Happy New Year!

We’re off!

This is the first week in what I hope will be 52 weeks of world-wide adventure.

My friend, Steve Fuller, toured 52 churches in 52 weeks. His adventure through different faiths and denominations was fascinating to follow. And I always looked forward to Monday morning when his new post would be up chronicling his adventure.

These days he is doing a Pub Crawl through Cincinnati’s 52 neighborhoods.

So, I decided to copy him. Sorta.

I’m taking the next 52 weeks to visit 52 countries in my kitchen.

I wanted a new culinary challenge for myself. I hope to find new recipes to add to my repertoire and to introduce myself, my family, my friends and my bloggy peeps to new ideas, flavors, methods and meals.

I’m hoping most of my international meals will be shared with friends- because isn’t cooking always more fun when you are doing it for someone else?

It seemed only fitting that Steve and his wife, Liz, would be our first guests on our International travels. You know, since I’m copying him and all.

So, without further ado… I give you Morocco.

Who knows where Morocco is?

I’ll give you a hint… Africa.

Specifically, it is in the Northwest corner of Africa just south of Portugal and Spain.

Friends of ours vacationed in Morocco (Hi Sara and John!), and I stole these pictures from their Facebook page to share with you the first hand account of grocery shopping in Morocco.

First, care for some beef??

Just show me which hunk ya want:

Here is a snap of the open-air market:

Because of it’s location, Moroccan food has both African and Mediterranean influences. And as I conducted my scientific research of the cuisine (you know, on the Internet) there were four items that seemed to be necessary to dine like Moroccans:

1. Preserved Lemons

2. Tagine

3. Couscous

4. Sweet Mint Tea

So, this is where we begin.

Preserved lemons. These are already a new favorite. They are tart and salty and decidedly delicious.

In Morocco, these lemons are served with everything. You literally cannot do a search for Moroccan food without these lemons popping up, so I’m quite confident they are a legit staple in the Moroccan diet.

You can dice them up and serve them with fresh green beans or asparagus. You can mix them with herbs and butter and put it onto some freshly grilled fish. Or you can use them in a chicken tagine, like I did.

Check out the super simple preserved lemon process:

Pack that lemon with salt.

Lemons packed with salt, a bay leaf and a cinnamon stick.

Push it down to get all those juices a-flowin’.

Pop those in your fridge for at least 48 hours – the longer the better. Then you will have perfect preserved lemons.

Did I mention that you use both the pulp and the rind (which gets soft and lemony-delicious)?

Obvious statement of the day- lemons taste lemony.

I have a feeling there is a delicious cocktail to be made with these salty, sweet, savory, bitter delicious lemons. Someone make one up and send it to me. Kay?

Apparently, preserved lemons are sold in some specialty stores. I checked around my Kroger, and they didn’t carry them. Making them is so easy, I’m not sure I would concern myself with trying to find the pre-packaged lemons.

Now onto the tagine.

This is a tagine:

I do not own a tagine.

And I didn’t buy one for $50 to make this a 100% authentic Moroccan meal.

But I did happen to see a morning show with Jamie Oliver cooking. He happened to be making a Morrocan meal (kismet!), and he told me I didn’t need the actual tagine. Rather, I just needed to heat my food with direct heat AND steam. So, it was my French Oven to the rescue.

Click here for the detailed Moroccan Chicken Tagine Recipe.

Here is my main take away from my Moroccan cooking:

Chicken thighs kick chicken breast’s butt.

Does that statement make sense?

Chicken thighs have so much more flavor, maintain their moisture and are so much tastier than chicken breasts.

How have I not known this prior to making this recipe?

My chicken thighs were marinated in a whole bunch of good stuff like cumin, salt, pepper, etc. Then, they were cooked in this bath of grated onion, cilantro and saffron.

They were cooked on the stovetop with the lid slightly ajar to allow for the steam to escape.

See?!? Just like a tagine… kinda. Direct heat and steam.

The chicken was amazing with the brightness and brininess of the lemons, the saltiness of the olives, and the savoriness of the herbs.

Couscous was served on the side. To make it distinctly Moroccan, shallots, orange zest, currants, parsley and pine nuts were mixed in. Mmm. Zesty!

Our meal was served with very traditional mint tea.

This was super simple to make- boil water, add in some tea bags (I used naturally decaffeinated  green tea), and then toss in a handful (5-6) of mint leaves. Let that steep and serve warm not hot.

I will make this mint tea again and again and again.

The fresh mint made it taste light and refreshing. So dang good.

We ended the meal with traditional deep fried dough.

Deep.

Fried.

Anything.

Would rock my world.

So, these did not disappoint.

And then dredged in sugar and cinnamon.

Yes, please!

Meal 1- COMPLETE!

And a success too.

The MUST MAKE of the Moroccan meal is hands down the chicken dish. As Steve described it, the flavors were all familiar yet the dish was very unique. It is the perfect Sunday dinner (oh, and did I mention that chicken thighs are pretty darn cheap?!?).

I have to say that Morocco did not disappoint… a great start to our adventure.

Want to know what is daunting? Cooking a meal for company that you have never made before. I think that is the biggest entertaining no-no ever. But, Steve and Liz knew full well what they were getting into.

If you decide to join me in breaking all entertaining rules, I highly recommend you enlist the help of a loved one. Have them make martinis to get your guests just a little liquored up so they think the food tastes amazing regardless.

Actually, you should serve martinis if you are abiding by all entertaining rules. So, there ya go.

Martinis for everyone!

Steve approves:

Have a Fabulous Week!

We’ll see ya next Monday when we’ll scoot across the Mediterranean Sea to Spain.

Beslama (yep, that is goodbye in Darija- the dialect of Morocco),

Leah

P.S In case ya missed it above, all of the recipes are written out in detail here.

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