Alexander Harik, a New Yorker, whose family emigrated from Lebanon, grew up with za’atar, a dried spice mix made with thyme and used to season almost everything throughout the Middle East. His mother mixed it with olive oil to create the condiment she was raised on. “It’s the ketchup of Lebanon,” says Harik. “And every home has a bowl of za’atar with olive oil with a spoon on the table.” He began to notice that the spice blend was seemingly becoming a flavor trend at some of his favorite eateries, appearing on menus in unexpected places. So he persuaded his mother, Lorraine, to go into business with him. Two years ago, using her family’s recipe and sourcing ingredients directly from farmers across the Mediterranean, they launched the spread Zesty Z out of a Brooklyn commercial kitchen ($7.99 for 8 ounces). The condiment, a blend of thyme, sumac, oregano, salt, and sesame seeds combined with extra virgin olive oil, has a similar texture as pesto. Slather the fragrant, bold, earthy mix on a bagel or pita, use it on eggs, to top grilled chicken, or create a Mediterranean pizza. It’s shelf-stable, so you can leave the jar on the table. Since he started the company, Harik has become somewhat of an ambassador for the herb blend. “I’m the Johnny Appleseed of za’atar,” he says. Available at Whole Foods Market locations or go to www.zesty-z.com.
ANN TRIEGER KURLAND