Let’s Go Moroccan
Sephardi food at its best.
Spicy Moroccan Chicken,
Liver and Lamb Meatballs
I always loved this Sephardi dish I grew up with: In the finished dish the chicken breasts were diced, the chicken livers were whole and the lamb was shaped into meatballs. I made it and it was quite delicious but a little messy. When I recently asked my mother how she kept every item so neat and presentable, her “secret” was just too time consuming. Next time around, I ground everything and made meatballs with the whole mixture, and I found making the dish much more accessible and low maintenance, and every bit as delicious. You can save time further by buying the chicken livers broiled: make sure they are broiled properly, not all dried out: We want them tender and creamy!
- 4 cups water
- 2 teaspoons turmeric
- 2 tablespoons paprika
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 good pinches red pepper flakes, a little more if you like it hotter
- 1 pound ground lamb
- 1 pound chicken cutlets
- 1 pound broiled chicken livers
- 8 cloves garlic
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup warm water
- ground pepper to taste
- 1 tablespoon cumin (goes in all the way at the end)
- 4 tablespoons minced parsley, for garnish
Bring the first set of ingredients to boil in a wide heavy pot. Process all meatballs ingredients until smooth. Transfer the ground mixture to a bowl. Form meatballs, and throw in the hot liquid as you shape them, using up the whole mixture. Reduce the flame to medium, and cook covered 30 minutes. Stir in the cumin and cook 5 more minutes. Check the liquid in the pot: If it is too thin, reduce on a high flame until thickened to the consistency of maple syrup. Transfer the meatballs and their sauce to a platter. Sprinkle with parsley. Serve hot.
Moroccan Spicy Romaine
Lettuce Chickpea Salad
One of my favorites, overlaid with Moroccan flavors. All of you out there always asking how we turn a same old, same old salad into an exciting Sephardi main course salad: You can glorify it even further by throwing in some leftover diced fish or chicken, or make it dairy, and throw in some crumbled feta.
- 8 cloves garlic
- 3 ribs celery, peeled
- 1 jalapeño, stem cut off
- 1 bunch flat-leaf parsley
- ½ preserved lemon, skin only, rinsed (page 19 settle for zest of 2 lemons if you don’t have any on hand)
- ½ cup olive oil
- 1∕3 cup fresh lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons cumin
- 1 tablespoon oregano
- Bottled hot sauce to taste
- 3 cups canned chickpeas (1 large can), drained and rinsed
- 6 plum tomatoes, seeded and diced small
- 1 cup pitted Moroccan (oil-cured) olives
- ¼ cup capers
- 3 romaine hearts, sliced very thin
Make the dressing: In a food processor, finely grind the garlic, celery, jalapeño, parsley, and preserved lemon. Add the oil, lemon, cumin, oregano, and
hot sauce, and pulse just 1–2 times, until combined but still chunky.
Place all the salad ingredients in a platter. Toss with the dressing. Serve at room temperature.
Makes 8 servings.
Moroccan Potato, Tomato and Olive Tajine (All Variations)
Sephardi food at its best and most fragrant. Straight from the Moroccan kitchen of my childhood. Ridiculously simple ingredients and hardly any labor. I have included several variations to make it a full one-pot dish, but you can choose to go without and make this a wonderful all-vegetable main course or just a side dish. When you see what magic the preserved lemon does to this dish, you will never ever want to run out! This said, if you do run out, use fresh lemons.
- 2 dozen very small organic potatoes, unpeeled, halved potatoes (only organic potatoes are safe with their skin on)
- 2 dozen green pitted olives, rinsed
- 2 cups canned crushed tomatoes, or 4 plum tomatoes, diced small
- 1 medium onion, sliced very thin
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- Good pinch red pepper flakes, optional
- 3 cups water
- 1 small bunch parsley
- ¼ preserved lemon skin only, rinsed (settle for 1 fresh lemon, sliced thin, skin and all, but use it in the first set of ingredients above)
- 4 sprigs cilantro, tough stems, discarded
Bring the first set of ingredients to boil in a wide heavy pot. Reduce the heat to medium and cook covered for 30 minutes.
In a food processor, finely grind the parsley, preserved lemon, and cilantro and stir this mixture gently into the pot. Cook another 15 minutes With a slotted spoon, transfer all ingredients to a platter, leaving mostly the cooking liquids. If they are too thin, reduce a few minutes on a high flame until the sauce thickens, and pour evenly over the dish. Serve hot. Room temperature OK too. Makes 8 servings.
- Use 2 large heads fennel, cut in thin wedges, instead of, or in addition to, the potatoes. Proceed just as above.
- Use a large head celery root, cut into 1″ cubes, instead of, or in addition to, the potatoes. Proceed just as above.
- Use a dozen frozen and thawed artichoke bottoms, larger ones quartered, instead of, or in addition to, the potatoes. Proceed just as above.
- Make this a chicken main dish. Cook the dish with chicken pieces. Proceed just as above, cooking the dish a little longer if necessary until the chicken is tender.
- Make this a fish main dish. Add sliced salmon or other thick-sliced fish, or tilapia fillets, all boneless, after about 15 minutes. Proceed just as above.
- Make this a vegetarian main dish. Add extra firm tofu or tempeh, diced, or two cups cooked chickpeas. Proceed just as above.
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