In this series, we spotlight the boundless potential of a single ingredient.
Cape Cod and New Hampshire-based chef, flavor-chaser, preservationist, and author, Cortney Burns has crafted an innovative hibiscus Za’atar spice blend and a pesto iteration. Hibiscus has amazing immune-boosting qualities and has also been used traditionally to support healthy fluid retention levels and overall cardiovascular health. Hibiscus, specifically the calyx of H. sabdariffa, is revered in many cultures as a flower of love and passion through ritual and story. Not only is the color lusty, but its tart flavor (rich in Vitamin C, anti-bacterial, and immune-boosting) along with its rosy hue (chock full of anthocyanins-a flavonoid with high antioxidant effects) makes it a powerhouse of a flower.
Chef: Cortney Burns
3 go-to ingredients that double as immunity: Fermented foods, mushrooms, and hibiscus.
Must-have ingredient that delivers an energy boost: Rosemary, matcha, and pine pollen.
Ultimate comfort food: Soft scrambled eggs, rice and mushroom broth—either separately or together.
Favorite healing ingredient: Herbs and flowers.
Beauty mantra: Let the center of your plate be rich with rainbows of vegetables raw, cooked, and fermented.
HIBISCUS-ZA’ATAR SPICE BLEND
“I always have a stash of the dried mix on hand. I use it on toasted seeds and nuts and then for a healthy textural pop to salads or roasted vegetables. I mix it into a pesto for garnishing all sorts of dishes from roasted sweet potatoes to a fiery shakshuka. I try to use it regularly as a part of my food as medicine health regimen.”
Makes ½ cup
1 1/2 tbsp white sesame seeds, toasted
1 tbsp black sesame seeds, toasted
1 tbsp dried hibiscus, finely ground
1 tbsp dried thyme or 2 Tbsp lightly packed thyme leaves, minced
1/2 tsp dried marjoram or oregano or 1 1/2 tsp lightly packed marjoram or oregano leaves
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp coriander seeds, ground
1/4 tsp aniseeds, ground
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Combine all the ingredients in a small bowl. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 months.
HIBISCUS ZA’ATAR PESTO
Makes about ½ cup
4 garlic cloves, grated
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/3 c extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 c lightly packed cilantro leaves, minced
1 recipe Hibiscus-Za’atar Spice Blend
1/2 serrano chile, stemmed and minced
In a small bowl, combine the garlic and lemon juice; stir to combine and let it sit for 5 minutes so the garlic’s flavor can mellow. Separately, combine the oil, cilantro, spice blend, and serrano. Stir in the garlic-lemon mixture. Use right away or refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.