Guest Post – From Morocco with Love ( A Moroccan Dinner)

Guest Post – From Morocco with Love ( A Moroccan Dinner)

Today is a treat. I am truly honored that I have a guest post from Jenn with Pint-Sized Pioneering. It isn’t often that I have guest posts (although, I’m wondering as I write…why the heck not?)

There is something  you need to know about Jenn, actually, a couple of things.
Jenn Raises Chickens
– not the “I have a pet chicken and we call her Broody” kind of chickens (although she has named them all) She raises the “I have a city chicken coop, deal with the molting, deal with prolapse and a host of other poultry unpleasantness, and I produce more eggs than I can eat” – kind of chickens.
She’s my hero.

Jenn was my real first follower. It was mainly because of Jenn that I continued to post recipes – ad nauseum.  In the beginning, I was including 3 and 4 recipes to each post. The themed posts were fun, but I found I was using up a HEAP of collected recipes in record time. I slowed down the sharing a bit, but Jenn has always been there, reading… and egging me on. (yeah.. pun intended)

So, Without Further Adieu, … Jenn –

Greetings, I’m Jenn from Pint-sized Pioneering!
I want to start by thanking Toby for inviting me to do a guest post and thanking you, his readers, for having me. I wrote my first post in March 2010 in the hopes of creating a resource and place for dialogue for people like me: urbanites who want to eat seasonally and locally. In our household, that means growing what we can on our small city lot, buying from and getting to know local farmers, avoiding out-of-season foods, preserving foods at home, and preparing high quality meals from scratch.

Toby approached me a while back about contributing a post to his blog. I debated long and hard about my topic of choice and finally decided on Moroccan food. It was an odd choice, perhaps, because my knowledge of Moroccan food was limited to episodes of “Bizarre Foods”, a single restaurant dining experience when I first started dating my husband in 2004, and recipes I’d read over the years. I spent several delicious weeks preparing by cooking, feeding friends, researching, and tasting. It was very enjoyable… and quite delicious.

There are some basics you’ll want to know about Moroccan cuisine, and this is by no means all-inclusive.

  • Typical meats include beef, chicken, and lamb. No pork: Morocco is a Muslim country.
  • Seasoning consists of many flavors you’ll already know and probably have: ginger, cinnamon, cloves, garlic, lemons, cumin, olives, bay leaves, and others. Some ingredients are not as common and may require a trip to the bulk spice aisle of the grocery store: turmeric, cardamom and caraway seeds. Unless you’re already cooking Moroccan foods, or if you’re a weirdo like me and picked up a jar one day by happenstance, ras el hanout is probably not in your cupboard. You can find it online or in specialty stores but it won’t be the make-or-break ingredient of any meal. Make up a batch of preserved lemons (recipe linked below). Lemons that are cut open, filled with salt, and left in their own brine for several weeks transform into an entirely new identity, and one that will make your meals sing.
  • You don’t need a tagine (pot) to cook a tagine (dish). At least, that’s the gospel according to Cook’s Illustrated. (click here if you need proof)I did my tagines on the stovetop, one in a pressure cooker and another in a Dutch oven. Think “low & slow” for the meats, cooking them for long periods at low temperatures to break down connective tissues and create an unctuous sauce.
  • Couscous, that side dish starch we now see everywhere, is bland without some TLC. Throw in some toasted nuts, a few spices, and some dried fruits to make it awesome.

 Ever see a gorgeous jar of preserved lemons, admire it, then dismiss it for lack of knowing what to do with it? Not only can you make them yourself, you can use them. Preserved lemons taste distinctly different from fresh lemons, and are not interchangeable. When you use them, be sure to rinse them off first and discard the pulp. Dice the rind finely and add to couscous, stews/tagines, or even to sautéed greens. 

Harissa Paste 
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp caraway seeds
1 tsp red pepper flakes
.5 tsp salt
4 cloves garlic
1 tbsp paprika
¼ cup olive oil
cayenne pepper

  • Toast seeds in a dry skillet until fragrant, roughly 1 minute or less. 
  • Crush toasted seeds and red pepper with a mortar & pestle until powdered. 
  • Crush garlic with salt and spices until this is a thick paste, then add the paprika and olive oil. 
  • Mix in cayenne pepper to achieve the spiciness you desire.
  • My advice here is to make it spicier than you think you’d want because it’s typically diluted in the cooking process.

Roast Harissa Chicken
Serves 6 to 8

1 Whole roasting chicken
Harissa paste (recipe above)
1 fresh lemon, thinly sliced
1 preserved lemon (recipe below)

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Gently loosen the skin of the chicken. 
  • Taking about 2 tbsp of the harissa paste, rub it onto the meat under the skin. 
  • Next insert the lemon slices under the skin. 
  • Put the preserved lemon into the cavity.
    Roast until the thigh meat registers between 160-165. 
  • Remove it from the oven and allow the chicken to rest for about 10 minutes.

Beef Tagine with Butternut Squash
Find the recipe here –

The first time I made this recipe I thought that the inclusion of squash was really weird but I was intrigued. I don’t associate squash with African cooking. But once I tasted it I understood: the sweetness of the squash took the place of any dried fruits (such as raisins or apricots) and added a lovely unctuousness to the sauce. This is a perfect thing to try in a pressure cooker: it’ll be ready in about 30 minutes.

If ever there were a recipe crying out for a preserved lemon, it’s this one. Dice a lemon very finely and throw it along with the squash. It’ll give a bright note to the dish that is unexpected and distinctive.

Serves 6 to 8
2  teaspoons  paprika
1  teaspoon  ground cinnamon
3/4  teaspoon  salt
1/2  teaspoon  ground ginger
1/2  teaspoon  crushed red pepper
1/4  teaspoon  freshly ground black pepper
1  (1-pound) beef shoulder roast or petite tender roast, trimmed and cut into 1-inch cubes
1  tablespoon  olive oil
4  shallots, quartered
4  garlic cloves, chopped
1/2  cup  fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
1  (14.5-ounce) can no-salt-added diced tomatoes, Do Not Drain
3  cups  (1-inch) cubed peeled butternut squash (about 1 pound)
1/4  cup  chopped fresh cilantro

  • Combine first 6 ingredients in a medium bowl. 
  • Add beef; toss well to coat.
    Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. 
  • Add beef and shallots; cook 4 minutes or until browned, stirring occasionally. 
  • Add garlic; cook 1 minute, stirring frequently. 
  • Stir in broth and tomatoes; bring to a boil. 
  • Cook 5 minutes. 
  • Add squash; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes or until squash is tender. 
  • Sprinkle with cilantro.

Moroccan Lamb Stew
You can find the recipe here –

Don’t get turned off by lamb. Many people are intimidated by it, or associate it with a very strong gamey flavor. I made this for a dinner party not long after our oven died: it’s a simple dish you can make entirely on the stove top, in a slow cooker, or even in a pressure cooker. It brought rave reviews, even from the people who claimed not to like lamb.

Like the above beef recipe, this dish is screaming for the addition of a preserved lemon. Rinse one off, dice it up, and throw it in with the lamb during the simmer time. Deee-lish! The chickpeas help stretch the meal if you’re serving a large crowd. Omit them if you don’t like them, or replace with lentils or even cubed potatoes.

 Serves 6 to 8

1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 1/2 pounds trimmed boned lamb shoulder, cut into 1 1/2- to 2-inch pieces
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 cups low-salt chicken broth
1 15 1/2-ounce can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained
1 cup dried apricots (about 5 ounces)
2 large plum tomatoes, chopped
2 cinnamon sticks
1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
2 teaspoons (packed) grated lemon peel
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

  • Mix first 6 ingredients in large bowl. 
  • Add lamb and toss to coat. 
  • Heat 2 tablespoons oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. 
  • Working in batches, add lamb to skillet and cook until browned on all sides, turning occasionally and adding 2 more tablespoons oil to skillet between batches, about 8 minutes per batch. 
  • Transfer lamb to another large bowl after each batch.
    Add onion and tomato paste to drippings in skillet. 
  • Reduce heat to medium; saute until onion is soft, about 5 minutes. 
  • Add broth, garbanzo beans, apricots, tomatoes, cinnamon sticks, ginger, and lemon peel and bring to boil, scraping up browned bits. 
  • Return lamb to skillet and bring to boil. 
  • Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until lamb is just tender, about 1 hour. 
  • Uncover and simmer until sauce thickens enough to coat spoon, about 20 minutes. 
  • Season with salt and pepper. 
  • (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cool slightly. Refrigerate uncovered until cold, then cover and keep chilled. Rewarm over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally.)

Transfer lamb and sauce to bowl. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve.

Carrot Salad
You can find the recipe at
A friend brought this unexpected carrot side dish to the lamb dinner party. It was unexpected for two reasons: first, that she stuck to the Morocco theme, and second that it was so tasty. I adore carrots but they can be bland. Try this side for a yummy change of pace for that orange pile of veggies on your plate.

No food blog worth its salt could do a theme on Moroccan food and not mention couscous. That teeny pasta has become ubiquitous of late, lending itself as a starchy foundation for tastes from a wide variety of cuisines. You can cook plain couscous to accompany any of these recipes but it transforms so completely with just a little TLC that it merits the additional kitchen time. Saute a couple of the savory items, flavor with whichever of the spices you have at your fingertips, then add the fruit and couscous for a side dish you won’t soon forget.
Basics: Olive oil, 2 cups stock or water, 1 cup couscous, ½ tsp salt
Savory ingredients: onion, garlic, pine nuts, almonds, macadamia nuts, preserved lemon
Spices: 1/8 to 1/2 tsp any combo of these: cumin, cinnamon, pepper, ginger, cloves, allspice
Dried fruit: dates, apricots, currants

  • Finely chop any additions. 
  • Saute the aromatics in the olive oil and add spices. 
  • Pour in the liquid and bring to a boil, then mix in the couscous and fruit. 
  • Cover for 5 minutes then fluff the mixture with a fork and serve.

Moroccan Orange Cake
You can find the recipe here –

On the day I served the lamb, our friends got in on the theme. One brought this yummy orange cake. You can find the recipe at the link. It was moist and refreshing after the hearty lamb fare. I think it would be outstanding with some candied mint leaves as a garnish. 

The prefect finish to any Moroccan meal is a hot cup of mint tea. Whether you pour it the traditional way ( or not, enjoy it as a digestion aid and a cap on a fine meal.

4 thoughts on “Guest Post – From Morocco with Love ( A Moroccan Dinner)

  1. Wow! Everything looks so fabulous and the tastes/flavours are wonderful! I wish I could smell these things over the internet…looks amazing Jenn! (and Toby)

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