Originally, I set out to make June all about Morocco. As with the best laid plans that has not yet happened, and I’ve even had to renew the cookbook I got from the library.
But, today that changes as I share with you the first recipes from New Moroccan by Lahlou Mourad. What I love about this thick, heavy cookbook is that it’s not just about the recipes, but the author tells stories from his childhood in Morocco, how dishes are prepared traditionally, and how he has adapted them to modern times.
I decided to start with recipes that seemed fairly easy. The chicken is perfect for summer because it’s great for the grill, but if you have to cook it in your kitchen (like me), the broiler works just as well. And the sauteed rainbow chard and fennel on top of quinoa makes for a deliciously healthy meal. This is actually the first time I’ve cooked any of the latter.
3 tbsp sweet paprika
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp finely chopped garlic
1 1/12 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tbsp coarsely chopped cilantro
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 lb chicken cutlets
Mix all the ingredients in a bowl. Clean the chicken and cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces. Add chicken to the marinade and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight. The longer you marinate the more tender the chicken will be.
Grilling the chicken
6 metal (or wooden) skewers
Take chicken piece by piece, making sure to squeeze off excess marinade. Skewer the chicken leaving 1/4 inch space between pieces, this will allow all sides of the chicken to cook. Fill all six skewers.
Preheat broiler. Line a baking sheet with non-stick aluminum foil and place the chicken-filled skewers on it. Broil for 8 – 10 minutes, turning the skewers halfway through.
Sauteed rainbow chard and fennel
1 big bunch of rainbow chard, stems and leaves separated
1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
Light olive oil
1/2 cup sliced onion
1/2 tbsp ground garlic
1 tbsp lime juice
1 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
ground white pepper
Cut the stalks from the chard and set the greens aside. Trim away the bottoms and narrow tops of the stalks. Take half of the stalks and cut them into matchsticks. Dice the other half into cubes.
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Fill a large bowl with ice water.
Working in batches, blanch the chard leaves and fennel slices for 2 1/2 – 3 minutes until tender. Remove leaves and fennel and place in ice bath. Once chilled, remove from water and squeeze to get rid of excess water. Coarsely chopped the chard leaves. Set aside.
Heat oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add onions and a pinch of salt. Cook for about 5 minutes, until slightly softened. Add the chard matchsticks, another pinch of salt and cook for about 5 minutes. Stir in the diced chard stalks and cook until tender. Stir in the leaves and fennel, and cook until heated (about 1 -2 minutes).
Remove from heat and stir in lime juice, paprika and pepper.
Serve on top of quinoa and with the skewered chicken.