Pesto: a paste of something green, oftentimes basil, ground with pine nuts, cheese, garlic and oil. Used as an accent flavour to bruschetta or pasta.
Za’atar: a blend of herbs, seeds and oil, sometimes ground, sometimes rubbed together. Used as an accent flavour to flatbread.
The similarities of these ideas span the Mediterranean. When I found a bundle of fresh herbs at the farmer’s market this past weekend, the flavours immediately said “za’atar.” Summer savoury, thyme, oregano. And the herbs were next to another farmer who had flax seeds along with his other grains and flours. And across from him was fresh cold pressed oils. It was practically screaming at me to make za’atar with fresh herbs. And since I oftentimes make my pesto with flax seeds instead of pine nuts (or other nuts, no reason, just like flax better), the union of flavours meshed together immediately.
Raspberry Wilted Green Salad with Za’atar Pesto Peas
For the Za’atar Pesto Peas:
1 Tbsp flax seeds
3 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves
3 Tbsp fresh oregano leaves
3 Tbsp summer savoury leaves
3 Tbsp sorrel leaves
2 spring onions, finely chopped
1/4 cup 8 year old cheddar, finely shredded (or any aged cheese with a dry texture; pecorino, parmesan, etc)
1/4 cup cold pressed canola oil
1/8 tsp salt
1 cup fresh peas
In a blender or food processor, grind the flax seeds until coarsely ground, but not a fine powder. Add the thyme, oregano, savoury, sorrel, spring onions, cheese, salt and oil. Grind with a pulsing action until it is mostly smooth with chunky parts.
Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Add the peas and simmer for 4-6 minutes until tender but with just a bit of fresh bite. Immediately remove them from the boiling water and immerse in ice water to set the colour and chill them quickly.
Stir 3-4 Tbsp of prepared Za’atar Pesto into the cooled and drained peas. Set aside.
For the Raspberry Wilted Green Salad:
2 tsp cold pressed canola oil
4 spring onions, white and green parts chopped and kept separate
1/3 cup fresh raspberries
1/2 tsp salt
3 cups packed mixed cooking greens (I used radish and beet greens with arugula)
1 tsp vinegar
In a large sauté pan, heat the oil and white part of the spring onions over medium high heat. As the onion starts to soften and grow more aromatic, add the raspberries and half the salt. Add 2-3 Tbsp water and start to simmer to break down the raspberries, mashing them with a wooden spoon to aid in the process.
As the raspberries break down, add the greens, reduce the heat to medium and simmer to wilt the greens. I find arugula on its own only takes a few minutes to wilt, but firmer greens like beet or radish greens can take upwards of 12-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
As the greens wilt to a desired doneness, push them to one side of the pan, add the vinegar and the rest of the salt and let the juices reduce to a syrup-like consistency.
Fold the spring onion greens into the wilted green salad. Divide half of it between two plates. Top the centre of each with prepared Za’atar Pesto Peas and drizzle lightly with the tart raspberry syrup. Serves 2.