Tuesday, February 8, 2011

It ain't over until the preserved lemons sing

I was recently invited to write a guest post on a blog I enjoy very much.  I focus so much on local cuisine and canning that finding interesting topics this time of year can be frustrating.  The only things in season are citrus fruits imported from Florida and Califorina.  My 9 chickens have collectively laid a grand total of just 6 eggs in 2011, all of which came in the past week.  Toby did a series on eggs a while back anyway.

I chatted with Toby and mentioned some of the tagine dishes I've been trying lately.  He encouraged me to blog about Moroccan food,.

The problem is, I know next to nothing about Moroccan food. 
  • It uses lots of herbs & spices, specifically those that North Americans tend to associate with sweet: cinnamon, cloves, and mint. 
  • It often features lamb or chickpeas as the primary protein, though chicken and rabbit are also found.  Apparently beef appears in many dishes as well.
  • Citrus is a common ingredient, especially lemon.  The cuisine also relies heavily on dried fruits, almonds, olives, and honey for flavor.
  • Dairy is rare.
  • Couscous is a regular side dish.
  • Many dishes are traditionally cooked in a tagine like this one:
    Lamb tagine, photo from wholefoods.com
It seems to have much in common with Greek and Arab cuisines, which makes sense given its location and history.

And now you know as much as I do about Moroccan cuisine.

When Hubbie and I were first dating we went to a Moroccan restaurant in Seattle with some of his coworkers.  We all sat on pillows and gorged ourselves on the delicious dishes, which came one after another seemingly without end.  I deeply regretted having worn jeans and really wished for a pair of sweats!  Food is eaten without utensils, which left me with fingers that smelled of spices for quite a few days.

Just last night I started a batch of preserved lemons.  If you don't know what these are but want to try some Moroccan meals with me in the coming weeks, go grab a few lemons, some salt, and a jar to make a batch for yourself.  They're shockingly easy to make and the end result is nothing short of incredible.

There are instructions over at Food in Jars for preserving lemons.

Tonight for dinner I tested a chickpea dish for the future guest post on Toby's blog.  It was good but I didn't have some key ingredients: cilantro, mint, and lemon zest.  Strangely I did have the ras el hanout, a random jar of which I found some time ago at World Market on clearance.  Supposedly you can make your own.

The chickpeas, while still tasty, fell a little flat.  I can't wait for my preserved lemons to be ready because those will be what makes this dish sing-a-zing-zing, providing a bright, high note that is unmistakeable in any dish supposedly from Morocco.

If you're ready for a culinary trip into the unchartered waters of Morocco, freshen up your spice supply, make up some preserved lemons and get your taste buds' passport updated: we'll be headed to Africa soon!

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