My wonderful other half introduced me to the world of za’atar early on in our relationship. He took me to a Middle Eastern fast food restaurant and I made a beeline to the self-serve salad bar. There’s very little in the world that I like more than a plate full of delicious mixed salads, so when the opportunity to pile my styrofoam plate high with such varied delights, I make quick work of it. While I ladled buckets of chickpea salad, tabbouleh, and lentils onto my increasingly-weighty plate, I overheard my (then) date ordering a za’atar flatbread. When he saw that I was looking, he encouraged me to do the same. Being totally ignorant of what it actually was that he was ordering, I, for reasons unbeknownst to me, assumed that it was some sort of ground lamb sandwich. Weird assumption? Absolutely. The thing is, my man is not vegetarian (although he was for 4 years and even went vegan for a while before reverting back to carnivorism), and I am. Being that we had only been dating for a short time, I wrongly assumed (ohh, assumptions) that he was kindly offering me some sort of lamby-delight, forgetting that I don’t eat meat. Without clarifying the ingredients of which this wrap actually consisted, I politely declined the opportunity to broaden my culinary horizons. Good thing my salads were fabulous, or it would’ve been a total missed boat.
The next time we went to the same place, quite some time later, I jumped on the za’atar bandwagon (after finding out that it is, indeed, vegetarian-friendly). Oh my. AMAZING. It is basically a flat bread which has been brushed with a mixture of oil and za’atar spice, warmed in the oven, and then topped with tasty toppings. A Middle Eastern wrap that, in my opinion, beats out any of our go-to, fast-food, sandwich shops.
I’m not one to leave well enough alone, however. I needed to be able to make such a wonderful wrap at home.
After some online searching and some recipe experimentation, I have come up with the following recipe that I think I like even better than the original. Yup, I said it: better.
Do you remember the foxy naan bread of which I spoke yesterday? Yeeeaah, you do. Well, here’s one, excellent, way in which it can take a sabbatical from Indian cuisine and show its worth in the world of Middle Eastern cookery. If you don’t want to make your own, go with store-bought. But homemade is waayy more delish. It just is.
Prepared naan bread (amount dependent on how many wraps you want to make), homemade or store-bought
Za’atar spice blend* (available at Akhavan or other Middle Eastern specialty food shops)
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt, to taste
Shredded lettuce, spinach, or arugula (for a peppery kick)
Sliced green olives
Chopped red onion
Hot banana peppers (yum)
Mint leaves (the mint is crucial)
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
2. Combine equal parts za’atar spice and extra virgin olive oil to make a paste (you’ll need about 2-3 Tbsp of combined paste per flatbread). Add salt, to taste.
3. Place the flatbreads in a single layer onto a cookie sheet and spread a thin layer of the za’atar-olive oil paste onto each bread.
4. Put the za’atar breads into the preheated oven for 8-10 minutes.
5. Remove from the oven and dress the flatbreads with toppings, as desired.
6. Roll, or fold in half, and enjoy!
…they’re best when eaten while still warm.
*If you want to get really crazy, in addition to making all of your own flatbreads, you can make your own za’atar spice blend!
Za’atar Spice Blend
1/4 cup sumac
2 tablespoons thyme
1 tablespoon roasted sesame seeds
2 tablespoons marjoram
2 tablespoons oregano
1 teaspoon coarse salt
Grind the sesame seeds in food processor or with mortar and pestle. Add remaining ingredients and mix well.Store za’atar in a cool, dark place in a plastic zip bag or in an airtight container. When stored properly, za’atar can be used from 3-6 months.
Honestly, this is an awesome recipe that took me a while to get just right, but now, I have made it several times over.