Tag Archives: Moroccan

Breaking the Bread “Fast” with Something Sweet: Mimounah arrives just in time

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Tomorrow night, Saturday, April 7th, 2018 is the last night of Passover when many of us will be breaking our week-long bread “fast” with something special. For North African Jews in particular it is time to prepare for the Mimounah celebration with a variety of pastries, sweets and confections. (For further explanation on this festival please go to my blog page.)

The following recipe was taught to me by Colette Nahon who grew up in Orán (the Spanish pronunciation, or Wahran — in Arabic), a city along the northwestern coast of Algeria where many Spanish people once settled. While the name mantecaos derives from the Spanish word mantequilla, meaning “butter,” or even more closely to the word manteca for “shortening” (which in Spain was usually pork fat), this Jewish/kosher version uses vegetable oil instead, making it something easy to serve following a meat meal. Because it contains flour, Colette usually prepares this specialty for the Mimounah holiday when flour products such as cakes, cookies, and breads are served to mark the end of Passover. Mantecados are a cookie commonly prepared for Christmas in the Iberian Peninsula (a region including Spain, Portugal, Andorra, Gibraltar, and a small part of France) and made with lard or butter. What is most interesting is that through this cookie one can trace the Sephardic lineage of the Jews who fled the Inquisitions during the very end of the 1400s and settled in Algeria, bringing this cookie along with them.

Recipe from “Too Good To Passover,” Section 1: Africa, Chapter 1: Algeria

Mantecaos (No-Butter Butter Cookies with Cinnamon)
(Parve)
Yield: Serves 15 / Makes almost 4 dozen 1-inch cookies

Ingredients:
1 pound all-purpose flour (about 3 level cups, but more accurate if weighed)
¾ cup sugar
1 cup vegetable or safflower oil
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

Steps:
1. Preheat the oven to 375˚F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

2. Combine flour with sugar in a medium size mixing bowl.

3. Make a well in the center of the mixture and pour in the oil. Mix well until all of the oil is absorbed and the mixture can easily be formed into a soft dough.

4. Scoop out one level tablespoon of dough using a measuring spoon or melon ball scoop, and gently roll it into a ball. (Note: It is important that the ball of dough not be larger than 1 level tablespoon, otherwise the baking time, texture, and final size will be affected.) Use your thumb to slide the dough out of the spoon and onto the parchment paper on the baking sheet. Leaving about 1 inch between each ball, continue to scoop out and roll dough until is finished.

5. Make a shallow indent in the center of each ball with your thumb and flatten them down ever so slightly. (If this makes the ball of dough crack a little around the edges, leave it! This — according to Colette — is what makes the cookie look homemade.)

6. Sprinkle the center of the dough (where the thumb print is) with about
1/16 teaspoon of cinnamon and bake on the top and middle rack of the oven until they begin to crack slightly along the bottom edges, and only the very bottoms are golden brown, 27 to 28 minutes on the middle rack and 25 to 26 minutes on the top rack.*

*(Note: These cookies should become a “sandy,” white color on the outside, and retain a pale, “snowy” color on the inside, with only the very bottoms slightly browned. Once fully cooled, the resulting texture should be a tiny bit crunchy on the outside and crumbly on the inside, which Colette says should “melt in your mouth.”)

7. Allow the cookies to fully cool and harden before serving, about 30 minutes. Store cookies between layers of parchment paper in an air-tight container at room temperature up to one week, or in the freezer up to one month. Bring to room temperature for 20 minutes before serving.

For another Mimounah recipe, see Moroccan Cigares aux Amandes

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Moroccan Date-Raisin Haroset “Truffles”

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Moroccan Style Haroset
(Cinnamon Dusted Date-Raisin “Truffles” with Walnuts, Rolled in Cinnamon)
Yield: Serves 12 / Makes approximately 3 cups or 4 dozen 1-inch balls

A recipe from my cookbook Too Good To Passover: Sephardic & Judeo-Arabic Menus and Memories from Africa, Asia and Europe, Section 1: Africa, Chapter 5.

This Moroccan haroset is shaped into a small ball, then rolled in ground cinnamon to resemble an elegant truffle. For the most impressive way to serve visually, stack balls on top of one another into a pyramid shape on an elegant platter alongside any other more classic haroset spread in a bowl. When it comes time to eat, guests may help themselves to a single truffle and eat it straight, or pressed down between two small pieces of matzah as a sandwich.

For Haroset:
1 cup walnuts

½ cup slivered almonds
12 large Medjool dates or 20 regular-size dates, pitted and cut into large pieces
½ cup golden raisins
½ cup dark raisins
3 to 4 tablespoons sweet Passover wine, such as Manischewitz

For Serving:
1 box of matzah/matzo squares or mini matzah crackers

Cinnamon (for rolling and dusting the outside)

DIRECTIONS:
1. Place the walnuts and almonds in the food processor and pulse until coarsely ground, but not into a meal-like consistency (about 30 seconds).

2. Add the dates and raisins and combine in the food processor for about 30 seconds.

3. Add the wine and pulse until the mixture becomes a soft paste.

4. Taking one level tablespoon (or mini melon ball scoop) at a time, roll the thick paste into 1-inch balls* (if the paste is sticking too much to your hands, try dipping your hands in cold water and then rolling them).

5. When all of the balls have been rolled, pour a couple of tablespoons of ground
cinnamon onto a small plate and gently roll each ball in the cinnamon to lightly coat the outside. (You can also dust your hands with cinnamon and then roll each ball again
between your palms to lightly coat, whichever way is easier.)

6. Serve haroset balls at room temperature stacked in a small decorative bowl or on a small platter alongside tea matzahs. Store balls in a tightly covered plastic container between layers of parchment or wax paper in the refrigerator for up to three days, or the freezer for up to one month.

*Note: If you wish to serve the mixture in the more common way of a paste in a bowl, then add a little more wine or warm water to make a bit smoother and softer for spreading.

Passover Cooking in December: Finding time to write and test the recipes.

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As I complete the interview portion of my cookbook (with a total of nearly 85 interviews of individuals from 18 different countries!), I look forward to the next phase of finalizing the menu for each chapter/community, and then completing the recipes. Recently I had a small dinner party, and I took advantage of testing several recipes on my guests. Here was the menu with my comments for each:

Gibraltarian Fried Chickpeas with Salt and Pepper
(Notes: Sounded easy to do, but it was a total disaster! Chickpeas were popping and oil was flying all over the kitchen. A total mess to clean and I burned my fingers and even shoulder in the process.
Will have to redo this and hopefully obtain the crispiness in the chickpeas without doing too much damage!)

Algerian Broiled Pepper Salad with Garlic, Tomatoes, Paprika, and Coriander Leaves
(Comments: This one came out quite well, and the trick was in cooking the stew for a long time over a low heat so that it got thick and obtained a rich tomato flavor. Final result was a cooked salad with a bright red color and thick texture.)

Moldovan Eggplant “Caviar” with Onions, Garlic, Tomato Paste, and Lemon
(Comments: Also very successful. I baked the eggplants in a 350 degree F. oven for 45 minutes, but I think I prefer to broil them since it’s much quicker and the eggplants obtain a more charred, smokey flavor. Trick is to cook the onions and tomatoes before mixing in the eggplant and cooking off any extra liquid. Make sure that the eggplants are mashed well with fork.

Portuguese Veal, Beef, and Chicken Sausages with Garlic and Smoked Paprika
(Comments: These are more like long kufta kebabs as they use all ground meat and are not stuffed into a proper casing like sausages usually are. They are pan fried, and have a very nice smokey/spicy flavor to them. The trick is to make the meat mixture one day in advance so that the flavors have time to meld.)

Moroccan Prune Tagine with Onions, Cinnamon, Sugar, and Toasted Whole Almonds
(Comments: Delicious savory flavor balanced with the sweetness of the prunes. Looks nice too when served with the toasted blanched almonds, and reminds me of the Ashkenazi Tsimmes recipes (also good for Rosh Hashanna?). Goes well served over rice, or served alongside a lamb dish.)

Sautéed Algerian Carrots with Garlic, Vinegar, Cumin, and Paprika
(Comments: These carrots have to be cooked until very soft and there has to be a balance of garlic, salt, and vinegar to work with the natural sweetness of the carrots. Good with the rice.)

Syrian Long Grain White Rice with Fried Onions, and Toasted Almonds
(Comments: The toasted almonds added a nice crunchiness to the texture of the rice, and the onions gave it a nice but mild flavor. Best served with any type of stew or saucy dish.)

Passover Food Demo at Zabar’s: TODAY!

JOIN ME FOR A PASSOVER FOOD DEMONSTRATION AT ZABAR’S
(Stop by for a taste, or just to say hi!)

TODAY: SUNDAY APRIL 6TH 2014
2-3:30 pm & 4-5:30 pm

Upstairs @Zabar’s: Broadway & 80th Street

HERE’S WHAT’S ON THE MENU:
*Tastes to first 30 people at each demo

Dukeh
(Yemenite Style Charoset with Black Raisins, Toasted Sesame Seeds, Dates, and Apples)

Tajine des Pruneaux
(Moroccan Stewed Prunes with Onions, Cinnamon, Sugar, and Toasted Almonds)

Persian Flourless Pistachio Cake with Cardamom Syrup

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The Moroccan Mimounah Celebration: The final night of Passover

Mimounah_Table_BlogCelebrated at sundown on the eighth or final day of the Passover holiday (the seventh day for Reform Jews and those residing in Israel), Mimounah is a unique custom observed by the North African Jews of Moroccan origin to mark the conclusion of Passover. During this celebration any foods forbidden during Passover are consumed as a way of symbolizing “freedom” (such as sweet leavened cakes and breads) over “slavery” (the unleavened matzah). Many Moroccan Jews believe that after fulfilling their week-long holiday of Passover, the gates of heaven will open wide (during Mimounah) so that God may hear the prayers of the faithful and bestow abundance and prosperity in the coming year.

On this special night, a festive table is covered with a white tablecloth and adorned with foods representing spring, prosperity, abundance, fertility and overall good luck. Because Moroccan Jews once refrained from eating dairy during the Passover holiday (most likely because KLP/Kosher for Passover dairy was once unavailable) dairy products are the highlight of the post-Passover Mimounah meal, and meat is therefore avoided. A pitcher of buttermilk or milk is placed in the center of the table, along with white candles and a small bowl of flour to symbolize purity. Since the number five (chamsah, in Arabic) is believed to bring good luck in the Middle East (referring to the Five Pillars of Islam for the Arabs, or the five books of Torah for the Jews), the flour is topped with five of each of the following: silver coins, eggs, beans and dates. Some hosts will even go so far as to display a live fish swimming in a fish bowl to represent good luck and specifically fertility. In addition, green stalks of wheat, beans, nuts and lettuce leaves are placed on the table to invoke abundance, while several small plates of honey, sweets, fruits and preserves are served to represent spring and to ensure a sweet year.

Tajine aux Pruneaux (Moroccan Stewed Prunes with Onions, Cinnamon, Sugar, and Toasted Whole Almonds)

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When I first tasted this dish prepared for me by Renée Tangy I was amazed at how simple, yet delicious it was. The sweet, soft prunes almost melt in your mouth, while the crunchiness of the toasted whole almonds adds a nice balance in texture. Although it may seem to be more like a dessert, the addition of sautéed onions gives a certain savory flavor making it a perfect side dish for roasted chicken, lamb, or any other kind of meat. You may also prepare the prunes over steamed couscous for the Moroccan festival of Mimounah at the end of the Passover holiday.

For Prunes:
2 pounds pitted prunes
(about 2 dozen jumbo size)
3 to 4 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped yellow onions (about 1 1/2 medium)
2 teaspoons orange or lemon zest
1 cup orange juice
¼ cup vegetable or chicken stock
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 to 4 tablespoons brown sugar

For Serving:
1 cup blanched, whole almonds

1. Place prunes into a medium sized bowl and fill with warm water to cover. (If you are using prunes in the can they may already be very soft and moist, so do not soak or they will become too mushy when cooked; Skip to step #2). Soak for 15 minutes to soften prunes, then drain.

2. Heat a large skillet with the oil for 1 minute over high heat. Add the chopped onions and cook until golden, about 10 minutes.

3. Add the prunes and mix well with the cooked onions. Lower to medium heat and cook
10 minutes, stirring every few minutes to prevent burning.

4. Combine the zest, orange juice, stock, cinnamon, and sugar in a small bowl and mix well. Add to the prunes and cook over medium heat until prunes become very soft, about 20 to 25 minutes, stirring occasionally and taking care not to break up the prunes.

5. Place almonds onto an ungreased baking tray and bake in a 350 F. oven for 15 minutes until golden brown. Remove from oven and cool to room temperature, then toss with the cooked prunes.

6. Serve hot as a side dish to lamb, veal, or beef.

Yield: Serves 8 to 10 (Makes About 4 Cups)

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