The Secret Ingredient (Za’atar) Part III: Za’atar Lamb Chops

RECIPE: Za'atar Lamb Chops
Za'atar Lamb Chops

Za'atar Lamb Chops

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In the two weeks prior to this installment, I have made za’atarfeel extremely out of place. I placed it where it did not belong, on salmon skewers and in fried chicken. I am sure it was most uncomfortable, and extremely cross with me. Even if it was delicious.

This week, I wanted to placate za’atar with a slightly more traditional treatment. I was getting up to speed on Mad Men this week, and I was struck by Betty Draper’s “Around the World” dinner party, where every dish came from a new, far-flung location, starting in Spain, with gazpacho. Today, our dinner party starts in the Middle East, with succulent lamb, so typically paired with the region, highly seasoned with za’atar and olive oil and grilled, just three minutes per side, until the sumac and thyme and sesame are charred to a gorgeous smoking black and their perfumes violate the meat and seep into its very core while crusting the outside. So simple and fast, no one will believe you just transported them halfway around the world. I do love the unexpected, but sometimes the traditional can be just as delightful.

Za'atar

Za'atar

Za'atar Lamb Chops
serves 2 to start

Za'atar Lamb ChopsIngredients

  • .6 pounds lamb chops (about 4)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons za’atar
  • Olive oil for drizzling

Procedure

Heat a grill pan on medium-high to high.

Dredge the lamb in the za’atar, and drizzle with olive oil.  Sear the lamb chops 3 minutes per side.  Serve with the spicy, creamy dipping sauce.

Sauce Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon harissa (very spicy, alter to your liking)
  • 1 teaspoon honey

Sauce Procedure

Whisk to combine

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Categories: 15 Minutes, Appetizers & Hors D’Oeuvres, Eat, For a Crowd, Recipes, Series, The Secret Ingredient
 

French In A Flash: Spicy Summertime Ratatouille With Mint

RECIPE: Spicy Summertime Ratatouille
Spicy Ratatouille

Spicy Ratatouille

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Some people have green bean casserole. For me, vegetable comfort food (not a contradiction in terms, I might add) is ratatouille in the summer and cauliflower or potato gratin under cooler, grayer skies.

Ratatouille, as I had it growing up, both in the house and in the south of France, is comforting because it’s a stew (even more comforting now that I’m grown because it’s a low-calorie stew!). The most comforting ratatouille I ever had was not in France at all, but in Monaco, where little perfect cubes ofeggplant, stoplight peppers, and zucchini melted into each other like a deconstructed Rubik’s cube collapsing in a sauce of onions and summertime tomatoes. With eggplants and zucchinis at their best in the summer, it’s a technicolor wonderland dish, that I generally eat cold, with the fridge still open, on a branch of baguette.

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Categories: 30 Minutes, Eat, French in a Flash, Main Courses, Recipes, Series, Sides, Vegetables, Vegetarian, Vegetarian
 

The Secret Ingredient (Za’atar) Part II: Za’atar Fried Chicken

RECIPE: Za'atar Fried Chicken
Za'atar Fried Chicken

Za'atar Fried Chicken

Get the whole story at Serious Eats.

Week two in my unorthodox treatment of za’atar continues with this recipe for za’atar-seasoned fried chicken. It’s a simple preparation: dip in buttermilk, roll in flour, fry in a cast iron pan. But the flour is doctored with a good dose of za’atar, a blend of salt and sumac and sesame: only thyme breaks up the consonance of the mix.

I like the contrast of the expected with the unexpected. The crispy, salty flake and shred of fried chicken. And then a tart bite from the sumac as it bleeds and stains the crust in the hot oil. The earthy thyme as it crisps against the chicken skin. And the ever-exotic nuttiness of toasting sesame seeds that always signal to Americans a recipe from a far off land. (Except, of course, in the case of bagels; unless Manhattan is indeed far off). Arabian Americana? Perhaps some would find it contradictory. But, William Blake did say the world is made up of contradictions. And I personally don’t mind them—so long as they taste good.

Za'atar Fried Chicken

Za'atar Fried ChickenIngredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds chicken drumettes
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup flour
  • 3 tablespoons za’atar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Vegetable oil for frying

Procedure

Place the chicken in a large baggie with the buttermilk, and place in the fridge for 1 to 2 hours.

In a pie plate, combine the flour, za’atar, and salt.

Meanwhile, fill a cast iron frying pan halfway with vegetable oil, and heat to 325 degrees F.

Allow any excess buttermilk to drip off the chicken.  Dredge in the flour-za’atar-salt mixture.

Fry the drumettes 5 minutes on each side (10 minutes total).  Remove to a cooling rack to drain.  Serve immediately.

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Categories: 15 Minutes, Appetizers & Hors D’Oeuvres, Eat, For a Crowd, Recipes, Series, The Secret Ingredient
 

French In A Flash: Fines Herbes Salad With Verjus Vinaigrette

RECIPE: Fines Herbes Salade
Fines Herbes Salad

Fines Herbes Salad

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I’ve been appearing on a radio show on BBC Oxford recently, and was asked to highlight seasonal products and how to build a menu around them. By way of shameful confession, I am not always the best at this—need I bring up the vitriol that transpired after my watermelon-in-February recipe last winter? Completely justified!

In exploring the concept, I have realized that seasonal recipes are simpler, cheaper, easier to make (you don’t need to gild the lily, so to speak), and generally weather appropriate. Lettuce and herbs, used here for example, are at their prime in July when all you can bear is a light salad.

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Categories: 15 Minutes, Easy, Eat, French in a Flash, Recipes, Salad, Series, Soup & Salad, Vegetarian
 

The Secret Ingredient (Za’atar) Part I: Za’atar Salmon Kebabs

RECIPE: Za'atar Salmon Kebabs
Za'atar Salmon Kebabs

Za'atar Salmon Kebabs

Get the whole story at Serious Eats.

Za’atar, to me, is perfectly exotic. Despite the fact that my Moroccan grandmother came over to taste these recipes, and scoffed “Za’atar!” in her perfect Arabic accent, as if she was shocked someone couldnot know about za’atar. That was then followed it by, “I don’t like it.” (She usually gives better advice.)

Za’atar, as with most Arabian and North African spice blends, comes in many iterations: maybe as many as there are grandmothers cooking in the area today. The one that I used (and that I believe to be most commonly sold in the US) is the Lebanese version, and contains the combination of dried thyme, white sesame seeds, salt, and sumac all in the same jar. Thus, the resulting combination is complex, with notes of salinity, nuttiness, astringence, and resin.

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Categories: 15 Minutes, Appetizers & Hors D’Oeuvres, Eat, For a Crowd, Recipes, Series, The Secret Ingredient
 

BBC Radio Oxford: Seasonal Ingredients

Today, I featured three recipes using only seasonal ingredients (seasonal especially in the UK in July, but seasonally available worldwide as well) on BBC Radio Oxford with Joel Hammer and his Sunday Brunch show (95.2 FM). Here is this week’s seasonal shopping list:

Crab
Tomatoes
Cucumber
Onion
Fresh Garlic
Flat Leaf Parsley
Bell Pepper
Chili Pepper
Thyme
Courgette/Zucchini
Aubergine/Eggplant
New Potatoes
Halibut
Peaches
Raspberries
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Categories: BBC Radio Recipes, Series
 

BBC Radio Challenge: Gazpacho with Crab

RECIPE: Gazpacho with Crab
Gazpacho with Crab

Gazpacho with Crab

Gazpacho is a cold Spanish soup, popular, of course, in summer for its temperature, as well as its peak-season ingredients. I once read that Flamenco dancers eat Gazpacho to stay slim–not a bad recommendation. I top off this version with crab, a seasonal seafood gem.

This is not only a challenge to the BBC folk! If you want to take the seasonal Gazpacho challenge, try this recipe, and post a comment about it. Try varieties: replace some tomatoes with watermelon, add chili peppers, or replace the bell pepper with roasted peppers. Vary the herbs, substituting some of the parsley for mint or tarragon. Or replace the crab with goat cheese, or crème fraîche. Bonne chance! I look forward to hearing what you think, and what you come up with.

Gazpacho with Crab

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 kg (10 tomatoes, 2.25 lb) vine-ripened tomatoes
  • 1 English cucumber, seeded
  • 1 bell pepper (orange, yellow, or red, seeded)
  • 1/2 yellow onion
  • 1/4 to 1/3 fresh head of sprouting garlic (or 2 cloves regular garlic)
  • 1 20g package flat leaf parsley, stems torn off
  • 2 cups tomato juice
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 5 tbs cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs
  • 100g white crab meat

PROCEDURE

  1. To make fresh bread crumbs, obliterate some good white bread in a blender, until you have a rubble. These keep very well in the freezer in a sealed plastic bag.
  2. Take the bread crumbs out of the blender, and set aside. To seed a tomato, quarter it, and squeeze it over a bowl. The seeds will drop out. To seed a cucumber, split it in half lengthwise, and use a spoon to tunnel out the seeds.
  3. Roughly chop the tomatoes, cucumber, bell pepper, onion, garlic, and parsley. Put the vegetables in the blender with the tomato juice, olive oil, vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste. Blend to a soup consistency.
  4. Add the fresh crumbs to the blender and pulse to combine.
  5. Decant the soup and refrigerate until ready to serve. Top with crab once spooned into a bowl.
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Categories: BBC Radio Recipes, Recipes, Series