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Archive for June, 2012

Cauliflower Soup, North African-Inspired

June 25th, 2012 13 comments

I love this soup. Pureed cauliflower is smooth, thick and surprisingly creamy—without adding any cream at all. The recipe is adapted from a soup found in Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home. I have prepared this soup many times, changing it a little bit each time. I love it because it’s tasty, healthy and keeps well for days.

The spices in the soup suit the Arab palate. Cumin, one of the indispensable spices of Moroccan cooking, along with a touch of ginger, gives this soup a distinct North African flavor. The chopped tomatoes are more than garnish; they provide a sweet, cool contrast to the creamy soup.

Cauliflower Soup

Serves 4-6

1 Tablespoon olive oil

2 medium-large onions, chopped (about 2½ cups)

2 gloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoons ground cumin

¼ teaspoon ground ginger

Pinch cayenne (optional)

1½ teaspoon ground fennel (optional)

2 potatoes, diced (about 2 cups)

1 medium head cauliflower, chopped (about 5 cups)

4-5 cups hot water and/or vegetable or chicken stock

1½ teaspoons salt (or to taste)

Freshly ground pepper, to taste

Juice from one lemon

Garnish

2 small tomatoes, finely chopped

Chives, green onions or parsley, chopped

Lemon wedges

Method

  1. In a large soup pot over medium heat, sauté onions in the oil for 5 minutes until translucent. Lower heat and stir in the garlic, cumin, ginger, cayenne and fennel, if using. Stir briefly, add potatoes and cook for another minute.
  2. Add 4 cups hot water and/or stock. Turn up heat and bring to boil. Add the cauliflower and return to boil. Lower heat, cover, and simmer for 12 minutes or until vegetables are tender.
  3. In a food processor or blender or with an emulsion blender, purée the mixture until smooth. If it’s too thick, add all or part of the extra cup of liquid. Add lemon juice, salt and pepper. Gently reheat soup over low heat.
  4. Serve with a generous garish of chopped tomatoes, as well as a sprinkle of parsley, green onions or chives.

 

Question: What is your favorite North African soup?

Book Review ~ Marrakesh by Design by Maryam Montague

June 14th, 2012 8 comments

It’s not often that I read an interior design book cover to cover. I had been waiting for some time for Marrakesh by Design, published last month and written by Maryam Montague, an American expat and hotel-owner living in Morocco. She writes the well-regarded blog My Marrakesh, and her home was featured in the April issue of Elle Decor magazine.

There is a certain flair to Moroccan design—something I haven’t observed in other Arab countries. Of course, there are beautiful items from all over the Middle East and North Africa, but when I see iconic objects like painted tea glasses, a fanciful teapot, pierced lantern, door knocker, tagine, colorful pouf, or pointy slippers, I think that’s Moroccan, and I have a clear association with the country.

Meanwhile, many design elements highlighted in the book are not unique to Morocco but are Islamic and Arabian—familiar all around the region. As the author states, Morocco has design influence from the Arabs, Berbers, Turks, Spanish, French and other African countries.

This eclectic blend is featured in the book’s captivating photographs of real homes in Morocco. The author, who took most of the photos herself, showcases a wide range of living spaces—from simple to bohemian, from grand to humble, and from traditional to surprisingly contemporary and whimsical.

Going way beyond adding a pouf or lantern to your living room, this book is divided into three parts. The first part “Discovering Moroccan Style” explores the architecture, colors, finishes and patterns of the country. Here the author goes into the artisanal and craft traditions of Morocco. I especially enjoyed the chapters on patterns and color.

The second part “Living Moroccan Style” provides examples of how to incorporate this style into bedrooms, salons, bathrooms, entries, gardens, and my favorite—kitchens. The last part of the book offers tips for buying carpets, pottery and all those distinctive Moroccan items. Finally, the book ends with lists of sources online and around the world for gathering these goodies.

The information is surprisingly detailed, like that on the art of zellij (mosaic tile), as well as the layout of the traditional Moroccan home and the meaning behind various motifs. Throughout the book are “Bring it Home” sidebars with hands-on projects for all types of living spaces. These practical ideas are interspersed with cultural information on such things as Moroccan greetings, superstitions, and even how to make Moroccan mint tea—all good stuff for lovers of Morocco.

As for me, the book has been a bit of a revelation. I have been collecting Arabian bric-a-brac for the past twenty years. But after I while, I stopped seeing my own things; they began to look like clutter. I drew inspiration from Maryam’s photos, which gave me fresh eyes to see my own home, my collections and the potential therein.

Granted, I will not be stenciling my ceiling, re-tiling my bathroom, or making a fountain out of a flower pot. However, I just might add a pierced lantern above my dining table, buy a Berber carpet, rearrange my Hand of Fatima collection, and plant some jasmine by my door.

Marrakesh by Design is for anyone who adores all things Moroccan or Arabian. Even if you are (like me) more of a daydreamer than a decorator, the photos alone are worth this book’s place on your coffee table—crafted, of course, out of an antique window.

To know more, here’s a 1-minute video introduction to Marrakesh by Design.

 

Question: What are your thoughts on Moroccan design or this book?

Roasted Bell Pepper Salad

June 10th, 2012 11 comments

I love serving this salad because it has a colorful presentation and it’s so healthy. The sweet peppers combine well with the salty goat cheese and citrusy lemon peel. Plus, it can be made ahead, and it holds up for hours.  The leftover bell peppers (if there are any) can be slipped into a sandwich or green salad or eaten cold out of the fridge.

The dish, which can be served as a starter or side salad, is adapted from a recipe in Flavors of Morocco by Ghillie Bason, one of my favorite Moroccan cookbooks, simply for its gorgeous photography.

This salad calls for preserved lemon rind, a common ingredient in Moroccan cooking and something you can easily make at home. However, it does take a month for them to be ready, so if you don’t have this ingredient handy, you can still make this colorful and flavorful salad.

Roasted Bell Pepper Salad

          Serves 6 as a side dish

4 large red, orange and/or yellow bell peppers (no green)

3-4 Tablespoons olive oil

2 Tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped

½ small red onion, finely chopped

1 small package (125 g, 4½ oz.) goat cheese, crumbled (or substitute feta)

¼ rind preserved lemon or more, finely chopped (optional)

Method

1. Roast the peppers. This can be done in advance or the day before. Preheat oven to 350° F (180° C or Gas Mark 4). Place the peppers in a baking dish and drizzle the olive oil over top. Don’t skimp on the oil, as you will use it later in the salad. Roast for 30 minutes or more until the skin is wrinkly, buckled and partially browned. Reserve the pepper-infused oil to use later. Allow peppers to cool.

2. Peel skin off peppers (as much as you can). Remove stalks and cut each pepper lengthwise into quarters. Trim and remove seeds. Store in refrigerator until ready to use.

3. Arrange peppers on a platter, alternating colors, skin-side down. Mix the parsley and chopped onion and scatter over peppers. Next, sprinkle the crumbled goat cheese, followed by preserved lemon, if using. Finally, drizzle the reserved oil over the top. Serve at room temperature.

Question: How do you serve roasted bell peppers?