Senses awake! On a recent tour of Morocco, astride a camel caravanning on the edge of the Sahara at sunset, upper body muscles strained to hang on as visions of sunburned sand dunes encircled in 360 degree silence. The azure dome above assured that the world is indeed round.
Blazing on the horizon, the sun sank with measured majesty.
Back at the oasis, savory and sweet aromas engulfed the evening of feasting and dancing on the desert. A starry night mesmerized our party of sojourners, until... 4x4s returned us to Erfoud, our comfortable outpost lodging, to dream.
The gastronomic piece de resistance (remember Morocco gained its independence from being a French protectorate in 1956) in culinary parlance was the Tfaya, a dish special to Morocco prepared for celebratory occasions. While lunching al fresco, the presentation of caramelized onions sweetened with golden raisins crowned fragrant chicken thighs served over fluffy couscous garnished with garbanzos tantalized my taste buds. Quite a mouthful! In a word, sublime.
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1/4 cup golden raisins
2 pounds onion, sliced thinly
2 tblsp. butter
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ginger powder
1 tsp. turmeric
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/2 tblsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 cup water
2 tblsp. sugar
1 tblsp. orange blossom water, optional
1 16-ounce can garbanzos, drained and rinsed
Soak raisins in hot water for 1 hour. Peel and cut onions in half and thinly slice. Melt butter in a pan large enough to accommodate the onions. Add onions and sprinkle with spices, stirring to mix well. Pour in water, stir and cover. Cook over medium-low heat for 45 minutes, stirring from time to time. Drain raisins and add to the mixture with sugar and orange blossom water. Stir and partially cover pot to continue cooking for 30 minutes. Serve over couscous, garnish with garbanzo beans and accompany with chicken if desired. Serves 4.
Moroccan Meatballs from Tori Ritchie of “sometimes” blog, Tuesday Recipes (the archive is fabulous), is straight from Marrakech home kitchens via her cooking instructor. Over couscous for a festive supper or on a toothpick, a smaller version appetizes cocktail hour. Mmmmm...
1 pound ground lamb
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 small red onion, minced
2 tblsp. each fresh mint and cilantro, minced
In a small bowl, mix all ingredients well. Cover and let sit for at least 1/2 hour at room temperature or up to 1 day, refrigerated. Shape into 2-inch (12) meatballs for meal-size or smaller for appetizers.
1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes
1/4 cup tomato paste
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped (additional for garnish)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. paprika
1-1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1 bay leaf
In a skillet, combine all ingredients plus 1/2 full tomato can of water. Stirring, bring mixture to a boil until tomato paste is incorporated. Simmer, uncovered, for about 15 minutes. Add meatballs and cook 20 minutes or until fully cooked. Remove from heat to rest, covered, for 10 minutes.
Serve over couscous with cilantro garnish. Serves 4-6.
Cinnamon laced naval orange slices delight the palate after many a Moroccan meal!