Given the amount of cookbooks I’ve collected over the years one would think a new recipe would be whipped up every day. Not every day, sometimes not for weeks. And then, as if something is in the air, I’m yearning to try all sorts of new recipes. When the mood strikes for Middle Eastern my go-to cookbooks are from Yotam Ottolenghi. I will admit, I’m not really one to go too far off the beaten path in terms of spices and such because, you know, children, weeknight dinners, and allergens. But sometimes cookbooks, like his, bring a sense of adventure and faraway travels to the table without being too fussy and far reach; or even objected by very cute little palettes and become family favorites. This is one of those recipes, and now a go-to recipe in our home.
Luckily, for me, my family likes to try new flavors and were all on board with some Middle Eastern flair. And with so many of his dishes, they are also fabulous for entertaining—they will have everyone talking at your dinner party, I assure you. He has a knack for using a wide range of spices and creating wonderfully vibrant food that will have you wanting to try everything.
I haven’t dabble much with za’atar before trying this recipe a couple of years ago and didn’t really want to buy a jar of it …you know when you buy a special ingredient only to use it in a recipe you didn’t like? that sucks … so I made my own after looking into how easy it was to do so. Considering everything I have made from his cookbooks is delicious, I don’t know why I was so nervous about za’atar.
Have you heard of za’atar? It’s an Arabic word for ‘herb blend’ and mostly used in Middle Eastern or Mediterranean cooking. Very popular in the Middle East on pita with olive oil. There are many varieties, some add oregano or marjoram. I used an Israeli style mixture for this recipe. It is so easy to make yourself.
I thought maybe the spices are a little ‘out there’ for my little guys, but what do I know – they loved it and wanted more “cream sauce’! As crazy as that sounds. Despite all the substantial flavors, nothing overpowers in flavor so would say this is also a kid-friendly recipe. Not only are the colors stunning in here, it’s an easy, versatile dish full of deliciousness. We had it for lunch with olive and bean salad and pickled turnips given our Indian summer weather in Los Angeles, but this would also pair well with lamb, or chicken kabobs for a cozy, more autumn-like Middle Eastern inspired meal. I do hope you do give this recipe a try because I think you will absolutely love it.
- 4 medium sweet potato (about 3 pounds)
- 2 medium red onions, cut into wedges
- 3 tablespoons olive oil (not extra-virgin)
- 4 tablespoons tahini paste
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice (one large lemon)
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1 garlic clove
- handful pine nuts, toasted
- 1 tablespoon za’atar (or make your own, see below)
- kosher salt & crushed black pepper to taste
- Homemade za’atar:
- 2 parts dried thyme
- 2 parts toasted sesame seeds
- 2 parts ground sumac
- 1 part kosher salt
- Note: this will make more than needed for the recipe. Stored in a sealed container for a few months.
- Preheat oven to 475 degrees F (246 C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Wash and peel sweet potato, and cut into sixths as wedges. Peel and cut red onions into wedges. Transfer all into a bowl. Drizzle with olive oil, couple of pinches of kosher salt and crushed black pepper and gently toss to evenly distribute. Transfer onto lined baking sheet. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes.
- Meanwhile prepare the tahini dressing. Combine tahini, lemon juice, water, and a garlic clove in a food processor (mini food processor works well), pulse until smooth and pourable consistency. Add one extra tablespoon or two, if needed to reach desired consistency.
- When the vegetables are done roasting, transfer onto a serving dish. Drizzle with tahini dressing, then sprinkle with za’atar and pine nuts.
- Note: the recipe for tahini dressing will make more than needed for the dish. Serve on the side or use as a salad dressing.
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