Friday, May 23, 2008

The Moroccan Experiment


I've worked myself into a rut with my cooking. There are buckets (literally! ha) of fresh herbs growing just outside my back door, and yet...ummm...I don't know how to use them.

...Yet!

This has got to change!

So, the exciting, exotic creature that I am (she says, pulling out the bellydance workout video she never used, for background music), I decided to try some Moroccan recipes. I'm drawn to them because for the most part, there are a few that require only basic ingredients with which I'm familiar. Those, plus about a bazillion spices, but not as daunting a list as, oh, say, Indian food.

If you have any Moroccan or Indian entree recipes that are first of all EASY, and secondly EASY, not to mention EASY, please forward them here for my experimentation. I don't have fancy or expensive cookware or a food processor, and must venture beyond the boundaries of Southern American Soul Food and the trusty PBJ. My oversize stockpile bag of Basmati rice is sulking in the pantry and begs for some stove time, and a worthy sauce or meat for companionship.


I have a childlike fancy for open air markets of any sort, and have always wanted to visit the North African souks if for not other reason than to absorb the riot of colors, fragrances, sounds, sights, and to people-watch. Oh, and very much to taste! With chicken, lamb, and beef as well as the array of vegetables in this cuisine, there is much in the way of kosher ingredients for me to want to recreate. I've indulged these fancies vicariously through such folks as the Not Eating Out in New York City blog, as the blog owner took her own trip to North Africa and wrote from a foodie perspective...you'll love poring over her journal archives of her trip last summer :)

I've indulged in a couple hours' online search for Moroccan recipes, each new find leading to other new finds, further taxing my amended grocery list...and sucking me deep into the swirling vortex of online-inspired kitchen possibilities. And now I'm feeling overwhelmed in that way that makes me take a deep breath and proclaim it'll be mashed potatoes and baked chicken again tonight. That's what I get for not planning a bit better! :)

That said, there are enough recognizable ingredients in some of the recipes I found that I think some unfamiliar combinations of things hiding in my spice cabinet might render some sort of new dish from things I already have. What'll it hurt to try?? I'm drawn to the unfamiliar, and looking into a pot of the same chicken thighs mixed with some unlikely (to me) companion ingredients becomes a leap to a land of spices and mystery simply by changing its description from "chicken thighs in sauce" to "Chicken Marrakesh."

I've never combined lamb or chicken with green olives and lemon slow cooked in a savory sauce...nor in a totally different sauce with prunes...nor in a less savory and more sweet presentation with fresh peaches and honey. The nice thing about many of these stews and sauces is that they are slow-cooked (most of the time), and that they are flexible to the incorporation of changing the vegetable portion of ingredients around a bit to include what's in season. I'm after decoding the mystery of specific flavors, namely spice combinations...something unfamiliar to my Southern cooking background, which relies more heavily on heartiness and straightforward-ness, strong sweet tea, and gravy on or with everything. Southern cooking elevates basic "peasant foods" to a feast. It's shy on fragrant spices, though, and for some reason, my body is craving those a lot more lately.

So, let's see! Can the Southern gal detach from her wedge of cornbread and plate of purple hull peas and sliced tomatoes long enough to go wild with the spice cabinet? Can she have the patience to wait as those spices perfume the house for hours while something exotic gurgles and sighs in the slow cooker...and stomachs growl at the prolonged suspense??

I'll experiment this weekend, and shall report back with some of the initial triumphs or goofs. Jack shall be my co-guinea pig and "partner in dine"...ha!

In the meantime, it's nearly shabbat and I'm off to spice something up and get it into the CrockPot so I dont have to cook tonight or tomorrow, and we can leisurely have crockpot Moroccan, with some basmati. At the best, it'll be mysterious and transporting. At worst, it'll be a nice hot dish of chicken and rice :)

I'm off to cook things up, and dance with scarves in the kitchen, and maybe we'll watch some Bogey and Bacall tonight...

Have a lovely night and day tomorrow! The blog is now closed till after shabbat....


Shabbat Shalom!!

8 comments:

Mrs. K's Lemonade Stand said...

You are going to love it. Just you wait and see! :)

ilex said...

Apparently there are a lot of unusual micronutrients found in herbs and spices. After a long winter, I tend to crave them too.

Moroccan food ought to be a great diversion- can't wait to hear about the results. Though really, there's nothing good ol' southern cooking. And remember, too-- many southern food traditions are derived from West African cooking.

That photo is simple gorgeous, sister.

Shabbat shalom.

The Barber Bunch said...

I have never had Moroccan or Indian food. So explore and report.... I can't wait to see what you cook up!

Carolyn

dina said...

Well, if you love open air markets, when I get back from Spain (I'm typing from my hotel room in Madrid) I'll post some of my photos from the lovely market I visited in Altea this past Tuesday - amazing!

Good luck on the experimentation. I'm not sure if they have what you're looking for, but www.cooksillustrated.com is one of my fave web sites, along with www.epicurious.com - both offer great resources.

Blessings,

dina

d. moll, l.ac. said...

Sounds yummy, most spices also serve as digestives and preservatives. With plenty herbs try 1/2 cup lemon juice, 2 cups chopped green onions (or little less), 3/4 cup overnight soaked nuts (almonds, pine nuts, or ..) and one cup herbs (I like to mix parsley and cilantro), 3/4 cup olive oil. Buzz it all up in a blender and use on vegs, ,meat, rice, whatever.

The Barber Bunch said...

Check out http://freedomgardeners.org/home

Twinville said...

I'm in a terrible rut, too. Nothing is inspiring to me and I'm craving fresh foods, veggies, grains and spices.
Meat, gravies, plain sauces, etc are boring the poo out of me.
We've been getting take out way too much because my husband is feeling sorry for me.
But I'm so greatly relieved to hear that I'm not alone. Whew!

I love Indian food and all the flavors. But my kids stick their noses up. But I just can't even look at another dish made with rice, noodles or pasta...and boring flavored chicken. Sigh.

We used to live in South Carolina and I gained way too much weight from eating the Southern Style of cooking and drinking (very) sweet tea.
Good and hearty food, though.

Robbyn said...

Mrs. K...you're right, it IS delicious, and I'm going to try more :)

Ilex, isn't it funny how they discover the benefits of what our bodies seem to be trying to tell us all along? :) I agree with you about Southern cooking, and it's interesting the overlaps of ingredients I'm finding when looking at African foods.

Carolyn, neither have I, other than some Ethiopian food once or twice (which was sooooooo good)...I'll keep trying some out. since I have no idea how it's supposed to turn out, anything'll probably be exciting :)

Dina, can't wait to see your pics of Spain!! thanks for the weblinks...I've been checking out those sites...they have so many choices, I have to stop myself before I get overwhelmed :)

D.Moll...that sounds so good! I'll try it soon! Sound a little like zhug but not as spicy :)

Carolyn, thank you for the link...I'm already signed up at their site but don't have any of the icons because I'm not "all the way" with any of their challenges...not to say I'm not aboard them, but I haven't implemented any particular one fully enough to say I'm taking the challenge in every way. Since we're not putting in a garden this year but just maintaining what we already have in the pots...Bucketville, that is...we're not growing our own food this year...so you're way ahead of us!