Salads with Za’atar: 3 Ways

Za’atar is a mixture of herbs and spices, such as sumac and sesame seeds, commonly found in the Middle East and some parts of the Mediterranean. I was introduced to za’atar by a friend years ago when we were shopping in a Lebanese supermarket. Since then, za’atar has been a mainstay in my pantry.

The za’atar I have right now is from Syria. I got it when I was travelling for work 2 years ago in Gaziantep (Turkish city bordering Syria). I got some za’atar from a Syrian spice shop. Every country (or even households) have their own variation of za’atar. For example, I find that the Lebanese za’atar I used to have was more tangy than the Syrian za’atar I have right now.

For my quarantine cooking, I try to mix variety of flavors in my weekly menu and I would alway have days with dishes involving za’atar. Here’s three of the dishes where I used za’atar (and nope, it doesn’t include a flatbread – in which za’atar is popularly used).

Baked Chicken Salad

Ingredients (Yields 2 Portions)

  • 1 chicken breast (skin removed)
  • 3 tbsp za’atar
  • 1 avocado (sliced)
  • 8 pcs of cherry tomatoes (halved)
  • 1 cup of cucumber (cut in small, half moon shapes)
  • Spicy olives (your favorite kind of olives will do too)
  • Chopped coriander
  • Store-bought hummus (optional)
  • 1/2 lemon
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 180’C. Drizzle the chicken breast with olive oil, coating all sides of the chicken. Rub the za’atar on the chicken, making sure that all sides are coated evenly. Once your oven is ready, put in your chicken and bake it for about 30 to 40 minutes or when the chicken’s internal temperature reaches 75’C.

2. Meanwhile, you can start cutting your veggies. My favorite thing about salads is that you can put whatever you want (more tomatoes, some onions, more cucumbers, no olives, add lettuce or greens… it’s your plate and you should put in there whatever you eat). I like pre-tossing cucumbers and tomatoes (or salad greens if you have them) with a small amount of lemon, olive oil, salt, and pepper before assembly.

3. Let your chicken rest for about 10-15 minutes after taking it out of the oven. In the meantime, assemble your salad, including the hummus, if you have it. After resting, cut the chicken in your preferred size and put them on the salad.

4. Drizzle with some olive oil and lemon juice. Finally, add the chopped coriander.

Tuna and Roasted Chickpeas Salad

Indgredients (Yields 2 Portions)

  • 215g canned chickpeas
  • 2 tbsp of za’atar
  • 1 canned tuna
  • 1 cup of cooked quinoa
  • 1 cup of cucumber (cut in small, half moon shape)
  • 5 small round radishes (cut thinly)
  • Salad mix greens (one handful)
  • 1/2 cup of sliced dried tomatoes
  • 90g feta cheese (crumbled)
  • 1/2 lemon
  • Olive oil
  • salt and pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 200’C. Meanwhile, in a baking dish, spread out the chickpeas. Drizzle with olive oil and za’atar, coating them well. Put it in the oven and roast for 15 minutes.

2. In a mixing bowl, toss the roasted chickpeas, tuna, quinoa, cucumber, radishes, salad greens, and feta with lemon juice, a drizzle of olive oil and pinch of salt and pepper. The feta and za’atar are already seasoning the salad well so, take it easy on the salt.

Roasted Spring Salad

Ingredients (Yields 2 Portions)

  • 215 g canned chickpeas
  • 1 cup of chopped asparagus
  • 1 cup of peas (i used frozen peas so I had to thaw it first)
  • 3 tbsp of za’atar
  • A handful of baby spinach
  • 6 cherry tomatoes (halved)
  • 6 pieces of olives (halved)
  • 90g of feta cheese (crumbled)
  • 1/2 lemon
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 200’C. In a baking dish, toss chickpeas, asparagus, and peas with 1 tbsp of olive oil and the za’atar. Mix well. Roast in the oven for 15 minutes.

2. In the meantime, put all the remaining ingredients together except for the feta. Toss the ingredients with lemon juice, olive oil, a pinch of salt and pepper.

3. Add in the roasted chickpeas, asparagus, and peas. Add the crumbled feta last.

Some Few Tricks on Salads

Salad is my go-to dish when I need to save vegetables in our fridge. You can basically add anything in salads. Here are some of my salad go-to tricks:

  • Roasting vegetables helps incorporate veggies requiring cooking in salads (or if you just want to have a warm salad).
  • When using za’atar in a salad, a simple lemon and olive oil dressing will work very well with the salad.
  • Feta works well with za’atar.
  • In reality, I don’t really measure the ingredients in a salad because I play around with what I have and what I want.

Bon appétit!

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