Tag Archives: cous cous

Eating in Morocco, Part 1

3 Jul

The aftermath at Dar Naji in Rabat

Somehow I blinked and I have been in Morocco for a little over a week already! I am studying abroad here for four weeks, and will hopefully be writing a few posts about the (so far delicious) food I encounter. My program is based at a university in a small town in the Atlas mountains. We have a generous meal plan, but unfortunately the food is pretty bad, which probably makes everything I taste outside the walls seem infinitely better. Thankfully, we have a lot of trips built into our schedule (and the program gives us a food budget for them!), so I have already been able to try quite a few Moroccan specialties.

Kefta tagine

The first thing I wanted to try, of course, was a tagine– the ubiquitous stew-like dish named after the clay pot in which they are cooked. (I bought a tagine for about 2.50 yesterday, and am excited to try cooking with it, if it makes it back to the States in one piece!) One of the most common tagines is kefta, which is usually beef (I believe) meatballs in a tomato sauce, with an egg on top. Though delicious, this seemed pretty similar to something I could get back in the US to me, and I probably won’t order it too often if there’s something more interesting on the menu.
There definitely were lots of interesting things at the first proper restaurant I went to, Dar Naji in Rabat. We arrived in Rabat pretty late after a 3 hour bus ride, and our professor pretty much just ordered the entire menu for our group of ten. This was excellent for my food-reporting, as I got to try just about everything, and discovered what I will definitely order again.

Beef and prune tagine

My favorite (which was also my request) was the tagine of beef aux pruneaux. I guess this would translate as “with prunes,” though I think English needs a better word to convey how the prunes become one with the beef and make it slightly sweet, while the prunes themselves took on savory flavors from the beef. (On a side note, I’ve found most menus so far to be in French, with no Arabic at all. Being the only one in the group who speaks French, this means I am quickly brushing up on my food vocabulary.)
Someone else in the group also noticed that brain tagine was on the menu, and requested that we order one to give it a shot. Not being one to pass up a new food experience, I tried it as well. The brain was in a tomato-y sauce, and I really didn’t think it had a strong flavor in itself. The texture reminded me of scrambled eggs– not at all off-putting, but I wouldn’t feel the need to order it again.
The other tagines included chicken with lemon, beef with vegetables, fish, and kefta. I loved the lemon sauce with the chicken, but found the meat itself a bit dry… I think my next tagine will have to be chicken so I can see if this is a common problem. The setting of Dar Naji was also beautiful… we were seated at a low table on the terrace, which had a canopy covering and overlooked the medina (old city) walls. And it was all reasonably priced, at about $5 per tagine.

Beautiful vegetables...

The other memorable restaurant we visited was in Meknes, but I am a terrible reporter and failed to take down the name. This was also opulently decorated, with the walls lined with tons of cushions that we quickly sank on to, exhausted by the 107 degree heat outside. Our professor ordered us some mixed vegetables to start… although for once they came with serving spoons, everyone was so hungry that we did it the traditional Moroccan way, using bread to transport the food most efficiently from

...were quickly devoured

serving plate straight to mouth. The vegetable were all cooked in various spiced sauces, and served cold. The green marinated peppers were probably my favorite, though the carrots were also unexpectedly sweet and delicious.
I ordered cous cous as a main course, which is another Moroccan specialty usually served on special occassions, and though it usually comes with meat I requested it be left off because I just didn’t feel the need for it. The resulting tower of cous cous covered in vegetables was excellent. The vegetables had some sort of sauce on it that tasted faintly buttery, but I couldn’t really pin down what was in it. But it seeped down into the cous cous and made a delicious dish that was perfect for lunch, not nearly as heavy as a tagine.
I have so much more I could say but I think I will leave it there in order to save some things for another post! Bislaama.

A mountain of cous cous, covered in veggies

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Cous Cous Salad and Simple Vinaigrette

30 Mar
Not wah cous cous, yum cous cous!

Cous cous always brings me back to my boarding school days, where we had a kitchen with a fridge, microwave, and kettle, but no hob (I actually don’t remember the American word for a hob- burner/burner ring perhaps?).  Since we had a kettle you could boil water and prepare pasta in the microwave, or, more easily, cous cous.  Cous cous and pesto was a very popular boarding school staple, and I still always buy it when I’m stocking up my kitchen since it’s a great accompaniment to meat or fish dishes, and also pretty filling on its own.  The other night I made a whole package of pre-seasoned cous cous to go with my teriyaki chicken tenders, and then used the cold leftovers to toss with some vegetables and reuse as a lunch salad.  I put some cherry tomatoes, avocado, and spinach in with the cold cous cous, then topped it all with my favorite simple vinaigrette.  Other than the possibility of the spinach/lettuce wilting a little if you over-dress this, it keeps very well in the fridge for a few days, so make a big batch and use it as a side dish or lunch all week!

The vinaigrette is what I always have in a glass beaker in the kitchen for whenever I get the urge to have a salad with whatever else I’m eating (last week I actually put a salad on a pizza. I know this defeats the purpose of a salad, but it was delish.)  I can’t really provide specific measurements, but will give an estimate below, and make sure to taste it and add some more oil, vinegar, etc, until it is right for you.  Then pour over salads, halved avocados, cous cous, whatever you want!  Oh and, a note on the cous cous.  Be careful when you open the package, those beads will get everywhere if they are spilled. Wah cous cous.

Cous Cous Salad
Serves 4 as side dish or lunch

Ingredients:
1 package Near East Cous Cous (the varieties with garlic/herb seasoning are good), or other cous cous with about 4 servings, cooked and cooled
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1 avocado, diced
3 oz baby spinach
2-3 tablespoons balsamic vinaigrette, recipe follows

Place cous cous, cherry tomatoes, and avocado in a large bowl and toss together, breaking up any large lumps of cous cous. Add the spinach drizzle with vinaigrette, then toss everything together again.  Taste and add more vinaigrette if needed.


Simple Balsamic Vinaigrette

Ingredients:
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2-3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 clove garlic, put through a garlic press or very finely minced
1 tablespoon lemon or orange juice
Salt and pepper

Put all ingredients in a mason jar or glass beaker and shake well.  Taste and adjust according to your own preference.