Well here we are on the last day of Moroccan week, and to be honest… I have no idea how to end it… how’s that for the blunt truth? Yes, I have a great dessert recipe (Baklava for those that are asking), but a cute, kitschy blog? nope, sorry, fresh out! Sorry, it’s been a crazy week for me, and it is shaping up to be an even crazier weekend. I have a Bar-Mitzvah out of town for the son of friends of mine (how did I get old enough that my friends have children who are Bar-Mitzvah age?) and then on Sunday I leave for a trade show in Chicago for a few days. Yes, Chicago in November. I’m a glutton for punishment. So I guess you can understand why I’m having difficulty sticking to my week’s theme. Well, I guess I could fantasize about being in Morocco. About the warm air and golden sands… the Bedouin tents and foreign calls of the marketplace…. okay, I think I just accidentally sent myself somewhere back to Persia and Ali Baba’s days. Oh well, why don’t I just quit while I’m ahead and wish you all a good weekend and pray for the strength to get through mine!
Displaying influences from Africa, Arabia, and the Mediterranean, the Moroccan cuisine of today is a reflection of the country’s colourful past, blended with the culinary traditions of both its Arab and Berber inhabitants. Over time, these influences have been refined into a distinctly Moroccan flavor — thanks largely to centuries of imperial dynasties, where expectations and demands weighed heavily on the chefs of the royal courts, and thus inspired both experimentation and extravagance.
Moroccan cooking is strongly characterized by the subtle blending of spices, and Moroccans expertly use them to enhance, rather than mask, the flavor and fragrance of their dishes. Spices such as cayenne, saffron, chilies, cinnamon, turmeric, ginger, cumin, paprika, and black pepper are all commonplace in Morocco, as is a special blend of spices called ras el hanout, translated as “head of the shop,” which is usually a mixture of between 10 and 30 different spices. Traditionally the proprietor of each spice shop sold his own unique — and secret — ras el hanout recipe. Fresh herbs are also present in Moroccan dishes, particularly garlic, coriander, parsley, and mint, as are fragrant additions such as orange or rose water, olives, and olive oil. Harissa, a fiery paste of garlic, chilies, olive oil, and salt, is often used as a condiment. Above all else, perhaps the defining characteristic of Moroccan cuisine is the blending of savory with sweet, most commonly witnessed by the addition of fruit to meat tagines.
Here is a quick version of Ras El Hanout that you can whip up to add a warm, exotic taste to your dishes:
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¾ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon ground white pepper
½ teaspoon ground coriander seed
½ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon ground allspice
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
Mix salt, cumin, ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, black pepper, white pepper, coriander, cayenne pepper, allspice, nutmeg, and cloves in a small bowl until evenly blended. Store in an airtight container up to 1 month.
This can be used as a rub on meat, poultry or fish, or as a seasoning for rice or couscous. You’re really only limited by your imagination. So let your imagination soar, and get lost in the Moroccan spice markets today!
For all you hard core Casablanca fans out there, you’ll recognize that the proper quote is not “Play it again, Sam”, but in fact, “Play it, Sam…Play “As Time Goes By.” but like the rest of Hollywood history, things get misconstrued over time. What isn’t lost however is Morocco, and all it’s wonderful tastes, flavours and spices. For us North Americans, the sight and sounds of North Africa are a treat to behold. the market places teeming with spices in every colour of the rainbow, the strange and unusual crockery, like a tagine. For a foodie, it’s pure joy! So this week, if you haven’t figured it out by now, is going to be Moroccan Week! Each day we’ll delve into a different course, from hors d’oeuvres to dessert. Today’s recipes come from Mrs. Outmezgine, an old Sephardi neighbour who would make these individual cigars and pastilles for family functions. She would usually serve them along with some homemade matbucha or even just a drizzle of techina. Either way, I’m sure Bogie would agree and say “Louie, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship”