A trip to the Middle Eastern stores on Brooklyn’s Atlantic Avenue yielded a large bag of za’atar, a traditional spice blend of thyme, sesame seeds, salt, and sumac. Sumac is an essential ingredient in Middle-Eastern cooking with a bright red color and a mild fruity-tart flavor, which perfectly matches the lemony undertones of the thyme. The sesame seeds add a nice earthiness and crunch.
Za’atar is an extremely versatile ingredient with many culinary uses, like sprinkling on vegetables and dips, seasoning soups, baking onto pita breads, and roasting with chicken. With so much built-in flavor, it makes a great secret weapon for weeknight meals.
Paired with salmon, the za’atar forms a crust that locks in the juices of the fish and gives it that perfect crispy exterior. The seasoning nicely compliments the salmon’s flavor without overpowering it. I serve it with a garlicky tzatziki sauce and some extra fresh dill on top.
Za’atar-Crusted Salmon with Tzatziki
For the Salmon:
1/4 cup za’atar
2 6-ounce salmon fillets
1 tablespoon canola oil
For the Tzatziki:
1/2 medium cucumber
2 garlic cloves
A small handful of dill
1 cup Greek yogurt
1. Make the tzatziki: Grate or finely chop the cucumber. Finely mince the garlic and roughly chop the dill. Mix together the Greek yogurt, cucumber, garlic, and dill (reserving some dill for garnish) with some salt and pepper. Set aside.
2. Heat a large nonstick pan over medium heat. Meanwhile, spread out the za’atar on a plate. Pat the salmon fillets nice and dry with paper towels and press them into the za’atar, coating both sides thoroughly.
3. When the pan is hot, add the canola oil and place the salmon in the pan skin-side down. It should sizzle. Cook the salmon, turning once, until it is done (about five minutes per side, depending on thickness). Remove the salmon to a plate and top with the tzatziki and remaining dill.
Total time: 25 minutes
Makes 2 servings