I know, it’s been a long time. Believe me, I am painfully aware that I missed seven days of cooking. There are only so many days I can take off in the year, but as I said, I wanted to not worry about being a busy-body in the kitchen while we had company. Cute company especially.
Still, toward the end of their stay, I was missing the kitchen a bit and I heard that Jordan’s brother was hoping I would “cook a country” while they were here. I wasn’t quite sure what to prepare, because I didn’t want the flavors to overwhelm the 2-year-old (Walter). Walter is a fan of chickpeas, so I started from there and thought about what I could prepare. A simple couscous came to mind, and thus the post you see today.
Because I cannot resist an olive bar when Moroccan food is on the mind, we started with some marinated olives. Olives from Morocco are a bit harder to come by than the Greek variety, but we lucked out.
Everybody snacked on these while I kept busy with the rest of the meal. We had schlada, aka salad, with our couscous. I made it from peeled tomatoes (boiled for 2 minutes, dropped in cold water) and roasted and peeled green peppers. The dressing was a mix of olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, cumin, and paprika. To me, bell peppers do not have a strong taste at all…until roasted. Then they are delicious. I enjoyed this, even though the flavors seemed very subtle.
The main course for the meal was our Moroccan Chickpea Couscous. I’ve actually made this before and it was a bit hit in our apartment, so I thought I would stick with it, since I was going to be tackling a somewhat complicated dessert.
Moroccan Chickpea Couscous (Serves 8) Vegan
- 2 T olive oil
- 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
- 1 cup carrot shreds
- 2 cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained
- 1 cup whole wheat couscous
- 1 3/4 cups water
- 6 dates, pitted and chopped
- 1/4 cup golden raisins
- 2 t ground coriander
- 1/2 t ground cloves
- 1/2 t cinnamon
- 1 t cumin
- 1 t ground ginger
- 1 t paprika
- salt and pepper to taste
- Heat oil on medium in large pan. Add in cloves, cumin, paprika, cinnamon, coriander, and ginger. Heat until you can smell the aroma (just a minute or two).
- Add onions. Stir so that they are well coated by the seasonings. Saute onions for 2-3 minutes.
- Add carrot shreds and rinsed chickpeas. Stir and let cook for 2-3 more minutes.
- Add golden raisin, dates, couscous and water. Cover, reduce heat, and let stand for 5 minutes.
- Serve with cilantro or parsley as garnish.
A lot of ingredients, yes. But not a lot of work. Especially if you’ve got carrot shreds prepared ahead of time.
Onto dessert, I attempted M’hanncha (or Moroccan Snake Cake). It’s supposed to look something like the image found at this link: http://www.theworldwidegourmet.com/recipes/snake-cake-with-almond-paste/. Only it didn’t.
I was worried from the get go. My phyllo dough wasn’t thawing quickly enough, which caused some cosmetic errors. And then I made my almond paste using ground raw almonds instead of the pretty white almond flour you can buy in stores. Here’s a photo of what my almond paste logs looked like:
I know, you’d think I was serving our guests breakfast sausages if you didn’t know that I don’t eat meat and I happen to be making a dessert. I assure you, they taste better than they look. They are made of almonds, powdered sugar, almond extract, melted butter, and orange juice. Can’t taste too bad, right?
From this stage, you roll your logs into the phyllo sheets and connect them together in a coil-like fashion. I definitely lose points for presentation. I cinnamon-and-sugared the top to hide the aesthetic flaws of my dessert. If you squint, you can almost see the coil pattern.
Everyone seemed pretty pleased with the taste of the cake. I love almond flavor, so I certainly enjoyed it. I would love to attempt making it a second time, to see if my presentation can improve!
After spending the week taking Glenn and Kirsten and the boys to some of our favorite Knoxville restaurants, I was pretty pleased (or delusional…I think I heard it anyway) to hear Glenn say he thought this meal was the best meal he had while in Knoxville.
I think Walter liked dessert too.
I’ve still got a few more country menus to plan for this week, but I am certain you need no more than three guesses to guess what country I’ll be preparing for our Valentine’s Day meal! (I’m wondering if Jordan just a little panic attack at remembering that Valentine’s Day is Tuesday…)