Sunday, December 13, 2009

You're going to love these nuts, Ottolenghi, & other stuff at home.

Ventured out to Amira headquarters this weekend. The company that makes nuts, dried fruit, olives & spices has an open to the public "cash & carry" near L'acadie and chabanel.

We went there to buy an assortment of nuts to assemble some pretty jars for chanukka presents. Also because we really love going to the freaky place with fresher-than-average nuts, and getting to the cash with a basket full of stuff for $6. Makes me wanna say Boo-ya!

We loaded up on 2 kinds of pistachios (sea salt & lemon, and good old "REGULAR IRANIAN"), large (but not jumbo) cashews, some dark chocolate covered peanuts, and almonds RNS (roasted, no salt - who knew there was a whole nut lingo I had to learn?).

We kept this visit pretty focused, I tried not to get lost in the olives & cheese. We grabbed some hot bread that looked like a whole wheat helium balloon, right out of the oven and off the "poker", to eat as we browsed. The place is crazy - they have all kinds of obscure middle eastern foods and knick-knacks with classic foreign packaging. They sell syrian drums and morrocan trays, small furniture and really ornate shesh b'esh boards (I had to hold back from buying one), and weird figurines of Egyptian pharaohs and sphinx. It's a trip (...somewhere stinky).

I headed to the back to pick up some spices. I needed falafel flour mix (the real deal homemade stuff, I'm going to try to emulate Taim's falafel balls), Za'atar, and some tea that I love. Of course I ended up picking up an extra 8 spices, none of which are labeled, so that should be a fun mystery to solve now that they are all sitting in my pantry in plastic bags. I have been trying to find some good Za'atar, to make a chicken recipe out of the Ottolenghi Restaurant cookbook. I rarely follow a recipe exactly, but I like to flip through nice cook books for inspiration to keep things fresh and changing. We visited Ottelenghi in London when we were there in September and I loved it. Beautiful spot and great food. I picked up this book from Bon Apetit Cookbooks. The recipes are original, and some feature ingredients and spices that aren't very common (at least not around here). But it's fun because it gives you an opportunity to try some new flavors, and then understand them for future use. Or something.

Anyways, there were 5 types of Za'atar: Algerian, Banini, Palestinian and Jordanian and another I cannot remember but I'm guessing Syrian. The recipe in the Ottelenghi book never specified which type and here I was very confused (and hung over - bad combo). I went with the smell test and picked 2 varieties that smelled the best to me. (They both had hints of armpit... but I know that'll just make a better end product.)

I tried out one recipe tonight with some friends and a good bottle of wine. Unanimously delicious.


Proscuito de Parma, endive, raddichio (tossed in a vinaigrette), parmesan & pear with tuscan bread.

Spicy Mediterranean soup with kale, cannelleni bean, vegetables and lemon.

Herb crusted Rack of lamb, mini cauliflower, roasted red potato.

Zaatar and Sumac chicken, with red onion & lemon.

The boys appreciated the carnivore's delight. The appetizer was excellent, the rack of lamb was perfectly done and the Chicken Za'atar recipe was delicious. It was tangy, juicy, and flavorful. I'm looking forward to having fun with this book. I will post the recipe tomorrow.


  1. D - Great meal and great post! However, it may have been better if you used my suggested title: "Za'atar Hero". More armpit!