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East Meets West with Balsamic Za’atar Vinaigrette

Za’atar is a spice blend originating in the Middle East that includes hyssop, sumac, sesame seeds and salt. Not typical herbs and spices found in the Italian kitchen with the exception of hyssop a shrubby perennial plant in the mint family that is native to Asia and the Mediterranean. However with the sweet acidic support of a good balsamic vinegar and a fruity extra virgin olive oil, za'atar's herbs and spices bloom and the sesame seeds release their nutty flavors to infuse the oil and vinegar with an earthy flavor that appeals to our culinary consciousness.

Food historians tell us that za'atar was first introduced by Maimonides, a 12th century physician, Jewish scholar and one of the forefathers of modern medicine. The herbs and spices used in za'atar traveled throughout history and around the Middle East and Mediterranean influencing the cooking of the region from ancient to present times.


This aromatic vinaigrette can be served as salad dressing or a light sauce drizzled over grilled chicken, shrimp, fish, eggplant or zucchini or as an interesting dipping oil for bread. You can also use it for a Mediterranean Quinoa Salad with chickpeas, cucumbers, red onions, Campari tomatoes and kalamata olives adding garlic, chopped parsley and fresh dill to the ingredients.



  • ¼ cup Za'atar spice blend

  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar

  • 6 T extra virgin olive oil

  • Coarse sea salt to taste


Measure the ingredients into a clean jar with a leakproof lid. Shake to blend well.

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