Thursday, February 4, 2010

Layla’s Lubiya and Zween Zalug

Another installment of Cooking with Layla!

This time we’re making Lubiya, a white bean stew, and Zalug, an eggplant dish, that are as Moroccan as you can get! Vegetarians (ahem, LB and JR), this one’s for you.

At least one of these women thinks I'm funny...

Just after the afternoon prayers, you can find people (read: men) sitting in sidewalk cafes with shallow bowls of bright yellow-orange stew and deep red eggplant mush. The beans and sauce are sopped up with small loaves of round bread, and accompanied with fried sardines or other small side dishes (French fries, lentils, tomato-cucumber salad, or zalug). At my favorite hole-in-the-wall afternoon café, you can buy a bowl of Lubiya and a plate of potatoes, with bread and mint tea included, for 14 dirham (approx. $2 US). Sure, I have to shrug off all the Moroccan stares, but it’s great fun to be eating “authentic” Moroccan food in an “authentic” greasy spoon…provided the food poisoning gods are smiling down on us.
Lubiya and Zalug can be found in the food stalls
like t
hose in the Jmaa El-Fna in Marrakech

The secret to Lubiya (and many things in life) is patience. I was so quick to declare the dish finished once the beans were soft. But Layla taught me that extra simmer time allows the flavor to infuse into every bean- and she is so right! We used her pressure cooker to speed up the process, but I’ve included directions for regular stew pots as well.

1. Soak ½ kilo of white beans overnight. Rinse and drain when you are ready to get cookin’.
2. Cook the beans in 7 cups water for 40 minutes in a pressure cooker, or for 1 hour in a regular (covered) pot.
3. Meanwhile, chop 1 medium purple onion, grate 1 medium tomato, grate 3-4 cloves garlic, and chop ¼ cup parsley.
4. Add all of these to the beans after the allotted time. The beans should be softer, but not mushy, because they’re going to cook more.
5. In addition, add 2 heaping Tablespoons paprika, 1 tbsp cumin, ½ tsp black pepper, 1 small teaspoon saffron (or a couple of saffron sprigs, just for color), 1 tsp salt, and 1 large tablespoon tomato paste.
6. Add ¾ cup olive oil
7. Give all these ingredients a good stir and cook for 45 mins in a pressure cooker, or 1 hour in a regular pot.
Voila! The stew should come out thick and flavorful. It’s yummy with a dollup of crème fraiche (or sour cream, if you don’t live in a former French colony).

And now for the accompaniment: Zalug. This eggplant dish is a cross between a dip and a stew, also eaten on bread (or thick potato slices, as I prefer). The secret to THIS dish is roasting the eggplant on an open flame beforehand, both making it easier to peel and giving it a delicious smoky flavor.

1. Roast 1 kilo of eggplants (about 5 small eggplants) over open flames until soft. When the skin gets wrinkly, throw them in a plastic bag so that the steam collects and helps to peel the skin from the insides.
2. In a large marmite, add:
- 3 large tomatoes, peeled and chopped
- ½ Cup chopped cilantro
- 4 cloves grated garlic
- 2 large Tablespoons paprika
- 1 Tbsp cumin
- 1 Tbsp salt
- ½ cup olive oil
3. Peel the eggplant under running water. Cut into chunks and add to pot.
4. Mix and smoosh eggplant into thick paste
5. Cook approx. 30 mins. Pass out from the delicious smell.

These are both great, hearty, winter, vegetarian foods…perfect for the cold Fessi weather. Cheap and easy to make in large amounts and save. And the best part: they get more and more yummy each day.

Bon appétit!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Team Chessington at the Race

The Outlook was brilliant for Team Chessington that day:
The sun rose bright and clear, with runners ready to play.
And then when Caitlyn strapped on her shoes, and Rod did the same,
An electric silence fell upon the patrons of the game.

The “semi-well-trained” runners awoke Sunday morning. The rest
Clung to the hope which springs eternal in the human breast.
They thought, if only Caitlyn could get in front of the crowd,
We’d have a reason to cheer, and to cheer loud.

Runners lined up at the 21st Annual Marrakech Half Marathon
As soon as the whistle blew, Caitlyn was gone.
Jesse , Cherry, Josh, Rod and Lauren Peate
Ran a (slightly) slower pace- no need to compete.

The Spirit Squad, aka “Al-Mushejiaa-uun
Had decorated their shirts and even thought up some tunes.
Cath and Jackie and Kristen and Sam
Sipped coffee, ate pastries, and supported our friends from the stands.

Runners of all kinds: black, white, Arab, kids, and the old
Running together like a Michael Jackson music video.
Everyone in the crowd knew it was a beautiful sight
To see hijabed women next to Ethiopian men, running with all their might.

Then from 5,000 throats and more there rose a lusty yell
It rumbled through the Middle Atlas valley, it rattled in the dell;
It knocked upon the mountains and did not diminish,
For Caitlyn, mighty Caitlyn, was advancing to the finish!

There was ease in Cait’s manner as she ran at her pace.
There was pride in Cait’s bearing and a smile on Cait’s face.
And when, responding to cheers, she sprinted and weaved.
No stranger in the crowd could doubt that this girl is sportive!

Even when a man came flying by bearing the Moroccan flag
Or a group of French schoolchildren, or those with spirit starting to sag,
Never was seen a more beautiful sight
Than our group of American runners, fighting the good fight.

Tell me the secret of Team Chessington’s success.
Was it all those Huut Dances? I’m trying to guess.
Maybe the delicious vegan, pre-race dinner at the Earth Café?
Or maybe sheer willpower, or fresh orange juice the previous day?

I’m sure their strong finish has something to do
With crossed eyes and Spirit Squad Al-Mushejiaa-uun.
Or maybe we’ll admit, just the lucky number “Tisuuud” (9).
In any case, I’m proud of Team Chessington…and I pity the foo.

Oh, somewhere in this Maghreb land the sun is shining bright
The Gnaoua band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light
And somewhere men are laughing (probably in a café), and somewhere children shout (at you to give them money)
And there is much joy in Marrakech- Team Chessington knows what that’s all about.