Thursday, July 5, 2012

Zatar makes you smarter

ZATAR FOR BREAKFAST:  Zatar makes you smarter was what my husband heard every morning as he was racing out of the house to get to school on time.  It was enough to make him stop his headlong rush and grab a piece of pita bread spread with olive oil and liberally sprinkled with zatar.    

Zatar (or za’atar) is a variety of thyme that grows wild in Palestine.  It is also the name of a mixture of dried herbs that are combined to make the famous zatar that is said to make schoolchildren smarter.  The dried, ground thyme is the main ingredient, but other ingredients are always added.  Dried sumac and salt are included in every recipe and sesame seeds are almost always mixed in as well.  Every cook in Palestine seems to have his or her own additions.  Some people add oregano, marjoram, flour, caraway seeds, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, and one person I know even adds coffee to the mix. 
The preferred way to eat zatar for breakfast, if not racing out the door to school or work, is to dip a small piece of bread into a dish of olive oil and then into a dish of zatar.  The oil makes the dry powdered herb stick to the bread.  Common courtesy says the bread must be popped into the mouth (no double dipping).  Every Palestinian house I know has a dish of zatar and a dish of olive oil readily available for dipping.  It is part of every breakfast table.

ZATAR FOR LUNCH OR DINNER:  To be truthful, the line between breakfast, lunch , and dinner blurs with the idea of zatar bread.  Sometimes called zatar pizza or zatar manakeesh (or manaeesh), this dish has the same basic ingredients—zatar and olive oil.  The difference is that the zatar and oil are put on the bread dough before baking.  I have even used refrigerator biscuits for this (but don’t tell anyone).  There are so many mouth-watering pictures of manaeesh on the internet that I was hard pressed to choose one.

Using the leaves of the plant before drying and making into a powder gives yet another variety of enjoyment.  The leaves can be layered onto bread dough, or even kneaded into the dough for a different pizza-type food.  They can also be added on top of a traditional pizza, combined with cheese (mozzarella or feta are my favorites) for a “white pizza.”  I have added zatar to other dishes for flavoring.  Either the green leaves or the ground dried herb are good additions to stews, soups, potato salad, and lots of other dishes.
You can get zatar from any grocery that sells Middle Eastern foods.  I order both my zatar and my olive oil from Canaan Fair Trade—the products come from Palestine and benefit the farmers.  You can also get the same products through US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation.

This video gives a quick and easy demonstration of making zatar manaeesh and cheese manaeesh.  As she says on the video—it’s suitable for breakfast, lunch, or supper.
By the way, sorry I’ve been away so long.  We had dreadful weather that knocked out our power, and once the power was restored, we had no internet for another few days. 

1 comment:

  1. Zatar is very healthy to eat, we can use zatar to eat in breakfast and lunch. Thanks for sharing the benefits of zatar.