Archive for Wednesday, March 2, 2005

Moroccan dream

Trip to North Africa introduces Lawrencians to new cuisine

March 2, 2005

Advertisement

Dave and Gunda Hiebert share a love of international travel and a sense of adventure.

Since marrying in 1978, the Lawrence couple has made trips to Burma, Nepal, India, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, China, Russia, Australia, South Africa and South American nations.

The Hieberts have eaten their way across the world, too.

That means sampling exotic and unusual dishes such as "jumping shrimp" (live prawns) in Thailand, grubs in Australia and roasted guinea pig in Peru.

They recently added yet another destination to their far-flung travels.

In January, the Hieberts, both 68, spent three weeks in the North African nation of Morocco, visiting cities such as Rabat, Fes, Meknes and Marrakech -- including three days of living in the desert.

Apart from souvenirs and a slew of digital photos taken on their trip, the couple brought back to Lawrence an indelible memory of their tasteful encounters with Moroccan food.

The meals they ate in restaurants, private homes and their desert encampment left a deep impression on the Hieberts, who are avid cooks and love to have dinner parties for friends.

Gunda co-owned The Bay Leaf, 725 Mass., with Anne Yetman for 25 years before selling the gourmet and kitchenware shop two years ago.

A Moroccan man displays heaping trays of fresh pastries in a souk
(marketplace) in one of the cities recently visited by Dave and
Gunda Hiebert, of Lawrence.

A Moroccan man displays heaping trays of fresh pastries in a souk (marketplace) in one of the cities recently visited by Dave and Gunda Hiebert, of Lawrence.

Dave retired from his private radiology practice seven years ago.

"I love the romance of the names: the Merzouga Dunes at Erg Chebbi, the Oued Bou Regreb (the Bou Regreb River in Rabat), Tinerhir, Ouarzazate, Ait Benhaddou," Gunda said.

"I loved the weathered look of the medinas (the old sections of the cities) with their narrow, winding streets, the friendliness and hospitality of the people, the delight of indulging in the succulent cuisine and the exoticism of the whole country."

Like 'Garden of Eden'

The Hieberts were in for a treat when it came to enjoying the native dishes of Morocco, where the emphasis is on the quality and freshness of the ingredients.

"Produce comes from a land without pesticides, chemicals, hormones or preservatives. Animals are slaughtered just hours before they are eaten. Spices, herbs, fresh fruit, nuts and dried fruit have an invigorating vitality completely removed from the packaged and imported products available in much of Europe and North America," according to the Cadogan Guide to Morocco.

That travel guide description mirrors the couple's experience at mealtimes.










Here are some of the basic ingredients common to Moroccan kitchens:. Saffron: Spanish saffron -- the dried stigmas and part of the styles of the Crocus sativus -- is the world's most expensive spice.. Beans: Fava beans, chickpeas and navy beans are staples of the Moroccan diet. Available canned or dried in Middle Eastern markets and large supermarkets.. Couscous: Another staple food, made from durum-wheat semolina mixed with smaller quantities of either durum-wheat flour or a soft-wheat flour, salt and water. Boxes of instant couscous are sold in the pasta and rice section of most supermarkets.. Harissa: This Tunisian hot sauce is popular in Morocco. Sometimes found in cans or tubes in the specialty foods section of supermarkets or Middle Eastern markets.. Olives: Green, purple and black olives are essential ingredients in Moroccan cuisine. The cultivation of olives dates back more than 5,000 years.Source: "Cooking at the Kasbah: Recipes from My Moroccan Kitchen," by Kitty Morse (Chronicle Books, San Francisco, 1998).

"It's like the Garden of Eden. You don't expect Morocco to be a land of plenty, an agricultural land. But they have the best clementines (a tangerine-like fruit), the best olives. I have a picture of an avocado that's this big," Gunda said, cupping the palms of both hands together.

Moroccan cooking is considered one of the world's great cuisines, she said, influenced by the Berbers (North Africa's indigenous people), Arabs and the French, who ruled the country as a protectorate for many years.

Moroccan food uses ingredients such as fava beans, chickpeas and other legumes, seasonally ripe vegetables, preserved lemons, nuts and pasta dishes, combined with chicken, lamb, beef or fish.

Spices such as turmeric, saffron, cinnamon, cumin and sweet Hungarian paprika are used liberally, as well as ras el hanout, a special spice blend.

Other common ingredients are harissa (North African hot sauce), orange-flower water and almond paste.

Three specialties of Morocco are tagines, shish kabob and couscous.

"The word 'tagine' refers to the finished dish as well as to the earthenware pot topped with a conical lid in which it is cooked. Tagines are made of meat, fowl or seafood and fresh seasonal vegetables or fruit and flavored with exotic herbs and spices," according to "Cooking at the Kasbah: Recipes from My Moroccan Kitchen," by Kitty Morse (Chronicle Books, San Francisco, 1998).

Shish kebob is the name of a dish made up of cubes of marinated meat cooked on a skewer, usually with vegetables.

Couscous, a national dish, is made from durum-wheat semolina mixed with smaller quantities of either durum-wheat flour or a soft-wheat flour, salt and water.

Romance of the desert

Dave and Gunda Hiebert display mementos of their recent trip to
North Africa.

Dave and Gunda Hiebert display mementos of their recent trip to North Africa.

Among the culinary highlights of the couple's trip were visits to the food-laden souks (markets) in the old parts of Moroccan cities, sitting down to enjoy glasses of mint tea in the home of nomads -- and bountiful meals served to them during three days spent in a desert encampment.

"The meal I enjoyed the most, the meal that was the most memorable, was one of the simplest. It was at the foot of one of the largest sand dunes in North Africa," Dave recalled.

"It was just after sunrise, and we'd just come back from a walk across the sand dunes. The dunes are beautiful with the sun obliquely shining across them. We came back to camp, where we were served breakfast, and I had fresh, hot pancakes with apricot jam, mint tea, fresh-baked bread and clementines."

It was an unforgettable moment.

"The food, in that setting, tasted twice as good as it would have otherwise. It's like having a hot dog at a ball game," Dave said, laughing.

"I've been sitting here thinking about it. Just the beauty of it, the romance of the desert."

Heaping bowls of olives are displayed at a Moroccan souk (market).
Lawrence couple Dave and Gunda Hiebert traveled to the North
African country recently and brought back a love for "the succulent
cuisine and the exoticism of the whole country."

Heaping bowls of olives are displayed at a Moroccan souk (market). Lawrence couple Dave and Gunda Hiebert traveled to the North African country recently and brought back a love for "the succulent cuisine and the exoticism of the whole country."



Harira



(Ramadan Soup of Fava Beans and Lentils)

1 cup small, dried fava beans, soaked and drained

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 onions, finely diced

2 pounds lamb shoulder chops, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

8 Spanish saffron threads, toasted and crushed

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

2 teaspoons ground ginger

10 cups water

10 tomatoes (about 3 pounds), peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped

30 fresh flat-leaf parsley sprigs, tied with cotton string

15 fresh cilantro sprigs, tied with cotton string

1 cup dried lentils, rinsed, picked free of impurities and drained

1 teaspoon pepper

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 cup crushed vermicelli, orzo or acini di pepe

Salt to taste

Chopped fresh cilantro for garnish

Lemon wedges for serving

Skin the fava beans by squeezing each one between your thumb and forefinger. Set aside.

In a large soup pot over medium-high heat, heat the oil and saute the onions and meat until the onions are tender, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the saffron, turmeric, ginger and 8 cups of the water. Bring to a rolling boil. Cover, reduce heat to medium and add the fava beans. Cover and cook until the beans are tender, 1 hour to 1 1/2 hours (depending on age of the beans).

In a blender or food processor, coarsely chop the tomatoes, parsley and cilantro. Add the tomato mixture, lentils, pepper and cinnamon to the beans. Cover and cook until the lentils are tender 20 to 25 minutes.

In the meantime, bring the remaining 2 cups of water to a boil. Cook the pasta until tender, 6 to 8 minutes. Drain and add to the soup. Stir to blend. Season with salt. Heat through and ladle the soup into individual bowls. Top with fresh cilantro and serve immediately with wedges of lemon.

Serves 8.

Hezzu M'Chermel



(Caramelized Carrots with Sweet Paprika)

6 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon sweet Hungarian paprika

1 teaspoon sugar

1/4 cup water

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

Salt to taste

1 tablespoon minced fresh flat-leaf parsley for garnish

In a small saucepan, combine the carrots, garlic, paprika, sugar and water. Cover and cook over medium-low heat until the carrots are lightly caramelized, 12 to 15 minutes. Add the vinegar and cook 1 minute longer. Remove from heat and season with salt. Let cool. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

Serves 4.

Bokkola B'Zitoun



(Chopped Spinach Salad with Preserved Lemons and Olives)

2 bunches (about 1 1/2 pounds) fresh spinach, stemmed and washed

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon sweet Hungarian paprika

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon black pepper

6 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro

3 garlic cloves, minced

15 green olives, pitted

2 teaspoons finely diced preserved lemon rind

1 small lemon, cut into thin slices

In a large pot of boiling water, blanch the spinach until it wilts, 2 to 3 minutes. Drain in a colander. When it is cool enough to handle, press the spinach with the back of a large spoon to remove excess water. On a cutting board, chop the spinach finely and set aside.

In a large skillet over medium heat, combine the olive oil, paprika, cumin and black pepper. Cook, stirring constantly, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the chopped spinach, cilantro and garlic, and cook, stirring constantly, until most of the liquid evaporates, 8 to 10 minutes.

Reserve 6 of the olives. Finely chop the remaining olives. Combine the chopped olives and the diced preserved lemon with the spinach. Cook until heated through, 2 to 3 minutes. Set aside to cool.

To serve, mound the spinach in the center of a serving plate. Dot the salad with the reserved olives. Cut the lemon slices in half and place them around the plate to create a scalloped border. Serve at room temperature.

Serves 4.

Fekkous Wa Matisha B'Nahna



(Minty Cucumber and Tomato Salad)

1 large seedless cucumber, peeled and finely chopped

2 ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped

2 green onions, green tops included, finely chopped

1 tablespoon minced fresh mint

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Fresh mint leaves for garnish

In a serving bowl, combine the cucumber, tomatoes, onions, mint, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Garnish with mint leaves. Serve at room temperature.

Serves 4.

Tagine Bil Kok



(Tagine of Lamb with Prunes)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

1 teaspoon ground ginger

2 pounds leg of lamb, trimmed of fat and cut into 2-inch chunks

2 onions

1 cup chicken broth

8 threads Spanish saffron, toasted and crushed

10 fresh cilantro sprigs, tied with cotton string

1 cup pitted prunes

2 tablespoons honey

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon pepper

Salt to taste

1 tablespoon unhulled sesame seeds, toasted

Crusty bread for serving

In a small Dutch oven or enameled casserole over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil and saute the turmeric, ginger and lamb until the meat is well coated and lightly browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Finely dice one of the onions. Add it to the meat along with the broth, saffron and cilantro. Cover and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook until the meat is fork tender, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Discard the cilantro.

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. With a slotted spoon, transfer the meat to an ovenproof dish and keep warm in the oven until ready to serve. Bring the sauce in the casserole back to a simmer.

Finely slice the remaining onion. Add it, along with the prunes, honey, cinnamon and pepper to the simmering sauce. Season with salt. Cook until the mixture thickens somewhat, 6 to 8 minutes. Spoon the prune sauce over the meat and sprinkle the dish with the sesame seeds. Serve with warm bread.

Serves 4.

Djej M'Kalli B'L'Hamd Markad



(Tagine of Chicken with Preserved Lemons and Artichoke Hearts)

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 teaspoons sweet Hungarian paprika

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon pepper

3 pounds chicken, cut up

1 onion, finely diced

1 cup chicken broth

8 threads Spanish saffron, toasted and crushed

10 sprigs fresh cilantro, tied with cotton string

20 sprigs fresh flat-leaf parsley, tied with cotton string

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon preserved lemon pulp

12 baby artichokes, trimmed of any tough outer leaves; or 6 medium artichokes, boiled, trimmed of leaves and choke, and quartered; or one 14-ounce can artichoke hearts, drained

Rind of 2 preserved lemons, cut into thin strips

Fresh cilantro leaves for garnish

Crusty bread or pita bread for serving

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

In a medium Dutch oven, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil, paprika, ginger, pepper and chicken. Cook, stirring to coat, for 1 to 2 minutes. (Do not overcook, or the spices will turn bitter.) Add the onion, broth, saffron, cilantro and parsley. Cover tightly and bake until the chicken is tender, 50 to 55 minutes.

Remove from the oven. With a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken to an ovenproof dish, leaving the sauce in the pan. Discard the parsley and cilantro. Reduce the oven temperature to 200 degrees, and return the chicken to the oven to keep warm. Bring the sauce to a simmer on top of the stove. Add the lemon juice, lemon pulp and artichokes. Stir gently until the artichokes are heated through, 4 to 5 minutes. Gently stir the strips of lemon rind into the sauce.

Mound the reserved chicken in the center of a serving platter, and surround it with the artichokes. Spoon the sauce over the dish. Garnish with cilantro leaves. Serve with warm bread.

Tagine M'Derbel Beraniya



(Tagine of Chicken with Eggplant and Sun-Dried Tomatoes)

5 tablespoons olive oil

2 onions, finely chopped

2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 pounds chicken, cut into serving pieces

1 cup chicken broth

8 threads Spanish saffron, toasted and crushed

10 fresh cilantro sprigs, tied with cotton string

10 fresh flat-leaf parsley sprigs, tied with cotton string

2 globe eggplants, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices

1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, plumped in warm water, drained and diced

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Crusty warm bread for serving

In medium Dutch oven over medium-high heat, heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add the onions, ginger and cinnamon, and saute until the onions are translucent, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the chicken, and saute until it turns golden, 5 to 6 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium and add the broth, saffron, cilantro and parsley. Cover and cook until the chicken is tender and the juices run clear, 45 to 50 minutes. Meanwhile, place the eggplant slices on a clean towel. Salt them lightly on both sides. Let sit for 15 to 20 minutes. Pat dry with the towel.

Preheat the broiler. Place the eggplant slices on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Lightly brush the slices with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Broil until light brown, 5 to 6 minutes on each side. Set aside. Reduce the oven heat to 200 degrees.

When the chicken is cooked, transfer it to a baking dish and keep warm in the oven. Discard the parsley and cilantro. Keep the sauce simmering on the stove. Reserve 10 eggplant slices for garnish. Add the remaining eggplant and the sun-dried tomatoes to the sauce and mash them lightly in the pan juices. Season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until the sauce thickens somewhat, 4 to 5 minutes.

Spoon this mixture on the bottom of a large, shallow platter. Top with the chicken and garnish with the reserved eggplant slices. Serve with warm bread.

Serves 6.

Seffa



(Sweet Cinnamon Couscous with Dried Fruit)

4 tablespoons butter

2 shallots, minced

1 cup chicken broth

6 threads Spanish saffron, crushed

1 cup instant couscous

2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon orange-flower water (sold in Middle Eastern markets or specialty stores)

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 tablespoons raisins, plumped in warm water and drained

4 dates, pitted and chopped

6 dried apricot halves, plumped in warm water, drained and diced

2 tablespoons slivered almonds, toasted

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter and add the shallots. Saute until the shallots are translucent, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the broth, saffron and remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Bring to a boil. Gradually stir in the couscous and remove from the heat. Cover and let stand for 5 minutes.

Transfer the couscous to a bowl and fluff with a fork. Stir in the sugar, orange-flower water, cinnamon, raisins, dates, apricots and slivered almonds. Season with salt and pepper. Use as a stuffing, or serve hot as a side dish.

Makes 3 cups.

K'Seksoo B'Romman Wa L'Ben



(Sweet Pomegranate Couscous with Buttermilk)

1 ripe pomegranate

1 cup water

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup instant couscous

2 tablespoons sugar

Buttermilk for serving

Fresh mint leaves for garnish

Fill a large bowl with water. Cut the pomegranate in half lengthwise. Holding the fruit under water, break it apart, separating the seeds from the outer skin and white pith. The seeds will drop to the bottom of the bowl, and the pith will float to the surface. Pour the seeds into a colander or strainer. Rinse, removing any remaining bits of skin and pith.

In a small saucepan, bring the water and salt to a boil. Gradually stir in the couscous and remove from the heat. Cover and let stand for 5 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl. Add the sugar and pomegranate seeds, and mix thoroughly. Pack a small ramekin with the couscous mixture and invert it in a shallow soup bowl. Pour a little buttermilk around the base of the couscous. Garnish with mint leaves and serve.

Serves 6.

Source for all recipes: "Cooking at the Kasbah: Recipes from My Moroccan Kitchen," by Kitty Morse (Chronicle Books, San Francisco, 1998).

Commenting has been disabled for this item.