I spent half of my junior year of college in Jerusalem. It was the fall of 2008 - a remarkably peaceful time in Israel and, with the ascent of Barack Obama, a remarkably hopeful time in the US and elsewhere. I learned more than I could have dreamed, roaming Jerusalem on foot during the week and traveling by bus on weekends to dingy hostels and quirky seaside campgrounds with a band of pals who have become lifelong friends.
It was also a time when I came to learn and love food like never before. My appetite, always ravenous and wide-ranging, had become a source of anxiety throughout the year prior. My figure, always trim, had become skeletal. My confidence and sense of humor had receded completely.
The months in Jerusalem were full of joy and discovery, as well as heaping piles of salty roast chicken and rice with almonds from the Palestinian restaurant just outside of the Damascus Gate; small, dense rugelach from Marzipan Bakery at the Mahane Yehuda Shuk, rich with butter and dark chocolate; simit rings - large rounds of fluffy bread coated in sesame seeds and sold with small packets of za'atar - sold by sidewalk vendors out of wooden carts; hummus so warm and creamy it was a revelation. I found my way back.
I adore za'atar, the tangy, fragrant Middle Eastern spice blend made primarily of dried thyme, sumac, sesame seeds, and salt. I am fortunate enough to buy mine from a wonderful Palestinian store in the Mission. If you don't have Middle Eastern markets in your neck of the woods, there are lots of resources online to make your own. These Za'atar Tartines are in regular rotation in our home, since they don't require anything seasonal. Enjoy!
Weekend Tartines, January 2017: Za'atar Tartines
Makes 4 tartines / serves 2
4 medium slices of good sourdough bread
5 tbsp sour cream
3 tbsp plain yogurt (I used low-fat, but use whatever you have on hand. Greek yogurt is not the best choice here.)
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp za'atar
1/2 tsp sesame seeds
Whisk together the sour cream, yogurt, and a pinch of salt. There should be no lumps. Whisk in the lemon juice. Spoon/spread this mixture evenly over all 4 slices of bread. It will be slightly runny, and that's ok. Drizzle the olive oil evenly over the tartines. Sprinkle the za'atar and sesame seeds evenly over each. Serve immediately.