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Posts tagged ‘Moroccan’

preserved lemons

When winter hits, full force, my foodie mind turns to sunny foods. Bowls and platters of brilliant fruits (and vegetables) plucked straight from a Gauguin painting. Perfume-y spices from Morocco and India. And flowers, bright boisterous flowers dropping sunny pollen on the table.

Because that’s what my mind turns to, you’ll be seeing quite a few sun-drenched recipes here for the next couple months. Foods from Morocco, Spain, India, Provence, Italy, and  some island nations. I’m no authority on any of those cuisines – I simply know how I choose to cook, and how I love to eat, and I can’t resist the sharing when I stumble upon something wonderful.

A number of dishes will call for preserved lemon. For those of you unfamiliar, here’s what some chefs had to say about this well-loved and versatile condiment (also referred to as lemon confit):

 “…salt-preserved lemons have a strange and delectable flavor that utterly mystifies.”  [Nancy Harmon Jenkins, The Mediterranean Cookbook]

“…refreshing, tangy, essential to the cooking of tagines…well worth making your own….Be as liberal as you like, tossing them in salads and scattering them over your favorite tagines.” – [meat or vegetables stews] [that from Ghillie Basan, author of Tagine – Spicy stews from Morocco  and Flavors of Morocco]

Laura Calder, author of French Taste and delightful host of her own show on the Cooking Channel says:  “I don’t make tagines that often, so I have started flinging the lemons into other dishes… [Doesn’t that remind you a bit of Julia Child?] …Diced preserved lemon (and it’s actually the skin of the lemon you eat, not the flesh) is great with fish fried in butter or thrown in with nice fat chops to make a slightly exotic supper in a pan; it also perks up vegetable dishes.”

And here’s what Dorie Greenspan, author of the glorious cookbook, Around my French Table, has to say: “…soft…sharp…salty flavor…good with chicken and with meaty fish, like tuna and swordfish, they’re also wonderful with bitter greens and even beets.” 

Chef Eric Ripert of New York City’s famed Le Bernardin restaurant – “I add lemon confit to so many dishes—from broiled fish to pork and beans.”  He blends his lemon confit with butter to add a pleasantly pungent flavor to broiled fish. Before broiling, he’ll dot the fish with some of the lemon butter, then serve with more of it on the side.

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You can of course find jarred preserved lemons already made – in some better-stocked grocery stores, gourmet shops or in Moroccan food markets. It’s very simple to make your own though, and inexpensive. Plus it kind of satisfies some pioneering itch inside, keeping your eye on that jar of lemons as they soften and mellow and transform themselves for your table. If you’re making your own, it does take about a month for them to fully “mature” – but they’ll last for perhaps a year in your refrigerator once done.

Preserved Lemons – or Lemon Confit

NOTE on the lemons: Because it’s only the rind you’ll be eating, it’s important (I think) to start with organic lemons.

  • 10 organic, unwaxed lemons (I prefer the smaller, thin-skinned, juicy and sweet Meyer variety)
  • 10 Tablespoons sea salt
  • the juice of 3 to 4 lemons, though possibly more (this juice doesn’t get used until day 3 or 4)

 

  • OPTIONAL: I like to add to each jar 1 or 2 bay leaves, several allspice berries, and 5 or six pink (or several black) peppercorns.

Wash (and then dry) your lemons and sterilize a quart-sized jar and lid.

(You have options on how to cut the lemons. Cutting in half cross-wise, or making longitudinal cuts from the top to about ¾ of the way to the bottom. I now prefer the latter way, so I’ll give instructions accordingly, though the photo below doesn’t agree.)

Cut the stem end and tips off of each lemon, top and bottom, avoid cutting into the lemon’s flesh. Standing the lemon on its bottom edge, slice from the top  ¾ of the way down, as if you were going to cut into quarters, but leaving the base intact. Read more

Moroccan roasted chicken and buttery couscous

With Ras el Hanout, the blend of Moroccan spices in yesterday’s post, we’re only a few easy steps away from a succulent chicken dinner that will make a Moroccan daydream that much more real.  This is so simple! With the first 9 ingredients you make a paste in your blender. You rub it on your chicken. You put whole or cut lemons and garlic in the cavity. You pop it in the oven. An hour later, you dine like Bogey and Bacall in Casablanca.

Moroccan Roasted Chicken

Put the following ingredients into a blender and puree.

The rub:

  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 Tablespoons Hungarian sweet paprika
  • 1 Tablespoon ras el hanout (see NOTE on where  you can purchase)
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh mint, chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled
The chicken:
  • 4 to 4.5 pound free-range chicken
  • 2 small lemons, pierced all over with a fork – or 1 larger lemon, cut into wedges
  • 6 cloves garlic, un-peeled, barely crushed with the back of a knife

(In yesterday’s post I specified a chicken 4.5 to 5 pounds. I find that the smaller ones are more tender, but you can make that determination for yourself.)

NOTE on where to buy ras el hanout if you decide not to make your own: If you don’t already have most of the spices called for to make your own, it would be less expensive to buy ready-made. One good source on line is at The Spice House –  http://www.thespicehouse.com/spices/ras-el-hanout $6.00 for a standard 2 oz. bottle.

Preheat oven to 400°F. It’s best if you can start with a chicken at or near room temperature, so if you’re able to, remove the chicken from the refrigerator an hour or so before you begin. Rinse the chicken in cold water and dry with paper towels. Rub one-third of the spice rub inside the cavity. Insert the lemons and garlic, and tie the legs together. Smear the remaining rub over the chicken. Roast for approximately 45 minutes, or until the internal breast temperature at the thickest part registers 165°. (Alternately you can pierce the leg and make sure that the juices run clear.)  Remove from the oven and tent it with aluminum foil and allow to rest for 10 or 15 minutes. (This allows time for the juices to sink back into the meat and not flow out onto your cutting board as you carve it.) The lemons cooked inside will be soft and full of juice and are wonderful squeezed on top and served alongside. (We liked it too on our roasted beets.)

(You can begin the couscous about 15 minutes before you expect the chicken to be coming out of the oven.)

Buttery Couscous

A soft, buttery couscous is an ideal accompaniment to this roasted chicken. And again, so easy to prepare. Though I’ve made it plain here, you can add herbs, nuts, spices or dried fruits. Read more

Moroccan Orange Salad with Red Onions & Black Olives

This salad from Morocco is colorful and refreshing, and perhaps unbelievably delicious. If you can be swayed by it’s somewhat unique beauty to try it (as I was), I believe you’ll return to it again and again. I quickly rinse the sliced onions to remove any of their biting sharpness. They mellow almost instantly and the flavors seem to all come together in perfect balance. This salad accompanied our skewered chicken, grilled asparagus and couscous for last night’s dinner. It’s also an excellent accompaniment to hot stews or highly spiced dishes, which is, I suppose, why Moroccans imagined it in the first place. (Recipes for the rest of dinner to follow.)

Orange Salad with Red Onions and Black Olives

(serves 4)

  • 3 fresh navel oranges
  • 1/2 – 1 red onion
  • 1 handful of black olives (12 or so)
  • 2-3 Tbl. olive oil
  • freshly squeezed juice of 1 lime
  • sea salt
  • 1 t. cumin seeds, roasted
  • 1/2 t. Spanish smoked paprika
  • 1 small bunch of cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped
  • Optional: fennel bulb – see below for variation

Roast the cumin seeds on medium-low heat in a small pan. Remove from pan and set aside to cool.   Read more