Skip to content

Archive for

moroccan chicken with preserved lemons and olives

Image

This weekend, for the first time since I was in third grade (or, if I’m being brutally honest, high school), I was in a talent show.

The performances—there were two—were held at our local theater, and as I walked round the side of the building in search of the green room (a small tent atop a patch of Astro Turf) I wasn’t sure quite what to expect. Since we moved years ago I’ve spent hours each week at the coffee shop, the brewery, and our branch of the public library. But our home has always been in the hills, and apart from the close friend whose band I was playing in I don’t socialize much in town.

When I entered the tent the show was on-screen and under way. There was a 90-year-old high school teacher playing the harmonica. There was a Hawaiian Slack-key guitarist. There was a group of 8-year-old hip-hop dancers who sustained their opening crouch for 90 seconds while the right music was found, and a man with a pony tail, his mother, and Penny the Talking Dog, who spent most of the act wandering across the stage eating pieces of salami.

It took me a few days to figure out just why I loved the talent show so much, why I took the memento picture of all the performers and knew that I would keep it. The thing is, all those people—the angsty songwriter, the tall, flustered ballroom dancers, the percussionist who flailed determinedly at his bongos in a losing battle with the beat—weren’t there because people had asked them to be, or because it was their full-time job, or even because they were particularly good at what they did. They were there because something in them—possibly the deepest, truest part—told them they had to be, that their drive to do this thing in which they felt most themselves was sacred, strong, and uncompromising. Days got long, work got hard, people moved in and out of their lives. But this thing, this thing which probably didn’t bring them money, or fame, or even anything other than a few rolled eyes and polite applause, was there, and it wouldn’t go away.

What does this have to do with Moroccan chicken with preserved lemons and olives? Probably nothing. But it has a lot to do with why I’ll keep writing this blog, in one form or another, for as long as that true something tells me to.

Image

Moroccan Chicken with Preserved Lemons and Olives

The following recipe was inspired by a lovely meal at my grandparents’ and is loosely adapted from Paula Wolfert’s Couscous and Other Good Food from Morocco. (According to my parents the picture doesn’t do the meal justice – I seem not to have the knack for photographing stews!)

6 cloves garlic, crushed

1-inch piece of ginger, grated

1 tsp sweet paprika

1 tsp powdered cumin

ground black pepper, to taste

olive oil

4 large chicken breasts or 4-6 chicken thighs

2 large onions, chopped

2 preserved lemons, cut in quarters

4 Tbs fresh herbs like cilantro or parsley, chopped

¾ cup kalamata olives

Israeli or regular couscous, for serving

The night before you plan to serve your meal (or the morning of if, like me, you are forgetful), combine the first five ingredients with the olive oil to make a marinade. Massage onto your chicken pieces (you can cut into smaller bits, if desired) and place in a small dish. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, place the marinated chicken in a large pot and add the chopped onion and a cup of water. Bring to a boil, adding a bit more water if the sauce looks too thick, then cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Separate the pulp from the skin of the preserved lemons, roughly chop, and add both parts to the pot together with the herbs and olives. Cook until meat is tender, and serve with Israeli couscous.

*          *          *

Making Preserved Lemons

Making preserved lemons takes time, but the result is truly worth the wait. My method of choice is outlined here, by Melissa Clark of the New York Times.

If you don’t have preserved lemons on hand and can’t wait to try the recipe above, never fear – Mourad Lahlou of San Francisco’s Aziza has a shortcut method in his fabulous book Mourad: New Moroccan. (Note for the Californians among us – this method is particularly rewarding with Meyer lemons). Simply slice your lemons very thinly, salt the slices, stack to re-form, wrap in cling-wrap and place in the freezer overnight. Thaw the lemons the next morning, shake off the salt, and pack the slices in a jar with olive oil to store and use.

bobotie with apricots and almonds

IMG_1979

January 2013 felt new. There were long days at work, but I ran a race and got my car serviced, went line dancing and knitted a scarf that only just makes it round my neck (but which, of course, I love). I played violin in a bar with a songstress friend, and cooked dinner parties out of Jerusalem and Sunday Suppers at Lucques. I got bangs. I joined instagram. I did not, however, write a blog post.

The work-play balance is a subject beyond the scope of a few paragraphs, but it’s hard to power down at the end of the week – and harder still to sink into that free time without thoughts of the books you should be reading, the current events in which you should be well-versed. I heard somewhere recently that in your twenties you aren’t particularly humble, and seen from that vantage point I don’t suppose I am – I want to work eight hours, master Keynote, pay off my loans, go for a run, cook a meal with strange ingredients, and knit my funny little scarf. That and, well, write about it.

IMG_2021-001

Unfortunately, I also want to lie in my deckchair all Saturday and do nothing. The list is there – email subjects bold and accusing, bangs swept in a headband and desperate to be trimmed – but the deckchair, the bathtub, the towel on the beach just won’t be resisted. I used to feel guilty about this urge towards nothing. Then I realized it takes a certain humility to lie in the sun without so much as a magazine in sight.

So perhaps I’m more humble – or maybe I’m just a bit more lazy. Either way, I do know that on the totem pole of To-Do’s my blog should probably come before the scarf. Just maybe not before a nice long bath.

IMG_1990

Bobotie with Apricots and Almonds

Yes, this is not the first bobotie recipe I’ve posted on my blog. But I present this updated, improved version for two reasons: firstly, because bobotie is my go-to comfort food in wintry moments (if relatively unknown outside of South Africa), and more importantly, because it goes wonderfully with a wine I like very much. I had lots of fun doing a wine pairing recipe for Cimarone Estate Wines last spring, so when they reached out to me about their 3CV Syrah I jumped at the chance – especially since it meant pairing an old favorite with a new one.

2 lbs ground beef

2 slices whole grain bread

1 1/3 cups milk

2 1/2 Tbs curry powder (mild curry powder is traditional, but a hot version works nicely too)

1 large onion, chopped finely

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 1-inch piece ginger, grated

1/2 tsp ground coriander

1/2 cup dried apricots, roughly chopped

1/3 cup raisins

1/2 cup slivered almonds

3 eggs

salt and pepper

rice cooked with turmeric

chutney (for serving)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a small bowl soak the bread in the milk until soft, then gently wring out the bread (reserving leftover milk) and crumble into a large bowl. Mix the bread with the ground meat and 2 Tbs of the curry powder.

In a large skillet or pot, saute the onions, garlic, ginger, and coriander in olive oil until translucent. Add the meat mixture and stir until the meat is nicely browned, then add the apricots, raisins, almonds, half of the reserved milk and one egg. Season with salt and pepper.

Transfer the mixture to a baking dish, then beat the remaining 2 eggs with the other half of the reserved milk and the 1/2 Tbs curry powder and pour over the top of the meat. Bake in the oven until the egg mixture on top is browned, about 30 minutes. Serve with turmeric rice and liberal amounts of chutney.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 166 other followers

%d bloggers like this: