Posts Tagged 'Moroccan'

Moroccan Braised Veal Shanks

Some friends came to dinner the other night, and I needed to make something that met both their dietary habits and my desire not to have leftovers that have too much fat for me to eat. One of my principles is to only make food that I can eat – and that includes leftovers in the freezer for lunches and hasty dinners.  My friends don’t eat gluten and most starches, including potatoes and rice, and I, of course, focus on low fat eating.  I was beginning to feel like that nursery rhyme about “Jack Sprat could eat no fat, his wife could eat no lean.”

I started the meal with roasted cherry tomatoes over goat cheese and baby greens.

I am really enamored of these roasted cherry tomatoes.  I make them every couple of weeks and spoon them hot over chicken or fish, or most frequently cold on good bread or crackers spread with a Laughing Cow cheese wedge and topped with the tomatoes.

I really felt like making something Moroccan, but had to find a recipe that wasn’t heavy on fruit and honey, which are so typical of this North African cuisine. These braised veal shanks were perfect, and they even contain sweet potato, which is one of my friend’s favorite dishes (and one of the few starches she still eats.)  Instead of serving it over couscous, which would be its more usual presentation, I made a wild rice pilaf, which I will post later. Wild rice is actually a grass, and not in the same category as wheat and other grains.

This recipe, originally from Cooking Light, kind of puzzled me, because the serving size math seemed to be wrong. It called for 4 pounds of veal shanks. Even if there were a pound of bone in the veal shanks, that still leaves about 48 ounces of meat. But the recipe said it made six 3 ounce servings, which is mathematically impossible. That would only be 18 ounces of meat, total, and this made much more.  I used cross-cut veal shanks, which may have been a bit meatier, even after the fat was trimmed away, although many pieces had only a little meat.

The finished braised veal filled one of my largest pans.

I estimate that there were easily 12 servings – I’m going to be eating the leftovers forever – yum.

Moroccan Braised Veal Shanks

Spice rub:
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon black pepper
4 (16-ounce) veal shanks (because I used cross-cut shanks, I just purchased 4 lbs., rather than 4 shanks.

Remaining ingredients:
1 Tablespoon olive oil
3 cups chopped onion (I chopped the onion, celery, and carrot in the food processor)
3/4 cup chopped celery
3/4 cup diced carrot
2 Tablespoons chopped garlic cloves
2 teaspoons minced peeled fresh ginger
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 Tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon ground coriander
3 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1 cup dry white wine
3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
3 cups (1/2-inch) cubed peeled butternut squash or sweet potato (I used sweet potato)
4 carrots, cut into 1-inch-thick pieces (about 8 ounces)
1 14 ounce can drained canned chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
4 teaspoons (or more) chopped fresh mint (optional) for garnish

Preheat oven to 350°.

To prepare spice rub, combine first 6 ingredients in a small bowl. Trim fat from veal; rub surface of veal with spice rub. Set aside.

Heat oil in a (very) large Dutch oven or large heavy stockpot over medium-high heat. Add veal; cook 3 minutes on each side. Remove from pan. Add onion, celery, diced carrot, garlic, and ginger; cover, reduce heat, and cook 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in 1 teaspoon turmeric, paprika, and coriander. Add broth, wine, juice, and tomato paste, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Return veal to pan; bring to a boil. Cover and bake at 350° for 45 minutes. Turn shanks; add squash, carrot pieces, and chick peas. Cover and bake an additional 45 minutes or until veal shreds easily with a fork. Remove veal from pan, and remove meat from bones.  Return veal to pan  and stir into other ingredients.

Serve veal and vegetable mixture over couscous or other pilaf. Garnish with mint, if desired. Makes 12 servings at about 6 grams of fat/serving.

Veal with wild rice pilaf


Moroccan Carrot Salad

The tree is finally decorated.*

I am spending Christmas Eve making something to take to my neighbor’s house tomorrow for Christmas dinner. They requested a side dish and, because I couldn’t decide which to make, I made two – a Moroccan carrot salad and a broccoli gorgonzola casserole. Both of these are make-aheads, which is exactly what I want so I can have a relaxed Christmas morning, which I hope will include a long soak in my giant bubble tub. The broccoli awaits the crumb topping and baking tomorrow, so here is the salad.

This recipe, originally from the New York Times, includes rose water, which can be gotten in some super markets and in Asian stores. Rose water is very evocative to me. I open the bottle and I am transported back to Mumbai, where I sit, sari-clad, on the flat roof of our apartment building. It is evening, and the other women in the building are also on the roof, eating bhelpuri (a puffed rice, cilantro and  savories snack) and sweets scented with rose water. We laugh, talk, and tease one another in a brief respite from days spent cooking for husbands and tending children. The rose water in this salad is not very strong, but it gives the carrot a slightly mysterious flowery essence.

Moroccan Carrot Salad
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
5 large carrots, peeled and coarsely grated (3 1/2 to 4 cups)
1/2 cup golden raisins
1 Tablespoon rose water
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
4 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup finely chopped parsley
Salt and black pepper to taste
1 Tablespoon sugar, optional

Toast the coriander and cumin in a dry pan over medium-high heat, shaking often to avoid burning, until just fragrant and slightly darker, about 3 minutes. Although the recipe did not call for it, I crushed the coriander and cumin in a mortar and pestle so the pieces in the salad would be smaller. I think you can use them either way.
Combine spices with remaining ingredients in a bowl and mix well. I added a tablespoon of sugar at this point because my carrots were not very sweet. Refrigerate, covered, for one hour or up to 24 hours. Stir before serving. Makes 6 servings at about 3 grams of fat/serving.

*What, you may ask, is a nice Jewish girl doing with a Christmas tree? I have been collecting ornaments for over 40 years. It all started innocently with an ornament received as a gift, and now anyone who knows me will tell you I am obsessed.  There are no lights on my tree to detract from my precious ornaments, and I hang each one and remember where I got it and why. It is like a memory book I open each Christmas.

Moroccan Vegetable Stew

Has this ever happened to you – you have the big holiday meal planned down to the dessert, and then your Aunt Bea calls to let you know that your Cousin Lynn is now a strict vegetarian and is rather upset when she has to eat around the edges of meat-based meals.  Now what do you do? Your Passover dinner focuses on brisket or lamb; your planned Easter dinner has a ham centerpiece.

This Moroccan Vegetable Stew is a meal centerpiece in itself. I created it from a combination of similar stews when the caterer for our congregation’s community Passover seder needed to come up with a main dish to serve alongside the roast chicken.  We needed a dish to meet both the needs of our several vegetarians, plus the rules of Passover, which in our congregation means no flour, naturally (and thus no pasta), no mixing of milk and meat on the table, and no beans or grains.  It also had to be capable of being made ahead, and not too difficult to prepare. A tall order!

The beauty of this stew is that it meets all the criteria and is absolutely delicious.  You can also improvise a bit on the vegetables and use what you have at hand, although I recommend keeping the carrots and eggplant. I have substituted green beans, zucchini, and squash for the parsnips with great results.  The trick is to cut all the vegetables to about the same size.  It cooks in the slow cooker, so it is no fuss. The stew is mysteriously sweet, given that it has no added sugar, and has a little kick to it because of the cayenne pepper. If you want to have a bit less kick, reduce the amount of pepper.

You can serve it over couscous (but not for Passover) or rice, or serve sour cream or yogurt with it to dollop on top (no, not for Passover).  I made a big cooker full this morning before I went out for a meeting.  When I came home late in the evening, the house smelled sweet and spicy.  The weather had turned to a cold rain, but I had a big bowl of this stew to warm me.

So go out, get some vegetables, throw them in the slow cooker, and by the time Cousin Lynn shows up she’ll think you slaved all day to make a special dish for her.  But don’t be surprised if all the other relatives polish off bowls of it – at our community seder it is almost more popular than the chicken.

Moroccan Vegetable Stew

1 Tablespoon olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
5  cups vegetable (or chicken) broth (about 3 cans)
4 large carrots peeled and cut into 1/2-inch lengths
2½ cups eggplant, peeled and diced into 1 inch pieces (about 1 medium eggplant)
2½ cups parsnips peeled and cut into 1/2-inch lengths
2 cups cauliflower broken into small florets
1 cup diced onion
2 cans (14 1/2 oz. each) stewed tomatoes (be sure to get the original and not Mexican or Italian)
¾ cup dried currants
1½ teaspoons kosher salt

Pour olive oil into a small frying pan over medium-low heat. Add garlic and spices and cook, stirring often until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes, being careful not to scorch the garlic. Set aside.

Add broth, carrots, eggplant, parsnips, cauliflower, onion, stewed tomatoes (with juices), currants, salt, and the garlic spice mixture to a slow cooker (at least 5 quart) and stir to combine.  I mixed a bit of the broth into the spice mixture so I could scrape every bit of it  out of the pan.

Vegetables waiting to be diced

Cover slow-cooker and cook on high until vegetables are tender to bite and flavors are blended, 8 to 9 hours. Makes 6 servings (more as a side dish) at about 3 grams of fat/serving.

Variation: Some recipes called for ladling about 3 cups of the vegetable mixture into a blender, holding the lid down with a towel and whirling until smooth. Return purée to slow cooker and stir to blend. This makes a somewhat thicker gravy, but it is not necessary

Chicken Tagine with Figs, Apricots, and Honey

I received a tagine for Christmas. A tagine is a conical, round earthenware pot with a lid designed to lock in the moisture and flavors of the food, allowing them to be cooked in a small amount of liquid. The food typically cooked in a tagine is also called tagine – which is an aromatic, spicy stew, often containing fruit. The secret of a succulent tagine is to simmer the meat or vegetables in a seasoned, fragrant liquid over a very low heat, so that the food stays moist and tender. Also, the dried fruit is added when the food is almost cooked, so they don’t turn to mush.

Originally a Berber dish, tagines have evolved as successive waves of Arabs and Ottomans migrated though North Africa.  Traditionally, the earthenware tagine was used over a charcoal fire, which diffused the heat. The conical lid has a hole in the top that lets steam escape, If you are cooking a tagine (the food) in a regular casserole or pan, you need to tip the lid occasionally to let the steam escape.

The cookbook that came with my tagine cautions that an earthenware tagine cannot be used on a gas or electric burner, so it is prudent to cook this tasty dish in a conventional casserole, and then if you have guests serve it in the tagine for impact.  I think it can be used successfully in an oven, although it seems a bit large for that (It’s also a bit large to store in a closet – it is going to have to be a decorative item between cooking.).

I created this chicken tagine from the assorted dried fruit I had in the house. Chicken thighs are a rich enough meat to stand up to the long simmering in an aromatic liquid.  Often, tagines are served on a mound of couscous where the top has been indented and the tagine poured in the center. I ate it with a crusty bread, which is more traditional for an everyday tagine, although I served the very tasty leftovers over rice.

Chicken Tagine with Figs, Apricots and Honey

12 dried figs
8 dried apricots
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 medium onions, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, minced
a pinch of saffron threads
2 cinnamon sticks
2 teaspoons ground coriander
8 skinless, boneless chicken thighs, trimmed of fat, and cut into bite-size pieces
3-4 strips of orange zest, sliced thin (see Hint)
1 Tablespoon honey
sea salt and ground black pepper to taste
¼ cup cilantro leave, chopped

This is one of those dishes where I found it convenient to get everything prepared before I actually started the cooking process.
Clockwise from the mountain of onions and garlic at the bottom, there are the soaked, dried fruit; orange zest strips; a little bowl with the ginger, saffron, coriander and cinnamon sticks; the cut up chicken thighs, and a bowl of cilantro.

Place figs and apricots in a medium bowl, cover with water and set aside to soak for an hour. Drain figs and apricots, saving soaking water. If the figs and apricots are large, cut them in half. Set aside.

Heat oil in a large heavy-bottomed pan or casserole over medium high heat. Add onions and garlic, and cook, stirring occasionally until the onions are soft and golden. Add ginger, saffron, cinnamon sticks, and coriander, stirring gently for about a minute. Add chicken and stir until the pieces are thoroughly coated with the onions and spices. Saute for 2 minutes. Pour soaking liquid over chicken. Add additional water if necessary to just cover the chicken. Bring to a boil, cover the pan, reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally and lifting the pot lid to let the steam out.

Stir in figs, apricots, and orange peel. Cover and simmer for an additional 15 minutes. Stir in honey and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and cook for an additional 10 minutes. Make sure there is enough liquid in the pot, because the sauce should be syrupy, but not dry. Stir in cilantro.  Remove cinnamon sticks if you’d like. Serve immediately (although it was really good reheatd).  This makes 6 servings at about 8 grams of fat/serving.

Hint: If you are going to use orange peel in your cooking, purchase an organic orange so you don’t get chemicals in your food.

Moroccan Spiced Oranges

This is a delightful dish – a slightly exotic fruit salad that is very easy to prepare.  The original recipe, from Cooking Light calls this a dessert.  But I typically serve it as a buffet side dish (it doubles easily).  It is a refreshing complement to heavier meat and vegetable dishes.  It is also a great leftover for breakfast or lunch.

Moroccan Spiced Oranges

2 ½ cups orange sections, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 6 oranges)
¼ cup slivered almonds
2 ½ Tablespoons chopped pitted dates
1 Tablespoon powdered sugar
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl, tossing to combine. Cover; chill 20 minutes.  This makes 4 servings at 3.6 grams of fat/serving.

Variation: The fat in this recipe comes primarily from the almonds.  I have made it without the almonds, which will make it virtually a no fat recipe.  It is still quite good, although perhaps not quite as exotic.

HINT: I always struggled to peel the oranges and get enough of the white pith off the sections (the pith is bitter).  I was making a double recipe, and got tired of peeling, when it occurred to me that a grapefruit knife, with its serrated curved blade, would make quick work of the orange sections. I cut the oranges in half lengthwise, then cut each half into 4-5 pieces.  I used the grapefruit knife to cut the orange away from the skin, then cut each section into pieces.



I have lost 200 pounds. I did not do it through surgery – I don’t like knives and needles – or by joining a club, vigorous exercise, or rigorous dieting. I did it by gourmet cooking. To be precise, by cooking low fat, really delicious food. I love to cook as much as I love to eat. Food magazines are some of my favorite reading. I would feel deprived if I couldn’t have the sensuous experience of good food crossing my lips. This blog is about my perpetual feast, my passionate love of food, with recipes, photos, and occasional advice and principles that I have learned along the way.

More about me.

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