1. A pungent, strongly aromatic herb with soft, dark green leaves. It's native to the Middle East and tastes like an amalgam of marjoram, oregano and thyme. In Arabic, za'atar means "thyme," and, to confuse matters, this herb is also called Syrian marjoram. 2. A popular, pungent Middle Eastern spice blend composed of toasted sesame seeds, dried thyme, dried marjoram and sumac. It's mixed with olive oil and salt and is drizzled over hot bread or used as a dip for bread. Za'atar (also spelled zahtar) is also sprinkled over meats and vegetables as a seasoning. It can be found at most Middle Eastern groceries.
From The Food Lover's Companion, Fourth edition by Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst. Copyright © 2007, 2001, 1995, 1990 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc.