A Taste of Morocco

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I always wanted to feel like Ingrid Bergman in “Casablanca.” I wanted to sit at Rick’s Cafe and hear Humphrey Bogart on the piano. I always could see myself there listening to “As Time Goes By,” as the orange sun set into the tangerine desert. Morocco sounded exotic, foreign, dangerous, delicious.

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When I worked for The Travel Channel I got a chance to see the real Morocco and I fell in love. This was many moons ago but I still have the rug I carried back from the High Atlas Mountains and a couple of lanterns I somehow transported back on a TWA jetliner.

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“Those were the days my friend…”

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Moroccan design and Moroccan food is quite in vogue these days, so much so that my Mit-Schlag compadre Joan Dauria attended a class at the new San Francisco Cooking School.

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Of course she went home and tried out all her new recipes.

I have always wanted to have a Moroccan dinner party. I would convert my dining room into a my very own Casbah. Now thanks to Joan we can all have a taste of Morocco.

 

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This is Morocco mit-schlag, Joan Dauria style.

“Moroccan cuisine has been subject to Berber, Moorish and Arab influences. The cooks in the royal kitchens of Fes, Meknes, Marrakesh, Rabat and Tetouan refined it over the centuries and created the basis for what is known as Moroccan cuisine today.

Moroccan cuisine known for its bold flavors, shared plates, and the ideal mix of grains, vegetables, and protein.

A typical meal begins with a series of hot and cold salads, followed by a tagine. Bread is eaten with every meal. Often, for a formal meal, a lamb or chicken dish is next, followed by couscous topped with meat and vegetables. A cup of sweet mint tea usually ends the meal. Moroccans usually eat wit their hands and use bread as a utensil.

The Moroccans are quick to point out that the best meals are found not in the restaurants but in the homes. In this land of good and abundant food, the emphasis is clearly on preparing your own. It is worth mentioning that women do virtually all of the cooking in this very traditional country.

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Key Ingredients:

Moroccan cuisine is rich in spices, only natural when you consider the ages-old spice trade from Arabia to North Africa. Spices here are used to enhance, not mask, the flavor of food.

The following spices are among the most commonly used: Saffron, Cinnamon, Cumin, ground Ginger, Paprika, Black pepper and sesame seeds. Herbs also play an important role in Moroccan food, chief among them the following: Parsley, Green coriander, Cilantro

The Moroccan table also makes good use of the following ingredients: Onions, garlic, preserved lemons, couscous, filo dough, eggs, chick-peas, olives, orange flower waters and honey.

Moroccan Favorites:

Salads– A fresh, cool salad is often served at the start of a meal. Among the most commonly served are a tomato and green pepper salad, a mixed herb salad, eggplant salad.

Bastela–This traditional savory pastry is made in three layers: a layer of shredded chicken is topped with eggs which are curdled in a lemony onion sauce and further topped with a dusting of sweetened almonds. The whole is enclosed in filo dough and topped by a layer of cinnamon and sugar.

Za’looq- Braised eggplant with cilantro and cumin. Olives with orange zest and herbs

Za’looq- Braised eggplant with cilantro and cumin. Olives with orange zest and herbs

Couscous– These are fine semolina grains which are plumped by steaming them over a simmering stew. The grains are then piled on a large platter, with the stew heaped on top.  It is often served with either lamb or chicken and topped with an assortment of vegetables.

 

Preserved Lemons:

Many Moroccan recipes call for preserved lemons, lemons that have been pickled in salt and their own juices. It’s quite easy to do, though takes at least three weeks before the lemons are ready to use.

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Poultry:

Some of the tastiest dishes in Moroccan cookery involve chicken, which can be steamed, broiled or fried and is often accompanied with vegetables. Chicken with lemon and olives is the classic preparation, while a chicken tagine cooked with butter, onions, pepper, saffron, chick-peas, and lemon is also popular. Chickens are also prepared stuffed with raisins, almonds, and honey sauce.

Chicken and Olive tagine

Meat:

Lamb is king on the Moroccan table, especially roasted lamb, which is as tender and flavorful as you will find. It can also be braised, browned, steamed or served on skewers, the latter commonly known as shish kebab. Lamb or beef which has been generously spiced, placed on a skewer and broiled Also, lamb tagines are prepared with an assortment of vegetables and some even use fruits such as dried plums.

Orange Carpaccio

Orange Carpaccio

Desserts:

Pastries which are stuffed with almond paste and topped with sugar, while honey cakes

are pretzel-shaped pieces of dough which are deep-fried, dipped into a piping-hot pot of honey and then sprinkled with sesame seeds.

Mint tea:

Green tea is steeped and then laced with sugar and fresh spearmint. The resulting brew is a minty, sweet, and very tasty.”

SF Cooking School  – A new cooking school in San Francisco that offers a full-time certificate program as well as terrific hands on cooking classes.

S.F. Cooking School click here

Cookbooks:

MOROCCO: A Culinary Journey with Recipes from the Spice-scented Markets of Marrakech to the Date-Filled Oasis of Zagora by Jeff Koeler –

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The Food of Morocco by Paula Wolfert
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Articles:

Moroccan Cookbook Throwdown: Paula Wolfert’s The Food of Morocco vs. Mourad: New Moroccan Click here for Wolfert article

Williams Sonoma – Flavors of Morocco Click here to buy Flavors of Morocco

Travel

Abercrombie and Kent Morocco trip

Butterfield and Robinson Morocco trip

Travcoa

 

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