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Moroccan menu for New Year

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Posted to Thread #13249 at 2:06 am on Dec 30, 2008

Janet Fletcher, Chronicle Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The usual New Year's Eve extravagance may be a little muted this year,
but who needs caviar and truffles anyway? If you have Amaryll
Schwertner making the menu, the delicacies won't be missed.

Schwertner, partner in Boulettes Larder in San Francisco, would be on
many people's short list for most original Bay Area chef, a cook whose
pantry ranges widely and whose imagination never sleeps. If I were to
ask a dozen local chefs for a festive but affordable New Year's Eve
menu, it would be Schwertner's that I most wanted to eat.

So I just asked her.

Over a brainstorming session in her petite restaurant/takeout shop in
the Ferry Building, Schwertner quickly settled on the notion of a
North African tagine - a slow braise - as the meal's centerpiece. Made
with lamb shoulder, it would be elegant yet economical, and it would
fill the house with warm scents. What's more, Schwertner thought, the
accompanying couscous could symbolize prosperity, the tiny grains
representing future good fortune in the same way that lentils do for
Italians and black-eyed peas for African Americans (see story, below).
Ben Bernanke, have some couscous.

You don't need an actual tagine - the two-piece clay cooking vessel
with the conical lid - to make the dish by that name, says Schwertner.
She uses a heavy stainless pot. Most terra-cotta tagines are too small
to make a generous braise for eight, and they're meant to be used on a
wood fire in any case. "They're really for show," says the chef, "and
with the super-showy ones, food is transferred into them to bring to
the table."

Schwertner's fluffy couscous requires three steamings, but don't cross
it off the menu yet. Think of the time you'll spend, and it isn't
much, as an investment in learning a new technique, one you can use on
other grains like cracked wheat, says Schwertner. The directions on
most packaged couscous suggest a one-step method, but that's a feeble
compromise. "If you do three steamings, you'll be so happy and feel
like you're tasting couscous for the first time," says the chef.

The rich lamb braise needs a refreshing counterpoint, like a juicy
salad. To keep the menu in the North African realm, Schwertner
proposes a traditional Moroccan citrus salad with honey, orange
blossom water and olives. She shaves radishes over it, tops it with
baby greens and herbs and finishes it with a sprinkle of crushed pink
peppercorns. It is gorgeous, the citrus gleaming like gems.

California farmers with flawless produce show up at Schwertner's
doorstep every Saturday for the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, and she
shops other farmers' markets during the week. The restaurant buys
nothing from produce distributors; every frilly sprig of frisee and
tiny turnip comes straight from the farm. In a town packed with chefs
picky about produce, Schwertner skims the cream.

Adorable baby carrots in multiple hues become a side dish for her
tagine, marinated in the Moroccan fashion with olive oil, lemon,
cinnamon, cumin and paprika. From a market vendor, Schwertner has
scored an enormous Buddha's hand - the tentacled citrus that looks
like a yellow octopus - and decides to weave this fragrant giant into
the menu. She softens a few fine shreds in brown butter with julienned
ginger and adds it to wilted chard to accompany the lamb.

With her first hors d'oeuvre, Schwertner wants to evoke the
hospitality that Moroccans famously show to arriving guests. A friend
once told her about staying at a small Moroccan hotel, where visitors
were welcomed with warm milk scented with orange blossom water and a
mysteriously stuffed date so delicious that the friend referred to it
simply as "the yummy."

Schwertner's interpretation - a soft date stuffed with almond butter,
cumin and lemon zest, with a crunchy whole toasted nut on top - is
beyond yummy. But limit yourself to one, or at most two, to leave room
for her second appetizer, a silky hummus prepared with dried fava
beans and a whisper of ginger. Assemble a bouquet of winter vegetables
for dipping, like crisp fennel, hearts of romaine, radishes and golden
beets.

A self-taught cook with exquisite taste and enormous talent,
Schwertner has a lengthy Bay Area resume. I have followed her career
for 25 years now, from the pioneering Mudd's in San Ramon, one of the
first Bay Area restaurants to have its own vegetable garden; to
Premier Cru, an East Bay wine shop, where she operated a sublime cafe;
to Sol y Luna, where she helped introduce San Francisco to tapas; to
Stars, where she and partner Lori Regis tried in vain to revive a
restaurant on its last gasp.

"Being immersed in this work for all these years, there's a common
thread, and that's my curiosity about ingredients," says the
Hungarian-born Schwertner, whose soft, low voice retains the merest
trace of an accent. "I've never been the sort to attach myself to one
dish and repeat that endlessly. I never want to stop exploring."

At Boulettes, a sort of apothecary for passionate cooks, Schwertner
displays the ingredients that currently fascinate her in big glass
jars for retail sale. Bottled French rose water, Japanese green tea
salt and jars of fiery Calabrian chiles speak to her affection for the
fragrant, spicy and exotic. The granddaughter of a famous Budapest
pastry chef - her grandmother, not her grandfather - she cooks with an
ascot tied jauntily around her neck and sports owlish round eyeglasses
like Harry Potter's.

Boulettes' pristine open kitchen is the working studio of an
artist-chef with a need for beauty, calm and order. "It's like facing
a blank canvas every day," says the chef of her spontaneous approach
to menu making, an exercise that starts with the harvest report from
her farm suppliers. "Out of discipline and your inner depths comes
this thing, this art. Nothing is predetermined."

Her New Year's Eve menu concludes with crunchy meringues dusted with
chopped pistachios to partner vanilla ice cream with candied orange
peel. A fresh mint tisane brings the meal to a close, wafting its
cleansing fragrance over the table in what seems like an apt way to
sweep out this troubling year.

Schwertner and Regis usually work on New Year's Eve, but expect to
have the night off. "We are going to be home," announces the chef, who
hasn't made the menu yet. "I don't have too strong of a plan, but it
will be something simple and flavorful and full of spices, I hope."

New Year's Eve Moroccan style

-- Dates Stuffed with Almond Butter

-- Fava Bean Hummus with Crudités

-- Winter Citrus Salad with Orange Blossom Water, Olives & Honey

-- Lamb Tagine

-- Triple-Steamed Couscous

-- Moroccan Carrots

-- Chard with Ginger, Citron & Turmeric

-- Pistachio-Dusted Meringues with Ice Cream & Candied Orange Peel
Making brown butter

Cut 1 pound of unsalted butter into 6 to 8 pieces and put in a small,
heavy saucepan over low heat. After the butter melts, it will begin to
foam. After the surface foam subsides, milky solids will float down to
the bottom of the saucepan. When the butter fragrance becomes nutty
and the color becomes nut brown, it is ready. Watch carefully toward
the end to make sure the solids on the bottom of the pan do not
blacken. The process can take 45 minutes to an hour, but you can speed
it up by raising the heat to medium and monitoring more closely. Skim
off any particles on the surface, then pour the clear butter off of
the solids on the bottom, or strain through a double thickness of
cheesecloth. Brown butter will keep in a covered container in the
refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. One pound of unsalted butter yields
about 1-1 1/2 cups brown butter.

For more about brown butter, plus recipes, click here for Amanda
Gold's "Liquid Gold" story.

Winter Citrus Salad with Orange Blossom Water, Olives & Honey

Serves 8

You can use any combination of citrus but aim for a range of colors.
Schwertner likes to incorporate delicate herbs into the mix of baby
greens, such as chervil, Italian parsley or mint.
4 navel oranges, or 2 navels and 2 blood oranges
2 small ruby grapefruits
1 pomelo
2 tablespoons honey, warmed to thin it, or 4 teaspoons powdered sugar
2 dozen dry-cured black olives
16 radishes, trimmed
1 teaspoon toasted and roughly crushed cumin seed
1 teaspoon coarsely crushed pink peppercorns (optional)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon orange blossom water
Sea salt
2 cups coarsely torn baby frisee, mizuna, arugula or other baby greens
or herbs (see introduction)

Instructions: Cut a slice off both ends of one orange. Stand the
orange on a work surface and, using a sharp knife, cut away all the
peel and white pith by slicing from top to bottom all the way around
the fruit, following its contour. Repeat with all the remaining citrus.

Cut the peeled oranges and grapefruits crosswise into slices about
1/4-inch thick. Discard the end slices, which tend to have too many
membranes. Remove any visible seeds. Cut the pomelo segments away from
the membranes.

On a platter, arrange the sliced oranges and grapefruits attractively,
alternating the colors. Top with pomelo segments. Drizzle fruit with
honey or put the powdered sugar in a small sieve and shake it over the
citrus. Scatter the olives around the platter.

With a mandoline or vegetable slicer, shave the radishes over the
salad; alternatively, slice them paper-thin by hand and scatter them
over the fruit.

Sprinkle the fruit with the crushed cumin and peppercorns, if using.

In a large bowl, whisk together the olive oil, orange blossom water
and salt to taste. Add the greens and toss gently. Scatter the greens
over the fruit and serve immediately.

Per serving: 160 calories, 2 g protein, 25 g carbohydrate, 7 g fat (1
g saturated), 0 cholesterol, 96 mg sodium, 4 g fiber.

Chard with Ginger, Citron & Turmeric

Serves 8

Schwertner loves the floral perfume of citron, especially the exotic
Buddha's hand citron. Look for it at farmers' markets and stores with
well-stocked produce departments, such as Berkeley's Monterey Market
and Berkeley Bowl. The citron flesh is mild, so you can use both the
colored zest and flesh. If you substitute Meyer lemon, use only the
yellow zest, removed with a vegetable peeler.

4 bunches chard, about 10 ounces each
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil or Brown Butter (see "Making
Brown Butter" on F4)
1 tablespoon very finely slivered fresh ginger
1 tablespoon very finely slivered citron or Meyer lemon zest (see
introduction)
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
Sea salt

Instructions: Cut away the chard ribs and reserve them for another
use. (Boiled chard ribs are delicious tossed with butter and Parmesan
cheese.)

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the
chard leaves and boil just until they wilt and the white veins soften,
about 2 minutes, depending on their size and age. Drain and shock
under cold running water to stop the cooking. Drain again and squeeze
dry. Chop very coarsely.

Heat the olive oil or brown butter in a large skillet over low heat.
Add the ginger, the citron or Meyer lemon zest, and the turmeric and
cook gently for about 5 minutes to soften the ginger. Add the chard,
season with salt and toss to coat with the aromatic fat. Cook gently
for a few minutes to infuse the chard with the seasonings. Serve warm.

Per serving: 75 calories, 3 g protein, 6 g carbohydrate, 6 g fat (1 g
saturated), 0 cholesterol, 302 mg sodium, 2g fiber.

Pistachio-Dusted Meringues with Ice Cream & Candied Orange Peel

Serves 8

4 large egg whites
1 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 teaspoons very finely minced pistachios
2 pints vanilla bean ice cream, homemade or store-bought
4 tablespoons finely diced candied orange peel

Instructions: Preheat oven to 200°. Line a baking sheet with parchment
paper.

Put the egg whites, sugar and vanilla in the bowl of a stand mixer, or
in a large bowl that will fit over a saucepan with room for an inch of
water underneath. Whisk the ingredients to blend them well.

Put about an inch of water in a saucepan and heat until hot but not
simmering. Set the bowl over the hot water but above it and whisk
constantly until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is snow white.
Take care not to let the mixture get too hot or you will cook the egg
whites; you are merely trying to warm it enough to dissolve the sugar.

Transfer the bowl to the stand mixer with the whisk attachment, or use
handheld electric beaters fitted with the whisk attachment. Whip the
mixture on medium speed until the meringue is stiff, thick and glossy
and the bowl is completely cool to the touch, about 10 minutes.

Transfer the meringue to a pastry bag fitted with a 5/8-inch tip and
pipe it into 8 circles, each about 3 inches in diameter, on the lined
baking sheet. Alternatively, you can use 2 spoons to spread the
meringue into 3-inch circles. Gently prod each meringue with the back
of a soupspoon to raise a few small wispy peaks.

Bake for 2 hours, then remove the tray from the oven and dust each
meringue with 1/2 teaspoon of finely minced pistachios. Return to the
oven, turn off the heat, and let the meringues dry in the oven for at
least 12 hours or overnight.

To serve, set a meringue on each of 8 dessert plates. Put a scoop of
ice cream alongside and sprinkle the ice cream with candied orange
peel. Serve immediately.

Per serving: 270 calories, 4 g protein, 47 g carbohydrate, 8 g fat (5
g saturated), 29 mg cholesterol, 81 mg sodium, 0 fiber.

Dates Stuffed with Almond Butter

Serves 8

You can prepare the stuffed dates several hours ahead. Arrange on a
platter, cover and keep at room temperature. Schwertner likes the
almond butter from Full Belly Farm, but the farm is sold out until
next year. Any natural almond butter with no salt or sweetener will work.

20 moist Medjool or Barhi dates
The stuffing
1/2 cup whole almonds, walnuts or pistachios
1/4 cup almond butter
3 tablespoons very finely minced Italian parsley
1/4 teaspoon very finely minced lemon zest (remove with a peeler, then
mince)
1/4 teaspoon toasted and ground cumin seed
1/4 teaspoon sea salt, or more to taste
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Instructions: Pit the dates and set aside.

For the stuffing: Preheat the oven to 350°. Toast the nuts until
fragrant, about 10 minutes. Let cool.

In a small bowl, combine the almond butter, parsley, lemon zest, cumin
seed, salt and pepper. The mixture should be firm but not pasty. Add a
little oil from the almond butter jar if needed to loosen the mixture.

Stuff each pitted date with about 1/2 teaspoon nut butter mixture, or
a little more if the cavity allows. The date should be plump but not
bulging. Top with a whole toasted nut. Arrange on a platter to serve.

Per date: 160 calories, 3 g protein, 19 g carbohydrate, 9 g fat (1 g
saturated), 0 cholesterol, 75 mg sodium, 3 g fiber.

Lamb Tagine (Braised Lamb Shoulder with North African Spices)

Serves 8

4 pounds boneless lamb shoulder, trimmed of fat and sinew
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
1 inch knob of peeled fresh ginger, thinly sliced
Grated zest of 1 orange
1 tablespoon sea salt
Spice Blend
1 tablespoon fennel seed
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
1 tablespoon cumin seed
1 clove
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
4 tablespoons unsalted butter or olive oil
2 small parsnips, peeled and sliced
1 medium yellow onion, minced
1 inch knob of fresh ginger, minced
1 cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf
1/3 cup golden raisins
4 cups chicken stock
1/2 bunch cilantro, tied with a string

Instructions: Cut the lamb into 16 pieces of approximately equal size.
Toss with the onion, ginger, orange zest and salt. Cover and
refrigerate overnight.

For the spice blend: In a small skillet, toast the fennel seed,
peppercorns, cumin seed and clove over moderate heat, shaking the
skillet constantly until the spices become fragrant and the cumin
begins to darken. Let cool, then pound fine in a mortar or grind in a
spice mill. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the paprika, turmeric,
coriander, saffron threads and cardamom.

Melt the butter in a large Dutch oven or heavy pot over moderate heat.
Add the parsnips, onion and ginger and saute for about 5 minutes to
soften the vegetables. Add the spice blend and saute for about 3
minutes to allow the spices to bloom. Discard the sliced onion and
ginger used to season the meat, then add the meat to the pot along
with the cinnamon stick, bay leaf, raisins and stock. Bring to a
simmer, then add the cilantro, tucking it down into the liquid. Cover
and adjust the heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook until the meat
is fork tender, 2 to 2 1/2 hours, turning it occasionally in the
liquid to keep it moist.

Transfer the meat to a platter with tongs. Discard the cilantro, bay
leaf and cinnamon stick. Pass the sauce through a food mill or puree
in a food processor, then return it to the pot. Taste for salt. Return
the meat to the sauce and reheat gently. Serve hot.

Per serving: 560 calories, 38 g protein, 18 g carbohydrate, 37 g fat
(18 g saturated), 158 mg cholesterol, 1,068 mg sodium, 3 g fiber.

Triple-Steamed Couscous

Serves 8

Triple-steaming makes the couscous especially light and fluffy. If you
do not have a couscousiere (two-part couscous steamer), you will need
to improvise one with a large sieve or colander set over a large pot.
The rim of the sieve or colander should mesh with the rim of the pot
so that steam is forced through the couscous and does not escape out
the sides. If necessary, use a dampened dish towel twisted into a rope
and wrapped around the lip of the pot to prevent steam from escaping.
The bottom of the sieve or colander should sit above the simmering water.

3 cups semolina couscous (not instant or precooked)
Cheesecloth
3 tablespoons melted Brown Butter (see "Making Brown Butter" sidebar)
or unsalted butter + more to taste
1 teaspoon sea salt + more to taste
Ground cinnamon

Instructions: Put the couscous in a large bowl and add cold water to
cover it generously. Swish the grains with your hand to loosen surface
starch. Let the couscous stand for about 30 seconds, then drain in a
sieve. Transfer it to a rimmed baking sheet and spread it into an even
layer with your hands. Let it rest for 30 to 40 minutes to hydrate.

Rub the couscous gently between your palms to fluff it and separate
any clumps.

Cut 2 pieces of cheesecloth about the size of a dish towel and stack
them to make a double thickness. Transfer the couscous to the center
of the cheesecloth, gather the corners and twist to make a loose bag.

Put 2 inches of water in the bottom of a couscousiere (couscous
steamer) or large pot. Bring to a simmer over high heat.

Put the bag of couscous in the top of the couscousiere or in the sieve
or colander that fits over your pot (see introduction). Steam
uncovered for 20 to 30 minutes, monitoring to make sure the boiling
water does not evaporate.

Transfer the couscous from the bag to the rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle
with 1 1/2 tablespoons melted Brown Butter, 6 tablespoons cold water
and the salt. Rub the couscous gently between your palms to fluff it,
separate any clumps and evenly distribute the water, butter and salt.
Rake into an even layer and let rest 30 minutes to 1 hour, uncovered,
then return the couscous to the cheesecloth bag and repeat the steaming.

After the second steaming, transfer the couscous to the rimmed baking
sheet again and repeat the process of drizzling with butter,
moistening with cold water and fluffing the grains between your palms.
(Do not add more salt at this point.) Rake into an even layer and let
rest 30 minutes to 1 hour. You can prepare the couscous to this point
several hours ahead. If you do, cover it lightly with a damp cloth.

Thirty minutes before serving, steam the couscous for the third and
final time. Transfer to a large bowl, taste for salt and add
additional melted butter to taste. Rake between your palms to
incorporate salt and butter and break up any lumps; the grains should
be light, fluffy and separate. Transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle
with cinnamon.

Per serving: 280 calories, 8 g protein, 50 g carbohydrate, 5 g fat (3
g saturated), 12 mg cholesterol, 295 mg sodium, 3 g fiber.

Moroccan Carrots

Serves 8

Schwertner serves the carrots at room temperature as an accompaniment
to the braised lamb, but you can make them a day ahead and serve them
as a cold salad. You can also reuse the marinade for other vegetables,
such as blanched cauliflower or roasted beets.

The marinade
1 cup Meyer lemon juice
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon toasted and ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon sweet paprika
Sea salt
Lime juice as needed
The carrots
2 pounds baby carrots, mixed colors if available
1 clove garlic, peeled and smashed
1 tablespoon sea salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 bay leaf

For the marinade: In a bowl, whisk together the Meyer lemon juice,
olive oil, sugar, cumin, cinnamon, paprika and salt to taste. If the
marinade does not seem tart enough, add a squeeze of lime juice.

For the carrots: If the carrots are small and thin skinned, you do not
need to peel them. Otherwise, peel the carrots. Finger-size baby
carrots can be left whole. If they are larger than that, cut them into
smaller pieces of approximately equal size. You can cut them into
coins on the diagonal, or halve them lengthwise and cut into 2-inch
lengths. The exact size and shape don't matter as long as the pieces
are similar so they cook in the same time.

Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil with the garlic, salt, sugar and bay
leaf. Add the carrots and boil until they lose their crunch, but don't
let them get soft. They should still be slightly firm. Drain well,
then transfer them to a nonreactive container. Pour the marinade over
them and let rest for 1 hour before serving.

The calories and other nutrients absorbed from marinades vary and are
difficult to estimate. Variables include the type of food, marinating
time and amount of surface area. Therefore, this recipe contains no
analysis.

Fava Bean Hummus

Serves 8

Serve with crisp raw winter vegetables for dipping, such as sliced
fennel, radishes, celery heart and baby turnips. Wedges of cooked
beets would be a nice addition.

1 cup dried skinless fava beans (see Note)
2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1/2 inch piece of peeled fresh ginger, sliced
3/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 tablespoons tahini
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice, or more if needed
1 teaspoon toasted and ground cumin seed
1 teaspoon sea salt
The garnishes
Za'atar (Middle Eastern spice blend, see Note)
Toasted sesame seeds
Chopped cilantro

Instructions: Soak the dried fava beans overnight in water to cover
generously. Drain. Put them in a saucepan with 6 cups fresh water.
Bring to a simmer over moderate heat and skim any foam. Add the
garlic, ginger and cumin seeds. Cover partially and adjust heat to
maintain a gentle simmer. Cook until the beans are soft, 45 minutes to
1 hour, depending on their age. Drain the beans, reserving the cooking
liquid, and pass the beans, garlic, ginger and cumin through a food
mill or puree in a food processor.

Transfer to a bowl and stir in tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, ground
cumin and salt. Taste and adjust the seasoning. If the puree is too
stiff, thin with some of the reserved cooking liquid.

Spoon the puree into a shallow bowl or serving dish. Garnish with a
sprinkling of za'atar and toasted sesame seeds, or with toasted sesame
seeds and cilantro. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Note: Skinless fava beans are available at some supermarkets and
Middle Eastern markets and from Bob's Red Mill (bobsredmill.com). Look
for za'atar in Middle Eastern markets, spice shops and well-stocked
supermarkets.

Charlie Knox shared this on preservfood

Per serving: 120 calories, 6 g protein, 12 g carbohydrate, 6 g fat (1
g saturated), 0 cholesterol, 292 mg sodium, 5 g fiber.


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