Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Za'atar Pizza

I recently discovered a mild spice mix called Za'atar (or Zahtar). It's a mix of thyme, sesame seeds, sea salt, and most importantly, sumac. It's used frequently in Arab and Israeli cooking - which I don't have much experience with. I saw it used in a couple recipes lately, and decided I couldn't make them because I had no idea where to conveniently come up with this spice mix, especially sumac. A few days later, I came across a jar of it while killing time in Williams-Sonoma before going to a party.


I can't find the recipes again, but have come up with a few uses. Someone suggested toasted pita dipped in a mixture of za'atar and olive oil. We didn't have pita around, so we used a fresh baked baguette and it was quite good. The dark greenish spices turned black in the oil, and it felt a bit strange to dip bread into a cup of black oil. Hmm... how fittingly middle-eastern.

Another suggestion was to shake it over salad, and I agree, it did give a nice flavor to salted cucumber wedges. After googling a bit, the general consensus seemed that za'atar is the ideal match for fresh baked, flat shaped, bread. So naturally, I would try it on pizza - because that is my very favorite form of flat shaped bread.

My experimental za'atar pizza was kind of Italy meets Isreal, somewhere around Greece. With the added flavor of the za'atar, I decided to leave off the heavy hitting cheeses and stick to a sparing sprinkle of feta instead - more because I had a tiny bit to use up, rather than really needing it on the pizza. I topped it with sliced onions and pine nuts, because it just felt right.

You may not technically want to call this pizza - but it certainly hit the spot. It was a far cry from the greasy, cheesy, variety, and more like a giant bruschetta. It also seemed a lot healthier. I think it would make a great vegan meal, because you could totally leave out the cheese and not miss it at all.

Tell me, what is your favorite use for Za'atar? 


Za'atar Pizza
1 roll of Pillsbury Pizza Crust (regular size, not thin crust) or your favorite pizza dough
Olive oil
Za'atar spice mix
Sea Salt
Black Pepper
14oz can of Diced Tomatoes, drained
Crumbled feta cheese (a tiny  such as tomato-basil flavored (optional)
2 T pine nuts
1/2 of a small onion, sliced paper thin

1. Heat oven to 450F.

2. On a baking sheet, roll out the pizza dough. Drizzle or brush lightly with olive oil. Using a teaspoon, sprinkle za'atar all over the dough - more generously than you would with regular pizza spices. Aim to use about 2-3T total. Schmear the spice into the oil using the back of the spoon. 

3. Bake for 7-8 minutes until the crust just starts to brown, and remove.

4. Top with tomatoes, cheese, onions and sprinkle with pine nuts. Season with sea salt and pepper. 

5. Bake until crust is golden brown, about 8 minutes. 

Serve with fresh cucumber slices and good olives, like Gaeta, which have a fresh citrus flavor.

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