The Secret Seasoning Kevin O'Leary Adds To All His Thanksgiving Dishes - Exclusive

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One of the beautiful things about a classic American Thanksgiving meal is that, while it has some standard components, it's also fairly flexible. People with all kinds of backgrounds and taste preferences can put their own spin on the holiday's recipes and make them their own.

That's the case for Kevin O'Leary, the "Shark Tank" icon and foodie who's thrown his investment dollars behind cooking gadgets like Bertello pizza ovens and the Turbo Trusser (which is a great tool for a Thanksgiving turkey). Born in Canada to parents of Irish and Lebanese descent and raised all over the globe, O'Leary has a wealth of international influences to draw from when he cooks at home.

One place this shows up is in the all-purpose spice blend he uses on most of his Thanksgiving menu, which comes from his Lebanese heritage: za'atar. As he told Tasting Table in an exclusive interview, "It's a Middle Eastern Lebanese spice. It's roasted sesame seeds, crushed. That's the secret. It tastes spectacular on a bird that's been roasted. There's nothing like it." Not only does O'Leary use za'atar in the marinade for his turkey, but he also sprinkles it on Thanksgiving vegetables like squash, sweet potatoes, broccolini, and green beans.

The ingredients that go into za'atar

Toasted sesame seeds are a crucial component in za'atar, but the spice is actually more than that — it's a blend of sesame seeds, herbs, and sumac. Its name is the Arabic word for hyssop, an herb that grows extensively in the Middle East. Hyssop is hard to find in the U.S., so our recipe for homemade za'atar uses a mix of marjoram, oregano, and thyme instead. The herbs contribute floral notes, while the sumac adds mouth-puckering acidity and the sesame seeds lend the blend a roasty nuttiness.

With everything going on in the mix, it's no wonder O'Leary finds that za'atar is all he has to add to simple steamed vegetables to make them worthy of a festive Thanksgiving meal. He also told us that the spice blend is killer as a salad dressing enhancer: "If I make a salad of just olive oil and lemon and za'atar, people say, 'What is this dressing?' It's the za'atar."

You can find the Turbo Trusser and Bertello on Amazon. New episodes of "Shark Tank" air Fridays at 8:00 p.m. on ABC.