more Marrakech food and sights

My last post on Marrakech. But more Morocco to come!

A man was selling mint from giant sack, right on the street.

mint for sale

mint for sale

Fried fish. Mark, our guide, said that it wasn’t worth eating seafood here and that it would be better on the coast. Also, notice the Activia sign. I had no idea that stuff was so far reaching!

fish and yogurt sign

fish and yogurt sign

Lots and lots and lots of colourful tagines for sale.

tagines

tagines

Mutton, anyone?

butcher

butcher

Garlic and spices for sale on the side of the street.

garlic and spices

garlic and spices

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Kappacasein, London

Kappacasein, a food stall in Borough Market, is the first place where I ever heard of and experienced raclette. This is another place that I had on my “must visit again” list and I wandered the market until I found it.

Kappacasein

Kappacasein

Wait, what’s raclette? Well I’m glad you asked. It’s a big ‘ole round of cheese, from parts of Switzerland and France. The cheese is melted and scraped (literally, as racler is French for “to scrape”) onto a variety of food such as potatoes, pickled onions and charcuterie.

Kappacasein counter

Kappacasein counter

Look at all the cheese smeared over the pepper grinders! Kappacasein uses an Ogleshield cheese (which coincidentally comes from the Montgomery farm that I talked about in my Neal’s Dairy Yard post).

raclette sign

raclette sign

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Garlic in oil

Have you ever had garlic-infused oil? It has so much more flavour than the regular stuff. It’s easy to make too.

Some recipes call for heating the oil and garlic together and straining it afterward. I’m inherently lazy though, so instead I mince a bunch of garlic, stick it into a clean jar, and add olive oil or canola oil until the garlic is just covered with oil, and seal the jar. Then, I pop it into the refrigerator and pull it out when needed for cooking anything from a stir fry to the beginnings of a soup. Over time, the oil will absorb the garlic flavour – not as much as if I had heated the oil first, but it’s enough for me. Olive oil may harden in the refrigerator, but it will liquify easily once scooped out and warmed out.

There is one important disclaimer however. Making your own garlic-infused oil has a risk of botulism. If the jar isn’t completely clean, or if you leave the oil and garlic out at room temperature, bacteria will grow and you WILL get sick. Health Canada recommends that you use up the oil and garlic within a week, the FDA says 10-14 days. Make sure the jar is kept refrigerated.

New York Pretzel and Auntie Anne’s, Las Vegas

Happy 4th of July to you Americans out there. I figure it’s appropriate that I start my Las Vegas trip posts today. But I bet you didn’t think my first post about Vegas was going to be about pretzels, did you?

We landed in Vegas and by the time we had our rental car and checked into the MGM Grand hotel it was past 9 p.m. Now, Vegas is a 24-hour kind of town, but we were exhausted and only wanted a snack. So instead of having a full meal we decided to take advantage of some coupons I had found online and pick up a couple of pretzels.

New York Pretzels is scattered in a few of the different Strip hotels, and seems to be connected to Nathan’s Famous. These initial pretzels were from the location inside the New York New York hotel. The staff were efficient and friendly. I decided to go for one salted pretzel and – to change things up a bit – one jalapeño and parmesan pretzel. The salted pretzel was gorgeous: fresh out of the oven, buttery and soft, and with the perfect ratio of salt. It had a golden crust and super soft bread inside. It reminded me of pretzels that I ate years ago during a visit to New York.

The jalapeño one had been sitting under the warming lights for a little while and wasn’t hot anymore. The pretzel itself was a little dry, but the flavour was quite good and they had enough jalapeños to satisfy but not too many that you’d burn your mouth off. I would have loved to have tasted this one freshly baked.

salted and jalapeño parmesan pretzels from New York Preztels in New York New York

salted and jalapeño parmesan pretzels from New York Preztels in New York New York

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Gallo pinto and Lizano salsa

Lizano salsa

Lizano salsa

A friend went to Peru and Costa Rica, and asked me what I wanted as a souvenir. I’m sure she was expecting me to ask for a sweater or something like that, but I think I surprised her. Food, I replied. Something unique. Maybe a sample of the tea you’re supposed to take when you’re climbing Machu Picchu?

What she ended up bringing back was some Lizano salsa, (Lizano sauce). The taste of Lizano is a little hard to explain. A sauce made out of vegetables and salt, it tastes a little like a slightly sweet and spiced V8-flavoured sauce, minus the tomatoes.

Stick it on tacos, she said, when I asked what it was normally used it for. That seemed kind of a waste though. and then I found a recipe for a Costa Rican gallo pinto – beans and rice.

Now you can apparently substitute Lizano sauce with Worcestershire sauce, but they just do not taste the same. I tried called a couple of places to see if i could find it here in Edmonton, but with no luck so far. Paraiso Tropical said they have carry the same kind of sauce but from a different brand. The person who answered the phone at El Rancho Latin Market told me they didn’t speak English and hung up on me. Anyone know if I can find this stuff here in town? If the other brand doesn’t taste right I’m going to have to resort to ordering the sauce online.

gallo pinto

gallo pinto

Gallo pinto
Adapted from Serious Eats
Serves 4

Ingredients
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 yellow, white or red onion, diced
1 red pepper, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup cooked rice (you get better results with day old or defrosted frozen rice than freshly cooked rice)
1 cup of canned black beans, with some liquid
5 tablespoons Lizano salsa or Worcestershire sauce
Salt and black pepper to taste
cilantro, roughly chopped

Directions
Pour the oil into a large skillet or wok set on medium heat. Add the onion and cook until the onion starts to turn translucent. Add the red pepper and cook until the red pepper is soft. Add the garlic and cook for about a minute.

Add the can of beans to the pan, but only add a little of the liquid in the can (reserve the rest of the liquid just in case). Add the Lizano or Worcestershire sauce, stir and let everything cook for about 3 minutes. If the pan starts to dry out, add more of the reserved bean liquid. Season with salt and pepper.

Add the rice, and stir until well coated, and cook until the rice is heated through. Top with chopped cilantro, and add additional salt, pepper, or Lizano sauce if necessary.

Update: I found some Lizano, but it was in Vancouver. So I had someone bring me lots of bottles. 🙂

2nd Update: I keep getting internet stores advertising in my comments, so I am closing comments on this post. Google it if you want to order Lizano online.

Moroccan spiced chickpea soup

Everyone I’ve ever told about this recipe have raved about its taste. It’s hearty, it’s healthy, it’s easy to make, only uses one pot and it tastes damn good. I discovered it one day when watching Good Deal with Dave Lieberman on TV.

“Wow, that looks simple and delicious,” I thought. And so I immediately went looking for the recipe on the US Food Network website. I’ve made it enough times now that I’ve adjusted some ingredients to fit my own personal taste.

Moroccan spiced chickpea soup

Moroccan spiced chickpea soup

Moroccan spiced chickpea soup
Adapted from Good Deal with Dave Lieberman
Makes approximately 4-6 large servings.

Ingredients
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for garnish
1 large onion, roughly diced
6 to 8 cloves of garlic, pressed
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon (original recipe asks for just 1 tsp but I like the additional cinnamon taste)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (add more if you want heat)
1 heaping teaspoon sweet paprika
1 can chopped tomatoes (796 mL/28 oz, original recipe used half of this amount though)
2 cans chickpeas (540 mL/19 oz per can), rinsed and drained
1 carton (900 mL) reduced-sodium chicken broth (or vegetable broth… or use your own stock of course)
1 teaspoon sugar
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Pre-washed baby spinach

Directions
Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic, and sauté until the onions begin to turn translucent (lower the heat if browning starts to occur). Add all your spices spices and sauté for a minute. Add the tomatoes, chickpeas, broth and sugar. Add a pinch of salt and approximately 10 grinds of fresh pepper.

Don’t forget to stir as you add each ingredient. The chickpeas should be just covered with liquid; if you don’t have enough liquid add some water.

Bring the soup to a simmer, then lower heat to low and gently simmer for approximately 45 minutes. Basically, you want the chickpeas to soften enough so that there is no bite.

Remove the soup from the heat and use a potato masher to mash up some of the chickpeas (but not all of them) right there in the pot. Spoon out your soup and add plenty of spinach to each bowl, stirring until the heat just starts to wilt the leaves. If you’re serving the entire pot, go ahead and add your spinach to the pot instead of into individual bowls. Add additional salt and pepper if necessary, and serve the soup lightly drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil, if desired.

Oatmeal convert

I didn’t mean to double post today but I’m just so surprised at this revelation that I have to share.

For years and years, I’ve always thought the only good oatmeal was the kind that you ate in cookies or bars. Baked with lots of sugar, yum.

I’ve tried eating oatmeal for years (instant, non-instant, with dried fruit, with maple syrup, with brown sugar, with milk, and so on and so on), and every time I would shove it down reluctantly, repeating the mantra – “it’s good for me” until I was finished with the bowl.

Last month Serious Eats posted an article about Mark Bittman’s savoury oatmeal. It’s something I’ve kept in mind since, but since I really don’t like oatmeal I have been reluctant to try it. Well today, I finally did. Holy cow does it taste good with soy sauce! Why didn’t I think of this years earlier! Why didn’t my Chinese parents force feed me this before?!

You can click on the above link for specific instructions but basically you make your oatmeal like you regularly do, then add some light soy sauce and some green onions/scallions for garnish and a bit of crunch. The dish ends up tasting more like a brown rice jook (a.k.a. congee) than any oatmeal I’ve ever had before. (And by the way, I’m actually using a 5-cereal blend that includes oats, but now I think I’ll  a bag of steel-cut oats to my grocery list.)

Doing a quick Google search reveals that there are many other suggestions to make savoury oatmeal interesting. Adding a cooked egg, with the yolk dripping into your oatmeal, adding ginger and/or garlic to the water during the cooking process, using soup stock to cook the grains, making an oatmeal risotto… there are so many possibilities. I feel like yelling “Eureka!” as new world of breakfast has been opened to me. Excuse me, I think I’m going for a second helping.