27 November 2006

Thanks, Dina

A nice column from our friend Dina on the joys of Thanksgiving cooking. Includes a reference to Amy and a certain quote in our kitchen nook.

26 November 2006

Thanksgiving exhale

It's been a while since my last posting. My excuse is that I quit my old job, flew home for a few days, started my new job and then hosted the in-laws for a week over the Thanksgiving holiday.

It was a busy few weeks, but all is going well. Very well.

Seth and I hosted our first holiday here in our home, and it felt very good. I managed to pull off the traditional meal, complete with a brined, 15-pound turkey, mashed potatoes, my Grandma Pat's cornbread dressing, giblet gravy (my personal favorite), cranberry-apple bake (thanks, Janet), green beens and carrots steamed with orange zest, rolls and a pumpkin pie.

I even started the day out with Mom's bacon and onion quiche recipe she got as a college student at Oklahoma State from a friend enrolled in a French class. With the quiche I served a fruit salad and warmed pumpkin bread I'd made the night before. It was wonderful. Seth even put on Bing Crosby's White Christmas album as Thanksgiving is the day it is officially OK to begin listening to Bing! What a treat.

The biggest mishap came from the pie. A self-proclaimed awful baker, I was reading (and mixing up) two different recipes. I wound up tossing the batter of one because I thought I'd screwed it up only to find out after speaking with my mom on the phone that I hadn't messed it up at all. Oh well. Randy saved the day by running to Safeway to pick up an extra can of pumpkin and evaporated milk. The pie baked up OK, and a few leaves made from crust covered a minor imperfection.

The day was exhausting and an intense delight. Randy said he thought the whole Thanksgiving meal seemed like too much work. Perhaps. But the hours of preparation, fretting, tasting, estimating times and fixing my mistakes made my day. And when I sat down to a beautiful table filled with food and surrounded by family, I know that moment alone was enough to be thankful for.

This afternoon I'm back to the kitchen to make a soup. Leftover turkey and Grandma Peach's wide noodles.

Happy holidays indeed.

07 November 2006

Morocco revisited

Since Dina was going to be stuck at home on her birthday, we decided to take dinner to her. She was craving a taste of Morocco, so I volunteered to bring the main dish.

This was my first attempt at cooking Moroccan food. Ever. I'm glad for this.

Had I tried to cook the dishes before going there, I likely would have found it complicated. I would have certainly misunderstood the food, not to mention the people.

Having visited Moroccan families in their homes, sampled their food and shared great times with friends over steaming communal dishes of chicken, dried fruits and couscous, I have a better understanding of the food, and, of course, the people who lovingly prepare it.

Wander the markets in Meknes and Fez to see vendors selling dried apricots, figs, dates, prunes and raisins. Nuts of all kinds. And spices shaped into mounds so colorful and brilliant they become a piece of art on their own. The food isn't mysterious. Nothing comes in boxes with unpronounceable chemical names. In fact, on your plate it looks very similar to the raw product in the market.

So for Dina's birthday I make a chicken dish cooked with apricots, prunes and almonds. I added saffron and some tagine spice I bought from Abdul's friend Yassin. The spice mix is called "head of the store." Abdul told me this refers to the man who runs the shop. Each man creates his own spice blend. Yassin's was delicious.

Here's the basic way I cooked this meal. I'm not offering amounts because this dish is simple enough. Simply add what you need or what you have available. Don't make it complicated. Enjoy the company and the recipe is a success.


Bone-in chicken (I used thighs)
Olive oil
Saffron (if available)
Dried apricots
Dried prunes
Whole almonds
Onion, sliced
Spice mix

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Create a spice mix by combining red pepper, cumin, turmeric, ginger, pepper, cinnamon and salt. Use about 1/8 to 1/4 tablespoon per serving.

Fill a small dish with about a cup of warm tap water and drop in a few threads of saffron. Set aside. Slice onion, set aside.

Add olive oil to coat a large pan. Heat to medium-high. Add chicken, salting while cooking. Lightly brown one side. Flip and brown the other. Add saffron water and all other ingredients. Stir over medium heat. Add about a cup of additional water and cook down for about five minutes. Remove from heat.

Place chicken pieces in an oven-safe dish. Pour liquid and other ingredients over the top. Cover with foil and bake 40 to 45 minutes, depending on the size of chicken pieces. If you are making this dish for a dinner party, simply leave in a warm oven until ready to serve.

As an appetizer I served this Moroccan salad. I took some to Abdul, who said he approved. I made it with eggplant. And go easy on the red pepper; the amount called for makes it very spicy. The recipe is simple, but I suggest prepping all of the veggies and spices first. That will make cooking the dish very easy. Serve this room temp with some bread for dipping.

I got this recipe from a random Web site, so no credit to me!



2-3 green peppers (this salad can be made with eggplant instead of green peppers)
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
3-4 small tomatoes, chopped
1 medium onion, minced
2 tsp. red pepper
2-3 Tbs. tomato paste
1 tsp fresh parsley, minced
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. powdered ginger
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1/2 tsp. cumin
olive oil

- Put the green peppers on an open flame or under the broiler until the skin is burned black; put the peppers in a plastic bag rubbing briskly between the hands to remove the burned skin (if you are using eggplant instead of peppers, char them in the same manner, but simply scrape off the burned skin with a fork)

- Sauté the onions and garlic in the olive oil over medium to high heat; when the onions have become soft add the peppers, tomatoes, red pepper and other spices; when the tomatoes are soft add the tomato paste; lower heat, cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes

- Allow to cool before serving, sprinkle with minced parsley