By Marcus Samuelsson | February 1, 2011

Tomatoes, garlic, and za’atar, an African spice blend, make this delicious stew a special weeknight dinner. I was inspired by Libyan food, which is influenced by Italian cooking. A mild, firm fish like cod works especially well in this spicy, savory dish. Serve it with a crusty Italian bread to mop up all the broth.

Libyan Cod Stew with Sesame SeedsRecipe

Servings: 6


For Cod Stew
  • 1 cup blanched whole almonds
  • 4 garlic cloves, cut in half
  • 1 tsp grated ginger
  • 6 tomatoes, roughly chopped, or 3 cups roughly chopped canned tomatoes
  • 2 jalapeño chilies, finely chopped, seeds and ribs removed
  • 2 teaspoons Za'atar(recipe follows)
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • Salt
  • 2 green plantains, peeled and diced
  • 1 cup cooked black beans, rinsed if canned
  • 10 oz morning glory or spinach
  • 2 lbs cod fillet, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp sesame oil (not toasted)
  • 2 tbsp sesame seeds
  • Juice of 2 limes, or to taste
For Za'atar
  • 2 tbsp sesame seeds
  • 1 tbsp dried thyme
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • 2 tbsp ground sumac
  • 1 tsp salt


To Make Za'atar:

1. Toast the sesame seeds in a small saute pan over low heat until golden brown, about 1 1/2 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.

2. Mix together the thyme, oregano, and sumac in a small bowl, then stir in the sesame seeds and salt.

3. Store in a tightly sealed container in a cold, dark place for up to 2 weeks.

To Make Cod Stew:

1. Toast the almonds in a large pot over low heat until gold brown and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger and cook, stirring constantly, until aromatic, about 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, jalapea±os, za'atar, chicken stock, and 1 teaspoon salt and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer gently for 25 minutes.

2. Stir in the plantains and simmer for 10 minutes. Sir in the beans, then add the morning glory and cod, and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, cover, and let sit until the stew begins to thicken, about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil and sesame oil in a small saute pan over low heat. Add the sesame seeds and saute, swirling the seeds in the pan, until golden and fragrant, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from the heat.

3. Just before serving, gently fold the sesame seeds into the stew, then season with the lime juice and salt to taste.

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