When Za’atar Walked into Onion Rings: “Zonion Rings”
By: Blanche Shaheen/Arab America Contributing Writer
If there is one spice that makes a serious splash in Palestinian cuisine, it would have to be Za’atar, the spice blend consisting of thyme, sumac, savory and sesame seeds. Whether eaten with bread and olive oil, baked into a flatbread called Manakeesh or sprinkled on eggs, this zesty spice adds an earthy savory flavor. Palestinians believe za’atar has medicinal properties as well, whether enhancing mental alertness, fighting inflammation, or eradicating the common cold. But the flavor goes far beyond anything you would find in a medicine cabinet and the culinary possibilities of this spice are endless.
Za’atar makes a great spice rub for meats and can add another level of flavor to homemade pita chips. You can also transform snacks like onion rings with za’atar, giving them a middle eastern touch. In this recipe, the onion rings are baked instead of fried, with za’atar playing the starring role in the breading. Try adding this healthy recipe to your barbeque this summer, or as an alternative side dish any month of the year. For an unconventional dip, try Syrian muhammara or Moroccan harissa paste for some sweetness and spice.
For the technique, click on the video below:
Zonion Rings Recipe
- 2 cups buttermilk
- 1 large onion
- 1 cup flour
- 1/2 tsp-1 tsp garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp-1 tsp onion powder
- 1/2 tsp-1 tsp paprika
- 2 tbsp za’atar
- 1 cup panko crumbs
- 2 eggs
- Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Peel the onions, and slice into rings. Dredge the onion slices in a bowl full of the buttermilk. Meanwhile, in the second bowl, combine the flour, paprika, garlic and onion powders, za’atar, and salt and pepper to taste. In a third bowl, beat the 2 eggs. Finally, have a fourth bowl ready and fill with the panko crumbs. Now you are ready to assemble the onion rings. Using tongs, take the onion slices out of the buttermilk, and dredge into the flour mixture. Then dip the slices into the beaten eggs. Finally, dip the onions into the panko crumbs Lay on a cookie sheet. Bake for 10 minutes and serve immediately.
Blanche Shaheen is a journalist, host of the cooking show called Feast in the Middle East, and soon to be cookbook author. She specializes in Arab cuisine of the Levant and beyond. You can check out her cooking video tutorials and cultural commentary on growing up Arab American at https://www.youtube.com/user/blanchetv Her recipes can also be found at https://feastinthemiddleeast.wordpress.com/