What comes to mind when one thinks of Moroccan cuisine? Certainly the heady aroma of spices and spice blends, some of which are now household names — cardamom, cinnamon, clove, cumin, nutmeg, saffron, and turmeric — and some of which are not, but soon will be because of the continuing diversification of American cooking — mace, mastic, nigella seeds, and ras el hanout, just to name a few examples. But Moroccan cooking is about more than just a laundry list of exotic (and sometimes obscure) herbs, spices, and pantry ingredients. It's about taking these ingredients and carefully combining them to create a purposeful marriage of sweet and savory.
The recipes in Jeff Koehler's latest cookbook, simply titled Morocco, exemplify this type of cooking. Koehler draws upon his extensive travel and culinary experiences in this fabled and romanticized land to bring readers recipes from all of its regions, from the markets of Marrakech to the coasts of Asilah.
Recipes like the richly colored beet soup pictured above sure look inviting, and so do many of the other recipes, thanks to the alluring photographs in this cookbook, taken by Koehler himself. They reveal another important factor in Moroccan cooking — the equal status of taste with presentation and aesthetics. Moroccan cooks often go to great lengths to make sure that the dishes they prepare are as appealing to the eye as they are to the taste buds. Koehler says, "I have seen cooks not just add a piece of preserved lemon peel to a chicken tagine, but quarter it, trim the edges into a decorative shape — a serrated leaf, a flower blossom — and then lay it on top with the delicacy of a gold flake." Take this same level of passion into the kitchen, and cooking is bound to become exciting once again.
In his book, Koehler also offers a brief overview of each region in Morocco, illustrating its landscape, its culinary history, and its regional specialties. Koehler also offers a fairly thorough overview of the pantry staples needed for Moroccan cooking, including herbs, spices, and special equipment, along with acceptable substitutions, which should be helpful for readers new to Moroccan cuisine.
So for anyone who is curious about Moroccan cuisine, Koehler's latest is a definite must.
Beet Soup with Ginger
This beautiful soup is on the cover, so we just had to feature it.
Couscous with Caramelized Onion and Raisin Tfaya
No roundup of Moroccan recipes would be complete without couscous.
Perhaps the most iconic Moroccan dish, this version has a truly historical pedigree.
Will Budiaman is the Recipe Editor at The Daily Meal. Follow him on Twitter @WillBudiaman.