Thursday, December 07, 2006

For the love of za'atar

Leah and I rode our bikes today down Mt. Auburn Street out to the Watertown line, because we'd just for the first time in our lives tried za'atar--a Middle Eastern spice blend of a wild herb in the thyme family, with sesame seeds and other goodies--at the Ana Sortun cooking demo, and we were hooked. Sortun had talked about spice combinations and spice cravings--how when we say we want Indian food, what we really want is a spice combination.

And za'atar, she said, is going Doritos fast. She'd seen Mario Batali and Daniel Boulud with it, and za'atar has no obvious connection or place in French or Italian cooking, so if Batali and Boulud were doing it, she pressed us, we needed to go get ourselves some za'atar while we were still ahead of the bandwagon.

I'm not a fan of thyme, at least not in dessert and not when it's used overwhelmingly alone. So I wasn't too excited by za'atar's prospects.

But there we were, hunched on a stoop next to the post office, me with a bag of halwah, rose water, a giant baggie of za'atar, and za'atar bread, cramming the bread into our mouths with giant smiles and without talking.

If you ever go out here without me, she said. Just get me more...

We're eating at Oleana next week...which will be so much better now that we've seen chef Sortun in action and heard her talk about her cooking...kind of like a friend in the kitchen.

AND, she said, she's opening a bakery in the area next spring, so if I'm still cooking in Boston, I can hop on her bandwagon and bake mediterranean treats.

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