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Christine Benlafquih

Christine's Moroccan Food Blog

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Spicy Moroccan Rice with Tomatoes and Peppers

Friday May 30, 2014

Every now and then I need a break from all the bread we eat in Morocco, and that's precisely why I made this easy Spicy Moroccan Rice Recipe last night. It gets a little bit of kick from Moroccan spices and cayenne pepper, but if you really like things fiery throw a chili pepper into the pot while the rice is cooking.

I prefer the rice as a vegetarian main dish with lots of bell peppers, but on occasion I've added beef, lamb or chicken. It works well as a side dish, too. Try serving it with other equally zesty dishes such as Roasted Eggplant and Tomato Salad (Zaalouk) or Fried Sardines Stuffed with Chermoula .

Photo © Christine Benlafquih

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Moroccan Coconut Macaroons

Wednesday May 28, 2014

These wonderfully chewy and satisfying Moroccan Coconut Macaroons are a must-have when we're lucky enough to encounter a vendor selling them on a busy Moroccan street or in a neighborhood souk. The cookies are made quite large and traditionally sandwiched together with nothing in between, so just one cookie should hit the sweet tooth spot.

Despite occasional requests from readers and tourists who have sampled the macaroons, the recipe has eluded me over the years because the cookies are not widely made at home. Luckily for me and you, food writer Nada Kiffa of Fleur d'Oranger, Masala & Co. was able to track down the recipe I've shared on my site. Bake them super-sized as shown in the photo, or scale them down to make them more appropriate as a tea time offering.

Photo © Robin Craig/Gotham Girl Chronicles

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Moroccan Saffron Chicken and Rice

Monday May 26, 2014

Although you can certainly serve Moroccan Saffron Chicken all by itself, the rich, spicy sauce makes a superb accompaniment to Moroccan Rice Pilaf. Pile everything onto a large serving platter for a beautiful presentation, and try offering it Moroccan style, with each person eating directly from his own side of the communal dish.

Photo © Christine Benlafquih

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Shakshouka

Monday May 19, 2014

Although Tunisian in origin, this wonderfully satisfying dish of eggs poached in spicy homemade tomato sauce has been adopted and adapted by Morocco and a number of other North African and Middle Eastern countries. My Shakshouka Recipe is more zesty than spicy, but a chili pepper or two will suffice for adding fiery heat.

It's interesting to note that similar ingredients and seasoning appear in a number of Moroccan dishes, among them the closely-named Taktouka, a dip-like salad of roasted peppers and tomatoes; and other tomato-sauce-based tagines such as Calamari in Tomato Sauce and Kefta Mkaouara with Eggs.

Photo © Christine Benlafquih

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Casablanca Style Couscous with Seven Vegetables

Friday May 16, 2014

This classic Moroccan recipe for Couscous with Seven Vegetables is a veggie lover's dream - lots of variety, outstanding Moroccan flavor and the flexibility to be prepared with or without meat or chicken. I like to top the dish with a generous garnish of tfaya.

If you've never cooked with a couscoussier, you'll probably be tempted to use instant couscous. If that's the case, be sure to use the broth from the stew when preparing the couscous. For the more adventurous, be assured that steaming couscous the authentic way is easier than you think, and a couscoussier is certainly worth the investment if you prepare Moroccan cuisine somewhat regularly.

Curious if other readers prefer to steam their couscous? Take the poll, To Steam or Not to Steam Couscous.

Photo © Christine Benlafquih

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Baked Chicken Tagine with Onions and Olives

Saturday May 10, 2014

A while back a reader wrote to ask about the use of cumin and paprika in Moroccan tagines. Although some Moroccan cooks do indeed add these spices liberally in their everyday cooking, I usually reserve them for sparing use in only certain tagines, such as this recipe for Tagine of Lamb or Beef with Cauliflower.

This Baked Chicken Tagine Recipe, however, is an exception. The cumin and paprika work well as a spice rub and give extra flavor to a sauce made tangy by olives and preserved lemons. The dish takes just 10 minutes to throw together and get into the oven - perfect when you want a simple, no fuss meal. Serve the chicken tagine-style with Moroccan bread and a side such as Beet Salad with Vinaigrette or Romaine Lettuce and Orange Salad.

Photo © Christine Benlafquih

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Moroccan Chocolate Cake

Monday May 5, 2014

As with other Moroccan cakes, my sister-in-law's Moroccan Chocolate Cake Recipe is quick and easy to prepare. Rather than being set apart by special ingredients, it's the method of preparation - more precisely the way the ingredients are measured - that distinguishes the cake as Moroccan.

In many Moroccan kitchens, a soup bowl and tea glass are used in place of standard American measuring cups or in lieu of weighing ingredients with a kitchen scale. Similarly, baking powder (the pink packet) and vanilla flavoring (the white packet) are sold in pre-measured envelopes in Morocco, eliminating the need for a measuring spoon.

The Moroccan method of measuring makes this a fun baking activity with children. I'm most likely to serve the cake plain as an after school snack, but you can dust it with powdered sugar, frost it, or even add a layer of melted chocolate as a topping. If you're worried about imprecise measuring with the Moroccan method, conventional measures are also provided in the recipe.

Photo © Christine Benlafquih

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Moroccan Spiced Coffee

Tuesday April 29, 2014

For a change from your regular after-dinner coffee or espresso, consider trying a Moroccan Spiced Coffee. Cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg and cloves provide exotic, aromatic flavor, while optional ginger and pepper can be added for a fiery kick .

When brewing spiced espresso, I tend to use a stovetop moka because my home espresso machine seems to clog with the added spices. Your own espresso maker might not have this same problem.

Photo © Christine Benlafquih

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Almond-Filled Makrout

Monday April 28, 2014

A wide variety of Moroccan cookies incorporate almond paste. Although some of those sweets taste very similar - they're more or less creative presentations of molded almond paste, which may or may not be wrapped in pastry - others stand out from the crowd due to their flavors and textures. Makrout with Almonds and Honey is one example.

In this cake-like cookie, a traditional almond paste filling with cinnamon and orange flower water contrasts nicely with fried semolina dough. A dip in hot honey adds sticky sweetness and glossy garnish, a technique also used in making other fried cookies such as Chebakia and Almond Briouats.

It's worth noting that makrout came to Morocco via Algeria and Tunisia, but it has since been adopted here as a special occasion cookie. The date-filled version is popular throughout North Africa, particularly during the month of Ramadan.

Photo © Christine Benlafquih

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Couscous Tfaya

Friday April 25, 2014

If you like exotic spice blends and sweet and savory flavor combos, you'll want to try tfaya, a caramelized onion and raisin garnish seasoned with cinnamon, ginger, pepper and saffron. Here, the tfaya adorns a classic presentation of Couscous Tfaya with Chicken. Despite the impressive nature of the dish, the actual prep work is minimal: slicing onions, adding spices, and then keeping an eye on the cooking. I always steam couscous the traditional way, but if you prefer instant couscous, be sure to reconstitute it with the broth for best flavor.

Couscous Tfaya is often is often served with fried almonds as a garnish. Make them ahead of time, or blanch and fry the almonds while everything is simmering on the stove.

Photo © Christine Benlafquih

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