North African Archive

Monday, May 17, 2010

carrot salad with harissa, feta and mint

carrot salad with harissa, feta and mint

There’s nothing better than a recipe that gives you a feeling of promise, especially when it involves something as mundane as carrots. Yes, carrots. I mean, just when I thought I’d done everything worth doing with carrots — shredding them into my favorite carrot salad, pickling them, roasting them for an avocado salad, grinding them into a ginger dressing, grating them into Indian vegetable pancakes — a reader (Hi, Sasa!) came along, emailed me her favorite carrot recipe and with one look, I knew exactly what my carrot routine was missing.

soaking the carrots
garlic

It turned out to be a lot of things (fortunately, none of them were striped socks), actually, but small things: paprika, caraway, cumin, harissa, mint, garlic, parley and also feta. The carrots are grated, the spices are heated with a pinch of sugar in olive oil, whisked with lemon juice and poured warm over the carrots, with minced mint and parsley — think North African pesto. You let the flavors muddle for a bit and then you add feta. And I know this is when I should say “You can eat it with lamb! At a picnic! With skewers off the grill and pitas!” But honestly, I just ate it with a fork. Because this salad is fascinating.

peeled carrotsshreddedharissa, cumin, corriander, paprikaspices to heat

Continued after the jump »

Thursday, November 5, 2009

moroccan-spiced spaghetti squash

spiced spaghetti squash

I keep promising you all some quick, easy recipes but sharing instead a mousse that requires at least five bowls and an electric mixer that must be washed down no less than three times, a quiche that has at least three different components, cauliflower that demands you cook each ingredient separately and a from-scratch doughnut recipe that entails reducing, rolling, freezing, frying and dipping. I have no doubt that you’re standing out there in front of your monitor, hands on hips, demanding answers. Except I don’t have any logic or rationale that will explain I choose to use my limited free minutes of time to make elaborate recipes and not, say, dinner, I only have this one peace offering today.

spaghetti squashscooping out seedsspaghetti squash innardsroasted

There’s a caveat, however. This is a ridiculously quick recipe if you have a microwave. We used to but don’t any longer so it still took over an hour, but it’s an hour that requires only a few minutes of hands-on time. Still, it is my favorite preparation of spaghetti squash, not only because it is delicious but because it approaches winter squash in my favorite way: by waking it up. I’ve never had a taste for squash recipes with cream or sugar or piles of cinnamon; I think the natural sweetness of squash is best contrasted with bolder ingredients, like garlic and tahini, jalapenos, olives and preserved lemons, chile-lime vinagrettes, hearty beans and ham or cayenne-dusted caramelized onions. I think you get the picture.

scraping the squash strands

Continued after the jump »

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

squash and chickpea moroccan stew

Squash and Chickpea Moroccan Stew

Our first night in Paris in October, we had dinner at a great, inexpensive Moroccan restaurant in the 3ème called Chez Omar. The specialty is couscous, and the various stews you ladle over it. Alex had the chicken, I had the vegetables, but I hear we really missed out on the Royal, which is a big mess of meat. Served family style, the food was unpretentious, light and so healthy, I made a mental bookmark to try my hand at it when I got home.

chickpea squash stew mise

Which, being me, I promptly forgot about. What jogged my memory was a version of a Moroccan vegetable stew on Ask Aida on the Food Network last week. I think that Moroccan cooking can be intimidating: I don’t have a 1 3/4-Quart Le Crueset Cast Iron Moroccan Tagine in Caribbean Blue for the low price of $200, nor do I have one I picked up for $2.95 at the central souk in Marrakesh in 1968. (Okay, I wasn’t even alive in 1968 but for some reason, everyone but me seems to have a story about something fabulous they bought there when backpacking across the world and I am jealous.) I also don’t have a couscousier, yet astoundingly, I was able to pull off this squash and chickpea stew for dinner on Sunday, and it was delicious.

stew, simmering

Continued after the jump »