Validating my cookbook collection, one damn recipe at at a time

21: Beef, Onion & Tomato Kebabs (and more) — A Month in Marrakesh

21: Beef, Onion & Tomato Kebabs (and more) — A Month in Marrakesh

I’ve fallen into a pattern here: decadent pastry, sensible real-people food, decadent pastry, sensible real-people food. But I don’t care because THAT’S BALANCE, Y’ALL. That is my life.

Seeing as it’s a “sensible real-people food” week, I decided to dig into a cookbook that I’ve not been avoiding for difficulty reasons, but more because I never figured out where to start. And then I forgot about it.

The Assignment: Beef, Onion & Tomato Kebabs + Fried Aubergine Salad + Cauliflower & Olive Salad from A Month in Marrakesh: Recipes from the Heart of Morocco by Andy Harris

(It’s now that I’ve discovered that people are selling copies of the 2012 edition I have of this book for up to $437 on Amazon? What the hell???)

Andy Harris is a food writer and cookbook author who’s done several titles focused on cuisine of various Mediterranean-ish regions. And I don’t question the appeal at all — not only are the flavors of the area delicious, but they’re frequently counted among the healthier dietary choices of the world. “Will this clear all that puff pastry out of my arteries?” No, Dana, and do you know how bodies work? Harris is also the founding editor of Jamie Oliver’s monthly magazine. Nice.

There are a lot of simple and terribly appealing recipes in this book, and I suspect that I looked at it at first and went, “Ooh, I want to make that! And that! AND ALSO THAT! ALL AT THE SAME TIME!” and then I made none of it. And because last week I took on one beast of a recipe, I figured I’d go simple this week… but I’d make THREE simple dishes — a meaty item and a couple of those salads I’d been eyeballing. (God, I love a good salad dish that can be served at any temp, and you just make a batch and then can just scoop ‘n eat for days after…)

The Recipes (directly from the book, which you may want to get, but probably the 2011 edition because the 2012 is somehow going to run you over $100):

Things to Note About These Recipes:

  • The only thing that goes on the actual skewers is the seasoned meat; the tomatoes and onions grill up separately. Which is fine, but…
  • Little onions are a pain in the ass. I’m so mad at them. They suck so bad to peel, they take a while to cook because they are whole, and then, just when you think you’re out of the damn woods, you flip two of them on your grill top, and they ping, bounce, and roll right onto the floor. Screw you, tiny onions. In the future, I’ll be cutting the onions in half, crosswise. They’ll be easier to peel, they’ll cook faster, and they’ll cook more evenly. Stupid onions.
  • Also grilling tomatoes on a cast iron grill pan sucks. I know this, but I forgot, and now I know this again. They stick like crazy, and then there are bits of tomato charring up on your ridged cooking surface with nowhere to go. OH and speaking of my cast iron grill pan…
  • Hello, and welcome to This Week’s Big Snag! So I pulled out my reversible griddle/grill pan, which is great for kebabs because it covers 2 burners and doesn’t have high edges. I hadn’t used it in a while, and VOILA! There were rust bits. UGH. Scrubbed those up, cleaned and oiled the pan, then got back to it. Promptly cooked tomato bits to my freshly cleaned pan. Well done, me. And that’s when it started smoking. My whole kitchen. I cracked open the windows to my apartment, and I’m sure it looked like a Cheech & Chong movie from the outside. Somehow, I narrowly avoided setting off my smoke alarms.
  • BUT TO THE POSITIVE STUFF! One of the things I love about these recipes is that all of them get hit with a sturdy squeeze of lemon juice. That bright hit of acid along with the fruity richness of the olive oil and just enough sea salt, plus all the spices?? *chef’s kiss* These flavors saaaaaang.
  • Eggplant is bomb, and this is a great simple prep for it. And the oregano is a nice touch. You don’t need to do too much to make eggplant taste great.
  • I’m in love with this cauliflower salad. It’s good cold, it’s great hot, and I’m crazy about anything that has me adding 2/3 cup of olives.

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THE VERDICT

How did they taste?
Good! The marinade for the kebabs was spicy but flavorful — harissa paste does all the heavy lifting there — and I really enjoyed the 2 salads, as noted. And while I very much feel like I had a lovely, complete meal, I also don’t feel like it was so heavy that I overdid it. Awesome.

Would I make them again?
Yes, but I would make sure my grill top was in working order before I took another go at those kebabs. And I might make sure I started with pitted olives for that cauliflower salad — I had to cut away from the pits, and it was a total P.I.T.A.

Do I recommend this book?
I do, but it appears to be out of print and hard to find. However, these recipes appear to be very simple and traditional style Moroccan fare, so if you’re interested in dishes like this, maybe seek out another Moroccan cookbook. (Or ask to borrow mine. It’s cool. We’re friends.)

What’s the next recipe I want to make from this book?
Preserved Lemons; the Kefta, Tomato & Egg Tagine; and the entire Salads & Vegetables chapter. We’ve got a crazy amount of lemons growing from the tree at my office, though, so the preserved lemons are definitely next on the list.

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I’m getting really tired of cleaning my kitchen, y’all. I almost gave myself this week off, because I made 50 cupcakes and 75 brownies for an event last weekend. Every week, I contemplate getting one of those dishwashers that hook up to the sink a little more seriously.

Another — THREE, really — damn recipe(s) down.



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