At first glance this dish may feel like a lot of moving parts, but when you realize that two of the main components can be done in advance and also happen to be multi-purpose it becomes much more manageable. The first part is the Za’atar spice blend, a Middle Eastern spice mix as flavourful as it is ancient. Just exactly what is in it changes depending on where you are in the Middle East, but most versions contain sumac, a spice known for its fruity and lemon-like tartness. Included below is a very simple recipe but of course there are ready made versions that you can opt for as well. The second make-ahead component is the Zhoug, which is a green, spicy and herbaceous hot sauce with Yemenite roots and often likened to other herb based condiments such as chimmichurri or chermoula. Traditionally made in a mortar and pestle, this version calls for use of a food processor for ease. The sauce can be made up to 3 days in advance and kept in the fridge. Like the Za'atar spice blend, if you have extra, it can be used with just about any simply prepared meat or seafood.
Za’atar Roasted Salmon With Zhoug and Tomatoes 5 Steps
Prepare the Za’atar spice blend: combine the toasted sesame seeds, sumac, dried oregano, dried thyme and mix until even. Set aside.
Wipe the salmon down with a paper towel and place skin side down on a roasting tray lined with parchment paper. In a small bowl, combine the minced garlic, za’atar spice blend, lemon zest, sugar, kosher salt as well as the two tablespoons of olive oil. Mix until an even paste forms and spread this paste evenly on the surface of the salmon. Roast in a preheated 425°F oven for 20-25 minutes until salmon is cooked through. Broil the salmon for 2-4 minutes towards the end to really brown the surface and create a nice crust.
Place the grape tomatoes in a small roasting tray and drizzle some olive oil and season lightly with kosher salt and black pepper. Roast in the same oven as the salmon for the same amount of time.
While the salmon and tomatoes are cooking, prepare the Zhoug. Rough chop the mint leaves, parsley leaves and cilantro leaves and place in a food processor. Add in the jalapeños, smashed garlic cloves, ground cumin, ground coriander and kosher salt. Pulse until coarse and even. Add in the lemon juice as well as olive oil and continue to puree until smooth.
Remove the cooked salmon from the oven and transfer to a serving platter. Spoon 3-4 tablespoons of the zhoug into the roasted tomatoes, gently fold together and spoon over the salmon.