I’m sure you have noticed, dear reader, a change in my photography style lately. My last couple of posts have been partially black and white (here and here) and I want to tell you the story of how it all started. They say Italy brings out the artist in you and it is likely true because throughout history it has probably produced more artists than any other place. A simple look at frescoes, mosaics, doors, windows, fountains, street lights is all it takes to be aware of that. Art and beauty are everywhere, even in the simple day-to-day life. When I’m photographing in Morocco I focus on color because everything around is in gorgeous shades of spices and herbs: saffron, thyme, paprika, cinnamon, sage, turmeric, mint, rose. Certain lands inspire certain things in us.
My own artistic inspiration while in Italy came in the form of black and white photography. Never before have I been inspired in such a way. It is due to the many museums and art galleries I visited where black and white photographs spoke to me more than color ones did. They portrayed more emotion and somehow were just more powerful, more poignant, more dramatic. As a result, I took most of my pictures in black and white while there and wanted to bring that home, to my blog photography. I was reluctant at first because food and color simply go hand in hand. How would I convey the freshness of a tomato or ripeness of an apricot without it? So as a result, I decided to make the food in color and everything else around it black and white. I can say that I really found myself in this style.
While this style of photography has been done in fashion and art, I have never seen it done in food photography before so I further like it because it’s a way for me to set my style apart and cultivate its typicality even more.
So here goes the story behind Dinners & Dreams becoming the first selective coloring food blog.
As my fork went from morsel of grapefruit to morsel of navel, to morsel of clementine, the colors looked so harmonious, the flavors tasted like music in my mouth. As I dipped my forkful of the citrus trio in the yogurt sauce, floral notes from the orange blossom water and honey were added to the symphony. It was a special moment. One that unfolded memories of the many citrus salads past.
A sun-kissed salad. Simply fresh and summery.
Moroccan Citrus Salad Recipe
4 small servings
1 large ruby red grapefruit
1 large navel orange
4 ounces Greek-style yogurt
1 tablespoon honey, plus more for drizzling
1/2 teaspoon orange blossom water
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon chopped pistachios
Peel the grapefruit, navel orange and clementines, removing as much of the pith as possible. On a cutting board, slice the citrus crosswise into 1/4-inch rounds.
Layer the citrus on the serving plate, starting with the grapefruit, followed by the navel and Clementine.
Prepare the yogurt sauce by whisking the yogurt with honey and orange blossom water in a small bowl.
Top the layered citrus fruit with a dollop of yogurt sauce. Sprinkle liberally with cinnamon and chopped pistachios. Drizzle a thin stream of honey over it. And voilà!
Enjoy at room temperature.
When it comes to Moroccan food, it can’t get any more quintessential than this. This is definitely one well known, well loved dish wherever you land in Morocco. A true classic. You may have seen it in a cookbook or elsewhere sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds. I happened to be out so I used toasted almonds instead. It is also traditionally made with beef or lamb instead of chicken.
Chicken Tagine with Prunes and Toasted Almonds Recipe
4 medium chicken breasts
2 medium onions, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup olive oil
A pinch of saffron, optional
1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
2 1/4 cups water
2 cups pitted prunes
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 cup slivered almonds
2 hard boiled eggs, halved lengthwise
Place the chicken, onions, garlic, and olive oil in a medium pot. Add the saffron, turmeric, pepper, ginger, and salt. Sauté over medium-high heat, turning the chicken once, until the onions are translucent and the chicken golden, 10 minutes.
Add the water, cover, and continue cooking until the chicken is cooked and tender and the sauce reduced, 45 minutes.
Add the prunes and honey and cook them until tender and lightly caramelized, 8 to 10 minutes.
Heat a skillet over medium heat. Add the almonds and toast them until golden brown, turning them frequently, 2 to 3 minutes.
Plate the chicken in the center of a serving dish. Top it with the sauce and caramelized prunes, then with the toasted almonds and egg halves.
The first time I visited Italy was at age fourteen. Even back then, I was obsessed with food but not in a cook it, write about it way. That was about twenty years ago but I remember almost everything. At the time, my father was still alive and I remember weaving through the arm-wide streets with him looking for pizza. Everywhere we asked, we were told pizza was American and they didn’t serve it. This summer’s visit had me surprised because pizza was everywhere. Whether my memory is cheating me or more and more restaurants have started making pizza to cater to the great number of tourists requesting it remains a mystery to me. My memory is probably to blame.
I missed my father so much while doing almost the exact same itinerary again.
This time around, I mostly loitered in cafés. I’m inspired to do that every time I’m on that side of the world. I ordered cappuccino and even dessert sometimes. I people-watched and dreamed of a retirement home in a small Italian town. One of those times, as I was finishing my last sip of coffee and a tiramisu, I saw the waiter making what I thought was heaven on earth. He placed a scoop of ice cream in a serving coupe and poured a shot of espresso fresh from the machine over it. I wanted it. By then, I was coffee-d out and dessert-ed out but I promised myself to make it once at home.
The ice cream he served was white. It could have been vanilla or amaretto. I made almond ice cream. I thought it would be perfect drowned in espresso. Not that vanilla or amaretto wouldn’t have. They would all taste fabulous as they start slowly melting upon contact with the coffee, which will instantly take over and become the predominant flavor anyway. Try it, it’s delicious. Start with store-bought ice cream just to see I mean. You’ll love the contrast of hot and cold, bitter and sweet in this dessert, I promise.
My obsession with photographing windows (and doors) resurfaced while I was there.
Ice Cream with a Shot of Espresso (Affogato al Caffe)
I found this was a great way of eating coffee ice cream without actually making coffee ice cream. When the coffee and ice cream start blending, you really have the impression that you’re eating coffee ice cream.
1 scoop white ice cream (vanilla, almond or amaretto)
1 shot (1 ounce) hot espresso or strong coffee
Place the ice cream in a dessert coupe. Pour the hot coffee over it. Watch it melt. Enjoy!
Almond Ice Cream Recipe
4 to 6 servings
1 (14-ounce) can full fat, unsweetened coconut milk
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon honey
A pinch of sea salt
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
Whisk the ingredients together in a large bowl. Transfer the mixture to an ice cream machine and churn according to manufacturer’s instructions. Freeze in a lidded container until set.
This post is long but very visual and not wordy at all. A hodgepodge of unordered scenes of food and breathtaking places. Sit back, relax and enjoy Italy through my lens.
I stared at Venice’s rooftops for hours. Literally.
Wished I could ride a bike to work. Or a convertible Smart Car. Oh, how I wished.
Paused to read the names of lovers on locks whose keys were thrown in the Tiber forever.
Spotted these gorgeous prosciuttos.
Then a five-kilo, five-kilo, jar of Nutella.
Nipped one cappuccino after another.
Then swooned at the smell of rustic pizza and roasted chestnuts.
Practiced my Italian pronunciation with the word for mushrooms: funghi. Fooongueee. I think.
Was coerced to go to the Vatican by my Catholic husband but was glad I did.
Then coerced him to take me on a gondola ride. I had to do the gondola thing. Quand même!
Wanna guess what’s next? All I’ll say is it’s inspired by the sights and smells in this post. Come back tomorrow ;)
I don’t know about you but when I travel I tend to eat less fruits and vegetables. The fast food choices in touristy places are usually not the greatest and I tend to justify my indulgences by the fact that I’m on vacation. Upon my return from a recent trip to Italy (more on it soon) I made this pear and green pepper juice to re-energize. It is one of my favorites because it’s so refreshing and nutritious as well as sweet enough that it doesn’t require any additional sweeteners.
I shared this recipe on Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays.
Pear and Green Pepper Juice Recipe
1 large serving
2 green bell peppers, stemmed and quartered lengthwise
2 pears , stemmed and quartered lengthwise
Simply juice the peppers and pears using a centrifugal juicer. Stir and enjoy.
Use cold peppers and pears so you can enjoy your juice immediately and without having to add ice.
Check out these other refreshing juicing ideas.
Drink lots of juices, especially carrot juice; it’s great for getting a gorgeous, glowy tan. Stay cool!
Lots of love,
Moroccans make their hamburgers smaller and eat them without a bun . They serve them with crusty bread and a host of salads, dips and sides–mezze style, if you would. They take a bite of the burger followed by a few pieces of bread dipped in the various accompaniments. It’s a very tasty way to enjoy a burger though I must say that I love having it American-style as well.
Moroccan Hamburger Recipe
1 pound ground beef
1 garlic clove, minced
1 shallot, minced or grated
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro or parsley (or both)
Sea salt and ground pepper, to taste (1/2 tsp of each)
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
In a medium bowl, combine the beef with the garlic, shallot,cilantro or parsley, salt, pepper, coriander, cumin and cinnamon.. Mix gently with your hands to blend.
Divide the meat into four equal parts and shape into patties. Grill for 4 to 5 minutes per side. Serve with fresh bread and a variety of sides such as zaalouk, tchoutchouka, markat hzina and hummus.
By now, you probably know that we, Moroccans, love to cook with orange blossom water, and try to put it in pretty much anything and everything. Not only that, we are also superstitious about it. We associate it to luck, hospitality and prosperity. We put a few drops of it in a glass of milk shared by the bride and the groom on their wedding day for a happy life together. We fill pretty bottles with it and spritz our guests to make them feel welcome.
We also flavor our tea with orange blossoms. When they are not in season, we use orange blossom water. We love our orange blossom tea. It tastes very floral, a bit like the jasmine tea we’re accustomed to here.
To make orange blossom tea, simply prepare a serving of mint tea and add a few orange blossoms or half teaspoon of orange blossom water.
I’m shocked at how many people don’t like snails or won’t even try them, but maybe I shouldn’t be. There are things I would never ever try so I understand that people can have such prejudices. While I’m not to trying to convert anyone into a snail lover (I secretly am, shhh..), I’d love to expose the unique way snails are enjoyed in Morocco.
Escargots (halazoun or boubbouche in Arabic) are mainly a street food where I come from. No one I know makes them at home. When I lived in Rabat, there was a stall that always had a crowd of 20 to 30 customers around it, more when the weather was cold and rainy. I could not pinpoint the exact recipe, but its smell screamed herbs of every kind. Every time I passed by, I got a whiff of sage, bay leaf, thyme and rosemary. The escargots were served in a bowl, swimming in a very dark, strong scenting broth with a toothpick to extract the snail from the shell. I loved stopping by to get a bowl every now and then. The escargots were excellent. I usually finished every single one. Most people around me drank the rich broth when they were finished. I usually passed. My taste wasn’t mature enough to appreciate it.
This is my first time using Napa cabbage and I’m going to admit, not without some shame, that for a long time I thought it was just another type of lettuce. Now that I’ve done some experimenting, I can tell you that Napa cabbage makes great salads. It is especially perfect for shredding and has a sweeter taste and more delicate texture than regular cabbage. Paired with strawberries and dressed in nutty argan oil and apple cider vinegar, it is delightfully fruity or maybe fruitily delightful? Either way, it’s great on a summer day.
Shredded Napa Cappage, Strawberry and Mint Salad Recipe
2 cups shredded Napa cabbage
2 cups chopped strawberries
1/2 cup chopped mint
Sesame seeds, optional
2 tablespoons argan or sesame oil
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
Sea salt, to taste
In a large bowl, combine the cabbage, strawberries and mint. In a smaller bowl, whisk the oil, vinegar and salt. Add the dressing to the salad and toss to coat.
Serve sprinkled with sesame seeds, if you wish.