Sunday, February 10, 2013

Foray into Moroccan Food-- and loving it!

John and I have a fairly limited culinary repertoire... Generally speaking, we make French or Italian food, and occasionally -- occasionally -- venture into some embarrassing version of Mexican food in the form of some taco or nacho. (I'm pretty sure beef short rib and cheddar nachos are not a native dish south of the border...)

I love the safety and certainty of these cuisines, and for the most part, don't ordinarily feel like we're missing much. Plus, we have the benefit of living in a city FULL of awesome restaurants, so if we want Indian food, we can go and get it, and don't have to offend anybody with our pathetic attempts at lamb korma.

With all that said, last night we were having some friends over for dinner, and I was just feeling bored by our prospects. I've had enough beef bourguignon this winter to fill a bathtub (gross) and am pretty much over braising all together. Maybe what I really mean is I'm totally ready for spring, but since I can't orchestrate that, the least I could do was NOT eat another f-ing stew.

But then! Light on the horizon! I found this recipe for a moroccan harira (shown above and below) in Elle Decor, written by chef Daniel Boulud. What's a harira? Good question... I'd never heard of it before either, but the photo was enticing and I was determined not to make another pasta dish, come hell or high water. It turns out that a harira is a traditional moroccan soup, consisting of almost everything you have in your pantry. We whipped this together for last night's dinner, with much skepticism from John, but in the end I prevailed-- and it was absolutely DELICIOUS. Served with some oven-warmed pita bread, this was the perfect thing to fight the winter blues, without having the heaviness of wintery french or italian food. Just right! (Now if only it was almost Spring...)

I tried, in vain, to find this recipe online, so I've scanned it from the magazine where I found it (thank you Elle Decor) and will type it out in case you can't decipher what the pages say...

Serves 8

-1 lb. lamb merguez sausage
-1 T. olive oil
-1/2 c. finely chopped carrot
-1/2 c. finely chopped onion
-1/2 c. finely chopped fennel
-6 cloves of garlic, chopped
-1 can (14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes
-1 tsp. turmeric
-1/2 t. cinnamon
-1/2 t. ground ginger (We used fresh because we had it...)
-1 t. hot paprika
-1 t. ground coriander
-1 packet (.013 g) saffron powder
-2 qts. chicken stock
-1 c. dry chick peas, soaked in 4 c. water overnight
-3/4 c. french green lentils (Try your best to find french green lentils. They stay more firm than ordinary green lentils. I ask you, can the french do anything wrong in the kitchen???)
-3.5 oz. roasted wheat vermicelli noodles, broken into bite-sized pieces (We used regular whole wheat thin spaghetti with no problems. Don't drive yourself nuts hunting for the exact thing if it isn't imperative.)
-2 c. cilantro
-2 c. parsley
-1 bunch scallions
-2 lemons, cut into wedges, seeded
-Salt and finely ground pepper


Remove sausage from their casings and roll the meat into approximately 1/2" dia. meatballs.
Heat olive oil in a dutch oven or heavy deep pot over medium heat. Add the meatballs and sear on all sides until brown. Remove meatballs to a plate lined with paper towels and reserve, covered, in the refrigerator. Reduce heat to medium-low and add the carrot, onion, fennel, and garlic to the sausage-meatball fat. Season with salt & pepper, and cook, stirring, for 8 minutes, or until onions are translucent. Add tomato and cook, stirring, for another 5 minutes. Add the spices and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes. Add the stock and chick peas, season again with salt & pepper, and bring to a boil.

Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 45 minutes. Add lentils and continue to simmer for another 3-45 minutes, or until chick peas and lentils are tender. Add the vermicelli noodles and reserved meatballs, and continue to cook for another 5 minutes. Rinse and dry cilantro and parsley leaves, and chop half of each. Stir the chopped cilantro, chopped parsley, and half of the scallions into the soup. Add the seasoning with salt & pepper if needed.

Divide the soup among 8 bowls, and top with additional cilantro, parsley, and remaining scallions. Serve with lemon wedges.

Mr. Boulud says that this is even better the second day and John confirmed that to be true this morning. He ate it for "brunch" along with a poached egg in the center, and said it was utterly incredible. Next time, I'm going to plan ahead, make it in advance, and try serving it that way for a slightly richer, fattier (yummier) alternative.



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