Middle East Omelet – #22

This omelet contains zaatar, kusbara (coriander), & tahina (tahini), which are the contents, and it is cooked in olive oil, to which a chopped jalepeno has been added, to fry for a few seconds. These five ingredients that are cornerstones of Middle East cuisine, blend together with the egg to produce a melodious gustatory pleasure. The two herbs must be fresh, chopped, and placed on the cooking egg, followed by tahina. I’ll get back to the making of the omelet later.  First here is a picture of the key ingredient.

But what, you ask, is thing pictured above and called zaatar? This refers to a specific herb which was first known to be used in ancient Egypt, with remains of one variety found in the tomb of Tutankhamen. Maimonides identified the ezov mentioned in the bible as the Arabic za’atar. But beyond the historical aspects of this herb, I dare you to dive into the world wide and deep web to find out what this really is. The trail is devious and confusing, with a maze of interrelated herbecious wild and cultivated plants. You will be completely confused as to the relationship between zaatar, oregano, hyssoop, marjoram, and thyme,  There are a number of adjectives placed before these words including wild, sweet, bible, and Persian. The number of combinations and permutations is almost limitless. It is no wonder that the Wikipedia article on zaatar concludes with the statement, “Both oregano and marjoram are closely related Mediterranean plants of the Lamiaceae family, so it is unsurprising that they could be used interchangeably.” As best as I can discren, zaatar is a subspecies of oregano. For my tate buds marjoram and thyme are entirely separate herbs from what I would lump together as cultured oregano, which we had in our garden and was harvested in the summer and zaatar, which we now grow and harvest in the winter. These last two are very similar in appearance and nearly identical in taste. I have no idea what hyssop is and if anybody can tell me, I’d be glad to hear from you.

The zaatar plant is native to our hily regions here in the north of the country. Over-harvesting nearly denuded Israel of its wild zaatar. As a result, the plant was declared a protected species in 1977. Under Israeli law, offenders risk fines of up to $4,000 or six months imprisonment for picking commercial quantities. The statue now allows each household to pick 10 kg of the leaves annually for home consumption. Still, it is estimated that a large rural family can polish off a kilogram of the prepared condiment in a week. At present, the plant may not have yet recovered from over-harvesting.

Dried zaatar in the Jerusalem Shuk

Most zaatar is purchased as the dried herb mixture containing varied combinations of dried oregano/zaatar with sumac, thyme, and/or marjoram with toasted sesame seeds, salt, and frequently, flour. Watch out those of you, like me, who have celiac and are sensitive to gluten. You might think of making your own. Sprinkle it on your bread, hummus, or yogurt but don’t use it in this omelet as only the fresh herb is allowed. For those of you who don’t have access to fresh zaatar, you may use fresh oregano in your omelet instead. Coarsely chop it up with fresh kusbara, as we call it here, or probably known in your neck of the woods as coriander. Layer these chopped herbs on the egg after it is no longer runny and then add the tahina. My tahina has been standing for a long time and the liquid oil has separated from the paste. I just dug down with a long handled spoon to take out the sesame paste. If yours is homoginized, you can go to your local health/natural food store and buy some sesame butter to use for the omelet. Place dabs of the tahina/sesame butter hither and yon on the herbs, wait a few seconds and fold over the omelet as we have described previously or can be seen in our one and so far, only, video.

I am quite sure that you will love this Middle East Omelet. Bon Apetit.


2 thoughts on “Middle East Omelet – #22

  1. Pingback: The CZ Omelet | israelwinetaster

  2. Pingback: Mulberry & Sesame Paste Omelet | israelwinetaster

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