Spices are very important in Moroccan cuisine. Common spices include cinnamon, cumin, turmeric, ginger, paprika, coriander, saffron, mace, cloves, fennel, anise, nutmeg, cayenne pepper, fenugreek, caraway, black pepper, and sesame seeds. Twenty-seven spices are combined for the famous Moroccan spice mixture called “ras el hanout”.
Due to its location on the Mediterranean Sea, the country is rich in natural resources and meals are usually built around seafood, lamb or poultry. The Moroccan national dish is a tagine or stew named for a special pot that is used for cooking. Common ingredients include chicken or lamb, almonds, hard-boiled eggs, prunes, lemons, tomatoes, and other vegetables. The tajine, like other Moroccan dishes, is known for its distinctive flavoring, which comes from spices that may include saffron, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, ginger, and ground red pepper. Give this Moroccan inspired recipe a try.
Moroccan Spiced Chicken
1 tablespoon chili paste (harissa or sambal oelek)
1/2 tablespoon smoked paprika
1/2 tablespoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 orange, zested, then cut into segments
2 tablespoons oil
4 bone-in chicken thighs
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, diced
1/2 cup diced cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup green olives
1/4 cup chopped preserved lemon
Couscous, recipe below
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Heat a wide, deep braising pan over medium-high heat.
In a small bowl, combine the chili paste, paprika, turmeric, cumin, ginger, cinnamon, coriander, allspice, cardamom, cayenne, orange zest, and 1 tablespoon oil. Stir to form a paste.
Season the chicken with salt and pepper; rub half of the spice mixture on both sides of the chicken thighs.
Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil to the heated pan. Sear the chicken skin-side down until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Turn and brown the other side. Remove the chicken to a plate.
Add the garlic, onion and remaining spice mixture to the same pan, using a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Reduce the heat to medium and cook until the onions are softened and lightly browned, about 5 minutes.
Return the chicken to the pan along with the tomatoes, chicken stock, olives, preserved lemon, and sliced oranges. Cover the pan and place it in the oven to braise for about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Uncover and continue to braise until the chicken is tender, another 15 to 20 minutes.
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup whole wheat couscous
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 ¼ cups no salt added chicken broth
Bring the chicken broth and salt to a boil in a medium saucepan. Pour in the couscous and the olive oil, give a quick stir, cover and turn off the heat. Let sit for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork to break up any lump and serve.
1 English cucumber, sliced thin
1 scallion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1/3 cup plain whole milk Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried dill weed.
Combine all the ingredients in a serving bowl. Mix well, cover the dish and refrigerate several hours before serving.
Sautéed Grouper In Shrimp Cream Sauce
1 large shallot, finely diced
1 tablespoon butter
3/4 cup white wine
1 tomato, peeled, seeded and diced
Pinch of salt and pepper
1 cup diced shrimp (about 6 large) (peeled and deveined)
1/4 cup heavy (whipping) cream
1/4 teaspoon each of white pepper and salt
5 or 6 leaves of fresh basil, torn into small pieces
2 tablespoons each of butter and olive oil for sautéing
1 grouper fillet or other white fish fillets, about 8 oz
Salt and pepper for seasoning
In a saucepan, sauté the diced shallot in 1 tablespoon butter until tender. Add the wine, tomato, salt, and pepper.
Bring to a boil and let the broth simmer until reduced to about half. Add the shrimp and cream. Cook for about one minute or until the shrimp are barely done.
Set aside while you prepare the fish.
Put the butter and oil in a skillet large enough to cook the grouper. Season the fish with salt and pepper and lightly dust with flour.
When the butter sizzles, add the fish and cook on each side until cooked through and golden. Pour the shrimp cream sauce over the fish and garnish with basil.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
3 cups broccoli florets
Zest and juice of one orange
Freshly ground black pepper and salt to taste
2 tablespoons toasted, slivered almonds
Heat the olive oil in a large, deep skillet over medium-low heat.
Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.
Add the broccoli, salt, pepper, orange zest, orange juice and sauté with the olive oil and garlic mixture until the broccoli turns bright green and becomes tender.
Remove the skillet from the heat, sprinkle with toasted almonds and serve.
Grilled Asian Chicken Thighs with Citrus Salsa
4 bone-in, skinless chicken thighs
2/3 cup coconut milk
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 lime, juiced
1 tablespoon lemongrass paste
1 tablespoon Korean hot sauce (gochujang) or your favorite Asian hot sauce
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Half a navel orange
One red grapefruit
Zest of ½ a lemon
Zest of half an orange
1 large spring onion or 2 scallions, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon minced fresh garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
Pinch of salt
Combine all of the marinade ingredients in a large plastic bag and add the chicken thighs.
Coat the chicken in the marinade then seal the bag and refrigerate for 1-2 hours or up to 6-8 hours.
To make the salsa: Using a grapefruit knife, remove the fruit segments over a colander placed over a bowl. Let the fruit drain. Use the juice for another recipe.
Combine the fruit segments with the remaining salsa ingredients. Set aside while the chicken cooks.
Remove the chicken from the refrigerator 30 minutes before grilling.
Preheat an outdoor grill and oil the grill grates.
Drain the chicken and discard the marinade in the bag. Place the chicken pieces skin-side down on the hot grill, and cook them for 7-8 minutes.
Turn the chicken pieces over with tongs to avoid piercing them and letting the juices run out. Cook the thighs for another 7-8 minutes.
Place an instant-read thermometer in the thickest part of the meat. Chicken thighs and drumsticks are cooked when the temperature reaches 180 degrees Fahrenheit.
Remove the chicken to a platter and place the Citrus Salsa on the side of the chicken.
Spring Strawberry Salad with Warm Mozzarella Cheese
1 green onion, roughly chopped
1/2 avocado, peeled
1 small garlic clove, peeled
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup red grapefruit juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1-2 teaspoons honey, according to taste
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
3 ounces leaf lettuce
1 1/2 cups sliced fresh strawberries
1/4 pound cooked asparagus, cut into 2-inch lengths
2 slices fresh mozzarella cheese, each cut ½ inch thick
1 oz chopped pecans
1 large egg white, beaten with 1/2 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon butter
Purée the dressing ingredients in a blender or food processor until smooth to make a dressing. Place in a covered container and refrigerate until needed.
For the cheese: Dip each cheese slice into the egg wash and then into the chopped pecans, pressing on the nuts to help them stick to the cheese.
Place the slices on a baking rack set on a sheet pan or large plate and chill in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes.
Arrange the greens, strawberries, and asparagus on Individual salad plates,
Heat the butter in a medium saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the chilled cheese slices and cook until softened but not melting, about 2 minutes.
With a wide spatula carefully turn the cheese slices over. If some of the nuts fall off, just scoop them up and place them back on the cheese
Place a cheese slice on top of each salad. If any nuts fall off into the pan, just sprinkle them on the salad. Drizzle the salad with some of the dressing and serve.
Grilled Asian Flavored Scallops
½ lb medium sea scallops
2 tablespoons soy sauce or coconut aminos
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
1 garlic clove, grated
Combine all the ingredients in a medium-sized bowl. Allow the scallops to marinate for 15 minutes.
Skewer the scallops on soaked wooden or metal skewers and cook on a preheated indoor grill or broiler for 2-3 minutes per side.
They should be slightly firm, Serve with the Spring Vegetable Stir-fry.
Spring Vegetable Stir-fry
Stir Fry Sauce
1/3 cup coconut aminos or soy sauce
2 tablespoons unseasoned (unsweetened) rice vinegar
2 tablespoons honey or a low-carb sweetener
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1 medium spaghetti squash
Extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon peanut oil
1 cup small broccoli florets
1 small head baby bok choy, sliced into 1-inch strips
4 scallions, sliced
1 cup bean sprouts
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/3 cup cashews, toasted and chopped
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Using a sharp knife, cut the squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds and discard. Place the halves, with the cut side up, on a rimmed baking sheet.
Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for 45-50 minutes or until you can poke the squash easily with a fork.
Let cool until you can handle it safely. Then scrape the insides of one half of the cooked squash with a fork to shred the squash into strands and place on a plate.
Reserve the remaining squash for another recipe.
Prepare the stir-fry sauce.
In a small bowl, combine the ingredients for the stir-fry sauce in a small bowl and set aside.
Heat the peanut oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the scallions and broccoli and sauté for 8-10 minutes, until just tender.
Then stir in the bok choy and bean sprouts; cook for 3-4 minutes until wilted. Add the stir-fry sauce and then stir in the cooked spaghetti squash and red pepper flakes.
To serve: Sprinkle the vegetable stir-fry with the cashews and serve.
The Mediterranean countries include France, Spain, Italy, Greece and Portugal along the north; Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, and Israel on the east; the African countries of Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco on the south and the Mediterranean Island Countries of Cyprus and Malta. The Mediterranean countries utilize many of the same healthy ingredients but each country has a unique way of creating recipes with those same ingredients. So far in this series, I have written about Mediterranean cuisine in general and about the cuisine in the countries of Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Egypt, and Libya. This series continues with the country of Tunisia.
Tunisian cuisine is a combination of French, Arabic, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern flavors. Seafood is eaten in the coastal communities and features recipes like fettuccine with fresh seafood and a green harissa dressing, grilled mullet with lemon and celery salad, and fricassee salad with grilled cedar plank salmon. The spicy paste harissa is a staple side to every Tunisian meal. It’s made from chilies, garlic, lemon and a combination of caraway, cumin and coriander seeds. Tunisian sweets are also impressive. Their doughnuts, called “yo-yos”, are soaked in honey, lemon syrup and orange blossom water.
The diverse blend of flavors in Tunisian cuisine is representative of the country’s past and location. While the cuisine varies by region, Tunisian food usually combines French and African flavors with spicy seasonings. Couscous, the main staple in Tunisian dishes, is often topped with fresh seafood or hearty lamb depending on local availability. A melting pot of cultures, Tunisia doesn’t just feature local food but all types of international cuisine can be found in the country’s larger cities.
Though the country’s Mediterranean climate and rich soil make it an ideal location for wine production, it’s often overlooked as a wine region. But Tunisia has a rich wine history and a modern cultivation of numerous grape varietals. Tunisians first began producing wine over 2,000 years ago, but Arab control in the eighth century nearly eliminated the practice. French colonization brought winemaking back to Tunisia in the late 1800s.
The Foods of Tunisia
Couscous is derived from semolina and is present on nearly every dinner table in Tunisia. Couscous is prepared in endless ways across the country. In coastal regions, cooks prefer to serve it with fish, while interior regions opt for lamb and dried fruit. A local favorite, Sfax Couscous, is named for Tunisia’s second largest city, which is filled with freshly caught seafood.
Briks are another staple and can be found in little shops throughout the country. Similar to a samosa, a brik is made from wrapping pastry dough around a variety of fillings, including potatoes, eggs, or tuna. The packets are then fried in grapeseed oil and served piping hot with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.
A thick, spicy paste made from hot chili peppers and garlic, harissa is a condiment for grilled meats and fish or stirred into soups and stews for added flavor. It is often served as a dipping sauce alongside bread. Harissa’s heat level varies depending on the number and type of chili peppers used. The peppers are typically smoked to add a complex, deep flavor.
While typically a breakfast dish, ojja is often considered fast-food by Tunisian standards. Traditional ojja combine eggs and merguez, a spicy lamb sausage, in a savory tomato sauce for a hearty, filling meal. Ojja is served with a side of grilled bread in place of a spoon or fork.
Tunisians take dessert seriously and they are routinely served after a large evening meal and accompanied with mint tea. Some local desserts include sweet cakes, fried almond pastries, and ice cream. But the Tunisian doughnuts, YoYos, are the favorite.
The melding of many cultures and flavors is apparent in Tunisia’s most popular drink, sweet mint tea. Served hot or over ice, this beverage is topped with pine nuts, a twist of flavor and texture, especially for those not accustomed to nuts in their tea.
Tunisia has seven distinct controlled designation-of-origin regions known locally as AOCs (for their French name, appellation d’origine controlee). The naming of wine regions is modeled after the French, with whom Tunisia shares many of the same grape varietals, such as Muscat.
Sidi Saad is a wine blend of Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. Produced using traditional methods in the Gran Cru Mornag region, Sidi Saad is corked in a distinctively shaped bottle.
Gris de Tunisie
Gris de Tunisie, or grey Tunisian wine, is the country’s most famous and unique wine. The wine is a dusky rose in color and tastes like a fruity rosé. It is best served on hot days paired with a spicy seafood dish.
Chateau Mornag Rosé
Chateau Mornag Rosé is the country’s most popular. Produced in the Mornag area in Northern Tunisia, it is light, crisp and tastes best with the region’s Mediterranean-influenced cuisine.
Make Some Tunisian Recipes At Home
100 g dried long red chilies, seeded
½ teaspoon caraway seeds
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
100 ml extra-virgin olive oil
5 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Salt and pepper
Soaking time 1 hour and 30 minutes.
Place chilies in a bowl and pour over enough boiling water to cover. Place a small plate directly on top of chilies to keep them submerged then set aside for 1½ hours or until very soft. Drain well.
Meanwhile, heat a small frying pan over medium-low heat, add the spices and fry, stirring frequently, for 2 minutes. Finely grind spices in an electric spice grinder or a mortar and pestle. Combine the drained chilies, spices, 1 teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon pepper and the remaining ingredients in a small food processor. Process to a smooth paste, occasionally scraping down the sides. Push mixture through a food mill, extracting as much purée as possible; the solids should be dry. Transfer mixture to a sterilized jar and seal. Harissa will keep for up to 1 year stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Tunisian Chickpea Soup (Lablabi)
Tunisian breakfast. Capers, chopped almonds, chopped olives, yogurt and some mint can all be added at the end, and the soup is commonly served ladled over cubes of day old bread. Tuna is often added also.
100 ml extra virgin olive oil
2 onions, finely chopped
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
Large pinch saffron
1 tablespoon harissa
2 liters (8 cups) chicken stock
4 (400g) cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
4 tomatoes, cut into large pieces
2 tablespoons white vinegar
4-6 eggs (depending on the number of servings)
Large handful coriander leaves
Slices of baguette, extra harissa, and lemon wedges, to serve
2 tbsp baby capers, drained
2 tbsp chopped blanched almonds
Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring often, for 6 minutes or until softened. Add the cumin and coriander and saffron and cook, stirring, for another 3 minutes. Stir in the harissa then add the stock and chickpeas and bring to a simmer. Cover the pan then cook for 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook for another 3 minutes or until the tomatoes soften.
Bring a large saucepan of water to a simmer and add the vinegar. Crack each egg into a saucer then add them, one at a time, to the simmering water. Cook over medium heat for about 3 minutes or until the whites are set but the yolks are still runny. Carefully remove each using a slotted spoon to a tray lined with kitchen paper to drain excess water.
Divide the hot soup among large bowls. Place an egg in each bowl. Scatter over the coriander, capers, and almonds. Serve with the baguette, extra harissa, and lemon wedges to the side.
Broiled Red Mullet with Celery Salad
4 red mullets, cleaned (each 340 g net)
12 g mixed fresh bay leaves, rosemary, and thyme
2 teaspoons cumin seeds, crushed using a mortar and pestle
1½ tablespoons olive oil
1½ teaspoon salt
Lemon and Celery Salad
4 long, thin green capsicum (peppers), or 1 regular green capsicum (pepper) (140 g gross)
50 ml olive oil
1 lemon, peeled, seeded and cut into 1 cm dice (35 g net)
3 tender celery stalks, cut into 1 cm dice (120 g net)
10 g tender celery leaves, finely chopped
15 g parsley leaves, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
30 g black olives, pitted
½ teaspoon dried red chili flakes
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sumac
To make the salad, place the capsicum in a baking dish. Drizzle with 2 teaspoons of the oil and roast in a 400 degree F oven for 10 minutes ( or longer for regular capsicum), or until the skin is blistered and the flesh is soft. Transfer to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Once cool enough to handle, peel, cut into 1 cm dice and place in a large bowl. Add the remaining olive oil, the lemon, celery, and leaves, parsley, garlic, olives, chili flakes, and salt. Stir well and set aside.
Score the red mullet 2–3 times on each side in parallel lines at a 45-degree angle to the fish. Slice the bay leaves into fine strips and stuff into the incisions, followed by each of the other herbs. Place the fish on a baking tray lined with foil. In a small bowl, mix together the cumin, olive oil and salt. Drizzle or brush this over the fish.
Preheat a broiler on high. Once hot, place the fish underneath and cook for about 6 minutes on each side, or until the flesh is firm and cooked through. Serve the fish with the salad on the side, garnished with sumac.
Tunisian Doughnuts (yo-yos)
7 g sachet dried yeast
1 tablespoon white sugar
60 ml (¼ cup) orange juice
1 orange, zested
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus extra, to deep-fry
300 g (2 cups) plain flour, sifted
2 tablespoons lemon juice
110 g (½ cup) white sugar
360 g (1 cup) honey
2 teaspoons orange blossom water, optional
Place yeast, sugar and 125 ml (½ cup) lukewarm water in a bowl and stir to combine. Set aside for 10 minutes or until the mixture bubbles. Add orange juice, zest, and 2 tablespoons oil, and stir to combine. Place flour and a pinch of salt in a large bowl and make a well in the center. Pour yeast mixture into the well and stir until combined.
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for 5 minutes or until smooth and elastic. (Alternatively, use an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook.) Place dough in a greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Set aside in a warm, draught-free place for 2 hours or until the dough doubles in size.
To make the honey syrup, place the lemon juice, sugar and 250 ml (1 cup) water in a pan over medium heat and stir until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat to high and bring to the boil. Add honey and orange blossom water, if using, then reduce the heat to low–medium and cook the mixture for 35 minutes or until the consistency of a runny honey; watch syrup to make sure it doesn’t boil over. Transfer to a large bowl and cool.
Fill a deep-fryer or large pan one-third full with oil and heat over medium heat to 180°C (or until a cube of bread turns golden in 15 seconds). Working in batches, tear off a piece of dough about the size of a plum and flatten slightly with your hand. Tear a hole in the middle and stretch the dough to make a 12–15cm ring. Gently drop the dough into the oil and deep-fry, turning halfway, for 4 minutes or until crisp, golden and cooked through. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.
Using a skewer, pierce yo-yos on both sides, then soak in honey syrup for 4 minutes on each side. Serve immediately.
Make dinner with December’s seasonal foods. Here are a few ideas.
Pork Cutlets with Apple-Fennel Sauce
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
Kosher salt and pepper to taste
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
Four boneless pork cutlets, pounded to 1/4 inch thick
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small fennel bulb, cored and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 apple, peeled and thinly sliced
Lemon wedges, for serving
In a shallow dish, mix the flour with salt and pepper. In another shallow dish, beat the egg.
In a third shallow dish, spread the panko and season with additional salt and pepper. Dredge the pork in the flour, shaking off the excess.
Dip the pork in the egg, then dredge in the panko to coat. Place the cutlets on a large plate.
In a large skillet, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter and 1 tablespoon of the oil.
Add the pork cutlets and cook over moderately high heat until golden, 2 minutes.
Turn the cutlets over, and cook until just golden on the outside and white throughout, about 2 minutes more.
Transfer the cutlets to a paper towel-lined plate.
Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil and butter to the skillet.
Add the fennel and onion and cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until light golden and crisp-tender, about 3 minutes.
Stir in the lemon juice and apple slices and season with salt and pepper. Cook for an additional 2 minutes.
Place the cutlets back in the pan and let them heat in the fennel mixture for a few minutes.
Place the cutlets on a serving platter and top with the fennel mixture. Serve with lemon wedges.
4 medium carrots, peeled
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
Cut the carrots diagonally into 1/4-inch thick slices.
Place the carrots, 3 tablespoons water, the salt and pepper in a medium skillet and bring to a boil.
Cover the pan and cook over medium-low heat for 4-5 minutes.
Add the butter and marjoram and saute for another minute, until the water evaporates and the carrots are coated with butter.
Cranberry Orange Cake
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2-1/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour; more for the dusting the pan
1-1/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups fresh or defrosted frozen cranberries
1-1/2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest
1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
½ cup softened unsalted butter
3 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
Position a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Lightly butter and flour a 9×13-inch baking pan.
Combine the walnuts, brown sugar, cinnamon and butter in a mixing bowl. Using your hands to form the mixture into crumbs. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the cranberries and orange zest and mix.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix the ½ cup butter on low-speed with the stand mixer’s paddle attachment until smooth.
Add the sugar gradually and continue mixing on low until slightly fluffy. Scrape the bowl and beater.
Add the eggs one at a time, mixing until smooth after each addition.
Stop the mixer, scrape the bowl and beater, and add half the flour mixture.
On low-speed, mix until the flour drifts disappear and then add half the buttermilk; mix until just blended.
Repeat with the remaining flour and buttermilk. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix until smooth.
Pour into the prepared pan and sprinkle the top with the crumb mixture.
Bake for 55 to 60 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in the middle of the bread comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.
Italian Sausage Stuffed Acorn Squash
2 large acorn squash, halved crosswise, seeds and fibers removed
1 teaspoon unsalted butter
1 small onion, peeled and chopped
1 celery stalk, sliced thin
8 ounces Italian sausage, casing removed
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
2 cups lightly toasted sourdough bread, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1/3 – 1/2 cup chicken broth, homemade or low-sodium canned
1 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Cut the squash in half and remove the seeds.
Cut a thin slice off the bottom of each squash half so that they stand flat, being careful not to cut into the flesh.
Place the squash halves in a baking dish large enough to hold the squash halves and set aside.
Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and celery and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
Add the sausage and break up the meat with the back of a spoon. Cook until no traces of pink remain, about 8 minutes.
Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and stir in the thyme, salt, pepper, bread cubes with enough broth to moisten the stuffing and mix until well combined.
Divide the stuffing mixture among the squash halves. Add enough water to the roasting pan to make a depth of about 1/2 inch.
Cover the squash loosely with aluminum foil.
Roast for 45 minutes.Remove the foil and bake for 15 minutes more or until the squash is tender and browned on the top.
Place 1 squash half on each of 4 plates, garnish with parsley and serve immediately.
2-10 oz pkgs frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and drained or 2 lbs. fresh spinach
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons cream cheese
2 tablespoons milk
Salt and pepper
Heat the oil in small saucepan and add the garlic; cook 1 minute. Add spinach and heat.
Make a well in the center of the spinach and add the milk and cheese.
Heat and stir until the cheese is dissolved throughout spinach. Season with salt & pepper.
Oven Roasted Parmesan Cauliflower
1 whole cauliflower head
¼ cup milk
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Oil a rimmed baking sheet.
Cut the cauliflower into large florets.
Beat the eggs with the milk in a shallow dish.
Place the grated cheese in a shallow dish.
Place the flour in a plastic bag and add the salt and pepper.
Add the florets to the flour filled bag and give them a shake, rotating the bag until the florets are dusted with flour.
Dip each floret in egg and then in cheese and place on the prepared pan.
Place the pan in the oven and bake for 23-30 minutes.
Sicilian Ricotta Birthday Cake
We recently celebrated a dear friend’s birthday with a special dinner to honor him. I offered to make his birthday cake, as I know, he is found of Italian cakes, especially if they are made with ricotta cheese. There are numerous versions of the Sicilian Cassata Cake, but this is my version. One, where, I have worked out the flavors that we like in a cake of this type. If you want to make a special occasion cake, this is a great cake to make.
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for the pans
2½ cups all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled, plus more for the pans
1½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1½ cups sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup whole milk
2 1/2 cups whole milk ricotta
1 cup confectioners sugar
1/2 teaspoon orange extract
2 oz finely chopped good quality chocolate
Zest from one orange
Juice of one orange
½ teaspoon agave nectar
1 teaspoon white rum
2 cups heavy cream whipped
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
½ teaspoon orange extract
Candied orange peel
Cake writing decoration
To make the cake layers:
Heat the oven to 350°F.
Butter two 8 or 9 inch round cake pans, line the bottoms with parchment paper cut into circles to fit, butter again and dust with flour, tapping out the excess.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt; set aside.
Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium-high until fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes.
Beat in the vanilla, then the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.
Reduce the mixer speed to low. Add the flour mixture in 3 additions and the milk in 2 additions, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Mix just until combined (do not over-mix).
Transfer the batter to the prepared pans. The best way to get an even amount of batter in each pan is to weigh the pans on a scale. This is a tip I learned from Alton Brown and it works perfectly.
Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes for 8-inch pans and 22 to 25 minutes for 9-inch pans. Cool the cakes in the pans for 15 minutes, then turn out onto racks to cool completely.
To make the filling:
Combine the ricotta with the remaining filling ingredients in a storage bowl with a cover. Place in the refrigerator until ready to assemble the cake.
Once the layers are completely cool, cut each layer in half with a serrated knife to form four layers.
To make the syrup:
Combine the orange juice with the rum and agave in a small dish.Brush the syrup over the cut sides of the layers until it is all used. Let the layers rest for 30 minutes.
Place one layer, cut side up on a cake plate and spread some of the ricotta filling over the layer leaving a ¼ inch edge all around the cake without the filling. (This way the filling will not ooze out of the layer when you place another layer on top.)
Place the next layer, cut side up, on top of the filling and repeat with another layer of ricotta filling.
Repeat with the third layer, cut side up. Place the fourth layer, cut side down, on top of the ricotta filling.
Place the cake in the refrigerator while you make the whipped topping.
Make the Whipped Topping:
In a mixing bowl combine the heavy cream, orange extract and powdered sugar.
Beat the mixture until the cream forms soft peaks.
Remove the cake from the refrigerator and spread the whipped cream on the sides of the cake and then on the top.
Decorate the edge of the top of the cake with candied orange peel.
Write Happy Birthday in the center, if desired.
The Mediterranean countries utilize many of the same ingredients but each country has a unique way of creating recipes with those same ingredients.
Provence is a geographical region and historical province of southeastern France, which extends from the lower Rhône River on the west to the Italian border in the east, and is bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the south.The area also includes the Côte d’Azur, often known in English as the French Riviera.
The food of Provence resembles more closely the cuisine of Italy, Greece and Spain than typical Parisian fare. Emphasis is on locally grown vegetables, seafood, fresh herbs and olive oil, Provence is the birthplace of three well-known dishes: salade Nicoise, bouillabaisse and ratatouille.
There are many common traits between the French diet and the other Mediterranean countries, not only with regards to food choices, but also in the organization and structure of meals during the day. For example, there is no snacking in France, they eat three meals a-day, each with three courses, they eat together, portion control is common and they avoid “junk food”.
While the French embrace a wide range of foods, they keep things simple and like to use cheese, eggs, potatoes, butter, yogurt, as well as pasta and bread in their meal preparation. France is renowned for some of the world’s best wines and cheeses, and wine and food pairing is taken seriously in France even at informal dinner parties.
Beyond French wine and cheese is a mixture of traditional French dishes, many which come with long histories, regional variations and modern adaptations. The French cuisine is to a great degree a culinary art. Traditional French cuisine relies on basic combinations and together with butter are the basic ingredients for the creation of their well-known sauces, appetizers and entrees. Full fat dairy products, fresh fruits and vegetables, in combination with small quantities of meat or poultry are the main ingredients in French recipes. Garlic, tomatoes, olive oil and Mediterranean herbs are used to enhance those ingredients. Such recipes often include:
Appetizer Course: Provençal tomatoes, Scallops Provencal, Tapenade
Soup Course: Bouillabaisse, French Onion Soup, Saffron Mussel Bisque
Main Course: Coq au Vin, Lobster Thermidor, Ratatouille, Poulet de Provençal
Dessert Course: Orange Creme Brulee, Plum Clafouti, Poached Pears
Traditional French Recipes
Madame Saucourt’s Ratatouille
Hotel Mas des Serres in Saint Paul de Vence.
Source: Mediterranean Grains and Greens by Paula Wolfert
Ratatouille, from the southeastern French region of Provence, is a stewed vegetable recipe that can be served as a side dish, meal or stuffing for other dishes, such as crepes and omelettes. The vegetables are generally first cooked in a shallow pan on high heat and then oven-baked in a dish. French chefs debate the correct way to cook ratatouille: some do not agree with sauteing all vegetables together, such as Julia Child, and argue the vegetables should be cooked separately and layered into the baking dish. The ingredients usually consist of tomatoes, garlic, onions, zucchini, eggplant, carrots, bell peppers, basil, marjoram, thyme and herbs.
5 pounds eggplant
5 pounds zucchini
5 pounds sweet onion, peeled, halved, and thinly sliced
1 quart extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons crushed garlic
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mixed herbs: rosemary, savory, peppermint, thyme, and celery
1 bay leaf
1/2 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups dry yet fruity white wine
2 pounds ripe red tomatoes, cored and seeded
5 pounds red bell peppers
A few drops of red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons chopped mixed herbs for garnish: basil, parsley, thyme
Stem and peel the eggplant. Cut the flesh into 1″ cubes and place them in a deep kettle filled with very salty water. Keep submerged with a non-corrodible plate for at least 1 hour
Stem and peel the zucchini. Cut the flesh into 1″ cubes and place in a deep colander. Toss the zucchini with salt and let stand 1/2 hour.
In a very large heavy skillet or heavy-bottomed roasting pan cook the chopped onions in 1/2 cup water and 1 cup olive oil until the onions are soft and golden, about 30 minutes. Add the garlic, chopped herbs, bay leaf, sugar, salt, pepper, and 1 cup of the wine. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, for 10 minutes.
Coarsely chop the tomatoes with their skins in the work bowl of a food processor. Add to the skillet and continue cooking at a simmer for 11/2 hours. Whenever the onion-tomato mixture starts to stick or burn, “deglaze” with a few tablespoons of water and scrape with a wooden spoon.
Grill the peppers; when cool, peel, stem, seed and cut into small pieces. Set aside.
Rinse and drain the eggplant and zucchini and lightly press dry with toweling.
Slowly heat the remaining 3 cups of olive oil in a wide pan or fryer until medium-hot. Add the zucchini in batches, and fry until golden on all sides. Transfer the zucchini with a slotted spoon to a colander set over a bowl to catch any excess oil. When all the zucchini has been fried, fry the eggplant in the same manner. From time to time return the drained oil in the bowl to the pan.
Spread the zucchini, eggplant, and peppers over the simmering onion-tomato mixture and pour in the remaining wine. Cover and cook at a simmer for 11/2 hours. From time to time remove the cover to help evaporate some of the liquid.
Place a colander over a large bowl and pour the contents of the skillet into it to drain. Stir carefully to avoid crushing the vegetables while trying to encourage any trapped oil and juices to drain. Quickly cool down the captured juices in order to remove as much oil as possible. If there is a lot of juice, boil it down until thick. Reserve all the frying oil and oil from the vegetables for another use. Pour the juices over the vegetables, taste for seasoning, add vinegar, and carefully stir to combine. Serve hot or cold. Sprinkle with fresh herbs.
“Although coquilles St-Jacques simply means “scallops” in French, in the idiom of American cooks, the term is synonymous with the old French dish of scallops poached in white wine, placed atop a purée of mushrooms in a scallop shell, covered with a sauce made of the scallop poaching liquid, and gratinéed under a broiler. This rich, classic recipe was a signature dish of most of the small French restaurants in New York when I came here in the late 1950s. While working at Le Pavillon back then, I must have made it thousands of times. These days, most chefs, myself included, have moved away somewhat from that dish, favoring lighter preparations. But I’ll tell you one thing: last time I made coquilles St-Jacques, it was for students at Boston University. I prepared two dishes for them: scallops cooked in a modern way, served with a green herb salad, and also the classic, gratinéed version. Now, these were not chefs-in-training; they didn’t know what they were supposed to like. And there wasn’t one student who didn’t choose the old way over the new. It just goes to show: Truly good food never really goes out of style.” —Jacques Pepin, chef, cookbook author, and PBS-TV cooking series host
8 oz. button mushrooms, minced
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 small shallots, minced
2 tablespoons minced parsley
1 tablespoons minced tarragon, plus 6 whole leaves, to garnish
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
3/4 cup dry vermouth
1 bay leaf
6 large sea scallops
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup heavy cream
2/3 cup grated Gruyère
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Heat mushrooms, 4 tablespoons butter, and 2⁄3 of the shallots in a 4-qt. saucepan over medium heat; cook until the mixture forms a loose paste, about 25 minutes. Stir the parsley and minced tarragon into the mushroom mixture; season with salt and pepper.
Divide mixture among 6 cleaned scallop shells or shallow gratin dishes. Bring remaining shallots, vermouth, bay leaf, salt, and 3⁄4 cup water to a boil in a 4-qt. saucepan over medium heat. Add scallops; cook until barely tender, about 2 minutes.
Remove scallops; place each over mushrooms in shells. Continue boiling cooking liquid until reduced to 1⁄2 cup, about 10 minutes; strain.
Heat broiler to high. Heat remaining butter in a 2-qt. saucepan over medium heat. Add flour; cook until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add reduced cooking liquid and cream; cook until thickened, about 8 minutes. Add cheese, juice, salt, and pepper; divide the sauce over scallops.
Broil until browned on top, about 3 minutes; garnish each with a tarragon leaf.
This hearty dish from southwestern France, known as a cassoulet, is a one-pot meal. A slow-simmered mix of beans, pork sausages, pork shoulder, pancetta and duck topped with a bread crumb crust , takes its name from the earthenware casserole in which it was traditionally made.
1 lb. dried great northern beans
10 tablespoons duck fat or olive oil
16 cloves garlic, smashed
2 onions, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 large ham hocks
1 lb. pork shoulder, cut into 1″cubes
1⁄2 lb. pancetta, cubed
4 sprigs oregano
4 sprigs thyme
3 bay leaves
1 cup whole peeled canned tomatoes
1 cup white wine
2 cups chicken broth
4 duck legs
1 lb. pork sausages
2 cups bread crumbs
Soak the beans in a 4-qt. bowl in 7 1⁄2 cups water overnight.
Heat 2 tablespoons of duck fat in a 6-qt. pot over medium-high heat. Add half the garlic, onions, and carrots and cook until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Add ham hocks along with beans and their water and boil. Reduce heat and simmer beans until tender, about 1 1⁄2 hours.
Transfer ham hocks to a plate; let cool. Pull off meat; discard skin, bone, and gristle. Chop meat; add to beans. Set aside.
Heat 2 tablespoons duck fat in a 5-qt. dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add pork and brown for 8 minutes. Add pancetta; cook for 5 minutes. Add remaining garlic, onions, and carrots; cook until lightly browned, about 10 minutes.
Tie together oregano, thyme, and bay leaves with twine; add to pan with tomatoes; cook until liquid thickens, 8–10 minutes. Add wine; reduce by half. Add broth; boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook, uncovered, until liquid has thickened, about 1 hour. Discard herbs; set dutch oven aside.
Sear the duck legs in 2 tablespoons duck fat in a 12″ skillet over medium-high heat for 8 minutes; transfer to a plate. Brown the sausages in the fat, about 8 minutes. Cut sausages into 1⁄2″ slices. Pull duck meat off bones. Discard fat and bones. Stir duck and sausages into pork stew.
Heat the oven to 300˚F. Mix beans and pork stew in a 4-qt. earthenware casserole. Cover with bread crumbs; drizzle with remaining duck fat.
Bake, uncovered, for 3 hours. Raise oven temperature to 500˚; cook the cassoulet until the crust is golden, about 5 minutes.
Credit for inventing Crêpes Suzette is claimed by French restaurateur Henri Charpentier, who in 1894, at age 14, while an assistant waiter, accidentally set the sauce aflame when serving this dessert to the Prince of Wales. Once the fire subsided, the sauce was so delicious that the prince asked that the dish be named for a young girl in his entourage, Suzette.
For the Crêpes
6 tablespoons flour
6 tablespoons milk
3 tablespoons heavy cream
Unsalted butter, as needed
For the Sauce
16 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
10 tablespoons sugar
7 tablespoons Cointreau
1 tablespoons Kirsch
1 teaspoon orange flower water
5 tablespoons cognac
Make the crêpe batter:
Whisk together flour and eggs in a medium bowl. Add milk and cream, and whisk until smooth. Pour through a fine strainer into a bowl, cover, and refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight.
Prepare the sauce:
Use a vegetable peeler to remove rind from 2 of the oranges, avoiding pith; mince rind and set aside. Juice all the oranges and set juice aside. In a medium bowl, beat butter and 1⁄2 cup sugar on high-speed of a hand mixer until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add rind to butter and beat for 1 minute. Gradually drizzle in juice, 2 tbsp. of the Cointreau, Kirsch and orange flower water, beating constantly until very light and fluffy, about 2 minutes more.
Make the crêpes:
Heat a seasoned crêpe pan or small nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Grease pan with a little butter, then pour in 1⁄4 cup batter. Working quickly, swirl batter to just coat pan, and cook until edges brown, about 1 minute. Turn with a spatula and brown other side for about 30 seconds. Transfer to a plate and repeat with remaining batter, greasing pan only as needed.
Melt orange butter sauce in a 12″ skillet over medium heat until bubbling. Dip both sides of one crêpe in sauce, then, with best side facing down, fold in half, then in half again. Repeat process with remaining crêpes, arranging and overlapping them around the perimeter of the pan. Sprinkle with remaining sugar. Remove pan from heat, pour remaining Cointreau and the cognac over crêpes, and carefully ignite with a match. Spoon sauce over crêpes until flame dies out, and then serve immediately.