Monday, April 5, 2010

Guest Post: Moroccan Food 101

I found another cool blog full of yummy Moroccan food, and you all know what's coming next I asked for a guest post! so here is Nisrine to give us the low down on Moroccan food with a recipe, what a treat. Be sure to visit her blog Dinners and Dreams:

I was grabbing my quasi-habitual afternoon coffee a few weeks ago when the barista stared at my credit card, difficultly trying to read my flamboyantly foreign name, and asked me where I was from. My answer was that I’m from Morocco. After oohing and aahing for a bit about how fascinated he is with Morocco and how he’d love to visit it one day, he proceeded with the ever predictable question about the kind of food eaten there.

I have grown so accustomed to receiving this question whenever I mentioned my country of origin that I’ve actually prepared a boxed answer to deliver in instances like this one when I needed to quickly grab my coffee and go. I am amazed every time I’m asked this question at how much the food of a certain country ranks up there with its geographic location and language. It’s almost as if people feel that they don’t know a country well enough until they’ve known the kind of food its people eat.

Unlike that day at the coffee counter, today I have time to share some details about Moroccan food. It shares particularities commonly known about Mediterranean food such as the freshness of the ingredients used and the simple, hearty flavors. Below are some examples of popular Moroccan specialties:

Couscous is one of the most familiar Moroccan specialties, appreciated for its ease of preparation and versatility. It can be dressed up elegantly with fruits, nuts and spices, or presented lightly seasoned for everyday dinners.

Tagine comes second in popularity and refers to any kind of chicken, beef or lamb stew slow-cooked in a tagine, a round clay pot with a dome-shaped lid that yields delicious earthy flavors. Tagines are often seasoned with saffron, cumin, harissa and preserved lemons.

Brewats and b’stilla are dainty creations made with b’stilla or phyllo dough in the shape of triangles, cigars or pies filled with spiced kefta, saffron chicken, or lemony seafood. They are also made for dessert filled with nuts and drizzled with honey.

Other dishes which might be less known but are just as impressive include warm vegetable salads, legume soups, nut cookies, and fish with shermoula sauce. They are delicacies waiting to be discovered.

Couscous Salad with Almonds and Raisins

4 servings

1 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon butter
1 cup instant couscous
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Dash ground clove
8 mint leaves, stemmed and chopped
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
½ tablespoon lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Confectioner’s sugar (optional)

Bring the water to a boil. Stir in the salt, butter, and couscous. Remove from the heat, cover, and let stand 5 minutes.

Fluff the couscous with a fork and add the almonds, raisins, cinnamon, ground clove and mint. In another bowl, stir together the olive oil and lemon juice. Gently incorporate the liquid mixture into the couscous, season with salt and pepper to taste, and toss.

Chill the salad and serve in small bowls, plates, or dessert cups. If you wish, garnish with confectioner’s sugar and mint leaves before serving.

Nisrine Merzouki

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