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If you read this blog, you likely know that my favorite way of taking herbs is to eat them, and za’atar seasoning (or zaatar or zatar) is no exception. I first encountered za’atar several years ago at dinner at my friends Joe and Nan’s home. Joe is of Lebanese descent; as part of the meal, he had taken pita, drizzled it with good quality olive oil, sprinkled it liberally with za’atar, and then toasted it in the oven. It was divine.
That was before I even started studying herbalism—I didn’t even know what sumac was, nor that it had medicinal properties. Now I know, and if it’s possible, I enjoy this spice blend even more now with the understanding. Similar to a gomasio, this spice blend includes sea salt and sesame seeds but hails from the Middle East. We eat it sprinkled on gluten-free toast, on popcorn, and if you eat meat, it’s wonderful to roll a chicken breast in it before cooking. If you try it out (or if you already use it), I’d love to hear how you use this tasty seasoning!
- 4 parts dried thyme leaves (if the pieces are large, you might want to grind it a little for optimal mixing)
- 4 parts sumac powder
- 4 parts toasted sesame seeds
- 1 part sea salt
Mix all ingredients together. Store in a glass jar.
What are some of your favorite medicinal-and-tasty herbal seasoning blends?
Actually, “salt free” isn’t entirely true. More accurate would be to say that this seasoning blend only contains the naturally-occurring salts found in the herbs—no salt is added.
A gomasio is a traditional Japanese seasoning blend made of unhulled sesame seeds and salt. My challenge was to come up with an herbal gomasio that was “salt free” and highly nutritive. Many of us eat far too much salt in our diets, but we still crave the flavor, and especially now in the grand season of a fresh food bounty—farmer’s booths at the market overflowing with greens and reds and yellows and purples—it’s simply divine to be able to put raw greens and veggies on a platter, drizzle on some oil and a sprinkling of this gomasio. I don’t know about you, but this time of year I have trouble keeping salad dressing around, we go through it so fast.
My other challenge is that I don’t particularly like the taste of seaweeds, which are a major component in most other saltless seasonings.
You may also be aware that much of the salt we get at the store is “iodized,” that is to say iodine is added as a supplement to ensure that we get enough of it in our diet. Well, both sesame seeds and nettles are good natural sources of iodine. On the whole, this blend boasts myriad beneficial vitamins, minerals, and proteins. It’s good medicine for the whole body.
And my favorite way of taking my medicine is always by eating it in ridiculously tasty dishes. Hands down. Food is good.
Salt-free Herbal Gomasio
1 part nettle leaf
1 part celery seed
1 part sesame seed
1/2 part milk thistle seed
1/2 part fennel seed
1/2 part onion or garlic
Mix all the above in a small bowl. Place in an herb mill (or an empty salt or pepper grinder).
Other variations: try some dry citrus rind, pepper, or a small amount of mustard seeds. If you like seaweed, give it a whirl.
Feel free to post your own variations and ideas in the comments!