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My husband Curt and I are adventurous cooks and adventurous eaters, as are  good friends and colleagues Ron and Mary James.  The James were coming to dinner tonight and we decided we’d try something new.  Lately, we’ve been taken by Moroccan cuisine, courtesy of friend and Moroccan culinary expert Kitty Morse.  Kitty has written several Moroccan books that masquerade as cookbooks, though in reality, they are fantasy trips through Kitty’s Moroccan childhood and the stories of her ancestors.  Our cookbook collection includes two of Kitty’s.  The Scent of Orange Blossoms is about Sephardic cooking.

The Scent of Orange Blossoms by Kitty Morse

The Scent of Orange Blossoms by Kitty Morse

Cooking at the Kasbah is recipes from Kitty’s own kitchen.

We visited with Kitty and her husband Owen about a month ago at their very Moroccan style home about 20 minutes north of our own.  We had a wonderful afternoon during which Kitty taught me how to make preserved lemons, a staple of Moroccan cuisine.

Tonight, all the recipes came from Cooking at the Kasbah which includes a phenomenal number of wonderful vegetable dishes.

Cooking at the Kasbah by Kitty Morse

Cooking at the Kasbah by Kitty Morse

Tonight, I took the lead on the veggie dishes, while Curt took the lead on the main courses.

We cooked all afternoon, cutting onions, roasting peppers, pulling fish bones, grinding almonds…

Here’s the menu (with apologies to Kitty for what is surely an unorthodox combination).

We started with a glass of white wine, fancy mejool dates, raw almonds, ajvar (a Serbian relish made from roasted red peppers), and home made hummus with lavash.

Our dinner buffet consisted of:

Hezzu m’chermel, caramelized carrots with sweet paprika

Bokkola b’zitoun, chopped spinach salad with preserved lmeons and olives (one of my favorites!)

Felfla hamra m’kliya, red bell pepper and garlic confit (a definite new fave)

Ambassl’ del gar’aa hamra, baked pumpkin with caramelized onions, cinnamon, and almonds

Sebha del hdaree, ratatouille with dates

B’stila b’djej, chicken b’stila, shredded savory chicken and scrambled eggs in a filo dough pastry with almonds and powdered sugar (sounds odd but tastes heavenly)

Tagine bil hoot, tagine of fish, a sort of fish stew with saffron, tomato, garlic, olives, onion, and lemon.

With all these robust flavors, I couldn’t bring myself to make creme brulee or chocolate mousse for dessert, no matter how much I love to eat them.  Instead, I used one of Kitty’s  cookie recipes called ghoriba.  The dough was so simple!  Toasted unhulled sesame seeds, flour, baking powder, powdered sugar, butter, and oil.  We served them with sour cherries and mint tea.  It was the perfect way to end a meal of surprising flavors and colors.

At some point this afternoon as we were cooking, Curt looked at me and said, “who are the other eight people we invited?”  He was right, we made way too much food.  But, it won’t go to waste.  Guess what we’ll be eating for the rest of the week….!

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