Category Archives: Mediterranean

Mediterranean flavors of North Africa

Belated October post/pomegranates

  Finally! Two advance copies of Mint Tea and Minarets: A Banquet of Moroccan Memories arrived at our front door. A couple of thousand more should arrive from Hong Kong by November 20, 2012.
    With  327 pages, 32 original recipes, and 99 food and location photographs, the hefty, perfect bound paperback weighs in at 2 lbs 3oz.  culminating a ten year challenge of writing something else besides a cookbook. Along the way, I discovered that memoir writing is not for the faint of heart, that perseverance bordering on obssession is of paramount importance, as are an eagle-eyed husband (also photographer, recipe tester, and cheerleader-in-chief) insightful and patient friends, and discerning editors. For a preview of the contents, click on the cover of the book.
    Free shipping on all orders in the US until December 31, 2012. I would be delighted to send you a signed copy.
    No Kindle or Nook edition yet. The technology doesn't do justice to the photographs.

     Aren't pomegranates the most regal of fruits? During this pomegranate season, I' like to share my husband's latest addiction: Couscous with Pomegranate Seeds,  which he eats for dessert or for breakfast.Spiny pomegranate shrubs grew prolifically in the Holy Land. Its fruit was a symbol of fertility. Tyrian master craftsman, Huram, decorated columns in King Solomon’s palace with hundreds of bronze pomegranates. Stylized blue, gold and purple pomegranates adorned the ephods (vests) worn by temple priests. To order, go to http://www. The book is also available in Kindle version. For a signed copy, contact me directly. This simple recipe is excerpted from A Biblical Feast.

 Serves 1
1/4 cup couscous
1/4 cup pomegranate seeds
Buttermilk or almond milk
Sugar, if desired
In a small saucepan, bring the water to a boil. Add couscous in a stream. Cover and let stand 12 to 15 minutes. Let cool and fluff with a fork.
Mix couscous with pomegranate seeds and sugar, if using. Serve with buttermilk.

A Biblical Stew for Easter or Passover

 Many of you know what a fan I am of the Vista Farmer’s Market, and of California farmers and food purveyors. In keeping with the Easter/Passover theme, I recently spoke with Sally Brown, of Good for You Gourmet. Sally sells organic beans and grains at the market. Her products are perfectly suited to prepare a biblically inspired dish, including this one exerpted from A Biblical Feast: Ancient Mediterranean Flavors for Today’s Table.

     Making soup mixes from grains and beans was just a hobby for Sally until she decided to turn it into a business called Good for You Gourmet. For the eight years, the former graphic artist has been a fixture at the Vista Farmer’s market, selling organic heirloom beans, rice, and exotic grains. Sally sources her products all over the world, from Bolivian quinoa, to Spanish lentils, and French Red Rice from the Camargue region in France.

     “Customers are becoming more interested in moving from processed and fast foods to creating more healthful dishes for themselves and their families,” explains the soft-spoken vendor, who hails from Ohio. “These dietary journeys can be made by slowly introducing a few healthy changes, and adding more healthy foods as time goes on.”

     Among the lentil varieties available at the Good for You Gourmet’s stand are striking Black Beluga, delicate French Green lentils, and flavorful Spanish Pardina, to name a few. Like the rest of Sally’s products, the lentils are organically grown.

     Rich in fiber and protein, lentils, garbanzos, and fava beans have been a staple of the Mediterranean diet since biblical times. Ancient bread makers often ground them and combined with other cereal grains to make bread. Then as now, dried beans and lentils were primarily used in soups and stews. Lentils provide a nutritious backdrop for a Lentil, Barley & Mustard Green Soup that incorporates some of the same ingredients that were available to Ancient Hebrew cooks.

 Lentil, Barley & Mustard Green Soup

Serves 4

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion, diced

4 cloves garlic

2 tablespoons pearl barley (or millet)

¾ cup brown (or black beluga) lentils, rinsed, drained and impurities removed

1 medium leek, white part only, finely diced

3(14 ¼-ounce) cans beef broth

1 bunch mustard leaves, rinsed under running water, drained, and coarsely chopped

10 fresh mint leaves, finely chopped or 2 teaspoons dried, crushed mint leaves

Salt to taste

      Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Cook onion, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Add garlic, barley and lentils. Cook, stirring, until barley turns golden, 2 to 3 minutes. Add leeks and stock. Cover and cook, until barley is tender, 30 to 35 minutes. Add mustard leaves and cook until wilted, 2 to 3 minutes. Add mint and salt before serving.

 e-mail Good for You Gourmet:





  In answer to Victoria, a frequent visitor to this blog,  I thought I would share the recipe she requested with all of you.

Hello Victoria: 

The last time we corresponded, you were living in Agadir, in the south of Morocco. I hope you have not been affected by the catastrophic downpours that have plagued the north of the country. Like Southern California, Morocco is  almost always in state of drought. Buckets of rain falling all at once create havoc!

Here is the recipe for mulhalbiya you requested. It is excerpted  from my book,The Vegetarian Table: North Africa. I know mangos grow around Agadir. I have purchased them at the market in Casablanca. They are sweet, juicy, and delicious. Just paint mango slices (or fig halves) with a little honey and grill them over the coals of a canoon (charcoal brazier)




Serves 6


Mulhalbiya is an eggless “custard” flavored with ma’ ward, orange blossom water, and served it in a wide, shallow bowl, so everyone can dip into the communal dish with a spoon. As a variation, I  present grilled figs or mangos in a pool of sauce, and I garnish the plate with candied almonds.


2 ½ cups milk

2 tablespoons sugar

1 cinnamon stick

2 tablespoons cornstarch

2 tablespoons orange flower water

1/2 cup honey

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Ground cinnamon for garnish

6 mint leaves for garnish


     In a medium saucepan over medium heat, bring 2 cups milk, sugar, and cinnamon stick to a simmer.

     In a small bowl, whisk remaining milk with cornstarch. Add to the simmering milk, along with orange flower water. Cook, stirring, until you obtain the consistency of a light custard. Pour into a shallow bowl. Serve at room temperature.


From The Vegetarian Table: North Africa by Kitty Morse.





Tagine of Fresh Vegetables

Serves 4

This gets its zing from lemon juice and preserved lemons. You can use any root vegetable.

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, sliced
1/4 parsley leaves
1 cup vegetable or chicken broth
1 teaspoon paprika
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 pounds small potatoes, peeled and cut in  1/2
4 medium carrots, peeled, and cut in 1-inch chunks
1 cup pitted green olives, drained, and blanched 1 minute in boiling water
2 teaspoons diced preserved lemon rind
1 cup frozen peas
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper

In a heavy pan, heat the oil over medium heat.  Add the onion, and cook stirring occasionally until golden, 4 to 5 minutes. 

Meanwhile, in a blender or food processor combine parsley, lemon juice, 1/4 cup of broth, and paprika. Process until fairly smooth.

Add mixture to onions and stir to blend.  Add preserved lemon, potatoes, carrots, and remaining broth.  Reduce heat to simmer.  Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender.  Add olives, preserved lemon, peas, salt, and pepper.  Continue cooking, covered, until vegetables are heated through, 10 to 15 minutes.

Serve over cooked rice or couscous.

From The Vegetarian Table: North Africa. Updated and copyrighted Kitty Morse 2008

Tagine of Fish and Seasonal Vegetables

Serves 4

30 sprigs flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
20 sprigs cilantro, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/4 cup freshly-squeezed lemon juice
4 thick slices (4 to 6-ounces each) white fish, rinsed and patted dry
2 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced on the diagonal
6 ribs celery, strings removed, and cut into 2-inch pieces
2 medium zucchini, cleaned, and thinly sliced
4 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and thinly sliced
1 small onion, thinly sliced
20 pitted green olives
1/2 medium lemon, seeded, and cut into 1/8-inch slices
Freshly-ground pepper to taste
Wedges of lemon for garnish

For the marinade, in a large bowl, mix the parsley, cilantro, garlic, turmeric, paprika, cumin, and lemon juice. Stir to blend. Coat fish evenly with marinade. Cover and refrigerate 20 minutes to overnight.

 In a small saucepan, blanch sliced carrots in boiling water for 3 minutes. Drain and set aside. Prepare remaining vegetables for assembling the dish.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. To assemble, place celery pieces at the bottom of a tagine dish or cast iron  casserole. Top  with carrot and zucchini slices. Cover with half the tomato and onion. Dot with half the olives. Season with salt and pepper. Set the fish on top of the vegetables. Layer remaining tomato and onion slices over the top. End with lemon slices and remaining olives. Cover with remaining marinade.

Cover tightly. Bake until vegetables are very tender, 40 to 45 minutes. Garnish with lemon wedges, if desired, and serve.