Walking down the streets of downtown Amman, surrounded by limestone buildings, people smoking sheesha and women chattering in Arabic, I couldn’t help but be drawn to a very strong aroma. The smell weaves the path for me till I reach a local baker’s shop;perplexed at my strong sense of smell, I was convinced it is not just the odor of freshly baked Khubz (Arabic flatbread). I simply had to ask the baker to feed my curiosity as well as my stomach. In my broken Arabic, he barely understood what I was asking. Finally he pointed to a mound of earthy looking herbs; Za’atar. This pungent smelling herb is a blend of sumac, sesame seeds, dried thyme, marjoram, oregano and salt. It can be found in various cuisines across the Levant and the Middle East.
Fresh, hot khubz, dipped in olive oil and smeared with za’atar jolted my taste buds; I had to take a bag back home with me. I had spent a year in Jordan after college and all the memories make me believe that I was there just yesterday. Hence, every time someone visits the Middle East, a bag of za’atar is a must for me.
I woke up today with a penchant for making croutons. My salads are incomplete without the crunchiness of croutons so usually I buy them from a supermarket. That was not to be the case today. One of the foodies I follow on Twitter had posted a tweet about homemade croutons today; I knew it-it was fate. I had to do it.
- Day old bread
- Olive oil
- Preheat the oven before you start, so it is piping hot when you put the bread in.
- Cut the bread into small cubes and spread over a baking sheet
- Drizzle olive oil over the bread cubes generously
- Sprinkle za’atar over the cubes and mix with your hands, careful not to break the bread cubes.
- Put in the oven till they are crisp and brown, about 5 minutes