Just about forever ago, my husband and I adventured around Spain, Portugal, and Morocco on our honeymoon. I took tons of pictures, but it was all on physical film, and we’d spent all our money on experiences, and came home filled with amazing memories, a $5 poster from Madrid, and empty pockets. It was awesome. We were young and poor, and the film never got developed.
I stumbled on Jeff Koehler’s cookbook, Morocco: A Culinary Journey with Recipes from the Spice-Scented Markets of Marrakech to the Date-Filled Oasis of Zagora, and thumbed through it. Oh my gosh. The photographs of the landscape, people, architecture ranging from simple to extremely intricate, exquisitely detailed carvings and patterns, the rooftops where you drink mint tea in tall thin glasses, and those glorious open air spice markets flooded the pages between the recipes. It’s a beautiful book.
Then I tried the recipes and was transported right back there.
A big thanks to Chronicle Books for letting me share the recipes for this fantastic dinner with you! The photograph is mine. Jeff’s are much cooler. My review of the book with my pictures and thoughts of the dishes I tried are below the recipes.
Morocco: A Culinary Journey with Recipes from the Spice-Scented Markets of Marrakech to the Date-Filled Oasis of Zagora by Jeff Koehler, photographs by Jeff Koehler (Chronicle Books, 2012.)
Grilled Marinated Chicken Brochettes
Like Grilled Spicy Kefta Brochettes, these are a favorite throughout country, referred to as snacks in street stalls and in simple cafes. They’re inexpensive, flavorful, and quick to prepare. The chicken takes on a lovely golden hue from the cumin and sweet paprika. Calculate about four brochettes per person as part of a meal, accompanied by a few salads and plenty of bread.
Makes about 16 brochettes; serves 4
2 heaped Tbsp finely chopped fresh cilantro
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp sweet paprika
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 Tbsp/90 ml olive oil
4 boneless chicken breasts (about 2 lb/910 g), cut into 3/4- to 1-in/2- to 2.5-cm cubes
In a large mixing bowl, add the cilantro, cumin, paprika, and cayenne pepper. Generously season with salt and pepper. Moisten with the oil and blend well. Add the chicken and turn to coat. Cover, refrigerate, and marinate for 1 hour, turning occasionally.
Prepare skewers with 6 to 8 cubes of chicken on each. The pieces should be just touching, but not squashed tightly together.
If using a grill pan, skillet, or griddle, heat over medium-high heat. If using a barbecue, prepare a fire and heat until the coals are glowing. If using a broiler, preheat the broiler.
Cook the brochettes, nudging them from time to time with the help of a spatula in order to cook evenly on all sides, until the meat is cooked through and firm to touch, 4 to 5 minutes. Serve hot.
Cucumbers in Sweet Marinade with Oregano
Cucumber salads are frequently prepared by grating the cucumber, which yields an almost soupy consistency. I prefer the firmer texture of this version with crunchy slices. A dusting of dried Moroccan wild oregano called za’atar gives a savory edge to the sweet acidity of the sugar and lemon juice. Standard oregano makes a fine substitution. Add a pinch of thyme if desired.
1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp superfine sugar
Scant 1 tsp dried oregano or za’atar
2 medium cucumbers, peeled and cut into thin rounds
24 black olives, preferably salt-cured with pits, rinsed
In a mixing bowl, whisk the olive oil, lemon juice, and sugar until the sugar dissolves. Add the oregano and season with salt. Add the cucumbers and turn gently to coat.
Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 1 hour until the flavors meld.
Transfer the cucumbers to a serving bowl. Spoon any remaining marinade on top. Garnish with the olives and serve.
Carrot and Cumin Salad
Serves 4 to 6
A particular favorite around Marrakech and in the south, this cooked salad offers a delightful contrast of cold sweet carrots, earthy cumin, and fresh parsley. It’s even better when prepared a day ahead and left overnight to chill and the flavors to fully meld. Set out alongside a bowl of Marinated Olives to nibble on as an appetizer, or serve as part of a spread of salads.
1 lb/455 g medium carrots, scrubbed and cut into 1⁄4-in-/6-mm-thick rounds
1⁄4 cup/60 ml olive oil
1 tsp ground cumin
1⁄2 tsp sweet paprika
Freshly ground black pepper
1⁄2 tsp sugar
1 small lemon, halved
Heaped 2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
In a medium saucepan, boil the carrots in lightly salted water until just tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Fill a large mixing bowl with cold water.
Transfer the carrots with a slotted spoon to the cold water to stop further cooking. Once the carrots are cooled, remove with the slotted spoon and drain for a few minutes. Spread out on paper towels to dry completely.
In a large skillet or sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the carrots, cumin, and paprika; season with pepper; and sprinkle with the sugar. Cook, stirring gently, for 1 minute. Remove from the heat. Squeeze half of the lemon over the carrots and sprinkle with the parsley. Turn the carrots to coat evenly.
Transfer to a bowl and let cool. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled.
Just before serving, squeeze the remaining lemon half over the carrots and turn to coat.
My review of the book….
Morocco: A Culinary Journey with Recipes from the Spice-Scented Markets of Marrakech to the Date-Filled Oasis of Zagora
by Jeff Koehler
Everything we’ve tried has been absolutely delicious. My husband and I spent a little time on our honeymoon in Morocco and this takes us right back.
If you’re health conscious, and like a lot of flavor, you’ll be delighted with the book. As a great bonus, most of the recipes are really good for you. A lot of the dishes are really colorful, so you’ll get a great aesthetic punch on the plate.
This is a beautiful cookbook. The photos, paper, and binding are fantastic quality.
1) Grilled Marinated Chicken Brochettes p.92, Cucumbers in Sweet Marinade with Oregano p.99, and Grated Carrot and Orange Salad p.102. Fantastically fresh and flavorful dinner with minimal effort. It took about 20 minutes to pull together, then rests in the fridge for 2 hours, then grills for 5 and gets a quick garnish. The cucumber dish calls for za’atar. Penzey’s spices online carries it if your grocer doesn’t. The carrot salad calls for a splash of orange flower water. If you’re not familiar with that, a good grocery store will have that on the beverage aisle, probably near the juices.
2) Harira. It’s a beef and chickpea stew with tomatoes, onion, celery, herbs and spices, lemon, and a sprinkling of broken angel hair pasta. So delicious and so healthy! This stew takes about 2 hours in total, but only about 20 minutes of attention from the cook. I adored the dates, figs accompanying it.
3) Couscous with Pumpkin (and lamb!) – p182. Delicious and so simple to make.
4) Beet Soup with Ginger – p 74. Beet, potatoes, and ginger. This is the one on the cover. The color is such a vibrant magenta, that my little phone camera had difficulty with the brightness and focus.
5) Spicy Eggplant, Tomato, and Garlic Salad – p 105. I went with the roasted green pepper variation that he mentions in the preface. My little girl asked me to make this one. When I read that it’s the most classic and popular, I had to. Delicious.
6) Mint Tea – p 210. Perfection. Wonderfully earthy. I saw the tall Moroccan tea glasses at World Market. They’re hand-wash only, but pretty enough to be worth it. 🙂 In the meantime, my stemless champagne flutes do the trick quite nicely.
7) Berber Omelet Tagine. I love this. If you’re a fan of eggs in purgatory and shakshouka, you’ll adore it. He has you crack eight eggs for this, and reserve two yolks for the top. It serves four, so I reserved four yolks so my teenagers wouldn’t engage in runny yolk battles. I found that by the time the omelet was set, my yolks were set, too, so the second time I made this, I held off til the last five minutes to set them on top.
Some other recipes I have flagged to try: Preserved Lemons – p 45 * Phyllo Triangles Stuffed with Fresh Cheese – p 61 * Layered Berber Flatbread – p 64 * Split Pea Soup with Cumin and Paprika – p 77 * Kefta Brochettes – p 94 * Butternut Squash Salad with Cinnamon – p 108 * Lamb Tagine with Oranges, Saffron, and Candied Orange Peel – p 116 * Lamb with Garlic, Cumin, and Coriander – p 120 * Kefta Meatball Tagine in Tomato Sauce with Eggs – p 128 * Rif Mountain Omelet with Wild Mushrooms – p 134 * Chicken Tagine with Preserved Lemons and Olives – p 140 * Spicy Shrimp Tagine – p 156 * Oranges with Orange Flower Water and Cinnamon – p 190 * Honeyed Phyllo Triangles Stuffed with Almonds – p 195 * Chilled Cucumber and Orange Juice with Oregano – p 214