I would be remiss in my survey of Lebanese food if I didn’t take time to wax eloquent about the savory masterpiece that is zaatar and labneh. Zaatar in particular is an essential ingredient in Lebanese cuisine, both as a seasoning and as a spread. This coarse grind of thyme and sesame seeds is often mixed with olive oil and used as a dipping sauce for the light pita bread. Zaatar w Zeit, a dining hot spot my friends and I jokingly refer to as the Panera Bread of Lebanon, is further evidence of the popularity of the local spice. The name literally means “Zaatar and Olive”- a winning combination. Labneh is likewise, a staple of the Lebanese diet. This creamy dairy product is somewhat like a cross between sour cream and Greek yogurt. It is often coupled with the zaatar for dipping bread or as a spread on the hot wrap sandwiches called sage. Zaatar and Labneh– so good, the Lebanese eat it all the thyme.
Zaatar and Labneh can both be purchased at any Lebanese or Middle Eastern grocery store.