There is an amazing tiny Middle Eastern market near where I work. It has tons of spices, fresh pita bread, hard-to-find canned items and multiple barrels of fresh olives to choose from. I stepped in quickly the other day to pick up some raw tahini and came across a spice mix called za’atar, which I immediately picked up to inspect further. As I gave it a good sniff, my initial thought was that it was for making tea, until I heard a voice from behind me say, “That’s good! You can mix it with oil and put in on bread,” followed by a friendly greeting from the shop’s owner. He went on to tell me more about its different uses, and I became intrigued by the spice mix, and wondered why I hadn’t heard about it before. I bought the large bag, along with fresh raw tahini, and a handful of olives before chatting a bit more with the shopkeeper, and thanked him for his help.As soon as I left the shop, I got the idea to use it on tofu instead of bread, and it turned out to be a good one. I mixed equal parts oil to za’atar spice mix and rubbed it on some pressed tofu. I added in some roasted garlic, fresh mushrooms, onion and tomato to balance it all out, and made a little tahini sauce on the side. It was fragrant, beautiful, delicious and different.
One block of tofu, pressed well
1/4 cup za’atar
1/4 cup olive oil
one head of garlic
2 TB olive oil
small red onion, sliced into rings
6-8 bella mushrooms, quartered
10 cherry tomatoes, halved
2 TB raw tahini
4 TB water
1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar
2 TB chopped fresh parsley
fresh cracked pepper
Press your block of tofu very well. Mix the za’atar with the oil and rub it into the tofu. Place it into a glass pyrex dish and place into the refrigerator to marinate for at least two hours or overnight.
Preheat your oven to 375. Slice off the top of a whole head of garlic and place into a small glass pyrex dish. Drizzle with the 2 tablespoons of olive oil, then cover the dish with aluminum foil. Roast for about 30 minutes, then flip the entire head over, spooning the olive oil over the top. Then roast for 15 minutes more, uncovered. Let it cool completely before separating the bulbs from the papery skins.
Heat a little oil in a small cast iron pan over medium-low heat. Place the sliced onion into the pan and allow it to soften and slightly brown for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add in the mushrooms and let cook for about 10 minutes.While your vegetables are cooking, heat up another skillet over medium heat. Place the tofu into the pan and cook for a few minutes on each side. (Grilling or baking should work well, too.)
Return to your cast iron skillet. Toss in the tomatoes and soften for just a few minutes.
Make your tahini sauce by whisking together the tahini, water and apple cider vinegar. Set aside.
Toss your tofu, garlic and vegetables together. Drizzle any leftover za’atar/oil mixture over the top. Serve with the fresh chopped parsley, cracked pepper and tahini.