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Za'atar Chicken with Barley

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Such an old spice and so popular today that za’atar can be found on meat, vegetables, bread, or as a dip with olive oil in just about every Israeli and Middle Eastern restaurant! Like Israelis themselves, the combinations and variations are interesting and wonderful!

Za’atar is not one spice but rather a spice blend that is a staple in foods in Israel and across the Middle East, with each region having some variations. You can make it yourself from thyme, oregano, sumac and sesame seeds. Biblical scholars associate it most with ezov or hyssop mentioned in the Hebrew Bible.

This simple but very tasty chicken is cooked over barley, dried apricots, golden raisins and a touch of honey giving the meat a great marriage with the za’atar. Cooking for 1 ½ hours in a heavy pot creates a wonderful flavor. The high heat at the end creates a crust on the barley, taking barley out of the ordinary category!

Foodie Lit

Thunderstorms. Crossroads. A Rift in Time.


Like Grandmother Alex before him, Duncan Melville finds himself on a crossroads in a terrible thunderstorm. Instead of falling backwards in time 300 years as she did, he falls forward in time, from 1716 to 2016 landing like his grandmother, at the feet (well, actually in front of Erin Barnes’s car) a person to become important in his life. Living in 2 time periods can be enlightening, confusing and, for a reader, so compelling that it is difficult to do anything else until you read The Whirlpools of Time's end.

Za'atar Chicken with Barley

Serves 6


Marinade for chicken

3 tablespoons zaatar

1 tablespoon paprika

1 ½ teaspoon kosher salt

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon lemon juice

2 tablespoon honey

4 cloves garlic, minced


Chicken and barley

1 1/2 cups pearl barley

8 dried apricots, sliced

1/4 cup golden raisins

1 onion, diced

2 cups chicken stock

6 chicken thighs

Black pepper, 3-4 grinds

1/3 cup white wine

Green onion tops, chopped


  1. In a bowl, combine za’atar, paprika, salt, olive oil, lemon juice, honey, and garlic. Reserve 2 tablespoons. Brush the paste all over the chicken, on and under the skin. Place chicken in a zip-lock bag or container with lid and marinate for 2 hours in refrigerator.

  2. Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C).

  3. Place barley, apricots and raisins in a cast iron pot or heavy baking dish. Add diced onion. Pour the chicken stock over the barley mixture. Take chicken out of refrigerator and place on top of barley. Grind black pepper across chicken.

  4. Put lid on and bake for 1 hour. If you don’t have a lid, use aluminum foil.

  5. Remove the lid and drizzle the remaining marinade over chicken pieces. Pour white wine over barley. Increase heat to 450°F (230°C) and bake for another 15-20 minutes. This will make the chicken skin crispier and create a tasty crust on the barley.

  6. Serve on a platter or individually plated. Garnish with the chopped tops of green onion. I use a scissors to cut green onions.

  7. I sautéed multi-colored bell peppers to add a bit of color. Delicious as well!


#Main   #Middle Eastern

Expandthetable suggestions

Vegan: Omit chicken. Add vegetables such as sliced bell peppers, chopped turnips, parsnips, rutabaga and other root vegetables. Use a vegan stock. For protein, add chickpeas and/or seitan (marinate seitan in given marinade recipe).

Other grains: In place of barley, use farro, brown, wild or black rice, or quinoa for gluten free.


Adapted from Chabad Kosher Cooking.  Miriam Szokovski.

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