Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Moroccan Dinner

Our Sunday dining group (Sundays at 4) met this weekend for a dinner that had a Moroccan theme. The idea of the event is for all of us to research some things to do that fit with the theme, make the dishes, share them and talk about the food - how we did it, what the challenges were, where we found the recipes, etc. We also settle up at the end of the evening so that we have all paid for everything. A great way to enjoy friends and to extend our food repertoires.

For this event, Bette and John brought some "Moroccan Cigars" and spiced carrots as appetizers. Judy and Rocco brought 2 salads served prettily together in a single large lettuce leaf. The main course was a beef brisket tagine. Judy and Rocco also served a coconut/banana/pineapple dessert that was to die for, and some orange stuffed dates. The dates were not the only things stuffed at the end.

The group has rules about what is allowed to be charged for wine - no more than $20 per bottle may be added into the final total before we split the bill up.

Because the food was pretty bold, and would kill subtle flavours, we served a Beaujolais Villages with the Tagine and a Matua Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand for everything else. Total cost including wine for the dinner was around $90 or $15 per head including wine.

This post has all the recipes that we followed for the dinner. Some as links to other sites, some as inline recipes.

First Judy's Red Pepper Salad:
6 medium red bell peppers (2 lb)
1/4 cup raisins
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/4 teaspoons harissa* (spicy North African condiment)
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 cup olive oil
1/3 cup finely chopped walnuts, toasted

Preheat broiler. Arrange peppers on a broiler pan and broil peppers about 2 inches from heat, turning occasionally with tongs, until skins are blackened, 20 to 30 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap, then let stand 20 minutes. When cool enough to handle, peel peppers, discarding stems and seeds, and quarter each lengthwise. While peppers are broiling, soak raisins in 1 cup hot water 15 minutes, then drain well in a sieve. Whisk together lemon juice, harissa, and sea salt, then whisk in oil until combined well. Toss peppers with dressing and sprinkle with raisins and walnuts. Cooks' note:Roasted peppers can be tossed with dressing 1 day ahead and chilled, covered. Bring to room temperature before proceeding.

Moroccan Carrot Salad




3/4 cup water
1/2 cup plain couscous
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 large banana, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
1 tablespoon (packed) golden brown sugar1
1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons chilled whipping cream
5 tablespoons sweetened cream of coconut (such as Coco López)
1 tablespoon triple sec
1/2 cup candied pineapple, minced
1 1/2 cups diced peeled fresh pineapple

Bring 3/4 cup water to boil in heavy medium saucepan over high heat. Stir in couscous. Remove from heat. Cover and let stand until water is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Fluff with fork. Melt butter in small nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add banana and sugar and sauté until banana is soft, about 1 minute. Cool. Using electric mixer, beat cream in large bowl until soft peaks form. Fold in cream of coconut and triple sec. Reserve 6 tablespoons whipped cream mixture for topping. Fold candied pineapple, couscous, and banana into remaining whipped cream mixture in large bowl. Divide mixture among 6 parfait glasses or dessert bowls. (Can be made 4 hours ahead. Cover whipped cream mixture and puddings separately and refrigerate.) Top each pudding with some of reserved whipped cream mixture. Sprinkle each with fresh pineapple and serve.

Sweet Stuffed Dates


Tagine of beef brisket with a preserved lemon relish, served over plain couscous

I don't have a tagine so I used a slow cooker for the next recipe. It turned out well and the cleanup was a snap (for which Madame thanked me!). The recipe was adapted from several sources. However there were some minor challenges! I had bought the couscous at Whole Foods in bulk and didn't know ahead of time how long it would take to steam. Answer about 90 minutes. I should have bought the instant packet cousous from the grocery store. Luckily I tested it out ahead of time, so it was cooked. The measurements are not nearly as precise as the recipe below describes. I mention 1/2 an onion because that is what we had left over from something else. You don't want to use more than 1/2 a raw onion at the end - the flavor would be too overpowering! So if you don't have a spare 1/2 onion, justadd more to the first step.

3-4 lbs beef brisket - leave most of the fat on
6 cloves garlic - halved
2T Finely ground white pepper
2T finely ground coriander
2T finely ground cinnamon
1T dried ginger
2T finely ground cumin
1/4t freshly grated nutmeg

1cup beef stock
1 cup dry red wine
2 bay leaves
several strands of saffron
2T honey

4 1/2 large yellow onions - divided use
6 carrots
2 ribs of celery
1 cup dried apricots
1 can plum tomatoes (divided use)
5T neutral oil

1 cup pitted green olives
2 preserved lemons
1/2 cup each parsley and cilantro - divided use

1 1/2 cups couscous
up to 1 quart of water

24 hours before serving, mix all spices together and rub 1/2 of the spices onto the meat, rubbing deeply into the fibers. Also stud the meet with garlic cloves. Leave to rest in the fridge overnight (covered unless you want spicy flavored butter and eggs!) 10 hours before serving, remove the meat from the fridge, heat 2T oil in a large pan (dutch oven skillet or whatever) and brown the meat on all sides - total about 8-10 minutes. Remove the meat and set aside to rest. Into the same pan, add 2 more T of oil and the rest of the spice mixture. Stir to toast the spices and then put in the 3 of the onions (sliced), the celery in 3/4" pieces and the carrots in 3/4" pieces. Cook slowly mixing well to ensure the spices are well into the vegetables. Add a sprinkling of salt. You will be salting at various stages, so go lightly at this stage.

Heat the beef stock, and bloom the saffron in it. Add the wine, honey and bay leaf and mix well.

Once the onions are translucent, add 3 of the canned tomatoes diced. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 5 minutes. Transfer the vegetables to the crock pot. Rest the beef onto the vegetables and pour over any drippings. Place the dried apricots all around (and under) the meat. Pour the stock/wine mixture over the meat and cover.

Set the crockpot to the medium setting (6 hours) and leave to cook on its own.

Heat the remaining 1T of oil in the pan and soften 1 finely diced onion until translucent. Add the remaining tomatoes chopped finely and cook for about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, thoroughly rinse the preserved lemons. Take the onion/tomato mixture off heat and add the chopped olives and preserved lemons . Stir in 2T each of chopped parsley and cilantro. Leave to cool. This mixture will be quite salty, so do not add salt to it.

2 hours before dinner, steam the couscous (if using bulk) or 30 minutes before cook it according to the box (if using instant).

1/2 hour before serving, remove the meat from the liquid, slice into 1/4" slices and reserve. Drain the fat from the pan liquid (there will be a lot) reserving the vegetables. Return the sliced meat to the pot and set to keep warm. Slice the remaining 1/2 onion and add it raw to the pot. For serving, place a mound of couscous in the serving bowl, and pile the meat/vegetables over it. The couscous will absorb some of the juices.

Garnish with some sprigs of cilantro and parlsey. Serve family style with the olive/lemon relish handed separately


Anonymous said...

Sounds like a great time!!! Keep the Moroccan cuisine Alive!!
Chef Jay
Morocco's Restaurant
San Jose, CA

Jeena said...

Hi Seabird,

I have been following your food
blog for a while now as a silent
reader but have not commented
until now..all I can say is
"WOW your recipes look great",
and I want to cook them all :-)

I would like to get to know
your more and with your talent
for cooking then your going to
be a great friend to have.

Feel free to join our cooking
forum Seabird, you are very welcome
to join us.

Jeenas food recipe forum

You have such an amazing food
blog that I am sure our other
cooking members would love to know
more about it.

Thanks from
Jeena xx

MrOrph said...

Wow! I wish I had a group like that, I mean as opposed to the online group.

Very nice.

Nice recipes.