Za’atar – A Biblical Plant

Za'atar mixture of sesame seeds, sumac and salt

Za’atar which is called hyssop in English is used to make tea, mixed with sesame seeds, sumac and salt and slathered with olive oil on bread, put on top of labane and in my case it is mixed with matzah meal as a coating for red mullet.

Moses Maimonides, a philosopher, rabbi and physician who lived in North Africa and Egypt, prescribed za’atar as an antiseptic, a cure for intestinal parasites, a cold remedy, loss of appetite and flatulence. Rubbing the sides of the head with za’atar oil was believed to reduce headaches. There is also a belief that this particular spice mixture makes the mind alert and the body strong.

I like za’atar so much, I am growing it in my new garden. It is also great chopped up and mixed into an omelet or a salad.

Red Mullet with Za'atar Crust

Serving Size: 2

350g (3/4lb) small or 4 medium red mullet filets

2 cups matza meal

2 to 3 tablespoons za'atar mix

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1 egg

1 tablespoon water

In a plate, mix the matza meal, za'atar mix, salt and peper. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg and water.

Place the fish in the egg mixture and mix until the fish is thoroughly coated and then dip in the matza meal mixture until well coated. Cook the fish in about 25mm (1 inch) of hot oil for approximately two to three minutes on each side or until flaky. Drain on a paper towel and serve immediately.

Here are some beautiful flowers on the way to our village:

These are called bottle brushes because they look like a bottle brush.

These flowers are Anemones in English and Kalanit in Hebrew, which is related to Kala, the Hebrew word for a bride, referring to the flower’s beauty. It is mentioned in the Talmudic scriptures and is referred to as Klonita.

The scientific and English name was derived from the Greek mythological word Anemoi, the wind gods. One of whom, the legendary Zephyrus was the west wind and bringer of light spring and early summer breezes. In ancient Greece, wreaths of anemones were used to decorate the altar of the Goddess Venus. Hence, the species name Coronaria.

In Arabic it is called Skaik-a-Na’amann, probably referring to a Canaanite god by that name, and mentioned also as a flower name by the Prophet Isaiah (17:10) “Because thou hast forgotten the God of thy salvation, and hast not been mindful of the rock of thy strength, therefore shalt thou plant pleasant plants” (In Hebrew “pleasant plants” is Nitei Naamanim).

During the Middle Ages, a wreath of anemone flowers was put on a sick person’s neck because it was believed to help cure him.

One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish – Red Mullet

Friday night we decided to have fish, so I made my take on Fish and Chips.

I use all types of fish filets for shallow frying, such as cod, halibut and flounder. On Friday, I used red mullet, or barbounia as it is called in Hebrew. We had the following:

Cocktail hour: Mango-Pineapple Caipirinha

Red Mullet with a Panko-Sesame, Oregano and Parsley Crust

Crushed Potatoes with Chives, Garlic, and Yogurt

Green peas

Heilbronner Stiftsberg Riesling 2005

Leftover Quince Tart

Red Mullet with a Panko-Sesame, Oregano and Parsley Crust

Serving Size: 2

350g (3/4lb) small or 4 medium red mullet filets

2 cups panko crumbs

1 tablespoon fresh parsley

1 tablespoon fresh oregano or thyme

2 tablespoons sesame seeds

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1 egg

2 tablespoons plain yogurt

1 tablespoon water

Panko Crumbs

In a plate, mix the panko crumbs, sesame seeds, parsley, oregano and thyme. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg, yogurt and water.

Ready for Frying

Place the fish in the egg mixture and mix until the fish is thoroughly coated and then dip in the panko mixture until well coated. Cook the fish in about 25mm (1 inch) of hot oil for approximately two to three minutes on each side or until flaky. Drain on a paper towel and serve immediately.

Lemon Sole

Last night I made a nice light fish dish for a hot August night.

Lemon Sole

Serving Size: 2

6 fillets of sole

Zest of 1 lemon

Juice of 3 lemons

1 cup dry white wine

1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons single cream (half and half), creme fraiche or thick yogurt

Put approximately two tablespoons of olive oil in pan on a medium flame. Add the garlic and then the fish, lemon juice, white wine and the thyme. Cook covered for about five minutes or until the fish is done. Remove the fish and reduce the sauce to about a third, add the cream and stir until thickened. Place the fish back in the pan and spoon the sauce over the fish. Sprinkle on the lemon zest and serve.

Mise en Plaice

I know I misspelled the word “Plaice”, but I did it on purpose. We had Plaice for dinner last night. I like this delicate fish because you can season it just about anyway you like and is a great entree for a hot summer night.

I served this fish with corn on the cob and sauteed zucchini with thyme and yogurt.

To close, my husband made a lovely fruit salad to which he added minced fresh ginger and topped if off with a small scoop of the remaining cardamom ice cream.

Lemon-Ginger Plaice

Serving Size: 3

6-9 small plaice, depending on the size

2 tablespoons lemon zest

1 cup lemon juice

1 tablespoon ginger, julienned

2 large cloves of garlic, julienned

2 spring onions, julienned

2 tablespoons chives, chopped fine

Place a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of butter in the pan.

Lemon Zest_Ginger_Garlic

Add the ginger and garlic and saute on low heat for a couple of minutes.


Spring Onion and Chives

Add the fish, spring onion, chives and lemon juice and cook for approximately five - seven minutes or until done. Sprinkle on the lemon zest, cook for another minute and serve immediately. Plate and place a generous amount of the sauce on top.

Shavuot – The Holiday of the First Fruits

King Solomon described the receiving of the Torah as “honey and milk guarded under your tongue”. Shavuot is not only the celebration of the receiving of the Torah from Mount Sinai and the ending of the morning-period that began after Passover, but it is also when the wheat was harvested in Israel. Farmers brought their first fruits to the Temple from the following seven species:

  • Wheat
  • Barley
  • Grapes
  • Figs
  • Pomegranates
  • Olives
  • Dates

We usually serve at least one dairy meal, followed by a meat meal during Shavuot and there are many different explanations to why we do this. One is because when the Torah was received, the Jews were immediately bound to the ritual slaughtering of animals and didn’t have their meat prepared according to the new law when the Torah was given to them. Another is that the numerical value for the Hebrew word for milk, חלב (Khalav), is the same number of days that Moses spent on Mount Sinai.

Since my husband will not be here during Shavuot, I decided to make a dairy meal for him on Saturday night. Here is the first of three Shavuot recipes I am blogging about.

When my husband and I were looking for a place to have our wedding we did a tasting at one of the venues and they served us a pistachio-crusted salmon that was to die for! I decided that I would have to replicate that recipe at home. They put a layer of homemade pesto on the top side of a salmon fillet and then coated it with a mixture of pistachios and bread crumbs. I made it several years ago for Shavuot and it was delicious. This year, I tried whole grain mustard and it was also very good. This dish is dead easy to make.

Pistachio-Crusted Salmon

Serving Size: 4

4 salmon fillets, 6-8 ounces each

2 tablespoons whole grain mustard or homemade pesto

½ cup shelled raw pistachios

¼ cup toasted bread crumbs

Grind the pistachios to a medium fine texture by pulsing gently in a food processor. Be careful not to over process, as the nuts will begin to turn into a paste. Mix with the breadcrumbs.

Salmon Coated with Mustard

Salmon with pistachio mixture

oat the top of each salmon fillet with mustard and press into the pistachio and breadcrumb mixture to coat. Drizzle a little olive oil on top and put in a 190C (375F) for approximately 10-15 minutes or until the fish is slightly pink in the middle.

Fish on Friday

No we are not Catholics, but we love fish and usually eat it two or three times a week. Did you know that batter-fried fish, as in “Fish & Chips” was a Portuguese Jewish invention and was introduced to England by Portuguese Jewish immigrants? One trip to London to visit my mother-in-law I had a hankering for fish and chips, so my lovely husband took me to a very nice and well known fish and chips restaurant, called The Nautilus (27-29 Fortune Green Road London NW6 1DU), in West Hampstead. Instead of using the heavy batter that some places use, they used a nice light coating of matzah meal! It was the best fish and chips I have ever had. I had plaice and David had halibut. I tried doing this at home and have never looked back.

Tomorrow night is Lag B’Omer and we decided to have fish for Shabbat dinner tonight and have meat tomorrow evening for the holiday. We didn’t get to have a BBQ for Israel’s Independence Day because I was abroad. So, we are making up for it tomorrow night.

I am marinating the meat above overnight. More about this and Lag B’Omer tomorrow.

This evening I fried red mullet fillets which I first dredged in an egg wash and then matzah meal that I mixed with fresh thyme and fresh chives, herb salt and black pepper. I served it with fresh corn on the cob and green beans.

We had this with a 10-year-old South African chardonnay that amazingly survived well. I thought it was going to taste like vinegar.

For dessert, I thawed out a cheat’s version of mincemeat filling that I had made for hamentaschen and made a mincemeat pie. The dough is a ready-made parve pastry that I bought at the supermarket.

Shabbat Shalom!

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