Posts Tagged ‘Zatar’

The Zatar Burger is born, and just in time for Memorial Day Weekend! The bright dipping sauce is a mix of hummus, ketchup, a splash of mustard, and a generic (but good) Arabic spice blend. Thin out the sauce with water if you need to.

Sometimes nothing’s better than a burger. While I love my salads dearly and mainly eat a plant-based diet, sometimes a good old-fashioned wallop of protein is the only way for me to go. I blame my Type O blood for the periodic protein craving. Oh, and coming from a long line of people who know their way around kebabs, burgers, and all manner of meats certainly doesn’t help either. 😉

I'm feeling festive lately. Mainly because a holiday weekend looms. (I get the actual holiday off this time, which is great). But the festive feeling might also stem from the fact that I was a "fit model" this week for my friend Denise's bridesmaid dress shopping expedition. As one of her bridesmaids, I might get to wear this lovely number to her wedding in March.

With Memorial Day around the corner, I figured it’d be timely and tasty to offer up a creative burger option.

Burgers are fun because you’re only limited by your imagination as to how you can pump them full of flavor. Just make sure to buy the best organic, humanely raised, grass-fed meat you can afford, to ensure your burgers aren’t pumped full of hormones as well.

An easy and festive burger to make.

Recently, I was in the mood for a creative burger with a Middle Eastern flavor. Okay, I know some of you are thinking, “Why not just make kebab? Duh!” Point taken, but I wanted something that was more East Meets West. Plus, I wanted to enjoy that decadent brioche roll/burger bun that was lurking in my freezer! Dear Lord how I love a good brioche, or a challah bread for that matter. Siiiiggghhhhh. . .

So I tossed together some organic bison meat (it’s leaner than beef), some steak seasoning, some zatar (more on that later), olive bits, sundried tomato bits, fresh grated onion and grated garlic. Then I bound everything with a splash of ketchup and Worchestshire and voila! The Zatar Burger was born! A juicy, flavorful, and creative burger that almost didn’t need the brioche bun to taste perfect. Oh, and for the record, I photographed this burger on a  multi-grain bun because it (surprisingly!) looked much nicer than the brioche. Which was moot, because the brioche was long gone by the time I got around to photographing this recipe anyways, but I digress.

An example of zatar. Some mixes are greener. Some are more earth-toned. All are delicous.

Onward to zatar. What is it?  I blogged about it here, but a quickie explanation for now is that it’s an aromatic herb and sesame seed blend popular in many Middle Eastern countries. Sesame seeds and dried, milled herbs form this versatile powdery substance. Some of the traditional ways of serving it are on breads or as a dip when you soak some in olive oil.

I like to think outside of the traditional methods, and often use it in salads, sprinkled onto veggies of all sorts, and of course, in today’s burger.  Don’t have zatar on hand? No problem; an equal amount of herbs de Provence will do. Don’t have that either? Sprinkle in some oregano, dried thyme, and sesame seeds to approximate that fantastic zatar taste.

Zatar Burgers


1 pound lean ground meat (beef, lamb, bison, or a blend of all three or any two)

1 medium onion

1 large clove of garlic

3 Tablespoons Zatar blend of choice OR 3 Tablespoons herbs de Provence plus 1 teaspoon sesame seeds OR 1 Tablespoon each of thyme, oregano, and sesame seeds.

2 Tablespoons grill seasoning of choice (more if needed)

1 scant teaspoon cumin powder

2 Tablespoons ketchup

1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce (optional)

1-2 Tablespoons sundried tomato bits

1-2 Tablespoons olives pieces (no pits, of course!)

4 burger buns or rolls of choice

Salad mix of choice

Hummus ketchup (see note at bottom of recipe)

1. To prep burgers, grate half of onion and garlic into a bowl. (Cut the rest of the onion into slices to grill alongside burgers) Add in all spices, including zatar and stir. Then add in wet ingredients (ketchup and optional Worcestershire sauce) and stir again. Finally, add in olive and sundried tomato bits, and mix well.

2. Add in ground meat, and mix gently with hands to incorporate spice paste mix into meat. Don’t overwork. Form into four equal size patties, and grill on indoor or outdoor grill of choice until desire doneness is reached. When you flip the burgers, add the onion chunks to the grill to cook.

3. Arrange burgers in desired manner–on buns, atop a salad, or even wrapped in pita or lavash bread. If desired, serve with burger fixing of your choice. My preference is to serve them with slabs of grilled onion and hummus ketchup (recipe in note below).

NOTE: Optional Flexible Hummus Ketchup: Use a fork to mix together equal amounts premade hummus and ketchup in a small bowl. Add in a splash (teaspoon) of mustard, and a tablespoon of any Arabic spice blend. If you want a redder dip, add in some paprika or increase the amount of ketchup. If dip tastes too sweet, balance the flavor with some lemon or lime juice. Mix well and serve with burgers as a dipping sauce. For a garlicky kick, grate in some garlic. If a spicier flavor is desired, add a pinch or two of cayenne pepper.


Read Full Post »

FaRAWfel anyone? A fun raw falafel ball recipe to kick of your Meatless Monday.

I’ve been really into raw foods lately. I find that as the weather warms, I like more salads, more smoothies, and lighter, cooler fare. Such choices feel better to me. Raw food fits the bill beautifully, and it energizes me quite nicely. However, there’s no reason we can’t pack our raw goodies with some good old Middle Eastern flair.

Really good falafel can taste meaty. And my raw version tastes very meaty, too!

That’s exactly what my sister Mona and I did with our FaRAWfels. Also known as Raw Falafel. It’s simply a meaty tasting nut pate with Middle Eastern spices tossed in for that special flavah. I noticed a raw taco nut “meat” recipe on Averie’s blog. I tried it and it was awesome. No surprise there. She has great recipes 🙂 .

Then I decided to take her basic template and put the falafel spices into play and see what happened. Good things, that’s what!

Mona and I enjoyed them for dinner atop a raw kale salad topped with my tahini red pepper dressing. We had this delicious meal recently after taking a nice, long walk around one of NYC’s most vibrant neighborhoods– East Harlem, which is also called el Barrio. Before we get to the recipe, take a look at some of what we saw and we strolled around on a Sunday afternoon. I love that the Barrio has tons of murals and little hidden community gardens:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

FaRAWfels (Raw Falafel)

Modified from a brilliant nut pate “taco meat” recipe of Averie’s on LoveVeggiesandYoga.com. To keep it strictly raw, use all raw nuts and seeds.


1/2 cup Almonds

1/2 Cup Walnuts

1/4 Cup Pecans

1/4 Cup Sunflower Seeds

1/3 C Sun Dried Tomatoes loosely packed (I prefer those that aren’t packed with oil. If you used oil packed, you can probably use less olive oil)

2 Tablespoons Middle Eastern Spice Blend of choice (Click here for my blend)

2 Tablespoons paprika

2 Tablespoons za-tar blend of choice (Optional)

2 to 4 Tablespoons of Olive Oil

1 Tsp Salt (or to taste)


1. Gather ingredients.

2. To a blender or food processor, toss in nuts, sundried tomatoes, and spices.

3. Add olive oil and blend until the nuts are broken up and the ingredients nicely mixed. Go slow–I like mine a bit on the chunky side, with some whole seeds left. You might need to add a tiny touch of water to get things moving. Go easy if you choose to add water.

4. Roll into balls and serve.

Read Full Post »

Zatar. Not many of my friends have heard of this wonderful stuff, so I often serve it as an app at dinner parties to spread the good word. So what is it?

It’s generally a mixture of toasted sesame seeds. . .

Sesame seeds.

. . .and very finely ground dried herbs and spices.

Herbs in their dried and finely ground form are another key ingredient in zatar.

There are probably as many iterations of zatar as their are towns in the Middle East. (For that matter, there are several different ways to spell it: zatar, zahtar, zaa’tar, and so on). Herbs like thyme, oregano, sage, and rosemary, to name but a few, can find their way into the mix.

The most fun place to buy zatar? In my opinion, it’s at the spice market or a specialty foods store with spice bins. You can find it online, of course. But as for spice markets, here’s a pic of one in Istanbul:

A spice market in Istanbul. Not Constantinople 😉

So here’s the lore on zatar. It’s filling, but won’t weigh you down. (Wow, that sounds kinda beer-ad-sloganesque!) Students often eat it before exams for energy and alterness. It’s cleansing and aids digestion, which is why some people swear by it as a weight loss aid. It can help you out if you’re feeling unwell. (Again, the whole cleansing thing).

There are many ways one can use zatar. For example, a popular way to enjoy it is as a topping on warm pita. I like to sprinkle it on salads and roasted vegetables. Most often, though, I make a quick zatar dip. It’s simple.

Zatar, just before I chopped and added a clove of fresh garlic to the dip.

This is how I make the dip: I pour some zatar in a small, shallow bowl. I pour olive oil on top of the zatar, and mix well. Then I put fresh pieces of chopped garlic bits on top. Yes, I eat raw garlic sometimes. I happen to really love it. Don’t knock it–it’s a very good immune system boost. Just make sure to enjoy it with like-minded people. Or alone!

Call this dip a triple threat: I’ve eaten this dip as an appetizer, as part of brunch or breakfast, or alone for dinner. Well, not completely alone–with some pita for dipping.

Some people like the dip more oily, and less pasty. My personal preference is to let the zatar stand out, while the olive oil binds it all together. Otherwise, you have an olive oil dip flavored with zatar, not a zatar dip with some olive oil. Of course, adjust the thickness of the dip to your preference. If you end up with too much oil, add more zatar. If you end up with too much zatar, simply add more oil.

One very important note: Many zatar mixes are pre-salted, so keep this in mind if you’re adding it to recipes.

Have fun! Feel free to share some of your zatar uses with me in the comments.

Read Full Post »

I could write a book on the infinite ways one can put together a Middle Eastern style breakfast. For now, I’ll simply say that I love this meal, and think more restaurants should offer it as a breakfast or brunch option. People need to get into this. Mezze for breakfast? Please sign me up!

Breakfasts tend toward the vegetarian side of things. Sometimes lamb sausage (merguez) will make an appearance, but it’s not a must-have. This type of breakfast is the perfect meal for those who have a light appetite in the morning, and it’s equally perfect for those who like to eat heavier for breakfast. You can eat a few bites, or a whole plate full of food. In other words, it’s flexible!

Here’s a breakfast I put together recently. It took all of about 7 minutes, including the time it took to scramble 2 eggs with a few snippets of fresh mustard greens, sundried tomato bits, and garlic.

One possibility for a Middle Eastern style breakfast. This meals tends to be vegetarian. That morning, olives, eggs, pita, and zatar dip with fresh garlic were on the menu. The cheesy-looking stuff I sprinkled on top is actually nutritional yeast. It's very popular with vegans and vegetarians as a way to get a cheesy flavor that's dairy-free.

The sesame and ground herb mixture on the left is zatar. I LOVE this stuff. Mixed with olive oil and a few bits of fresh garlic, it’s an immunity booster on a plate. The olives are filling and nutritious. The egg scramble was super simple. I just warmed a bit of olive oil, and lightly cooked some pieces of mustard greens, a few garlic bits, and some sundried tomatoes. Then I added in the eggs and scrambled them. (Scroll down for a more detailed recipe).

A nice change of pace from cold cereal, don’t you think?

Simple Egg Scramble with Greens and Sundried Tomatoes

2 large eggs, beaten (free range, organic eggs are best)

1 clove of garlic, finely chopped

Olive oil to coat pan

1/3 cup chopped, washed mustard greens (Or greens of your choice. Use more greens if you like)

4 sundried tomatoes, chopped (Try cutting them with kitchen scissors)

Optional: Nutritional yeast or cheese of choice (Feta, Parmesean) for sprinkling on top


1. Heat olive oil over medium heat in a small skillet.

2. Once oil is shimmery, carefully place garlic bits in the pan and lower the heat immediately. Stir. Over low heat, add the greens and sundried tomatoes. Cook for approximately one minute, stirring as necessary.

3. Pour in beaten eggs. Fold eggs with a spatula. Keep the eggs moving by continuing to gently fold them with the spatula for another minute or two.

4. Remove the eggs from the heat when they look like they’re almost done. That way they won’t over-cook. Yes, they will look slightly under-cooked, but carryover heat will finish them off.

5. If using cheese or nutritional yeast as a garnish, plate the eggs and lightly dust them with the topping.

Read Full Post »