The bagel shop down the street introduced me to za'atar. It features prominently in one of their breakfast sandwiches: a whole wheat everything bagel, sliced and toasted, topped with thinly sliced hardboiled eggs, and then drizzled with olive oil and za'atar.
It's the perfect sandwich for mornings when you want to really eat, like those long train rides to museums outside the city or the mornings when you rush off to a workshop and know you won't get a break for hours.
My dad sent me a huge box of za'atar. Delightfully huge. Big enough to fill a large canning jar plus some. It felt like Christmas came early.
The thing is, you generally only use a few tablespoons of za'atar at a time, which means I've got a lot of experimenting to do.
I could use up all the za'atar my dad sent in this salad, just making it again and again every week.
Whatever you call this--salad, hearty main dish, a bowl of perfection--it's just delicious. The za'atar brings a Middle Eastern flavor to the dish, and the lemon juice brightens things up. The roasted tomatoes and caramelized onions add a bit of sweetness, and the eggplant and carrots give you something to look forward to in every bite.
I ate this hot, at room temperature and chilled, and I loved it every way.
This salad does require some significant preparation, but I spaced it out over the course of two days. When I put the chickpeas and freekeh out to soak, I chopped and roasted the vegetables and caramelized the onions. The next day, I simply needed to boil the chickpeas and freekeh and mix everything together. Simple.
Chickpea, Freekeh and Roasted Vegetable Salad with Za'atar
recipe adapted from Green Kitchen Stories
1 cup freekeh
1 cup dried chickpeas
1 14-ounce container cherry tomatoes, halved
1 tablespoon sugar
2 medium-sized eggplants, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
5-6 large carrots, peeled and chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
4 medium to large onions, halved and thinly sliced
3 tablespoons za'atar
1/4 cup parsley, loosely chopped
1/2 lemon, juiced
Place freekeh and chickpeas into their own bowls, cover generously with water, and leave on the counter overnight.
The next day, drain water from the freekeh and chickpeas, transfer both to their own pots, cover generously with water again, and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Simmer until tender, about 30 minutes for the freekeh and about one hour for the chickpeas. Drain, and transfer to a large bowl.
Prepare roasted vegetables: In a 400 degree oven, roast the vegetables as follows:
- Cherry Tomatoes: Drizzle halved tomatoes with 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 tablespoon sugar. Place halved cherry tomatoes cut-side up on a baking sheet. Roast for about 45 minutes, until cherry tomatoes are blistered around the edges. Scrape cherry tomatoes and extra oil into a separate dish and set aside to cool.
- Eggplant: Place chopped eggplant pieces on a baking sheet, drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 teaspoon salt, and toss well. Roast for 30 to 45 minutes, until eggplant pieces are evenly browned and tender. Set aside to cool.
- Carrots: Place chopped carrot pieces on a baking sheet, drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 teaspoon salt, and toss well. Roast for 30 to 45 minutes, until carrot pieces are evenly browned and tender. Set aside to cool.
In a large bowl, combine freekeh, chickpeas, cherry tomatoes, eggplant, carrots, caramelized onions, za'atar, parsley, lemon juice, and 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm, cold or at room temperature.