Category Archives: North African

Recipes from Algeria and Tunisia

Happy Thanksgiving from the kasbah

    

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

Photography by Owen Morse

Squash and Sweet Potato Purée with Red Bell Pepper Confetti

I can hardly believe that November has come around again. Somehow, the fact has difficulty sinking in when it is 90 degrees outside. It’s a little jarring to walk into a store and find row upon row of shelves stacked with benevolent Santas.

     November also means that Thanksgiving, my favorite holiday of the year, is just around the corner. This most American holiday turned into a multi-cultural experience for a group of American travelers on one of my tours. On that day, I had planned to be at the iconic Palais Salam Hotel, a renovated Moorish palace within the ramparts of Taroudant, an historic town in southern Morocco.

I explained to the chef the purpose of the annual day of thanks earlier that morning. He nodded once or twice, promptly gathered his staff, and disappeared into the hotel’s cavernous kitchen. Members of my tour took the opportunity to spend their free time combing the medina (old town) for anything that would bring to mind pilgrims, from feathers for their hair, to billowy skirts, Moroccan-style backless slippers, and artisanal pitchforks. They planned their entrance during dinner, to the amazement of stunned French guests. I overheard whispers of “Ces Américains!” as the twenty “pilgrims” took a seat at a table laden with pumpkins and squashes, as well as paper turkeys I had brought from the US for the occasion.

     Applause erupted on all sides when a group of beaming waiters in starched white coats marched in, holding aloft not one, but two, glistening, honey-basted turkeys studded with crimson hibiscus blossoms. The stuffing? The chef had given it a Moroccan twist – a blend of sweetened couscous, plump raisins and chopped dates faintly touched with cinnamon. Perhaps the most memorable moment arrived when a young waiter came up to me as we were leaving, and asked:

     “Madame, the American turkey it is very tasty, but can I have the paper ones to take home?”

     Why not try a Moroccan-inspired side dish for your Thanksgiving turkey? For this special occasion, I would like to share a recipe from my latest book, Mint Tea and Minarets: A Banquet of Moroccan Memories (November 2012) (http://mintteaandminarets.com), or at 

http://www.amazon.com/Mint-Tea-Minarets-Moroccan-Memories

 

Squash and Sweet Potato Purée with Red Bell Pepper Confetti

Serves 4

1½ pounds butternut, Mediterranean, or winter squash

2 medium sweet potatoes

½ cup milk or broth

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ras el hanoot spice blend 

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 medium onions, finely diced

1 red bell pepper, seeded, deribbed, and finely diced

1 teaspoon sugar

 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Place squash and sweet potatoes on baking sheet. Bake until soft, about 1 hour. Cool, peel, and scoop seeds from squash. Peel sweet potatoes. Puree vegetables with ricer or potato masher. Transfer to a medium saucepan. Stir in broth, salt, and ras el hanoot. Keep warm until ready to serve.

Meanwhile, for the confetti, in a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion, pepper, and sugar. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are lightly caramelized, 15 to 20 minutes. Stir half the confetti into the puree. Transfer to a serving dish. Garnish with remaining confetti.

 Note: Ras el hanout (lit. "top of the shop"), is a traditional Moroccan spice blend, often available in specialty food stores. Consult another of my cookbooks, Cooking at the Kasbah, for a recipe.

 

copyright Kitty Morse 2012

Belated October post/pomegranates

  Finally! Two advance copies of Mint Tea and Minarets: A Banquet of Moroccan Memories arrived at our front door. A couple of thousand more should arrive from Hong Kong by November 20, 2012.
    With  327 pages, 32 original recipes, and 99 food and location photographs, the hefty, perfect bound paperback weighs in at 2 lbs 3oz.  culminating a ten year challenge of writing something else besides a cookbook. Along the way, I discovered that memoir writing is not for the faint of heart, that perseverance bordering on obssession is of paramount importance, as are an eagle-eyed husband (also photographer, recipe tester, and cheerleader-in-chief) insightful and patient friends, and discerning editors. For a preview of the contents, click on the cover of the book.
    Free shipping on all orders in the US until December 31, 2012. I would be delighted to send you a signed copy.
    No Kindle or Nook edition yet. The technology doesn't do justice to the photographs.

     Aren't pomegranates the most regal of fruits? During this pomegranate season, I' like to share my husband's latest addiction: Couscous with Pomegranate Seeds,  which he eats for dessert or for breakfast.Spiny pomegranate shrubs grew prolifically in the Holy Land. Its fruit was a symbol of fertility. Tyrian master craftsman, Huram, decorated columns in King Solomon’s palace with hundreds of bronze pomegranates. Stylized blue, gold and purple pomegranates adorned the ephods (vests) worn by temple priests. To order, go to http://www. amazon.com. The book is also available in Kindle version. For a signed copy, contact me directly. This simple recipe is excerpted from A Biblical Feast.

 Serves 1
 
1/4 cup couscous
1/4 cup pomegranate seeds
Buttermilk or almond milk
Sugar, if desired
 
In a small saucepan, bring the water to a boil. Add couscous in a stream. Cover and let stand 12 to 15 minutes. Let cool and fluff with a fork.
 
Mix couscous with pomegranate seeds and sugar, if using. Serve with buttermilk.
 
 
 

Encore fava beans!

A New Way to Cook with Fava Beans!

Leaves included!

Some of you may know of my taste for fresh fava beans, that most underrated bean, at least among US cooks. 

 Fava beans always come to mind at this time of the year, especially around Easter and Passover. Growing up in Morocco meant I got to participate in the rituals of Muslims, Christians, and Jews: That made for sampling a number of celebratory dishes, from Ramadan soup, to Hot Cross Buns, and my maternal great-grandmother’s Passover bean soup packed with fresh cilantro.

 My favorite way to savor favas is à la marocaine of course, cooked in olive oil, and flavored with cumin, paprika, and cilantro.  But I was thrilled to discover that fava leaves are also edible. This thanks to a vendor at the Vista farmer’s market, the one where you will find me every Saturday morning. Gladys, an expert in Asian cooking, told me she added fava leaves instead of pea shoots to her Chinese egg drop soup. So I rushed to the store, bought the makings for chicken broth, and added fava leaves and sesame oil:  I am here to tell you that this soup will become part of my repertoire .  

In the same spirit of experimentation, I too, decided to give a Moroccan classic a new twist by adding leaves and pods ( as long as they are young and tender). Shelling favas is somewhat time consuming, but you can do that a day or two ahead.  The leaves have only a very faint, grassy taste, so you can be generous when you add them to your dish.

Et voilà le résultat! Bon appétit!

 

Fava Beans, Leaves and Pods with chermoula spices

 serves 4

 2 tablespoons olive oil

2 teaspoons sweet paprika

2 teaspoons cumin

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 cup diced tomatoes

1 cup shelled fava beans

2 cups fava bean leaves (no stems)

4 or 5 small, slender pods, cut into 2-inch pieces

½ bunch cilantro tied with string

½ cup water

Salt and pepper

Juice of 1 lemon

Chopped cilantro, for garnish

 In a medium skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add paprika, cumin, and garlic. Stir until spices start to bubble. Add tomatoes, shelled beans, leaves, pods, cilantro and water. Cover and cook for 10 to 15 minutes. Discard cilantro. Season with salt, pepper and lemon juice. Transfer to a bowl, and serve at room temperature. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro before serving.

copyright Kitty Morse 2011

A Biblical Stew for Easter or Passover

 Many of you know what a fan I am of the Vista Farmer’s Market, and of California farmers and food purveyors. In keeping with the Easter/Passover theme, I recently spoke with Sally Brown, of Good for You Gourmet. Sally sells organic beans and grains at the market. Her products are perfectly suited to prepare a biblically inspired dish, including this one exerpted from A Biblical Feast: Ancient Mediterranean Flavors for Today’s Table.

     Making soup mixes from grains and beans was just a hobby for Sally until she decided to turn it into a business called Good for You Gourmet. For the eight years, the former graphic artist has been a fixture at the Vista Farmer’s market, selling organic heirloom beans, rice, and exotic grains. Sally sources her products all over the world, from Bolivian quinoa, to Spanish lentils, and French Red Rice from the Camargue region in France.

     “Customers are becoming more interested in moving from processed and fast foods to creating more healthful dishes for themselves and their families,” explains the soft-spoken vendor, who hails from Ohio. “These dietary journeys can be made by slowly introducing a few healthy changes, and adding more healthy foods as time goes on.”

     Among the lentil varieties available at the Good for You Gourmet’s stand are striking Black Beluga, delicate French Green lentils, and flavorful Spanish Pardina, to name a few. Like the rest of Sally’s products, the lentils are organically grown.

     Rich in fiber and protein, lentils, garbanzos, and fava beans have been a staple of the Mediterranean diet since biblical times. Ancient bread makers often ground them and combined with other cereal grains to make bread. Then as now, dried beans and lentils were primarily used in soups and stews. Lentils provide a nutritious backdrop for a Lentil, Barley & Mustard Green Soup that incorporates some of the same ingredients that were available to Ancient Hebrew cooks.

 Lentil, Barley & Mustard Green Soup

Serves 4

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion, diced

4 cloves garlic

2 tablespoons pearl barley (or millet)

¾ cup brown (or black beluga) lentils, rinsed, drained and impurities removed

1 medium leek, white part only, finely diced

3(14 ¼-ounce) cans beef broth

1 bunch mustard leaves, rinsed under running water, drained, and coarsely chopped

10 fresh mint leaves, finely chopped or 2 teaspoons dried, crushed mint leaves

Salt to taste

      Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Cook onion, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Add garlic, barley and lentils. Cook, stirring, until barley turns golden, 2 to 3 minutes. Add leeks and stock. Cover and cook, until barley is tender, 30 to 35 minutes. Add mustard leaves and cook until wilted, 2 to 3 minutes. Add mint and salt before serving.

 e-mail Good for You Gourmet:  goodforyougourmet@netzero.net


 

 

 

Bitter Orange Salad/Salad d’Oranges Amères

In answer to the e-Newsletter I sent out at the beginning of February, I received this lovely letter from  Danielle Avidan, a follower of this website. She was kind enough to contribute this recipe.

She writes: “My grandmother used a heavy earthenware container, but it can be prepared in an ordinary salad bowl, even a terrine (ça se garde très bien au refrigerateur!)"

 Bitter oranges appetizer

 3 large bitter oranges (Seville oranges) or 4 medium ones

About 10 to 2 black olives, preferably the ‘wrinkled’ ones from Morocco that can be found in Persian markets;

2 garlic cloves, finely minced

1/2 tsp paprika, or more if you like;

1/4 tsp cumin;

1/4 tsp hot red pepper flakes (optional);

3 (or 4) T Canola or grapeseed oil (do not to substitute olive oil!)

Salt and white pepper to taste.


Pit olives. Peel oranges, and cut in small cubes. Remove seeds. Thoroughly mix all ingredients in an earthenware bowl or ordinary salad bowl. Refrigerate for 24 to 48 hours. Adjust seasonings before serving at room temperature.

Note: The longer you keep it the better it tastes! This can accompany any meat, chicken or fish dish, as a first course, or can be served with other ‘salads’ such as beet, eggplant, carrot etc..



Merci Danielle!

 Tita, my own great-aunt and culinary mentor, often prepared a similar salad with the bitter, Seville oranges that we picked in Marrakech. My own version contains Valencia or Navels, dried Kalamata olives, and chopped red onion or diced fennel, depending upon the availability or the inspiration!