Savor the Flavor

Za’atar & Sumac Spiced Salmon with Pomegranate Molasses Glaze20160313_191426398_iOS

March is National Nutrition Month and this year’s theme, “Savor the Flavor of Eating Right,” matches my passion – marrying good taste and good health.Savor the flavor1

One “flavor family” that’s captivated the palates of food enthusiasts in recent years hails from the Middle East and North Africa. Consider the popularity of cookbooks such as Zahav, Jerusalem, Plenty and Plenty More. And hummus, a staple of this part of the world, is now as American as apple pie – available everywhere in myriad colors and flavors.

I’ve experimented with these soulful flavors since a visit to Egypt in 2011. Recently I created this recipe with some of them to reflect the spirit of “Savor the Flavor of Eating Right.”  If you’re new to these spices and seasoning blends, here’s an intro:

Sumac is a red-purple spice made from the ground fruit of a flowering plant in the genus Rhus coriaria with a sour, lemony taste. It is native to southwest Asia.

Aleppo Pepper is a fruity, medium-hot, burgundy-colored pepper sold in a crushed form. Named for the city of Aleppo, Syria it is grown in Syria and Turkey according to wikipedia. It’s more oily than crushed red pepper, which can be substituted for Aleppo pepper although you may need to adjust the amounts to your taste . A similar pepper from Turkey is Urfa Biber, with smoky, chocolatey notes that makes a good substitute, too.

Za’atar may refer to: 1. Middle Eastern herbs similar to oregano or thyme and 2. A dry seasoning blend that includes herbs, dried sumac and sesame seed. Recipes here generally refer to the blend, which varies in composition. I’ve tried a Syrian version of Za’atar from World Spice Merchants in Seattle , which also carries an Israeli blend, and a Palestinian version from

Other seasoning blends from this part of the world to spice up your cooking include: Egyptian dukkah, berbere, pilpechuma, zhoug, ras al hanout, and berbere. Look for ready-made blends at a well-stocked grocery store or online spice merchant – or find an online or cookbook recipe to make your own. Trader Joe’s stocks a few of them.

Savor 2Want more? Check out my recipes for Muhamarra with Za’atar-Spiced Pita Chips , Pumpkin Hummus with Fig-Olive Gremolata  or Spicy Roasted Pears (with Pilpechuma) in a salad recipe with pear dressing .
Za’atar & Sumac Spiced Salmon with Pomegranate Molasses Glaze

Photo by Lorelle Del Matto

Photo by Lorelle Del Matto

Try this with other fish such as halibut or cod. Adjust the amount of Aleppo pepper to your taste. Crushed red pepper can be substituted, again to taste.

4 (6-ounce) salmon fillets

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 cup white wine or water

2 tablespoons thinly sliced green onion or chopped cilantro

Spice Paste:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 ½ tablespoons za’atar
1 to 1 ½ tablespoons Aleppo pepper
1 ½ tablespoons ground sumac
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
1 tablespoon honey

Coarsely chopped fresh cilantro or parsle

1.Combine ingredients for spice paste in small bowl. Spread on top of salmon fillets.

2. Drizzle 1 tablespoon olive oil into a medium nonstick skillet and place over medium heat. Place fillets, skin side down, in skillet. Cover and cook for 5 minutes. Remove cover and add wine; simmer until salmon is just opaque in center. Remove from heat. Remove fillets to warm serving plate.

3.Mix Glaze ingredients and add to juices in skillet (If no juices remain add 2 tablespoons of water). Return skillet to medium-low heat and stir for a few seconds, until reduced to a thin glaze. Spoon glaze over salmon. Garnish with cilantro. Makes 4 servings.
© Lorelle Del Matto 2016

lorelle About lorelle

Crazy about cooking, eating and sharing good food – my work and leisure revolve around the kitchen. As a culinary dietitian my professional life encompasses nutrition counseling and education, recipe development, product development, food and nutrition writing, marketing communications, corporate test kitchen and consumer affairs management, food styling and work as a product spokesperson.

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