za’atar recipes, here is a great Middle Eastern cookbook to peruse!