Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Moroccan Kitchen

From Things Cooks Love: Implements. Ingredients. Recipes.

The MoroccanPantry

Morocco boasts a varied landscape: orchards of olives, almonds, and lemons; fishing boats crowding the seashore; and sheep and goats grazing on the mountainsides. Its colorful markets keep Moroccan pantries well stocked with exotic spices in every color and aroma. The intriguing cookware includes the couscoussière, a two-tiered metal pot for cooking couscous, and the tagine, a shallow earthenware pot with a tall, conical lid for cooking its famous stews. Here you will read about some of the staples of the Moroccan pantry and learn how to make bisteeya, a lavish savory pie with a buttery, paper-thin pastry, topped with a dusting of confectioners’ sugar—an appropriately sweet finish to your journey through the global kitchen.

Cumin is one of the most popular spices of the Moroccan kitchen. For the best flavor, always toast the whole seeds in a small, dry skillet to release their aroma before grinding them in either a mortar or an electric spice grinder.

When uncooked, couscous, small beads of rolled semolina, look like tiny pellets. When steamed, they swell and become soft and fluffy. Boxes of precooked couscous—often labeled “instant” or “quick cooking”—hold the same couscous you see sold in bulk in specialty-food shops, health-food stores, and many supermarkets. The box directions produce a satisfying but heavy starch, but when steamed in the traditional way (page 316), the results are lighter, fluffier, and more tender.

Flower Waters
Orange-flower water and rose water are used to flavor desserts, sweets, and beverages. Both waters are distilled from blossoms or buds and are sold in small bottles 312 in specialty-food shops and in some large liquor stores.

Made from chiles, garlic, and caraway, coriander, and/or cumin, harissa is a fiery sauce found on tables throughout North Africa. It can be purchased in jars or tubes, or made at home in a blender or with a mortar and pestle. Harissa is used as a condiment to flavor soups, stews,
couscous, and other dishes.

Preserved Lemons
Preserved lemons—slit whole lemons packed into jars with salt and lemon juice and left to mature—are indispensable in the Moroccan kitchen. The rinds are cut into small pieces to flavor tagines and other dishes, while the pulp is used to season sauces. They can be made at
home (page 328) or purchased in specialty-food shops.

Ras el Hanout
This blend of exotic spices is primarily used to flavor meat dishes, but it is also used in rice dishes and couscous. It can be made with as few as ten spices or more than three times that amount. Home cooks typically roast whole spices and then grind them to a fine powder
in a mortar or spice grinder. Look for ras el hanout in specialty-food shops.

The orange-yellow stigma of a purple crocus, saffron is used in the cooking of many countries around the Mediterranean and in the Middle East, including Morocco, where local cooks regularly add it to tagines. Stored in an airtight container in a cool, dark place, it will keep for up to 6 months before it begins to lose its pungency. (For more on saffron, see page 293.)

These paper-thin Greek pastry leaves are widely available frozen, typically rolled in plastic and packed into a long, narrow box. Phyllo is an excellent substitute for traditional Moroccan pastry when making bisteeya.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Cookware: Grill Pan

From Things Cooks Love: Implements. Ingredients. Recipes.

The grill pan, also called a skillet grill, comes in all sizes and shapes (round, square, and rectangular) and is made from a variety of materials, such as steel and aluminum blends, or cast iron. Designed for use on the stove top, it has raised grids that leave seared grill marks on the surface of the food, making it possible to pretend you’re grilling even when it is snowing outdoors. The wells between the grids catch fat and juices, leaving the surface of the food dry—a boon for anyone interesting in low-fat cooking.

Tips for Using
Before adding the food to the grill pan, preheat it over medium heat for about 2 minutes, or until a drop of water sizzles and evaporates on contact.

Oil the grill pan or the food, just as you would when using an outdoor grill.

The grill pan is perfect for quickly heating up hot dogs or fully cooked sausages, and great for grilled sandwiches, thin cutlets, chicken breasts, and vegetables.

Food cooks more slowly on a grill pan than it does on a flat surface, because contact with the food is limited to the grids.

Hamburgers are only successful on a grill pan if the patties are less than ½ inch thick. This is true of most meats cooked on the grill pan.

Vegetables cook best when they are thinly cut, so all surfaces will come in contact with the hot grid.

Care in Using
Never scour a grill pan with abrasive cleaners. Instead, soak the pan in warm, soapy water, loosen cooked-on particles with a stiff brush, rinse, and dry.

Before storing a washed grill pan, rub all of its surfaces with flavorless cooking oil until they are dry, with no trace of oil remaining.

Always consult the manufacturer’s instructions.

A panini grill can be substituted for a grill pan.

Tamari-Glazed Swordfish with Mango, Ginger, and Sweet Onion Salad | Marinated Grilled Zucchini with Oregano and Dried-Tomato Vinaigrette

Coming Next: Grill Pan Recipe - Marinated Grilled Zucchini with Oregano and Dried-Tomato Vinaigrette