Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Nabila's Spicy Shrimp and Vegetable Bisque

Wednesday, October 26th, 2016

Spicy Shrimp & Vegetable Bisque

Nabila made this bisque during this year's sacred music festival. I found it delightfully spicy in ways not often tasted in other Moroccan dishes. Who knew she'd been hiding this recipe? American palates, conditioned as they've been by Mexican, Thai, and Szechuan food, and balmed by habanero sauces, have grown a little jaded. In our chest-thumping quest for the stratospheric reaches of the Scoville Scale (a fool's errand, as hot peppers tend to obliterate all other flavors), we overlook the subtleties of mid-palate spices, such as cumin, paprika, ginger, and turmeric, all staples of Moroccan cooking. When I returned to Fes to collect my things before moving to Agadir, I asked her to make it for me--I forgot a couple of ingredients, and used calamari, which was a bit of a mistake, but it turned out delicious anyway, although the kitchen smelled of calamari for days. I was mortified, but gastronomically satisfied. Bissahawraha!

Ingredients (makes a lot, about 20 servings):

1/2 small white cabbage or cauliflower (cheffleur) 
2 red (or green) bell peppers (flfla hlou)
2 long red chili peppers (mzawid aHmar)
3-4 small red chilis (flfla Har)
2 tomatoes (mtaysha)
2 potatoes (batatas)
2-3 carrots (kheezu)
2-3 parsnips (lfte)
2 zucchini or yellow squash (kra' khadra)
3-4 red or yellow onions (basla)
3-4 cloves garlic (thumma)
1/2 bunch each of cilantro and parsley (kuzbur w m3adnous)

1/4 cup olive oil (zayt zaytoun)
1/2 stick of butter (zebda)
1/4 c. Flour (furS)
2 large Knorr fish bullion cubes (knour)
1 tsp. salt (melH)
1 tsp. black pepper (bzar)
1 tsp. ginger (skinjbir)
1 tsp. turmeric (kharqum)

1/2-3/4 kg. shrimp, peeled and chopped, and seasoned with lemon juice (or mix/substitute with an equivalent amount of calamari)

1 cup container creme fraiche
Brandy, sherry, or pastis (about 2-3  (optional)

  • chop the vegetables into bite-sized chunks
  • chop finely the garlic and the parsley and cilantro
  • Make a roux of the butter and flour
  • put ingredients in a pressure cooker and add the olive oil, butter, bullion and spices
  • add 3 liters water
  • Bring to boil and cook under high pressure 1/2 hour and remove
  • Puree using a hand blender or countertop blender.
  • Add the shrimp or calamari, and boil approximately 4-8 minutes depending on the size of the shrimp
  • Add the liqueurs and boil another minute or 2
  • Add half the container of  the creme fraiche, heat, stir, and serve with crackers (saltines or oyster crackers)--drizzle a little creme fraiche on each bowlful with maybe some spice like cayenne.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Mitch's thin-crust pizza

Sunday, March 1st, 2015

Thin Crust Pizza

I've been making pizza for years. Thick-crust, thin-crust, large, small, round, rectangular, with bufalo and low-moisture mozzarella, parmesan, pepperoni, anchovies, peppers and onions and olives and peperoncini. On an aluminum baking sheet and on a pizza stone, peeled off with a spatula or with a pizza peel. Sliced with  a pizza wheel, a 2-handled rocker knife, or a steak knife. 

There are a few things about pizza-making where I draw the line. For example, never will a barbecued chicken touch my pizza. Or a sliced pineapple. I don't want to live in a world where someone serves Hawaiian pizza. Why? Because Italian pizza, the kind that I grew up with in New Jersey where you just bought it for 25 cents a slice in a pizzeria, you don't jerk around with it.

It's not that I'm afraid to try something new. I learned a trick recently from, believe or not, an English-as-a-second-language textbook. The text in these is sometimes necessarily rather insipid, but this year I gave an intermediate class a lesson on sequential adverbs (First, then, next, after that, finally, etc.) which included some recipes for snack foods. There was a pizza recipe that suggested pre-heating the crust prior to adding the sauce and cheese. I tried it, and it really makes the thin crust pop. But whether you do that or not, that's your choice. I've gone back to a single thin sheet of dough, with the ingredients added before putting it in the oven.


Lately, I've found that making the dough in a warm place and then putting it in a closed, oiled container in the fridge overnight allows it to rise and also makes it a little easier to work with. 

So here's the recipe for a medium, 35 cm (about 14-inch) diameter round pizza. 

Ingredients for the dough:
2 cups (about 1/2 liter) of bread flour
1 tsp. dry yeast
1 tbsp. olive oil

Dissolve the yeast in a quarter-cup (about 125 ml) of warm water. Mix the flour, salt and olive oil. Add the dissolved yeast, and mix well. Slowly add about another quarter-cup of water and mix it well.  Knead for about 3-4 minutes, adding water or additional flour to make a nice, pliable dough. 

Oil the mixing bowl, coat the ball of dough in the oil, cover with plastic wrap and set aside for an hour to let it rise. Or leave it wrapped and oiled, in the fridge, overnight.

Ingredients for the sauce:

1 tbsp olive oil

2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 small white or sweet red onion, minced fine
a few dashes of oregano, basil, Italian seasonings, black pepper 
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. sugar
3-4 tomatoes, grated
1 tbsp tomato paste (this is optional--if you boil the tomato sauce down slowly and long enough, you won't need anything else to thicken the sauce)

Heat a sauce pan with the olive oil. Add the minced garlic and onion, and saute until soft and fragrant. Add the herbs and stir, then add the tomatoes and, if you want, the tomato paste (this is the canned stuff, which in Morocco is sold most familiarly under the brand "Aisha". Stir well, then simmer until a nice workable consistency, not too thick or too watery.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit, or about 205 degrees Celsius.

Ingredients for toppings (optional):
green (and/or red) peppers
black olives
sausage or salami piccante (pepperoni)

Saute enough vegetables, like green or red peppers, garlic, or onion so that each slice has a bit of don't want the pizza to be too wet, so a little goes a long way. Don't overdue want to keep the color of the vegetables, especially if you're using a mixture of red and green peppers.

When the dough has risen to twice its original size, punch it down, and sprinkle a handful of coarse semolina flour or cornmeal or flour on the pan. Dust the top of the flattened dough with a little flour to make rolling it easier. Roll out the dough to thinly cover the pan. 

OK, now if you want to pre-cook the dough, then coat it with a bit of olive oil, and put in the oven for just a few minutes, until the dough starts to blister and form a crust--you don't want it to be brown. Remove the crusted dough.

Ladle the sauce on and spread it around.

Grate mozzarella cheese (I like to use both low-moisture mozzarella and the traditional boules of buffalo-milk mozzarella) and sprinkle parmesan cheese over the top. Don't overdo it on the cheese--that's a classic American mistake. There should be enough, but it shouldn't be smothered in gloppy moozzarell'.

Add the sauteed vegetables, and maybe even some black olives if you want.

Add one anchovy to each slice. If your friends don't like anchovies, find some new friends.

Sprinkle a few more of the herbs over the pizza: basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary

Bake until the cheese is fully melted and just starting to brown. 

Remove, sprinkle with some minced red chili pepper flakes to taste, and serve.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Nabila's Beef with Kanaria

Monday, December 15th, 2014

Moroccan Beef and Kanaria

I asked Nabila how people used those giant celery-like bunches of Cardoon, which Moroccans call either Kanaria or Kherchouf (gesundheit), and she told me to get some beef (I used beef shoulder), then simply cooked everything under pressure, creating a quick and delicious stew.

Our new pressure cooker: 1999 dh (~ 200 Euros) from Carrefour, but it's a 10-liter Cadillac

1 kg. beef (shoulder or some other good stew cut)

1 kg. Kanaria, stripped, cut, and bagged

In a bowl, add the following::
1.5 to 2 onions, sliced
sliced potatoes (optional--although a Moroccan would be mortified by such an addition)
6 cloves garlic
1 tea glass of olive oil

Place the beef and the sliced vegetables in a pressure cooker, and add the following spices:

1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp black pepper
salt to taste

Add about 1 teaglass (sm) of olive oil, and 1 teaglass of water

Cook the beef with the all the other ingredients under pressure (steam setting) for 10 minutes, until it cooks down to a thick paste.

Add about 2 coffee mugs of water and cook under pressure (setting 2) for 30 minutes. bread, and you've got a nice juicy peasant stew. Bisahawaraha!

Here's the stew, very simple but savory. I actually used 1.5 kilos. I probably should have used 1 kilo, but it's cold and I crave meat.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Nabila's Special Occasion Chicken Bastilla

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Bastilla: Moroccan sweet and savory chicken pie

You want something magnificent? Try this bastilla. I've asked Nabila to make it at least 6 times, but never had the time to write down the recipe. The solution? Have the houseguests do it for you! Lissa & Natasha are a mother and daughter who are staying at Dar Al Hajj for a week and a half during the beginning of Ramadan, and we agreed to have the bastilla for ftour, although they are not fasting, but I am. So, thanks for agreeing to delay your meal...bastilla, with its overlay of powdered sugar and cinnamon over a filo-encrusted chicken with eggs and almonds, is supposed to be a dinner for special occasions, but I think that the bastilla itself is the special occasion.

  • 1 medium chicken (2 kg)--cut up and wash. Remove extra fat. Let marinate overnight in 1 lemon + 2 tsp. salt
  • 5 onions, chopped
  • parsley and cilantro, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp ginger powder
  • 1/2 Tbsp salt
  • 1/2 Tbsp black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp turmeric
  • cinnamon stick
  • 1 c. olive oil
  • 1 1/2 c. water

Boil the chicken and all the other ingredients for 45 minutes. Add a large cup of water after 20 minutes, to thin the sauce, and cook until soft--about 25 minutes longer. (If you are using a pressure cooker, bring to boil loosely covered, simmer 10 minutes, pressurize on setting 2 and cook for 1/2 hour)

  • granulated sugar
  • 10 eggs
  • filo dough (waraqa)
  • 1/4 kg almonds (luz)
  • sunflower oil

While chicken is cooking, prepare the Almond paste: 
Boil 250 g almonds to loosen skins, then remove skins
Fry in sunflower oil (start in cold oil)
Blend to paste in blender with 1 T sugar.

De-pressurize the chicken and remove the lid:

Take chicken out of pot and continue boiling the sauce until thick and brown, until there is no water remaining.

Add 3 T sugar to reduced sauce, + 1/2 t cinnamon

Add 10 eggs to sauce. mix while cooking on medium. Stir constantly, until it starts to separate and create dry "balls".

Add another 2 1/2 T sugar and stir while cooking.

Drain through a collander to roue and drain.

Take chicken off bones and shred. Dust with cinnamon & sugar and mix.

Place 4 layer of filo dough on a large greased tray

Spread egg sauce in middle of the filo dough.

Spread chicken in a circular layer.

Sprinkle almond paste over the top.

Baste exterior of "paper" with beaten egg (1), while closing in parcel by tucking the ends under.

Place one sheet over and tuck under, baste with egg. Repeat with two more sheets and baste with egg.

Place in over at 180 degree celsius (about 360 Fahrenheit) till brown on top, turn over and brown (about 20 minutes)

Hadith... It was narrated from Jabir bin ‘Abdullah that the Messenger of Allah (saw) said: “The food of one person is sufficient for two, the food of two is sufficient for four, and the food for four is sufficient for eight.” ...

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Nabila's Weekday Lentils

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Lentils: Moroccan quotidian food

When you want something that will take you through the next 5 days of classes, lentils are the way to go, and I’m throwing in some long hot green peppers for added spiciness. The Arabic name for lentils is ‘Adas, but when texting or chatting online, the word appears as something like 3adas. I’m not sure how this system of transcription evolved—wikipedia says it’s an ad hoc development necessitated by the limited options of cell phone keypads, numerals being presumably easier to type than an apostrophe—but I like it, and most of my Moroccan friends and students enjoy when I use it on Facebook or in a text message—to them, seeing a non-Moroccan doing this is like watching a dog playing the piano.

There are a number of distinguishing consonants in the Arabic alphabet which are velarized or pharyngealized versions of the same unemphasized consonants that are represented in English using d, th (as in these), s, and t, and the glottal letters g, k, and h. These other consonants give Arabic its very throaty sound, because the consonants are articulated further back along the alveolar ridge and soft palate, and provide a deeper coloration of the surrounding consonants, so that “sad” with the unemphatic “s” becomes something closer to “sod” with the emphatic “S”, also known as the letter “Saad”.  The most difficult character for many English people to get their tongue (and throat) around is the “Ain”. It was described in my Arabic alphabet primer as a voiced version of the unvoiced “H” sound one would make while fogging and cleaning ones eyeglasses. That “H” sounds itself is the emphatic version of the unstressed “h”, which is the last letter in the name “Allah”. The stressed H is represented in text messages using the numeral 7, and the “Ain” is represented as the numeral 3. In fact, in its standalone appearance, unconnected to other letters, the “Ain” appears as a reversed “3”, or “ع”. And ‘Adas, which begins with the letter “Ain”, appears as 3das or 3adas in text messages or in Facebook chat.

Since these 2 letters are very common in Arabic, you’ll see a lot of 3’s and 7’s in text messages, along with other numeral used to represent the emphatic, or what I call “deep-throat” consonants.

So quotidian are lentils, that along with loubia, a white bean dish, and bisaara, made with dried cracked fava beans, they are the most common legume dishes in Morocco.

  • 1/2 kg. lentils (about 2 cups, or 1/2 liter), washed and picked over
  • 1 liter of water
  • 2 medium onions, chopped fine 
  • 1 tomato, grated
  • 1 tomato, sliced
  • 3 long green hot peppers, sliced lengthwise, for a spicy flavor (as desired)
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped fine
  • 1 small bunch of parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 c. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. ginger
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
Pressure cook the lentils and water on setting 2 for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, collect the remaining ingredients in a separate bowl.
When the lentils have been pressure cooked, relieve the pressure and drain the water. Combine all the ingredients and boil for 25 minutes longer. Serve with fresh bread. 

Hadith... It was narrated from Jabir bin ‘Abdullah that the Messenger of Allah (saw) said: “The food of one person is sufficient for two, the food of two is sufficient for four, and the food for four is sufficient for eight.” ...

Nabila's Spicy Harira

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Harira: Moroccan comfort food

Harira is basically a spicy Moroccan tomato soup with a lot of other things. For a full pot of Harira, we used a whole kilo of tomatoes.

1                 large onion, whole            1 c               flour
1 kg             tomatoes                         1 c               water
1 sm bunch  celery leaves, chopped    
1 sm bunch  parsley, chopped              1 140 g. can tomato paste
1 large cup   chick peas                      
1 tbsp          olive oil                         
1 tsp            salt                                 1 sm. bag     sharia pasta (soak first)
1 tsp            ground plack pepper       
1 tsp            ginger                            
½ tsp           turmeric                          1 sm bunch  cilantro, chopped
2 liters         water                              1 cube knorr bullion

Combine the onion, celery leaves, parsely, chick peas, olive oil, salt, pepper, ginger, turmeric, tomatoes, and 2 liters of water in a pressure cooker, and cook under pressure (setting #2) for ½ hour. Remove from pressure and check if the beans have been cooked. If not, cook another 15 minutes

Remove the pressure cooker and allow the pressure to drop before opening pot.

Remove the whole onion with the boiled tomatoes, and puree in a blender, or with a hand-held blender.

Strain the tomato and onion puree back into the cooked beans, herbs, and spices

blend flour and 1 c. water, and add to thicken the soup
Add the small can of tomato paste, and bring the soup to a boil on the stove for 10 minutes

Add the soaked sharia pasta and stir continually for 10 minutes to avoid having the pasta coagulate at the bottom of the pot.

Add chopped coriander and 1 cub of knorr chicken bullion, cook for 10 minutes more, and serve with bread.

Nabila's Briouat with turkey

Tuesday, February 24 2015

Savory Briouat with turkey

We have made this recipe several times together, and it is so delicious. It's a labor because of all the folding of the triangles filled with the vermicelli and the other ingredients, but with two people, the time goes by more quickly. Since briouat is a snack, we freeze the unfried briouat, and it keeps for a long time. Just take it out and fry up a few when it's time to entertain (not much oil, just a little goes a long way)...I enjoy serving these to the students who come to the weekly lunches at the American Language Center when I'm the host, and when I have the time to prepare it. 

Nabila preparing a few briouat for snacks

The finished product before frying

¾ kilogram       turkey / chicken  cubed
1                     red onionد chopped
2-3 tbsp           olive oil
1/2 tsp             pepper
1/2 tsp             salt

1/4 kg bag       clear vermicilli

5-7                  carrots
1 tbsp              olive oil
½   tsp             salt
¼   tsp             pepper

2 Dh                coriander and parsely, chopped
1 Tbsp             harissa, about 2 tbsp, taste because it is hot
Dh                sliced green olives, about 1.5 cups
½  tsp           cumin 
½  tsp           paprika
1 lg cube         grated chicken boullion 

1 kg                 waraqa (filo dough) about 20 dirham

  • Brown turkey in oil, chopped onion, pepper and salt.
  • Pour boiling water over vermicilli to cook.  Prepare by chopping strands into about 3 inch sections. 
  • Grate carrots then place in a pan along with oil, salt and pepper. Cook briefly  then place in a large bowl with remaining ingredients. Mix well.
  • Mix in the parsley, harissa, green olives, cumin, paprika, the grated boullion and finally vermicilli then turkey.