The herbaceous sweet flavor of zaatar will liven up your everyday roasted potatoes in this exotic but surprisingly fool-proof recipe.
Zaatar is a Middle Eastern spice often made up of dried oregano, thyme and marjoram mixed with sesame seeds and salt. In the markets of Jerusalem, piles of this alluring mixture are heaped in clay pots in bustling spice stalls just waiting to be sold by the ounce. Vendors sell zaatar on its own, on fragrant flat breads fresh out of the clay over and in pastries and mixed into hummus. Zaatar has gained recent popularity in the states as a chicken marinade in fine Middle Eastern and Mediterranean restaurants.
There’s something about zaatar that is both exotic and familiar. Aesthetically, it resembles dried oregano but the taste is closer to dried lemon peel. This quick and easy potato recipe highlights the earthy flavors of zaatar and makes an excellent compliment to any healthy meal.
You don’t need to go all the way to Jerusalem to get zaatar. Most large supermarkets with an international section will have it. It’s also likely that kosher Jewish markets and certain Lebanese markets will have variations and just like the city of Jerusalem itself, many religions and ethnic groups lay claim to this spice. But don’t limit your zaatar use to Middle Eastern cuisine. If you’re feeling adventurous, try sprinkling it on cheese pizza. Once you taste zaatar, you’ll want to put in everything: sandwiches, salads and even in your scrambled eggs.
Zaatar Roasted Potatoes Recipe
Makes 4 servings
2 pounds small red potatoes
3 tablespoons zaatar
1 teaspoon salt
¼ cup olive oil
1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Chop the potatoes into 1-inch cubes and toss in a large bowl with the olive oil, salt and 2 tablespoons of zaatar.
2. Pour the potatoes onto a baking sheet and sprinkle the remaining tablespoon of zaatar on top. Roast for 35-40 minutes, stirring the potatoes with a fork after 20 minutes.
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Photo credit: Ally Jane Grossan