Sunday, February 27, 2011

Northern Africa

This past week we made food inspired from the sands of the Sahara. The menu consisted of Harira (lamb and vegetable soup), fava bean salad, tagine of chicken, couscous, harissa, fish chermoula, carrots with black currants, and date cookies.

John made the lamb and vegetable soup which was complimented nicely with the fresh lemon juice. The soup is made with sauteing onion, lamb, spices, and ginger. You add clear or white stock, celery, salt, chickpeas and lentils; then bring to a simmer. Add parsley, cilantro, tomatoes, bring to a boil and add broken vermicelli. Once the pasta is done pull the soup and adjust seasoning with lemon juice. Some add a beaten egg for shine and added protein. This thick peppery soup is usually eaten traditionally after sundown during the month of Ramadan to break each day's fast. We made the fava bean salad utilizing lima beans along with onion, salt, olive oil, lemon juice, cumin, garlic, cilantro, white pepper, green onions, red radishes and black olives. If the beans are cooked it's a lot easier to make and you can combine all the ingredients. We used the olives and radishes to garnish the salad.

I made the Tagine of Chicken which is made by marinating chicken (cut into eight pieces) in garlic, olive oil, and black pepper. After the chicken has marinated; brown all the pieces in olive oil and hold. Saute spices (cumin, cinnamon, coriander, ginger, saffron) for a minute in the same olive oil and then add diced onion. Sweat the onions and add stock (2 cups) bringing to a boil. Add the chicken to the tagine and pour the sauce over the top. Place the tagine into a hot oven of 350 degrees and bake for approximately 45 minutes. The chicken was served on top of fresh couscous which I made from instant couscous and sauteed chickpeas. The sauce will stay soupy so do not be alarmed; Northern Africans cook in sauce to braise meat. A spicy sauce which we served on the side was made with a pulverized mixture of cumin seeds, chili peppers, paprika, onion, flat leaf parsley, lemon juice, olive oil and salt. The mixture is called Harissa and is a staple on tables in Northern Africa.

The fish chermoula was made by Ryan and was made by marinating a flaky fish (we used snapper). The marinade is made with cilantro, parsley, garlic, paprika, cumin, cayenne, olive oil, salt, and lemon juice. After marinating the fish you wipe some of the marinade off, dip them in all purpose flour, shake of excess and pan fry in olive oil. We garnished the plate with fried flat leaf parsley and lemon; along with the harissa of course. Ryan also made the carrots with black currants; which is made by soaking the dried black currants and reserving the liquid. Next heat butter, add cinnamon, cayenne and carrots. Add orange juice, the currants and reserved soaking liquid; cook until the carrots are tender, correct seasoning and serve family style.

Natalia made the date cookies and I could've eaten the whole sheet tray; they were really good. You start by preheating an oven to 350 degrees and start sifting 3/4 cup of all purpose flour with 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder. Combine 6 eggs, 1/3 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, and 1/2 cup melted butter in a mixer. Gradually add the flour a little at a time, then nuts and dates. Mix well and pour into a square cake pan; bake 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Serve in shapes of brownies and dust with powdered sugar. Overall a very good menu and the date cookies were my favorite.


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