Saffron Chicken Tajine and Eggplant-Tomato-Herb Salad

The theme of the night was ambiance.

My friend and fellow foodblogger Ally came over to help make a warm and hearty Moroccan meal for my family. As the vegetables roasted and the chicken simmered, we dimmed the dining room lights and adorned the table with candles and tiny tajine pots. We made a pot of hot mint tea.

During the meal, my family tried to remember Moroccan restaurants we had been to around the world.

What was the one with rose petals on the floor?

Oh yeah, it was downstairs and had candles on the wall?

Remember that one with all the pillows?

Bereber?

No.

That one has pillows too. The one on Robertson?

No.

That one had pillows.

404?

I think it was in New York.

Ok, so they all have pillows.

Homemade Moroccan bread — the recipe I used seems to have disappeared from the Internet

Then it clicked. Earlier in the week I read the Morocco chapter of New American Chef:

“The real beauty of Moroccan cuisine, however, is the hospitality that is as engulfing as the flavors and aromas.”

Several times the book mentioned the importance of comfort while eating. I know we must have had delicious and filling meals of couscous, merguez, tagines and other Moroccan delights, but what we all remembered most about those restaurants was the ambiance. The low tables, the heavy curtains, the rustic walls, the ceremonious pouring of tea, the rose petals, the pillows…

The meal Ally and I prepared was definitely tasty, and equally important, served with just the right ambiance.

North African meals previously: Tunisian Lamb Stew, Moroccan Roast Chicken and Algerian Carrot Salad
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Chinese Scallion Pancakes

Maybe you’ve had scallion pancakes debit card payday loans at a good dim sum place, but apply now paydayadvanceusca.com if you have never tried payday loans without checking account them, you’re missing out. The last time I had them was nearly two years ago at a place in Sydney’s Haymarket area. I payday 2 cheats forgot how good they were until I made them at home the other day.

The pancakes are not really pancakes at all. They’re made from unlevened dough, more like Indian parathas than American pancakes or even French crepes.

I found a recipe from Food Network, then deciphered the directions by looking to Poor Man’s Feast. The process isn’t difficult at all, but the wording was confusing in the original recipe.

The result payday is doughy and layered. I served them for lunch with a ginger-soy dipping sauce and a leftover duck and noodle soup. My sister said they tasted like potstickers, which was good in her book.

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Cooked Cabbage Kimchi-Style

I know, I know. Kimchi isn't cooked. It's pickled.

But what if you want the flavors of kimchi and don't have time for the fermentation process? That's how I came up with this dish. I thought about kimchi: cabbage that ferments in a brine including chilies, garlic, ginger, green onion and other ingredients.

I minced some garlic, ginger and onions, then mixed it with sriracha hot sauce. I added soy sauce because it is salty and made from fermented soy beans. To add to the fermented flavor, I used a little bit of fish sauce. (Some regions use salted anchovies or shrimp.) I also added some rice vinegar for more acid and because it too is fermented.

I briefly cooked some cabbage (regular green since I didn't have napa) in a hot pan with just a little water to soften the leaves, but maintain crispness. Then I added it to my sauce, which I wanted to leave uncooked to keep the sharpness of the onions and garlic. I sprinkled on some sesame seeds and let the whole thing cool.
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It's not quite kimchi, but it worked well with the kogi-style beef and lettuce cups we had for dinner. The next day I made some more kimchi-flavored cabbage and ate it hot over rice.

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Potato and Roasted Corn Salad with Crème Fraiche Dressing

My mom searched and searched through old food magazines while I searched and searched the internet for a corn and potato salad with crème fraiche dressing. We had made the recipe before so I couldn't understand why it didn't exist anywhere online. Finally my mom found it in our June 1995 copy of Gourmet.

Except crème fraiche wasn't an ingredient.

We've both made this corn and potato salad with crème fraiche (or sour cream) several times, when all the while it was meant to have buttermilk instead. Well, our version is great and deserves to be known, too. Or you could make a few substitutions and call it your own.

You'll want to take the credit. This is the potato salad that changes the minds of potato-salad-haters. The corn is sweet, the dressing is tangy…it's so good, we served it New Year's Eve on a bed of baby romaine next to lobster and filet mignon.

(Also, the 70+ degree days here have me thinking out of season and posting about things like corn and potato salad and ice cream topped with blueberries. Ah, winter in Los Angeles…)

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Butternut Squash Soup with Lime, Chili and Bacon

butternut-squash-soup

Do you know how many variations of butternut squash soup there are? I really was surprised to find so many different recipes for something I had thought was pretty standard.

Do you start with mirepoix (carrots, celery, onion) or just squash? Do you simmer the raw squash in stock or cook it in the oven first? Do you add cream? Flavor it with nutmeg or something else? You probably can’t go wrong. I’ve yet to try a butternut squash soup I didn’t enjoy.

But here’s one more version, and I only share it because in my searching I didn’t see a recipe exactly like it. I’m always trying to do something a little different, and I’m happy because this soup is simple but has a few elements to make it interesting. A quick breakdown:

  • Squash and onions (if you have a flavorful stock, I say don’t bother cutting up anything else)
  • Vegetables are roasted for deeper flavor
  • No cream to weigh it down
  • Lime juice serves as the acid (instead of commonly used apple cider)
  • Crisp bacon or pancetta pieces make each bite better
  • Cayenne or chili powder for kick


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Vegetable Soup with Chimichurri

With a big bunch of spinach wilting in the fridge, I went to Gourmet.com and sifted through a few pages of search results before I found this Vegetable Soup with Basil and Garlic Sauce. It couldn’t have been more perfect.

The first ingredient was fennel bulb, which is something I’ve been looking for a reason to buy lately since it is normally expensive in the States, but here I got a bulb for the equivalent of 33 cents. The next ingredient was pancetta, which usually indicates a recipe will be delicious, plus, I had some in the fridge. Carrots, cabbage, zuchinni, potatoes, onion? All things I already had. I picked up some fennel and white beans, and decided to skip or substitute anything else.

Instead of basil-garlic pistou, I used a version of chimichurri I had made the night before. Chimichurri is the It-sauce in the States right now, but it’s an Argentine classic made from chopped parsley, garlic, oil and a few other ingredients. Also making my soup a little more Argentine was the reggianito cheese I used in lieu of Parmigiano-Reggiano.

The addition of garlic-herb sauce is what really takes this soup to incredible heights. The combination of vegetables and beans and pancetta is quite good, but the broth would be a little bland without the shot of adrenaline from the pistou or chimichurri. As a whole, it’s a hearty but not too heavy soup, perfect for these cool days in Buenos Aires before spring arrives. Or for the start of fall, if you’re in the opposite hemisphere.

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