I was first introduced to Za’atar spices by a little Middle Eastern restaurant in the Silicon Valley of California. When a Jordanian friend brought me back a bag of them, I was delighted and stored them in my freezer for long-term enjoyment. After moving to Ireland, I missed the subtle flavors and earthiness Za’atar spices gave to dishes so I kept looking for it and eventually found it at Cork’s Quay Co-op Market. Since then, one of my favorite indulgent salads is to blend Za’atar spices and dried basil with olive oil when making a Caprese Salad.
Caprese Salad with Za’atar Spices
2 tablespoons Za’atar spices
1 tablespoon dried basil leaves (use fresh if you’re making this in the summer or when fresh is readily available)
Pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup (or to taste) extra virgin olive oil
4 fresh ripe tomatoes, sliced with the excess seed liquid drained (I like to leave some of it though because of its proven health benefits)
4 balls of fresh mozzarella or buffalo mozzarella, sliced or diced
1. Whisk the first four ingredients together. Set aside in a cruet for easy drizzling.
2. Arrange the tomato slices and mozzarella slices on a serving platter or individual plates then after a quick whisk to make sure the ingredients haven’t settled, drizzle over lightly. Alternatively, you can put it all in a bowl and fold them together.
3. Serve immediately after assembling. The mozzarella should remain chilled or refrigerated until then.
Note: For a picnic, place the tomatoes and mozzarella in a sealable container with a small amount of the spiced olive oil then bring the cruet to add more at time of serving. Keep chilled!
On a side note, the best Caprese salad I ever enjoyed was oddly not even on the island of Capri but on the neighboring island of Ischia. It was at an unassuming cafe by one of the ferry ports. I ate it in the warm sun while being stared at by a beautiful cat. Here’s a photo of the cat.