Technically, Morocco was the first country we cooked back in January, when Michael made chicken basteeya. However, Mike makes basteeya semi-regularly and we didn’t photograph or document it in any way. So, Morocco gets a bonus meal.
This meal was thrown together rather spontaneously. Michael expressed an interest in cooking one of the Moroccan salads he likes to make this week and I decided that instead of just making normal chicken to go with the salad, I’d make Moroccan chicken, because why the hell not?
I really enjoy the flavors of Moroccan cooking, especially the way that sweeter tastes, like honey, cinnamon, and citrus, are incorporated into savory dishes. Mike has been on a Moroccan cooking kick for a while, so we’ve actually tried a lot of Moroccan recipes. Chicken basteeya is probably my favorite, but I also enjoy a chicken dish cooked with lemons and green olives.
Our menu for tonight:
Grated carrot and orange salad
The recipe for the salad is from the cookbook: Fresh Moroccan (published in 2006), by Nada Saleh, which does not appear to be currently in print. This is too bad, because it’s a great cookbook. The recipe is as follows:
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp orange flower water (we leave this out because WOW. It is strong. If you want to try it, we purchased it at Whole Foods.)
3 tbsp lemon juice
2-3 tbsp orange juice
1 tbsp ground or grated almonds, lightly toasted
1/2 tsp salt
1 lb carrots, peeled and grated
2 oranges, peeled and cut into pieces
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp pine nuts, lightly toasted
mint leaves, to garnish
Put the honey in a serving dish, then mix in the flower water, lemon juice, and orange juice. Blend well, then add the remaining ingredients. Toss together and top with mint (we like to use extra mint).
This salad can be served immediately, or chilled.
This salad is super yummy and we eat it frequently. It is perfectly sweet, but also has a nice salty contrast, thanks to the almonds and pine nuts. It is super refreshing and great for a hot, summery day. If you have a Salad Shooter, which is perhaps the world’s greatest culinary device, it makes shredding the carrots extra easy and fun! Best part of this salad – it keeps pretty well, so makes for great leftovers.
Now for the chicken. The chicken recipe was taken from the cookbook Mourad: New Moroccan by Mourad Lahlou. As a cookbook, this isn’t one of my favorites – too many words. However, it does include some beautiful pictures from Morocco.
Most of the recipes in both the Moroccan cookbooks we have use a whole chicken and involve longer cooking times. I was looking for something quick, since, as I said, the decision to make a Moroccan chicken dish was spontaneous. Therefore, I settled on the skewers, since grilling chicken is a pretty fast way to prepare.
Now, technically, the recipe calls for marinating the chicken for at least 6 hours, up to overnight. I gave it 2. I also cut the recipe down to serve 2 instead of 6, so kind of estimated some of the amounts (I mean, who knows off the top of their heads what 1/3 of 3/4 of a teaspoon is?). I’m copying the original recipe below.
3 tbsp sweet paprika (I used plain paprika, because it is what I had on hand)
1 tbsp ground cumin
3/4 tsp ground ginger
1 tbsp finely chopped garlic (I used crushed from the tube)
3 tbsp coarsely chopped thyme (from my garden, which was exciting)
1 1/2 tbsp Italian coarsely chopped parsley (the flat leafed type)
1 tbsp coarsely chopped cilantro
1 1/2 c extra virgin olive oil (My brand of choice is Colavita)
Mix together and add in the chicken. Be sure to cut the chicken into even chunks (1 1/2 inch) so that it cooks evenly. Marinade for 6 hours . After marinating, remove chicken and squeeze of excess marinade. Place chicken on skewers (if using wood, soak for 30 minutes before hand), about 3/4 an inch apart. Season the chicken lightly with salt and pepper, then grill over medium-high heat until done, about 6 minutes, turning to ensure even cooking (and fancy grill marks if you care about that sort of thing. I don’t).
I cooked these on my griddle pan, because honestly, it is too much effort to heat up the charcoal grill for 6 minutes of cooking.
The cookbook includes a vinaigrette, but I didn’t make it. It also suggests serving over cous-cous, which I didn’t have. Instead, I cooked a bag of instant quinoa from Costco (so good!). So, not exactly authentic with my carb, but whatever.
This … was not exactly successful. Which, I’m sure was my fault, since I didn’t really follow the recipe precisely. I’m sure a longer marinade would have helped, but honestly, I got enough of the flavor profile to be unimpressed. Perhaps if I had made the full recipe so that I had the exactly right spice blend, but it’s hard to say. Just two chicken breasts made a whole lot of chicken. 6 would definitely be party sized, so it seems unlikely that I would ever make it. Additionally, perhaps I should have made the vinaigrette, just to kick it up a notch.
To be fair, this meal wasn’t a complete failure. The salad was excellent and the chicken wasn’t the worst thing I had ever put into my mouth. Quinn, in true Quinn fashion hated/refused to try it.
Tomorrow, I am doing France (it’s a busy culinary week). I am 100% positive it will be better.