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.