Category Archives: Sephardic dishes

Of Sardines and Pelicans

     The first day of Fall snuck up on us, though the temperature would fool anyone into thinking we were still in midsummer.

     Along North San Diego County’s portion of Highway 101 (the highway that hugs the Pacific Ocean from Canada to Mexico) pods of brown pelicans appear to enjoy the warm breeze as much as I do. What graceful birds they are despite their awkward appearance and huge beak. I love to watch them skim the waves, suddenly diving and using their throat pouch like a net. Beware wayward schools of sardines!

     Pelicans and sardines are iconic residents of Morocco’s Atlantic coast as well. Indeed, those who have traveled along the road between Casablanca and the southern port of Safi invariably see fishermen by the side of the road, selling a fresh catch of silvery sardines kept cool beneath a glistening blanket of wet seaweed.

     When I was growing up, we used to spend time at the cabanon (small beach house) of a family member. At the end of the day, we would wait for itinerant fishmongers to walk past and elaborate a dinner menu on the spot. Some days we feasted on steamed spider crab called araignée de mer. If the catch included sardines, we would immediately fire up the canoun and grill the fish over the coals. On other occasions, we might help our hostess fashion a sardine "sandwich" from two butterflied sardines spread with a cumin-scented marinade. We would press the two halves together, coat them with flour, fry them, and eat them just as soon as they came out of the pan. Tasty memories, indeed!

     That is why I found myself one sunny morning, at Oceanside Harbor, vying with pelicans for a bucket of fresh sardines, or “bait” – bait for my own palate, that is. Needless to say, fresh sardines taste much different from their canned counterparts. These “sandwiches” are truly worth the time and trouble. 

Sardine "Sandwiches"

Sardines Mzouwejj


Makes 6


12 large, fresh sardines (see Note)

15 sprigs fresh cilantro, minced

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

2 garlic cloves, minced

Juice of 2 lemons

2 tablespoons olive oil

Vegetable oil, for frying

1 cup flour

1 egg, lightly beaten

2 teaspoons paprika

Wedges of lemon, for serving


         Scale the fish under running water. Cut off the heads. With kitchen shears, slit open the belly of each sardine and discard the innards. Using your fingers, gently pull the spine away from the flesh, leaving the skin and tail intact. Trim the edges, and discard the bones. Rinse well under running water. Set in a colander to drain.

         In a shallow dish large enough to accommodate the sardines in one layer, combine the cilantro, cumin, garlic, juice from 1 of the lemons, and the olive oil. Coat each sardine on both sides with the mixture. Cover and refrigerate, 2 to 24 hours.

         To assemble: Fill a large skillet with 1-inch of vegetable oil and bring it to the smoking point over medium heat. Meanwhile, place the flour in a shallow dish, and the egg in another. Stick the skinless side of 2 sardines together to make a "sandwich". Coat first with flour, then dip in the beaten egg, and coat again with flour. Holding the "sandwich" by the tails, gently set each one in the hot oil. Fry until golden, 5  to 6 minutes on each side. With a spatula, transfer to a dish lined with paper towels to drain.

         In a small bowl, combine the juice of the remaining lemon with the paprika. Layer the fried sardines in a shallow serving dish. Cover with the lemon/paprika sauce. Serve hot or at room temperature. Store for up to 4 days in an airtight container in the refrigerator.


from the Scent of Orange Blossoms: Sephardic Cuisine from Morocco by Kitty Morse and Danielle Mamane (Ten Speed Press, 2001).



 Happy New Year! Bonne Année!

 2011 at the kasbah began with a pleasant surprise thanks to my friend and colleague, Faye Levy, who, among other publications, writes a column for the Jerusalem Post. In her latest article on oranges, Faye singles out my great-grandmother’s Candied Oranges in The Scent of Orange Blossoms: Sephardic Cuisine from Morocco. or click on the book's cover on my welcome page to read the article.

Faye didn’t give out the recipe, so here it is, excerpted from The Scent of Orange Blossoms: Sephardic Cuisine from Morocco by Kitty Morse and Danielle Mamane (Ten Speed Press, 2001)



Candied Oranges

Oranges Confites

About 2 pounds

 My diminutive, nonagenarian great grandmother got her nickname "petit taxi" from the small red and black taxis that zip around Casablanca. She was never one to sit still, even at the ripe old age of ninety! Oranges confites were among her many dessert specialties. Eat them with a knife and fork, when in need of a quick sugar fix.  OR, pace yourself, and dice them over ice cream or frozen yogurt.

 4 large, unblemished oranges (about 2 pounds fruit)

2 pounds granulated sugar

2/3 cup water

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed and strained lemon juice

 Weigh the oranges. Weigh an equal amount of sugar. Set aside.

 Using a fine grater, gently grate the zest of each orange. Place the fruit in a large bowl of water. Soak for 2 hours. Drain. In a large pan filled with boiling water, boil oranges for 10 to 12 minutes. Drain. Let cool. With a sharp knife, pierce each orange in four different places.

In a large cast iron or enameled pan over low heat, dissolve sugar, water, and lemon juice, stirring occasionally, until no grittiness remains. Do not let the mixture boil. Add oranges. Cook, turning them every 5 minutes, for 30 minutes. Skim off foam. Using a wooden spoon, gently press on poles of each orange to flatten each fruit and let the syrup penetrate it. Continue cooking, turning oranges every 15 minutes, gently pressing on fruit until it acquires a translucent appearance, and syrup turns a deep amber. This could take up to 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Cooking time may vary depending upon fruit size.

With a slotted spoon, transfer fruit to a clean glass jar. Pour warm syrup into the jar through a fine meshed sieve to remove any trace of foam. Seal and store at room temperature for up to 6 months. Serve slices on their own, or diced, over ice cream.


 “La cuisine, c’est l’âme parfumée de notre culture (“cuisine is the perfumed soul of our culture”.) The quote came to mind when I heard of the passing of a family friend, writer/philosopher and Morocco native, Edmond Amran El Maleh. I could think of no more lyrical introduction to The Vegetarian Table: North Africa than his words. Prof. El Maleh passed away recently in Paris. His obituary (in French) appears on

Planning a program for 2011?

 I was privileged to give a talk on Morocco’s culture and cuisine to the San Diego Herb Society last September. From the striking venue at the lovely Stone Brewery in Escondido (CA), to the passionate “foodies” who made up the audience, it was an event to remember. The program included a 20-minute Power Point, a short cooking demonstration, and a sampling of specially prepared Moroccan dishes.

 Join me my Facebook page: Kitty Morse Moroccan Cuisine


Sephardic celebrations


Stay tuned for a menu to celebrate Yum Kippur.



La Mimouna, a celebration unique to Morocco’s Jews,  is held on the last evening of Passover, after the first stars appear in the sky. Local tradition dictates that Jewish families entertain their Moslem friends, and exchange symbolic gifts of food. This traditional menu is exerpted from  The Scent of Orange Blossoms: Sephardic Cuisine from Morocco (Ten Speed Press) and co-authored with my friend Danielle Mamane, a resident of Fez.


  • Couscous de la Mimouna: Couscous with Onion and Raisin Confit
  • Roast chicken with chermoula spices and root vegetables
  • Dates filled with almond paste
  • Almond and walnut Macaroons
  • and of course, FRESH Mint tea