Your Next Green Bean Casserole Is In Dire Need Of Za'atar

Homemade green bean casserole
Homemade green bean casserole - from my point of view/Shutterstock

Green beans are a huge player in Middle Eastern cuisine. The humble ingredient is the star of loubia bi zeit, a Lebanese green bean and tomato stew, as well as fasolia bi zeit, a classic Syrian dish of green beans in olive oil.

Za'atar is a Middle Eastern spice blend made from the dried leaves of Origanum syriacum (aka the za'atar plant), but many versions (especially ones available in Western grocery stores) use oregano or thyme leaves instead. Recipes and proportions vary, but the ingredients remain fairly consistent, combining tangy sumac, toasted sesame seeds, and dried herbs. Other variations use floral marjoram, dill, salt, or dried orange zest. You can also make a homemade za'atar blend yourself and customize the proportions to your preference. It's complex and varied, but always bright and fragrant — just the fresh facelift your tried-and-true green bean casserole deserves.

The naturally vegetal flavor of the green beans complements the earthiness of the mushroom cream sauce that ties the casserole together. With the simple addition of za'atar, instant dimensionality is created with an herbaceous, lemony pop. The za'atar simply gets added to the creamy mushroom sauce. Grab a can of cream of mushroom soup concentrate as you normally might, then incorporate the superstar seasoning. That's it. Start with 1 tablespoon of za'atar per pound of trimmed green beans for a subtle kick. You can always add more to taste later on if you prefer.

Read more: 20 Popular Canned Soups, Ranked Worst To Best

Za'atar You Ready For Bolder Flavor?

Za'atar blend in wood bowl
Za'atar blend in wood bowl - Bhofack2/Getty Images

For a fresh take on an old-school classic comfort food, use a pinch of za'atar to amp up this classic green bean casserole recipe. Rock Thanksgiving by pairing it with other punchy sides like saffron rice pilaf or garlic mashed red potatoes. To amp up this side dish staple even further, you could add a generous scoop of nutty tahini to the mushroom cream sauce for a richer mouthfeel. You could also try stirring in other complementary spices like golden turmeric or lemon pepper, or serve with a dollop of green harissa.

Instead of the classic French fried onions, try topping your elevated za'atar green bean casserole with crispy fried shallots instead for a welcome kick of umami. For an even stronger flavor, you could sauté the shallots in butter and more za'atar. If you like your GBC extra crunchy, try garnishing it with toasted za'atar breadcrumbs on top of the crispy shallots. As an added bonus, this flavorful green bean casserole can be made in advance for even easier holiday hosting or make-ahead meal prep. Covered, it'll hold up well for a full day in the fridge (if hungry foodies can wait that long). Just be sure to prevent sogginess by adding any crunchy toppings later when you're ready to serve.

Read the original article on Tasting Table.