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

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

Za'atar Fried Chicken

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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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BBC Radio Recipe: Seared Halibut with Vegetable Crisps and Olive Oil-Smashed New Potatoes

RECIPE: Seared Halibut with Vegetable Crisps and Olive Oil Smashed New Potatoes
Halibut with Ratatouille Chips

Halibut with Ratatouille Chips

Seasonal eating is not just about produce: meats, seafood, even cheeses also have their peak seasons. This is a composed dish of seasonal products that can easily be deconstructed and made on three separate occasions. The potatoes, for instance, are an accomplishment in cheap and delicious simplicity and seasonality all by themselves. Together, they are a smash summertime dinner dish.

Seared Halibut with Vegetable Crisps and Olive Oil Smashed New Potatoes

seared_halibutFor the Crisps:

  • 1 aubergine/eggplant, cut paper thin
  • 1 courgette/zucchini, cut paper thin
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 red chili, finely minced
  • 6 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves reserved
  • 2 teaspoons Maldon salt
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  1. Heat the vegetable oil to 175 degrees C.
  2. Toss the vegetable crisps with flour, and dust off the excess.
  3. Fry in batches until very golden and crisp.
  4. Remove to drain on paper towel.
  5. Sprinkle with the salt, thyme, and chili.
  6. Mound on top of the fish.

For the Fish:

  • 750 grams halibut, steaks or fillets, skin on
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Lemon wedges for serving
  1. Season the fish with salt and pepper.
  2. Heat the oil on medium-high heat.
  3. Sear the fish 4 minutes per side.

For the Olive Oil Smashed New Potatoes:

  • 750 grams new potatoes
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  1. Quarter the potatoes, and put them in a large pot of cold water. Cover, and bring to a boil. Salt the water.
  2. Cook the potatoes until they are fork tender. Drain, and return to the hot pot.
  3. Add the olive oil to the potatoes and smash lightly. Season with salt and pepper.
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BBC Radio Recipe: Peach Melba

RECIPE: Peach Melba

 

Peach Melba

Peach Melba

I would never give you a seasonal menu without dessert! Peaches and raspberries are best in July. Served with ice cream, this dish is both traditional and iconic, as well as peak-season.

Peach Melba
Serves 4
Ingredients
  • 4 peaches, cut in half
  • 2 cups water
  • 1½ cups sugar
  • ¼ lemon
  • (optional: vanilla bean)
  • 170 g raspberries
  • Vanilla ice cream

Procedure

  1. Combine the water, sugar, and lemon juice (and the optional vanilla bean) in a sauté pan, and simmer until the sugar has dissolves.
  2. Add the peaches to the simmering liquid, and cook 5 to 6 minutes per side, depending on how ripe the peaches are.
  3. Set the peaches aside to cool enough to remove their skins and stones.
  4. Combine the raspberries with ¼ cup of the peach cooking syrup, and leave to sit, mashing it up very slightly.
  5. Serve with two peach halves, then a scoop or two of good vanilla ice cream, and the raspberry syrup on top.
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