Za'tar (or zatar) is popular from Greece to Israel. It is a mixture of spices
and herbs such as dried powdered hyssop, sumac, sesame seeds, oil, salt.
Most zatar is consumed as a condiment, made by grinding hyssop
leaves to a coarse, aromatic, brownish green powder then mixing the
powder with olive oil, toasted sesame seeds, sumac, chickpeas, and wheat.
Geographically, Israel is a hyssop
center. The plant is native to the hill regions of the ancient Land
of Israel and parts of Lebanon and southern Syria. Zatar is not
only eaten with bread but also used to season meat, as a topping on
spreads and even sprinkled on salads.
Sumac - comes from the berries of a wild bush that grows wild in all Mediterranean
areas, especially in Sicily and southern Italy, and parts of the Middle
East, Dark purple-red berries are sold dried or ground throughout the
Middle East and Italy, and have a fruity, astringent taste. In the States
it can be found in middle eastern stores. It's fleshy petals and small
berries are dried and reduced to purple powder, which has an acid taste
and is very popular in Middle Eastern cookery. Mixed with water it can
be used in the same way as lemon juice.
Falafel - spicy balls that can be made with chickpeas or dried white broad beans
or both. Delicious wrapped in flat bread as a sandwich, with lashings
of garlic or tahini sauce.
Hummos - pureed chickpeas, sesame oil and lemon juice. Widely available around
the world now, but not like the real thing! Also try the version with
Tabouleh - Parsley, tomato, lemon juice, mint, cracked wheat and olive oil salad.
(Baba Ghanouj) - grilled aubergines (eggplants) with
sesame oil and lemon juice.
Kalaj - halloumi cheese on pastry, baked in the oven.
moudamas - boiled broad beans with lemon juice, olive oil
Sambousak - pastry filled with mince mean and pine kernels (or cheese).
bi ageen - sumac and pomegranate juice are still used
as a souring agent. Mixed with water, ground sumac was believed to aid
digestion and prevent diarrhea, but now it is commonly used as a condiment
in Lebanon, Syria and Iran. It's delicious and commonly used on fish,
kebabs and sprinkled over flat bread.