Oct 30, 2011

Harissa: Moroccan Hot Sauce

Each country has its own version of hot sauce.  Morocco is no exception.  I have tried the harissa in a can, which is much to be desired.  Then there is the harissa in a tube. A tube? Really?  Then I tried Mustapha brand of Harissa.  This harissa is hard to beat.  But I am not here to talk about buying harissa, but making your own.  It is easy and inexpensive to make.  All it takes is a food processor or blender and a few ingredients and you will have a hot sauce to your liking.


6 ounces of dried chilies (equal amounts of Ancho, pasillas, new mexico, guajillo, and chipotle chilies) any combination you like.  Ancho and pasillas are very mild.

1 red bell pepper, roasted

6 oz of sundried tomatoes

5 cloves of garlic, roasted

salt to taste

1 1/2 tsp caraway seeds, freshly grounded

1 1/2 coriander seeds, freshley grounded

1 tsp cumin

2 tbs olive oil, plus extra for storage

Boil some water.  Place the chilies in a bowl and pour the boiling water over them.  Let the chilies soak for about 30 minutes.  Make sure that you wear gloves when handling peppers. Peel the garlic and add a little olive oil.  Place in aluminum and put in the oven for about 10-15 minutes at 400 degrees F.  They should be soft when you take them out of the oven.  Roast the red bell pepper at the same time.  This will take about 30 minutes in the oven.  Place the pepper on a broiler pan and keep turning every 10 minutes so that the skin is scorched on all sides. 

In the mean time, grind up the spices in a mortar or use a coffee grinder.  Once the peppers have been rehydrated, remove stem and seeds. Skin the  bell pepper and remove the seeds.  Place all of the ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth.  Adjust the spices according to your taste. Pour a thin film of olive oil on top for storage.  This will keep up to a month in the fridge or you can freeze it.  Enjoy!

P.S. There are different variations of this recipe.  You can add cilantro, lemon juice, onions or whatever ingredients that you like in your hot sauce. Harissa can also be used in place of tomato paste in your recipe.   

Oct 28, 2011

Israeli Fennel and Sesame Seed Rolls

I am the greatest bread lover that ever lived.  Well, at least I would like to think so.  I cannot eat a meal without bread.  The plate is just naked without it. Fennel seeds smell incredible.  I often use them when I make Khobz, a Moroccan flat bread.  The downside of making bread is that it takes a long time.  What I do is while the bread is rising for the first time, I plan a small trip to the store and try to make it back in time to shape it and let it rise for the second time.  You are not waiting what seems to be hours for the bread to rise.  This recipe was intended to be a sweet bread.  But I thought that it would be good to accompany the Chorba (soup) that I made in my previous post.  Yes, they were delicious.  I cut way down on the sugar and they came out perfect. 

2 tsp dried yeast
1 - 1 1/2 cups warm water
1 TBS sugar
6 TBS butter, melted
3 1/2 cups of bread flour
1 tsp salt
2 TBS sesame seeds
1 tsp fennal seed
1 egg, beaten for the glaze
1 TBS orange blossom water or almond extract, optional

Place the yeast in 1/2 cup of warm water, add the sugar.  Let if foam for about 10 minutes. Use a large bowl, add the flour, salt, orange blossom water, seeds, butter, and mix together.  Add the yeast and knead for about 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic. You may have to use more water or flour.  Transfer the dough to a medium sized oiled bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap or a cloth and let it rise for 1 to 1 1/2 hours until doubled in size.  Next, knead again for a few minutes.  Then divide the dough into 12 small balls.  Place on a greased baking sheet and flatten just a little.  Space them about 2 inches apart.  Cover with a cloth or plastic wrap and leave to rise for about an hour.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Brush the rolls with the beaten egg and then bake for about 12-15 minutes, until they are golden brown.  Serve warm with butter.  Enjoy!

P.S.  I usually mix the yeast with all of the ingredients instead of doing the above extra step of putting it in the warm water. 

Also, when I make bread, I turn the oven on a couple of minutes, then turn it off again.  Then I place the dough inside to rise.  I have really good luck with doing this. 

Oct 26, 2011

I've Buried the Hatchet and I am Moving On...

Monday was the year anniversary of when my marriage fell apart. On that day last year my husband moved out. I came home from work to an empty house and cried an ocean of tears.  Each of my footsteps echoed throughout the house. I encountered an emptiness that I had not experienced in a long time. Extreme loneliness settled in.

Here it is a year later. My life has changed a little since that time. I am still blogging, I am belly dancing, and I have put myself out there for another love to come into my life.  I need to bury the past and not look back.  But how do I accomplish this?  Living one day at a time was very hard at the beginning, now it is easier. Native Americans coined the phrase: "Burying the Hatchet" it is when two parties have come to an agreement. They take a hatchet and bury it so that no one will use that weapon to make war with the other. My goal is peace. I agree not to mourn the loss of my marriage any longer. I want good love to be drawn into my life.  I must let go of the pain and hurt.  I need freedom. It is time to open a new chapter.  Life goes on and so must I.

The label is symbolic of the time I had with my husband.  Today, it is buried in the back yard.  One of my readers told me that when God (Allah) takes away something it frees us up so that He can give us something better.  I am looking forward to genuine love, and its only purpose is loving. 

Oct 25, 2011

Moroccan Chorba (Soup) with Carrot and Summer Squash

It is the time of year for a warm, yet nutritious, bowl of soup and homemade bread.  As the soup is cooking, the house is filled with the aroma of exotic spices from North Africa.  I dream of Morocco, the Mosaic tiles, the muezzin calling for prayer, tajines, couscous, drinking mint tea...


3-4 TBS of olive oil
2 onions, chopped
4 celery stalks, chopped
1 TBS tomato paste
1 TBS smen or butter
3-4 whole cloves
7-8 cups of chicken broth or 3-4 Knorr bouillon cubes and 7-8 cups of  water
1 tsp turmeric
1-2 tsp of Ras El Hanout
salt\pepper to taste
1-2 tsp sugar
4-8 sprigs of chopped cilantro, you can use Italian parsley and cilantro together too
1 butternut squash, peeled and cut into small pieces
2 carrots, peeled and cut into small pieces
2 cans (14 oz) of chopped tomatoes or 4 medium tomatoes, skinned and chopped
a handful of vermicelli or any other small pasta.
plain yogurt to garnish or sour cream or heavy cream

In a soup pot, add the olive oil, onions, celery, butter or smen.  Simmer until the onions are translucent.  Add the spices and the parsley/cilantro and simmer for a couple of minutes.  Next, add the rest of the ingredients except the broth and pasta.  Cook until the carrots and squash start to turn colors then add the broth.  Cook on medium heat for about 30-40 minutes.  Finally, add the pasta and cook for another 10 minutes or until the pasta is done.  You can puree this soup, but I like it chunky. Garnish with plain yogurt and chopped cilantro. Enjoy!

Oct 23, 2011

Hummus with Olives

I really like Sabra Hummus. My favorite is with olives. Hummus can be difficult to put together though. I asked myself, How much of which ingredient do I put in? I have found recipes that call for an exorbitant amount of lemon juice, which, in turn, makes the hummus rather tart.  The key to making good hummus is starting off with a little lemon juice (or any other ingredient) and gradually adding as needed or not using it at all.  I always use a recipe as a guideline and make changes accordingly.  Remember your taste buds as you are putting dishes together.  Ask yourself if you would like a large amount of a spice or a small one. Then you will have more success with your recipes. By the way, my neighbor is my recipe taster.  She ate half of this the evening I gave it to her.  I ate a good portion of it myself too.


2 cans (15-16 oz) of garbanzo beans
4 TBS tahini (sesame seed butter)
1-2 squeezes of a lemon, more or less to your taste
salt\pepper to your taste
1 tsp cumin, optional
5-7 roasted garlic cloves
4 TBS olive oil, more if needed
reserved juice from garbanzo beans
paprika for garnish
 1 TBS chopped parsley or cilantro, optional
olives, 2-3 TBS, chopped, green or black

Rinse and drain the garbanzo beans.  In a food processor or blender, process the chickpeas with the garlic, tahini, cumin, salt, pepper, and lemon juice until blended.  Add the olive oil slowly while blending until the hummus is thick and smooth.  You can add some of the reserved juice from the garbanzo beans to make it less thick.  Place it in a bowl and smooth it around.  Make a well in the middle and fill with olives.  Sprinkle with paprika and drizzle more olive oil over the top.  You can garnish with parsley or cilantro.  Serve with naan or pita bread.  Enjoy!

Oct 20, 2011

Tostones with Seasoned Lime Salt (Twice-Fried Green Plantains)

A week or so ago, I put a recipe on the blog for fried plantains. That recipe was for plantains that were soft and sweet.  This recipe is for green plaintains.  I first saw this recipe on a show on PBS called Cooking with Daisy. Since then I found a recipe for the Tostones by Emeril Lagasse. He is one of the most famous chefs here in the States.  It seems like everything he makes is wonderful.  My brother and his girlfriend was over and I begged them to try this recipe with me.  Needless to say, the plate was empty in less than 10 minutes.  These are so delicious.  They are great as a snack or as a side dish with a meal. 

3 large green or slightly yellow plantains
Vegetable oil for frying
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon packed finely grated lime zest
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

In a deep fryer or large skillet, heat the oil over moderate heat to 350ºF.
With a sharp knife, cut the ends from each plantain and score the skins lengthwise several times to peel away the skin. Cut the plantains into 1 1/2- inch thick slices. In batches, fry the plantain pieces until just golden, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer with tongs to paper towels to drain.
Place a plantain slice on a flat work surface, and press down on it firmly with the back of a heavy plate or skillet until flattened to about 1/4-inch thick. Repeat with the remaining slices.
Reheat the oil and fry the tostones to a deeper color and warmed through, about 1 minute. Drain on paper towels briefly before serving. While the tostones are draining, combine the salt, lime zest and cumin in a small bowl and stir to blend. Season the tostones with the seasoned lime salt and serve immediately. Enjoy!

Oct 17, 2011

Mutawwa'in: Saudia Arabia's Vice Squad

I am currently reading a book called, “In the land of invisible women” by Qanta Ahmed.  I am nearly finished and have found this book to be very fascinating.  She is an English Muslim, who is a doctor, which suddenly finds herself in Saudi Arabia.  Even for a Muslim, Saudi Arabia is a place that can be scary and intimidating, especially for a female.

This brings me to my subject:  Mutawwa’in. Their official title: The Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vices. These men are the religious police that scour the city looking for religious offenders.  You know, looking for those folks who are going against their interpretation of Sharia Law.  Anyone that is engaged in homosexual behavior, prostitution, eating pork, drinking alcohol, not wearing an abayah or your veil or hijab is not on correctly could be in serious trouble.  If a store is found operating during prayer time and the “police” find it open, then it is forced to close.  Some people are beaten, taken to jail, or even deported (if an expat).  Qanta Ahmed was in a situation where she was at a dinner and both men and women were eating together.  The women were uncovered.  Somehow the Mutawwa'in found out and the place was raided, so to speak.  She was scared for her life along with her companions.  After much to-do, Qanta was escorted safely back to her living quarters.

I like the fact that here in the U.S. we are given the opportunity to accept or reject a way of life, a religion or whatever we choose.  I try to live my life like the Almighty is watching me all of the time, and He is.  I think that "He" is enough of the religious police that we need.  Do you have any thoughts?  I am open for discussion.

The picture is from here

Oct 15, 2011

Moroccan Chickpea, Lentil, and Fava Bean Soup

This is a tasty soup with ginger, turmeric, and a dash of cinnamon.  Don't let the cinnamon deter you from trying this one.  I have grown to appreciate the sweet versus the savory flavors in Moroccan cooking. 


2-3 Tsp of smen or olive oil
2 onions, chopped
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp turmeric
2 dashes of cinnamon
1-2 tsp sugar, optional
1 15 oz can of garbanzo beans or 1 cup of dried garbanzo beans that are cooked
1 15 1/2 oz can of fava beans or 1 cup of dried fava beans that are cooked
3/4 cup of lentils, green or brown
1 14.5 oz can of whole peeled tomatoes, put in the chopper until smooth
7 1/2 cups of vegetable or meat stock or 3-4 bouillon cubes and 7 1\2 cups of water
3-4 springs of fresh cilantro, chopped
3-4 springs of Italian flat leaf parsley, chopped
salt\pepper to taste

Heat the smen or olive oil in a soup pot or large pan on medium heat.  Add the onions and all of the spices.  Saute until the onions are soft.  Next add the tomatoes, mix well.  Add the lentils and the meat\vegetable stock.  Bring to a boil and then simmer for about 25 minutes or until the lentils are tender. Add the rest of the beans and simmer an addtional 10-15 minutes.  Serve with crispy bread or rolls.  Enjoy!

Oct 13, 2011

Aswan, Egypt Sculpting Symposium

Sculpting is an ancient art form that has all but gone out of style.  It is labor intensive and artists want to copy what the West is doing.  The materials are cheaper and it is quicker to finish a project.  Every year during the winter artists gather in Egypt for a Granite Symposium.  Each sculptor is given a 3 x 3 x 2 meter block of granite.  There isn't a theme to the project other than to create something.  The artists come not only from Egypt, but all over the world to contribute their talent.  These pictures are from last year.  The symposium will be coming again this winter.

 This beauty is by Hany El Sayed of Egypt

This is by Jhon Gogaberishvili of Georgia

The above sculpture by Mohamed Abbas of Egypt

The doorways are by Nicolae Fleissig of France, these would be great in my garden.

Akram El Magdoub is a "land artist" and is overseeing the placement of his work.

One day I would like to visit Egypt.  I think it would be a wonderful to be able to see all the beauty that is there.  So much history and culture to delve into. 

The pictures came from here

Oct 11, 2011

Moroccan Grilled Keftas (Ground Lamb) with Mint and Yogurt Dressing

Who doesn't like a good barbeque?  If you don't have an "official" barbeque, then do like I did and use the oven.  Ok, so you won't get quite the same effect, it is still good.  Ground meat can be hard on the palate.  It is rather bland but with the right amount of spices it can taste wonderful.  By the way, this is a Moroccan recipe.  So, you know it has to be good!

Grilled Keftas with Mint and Yogurt Dressing


1 ½ lbs of ground lamb, chicken, beef, or turkey
1 onion, chopped
3-4 sprigs Italian flat leaf parsley, chopped
3-4 sprigs of cilantro, chopped
1 tsp cumin
½ tsp allspice
1 tsp paprika
Salt/pepper to taste

Mix all of the above ingredients in a medium bowl.  Cover and chill for about an hour.  Mould the meat into small sausage shapes and skewer with a wooden or metal kebab sticks.  Preheat a grill (broiler) or barbecue to a medium heat.  I placed mine in the oven at 475 degrees on a broiler pan.  Cook the Keftas for 5-6 minutes, turning once.  Serve with mint dressing and Moroccan Khobtz or French bread.  Enjoy!

Mint Dressing:

2 tbs of chopped mint
6 tbs of plain yogurt

Mix well and chill until the meat is ready. 

Oct 9, 2011

Tatale or Fried Plantains

I have never had plantains before.  What does one do with these?  They have a sweet taste and resemble a banana. I found a recipe that I have been dying to try.  It is originates in Ghana and is considered either as street food or a snack that is made at home. The fritter consists of a sweet\hot flavor. I adjusted the chilli\cayenne to the taste of my guests which really liked these and took them all home when I offered.  They even took the burnt one.


2 over-ripe plantains
1/4 - 1/2 cup of flour
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp palm oil, optional
1 fresh green chilli, seeded and chopper or 1 tsp cayenne pepper or to taste
salt to taste
vegetable oil for frying

Peel and mash the plantains.  Place in a bowl and add enough flour to bind while stirring throughly.  Next add the rest of the ingredients.  Heat a little oil in a large frying pan.  Put a soup spoon size amount into the pan and fry until golden brown on each side.  It will take about 3-4 minutes, turning once.  Check to make sure that the middle is completed cooked. Drain the fritters on papertowels and serve either hot or cold.  Enjoy!

Oct 7, 2011

Home Made Tortillas

The other day I ran out of bread at home.  I cannot eat without bread, I told myself.  So, I made some tortillas.  They are surprisingly easy and taste better than store bought.  The bread is soft and pliable.  I topped it with ground meat, cilantro, onions, tomatoes and taco sauce.  You can also eat these with scrambled eggs or any filling that you like. 


2 cups of flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 tsp vegetable oil
1/2 – 3/4 cup of milk

Mix all of the ingredients in a medium bowl.  Mix well.  Knead for 5 minutes until the dough becomes smooth and elastic.  Cover dough with a damp cloth and let rest for 15 minutes. Pre-heat an iron griddle on medium to high heat.  Then divide the dough into 8 equal parts.  Roll out on to a lightly floured surface to 1/8 inch thickness. The best size to aim for is a 5-6 inch circle. Cook 1 – 1½ minutes on each side until lightly browned.  Enjoy!

Oct 4, 2011

No More Tears

Today, I have decided that there will be no more tears. The time for crying is over and now laughter must come. I have so much to live for and be happy about. Love is just around the corner, if I let it come in. All I need to do is turn the handle on the door. Love is there waiting to be let in.

Oct 1, 2011

Cheddar and Chive Biscuits, almost like the biscuits at Red Lobster

I like the biscuits at Red Lobster very much, this recipe is close to the biscuits that you can get at the restaurant.  Growing up with southern parents I know what a good biscuit tastes like. The dough is a little sweet with the moistness of butter and the rich flavor of buttermilk with a slightly cheesy taste. 

Cheddar and Chive Biscuits

3 cups of all purpose flour
3 TBS sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces or grated
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
1 1/2 cups buttermilk

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Mix together all of the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.  Next, add the grated butter, use a fork or your fingers and work the butter into the mixture so that it feels like coarse corn meal.   Add the cheese, fresh chives, and buttermilk.  Stir until just moistened.  If the mixture is dry add a little more milk.  Use 1\2 cup of the dough for each biscuit. Roll the dough into a ball and then press down on the baking sheet.  You can make these as large or as small as you like.  Space about 2 inches apart on the cooking sheet.  Bake until golden brown, about 15-20 minutes. Enjoy!

Hint:  You can use self rising flour and omit the salt, and baking powder in this recipe.