Grilled Vegetables with Za’atar Chickpeas and Mint Pistachio Barley

Za’atar is an herb and spice blend from Levantine cuisine.  I was first introduced to it by a former roommate, who called it “the spice”.  While there are variations across the Middle East, the star of za’atar is thyme.  It is often served with pita and olive oil.  The pita is dipped in olive oil, and then, dipped in za’atar.   Americans might think of it as the “Mrs. Dash” of the Middle East, because it’s used on everything–meats, vegetables, as a topping for hummus–to heighten flavors.  

Since being first introduced to za’atar, I look for any excuse to use it.  It’s sooo good!  While I have been able to find it at my local Kroger chain grocer in the US, it may be harder to find where you are.  You can make your own za’atar, or try an international food store.  There can be a variety of different blends.  I used Jordan Gold Jordanian Zaatar for the recipe below.

I love using barley for pilafs and salads, because it’s got a bouncy texture.  While many people may associate it with winter meals, it makes a terrific summer grain.  Also, while I grilled the vegetables out on the grill, this recipe can also be executed with a conventional oven.  Set the oven to 450 F, line a cookie sheet with non-stick foil, and spread the olive oil coated vegetables in a single layer over the cookie sheet.  Bake for 25 minutes (flipping at 15 minutes).  

Grilled Vegetables with Za’atar Chickpeas and Mint Pistachio Barley

Za’atar Chickpeas:

1 15 ounce can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed

2-3 Tbsp za’atar (make your own or use prepared – see note above)

1 garlic clove, coarsely chopped

¼ cup lemon juice

2 Tbsp olive oil

Salt, to taste

Mint Pistachio Barley:

1 cup pearled barley

2 ¼ cups water

¼ cup fresh mint, chopped

¼ cup fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped

¼ cup pistachios, roasted and shelled

1 Tbsp dried currants

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 Tbsp lemon juice

Salt, to taste

Grilled Vegetables:

1 large eggplant, sliced thick

2 medium zucchini, sliced thick on a bias

½ cup grape tomatoes

½ cup red onion, chunked

Olive oil, to drizzle

Salt, to taste

Black pepper, to taste

Lemon Tahini Sauce:

¼ cup lemon juice

¼ cup water

⅓ cup tahini

½ tsp garlic powder

Salt, to taste


Fresh parsley, to serve

Sumac, to serve

1. Add everything listed under “Za’atar Chickpeas” to a sealable container and mix well.  Add the lid and refrigerate for 1 hour or more.

2. While chickpeas are marinading, add 2 ¼ cups of water with a dash of salt to a medium sauce pan.  Bring to a rolling boil.  Add barley, turn down to low, and simmer with the lid on for 35-40 minutes.  At 35 minutes, test the barley to see if it’s fully cooked.  Once it is cooked, drain off any excess liquid.  Stir in everything listed under “Mint Pistachio Barley”, and then, set aside.

3. Add eggplant, zucchini, red onions and grape tomatoes to a large mixing bowl.  Drizzle with olive oil, and move vegetables around until everything is well coated.  Sprinkle with salt and black pepper.  TO GRILL: Line a grill pan with non-stick aluminum foil.  Add vegetables. You may also opt to skewer the vegetables to ease cooking them on the grill.  They will cook fast (~15 min), so make sure to keep an eye on them.  TO ROAST IN OVEN: Preheat oven to 450 F.  Line a large, shallow pan with non-stick foil. Spread vegetables in a single layer across pan.  Bake for 25 minutes (flipping at 15 minutes).  

4. In a food processor (or by hand), mix everything listed under “Lemon Tahini Sauce”.  Once it is well combined, taste and adjust seasonings, if needed.  Assemble plate with minted barley, grilled vegetables, a side of za’atar chickpeas and drizzle with lemon tahini sauce.  Top with additional fresh parsley and sumac, and serve.

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