Tonight's very fragrant post and recipes are brought to you by the husband. He's been weaving some extra magic in the kitchen since discovering the Morrocan spice mixes at our local Whole Foods (they're also available at most supermarkets- Stop & shop, Shop Rite, etc.). Spray some Arabie and read on:
I can't say that Moroccan spices were part of my childhood palate. As a matter of fact, most of that Eastern European Jewish food had no spices (or taste) at all. The Middle East finally caught up with me with the two newish additions to our spice rack from Frontier Ethnic Seasoning line. Ras El Hanout and Tagine mixes provide a baseline for easy and tasty dishes without the trip to Marrakesh. Here are two of my favorites:
Take 2 cups of pre-cooked lentils or a package of Melissa’s (an amazing addition to the pantry. Lentils whenever you need them. Genius) and simmer with a cup of semi-dry white wine, a tablespoon of olive oil and healthy doses of both Ras El Hanout and Tagine mixes.
When the rice is done and the lentil mixture simmers down (wine is reduced to half), mix them well and Let stand for 5 minutes so the rice has a chance to absorb some more flavor. Add salt to taste.
Pasta with roasted eggplants – Moroccan style
The secret to this one is the way I roast the eggplants. I like to use the mid-size Italian variety or the long Japanese ones that have less seeds and no bitterness so there is no need to salt them or use any other time consuming method. Get 2 pound of eggplants, cut them to 2 inch slices and then each slice to 2-4 strips depending on the width. Toss with (at least)1/3 cup of olive oil and spread on a baking pan with the skins facing up. Bake in a preheated oven (400 F) for about 20-30 minutes until the top part browns and the slices are tender. There is no need to flip the slices. The bottoms will be a little brown or even seem burnt (don't panic!) but this is part of the secret of this dish. Add ½ cup of white wine (we like Chardonnay) to the pan and deglaze. For a better texture I get the roasted eggplant slices to a chopping block and chop them up with a chef’s knife to smaller bits.
Add generous amounts of Ras El Hanout and Tagine spice mix to the drunk eggplant (along with salt and more chili flakes to taste) and let stand for at least 10 minutes.
Cook ½ pound of short pasta and mix with the eggplant sauce. With some Parmesan and pine nuts on top, just try not to eat too much.
He's serious about trying to do only a moderate stuffing of face. It's too east to pig out on this stuff. Mumbling that it's healthy will only go so far, but seriously, these are two of my favorite meals.
Art by Marcia of moroccanartadventure.blogspot.com