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
best cell phone spy software

Continue reading “Saffron Chicken Tajine and Eggplant-Tomato-Herb Salad”

Roasted Beet and Asparagus Salad with Red Wine Bacon Vinaigrette

beet-salad-1

This salad, while hearty and delicious, was especially satisfying to me because of how much thought I put behind it. It might sound silly to some, but I spent two days thinking about just how exactly to use the first fresh beet I ever bought.

I knew I wanted a roasted beet salad. I had some asparagus and fennel in the fridge — either of which would have paired well with beets. I went back and forth between the two, considering a dozen vinaigrettes in the process. Balsamic? Citrus? Red or white wine vinegar? What fresh herbs would I use? What about cheese? Shaved parmesan? Crumbled bleu or goat cheese?

I couldn't decide, so I put off the salad and picked up a grilled sausage sandwich for dinner instead.

The next morning I woke up to rain. Ok, roasted beets and asparagus it is, I thought. As I pondered the cheese question again, it hit me — what about a poached egg instead? People do that with salads or asparagus all the time. Would it work with beets? Why not? Aussies put beets and fried egg on their burgers. I searched recipes online to see if anyone else had done a beet and asparagus salad with poached egg. I didn't see anything exactly like it, but this salad with golden beets and an egg convinced me I was on the right track and inspired my vinaigrette choice. Cook and Eat's red wine-prosciutto vinaigrette made me think of Craig Cyr's warm bacon dressing I'd made and loved before.

beet-salad-2

It all came together in my head at that point: I'd start with arugula, a peppery green that is as far as I can go on the bitter scale (frisee, endive and others aren't for me). Then sweet roasted beets and tender asparagus would be drizzled with a warm vinaigrette made with red wine vinegar, pancetta, green onions, chives, honey and olive oil. To top it all off, a poached egg and black pepper.

The result was everything I hoped it would be.

Oh, and fresh roasted beets? Where have you been all my life? Same with poached eggs. I was silly ever to have had aversions to either in the past.

Continue reading “Roasted Beet and Asparagus Salad with Red Wine Bacon Vinaigrette”

Apple Celery Salad

This is a little something I came up with a few months ago when the only fresh produce I had were apples and celery. The two are a great combination, and with sunflower seeds and a quick cider vinaigrette, this has become one of my favorite sides. The apples make it a good complement to pork, but it's so crisp and refreshing, it's a good addition to any barbecue or picnic.

With Mark Bittman talking about his favorite simple salads, I figured it was time to share my new one.

Continue reading “Apple Celery Salad”

Tamarind Cole Slaw

As part of my continued “culinary homeschooling,” as I like to think of it, I have been trying to understand how acids work in cooking. I wrote a bit about citrus, vinegar and wine before, but since then I have learned a lot and begun experimenting much more.

Part of that included learning more about tamarind, the sour fruit often used in Indian cooking. Michael and I used it in a coconut shrimp curry we cooked for the University Iron Chef competition. Tamarind is very sour, and when combined with the right amount of sugar and savory ingredients, offers such a unique acidity to dishes.

One night I tried using it in lieu of vinegar or citrus to make a dressing for cole slaw. We were having an Indian-inspired meal, so I combined it with cumin and cilantro, which I knew were used in many other Indian dishes. The last few times I’ve made the dressing, I’ve added lime or white wine vinegar as well, but I think the first time was all tamarind pulp. For whatever reason, there were also sesame seeds in the cole slaw the first time I made it (as you might notice in the first picture.) Now I just leave the cumin seeds whole for texture and flavor.

I make variations of slaw a lot more often than I make leafy salads these days. Cabbage is so much cheaper and lasts a lot longer than lettuce, so for a recent college grad without a car to get to the store often, cole slaw is often my side dish of choice. When I can’t be bothered doing anything else, I toss shredded cabbage with bottled poppy seed dressing. It has just the right amount of sweetness and I prefer it to mayonnaise.

If you have a few minutes more, try the tamarind vinaigrette. It’s nice on other things too. I’ve put a similar vinaigrette on thinly sliced jicama after seeing it here.

Continue reading “Tamarind Cole Slaw”

Ahi Tuna Tostada Salad

This is why my friends and I don’t go out to eat often.

It’s because we make dinners like this. And we can make four of them for the price a restaurant might charge for one.

Of course, if my kitchen were a restaurant, last night’s special might have read as so:


Ahi Tuna Tostada Salad

Spice encrusted ahi tuna seared and served with mango-jicama slaw on a crisp corn tortilla and a bed of romaine tossed in cilantro-lime vinaigrette

I don’t have much else to say about this, but I think you’ll like the warm, earthy spices on the rare fish. The jicama slaw is a balance of sweet and sour, soft and crisp, and the leftovers make a good side dish the next day. The whole thing is filling, but you can easily feel good about it afterward.

Continue reading “Ahi Tuna Tostada Salad”

Jicama, Broccoli and Orange Slaw

You might not think the taste of an apple crossed with a raw potato sounds very appetizing unless you’ve tried jicama and realized that’s actually a good thing.

And if that description doesn’t have you running out to buy jicama now…

But seriously, when summer hits, and you’ve banished the thought of rutabaga and turnips, jicama jumps in and offers its crisp, refreshing bite. I turned Kat on to jicama a few weeks ago with this slaw, and she later made her mom fall in love with the veggie by pairing it with grapefruit. It’s just so light and fresh, it’s perfect for summer.

You can shred the jicama with a grater or mandoline, but I loved the knife practice of slicing the whole thing by hand. Ditto for the broccoli. You can easily buy precut broccoli slaw at the grocery store, but besides being cheaper, there was something satisfying about making all those green matchstick slivers.


Continue reading “Jicama, Broccoli and Orange Slaw”