Celery-Cucumber Buttermilk Soup with Couscous

There is a Moroccan country soup that’s so simple yet so delicious. You never see it in books or recipe sites—perhaps because it’s so simple it doesn’t qualify as a recipe. It is made with lben (buttermilk) and couscous and, well…, nothing else. You either love it or you don’t. Nobody I know has a middle opinion about it.

I am one who loves it. I think you will too.

I have received a few email requests for Ramadan recipes and immediately thought of this buttermilk soup called saikok. I’m not sure if the name has a meaning but it sounds rustic like the soup itself. I thought something this traditional would be fitting for the holiday. I also thought the enzymes in the fermented milk would be healthful for the tummies of those fasting (and those who aren’t). I added celery, cucumber and basil for a fresher taste, added vitamins and a pretty green color (no longer so rustic-looking with the green color). It came out tangy, fragrant and refreshing—perfect for summer. And yes it is a cold soup; a Moroccan-style gazpacho, if you would!

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How Argan Oil is Made

I have previously written about argan oil and its multiple uses in cooking and beauty. This time I was able to see it made at the source. Much of argan oil is now industrially produced in large plants but much of it also is still made the old-fashioned way, and you can still experience the pleasure of seeing women sitting on the floor, a stone mill between their legs, making liquid gold by hand. Those women usually work for local cooperatives and collect decent profits.

There wasn’t any fruit on the trees when I visited but I have seen argan fruit before and it pretty much looks like an oversized green olive. The fruit is eaten by goats who spit out the pits when they’re done. The pits are collected by farmers to make argan oil. Take a look at the goats at work.

 

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Seafood in the Port of Agadir

Take a moment to locate Agadir on the map. It’s on the Atlantic Ocean, south of Marrakesh, on the way to the desert. Agadir is often remembered for the devastating earthquake it suffered in 1960 which left much of the city destroyed and many of its inhabitants without homes. But Agadir has rebuilt itself well. It is now one of the newer looking cities in Morocco, with better infrastructure, less population, and less hustle. Though Agadir doesn’t have many historic monuments or cultural sites, it attracts flocks of European tourists seeking the sun in the middle of the winter. It is mainly a sea resort or station balnéaire, as referred to by the locals.

 

 

Agadir and southward is where much of the seafood in Morocco comes from. Places like Laayoune and the up-and-coming beach town of Dakhla provide the country with supplies of all kinds of fish and shellfish, fresh or frozen on site and delivered in chiller and freezer trucks daily.

 

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Nectarine Clafoutis

 

Twice tested, this recipe works! The first time, I made it with mostly nectarines and a little bit of plum. The second time, I used nectarines and white peaches. Stone fruit is gorgeous right now, don’t you think? You simply can’t go wrong with any choice you make.

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The Gardens of La Mamounia

After breakfast, I set off for a long walk in the gardens. It was eight in the morning and the weather was still light and cool. The air had a ravishing smell that was a mix of jasmine, oleander and rose. The gardens were quiet except for the birds chirping and the gardeners tending to their plants and whispering a brief bonjour at the passage.

Ah, the gardens of La Mamounia, an oasis in the desert, a little piece of paradise.

Enchanting was my two-hour long stroll.


 

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Breakfast at La Mamounia

Marrakesh doesn’t lack in pretty establishments but few are as iconic, as legendary, as old as La Mamounia. Presidents have stayed there. Actors, directors and singers too.

The breakfast buffet was of royal proportions. My pictures don’t do justice to how beautiful and copious it was.

 

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Something Happening

This is not easy to announce. It actually feels a little awkward and I have been thinking of a good way to ease it into the conversation but figured that the best way to say it is just to say it. I’m not one to dance around the topic for too long. I think I can do it.

Ahem…

Deep breath…

There has been something exciting going on, dear readers. Something other than cooking, taking pictures and eating (though it has a little bit to do with the latter). That thing has been making me hungry for large burgers with fries, chocolate chip cookies, pickles for breakfast, hot sauce with every meal, and more chocolate chip cookies. Let’s just say that the tiny little thing is making my relationship with food stronger than ever.

I am eating for two and loving it!!

I am five months along. I’m not very big yet and can still fool most people with the right shirt (not that I’m trying to – I think bumps are drop-dead gorgeous and besides, who wants to wear the right shirt all the time anyway!…) but I’m definitely getting pleasantly plump and will probably start showing soon (and shopping for cute maternity dresses!).

 

 

My family is very happy and I wanted to share our joy with you as well.

 

Love,

Nisrine

 

Healthier Ice Cream

This ice cream collection is lighter, lower calorie and sugar than commercial ice cream (many of the recipes are dairy- and refined sugar-free). I can never finish a scoop of store-bought ice cream but can easily eat an entire batch of any of the recipes below in no time.

Lighter, fresher ice cream is addictive. Enjoy!

 

 

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Summer Salads

I’d been waking up to a lovely breeze every morning here in Marrakesh. Sure the breeze didn’t last all day but it did faithfully come back to accompany me through the night.

Much to my delight!

I hoped it would last. Alas, it didn’t.

After a brief family reunion in Rabat, I came back to sandstorms and debilitating heat. I checked my calendar; it was officially summer here in Marrakesh, Morocco, Africa.

Surely, that was to be expected.

Surely, surely, all I want to eat is salad.

Kale Tabbouleh

Micro-Chopped Cobb Salad with Lemon-Harissa Dressing

Shepherd’s Salad

Grilled Cardamom Maple-Glazed Watermelon Salad with Feta and Oregano

Shrimp and Mango Salad with Tahini Dressing

Moroccan Carrot Salad

Moroccan Citrus Salad

Moroccan Lentil Salad

Other refreshing summer salads.

Iced Mint Tea with Summer Berries

Orlando has been getting a lot of rain lately, not the heavy kind but the sporadic showers that come unannounced every couple of hours and only last long enough to mess up your hairdo and ruin whatever outdoor activity you happen to be doing. But a few weekends ago was an exception: it was dry, sunny and perfectly perfect for spending time by the pool. We also happened to have company for a couple of days so spending almost every moment of our waking hours either in the water or on lounge chairs was great fun. There was tanning, bantering, munching on hummus and chips, and of course, there were many glasses of fruity iced mint tea to keep us refreshed.

P.S. I’m in Marrakesh right now living completely different weather and taking lots of pictures for you. Posts coming soon.

Love,

Nisrine

 

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