Café du Livre, Marrakech

Café du Livre is a bookstore/restaurant that specializes in international food and is often visited by ex-pats and book lovers. Located outside of the medina in the French colonial area of Marrakech, it is hidden away around a corner and is a quiet place to get away from the hustle and bustle of the streets. Here you can eat a meal, peruse their bookshelves, and take advantage of their wifi.

Café du Livre

Café du Livre

water and bread

water and bread

I had a Brasserie Lipp salad – arugula (rocket), lettuce, beets, walnuts and hardboiled eggs, with an olive oil dressing and garlic bread.

Brasserie Lipp salad

Brasserie Lipp salad

I can’t remember precisely but I think this was a club sandwich.

sandwich and fries

sandwich and fries

Shared appetizers with crusty bread – hummus, baba ganoush, and I think the last was a tapenade.

appetizers

appetizers

Café du Livre
44, rue Tarik Ibn Ziad
Marrakech
www.cafedulivre.com

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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.

Café Ba Ba Reeba, Las Vegas

I needed a good place on the strip for a (relatively inexpensive) group dinner. A buffet would have been the easy choice, but I wanted something different. Armed with recommendations (thanks H. Peter!) and with a pre-purchased gift certificate from Restaurant.com that I picked up at a high discount, I made a reservation for Café Ba Ba Reeba and got ready to enjoy some Spanish tapas.

Café Ba Ba Reeba

Café Ba Ba Reeba

The restaurant is located inside Fashion Show Mall but confusingly, you cannot enter the restaurant through the mall. Their entrance faces Las Vegas Boulevard, and has a relatively large patio. The inside is split between the bar and restaurant seating.

I was the first one to arrive and right away ordered a half pitcher of black raspberry sangria. It was served with a generous amount of diced apples as well as lemon and orange peel. It wasn’t too sweet and it wasn’t too dry, but I did feel there could have been a stronger berry taste, as the majority of it came from some Skyy infusion raspberry vodka. Some actual raspberry juice might have boosted the drink another level. They had interesting looking peach sangrias being served at the next table; if I ever go back to Vegas anytime soon I may have to give that one a try.

I was cautious about ordering too much because I wasn’t sure how many people would be drinking. In hind sight, I wish I had ordered a full pitcher because five of us ended up drinking my poor tiny half pitcher. I probably should have insisted that they order their own and leave my sangria alone!

Black raspberry sangria

Black raspberry sangria

To whet our appetites, we were served slices of fresh bread with olive oil. Some balsamic vinegar did show up a little later, but I had already eaten my share of bread. The bread itself was decent, but not extraordinary.

bread and olive oil, sans balsamic vinegar

bread and olive oil, sans balsamic vinegar

As a group we decided to order a number of tapas dishes and a few servings of paella to share. We ordered:

Spanish meatballs (beef) with tomato sauce – slightly spicy and big, couldn’t see what was really Spanish about it though
Crispy calamari with tomato salsa – not bad, but not memorable
Seared sea scallops with raisins, couscous and pine nuts – probably one of the best of the entire meal, warmed all the way through but seared so fast that the insides were on the cusp of being raw, not for those who dislike sushi, everyone except for one person loved it and we ended up ordering an additional plate
Serrano, salchichon & chorizo sliced meats with manchego cheese (a.k.a. The House Plate, although it didn’t say that on the menu we had) – came with teeny tiny olives and small triangles of bread, was tasty but the quantity served probably wasn’t worth the price charged
Bacon-wrapped dates with an apple vinaigrette – was the other star dish of the night, a warm dish that was soft and salty and sweet all rolled into one, wasn’t to everyone’s taste but those who enjoyed it really loved the flavour
Roasted salmon – can’t remember what was on it, and the online menus aren’t identical to what we saw in the restaurant, tasted fine but wasn’t memorable
Seafood paella with gulf shrimp, sea scallops & green beans – served with generous amounts of seafood, a tiny bit too salty for some people, while wasn’t soggy it was almost the texture of a risotto and had no crispy bits that you would expect from the bottom of the pan
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Fried fennel

I bought some fennel with the intent of making a fennel and blood orange salad, but decided to try something new instead. This dish is a bit like eating fried onions, but with a mild anise flavour.

fried fennel

fried fennel

Fried fennel
Adapted from a recipe by French Food at Home with Laura Calder

Ingredients
A fennel bulb
salt and pepper
At least 2 tbsp of olive oil

Directions
Clean and trim the fennel bulb. Cut into slices approximately 1/2 centimetre thick. If you slice the fennel horizontally starting at the tip or the end, the pieces will separate a bit like onion rings. If you cut it length-wise they will hold together more like oval slices.

Season the sliced fennel with salt and pepper. Heat your olive oil in a pan and fry both sides of each fennel piece until the fennel is tender and starts to caramelize. They take longer to cook than onions, so be patient.

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.

Famoso, Edmonton

Famoso sign

Famoso sign

I have finally sampled pizza nirvana (or at least as close as you can come when you are in Edmonton).

A group of friends and I trekked over to the south-side Famoso Neapolitan Pizzeria for a get together on Saturday. Greedily, we decided to order one different pizza each – that way we could try many kinds and share slices. It was a little bit too much pizza to eat (many of us took home leftovers), but we were happy to sacrifice ourselves for the sake of good eating. They were all excellent pizzas, but I admit I did have a couple of particular favourites.

Famoso’s pizza uses highly refined, low-gluten flour imported from Italy. This means a thin, crispy and light crust. No greasiness here – just the light taste of olive oil and fresh ingredients. Pizzas come with 2 sauces depending on which pizza you order; the pizza rossa (red), which consists of San Marzano tomato sauce made of crushed tomatoes and basil leaf, and the pizza bianca (white), made with extra virgin olive oil, garlic and oregano pizza sauce. Also, while many of the pizzas contained cheese, the amount of cheese on the pizza is a lot less than what you find on North American pizzas. I love cheese, and I was surprised at how little I missed having so much of it on a pizza slice.

Pizza #1 – Margherita – fresh mozzarella, fresh basil and extra virgin olive oil, with added extra toppings of olives, onions and roasted mushrooms. Was yummy but had a few too many olives for my taste.

Margherita pizza

Margherita pizza

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Fennel and blood orange salad

I have a confession to make. I am a subscriber of Gwyneth Paltrow’s oddly named GOOP e-newsletter. Now in my defence, it’s not because I love her acting or anything (she’s okay but not my favourite). I actually signed up for the entertainment factor because I’m easily amused by her Martha/Oprah wanna-be efforts.

So here’s another confession – on Saturday I made one of the newsletter’s recipes, based on a Mario Batali dish. And it was really good! This recipe lets me use two ingredients I’ve never cooked or baked with before – blood oranges and fennel.

I picked up a bag of blood oranges during my Costco trip from the previous weekend and immediately started searching my cookbooks and saved recipes for something good to make. A quick trip to the grocery store last night netted me some fresh fennel. This salad is crisp and clean tasting, and is a refreshing change from regular salads. It’s probably not the cheapest salad to make, although I guess you could substitute the blood oranges for regular navel oranges or maybe even mandarin oranges.

Fennel and blood orange salad

Fennel and blood orange salad

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