All the foods za’atar fit to eat

Some week. Some week. I haven’t been writing much, because I just don’t know what to say about The Thing, but it feels weird to write about anything else when there’s The Thing. Also, I skipped What’s For Supper last week, because I was away, so I’ll do a quick rundown before I get to this week’s food.

Grilled ham and cheese

Nothing to report.

Canobie Lake Park again!

We had to leave early last time we went because of the storm, so they gave everyone free evening passes, and when you give a family of twelve free passes, they come back. We had Walmart subs in the parking lot and then spent the rest of the evening doing this sort of thing:

and some of this:

Lemon za’atar chicken, pita and yogurt sauce, blueberries

Kyra gave me another of her patented cornucopias o’ weird foods, including a large jar of za’atar, which is a traditional middle eastern seasoning mixture. Ours is an “Aleppo blend,” and is made of thyme, wheat (?), sesame seeds, spices (?), sumac, and salt. The internet tells me it’s the sumac that’s really important in za’atar.

I followed this recipe, using leg quarters, which always make me feel like Henry XIII. Just gimme a dog to wipe my hands on. Sadly, I roasted the chicken in the oven, rather than grilling it outside (or making my kitchen wench turn it on the spit or whatever).

It was a very pretty meal, but the flavor was much quieter than I was expecting, given all that zesting and whatnot.

I also wasn’t really sure what to do with those lemons. I warned the kids that they were just hot lemons, and they ate them anyway, and then were surprised at how hot they were, and sour.

Anyway, I did like the za’atar flavor, which was sort of musky and piney, and need some more recipes that use za’atar. Whatcha got?

For the yogurt sauce, I used full fat Greek yogurt, minced garlic, salt and pepper, lemon juice, and parsley.

Beef pepperoncini sandwiches

A tasty, very easy meal. Take a hunk of beef and put it in the slow cooker with a jar of pepperoncini and the juice, and let it cook on low all day. Shred the meat, shred a few peppers if you like, and serve it on toasted rolls with horseradish sauce and provolone.

You can see my provolone tragically slid off the sandwich while I was toasting it, but I just flipped it right back onto the meat. You can use the juice from the slow cooker to dip your sandwich in. Mmmmm.

Pork banh mi

Scrumptious as always. I started the meat marinating the night before, and set one of the kids to pickle the carrots in the morning. We left the cucumbers unpickled so there would be something cool and refreshing, as there are so many sharp and pungent parts of this sandwich.

I had mine with Sriracha mayo and plenty of cilantro on a toasted baguette. Banh me has become one of my absolute favorite meals, and most of the work is prep work, not cooking.

Korean beef bowl, rice

A quick and satisfying meal. You just brown up the meat, throw in the rest of the ingredients, heat it through, and that’s it! I made it early in the day and then kept it warm in the slow cooker, then cooked some rice in the Instant Pot before dinner and served it up with sesame seeds on top.

Chopped scallions are the best, but we ate them all with the chicken, so we had cilantro. It was okay.

Giant chocolate pancake for people at home, some kind of luxurious fish dish that almost killed me for me

I went off to the Year of the Family conference in Montpelier, VT, where I was supposed to give a speech and lead a breakout session. So I drove up, checked into a lovely hotel, had a wonderful meal, went back to my room, practiced my speeches one last time, and promptly got violently (and I do mean violently) ill, and stayed violently (and I do mean violently) ill all night long. As soon as I could stand up again the next day, I dragged myself into the car and slunk back home. Boo.

I think Damien made beer brats.

I’m sure they were delicious. I was working my way up to toast.

Smoked beef sandwiches

Not sure how Damien made this. He sent me this pic, which, now that I’m human again, looks absolutely delicious.

He sliced the meat and served it on toasted sourdough bread with provolone. I had toast and applesauce.

Fancy ramen

On Monday, we did the back-to-school shopping. It took five-and-a-half hours. A good day to rush home and make some pork ramen, which is fast and which almost everyone likes at least some part of. Even the bearded dragon, who has a thing for pea shoots.

I sauteed (or, from Payless, directed a kid to sautee) some boneless pork ribs in oil, then doused them in soy sauce and sliced them thin. So we had chicken ramen with your choice of pork, frozen stir fry vegetables, chopped scallions, sesame seeds, soy sauce, wasabi sauce, crunchy noodles, pea shoots, and Sriracha sauce. Sometimes we also have pickled carrots and cucumbers with this meal. I meant to soft boil some eggs, but I forgot.

Spaghetti carbonara

Last day of vacation, so we went to the beach. I had been promising Irene spaghetti carbonara, and the very last few days of summer vacation is definitely the time to cash in on things your mother promised you could have.

It’s such a simple, spectacular dish. You cook the bacon crisp and cut it into bits and then cook the spaghetti (I like to add bacon grease to the pot). Drain the pasta and add the bacon and an insane amount of butter, parmesan cheese, and pepper. Then throw in some beaten eggs and mix it all up until it all wants to cling together. Perfection. I quadrupled the recipe, except for the pasta, which I only tripled, thus making the entire dish CARBONARA SUPREME.

Crock pot chicken enchiladas

First day of school. I saw this intriguing recipe for slow cooker enchiladas that had ground beef cooked with peppers and onions. It looked tasty, but I thought chicken would be even better. Out of sheer honesty, I must admit that I had a feeling of foreboding about this dish from the very beginning, even before I went off-recipe.

So I put three chicken breasts in the Instant Pot with some water and a bunch of chili lime powder and set it to high pressure for eight minutes, then did a quick release. When the chicken was cool, I shredded it.

Then I mixed the shredded chicken with a diced red onion, a few cans of drained tomatoes and chilis, and a can of green enchilada sauce. Then I found a bunch of tortillas the same diameter as my Instant Pot, and made a stack out of tortillas, chicken mixture, and shredded cheddar cheese. It was about fifteen tortillas deep.Then I set it to “slow cook,” still shouting down the foreboding.

Here is how it looked when I opened the top:

Well, I hope you’re not looking forward to some kind of amusing, outlandish catastrophe at the end, here. The only thing that happened was it turned out exactly like you’d expect.

Okay flavors, but damp and sloppy and just, well, as you see. If I decreased the sauce and if people had been shoveling heavy, wet snow all day before dinner, it might seem like a different dish.

Stuffed shells, salad

This meal was Benny’s heart’s desire.

I made it in the morning and warmed it up in the afternoon. My goodness, the compliments! It wasn’t anything special, but I guess it hit the spot. I put together 64 oz of ricotta cheese with a ton of parmesan and shredded mozzarella, salt and pepper, oregano, and lots of garlic powder, and stuffed the shells with that; then I put more sauce on top and more parmesan and mozzarella.

I guess once you get up to three kids of cheese, that’s true love. The sauce was just Aldi’s marinara sauce from a jar, which is not bad.


I guess salad and bread and whatnot. We have walnuts and feta cheese and broccoli, and I boiled a bunch of eggs, and there is corn we never got around to eating, plus I got a few raisin challahs from Aldi to try. Yes, raisin challah is an abomination. Don’t care. We got through the first week of school (and work and cross country and everything) and there was food on the table every single day.

You guys, I’m so tired. I’ll write up the recipe cards later!

Beef pepperoncini sandwiches


  • 1 hunk beef
  • 1 jar pepperoncini
  • several glugs Worcestershire sauce (optional)
  • rolls
  • sliced provolone


  1. Put the beef in a slow cooker with a jar of pepperoncini and the juice. If you like, cut the stems off the pepperoncini. If there isn't enough juice, add some beer. Add the worcestershire sauce if you want a slightly more savory juice.

  2. Cover, set to low, and let it cook for several hours until the meat falls apart when poked with a fork. 

  3. Shred the meat. If you like, chop up a few of the pepperoncini. 

  4. Serve meat on rolls with mayo if you like. Lay sliced provolone over the meat and slide it under the broiler to toast the bread and melt the cheese. Serve the juice on the side for dipping. 


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13 thoughts on “All the foods za’atar fit to eat”

  1. In one of Ottolenghi’s cookbooks (I think “Jerusalem”) there’s a recipe for turkey-zucchini burgers, with the world’s most delicious dipping sauce, featuring za’atar.

    Also, as others have said, my Lebanese in-laws sprinkle it on flatbread before baking.

  2. Activated charcoal is a must-have for food poisoning and dire indigestion. Hospitals keep it for just that purpose. It binds with whatever is in your stomach and makes you miraculously better. I bring it with me whenever we travel. It has saved us many times.

    And thank you for not writing about The Thing all the time. Yes, it is awful, but there is already too much crazy happening between Catholics on facebook. I do want to occasionally want to step away from the gore and pretend I don’t live in a field hospital.

  3. We are Lebanese and so grew up on zaatar. Zaatar is dried oregano or thyme, sumac and sesame seeds- that’s all.

    Mix zaatar with lots of olive oil so it becomes a paste. Spread it onto flat bread and roll up. My kids eat it for lunch. Yummy with fresh, crunchy cucumber sticks. Yummy breakfast roll too. The zaatar paste keeps well outside of the fridge for weeks, but I’m sure it will be gone way earlier.

    Also another zaatar idea…drain full fat Greek yoghurt (with a good heap of salt mixed in) into a chux wipe or muslin cloth overnight to drain out the whey. It becomes a spreadable Cheese called labne. This keeps in fridge for weeks, with a good layer of olive oil ontop. You can spread the labne onto flat bread, sprinkle with zaatar, roll and eat. Yummy with black olives, sliced cucumber and tomato wedges. Very healthy. Better than peanut butter or butter or any unhealthy chocolate spread, and very satisfying.

    1. I have made the beef pepperoncini sandwiches a bunch of times since you first described them, and they are fabulous! I recommend them to anyone who eats beef. We eat ours with Swiss cheese and horseradish sauce.

  4. Full-fat Greek yogurt is so good that I don’t know why anybody tries any other kind of Greek yogurt. Yes, I know, the low-fat craze. I don’t care. If Greek yogurt isn’t made from regular full-fat milk, it just isn’t Greek yogurt. And if anybody else thinks differently, okay, FINE.

  5. Zaatar is often used to heavily season flat breads like pita–just oil and the zaatar, then baked a little till hot.

    I used to make what I called “middle eastern rice” with it a lot when we were raising lamb. Sauteed diced onion and garlic, diced tomatoes, zaatar, stock or water, rice. Then it was served with the lamb and yogurt sauce–very similar to yours–and I always put some of the yogurt sauce on top of my rice. Yum.

  6. The enchiladas didn’t work because flour tortillas are to be used as bread, not an ingredient. Use lightly fried corn tortillas to more consistent success.

  7. Favorite za’atar recipe is fatoush salad:
    Juice one lemon and mix it with 2 Tbsp za’atar and 2 Tbsp dried mint and then add some olive oil. You put that in a big bowl and add in the chopped lettuce (romaine, or whatever!) and diced tomatoes and cucumber. Can add bits of toasted pita or feta or really anything, it’s just a nice flavorful dressing.

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