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

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

Za'atar Salmon Kebabs

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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:

Fresh Garlic
Flat Leaf Parsley
Bell Pepper
Chili Pepper
New Potatoes
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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


  • 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


  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

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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Categories: BBC Radio Recipes, Recipes, Series

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

  • 4 peaches, cut in half

  • 2 cups water

  • 1½ cups sugar

  • ¼ lemon

  • (optional: vanilla bean)

  • 170 g raspberries

  • Vanilla ice cream


  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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Categories: BBC Radio Recipes, Recipes, Series

French in a Flash: Tilapia with Tarragon Pistou

RECIPE: Tilapia with Tarragon Pistou
Tilapia with Tarragon Pistou

Tilapia with Tarragon Pistou

Get the whole story at Serious Eats.

Pistou is from the South of France, a French answer to pesto that always makes me think of summer, as it’s the only time I’ve been to sun-soaked, herb-overrun Provence. Tarragon is an underused and under-appreciated herb in American cooking, but in France it is quite commonly paired with tomatoes or seafood. Its slight anise flavor partners with fish in that perfect, fresh way that fennel does, but more delicately, and with a sort of basil-like sweetness and freshness. It also adds a nontraditional and unexpected note to a basil pistou, adding a sophistication to the dish.

I love tilapia because it’s a cheap and cheerful blank canvas. All this dish requires is a quick sauté and a whirl around the food processor. And then the delicate, heady summer scents of basil and tarragon fill the kitchen. Spoon this pistou over the tilapia when it is still hot, or top seared sea scallops, or plaster onto grilled jumbo shrimp. It even works over grilled salmon on the barbecue. It’s a great summer recipe that’s easy, but still a touch (and I say this tongue-in-cheek) gourmet.

Tilapia with Tarragon Pistou
serves 2
Tilapia with Tarragon PistouIngredients

  • 1 clove garlic

  • 2/3 cup fresh tarragon leaves

  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves

  • 1/4 cup toasted walnut halves

  • 1/4 cup olive oil, plus extra for searing the fish

  • 2 1/2-lb fillets of boneless, skinless tilapia

  • Salt and freshly cracked pepper

  • Lemon for serving


  1. In a food processor, obliterate the garlic. Add the tarragon and basil leaves, and pulse to break up. Add the walnuts, and season with salt and pepper. Pulse to a rubble. Stream in the olive oil with the machine running. You should have the texture of a pesto.

  2. Heat a nonstick sauté pan over medium-high heat. Season the tilapia filets on both sides with salt and pepper, and drizzle a tablespoon or two of olive oil into the hot pan. Sear the fish about 3 minutes on each side, until golden on the outside, and flaky.

  3. Serve the seared fish with a big scoop of tarragon pistou on top, with lemon wedges alongside.

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Categories: 15 Minutes, Easy, Eat, Fish, French in a Flash, Main Courses, Recipes, Series

French in a Flash: Sweet Onion and Goat Cheese Tartlets

RECIPE: Sweet Onion and Goat Cheese Tarts
Sweet Onion and Goat Cheese Tarts

Sweet Onion and Goat Cheese Tarts

Get the whole story at Serious Eats.

I’m a grazer. I know I’m supposed to eat three meals a day, but I’d rather take one bite of a million little things than sit down to a huge pot. Variety is, as they say, the spice of life. And my rapacity for variety is why I make an utter fool of myself at cocktail parties. All day, I save up with trembling anticipation for all the little bites I’m going to snatch and devour as they swivel past on silver trays, and I manage to spend more time chasing waiters than toasting the cause of the fête. A few months ago, I was balancing a hot sausage, a flute of champagne, and an imminent handshake—I ended up burned and stained. Je ne regrette rien!

These little tarts are inspired by pissaladière, from the sweet caramelized onions to the pastry crust (although pissaladière is usually made from a yeast, pizza dough-like crust, puff pastry is an acceptable alternative). But these are softer and sweeter, with the sweetness of the onions enhanced with caramelized brown sugar, and the tang of the fresh goat cheese grounded in the earthiness of thyme.They are crisp and gooey and sweet and savory. And while I do like a million little different bites, the day I made these, all the bites were identical—I ate the whole batch! Serve these with a Côtes de Provence, or a drink called La Piscine that I discovered poolside in Juan des Pins: champagne on the rocks. Bon app!

Sweet Onion and Goat Cheese Tarts
makes 9
Sweet Onion and Goat Cheese TartsIngredients

  • 1 tablespoon butter

  • 1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced

  • 2 stems fresh thyme

  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar

  • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed, but very cold

  • 2 ounces fresh chèvre (goat) cheese


  1. In a sauté pan, melt the butter over medium heat.

  2. Add the onions and thyme, and sauté, stirring often, for 15 minutes.

  3. Add the sugar to the onions, and sauté another 10 minutes, adjusting the heat if the onions are turning brown too quickly.

  4. Preheat the oven to 400°F.

  5. Lay out the puff pastry, and use a 2 1/4-inch biscuit cutter to cut out 9 puff pastry circles.

  6. Arrange the pastry circles on a cookie sheet. Top with the onion mixture (remove the thyme stems!), then top with chèvre. Bake 20 to 25 minutes, until golden and crisp.

  7. Garnish, if you like, with the stingiest drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, and more fresh thyme.

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Categories: 60 Minutes, Appetizers & Hors D’Oeuvres, Bread & Butter, Eat, For a Crowd, French in a Flash, Recipes, Series, Tarts, Quiches, Pizzas, Vegetarian