Herbed yogurt dip with chives and zaatar

This dip won over a self-proclaimed hater of zaatar (my husband) and another self-proclaimed hater of herbs (a good friend). Zaatar is quite popular in this part of the Middle East, and is frequently sold as a dry spice mix, which also includes sesame and sumac (and sometimes salt). But this dip contains fresh zaatar, which is nothing like dry zaatar — it has more of an herbal taste, and somewhat resembles oregano. Here it serves as an interesting compliment to the fresh chives, which give the yogurt a cool, refreshing flavor. I wouldn’t have used dry zaatar in this dish, as a matter of personal choice, but fresh zaatar is lovely.

For those without a zaatar plant growing on the patio, fresh oregano leaves would work well in place. Or, you could try making this with dried zaatar, or even zaatar spice mix — you’ll get a different flavor, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

I eat this with vegetable sticks, including carrots, cucumbers and red peppers, and as far as I’m concerned, it’s a light meal.

For half a cup of dip:

1/2 cup of your favorite unflavored yogurt (my choice: buffalo yogurt)
3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
1 tablespoon fresh zaatar leaves
1/4-1/2 teaspoon salt (to taste; I like salt)
fresh black pepper (optional)
1 tablespoon mayonnaise (optional; to add creaminess, and fat, of course)
a few basil leaves (optional)

Finely chop the herbs. Mix with the other ingredients. Serve with vegetable sticks or however you choose.

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