busy with citrus: orange with za'atar, yogurt, and pine nuts

Rhubarb and asparagus have started to show up at the market, but I'm still busy with citrus. Corners of my kitchen and dining room table continue to look like studies for a Dutch still life, with tulips and oranges and glasses of full-bodied reds that taste best on days when the sun sets early.

I am someone who snacks. I like a purse that is big enough for an apple or a bag of dates and nuts. I am also someone who lives for savoury paired with sweet, which means that I was completely seduced by the suggestion of seasoning segments of orange with za'atar, yogurt, olive oil and toasted pine nuts. Could there even be a better snack? In addition to being easy, you can call this dish many things: breakfast, snack, appetizer, salad or even a savoury-sweet dessert. 

You're probably familiar with za'atar, a Middle Eastern mix of herbs and spices that includes sumac and sesame seeds. At its most basic it includes only thyme, sumac, sesame seeds and salt. Longer ingredient lists can include oregano, marjoram, black pepper, and cumin. In other words, it gives you quite some room to play with. You can use fresh herbs, dried herbs, or fresh herbs that have just been quickly dried and toasted in a skillet or in the oven. I go somewhere between the most basic and the most layered of flavours and opt for thyme, oregano, salt, sumac and sesame seeds. Preferred ingredients aside, it is at its best when it is fresh so I make small quantities at a time. However, feel free to double or triple the recipe below if you find yourself in need of lots of za'atar. 

The possibilities for its use are as varied as the possibilities for its ingredients. It is particularly fond of chopped salads, nearly anything that has been roasted or grilled, dips, and bread that needs a little more flavour. However, ever since David Lebovitz wrote about eating croissants stuffed with za'atar for breakfast in Beirut, I've been meaning to introduce za'atar to my breakfast table too.

Orange with Za'atar, Yogurt and Pine Nuts

serves 1

adapted from the First Mess 


1 orange, peeled and segmented
 3 tbsp yogurt
drizzle of good, extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp za'atar
1 tbsp toasted pine nuts
a pinch of coarse sea salt, optional 


2 tbsp fresh thyme
1 tsp ground sumac
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
1 tsp dried oregano 

To make the za'atar, begin by toasting the sesame seeds in a dry skillet. Pour the seeds into a clean jar, add the rest of the spices, put on a lid and give it a good shake. Store leftovers in the fridge for up to a week.

Once you have peeled and segmented the orange, place it on a plate. Dollop the yogurt on the side of the plate and drizzle it with olive oil. Sprinkle za'atar on top of the oranges and the yogurt, and then add the pine nuts. Add a wee pinch of salt if you wish and eat immediately.


Anonymous –   – (March 24, 2014 at 2:55 PM)  

Dearest Sasha,

I have been obsessing over za'atar since I got home from Lebanon last summer! Pauls mother made us a big batch that we brought back to Sweden, and which I have been having for breakfast (with labneh and lebanese bread) and lunch (with chickpeas, roasted aubergine and fresh mint) several times a week. In other words, it's an addiction that is hard to shake...
Anyway, I've never tried eating it along with citrus fruit, but reading this blogpost made me certain about what I'm having for breakfast tomorrow...

Your fellow middle eastern spice mix-fan

Sasha  – (March 25, 2014 at 8:16 PM)  

I hope to be able to also call that salad with chickpeas, roasted aubergine, fresh mint and za'atar lunch soon! That combination of flavours just sounds meant to be.


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