Something I enjoy on a regular basis is going to a low key bar for happy hour where the cocktails are named after US cities, or female pop stars from the 80s, or board games (team candy land all day, although could you imagine how sweet that one would be?? A fercock-tail if I’ve ever seen one.) It gives off the impression that you’re social and can hang when in reality you’re in bed by 11:30pm with an episode or four of RHOBH under your belt.
Last night was one of those nights. I went to a jazz show at Hotel Chantel in the LES and it was perfect, although the weekend vibe is as raucous as an original can of Four Loco before it was illegalized, reformulated and brought back. But last night was great. The jazz was just loud enough to drown everyone else out while still letting you have our own conversation. And the cocktails, the cocktails had me all heart-eye emojied. I tried a few before settling on my last, the Pineapple Express. I’ll be honest, I had low expectations for it and was worried it would be too sweet, too artificial, and all around too fruit cup-y. So I ordered it in that half statement half question way, paying special attention to how the bartender reacted to validate my decision because that’s what I’m looking for as a true millennial. He said good choice.
And it was. It was perfection. A balanced blend of jalapeño-infused tequila, pomegranate syrup and pineapple juice. The bartender wasn’t heavy handed with anything which for a $7 cocktail in New York is just bizarre.
But I can’t say the same about these Za’atar Fritos because they’re nothing but heavy-handed. Za’atar is something I ate every day in Israel and every day since on sunny side ups and in grilled cheeses and in place of honey on my morning yogurt and by itself the way you’d secretly eat nutella on a spoon at 1am on a school night. That last one’s kinda weird but you can make it work if you pace yourself. Then I saw this article in the Huffington Post that led me to Dana’s recipe for Chili Cheese Fritos. They’re baked, which I love, and they’re basically tortilla strips, which I love. It got me thinking about how tortilla chips are a total blank canvas, like Anne Hathaway pre-makeover in The Princess Diaries, which is so obvious by how many Doritos flavors there are. So I did what I do best and added za’atar, a heavy hand of za’atar.
If you haven’t heard of za’atar before, now you have. It’s generally purchased as a mix with salt and sesame seeds added in. It’s lemony and bright and adds a non-polarizing but kind of dominating flavor to anything you add it to, and it smells strong so be conscientious of where and when you eat it because that can get embarrassing, but I personally think it’s always worth it.
(makes enough for 3-4 as a snack)
1, 8-count bag corn tortillas
2 tablespoons canola oil
6 teaspoons za’atar
Preheat your oven to 375°. Using a sharp knife or pizza cutter, slice your tortillas into 1/2 inch strips going one direction. Then cut the strips into smaller 1 1/2 – 2 inch pieces. This is the beginning stage of your fritos (also known as tortilla strips but who’s asking?)
In a bowl, toss your tortilla strips with canola oil until well coated and arrange them on a large, light baking sheet in as close to a single layer as you can. That allows each piece to crisp up rather than get soggy which’ll happen if it doesn’t get enough air circulating around it. Bake for 7 minutes, toss, spread in an another even layer, and bake for another 7-8 minutes. Keep an eye on them towards the end because the brown-ness can sneak up on you.
Once you remove them from the oven, place them in a large bowl and sprinkle with the za’atar. Then toss like a mad person until each chip is coated. Add more za’atar to your liking. If the seasoning isn’t adhering, spray the chips with a light coating of cooking spray and then toss. Let the chips sit out for 15-20 minutes to cool. As they cool, they’ll crisp up even more. Serve on their own or with a creamy dip, like tzatziki, and enjoy!