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EST. 2011 BY LIZ RUEVEN
Cookbook Review: Sharing Moroccan Homecooking

Cookbook Review: Sharing Moroccan Homecooking

Sharing Morocco: Exotic Flavors from My Kitchen to Yours, by Ruth Barnes, takes home cooks on an enthusiastic tour of the basics of her native culinary traditions and tools.

Barnes’ volume aims to simplify and make accessible techniques and basic components of traditional Moroccan dishes. And she succeeds.

Her family lived in Morocco and moved to Israel, where her parents became farmers who kept chickens, ducks and goats and grew many of their own fruits and vegetables. Her mother used ingredients that were found close by and labored long hours making delicate pastries by hand and culling spices that required pounding and blending.

When Barnes moved from Israel to L. A. she brought her passion for Moroccan culinary traditions but wanted to simplify techniques to accommodate her busy lifestyle. She’s created recipes that include essential spices like saffron, turmeric, allspice, baharat and za’atar while simplifying family recipes that were passed down orally from generation to generation.

Sharing Morocco successfully introduces ingredients and techniques of this complex cuisine with influences from France, Spain and Northern Africa.

Stuffed Grape Leaves with Lamb and Pine Nuts

In the Main Course section many of the recipes include beef and lamb so I was pleased to see so many lovely fish dishes included there, also. Sautéed Snapper with Chermoula (a cilantro and parsley based salsa) and moist, colorful, Marrakech Fish Tagine with Olives and Chickpeas are particularly appealing.

While Sharing Morocco shows colorful photos of all sorts of tagines, Barnes explains that a Dutch oven with a tight fitting lid is a fine substitute. The traditional conical ceramic vessels, many brightly patterned with vibrant oranges and reds, lend atmosphere to otherwise straightforward food photography.

It was interesting to learn that Moroccan flavors often contrast sweet and savory in the same dish. The Lamb Tagine with Apricots and Prunes (first photo)  incorporates plenty of bold flavors like freshly grated ginger and cumin and a handful of chopped cilantro leaves. These flavors pair happily with sweet dried apricot and prunes.

Some of the recipes are almost too basic, like Chicken with Onion, but if one hasn’t played with the bright spices of this region, the inclusion of turmeric with a load of gently sautéed onions might be just the kind of weeknight home cooking that’s practical for our busy lives.

The Salads and Soup chapter highlights colorful veggies including Baked Eggplant Salad, Grilled Rainbow Pepper Salad, and Spicy Carrot Salad. Recipes are simple and accessible with only a few ingredients including olive oil, chopped garlic and lemon being the most frequent base of the dressings.

Soups feel particularly homey and often call for chicken or beef stock. Lentil Soup with Lamb is a quick throw together that is more than the sum of its parts. Barnes cites it as a classic first course in Moroccan dinners. These soups and salads are traditional starters for most Moroccan meals; these recipes are easy to follow and construct.

 

Butternut Squash with Chickpeas

I was especially attracted to the Butternut Squash with Chickpeas salad, another example of the sweet/savory pairings in Moroccan cooking. In the same section, I was glad to find Stuffed Grape Leaves, a culinary classic that I haven’t tackled yet. With straightforward and uncomplicated instructions, I’ll put this one high on my “must do” list.

I was intrigued by the Desserts section, where Barnes de-mystifies well known Mediterranean sweets like Baklava with Pistachios and Orange Blossom Water and Honey Pastry Triangles. Simple Almond Cookies are light, dairy –free and easy.

Here, as in other text, Barnes mentions family members in her notes, making this volume a personal treasure that recalls her family’s culinary heritage and expands on it for her daughter and future generations.

When Barnes goes beyond the basics, as she does in this chapter, more than in others, it’s inspiring.  By the time I’ve landed on Figs Stuffed with Goat Cheese, Pistachio and Honey, she’s won me over and I’m ready to head into my kitchen.

 

If you’re looking for a solid introduction to Moroccan home cooking with easily accessible ingredients and instructions, Sharing Morocco: Exotic Flavors from My Kitchen to Yours is a volume worth considering for your library.

Watch for our Give-Away of this cookbook tomorrow! Be sure to leave your comments in order to enter.

 

NOTE: This is not a kosher cookbook. There are a handful of recipes (5-6 of  more than 100) that include non-kosher ingredients and two pastry recipes that include meat and butter in the same dish.

All recipes and photos are from Sharing Morocco: Exotic Flavors from My Kitchen to Yours by Ruth Barnes. Greenleaf Book Group Press; October 2014.

8 Comments

  1. I am used to Lebanese food as my husband and his family are originally from Lebanon, but I have always wanted to learn Moroccan food as it is so tasty, I would love to receive the cookbook.

    • Judy- I was most interested in the accessible and authentic recipes from this Moroccan/Israeli cook. Periodically I will review and recommend books that are not kosher if I feel that there is something outstanding that outweighs that important factor. I’m sorry if you missed my mention of this detail at the end of the post. I disclosed that it was not a kosher cookbook but that only 5-6 recipes were tref. I hope you enjoy the 90 plus other recipes in this inspiring volume despite this fact. I would love to know what you cook from SHARING MOROCCO and if you enjoyed it.

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