Sunday, February 29, 2004

Saturday's Dinner Menu - Couscous Casablanca Style.

I'm a bit tardy in posting this, but the following meal was brought to us by M (J's brother) and J too... I helped only minimally. This recipe is from Cooking at the Kasbah by Kitty Morse. I was craving the cinnamon flavored meat in the traditional Moroccan B'Stila (pastry pie). So after I served myself a portion I sprinkled a little of the spice on my dish. It was heaven. Cinnamon is a spice that should be enjoyed with some subtlety. Any savory dish, in fact, should be spiced carefully. Perhaps I'm a food snob, but I think that we overuse cinnamon. Take for example those sticky buttered up sugar buns that they serve in the mall. The cinnamon coats the pre-fab dough in a thick and syrupy goo. I've decided that foods that are successful in the shopping-mall or bulk-food sense (jumbo muffins included) appeal to the basest pleasure centers in our taste buds. It feels good going down, and we're tempted to gorge ourselves on these items. The people that develop and market these food items are aware of this. Much of these foods are tested in taste labs.

It must be possible to overcome this anasmia if we just enjoy little pleasures and joys in what we taste and eat. So I hold that Cinnamon is underrated as a savory spice, and I'd like to do more research on how it's used as such. I've had it in some wonderful dishes including a Lebanese pizza with spiced ground lamb and sweet onions. Do you think Jimmy Stewart would have dared? Though unlike Jimmy in The Man Who Knew Too Much that night opted for eating with utensils.

Thanks to M. for this fabulous meal! I marked his substitutions below.

K'seksoo Beidaoui

2 tbsp. Olive Oil
2 sweet onions, peeled and sliced thinly*
5 shallots, peeled and sliced thinly* (substituted for 4 onions)
2 pounds quality beef chuck cut into two inch chunks* (for 1 lb beef/lamb and 1 3 lb chicken)
1 28 oz can of whole roma tomatoes with the juice* (for 1 16 oz can- he just added less water)
30 parsley and cilantro leaves tied with a cotton string
8 c water* (about 7)
14 threads Spanish saffron, toasted in a pan and crushed
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp ground ginger
4 carrots peeled and halved
4 turnips peeled and quartered
1/2 c. dried chickpeas, soaked and drained* (we forgot to buy these so... ooops)
4 celery stalks cut into 3 inch pieces
3 zucchini quartered lengthwise
Salt and pepper
2 c chicken broth
2 c instant couscous
2 tbsp butter
1/4 c. raisins*(uhhh... someone forgot about these... I wonder if it was on purpose?)

In a large soup pot over medium-high heat, heat the oil and sauté the onions until tender, 4-5 minutes. Add the beef or lamb (chicken if you have it), and cook stirring occasionally until browned., 5-6 minutes. Add the tomatoes, parsley, cilantro, and water. Bring to a rolling boil. Cover and cook for 6 to 8 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium. Add 10 of the saffron threads, the turmeric, ginger, carrots, turnips, chickpeas, and celery. Cover and cook until the chicken is tender, 40-45 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350F degrees. With a slotted spoon, transfer the carrots, turnips, and chicken to an ovenproof dish. Cover and place in the oven to keep warm. Add the pumpkin and zucchini to the soup broth. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook until the pumpkin is tender, 15 to 20 minutes. With a slotted spoon, add the pumpkin and zucchini to the vegetables in the oven. Discard the parsley and cilantro. Keep the soup broth simmering until ready to serve. In a medium sauce pan, bring the chicken broth, butter, and remaining saffron threads to a boil. Gradually stir in the couscous and remove from heat. Cover and let stand for 5 minutes. Transfer the couscous to a large bowl add 1/4 c. of the soup broth and the butter. Fluff with a fork.

Mound the couscous on a large serving platter. Top with the cooked vegetables and surround with the meat. Garnish with raisins (which we did not have... hmmm I wonder if someone hates raisins). Serve the soup on the side in a bowl with a ladle (the guests pour additional soup on their servings if they wish).



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