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Showing posts with label grilled meat. Show all posts
Showing posts with label grilled meat. Show all posts

Friday, October 5, 2012

Morocco from Casablanca to Fez

From Casablanca on the coast to the inland city of Fez in the northern part of Morocco, the area looks very much like the American Southwest.

Looking out the window of the van, there's not much to see.

A well-paved highway cuts through the flat, dusty farmland, passing villages remarkable only for the number of flat roofed houses with satellite dishes and the occasional donkey cart.

I'm with a group of travel and food writers visiting Morocco. Some of us are here for the first time.

Before we leave Casablanca we stop at the Mosque Hassam II, the 3rd largest mosque in the world, the largest in Morocco. 
The scale of the doors makes visitors look very small. The detailing on tiles and metal work on the tall doorways is beautiful. The mosque overlooks the breakwater and harbor.
A few blocks away, restaurants and clubs share the same view. 
We grab a quick breakfast after our all-night flight before we climb in the van for a three hour drive.

Passing through villages along the way, small roadside cafes and stores selling drinks and snacks are the only commerce visible from the road. On the outskirts of Menekes we see something that makes us stop the van and get out for a look.

Open air meat markets.
When you see that, you know you aren't in Kansas anymore. The butchers are friendly. Sides of beef and sheep hang outside in front of the shops. Cuts of meat are laid out on the counters.
From that dusty scene we head on to Chateau Roslane, the largest winery in Morocco and worlds away from the butcher shops. A large, well-landscaped facility, we have a tasting of white, red and rose wines. All very good. Light and perfect for a summer meal.
For lunch we eat in the hill-top holy city of Moulyidriss. The buildings press against one another, moving like waves up the hills and down into the valley.
We want an authentic Moroccan meal. 

We have lunch on what our guide says is called "the Food Street," because there are small cafes mixed in with dry goods stores and stalls selling olives and bread.
Restaurant Alaambra is a hole in the wall. An open-air space with a dining area in front with a cash register on one side and a few plastic covered tables in the middle. 
The tables and chairs look like they came from someone's house. A larger dining room is in back. We sit out in front where we can watch the cook prepare the meal.
Wearing a bright red fez, Abdoul cooks outside in front of the restaurant. Opposite the cash register a row of clay tangines cook on a metal tray.
He checks the progress of the tangines and returns to his elevated kitchen on the other side of the outdoor area.
He smiles as he forms ground beef into thick dowels and places them into wire grilles with two sides. He flips one side on top of the other and places the meat on the gas powered grill next to ones filled with sliced tomatoes, onions and eggplant. 

He fills two more wire grilles with chicken and beef fillets and adds them to the others. Fat from the beef explodes into flames. Abdoul deftly controls the fire by flipping the grilles on top of one another. A spray of water beats back the flames.
At the table, the conical top of a tangine is removed as if it were a hat removed out of courtesy. Sliced carrots, zucchini, string beans and chunks of potato have cooked in a bubbling broth. The heat from the flames having created a thick sweetened crust on the bottom of the tangine that requires tugging to remove.
Baskets of soft white bread appear as well, along with small plates of stewed white beans, cooked potato cubes in tomato sauce, spicy herbed green and black olives, thick cut French fries and two wonderfully crisp potato croquettes that we share with great relish.
The fruit of Abdoul's fiery labors come to the table, a mix of charred meats, flavored by their own fat and the smoky flames, and the vegetable slices still mostly raw but singed and sweetened by caramelization.

Knives and forks give way to fingers tearing pieces of the soft white bread that are dipped into the tangine to soak up the delicious broth, then picking up pieces of onion, tomato and eggplant along with a choice of chicken and beef two ways.

Each mouthful benefits from a marriage of salt and fire sweetened fat. Here is umami, Arabic style. The whole much larger than the parts.

Against this marriage of flavors, the crispy croquette holds its own. The olives, French fries and white beans are in supporting roles. They might be overlooked entirely in the competition for attention but they also serve who stand and wait and in short order they too are consumed along with their more popular brethren.
Very full, we stagger back to the van, aware that we are only half-way through our first day and there is so much more to experience.  Still working in front of his fires, Abdoul gives us a big wave and a smile as we leave.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Now & Later Meals: Grilled Corn Has a Second Act as a Salad

Besides outdoor grilling, days at the beach, fried chicken, ripe tomatoes, and ice cold watermelon, corn on the cob is one of the great markers of summer.

When I was growing up, my mom loved to search out road side stands that sold fresh corn. She'd buy a grocery bag full and we'd feast on boiled corn with slabs of melting butter, seasoned liberally with salt and pepper.

I still enjoy corn that way, but now more often than not our corn on the cob comes to the table grilled not boiled.

Shucked and drizzled with olive oil, seasoned with sea salt and pepper, then turned on a grill until lightly browned, the naturally sweet kernels are sweetened even more by caramelization. Yumm.

For a snack, nothing is better than an ear of corn pulled from the refrigerator. But there's more that can be done with those grilled ears of corn. Cutting the kernels off, they can go into a chopped salad and move from side dish to entree.

And on hot days, that's another marker of summer--putting meals on the table with as little effort as possible.

Now: Farmers' Market Fresh Grilled Corn on the Cob
Later: Grilled Corn and Chopped Vegetable Salad

NOW: Grilled Corn on the Cob

The most important part of this recipe is the corn itself. The fresher the corn, the better the taste. When you're picking out corn, select ears that have green husks and golden silks.

Yield 4 servings plus left-overs (which you will need for the LATER recipe)

Time 15 minutes

Ingredients

8 ears of corn, shucked, silks removed, washed
3 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt and pepper

Directions

Preheat the grill.

Break the ears in half or cut into 3" lengths. The ears you're saving to make the salad can be left whole. Pour the olive oil onto a large plate. Season with sea salt and pepper. Roll each piece of corn in the oil.

Using tongs, grill the corn on all sides until lightly browned. Remove from the grill and serve hot.

LATER: Parsley-Corn Chopped Salad

The salad can be prepared ahead and refrigerated but it tastes better if served at room temperature.

Yield 4 servings

Time 15 minutes

Ingredients

3-4 ears of grilled corn
1 large bunch Italian parsley, washed, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, skin on
1 tablespoon yellow onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, washed, peeled, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
Sea salt and pepper

Directions

Put the balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan and reduce by half over a low flame. Set aside to cool.

Using a sharp knife, cut off the kernels and put into a mixing bowl. Place the garlic clove on a skewer or the point of a sharp knife. Char in a flame so the skin burns off. Brush off any bits of burnt skin and roughly chop the garlic.

Add the charred garlic, parsley, and onions to the mixing bowl. Drizzle with the olive oil and reduced balsamic vinegar. Season to taste with sea salt and pepper.

Transfer to a serving dish.

Variations

Instead of using a raw carrot, grill a carrot cut into slabs 1/4" thick; dredged the slabs in seasoned olive oil and grill until lightly browned; let cool and chop into pieces the same size as the corn kernels; add to the salad

Grill asparagus dredged in seasoned olive oil, then chop into pieces and add to the salad

Quarter cherry tomatoes and add to the salad

Add 1 cup cooked couscous

Add 1 medium sized avocado, peeled, roughly chopped

Add 6 medium sized shrimp, washed, peeled, deveined, and grilled, roughly shopped

Crumble 3 pieces of crisp bacon on the salad and toss

Shred 1/2 cup turkey or chicken breast and add to the salad

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A New Year's Surf n' Turf Shout Out to All Guys: Caesar Salad, Sauteed Shrimp, Grilled Steak, Baked Tomato, and a Dirty Martini

My good friend Hank who lives in a converted church in Lincoln, R.I. reacted to a piece I wrote about Skinny Bitch's vegetarian advocacy with a strongly worded email:
hmm, let's see-give me a pack of Camels....a 5th of bourbon and for lunch I'll have tuna and steak tartar....with bacon.
Clearly what's good for the goose is not good for my friend Hank. And I have to agree with him--except for the "pack of Camels"--all the rest sounds good.

So for Hank and all other guys, here's my version of a dream meal: Caesar Salad, Sauteed Shrimp with Shiitake Mushrooms, Grilled Steak with a Baked Tomato, and a Dirty Martini.

Baked Tomato

Get the tomatoes started while you prepare the rest of the meal, so they'll be ready to serve when you've finished the other dishes.

Yield: 4 servings
Time: 45 minutes

Ingredients

4 tomatoes, farmers' market fresh, washed
2 tablespoons bread crumbs, preferably homemade
Olive oil
Sea salt and black pepper

Method

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut the top off the tomatoes, drizzle with olive oil, season with sea salt and black pepper, top with a sprinkling of bread crumbs, and drizzle with olive oil (again).

Put on a Silpat sheet or piece of aluminum foil on a baking sheet. Bake for 30-45 minutes or until the tomato has started to collapse.

Caesar Salad

Yield: 4 servings
Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients

1 garlic clove, skin off
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
4 anchovies
1 egg, farmers' market fresh
1/4 teaspoon Worcester sauce
2-3 drops of Tabasco, optional
2 hearts of romaine
3-4 tablespoons olive oil depending on taste
1 teaspoon lemon juice, freshly squeezed
1/4 cup Parmesan or Romano cheese, freshly grated
1/2 cup croutons
Black pepper

Method

Use a wooden bowl if you have one. Sprinkle the sea salt on a wooden cutting board. Mash the garlic back and forth on the salt with the flat side of a chef's knife, then sweep the garlic-salt mash into the salad bowl.

Boil water in a small saucepan. Add the egg and cook for 4 minutes. Remove the egg, let cool, then open, scoop out the yolk and white with a small spoon, and add to the salad bowl along with the Worcester sauce, Tabasco (optional), olive oil, and lemon juice.

With a fork, mash the anchovies into pieces against the side of the salad bowl and dissolve them in the dressing. Mix well.

Tear the romaine leaves into pieces, add to the salad bowl, top with the grated cheese, croutons, and season with the pepper. Toss to coat the leaves. Taste and adjust the flavors by adding more lemon juice or sea salt.

Sauteed Shrimp with Shiitake Mushrooms

Yield: 4 servings
Time: 15 minutes

Ingredients

1 pound shrimp, washed, shelled, deveined
1/2 pound shiitake or brown mushrooms, washed, ends trimmed, sliced thin
2 garlic cloves, peeled, finely chopped
2 shallots, peeled, finely chopped
2 teaspoons sweet butter
Olive oil
Sea salt and pepper

Method

Heat a frying pan, drizzle with olive oil, season with sea salt and pepper, add the shrimp and 1 teaspoon of the butter. Cook until pink and lightly browned on both sides, 5-6 minutes total. Remove from the pan.

Drizzle olive oil into the same pan, add the mushrooms, garlic, and shallots. Saute until lightly browned, add the other teaspoon of butter. Season with salt and pepper. Move the mushrooms to one side and return the shrimp to the pan to reheat.

Serve either mixed together or separated on the plate.

Grilled Steak

Yield: 1 serving
Time: 15 minutes

Ingredients

1 10 oz. steak, T-Bone, Porterhouse, Rib Eye with the Bone-in, washed, pat dry
Olive oil
Sea salt and black pepper

Method

Preheat the grill or broiler. Drizzle olive oil on a large plate, season with sea salt and black pepper. Dredge the steak through the olive oil. Put on the hot grill or on a tray in the broiler. Turn every 5 minutes until done to your taste.

Put on a plate, cover lightly with a piece of aluminum foil for 5 minutes, then transfer to a dinner plate, top with the juices, and serve immediately.

Dirty Martini

Yield
: 1 serving
Time: 2 minutes

Ingredients

3 jiggers of vodka, freezer cold
Vermouth to taste
1 cocktail olive
1/4 teaspoon olive juice

Method

I avoid the shake vs. stirred debate by keeping the vodka in the freezer. Stick a toothpick in the olive and put into the bottom of the martini glass. Add the vodka, vermouth, and olive juice.

Flourless Chocolate Cake with Roasted Walnuts

And for the ideal dessert: a piece of flourless chocolate cake with roasted walnuts, topped with whipped cream. Recipe will be forthcoming. Until then, here's the photograph.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

California Dreamin: A Salad of Iranian Cucumbers, Cherry Tomatoes, and Onions

Living near the beach in Pacific Palisades, I have to drive a long way to visit one of my favorite places to eat. An Armenian restaurant, California Dreamin (6424 San Fernando Road, Glendale, CA 91201) is located in Glendale some 30 miles inland. Happily a block away is another favorite, Golden Farms (6501 San Fernando Road, Glendale, CA 91202), also Armenian, a supermarket famous for its low prices, fresh produce, specialty cuts of meats, and enormous liquor department.

Reflecting the diversity of the neighborhood, California Dreamin is an all-purpose coffee shop serving American, Mexican, Japanese, Middle Eastern, and Armenian food. I imagine it was once a hamburger joint or the kind of coffee shop that served 99¢ breakfasts.

For years I drove by without stopping. Now I look for excuses to swing by and have lunch.

I'm certain all their food is good but I'm a creature of habit so I always order #8 the Chicken Breast Kabob. The perfectly cooked chicken is tender and juicy. Served with basmati rice, a fire-roasted whole tomato and a pepper, toasted pieces of lavash, and a small bowl of cucumber salad, there's always more than I can eat. Invariably I bring home a to-go box for a late night snack. And they make a cup of thick Armenian coffee that packs more flavor than any espresso.

At some point, I realized I came as much for the cucumber-tomato salad (Salad-e Shirazi) as anything else. The combination of flavors is so deceptively simple. Making the salad at home I shop at the local farmers' markets to get the freshest ingredients. Delicious by itself, the salad is a perfect side dish for grilled meats.

Iranian Cucumber, Tomato, Onion Salad

Yield: 4 servings

Time: 5 minutes

I tried using regular cucumbers but they're too watery. For me the salad only works with Iranian or Persian cucumbers because they have more density and fewer seeds. The traditional version of the salad calls for the addition of an acid, either vinegar or citrus juice (lemon or lime). Personally, I like it without either, but all versions are worth trying.

Ingredients

2 Iranian cucumbers, washed, peeled, thinly sliced into rounds or quarters
1/2 basket cherry tomatoes, washed, quartered
2 tablespoons yellow onion, washed, peeled, cut into small pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt and pepper

Method

Mix together and dress with olive oil. Season to taste with sea salt and black pepper.

Serve as a side dish with grilled meats or to be eaten with grilled lavash or tortillas.

Variations

Add a squeeze of fresh lemon or lime juice, or 1 teaspoon vinegar.

Add finely chopped Italian parsley or cilantro or mint leaves.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Farmers' Market Fast Food

We have a Sunday routine. Our friends Annette and Ron come over. We watch 60 Minutes, catch up, and have dinner. Last Sunday I didn't think they could make it because they'd been in Japan all that week. I assumed that if they were back in town they were probably jet lagged and wouldn't want to leave the house. But I didn't want to break the weekly tradition, so I emailed them anyway that if they were up for it, Sunday dinner was still happening. Then I went about my business and forgot completely about the invitation.

30 minutes before they would normally come over, Ron called to say that they would be arriving as usual. Knowing that they're usually a half hour late, I had an hour to make dinner.

That's where the farmers' market comes into play. For my mother's generation quickly pulling together a meal meant using prepared foods, canned or frozen. Because we shop at our local farmers' market, we always have a good selection of fresh vegetables and fruit in the refrigerator.

That morning I had picked up flowers for the dining room table and fresh corn, carrots, Haas avocados, scallions, cantaloupe, and romaine lettuce.

From what I had bought at the farmers' market, I made a salad, corn on the cob, and cut up a cantaloupe. I added a feta cheese-tapenade appetizer plate with olives and a fresh bread from Bay Cities in Santa Monica and I pulled out a banana chocolate-chip cake I'd made a few days ago. I could have stopped at that point. We had a full meal, vegetarian except for the salami in the salad, but our friends needed protein after their long trip so to fill out the meal, I grilled a rib-eye steak and a half dozen lamb chops.

The heart and soul of the meal was the farmers' market produce. Making the whole meal only took 45 minutes. Everything was ready when Ron and Annette arrived, jet lagged and very hungry.

Romaine Lettuce with Julienned Salami, Cheese, & Carrots

Yield 4 servings
Time 10 minutes

The felino salami and comte cheese came from Bay Cities. I recommend both.

Ingredients

2 hearts of romaine (washed, dried, cut into bite sized pieces)
2 tablespoons felino salami (julienned)
2 tablespoons comte cheese (julienned) cheddar or swiss would be good as well
2 tablespoons croutons (homemade preferred)
2 tablespoons carrot (washed, julienned)
1 scallion (washed, thin sliced, green and white parts)
1/2 small avocado (peeled, roughly chopped)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
Sea salt and pepper

Method

Heat the balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan over a low flame until reduced to 1 tablespoon. Let cool.

Put the ingredients in a salad bowl, dress with the olive oil and reduced balsamic vinegar, and season with sea salt and pepper to taste.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Carrot Salad Makes a Great Sidekick

What comes with an entrée may be more flavorful than the entrée itself. Grilled chicken breast is a case in point: it's ok, healthy but flavor-wise, nothing special. Put a side of homemade carrot salad on the plate and everything changes. The addition of the creamy, spicy carrot salad compliments the neutral flavor of the breast. I'm in heaven.

The key to that sentiment is "homemade". Carrot salad bought from upscale Gelson's or even Nate n'Al's just won't do. I've taken the classic deli recipe and given it a couple of flavor enhancers: a pinch of cayenne and golden raisins soaked in lemon juice. With those added flavors, the salad can hold its own with an infinite variety of dishes: grilled chicken, steak, hamburger, pork chops, lamb chops, duck, even an avocado for a vegetarian meal.

Carrot Salad with Lemon-Soaked Raisins

8 large carrots (preferably farmers' market fresh), washed, peeled, ends trimmed off
1 scallion (optional), finely chopped
1 small bunch Italian parsley, washed, dried, stems trimmed, finely chopped
2 tablespoons golden raisins
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon cumin
Pinch of cayenne
Sea salt and pepper
1/2 cup mayonnaise

Soak the raisins in lemon juice and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper at least 30 minutes, preferably overnight Grate the carrots in a large mixing bowl. Roughly chop the raisins, reserving the lemon juice not absorbed into the raisins. Mix together the carrots, raisins, parsley, and scallions. Season with the cumin, cayenne, sea salt, and black pepper and toss. Add the lemon juice and mayonnaise. Mix well.

Variations

Use cilantro instead of Italian parsley
Add capers

Top with roasted chopped almonds

Serves 6-8 (makes 1 quart). Preparation Time: 20 minutes.makes 1 quart). Preparation Time: 20 minutes.