I know everyone is obsessed with ramps but I only recently discovered their amazing-ness. They are garlicky bursts of joy and whenever I see them at the farmer's market I must purchase. I also discovered that if I try really hard, I can make a successful flatbread. I read somewhere that it's impossible to make pizzas at home because home ovens can't go as high as restaurant ovens, which is why your home-cooked crust will never be as crispy. While my flatbread wasn't exactly restaurant quality, it was still pretty tasty and I'm proud of myself! And if I can do it, so can you.
This past week has felt kind of like sleepwalking and not in a good way. After work I've been ready to crash, but unfortunately that is not possible since the past two days have involved working late, doing laundry, unpacking, repacking...ugh. I dream of days where I have nothing to do and can just lay in a field of flowers. But that dream may be coming true soon, because as you're reading this I am either at Yellowstone or the Grand Tetons (not exactly sure of the itinerary yet) where I'll be climbing mountains, watching geysers, and the likes. Have a great week!
A couple weeks ago, I met with Alexander Harik, the co-founder of Zesty Z. It's a new mediterranean spread that I've been using a ton lately. It's so tasty and healthy! I was lucky enough to ask Alexander some questions, which I've shared here.
1. What inspired you to create Zesty Z?
Growing up, my parents taught my siblings and me to respect other cultures and to be passionate about our Lebanese heritage. Food is a major component of Lebanese culture, as is the hospitality in sharing food with family, friends, and even strangers. Despite both working finance jobs in New York City and commuting home every day, my parents made it a priority to eat dinner together. Za’atar, prepared the same way as Zesty Z, was always on the kitchen or dining room table at breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Fast forward a decade or two, and here we are. I’ve never liked working for other people, and I love eating! After years of working in finance myself, I realized that I wasn’t using the creative part of my mind. I also began paying close attention to different cuisines and methods of cooking, nutrition, and food sourcing. What finally pushed me to take the Zesty Z leap was the rise of the Mediterranean diet and the popularity of foods that I grew up eating. I wanted to share the flavors I experienced in my mother’s kitchen with everybody else.
2. How do you like to cook? What's your favorite way of using Za'atar?
Cooking is a labor of love, whether it’s for just yourself or for guests. I cook simple, yet healthy meals that are packed with natural flavors from fresh garlic, olive oil, fresh lemon, and a variety of herbs. Usually my meals consist of a lean protein, lots of veggies, and a good carb, and I tend to stay away from fried foods. I always save room for dessert though - usually it’s a piece of dark chocolate, but my sweet tooth has been acting up lately!
This is a tough question because Zesty Z is so versatile, and I grew up eating it with eggs, sandwiches, salads, grilled veggies or chicken, or just as a snack. But, if I have to choose a favorite, I’d say it’s breakfast, paired with eggs and fresh bagels. Side note, a truly fresh bagel should never be toasted. Real New Yorkers know this!
3. New and innovative Mediterranean inspired restaurants seem to be making a big splash especially in New York City (ie. Jack's Wife Freda, Gato, etc.). How do you see Za'atar fitting in with this trend?
The Mediterranean diet is one of the world’s healthiest and quite frankly the most delicious! Za’atar has a well-documented history dating back to ancient times and has always been part of the Mediterranean flavor profile. People thought I was crazy when I put the gears in motion for Zesty Z. Millions of people in the Mediterranean enjoy za’atar every day, so I knew it would only be a matter of time before it begins making waves in the US, and especially in metropolitan cities like NY, DC, and LA. The more Za’atar awareness from chefs, foodies, and restaurants the better. I’ve already seen menus from high-profile restaurants pairing Za’atar with brussels sprouts, chicken, potatoes, etc.
4. Where do you see Zesty Z in five years?
Our mission is to share the unique flavor of Zesty Z with consumers across the country. Since Za’atar is so versatile, we’re hoping to have Zesty Z products in various aisles in the grocery store, not just one shelf. In five years, za’atar won’t be a foreign word.
5. What has been the most rewarding part of starting Zesty Z?
Introducing people to the flavor of Za’atar for the first time and seeing their reaction has been extremely rewarding - and their positive feedback is frankly, humbling. But, the most rewarding thing has been learning to believe in humanity. The help and positive vibes I’ve received on this journey thus far from friends, family, and strangers has been incredible. Authenticity, passion, and hustle go a long way, and people notice.
Mediterranean Flatbread with Ramps
- Pizza dough (make your own, or I bought the pre-made dough from Trader Joe's)
- 1/2 pound shaved beef
- 1/2 pound fresh mozzarella
- 1 bunch of fresh ramps
- 1/4 cup of za'atar (I used Zesty Z)
- Olive Oil (for drizzling)
- Balsamic glaze (for drizzling)
- Fresh parmesan (for grating)
- Salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F and set out dough for 15-20 minutes as oven heats. Oil a baking pan and stretch dough into a square or oval across it.
Drizzle olive oil, salt, and pepper over the dough and put in oven for 10 minutes, until it begins to bake through.
Remove the crust from the oven and layer mozzarella first, then add ramps, shaved beef, za'atar, salt and pepper, and balsamic glaze. Top with grated parmesan. Bake for another 20-25 minutes until the crust is golden brown. Remove, slice, and enjoy!