Recipe of the week
Salmon with za’atar: Introducing your new go-to spice mix
A salmon dinner has never been so easy.
I never seem to run out of ways to use za’atar, said Yasmin Khan in Zaitoun: Recipes From the Palestinian Kitchen (W.W. Norton). I first fell in love with the Palestinian spice mix after visiting the West Bank a decade ago, and “it has become one of the most-used spices in my cupboard ever since.” Za’atar is a name for a particular herb—a variety of wild thyme that grows throughout the region—and also for a tangy spice mix that combines the herb with sumac, sesame seeds, and salt. Look for it in supermarkets or online in versions made in the Middle East, because it’s difficult to replicate without herbs from the region. Western-made versions “tend to be dry, woody, and tasteless.”
When I’m home in London, “I use za’atar for everything from marinating meats and fish to roasting vegetables.” It can be spread on a flatbread with olive oil for a snack or used to top yogurt at every meal. Still, I tend to use za’atar most often for this simple weeknight supper. “Its sharp and fragrant flavor works wonderfully for sprucing up salmon fillets, giving you maximum flavor with minimal effort.”
Za’atar roast salmon with garlicky bean mash
2 salmon fillets
2 tbsp olive oil or any neutral oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tbsp za’atar
1 garlic clove, crushed
Finely grated zest of 1 unwaxed lemon, plus lemon wedges to serve
2 tbsp salted butter
14-oz can of cannellini beans
Preheat oven to 400. Place the salmon fillets on a baking sheet, skin side down. Drizzle evenly with the cooking oil and season with ½ tsp salt and a generous grind of pepper. Spoon the za’atar over the fillets, coating as much of the surface of the salmon as you can. Pop the fish into the oven and bake until fillets are just cooked through, 11 to 13 minutes.
Fry garlic and lemon zest in the butter for a few minutes over low heat. Add the beans, 2 tbsp water, ½ tsp salt, and ¼ tsp pepper. Heat the beans through and then, using a fork or potato masher, roughly mash them. If the mixture looks a bit dry, add a splash more water.
When the fish is ready, transfer each piece to a warm plate with half the mashed beans and add lemon wedges. Serves 2.
When you simply can’t get your hands on Middle Eastern za’atar, try this near approximation.
2 tbsp dried Greek or Turkish oregano
2 tbsp dried marjoram
2 tbsp sumac
2 tsp sesame seeds
1 tsp sea salt
Mix the ingredients together, then store in an airtight container for up to two weeks. ■