Category Archives: North African

Recipes from Algeria and Tunisia

Bitter Orange Salad/Salad d’Oranges Amères

In answer to the e-Newsletter I sent out at the beginning of February, I received this lovely letter from  Danielle Avidan, a follower of this website. She was kind enough to contribute this recipe.

She writes: “My grandmother used a heavy earthenware container, but it can be prepared in an ordinary salad bowl, even a terrine (ça se garde très bien au refrigerateur!)"

 Bitter oranges appetizer

 3 large bitter oranges (Seville oranges) or 4 medium ones

About 10 to 2 black olives, preferably the ‘wrinkled’ ones from Morocco that can be found in Persian markets;

2 garlic cloves, finely minced

1/2 tsp paprika, or more if you like;

1/4 tsp cumin;

1/4 tsp hot red pepper flakes (optional);

3 (or 4) T Canola or grapeseed oil (do not to substitute olive oil!)

Salt and white pepper to taste.

Pit olives. Peel oranges, and cut in small cubes. Remove seeds. Thoroughly mix all ingredients in an earthenware bowl or ordinary salad bowl. Refrigerate for 24 to 48 hours. Adjust seasonings before serving at room temperature.

Note: The longer you keep it the better it tastes! This can accompany any meat, chicken or fish dish, as a first course, or can be served with other ‘salads’ such as beet, eggplant, carrot etc..

Merci Danielle!

 Tita, my own great-aunt and culinary mentor, often prepared a similar salad with the bitter, Seville oranges that we picked in Marrakech. My own version contains Valencia or Navels, dried Kalamata olives, and chopped red onion or diced fennel, depending upon the availability or the inspiration!



  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.





Preserved Lemon Lovers, read on!

I love the following column written several years ago by Carolyn Jung, then the food editor for the San Jose Mercury News. She now writes the blog Carolyn attended a class of mine in the Bay Area. As I always do, I began by demonstrating how to make preserved lemons the way my great-grandmother used to. This is Carolyn’s take on my favorite condiment: 

  Legion of lemon lovers preserves its passion 


Former Mercury News Food Editor  

It’s Wednesday morning — do you know how yourlemons are doing? Apparently, many of you do. After writing in January about my playful experiencein making the Moroccan condiment preservedlemons, I was inundated with delightful e-mails andphone calls from a legion of lemon fanatics. Like some citrus-obsessed cult, we all share oneamusing thing: We simply can’t take our eyes off our lemons. Who would have ever thought that a few lemonsstuffed with coarse salt and crammed into a big glass jar could cause such a commotion? But it seems the weeks-long process, in which the lemons exude their juices and turn as soft as marmalade, brings out the kid in all of us.One woman wrote that she knew she was on the road to obsession when she found herself checking her jar every hour on the hour. Another gentleman wrote that if he happened to wake up in the middle of the night, he’d crawl out of bed just to check his lemons. Talk about lemon loyalty. Other folks called to tell me their variations. One woman says her Spanish-Mexican grandmother would wait till the preserved lemons softened, then add fresh crushed garlic and ground black peppercorns. Lavanya Iyengar of San Jose gave her recipe for Indian lemon pickles, which are made in a similar fashion but with the addition of such aromatic spices as turmeric, paprika and fenugreek seeds. And I, ginger lover that I am, came across a recipe by Food Network celeb chef Ming Tsai for preserved ginger, Thai bird chiles,and equal parts salt and sugar. So for those of you who started your preserving inJanuary and now are the proud owners ofwonderfully pungent, salty, heavenly lemony lemons,what do you do with them? I’m guessing you’ve found an endless number of usesalready. And that’s the beauty of preserved lemons,the way they add ooomph to so many dishes. Justremember never to add salt to a dish until after you’ve added the lemons, and tasted the dish. I love to take spears of asparagus, toss them withfruity extra-virgin olive oil and black pepper, then roast them in the oven with a few whole green onions at 400 degrees for about 8 minutes or so, depending on the thickness of the asparagus. Just before pulling the pan out of the oven, I add some chopped preserved lemon for a dish that just sings of spring. For an easy salad, take a can of cannellini beans, rinse and drain. Toss in a bowl with some canned tuna. Add some halved kalamata olives, somechopped red or green onions and some choppedpreserved lemon. Make a simple vinaigrette of olive oil, red wine vinegar, a bit of Dijon mustard, salt and pepper. Mound some of the white bean-tuna salad on salad greens, then drizzle a bit of the vinaigrette over it all. Or saute spinach leaves in olive oil with chopped garlic just until wilted. Stir in some preserved lemon for a simple side dish. Or add some canned chopped baby clams and their juices to the spinach mixture for a quick topping for your favorite pasta. Or stir some preserved lemon into chef Tsai’s out-of-this-world polenta, one of the tastiest andleast-laborious versions around, exuberant withshallots and ginger. James Ormsby, chef at Bruno’s in San Francisco,likes his preserved lemons mixed into vinaigrettes or in traditional tagines (Moroccan-style stews) ofrabbit, duck or lamb that are served at the table with tiny dishes of harissa (Moroccan hot sauce) and preserved lemon. “I love the taste. I’m just a huge citrus nut,” Ormsby says. “I love the saltiness and intensity and slight bitterness. It’s just more complex than plain lemon juice.” Indeed, at the Mission District restaurant, Ormsbygoes through two gallons of preserved lemons amonth. As a result, he opts for a quicker method ofmaking them. He uses fragrant Meyer lemons (though other types of lemons will work), cuts them thinly with a meatslicer, then tosses them in a bowl with the same mixture he uses for curing salmon, one that’s 60 percent salt and 40 percent sugar. He likes how the sugar helps counteract some of the bitterness of the lemon. Then, he pours the lemon mixture into a glass jar. In a week, they’re ready to use. For those of you who are even more impatient, I’ve included another method for preserving lemons where you boil the jar in a water bath for 30 minutes. After letting the jar cool, the lemons are ready to use that very day. Me? Unless it’s a dire lemon emergency, I think I’ll stick with the purist’s method that takes three to six weeks. None of that instant gratification stuff for me. It’s like opening presents on Christmas. The wait is half the fun.After all, it’s one thing to make preserved lemons. But it’s a whole ‘nother thing to be left utterly enchanted by them.

 Thanks, Carolyn!

Preserved limes?


Hello preserved lemons aficionados:

 I don’t have a book to announce—yet! But I am preserving lemons. Actually, not lemons, but Bearss limes.

 It occurred to me, as I was gathering the dozens of yellow Bearss (sic) limes that had fallen to the ground around my prolific tree—Bearss are perfectly suited for preserving.

 Eureka or Meyer lemons have a lovely canary colored rind, which, when pickled in salt, holds a bright yellow tint. Yet, if you preserve a green lime (some Middle Eastern cultures do, I am told) the rind turns a dull grey. Grey is not a color Moroccan cooks hold dear. Bearss and Key Limes turn yellow and this makes them ideal for preserving.

 So, with my holiday gift list in mind, I will give out jars of preserved limes along with a recipe or two. Problem solved!

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Bay Area Impressions


I wanted to share the interesting experience I had on my way to the airport for my Bay Area appearances at Le Creuset stores, last Saturday at 5:45 AM—my shuttle was a no-show. Panicked, I called the company several times: they did finally send a driver 45 minutes later, and I made my flight. However, and FYI everyone, I learned from my driver that reservations agents often confuse AM with PM. So be sure to RECONFIRM your shuttle a few days beforehand. I learned my lesson!

During my “cooking and signing tour” for Le Creuset in their Walnut Creek, Vacaville, and Gilroy, I had the pleasure of making new friends, and of visiting with Moroccan cuisine aficionados, some of whom had driven two hours to attend the demonstration. Here is the Moroccan style ratatouille laced with preserved lemon and flavored with cumin, I prepared. This will taste even better if you make it a day ahead.

Zahlouk: Serves 6

1 globe eggplant, peeled and cut into ¼-inch cubes

Salt for sprinkling

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium yellow zucchini, peeled and cut into ¼-inch cubes

3 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded and cubed (or 1 cup canned, organic diced tomatoes)

2 garlic cloves, minced

¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1 ¼ teaspoons cumin

2 teaspoons diced preserved lemon rind (check out my preserved lemon page)

Sprinkle eggplant lightly with salt and allow to sweat for 20 to 30 minutes on paper towels. Rinse under running water. Pat dry. In a heavy, non-stick skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add eggplant and zucchini. Cook, stirring, until vegetables turn soft, 8 to 10 minutes. Using a spatula, transfer vegetables to a colander set over a bowl to drain. Set aside.  To the same pan, add bell pepper. Cook, stirring, 5 to 6 minutes, until soft. Add to the eggplant. Set aside. To the same pan, add a little of the drained oil from the vegetables, if necessary. Add garlic and tomatoes. Stir in black pepper, cumin, and preserved lemon. Cook, stirring until tomatoes thicken somewhat, 5 to 6 minutes. Return drained vegetables to the pan. Heat through, and adjust seasonings. Transfer to a serving bowl. Serve at room temperature for best flavor. 


Those who live near Walnut Creek, CA, MUST go and take a look at the new, flagship Le Creuset store downtown. It is absolutely stunning. I felt as though I had just stepped into a smaller version of the Museum of Modern Art. Backlit glass shelves hold the latest Le Creuset cookware, including a tagine pot in striking Caribbean blue (aqua) that is almost too beautiful to cook in. There is also a small demonstration area where visiting chefs/authors can show off their skills. Be sure and get on the store’s mailing list so you know who is coming there next!

 In San Francisco, where I spent the night with friends, I was fortunate to be taken to The Slanted Door (, a highly regarded and very trendy Vietnamese restaurant at the Ferry Building, overlooking San Francisco Bay. There, I sampled what is possibly the BEST Vietnamese food I have ever eaten, including MEMORABLE prawns with caramelized onions, and a feather light Vietnamese omelet stuffed with crab.

I grew up on Vietnamese food in Casablanca (a number of French-speaking Vietnamese emigrated to Morocco after the War of Indochina.) We locals mistakenly lumped all Asian-style restaurants under the “resto chinois” label. It wasn’t until I came to the US and tasted Cantonese food, that I realized that the “Chinese dishes” I ate in Morocco were actually Vietnamese (I will travel miles for a good “nem”, fried V-N eggroll (also called cha-gio) wrapped in fresh lettuce, mint, and cilantro leaves!) Strangely enough, this North African-Asian cross-cultural exchange now extends to the Moroccan kitchen itself. Cuisinieres all over the country have taken to using maifun (chinese bean threads or rice noodles) instead of rice or couscous (the national staple) seasoned a la marocaine, as a stuffing, or as a filling for a seafood bestila (savory phyllo pastry). So don’t be surprised to see packages of maifun stacked up on tarps lining the ground at a country souk! 

Bismillah, and Bon Appetit,