So I was slacking off with Cook the Books (again) this month, and now that I’ve more thoroughly perused this month’s selection, Susan Feniger’s Street Food, I really wish I hadn’t slacked. Have you guys cooked anything from here yet? I hope so!
I finally did, last night. I grabbed the book, hoping to find something to make as a side dish for our dinner with ingredients we already had. And I did! We had picked up some artichokes this past weekend, so I made the first recipe in the book, Artichokes with Lemon Za’atar Dipping Sauce (page 16).
Holy shit were these good! I’m serious, these were winners start to finish.
First, I liked Susan’s way of blanching the artichokes. We usually just steam them, and I much prefer this method. I also like the tutorial for properly preparing an artichoke for cooking. It was pretty sweet to have the spiky and hairy leaves gone in advance. And cooking them in lemon (juice and the whole actual lemon) added a nice underlying flavor. Recommended!
Second, there is the matter of this dipping sauce. Holy effing shit, this dipping sauce is kinda outta this world. The toasted sesame seeds were a revelation. The sumac and lemon made it nice and acidic to cut the fat of the mayo, which binds it altogether nicely. If you aren’t familiar with sumac, get to know it. Its flavor is nice and tart and acidic, perfect sprinkled on hummus, chicken or fish, and a key ingredient in fattoush, which incidentally is one of my most favorite things in the world when done right. And sumac is delicious here as well.
Susan tells us that za’atar is an Arabic word for thyme. Although I’ve had za’atar, I did not know it was so thyme heavy. Keep this in mind when you’re adding the three tablespoons of dried thyme to the sauce. I was worried at first that it was a typo, because that is a helluva lot of thyme. But it’s not a typo and this stuff is delicious. Susan goes on to tell us that the word za’atar is also used to describe the mixture of toasted sesame seeds, dried thyme, and spices found all over the Middle East. This sauce is a keeper, and the proportions here make a lot. I was happy about the amount after tasting this sauce, because it would be good in a lot of places: I’m thinking on a grilled salmon fillet sandwich, or thinned out into a dressing, like Caesar dressing style when you’re in the mood for a creamy dressing.
Now I’m gung ho about the book and lamenting that I waited so long to start. Dammit! Peeps, there is some good looking food in here! I had Double S page through the book so we could pick some upcoming meals, and it was hard, yo! We were furiously ripping up scraps of paper, marking potential meals for this weekend.
And Susan’s focus on spice and sweet and salt is relevant right away with this recipe and with a quick flip through the book. We also happen to have a pretty stocked pantry when it comes to spices. If you don’t, do yourself a favor and pick a few recipes and make a run to your local spice shop. You won’t regret it.
Now I gotta bounce. I have to figure out if I’m making the Thai curry, oh or the Coconut Curry Popcorn. No, no I’m thinking the Indonesian Tek Tek Noodles! Or the Salted Lassi! Oh and holy crap the Egyptian Semolina Cake with Lime Curd!! Decisions, decisions, friends!
So if you are cooking along with us this month, please send us a link to your post to email@example.com by late next week. I’ll have my round-up posted soon after that. Happy cooking!