The word “dukkah” in Arabic literally means crushed, and each region has its own unique blend that can be mixed with olive oil and dipped into, sprinkled over a salad, or tucked into a baked good. Sometimes the same regional blend even varies between local cities and villages. In Gaza, for example, they add crushed toasted wheat and in Egypt, where the mixture is known as “do’a,” they use peanuts. Neither mixture contains hyssop leaves. I adopted the Palestinian recipe according to my mother’s method of preparation. The taste and green color of the hyssop leaves are enhanced by toasting the sesame seeds and grinding some of them with the hyssop leaves. The use of citric acid is controversial and therefore optional, but I stick to my mother’s recipe.
The recipe calls for dried hyssop leaves. You can buy them, or alternatively dry them at home by separating the leaves, spreading them evenly on a tray and drying directly in the sun or in a 200°F / 100°C oven for 2-4 hours. You can also buy a bunch, rinse it, shake off any excess water and hang it to dry upside down in your garden or on a balcony.
Additionally, in order to ensure you are using 100 percent real sumac (in many cases sumac is mixed with added flavors and aromas), make sure to buy it from a trusted spice seller or buy whole sumac berries and grind them at home.
Crush the dried hyssop leaves between your palms and transfer to a spice grinder. Grind in several rounds, a little at a time to create a powder.
Toast the sesame seeds in a dry skillet for 5 minutes. While still hot, grind half of the seeds and add to the ground hyssop (alternatively, this can also be done the traditional way, using a meat grinder).
Transfer the ground hyssop mixture, the remaining sesame seeds, spices and olive oil to a bowl, mix well and taste. Adjust the seasoning if necessary.
Use immediately for fresh za’atar pitas or toast a pita over gas flames and dip it into a bowl with the mixture and olive oil. The mixture will hold in a jar for months on the counter.