Last week, our taste buds traveled to Thailand. This week, let’s go on a culinary journey to Morocco!
For as long as I can remember, I’ve had this fascination with the idea of visiting Morocco. Vibrant colors in bustling markets, mesmerizing music, lively locals – there seems to be a multitude of reasons to visit this far off land – but what can compare to the intoxicating aromas of its cuisine?
My favorite part to making this recipe is preparing the unique spice blend known as Ras el Hanout. It’s a mixture of 10 of the most exquisite smelling spices around, such as cardamom and allspice, to name just two. It’s such a treat to prepare because your fingertips, actually your whole kitchen for that matter, carry the mesmerizing aroma for hours after you’ve put the blend away in your cupboard! I always say: the best incense in the world is home cooking!
“Ras el Hanout” means “head of the shop”, implying that it is the store’s best-selling spice blend. I don’t find it hard to believe that it’s the store’s best-seller – this irresistibly fragrant combination of spices is so versatile. A few tablespoons adds an exotic touch of sweet and spicy to any dish.
Before you head out to get the ingredients for this superb dish, please allow me to continue indulging your senses with one of my favorite poems, which (inexplicably – haha!) comes to mind when I prepare Ras el Hanout.
Enjoy, in joy and in health!
The Cinnamon Peeler’s Wife
By: Michael Ondaatje
If I were a cinnamon peeler
I would ride your bed
and leave the yellow bark dust
on your pillow.
Your breasts and shoulders would reek
you could never walk through markets
without the profession of my fingers
floating over you. The blind would
stumble certain of whom they approached
though you might bathe
under rain gutters, monsoon.
Here on the upper thigh
at this smooth pasture
neighbor to your hair
or the crease
that cuts your back. This ankle.
You will be known among strangers
as the cinnamon peeler’s wife.
I could hardly glance at you
never touch you
– your keen nosed mother, your rough brothers.
I buried my hands
in saffron, disguised them
over smoking tar,
helped the honey gatherers…
When we swam once
I touched you in water
and our bodies remained free,
you could hold me and be blind of smell.
You climbed the bank and said
this is how you touch other women
the grasscutter’s wife, the lime burner’s daughter.
And you searched your arms
for the missing perfume.
what good is it
to be the lime burner’s daughter
left with no trace
as if not spoken to in an act of love
as if wounded without the pleasure of scar.
your belly to my hands
in the dry air and said
I am the cinnamon
peeler’s wife. Smell me.
Moroccan Stuffed Peppers and Zucchini
Makes approximately 2 servings
2 medium zucchinis
2 medium red bell peppers
2 cups brown rice, cooked (any rice you like) or quinoa
4 tablespoons Ras el Hanout (recipe follows)
1 small eggplant, peel removed and cubed
1 cup chickpeas, cooked
2 medium tomatoes, diced
1 small onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 tablespoons parsley, chopped
3 tablespoons pine nuts
Lemon zest from one lemon
Sea salt and ground black pepper to taste
1. Prepare Ras el Hanout (recipe follows) and set aside.
2. Cook rice (or quinoa) using any method suitable for type of rice you have chosen and set aside.
3. Preheat oven to 400˚F.
4. Trim off tops of peppers and set aside. Remove seeds and discard.
5. Chop zucchini in half vertically. Chop halves in half horizontally. Two zucchini will produce 8 pieces. Remove seeds and interior of zucchini and chop into small pieces. Place in bowl.
6. Place peppers and zucchini on parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for about 15 minutes or until slightly soft. Set aside until cool.
7. Chop eggplant into small pieces and remove skin. Place in bowl with the interiors of the zucchini. Stir in 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon Ras el Hanout, making sure pieces of eggplant and zucchini are well coated.
8. Place eggplant and zucchini mixture on parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes.
9. In saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil. Add onion and garlic. Sauté until soft. Stir in tomatoes and 1 tablespoon Ras el Hanout. Cook until tomatoes are soft, about 5 minutes. Remove saucepan from heat and stir in eggplant/zucchini mixture, rice, chickpeas, remaining Ras el Hanout, parsley, pine nuts, lemon zest, salt and pepper.
10. Stuff peppers and zucchini. Arrange on parchment-lined baking dish with pepper tops. Bake for 30 minutes. Place pepper tops on peppers and serve warm.
Ras el Hanout
In a bowl, whisk all these spices together:
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon paprika
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
“To my mind, the life of a lamb is no less precious than that of a human being.” ~Mahatma Gandhi