Sharing Morocco (The Petite Gourmande)

moroccoRuth Barnes, known as the Petite Gourmande, brings the rich culinary history of her ancestral homeland to vibrant life in “Sharing Morocco: Exotic Flavors from My Kitchen To Yours.” Ruth grew up in Israel on a family farm surrounded by her extended Moroccan family; she learned to cook from the women in the family and would spend the entire day in the kitchen preparing meals for up to as many as 400 people! Ruth reconnected with her Moroccan culinary heritage as an adult living in the United States and now brings Morocco’s traditional dishes to American tables. It’s important to note that Moroccan food is not only about the food itself, but also the table settings and presentation.

Containing over 100 recipes, you’ll find tips and techniques blended seamlessly with Moroccan cuisine, culture, and history. From cooling drinks like almond milk with orange blossom water and watermelon juice cooler with rose water to a lovely fennel and blood orange salad, mixed baby greens salad with figs, and pomegranate salad, these are light, these lighter flavorful dishes perfect for hot summer days, while heartier stews and roasts are perfect for fall and winter.

An entire chapter is devoted to the tagine, the conical two-piece earthenware vessel used to create Morocco’s spiced meats and bubbling stews. The word “tagine” refers to both the cooking/serving dish and the finished dish itself. The many tagines offered here include baked trout stuffed with rice and dates, beef tagine with butternut squash, lamb tagine with apricots and prunes, and seafood tagines.

Lamb stars in dishes such as roasted leg of lamb with quince, artichoke hearts stuffed with lamb, Moroccan lamb burgers, and Moroccan-style lamb lollipops with dried fruit couscous. Similarly, there are many wonderful poultry recipes on offer, such as chicken tagine with preserved lemons, olives, and artichokes, duck tagine with figs and port, Cornish hens stuffed with rice, nuts, and dried fruit with apricot sauce, and chicken and rice roulade with apricot sauce. A chapter of seafood includes many stuffed whole fish, a spicy shrimp tagine, Moroccan seafood paella, seafood briouats, and seafood with couscous.

Other Moroccan favorites include the flaky phyllo and chicken pie bastilla, briouats (small, filled pastries of crisp phyllo dough), chabakia, sfinges (doughnuts), baghrir, and elegant desserts like a honey and nut briouat, baklava with pistachios and orange blossom water, candied eggplant, and figs stuffed with goat cheese, pistachios, and honey.

Ingredient lists are quite manageable, and most ingredients should be readily available at your local store. There is an included recipe for homemade harissa that specifies chile California (dried Anaheim chiles); I appreciated that a specific chile was mentioned, as all too often cookbooks will simply specify “dried chiles” without a gauge to spiciness or size. Many of these dishes are simplified from lengthy traditional preparations, which makes it easier to prepare them for weeknight dinners rather than reserving them for special occasions.

Along the way, there are family stories, histories about the various dishes, a background into the French and Spanish influence in Morocco, the importance of food and family in Moroccan life, the Maghreb, and Moroccan tea culture. Gorgeous food photography captures beautiful tablescapes with Moroccan glasses and dishes, lanterns, and scenes of everyday life in Morocco. This is truly a gorgeous book and a beautiful tribute to Morocco, but more importantly, it’s one I’ll find myself cooking from frequently, particularly the Moroccan desserts!

(Review copy courtesy of Trina Kaye PR)

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