What is za’atar, you ask? Za’atar is the Arabic word for thyme and also for a Middle Eastern spice mix. The main ingredient of the spice mix is – you guessed it – thyme. I’m told that when za’atar is mixed with olive oil and eaten with warm pitta bread it sharpens the mind. You can find za’atar at Middle Eastern food stores or you can make your own. I like to make my own (see * below).
The ground red sumac berries in the za’atar impart a tangy lemony flavor as well as nice color to this dish. Use it liberally as a garnish.
2 cups cooked black lentils (follow package directions)
2 green onions (sliced thin)
2 tablespoons fresh dill (coarsely chopped)
Dill springs (for garnish)
1 teaspoon lemon zest (grated fine)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
4 teaspoons za’atar *
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large bunch Swiss chard
1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
4 large eggs
Fine sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
Bring about 2″ water to a boil in a large saucepan; reduce heat to simmer.
Combine lentils, green onions, dill, lemon zest and lemon juice in a medium bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste and set aside.
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Remove the ribs from the chard and tear (or cut) leaves into 2-inch pieces. Add Swiss chard by the handful, tossing and letting it cook down a bit before adding more. Cook until tender. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and set aside.
To the simmering water add vinegar. Crack an egg into a small bowl, and then gently slide it into water. Repeat with remaining eggs, waiting until whites start to set before adding the next one (about 30 seconds apart). After about 3 minutes, whites should be set and yolks a little runny. Using a slotted spoon, transfer eggs to paper towels as they are done.
Divide lentils among bowls and top each with chard, a dill sprig and a poached egg. Sprinkle with a teaspoon of za’atar. For presentation, slice into the yolk (just a little) to let it run into the lentils/chard.
* Za’atar Ingredients:
4 tablespoon fresh thyme (leaves stripped from stems)
2 teaspoons ground sumac
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
Place the thyme leaves on a baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes or until just dry. Use a mortar and pestle to grind the thyme leaves. Remove thyme from the mortar to a small prep dish and set aside.
Place the sumac and salt in the mortar and grind until fine. Add the thyme leaves back in and grind the sumac, salt and thyme together. Add the sesame seeds and stir to combine. Store in an airtight at room temperature until ready to use. Makes about 6 tablespoons.