Morocco’s sweet and savory fragrances of olives, tender meat, dried fruit and rich spices is swirling around American cuisine. As a North African country bordering the Mediterranean, it has for thousands of years imported Asian, European and Arabic flavors into its own rich culinary history. As an elegant and colorful cuisine, it’s a welcome addition to the forever expanding American palate. Caroline Hofberg’s cookbook, Morocco on a Plate, showcases various bread, vegetarian, meat and dessert recipes for curious minds who wish to explore Moroccan cuisine.
When learning about a foreign cuisine, it’s best to learn about the basic flavors. Hofberg starts Morocco on a Plate with a section listing and a description of common ingredients. She then provides recipes for a few complex spice blends. The vegetarian and side dish section has lush recipes with unexpected flavor combinations. Before citrus season ends, I recommend trying the Moroccan Orange and Olive Salad or the Orange Salad with Dates. When summer brings in the tomato season, try the Okra and Tomato Sauce recipe.
In between pages of recipes are vibrate colorful and documentary-style black and white photographs of home cooks, chefs, vendors and food markets. However, there are a few pictures of dishes that doesn’t quite demonstrate the beauty of the recipe. Don’t let those few pictures fool you.
The cookbook is clearly written, with Hofberg sharing personal stories as she provides easy-to-follow directions to recipes. Her introduction to preserved lemons inspired me to make the Chicken Stew with Potatoes and Olives (recipe here). The chicken stew has an aromatic fragrance from the ras el hanout spice blend. It’s a fulfilling stew with potatoes, tomatoes and olives as parsley and cilantro adds a fresh finishing taste.
As befits a cookbook about an African culture bordering the Mediterranean sea, the book’s seafood section is a mouthwatering blend of unexpected ingredients, such as the Spicy Sardines with Fennel Salad. For the skeptics who grew up with fish stuffed with saltine crackers, the Trout with Couscous and Almonds is a beautiful and healthier version to try.
Morocco on a Plate’s dessert section offers delicately sweet pastry recipes full of flavor. Bakers will want to try the Sesame Rings and the Anise Bread. My eye lingers on the frozen Pistachio Parfait optionally fragranced with rosewater.
Sometimes when you’re trying a new cookbook with foreign flavors, the ingredients are difficult to find and the techniques fail to work in the average American kitchen. Morocco on a Plate is an easy introduction for beginning to professional cooks. The ingredients are easy to locate in grocery stores, or you can order them online.
As the photos demonstrate, the recipes in Morocco on a Plate reveal a vibrant culture with a historic past and robust flavors. This ancient cuisine is finally dancing its way into our American culture and our palate will thankfully swirl with it.
Visit Parade.com’s Community Table to get the recipe for Hofberg’s Chicken Stew with Potatoes and Olives here.