Za’atar chicken is a paring born out of south eastern Europe and the Middle East. Za’atar is a centuries old seasoning mixture of ground dried hyssop leaves and flowers combined with ground sumac, ground toasted sesame seeds, and sea salt. Za’atar’s flavor is as beguiling as is the regions where the herbs are grown. The distinctly minty flavor of the hyssop combined with the citrus like flavor of the sumac imparts a lovely earthy citrus note to grilled meats as well as vegetables and flat breads that make up the foundation of eastern Mediterranean and Middle Eastern meals.
Za’atar can be found in Middle Eastern shops and markets and, due to it’s increasing popularity with European and American cooks, Za’tar is more than likely available in your local supermarket as well.
That said many ready made za’atars may include other herbs, spices as well as chile. I much prefer sticking to the basics and mixing up my own za’atar ground and blended at home. Hyssop and sumac are readily available online. Proportions of ingredients when making your own Za’atar vary to suit your own tastes.
As there are so many tasty applications for Za’atar you will find yourself mixing up your own Za’atar at home as well as exploring store bought blends.
Za’atar Lemon Chicken:
- 2 organic chicken breasts, skin on
- 2 organic chicken legs, skin on
- 2 organic chicken thighs, skin on
1 cup full fat fat Greek yogurt
- 1 lemon, zested and juiced
- 3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely grated
- 3 tablespoons olive oil plus more for drizzling
- sea salt and pepper to taste
- 3 medium shallots, peeled and thinly sliced lengthwise and halved
- 2 lemons, thinly sliced into rounds
- 2 tablespoons za’atar
- fresh watercress as a garnish
Choose a mixing bowl that will hold all the chicken and marinade snugly.
In the bowl combine the yogurt, lemon zest, lemon juice, garlic, and salt and pepper. Stir until well combined. Add the chicken and press into the marinade until submerged. Cover and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.
Preheat the oven to 400 F / 220 c
Needed: a shallow roasting pan
Lightly oil the roasting pan pan with a little olive oil. Remove the chicken from the marinade, shaking off excess marinade, and placing the chicken pieces, skin side up, evenly distributed in the roasting pan.
Scatter the sliced shallots over the chicken and season generously with za’atar.
Place the lemon rounds on top of each piece of chicken and drizzle lightly with olive oil and season the lemon rounds with a light dusting za’atar.
Transfer the chicken to the oven and roast for 30 minutes. Test the chicken using a thermometer with an internal temperature of 165 degrees f. If the chicken is not quite done pop it back in the oven for another 10 minutes or more if needed.
Allow the chicken to rest for five minutes before plating as pictured. Drizzle with pan juices and serve garnished with fresh watercress as pictured.
For more information on sumac and another recipe you may enjoy: Sumac Roaster Chicken (click here)
Sometimes that impulse to bake something first thing in the morning can send you off on a tangent until you say to yourself” hold on” I just want a nice pastry to enjoy with my morning coffee!
With resolve this simple French apple tart can be assembled and put into in the oven in no time. That said, I tend to keep several disks of pastry dough in the freezer. This is a habit that saves time and makes the prospect of baking pies and tarts so much more appealing.
The simplicity of this tart will have you returning to this recipe again and again.
French Apple Tart
1 disk well chilled sweet pastry dough
4 or 5 tart green baking apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
3 tablespoons salted butter, melted
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon demerara sugar
3 tablespoons orange marmalade, warmed and thinned with a splash of water
Preheat the oven to 400 f / 205 c with the rack set in the middle position of the oven
Needed: a 10 inch tart pan
Use your own favorite pastry dough for this recipe.
Roll the chilled pastry dough out to about12 inches in diameter. Fit the dough into the tart pan and press the dough onto the sides of the pan and trim the dough evenly around the top edge.
Arrange the sliced apples, slightly overlapping, beginning at the outer rim of the pan and working your way around the pan to the center.
When you are satisfied with the arrangement of the apples, pour the melted butter evenly over the apples.
Sprinkle the granulated sugar evenly over the apples and scatter the demerara sugar over the top.
Transfer the tart to the preheated oven and bake for 45 to 60 minutes. Check on the tart as it bakes and turn it front to back if it is browning unevenly.
The tart is done when the apples have softened and are lightly browning to your liking.
Remove the tart from the oven and place on a cooling rack.
After about 10 minutes generously glaze the tart with the marmalade glaze using a pastry brush.
Ideally serve the tart while still warm from the oven or reheat before serving.
Guacamole, ahu ctl in the Aztec language, is unequivocally Mexico’s most loved contribution to an ever evolving international cuisine that embraces diversity as a commonality of taste.
Guacamole making has been practiced for thousands of years in central Mexico where avocados originate from. The simple traditional guacamole recipe is essentially unchanged. Avocados, onions, chiles, lime juice, cilantro and salt are tossed into a molcajete, a volcanic stone mortar, and pounded with a stone pestle into a rich and flavorful guacamole much like the guacamole we are making today.
I use a mixing bowl and a wooden Mexican bean masher instead of a molcajete for this process which works perfectly. The bean mashers are sometimes available online or in markets in Mexico. Otherwise use a wooden mallet or pestle. Doing the mashing by hand is an essential part of the process that melds the flavors together while preserving their charter. Please, do not even think of using a food processor!
I have probably made guacamole over a thousand times in my lifetime, yet every time I make it, it feels fresh and new. Repeating time tested rituals is what I love about being a cook. There is always a shared history in everything that one does in the kitchen.
I highly recommend using Hass avocados for guacamole or any other application for that matter. They are plentiful here in the US. Most are imported from Mexico and consistently top quality. Hass avocados are smaller than the smooth skinned Fuerte avocados. They have a darker textured skin and a higher oil content that imparts a richer flavor and creamier texture for your guacamole.
The recipe I have provided is only an approximation. Every time you make a guacamole involves orchestrating a delicate balance of flavors so quantities of ingredients will vary somewhat! The key here is to taste and trust tour instincts as you go until the balance of flavors tastes just right. Keep in mind the assertive flavors of a margarita. Balancing the creamy fresh green taste and texture of the oil rich avocados with the tang of onions, the heat of chiles, the tartness of fresh lime juice, and the zest of the cilantro requires an assertive saltiness to bring all those flavors harmoniously together. Practice will have you making a truly authentic guacamole in no time!
Keep in mind that guacamole is best when served fresh so prepare batches accordingly.
- 2 or 3 Hass avocados
- ½ onion, finely diced
- 1 or2 serrano chiles, seeds removed and finely diced
- 2 tablespoon finely sliced cilantro leaves
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice + more to taste
- 1 teaspoon sea salt + more to taste
- 1 tablespoon olive oil f using Fuerte avocados.
Slice the avocados in half lengthwise and remove the pits, reserving one to use when serving if you like.
Spoon out the flesh of the avocados and place in a non reactive mixing bowl.
Add the diced onions, diced chiles, sliced cilantro leaves, lime juice, and salt to the bowl.
Using a wooden bean masher, wooden mallet or wooden pestle, mash the contents of the bowl together until the mixture has a relatively uniform textured consistency and a thick overall creaminess without overworking it if that makes sense.
Taste the guacamole and add additional lime juice and salt as needed. Keep in mind that the lime juice and salt is what is going to bring the guacamole to life!
Serve the guacamole in a non reactive bowl. Tradition has it that placing an avocado pit in the center of the guacamole will retard any discoloration due to exposure to the air. Whether this is true or not is questionable, but it does make an alluring presentation so why not if you like.
Serve guacamole with crisp corn tostada chips, as an accompaniment for tacos, or my favorite, with huevos rancheros for breakfast.
If you refrigerate the guacamole for any lengthen of time before serving press cling film directly onto the surface of the guacamole, seal tightly and refrigerate.
My first encounter with gomasio was in the mid 60’s when a macrobiotic diet, popularized by Micho Kushi in the mid 1950’s, was embraced by those seeking an alternative lifestyle in the “ Age of Aquarius” and the Woodstock generation that followed. I again dabbled with macrobiotic cooking with my neighbors while living in the Netherlands and have included some aspects of macrobiotic ideas into my cookery ever since those colorfully spirited halcyon days of youth, discovery, and change.
Gomashiro / gomasio dates back centuries in Japan. The recipe is quite simple. All that is required is toasted sesame seeds, sea salt, a traditional ceramic suribachi, a wooden pestle, and some elbow grease.
There are times when only a hand tool will do to achieve the desired results you strive for. Guacamole comes to mind using a traditional wooden Mexican bean masher or making making Gomasio using a traditional Japanese suribachi.
The ridged ceramic suribachi dates back to the 6th century in Japan and, sure enough, a mostly unchanged traditional design is available on Amazon at a very reasonable price. I urge you to purchase one. The ritual of hand grinding various seeds and spices preserves the flavor and texture that an electric spice grinder would quickly over process and scorch the flavor in the process. You also have the satisfaction of being an integral part of the process as well as having one of those Zen moments that makes cooking ever so fulfilling!
Gomasio is used to season almost anything you would normally season with salt. The nutty saltiness brightens up a salad, vegetables, omelets, soups, meats, fish, rice, grains, stir-fry, sushi, and on and on.
No exact recipe required and let your creativity reign free!
Pictured is a gomasio made with toasted sesame seeds ( click here for recipe), flaked sea salt, and toasted nori seaweed which is optional.
Grind the sesame seeds to break them down and then add the salt and grind until combined.
If using toasted seaweed, crumble before adding to the gomasio and then grind to incorporate.