Salade Niçoise Recipe

My vacation is over and I am back to my routine but I still have some pictures along with adventures to share about my trip.

In our relentless effort to escape the heat, we had lunch a few kilometers outside of Marrakesh at a restaurant by the pool to get some “pool air” for lack of ocean air. For lack of any air really. It may sound far-fetched but it did really cool us off. Maybe it was all in our mind. Maybe the sight of water alone was enough to milden the canicule.

To start, we had salade niçoise; a Moroccan version of it anyway made with mayonnaise vinaigrette and added carrots and corn. Then we had a sizzling chicken tagine with olives and preserved lemons served with Berber flatbread and mint tea. My daughter swam and played on the swing and marveled at the caged peacocks on the way out.

A few days ago, I made salade niçoise for dinner. A substantial salad that I’d gladly make a meal of anyday. Complete with vegetables, protein and starch, it makes a wonderful dinner especially for the remaining days of summer ahead.

Salade Niçoise Recipe

2 servings

For the salad
2 medium red skin potatoes, peeled, halved and sliced
2 cups fresh green beans, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
2 cups romaine lettuce, torn into pieces
1 can tuna, drained
1/2 cup pitted black olives
1 tomato, cut into wedges
3 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and halved or quartered

For the vinaigrette
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon mustard
1 shallot, minced (optional)
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Place the sliced potatoes in a pot and cover with salted water. Cook over medium high heat until the potatoes are tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer the potatoes to a colander and let drain and cool a few minutes.

Bring a small pots of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the green beans and blanch them, 3 to 6 minutes, depending on their thickness. Shock them by putting them in ice water. Drain in a colander.

Prepare the vinaigrette by whisking the vinegar with the mustard, minced shallot, salt and pepper. Slowly add the olive oil and continue whisking to emulsify.

Arrange the lettuce on a plate and drizzle it with about 1/4 of the vinaigrette. Top the lettuce with the potatoes, green beans, tuna, olives, tomato wedges and eggs. Drizzle the whole salad with a couple of spoonfuls of vinaigrette. Serve it with extra vinaigrette on the side.

Almond and Sesame Cookies

Among the lovers of almond meal I am the most passionate. The first time I made these cookies with my mom as a child there was no such thing as almond meal in our grocery store. I believe there still isn’t. We bought our almonds, blanched, peeled and ground them to a powder. The process was lengthy but well worth it. Now that I’m able to use almond meal, these cookies take me five to ten minutes to make. And I’m not the fastest person you’d ever meet.

When I saw these cookies in Nadji’s blog, saveurs et gourmandises, in their original cornes de gazelle shape, I was inspired. I felt a need, a necessity, an imminent life or death urgency to make them. So I made them, completely changing the shape but only slightly the ingredients. They were as good as those I had in my childhood, those I shaped with my mother a million different ways.

Gluten-Free Almond and Sesame Cookies Recipe

Makes 16 cookies

2 cups almond meal (available at WF)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted (or coconut oil)
1/4 cup honey
2 teaspoons orange blossom water
1/2 cup white sesame seeds, lightly toasted

In a large bowl, combine the almond meal, cinnamon and salt together. Stir in the butter, honey and orange blossom water. The mixture should be moist enough to shape between your hands. Form into small balls, the size of a walnut. Roll each almond ball into sesame seeds.

Serve with hot mint tea or spiced coffee.

Refrigerate leftovers.

Harira Recipe

This is one of the very first recipes I posted on this blog back in October. It’s a soup that I’ve always loved. Chunky, rich and delicious, it is the quintessential Moroccan soup. I couldn’t wait long to post it.

With millions of people celebrating Ramadan this month and through mid-September, I thought I’d post it again. Consuming it during this season is customary in Morocco but hey, who needs a reason or a season to make a hearty soup.

Chickpeas, lentils, eggs, celery, tender cubes of beef make up this flavorful soup. Finish it up with a generous squeeze of lemon juice and serve it with mellifluous dates for a most authentic Moroccan meal.

To all who are celebrating, happy fasting! To all who are not, happy feasting!


Click here for the recipe.

Marrakesh After Dark

I’ve always discouraged friends to go to Marrakesh in the summer yet I did. It was hot, a furnace of dry heat. The kind of heat that strips you of your energy and makes you think of Siberia as paradise on earth. Besides a few trips to the pool, I mostly stayed indoors, reading. And waiting for the sun to set so I can set foot outside.

Along the main boulevard we walked

Past the mosque

Heard live music

And the sound of splashing water

Found a table nearby

Under the sunset and an olive tree

Refreshed at last

Dusseldorf: More Than Beer and Pretzels

It is true that its altstadt is considered the longest bar in the world and its beers are some of the finest.

It is true that people were drinking ginormous mugs of beer glistening like gold in the early morning sun for breakfast.

But it is more, much more than that.

Heinrich Heine, the German poet who once described his love for his lover as more precious than the treasures of the sea and the lights that spatter the heavens above, lends his name to the old part of town. As I walked the still sleepy allees, cafes were preparing to open. A couple of bars were serving a group of musicians in uniform practicing for the afternoon fun fair and procession in celebration of the patron saint St. Apollinaris. Everything else was closed. I stopped at the St. Lambertus church and peeked at its impressive ceilings through the half-opened door, slowly daring to push it open, my chin ahead of me, my head leaning forward to sniff the presence of another soul. I was alone. I could have felt like it was all mine. Instead I felt like it owned me. It was majestic. It was awe-strikingly beautiful.

Past a statue of a mother carrying her child I continued, briskly walking the quiet streets, my eyes moving back and forth between the map in my hands and the street names trying to locate the museum of modern art. A very friendly bunch at an outdoor bar graciously showed the way then continued its jovial chatter.

Bratwursts, kochwursts, blutwursts, liverwursts, stuffed pretzels, pretzel sandwiches, pretzel pizzas, spaghetti ice cream. The food at the street fair smelled of baked bread and grilled meat. I grabbed chicken skewers and made it just in time for the one o’clock boat ride on the Rhine. I struggled to stay attentive to the voice explaining the tour. Between the German accent and the poor sound system, all I managed to understand was that Dusseldorf had the largest Japanese community in the world outside of Japan and was called Japan’s capital in Europe. Even that I might have gotten wrong. I gave up. I fell asleep to the sound of the water.

Apple Potato Salad and a German Home with a Moroccan Flair

I had heard of the wonders of the German kartoffel but didn’t think it tasted better than any other. It did. It was smaller and more yellow. It was young and less starchy. It was new potato, harvested early while its skin is still thin and its size small. It was full of flavor– a more pronounced earthy flavor. It is not a myth that the people of Germany love potatoes. They were served at practically every dinner I had there. Leftovers were eaten for breakfast and snacks.

After over 30 years in Germany, my cousin, Charaf, seems to have mastered the art of cooking potatoes. He made them gratinéed and in a salad. They tasted amazing even simply boiled and peeled. Each dish was a piece of potato art. Simple. Good. Like many men, Charaf often disappeared in the kitchen for a mere five minutes–or what seemed like it– and came back with uber delicious dishes. I’m jealous. If only I were a man. If only I were quick and efficient. No, no, no; if only I were a potato artist.

This potato salad is different than any other I’ve had because it had a sweet ingredient. A savory salad containing both apples and apples of the earth combined with eggs tasted very fulfilling. Charaf said he sometimes adds fresh peas when he has some handy. I tought it tasted perfect the way he made it and didn’t change a thing even though the temptation to add raisins and walnuts crossed my mind.

Apple Potato Salad Recipe

4 servings

5 small Yukon potatoes, peeled and cut into bite-sized cubes
2 large Golden Delicious apples; peeled, cored and cut into bite-sized cubes
1/4 cup sliced cornichons
1/2 cup canned corn kernels, rinsed and drained
3 eggs, hard-boiled, yolks and whites separated and chopped
3/4 cup light mayonnaise
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

Place the cubed potatoes in a pot and cover with salted water. Cook over medium high heat until the potatoes are tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer the potatoes to a colander and let drain and cool a few minutes.

In a large bowl, combine the potatoes with the apples, pickles, corn and chopped egg whites. In a small bowl, stir the egg yolks with the mayonnaise and apple cider vinegar. Add the mayonnaise dressing to the salad and toss. Serve cold or at room temperature.

My German Breakfast

Breakfast can’t get any better than this.

I called mine a German breakfast. It was in Germany. But it could have been anywhere.

Yes a breakfast of orchard apricots, backyard red currants under the shade of a pregnant cherry tree can’t get any better.

It was a breakfast to remember.

It could have been anywhere.

A jet-lagged woman and her daughter having breakfast at noon while others were already eating lunch. And so it went for the rest of their days there. It was the countryside after all and time had little significance.

Culinary Dictionary: Letter Z

Our culinary dictionary has come to an end and I’m not so sure what I would do with my Thursdays from now on. I could of course just post recipes but I have gotten used to this themed Thursday thing. I would really appreciate suggestions as to what to do with Thursdays. Any ideas or inspirations would be greatly welcomed. What would you like to see here every Thursday?

Thanks you so much, very dear readers, for being such wonderful Thursday companions. It’s been a ton of fun.

Za’atar/Zahtar: Middle Eastern mix of Ground roasted sesame seeds, dried herbs and spices.

Zakuska: Russian-style assortment hors d’oeuvres usually shellfish, smoked salmon,
caviar and cheeses.

Zeitoun/ Zaitoun: Arabic for olives–zeit zeitoun is olive oil.

Zingara (à la/alla): Means « Gypsy –style » and refers to a chicken, beef or turkey dish cooked with ham, chopped tongue and mushrooms in tomato sauce.

The End

Letters A, B, C, D, E , F, G, H , I , J, K, L , M, N, O, P, Q, R, S, T, U, V, W, X, Y and Z.

Uetze: At the Heart of the German Countryside

It was my first visit to Germany to stay with my cousin Charaf, a brilliant former belly dance and ballet instructor and his wonderful wife, Sylvia, in their late 1800′s fach werk outside Hannover in a village called Uetze.

I was picked up from the Hannover train station–Hautbanhof– by Younes, Charaf and Sylvia’s 26-year-old son and an ascending star in the German media who has done interviews with the likes of Kate Perry and Depeche Mode. On the way to Uetze, kilometers of potato fields spread endlessly on both sides of the road, studded with aeolian energy turbines and ancient-looking tractors. Visions of cows, horses and barns became more and more frequent as we advanced. We were officially in the German countryside.

On our first morning out, we went for a walk across the river and into the farmlands. We payed a visit to the local barns, much to my daughter’s delight. Her face beamed at her first close encounter with chickens, rabbits, cows and horses.

The air was warm and still. Almost as warm as what we’re used to in Florida. It was quiet. It smelled of barns, hay and horse manure. It was enchantingly rustic. It was pretty. It was typical European countryside.

On the way back, we walked by houses in front of whose doors were baskets of eggs, red currants, blueberries, zucchini and potatoes for sale. Ah the potatoes. The Kartoffel. I was later to discover they were the tastiest I’ve ever had.

Away But Available on Twitter

After a much enjoyed trip to Germany, I am now in Marrakesh spending time with family, enjoying slow-paced moments, and taking a short break from cooking but certainly not from enjoying wonderful food and company.

While taking time away to savor simple summer moments, I will be twittering a couple of times a day. So keep up with my far away adventures by following me on Twitter.

With love, from Marrakesh