Harissa Za'tar Grilled Cheese
Harissa Za'atar Grilled Cheese
Za’atar, which means ‘thyme’ in Arabic, is a condiment made all over the Levant region in places like Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Palestine. Similar to Tunisian harissa, it is often found at the table with extra virgin olive oil and bread to be dipped and enjoyed fresh; a beautiful culinary element that reflects cultural similarity with the Levant region. This is not a coincidence though.
Indeed, olive trees were brought by the Phoenicians from the present-day Levant region to present-day Tunisia where the oldest olive trees were planted 2500 years ago by soldiers of the Carthaginian general Hannibal. Of course, olive oil is an integral ingredient and accompaniment to our Tunisian harissa today. It’s a beautiful example of how food constantly moves through time and adapts into cuisines that they themselves evolve to become their own thing, like a giant multi-branched tree.
We’re coming back full circle with this Harissa Za’atar grilled cheese, marrying the uniqueness of both Levantine and Tunisian cuisine. In this recipe, we used Z&Z’s extremely fragrant za’atar, harvested straight from the mountains of Jenin, Palestine!
Artisan bread, 2 slices
Shredded cheese, any kind
Butter, 2-3 tbsp
Za’atar, 2 tbsp
Harissa paste, 1 tbsp
1. In a cup, combine the butter and za’atar then mix thoroughly using a spoon. It will be a bit difficult at first especially if the butter is still cold from being refrigerated but will eventually become easier as the butter softens from the stirring.
2. Spread the butter/za’atar mix on each of the artisan bread slices.
3. In a preheated pan on low heat, place one of the bread slices, butter side down. On the same slice, carefully spread the harissa as much as you can making sure not to burn yourself on the sides of the pan.
4. Add the shredded cheese on top of the bread then place the second slice on top, butter side up.
5. After a few minutes, carefully flip the grilled cheese over and allow 5 min before flipping it over again. The key is gently allow the cheese on the inside to melt without burning any side of the sandwich.
6. Once the cheese starts oozing out of the sides and it is clear that all the cheese has melted, remove the sandwich from the pan.
7. Slice the grilled cheese width-wise and dig in!