One of the best things about writing this blog is the introduction to foods and dishes that I didn’t know about beforehand. Today, I learned about chermoula! (Or charmoula – like so many words translated from the original Arabic, this one has more than one spelling.) When we decided to make our Tangy Moroccan Meatballs yesterday, I wanted to stick with the flavors of Morocco for the entire dinner. This lead us to this recipe, from a lovely site that I think I’ll visit again – Taste of Maroc.
Chermoula itself is a condiment in the pesto family in terms of texture or consistency. It is traditional to North African countries like Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, and Libya, although the Moroccans claim original ownership. It’s one of those things where there is no one single recipe – there are regional variations, as well as changes from neighbor to neighbor. The basics include fresh herbs (parsley and cilantro), olive oil, and lemon juice. The other ingredients can range from basic spices like cumin, paprika, and coriander to harissa paste to onions or even pureed grapes (Tunisian tradition)! The paprika and cumin additions we used tonight seem to be fairly common in Morocco, at least as my internet perusing has informed me.
These carrots are basically just a vessel for the chermoula. It makes them (and anything else you might feel so inclined to cover with chermoula) into a bright and herbaceous dish. These are a perfect side dish to any meat, especially something that’s heavier or spicy. Furthermore, the flavor and lovely presentation belies the fact that it really takes you no time to prepare the dish. As I was eating (and enjoying!) this last night, I also thought that it probably would be equally as delicious and maybe a little fresher tasting if we’d cooked the carrots and just topped them with the chermoula without cooking the condiment at all. Note to self for next time.
(Adapted from Taste of Maroc)
- 6 large carrots
- ~1 cup chermoula
- 6 cloves garlic, sliced
- 1 1/2 cups fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
- 1 cup fresh parsley, roughly chopped
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp paprika
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- 5 turns fresh ground black pepper
- Slice the carrots on the bias, cutting pieces roughly the size of a baby carrot.
- Steam the carrots in a pan. Depending on the size of your pan, add just enough water create a thin layer of water coating the bottom and place over medium heat. Add the carrots and cover with a lid to steam.
- Cook the carrots for ~ 8-10 minutes, until they are al dente.
- Meanwhile (or make ahead!), make the chermoula by combining all of the remaining ingredients in a food processor (or, if you’re cooler than we are and have a mortar & pestle, crush them that way!). Pulse briefly until you have a well-combined, but not obliterated sauce.
- Pour the chermoula into the pan with the carrots. Cook, with the lid on, over low heat for an additional 5 minutes.
Sometimes writing a blog post is hard. Sometimes we just can’t think of a lot to say. This is how the conversation about this recipe went…
“Ally, not everything we make is so enlightened that I have a lot to say about it.”
If we’re posting it, it tasted good – trust us.
Basic Braised Beef Brisket
- 2 tbsp oil (we used truffle oil for extra deliciousness!)
- 3oz minced shallots (~3-4 bulbs)
- 8 cloves garlic, minced
- 6oz carrots, chopped
- 2 large sprigs of rosemary
- 1 1/2 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 1/2 lb beef brisket
- 1/2 bottle (~1 2/3 cup) dry red wine
- 1/2 cup beef stock
- Salt & pepper
- In a large dutch oven, heat the oil. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 300 degrees.
- Season the brisket with salt & pepper. Sear brisket until browned on all sides. Remove brisket to the side.
- Add garlic and shallots to the dish. Cook, stirring occasionally, for ~5 minutes until softened and fragrant.
- Now add in the carrots and tomato paste. Stir together. Cook another ~5 minutes.
- Now deglaze the dish with the wine. Make sure to scrape up all of the delicious brown bits stuck to the bottom.
- Add the stock and rosemary sprigs. Return the brisket to the dish. Just the top should be exposed.
- Bring the liquid to a simmer and then cover. Transfer to the oven.
- Braise for ~ 1 1/2 hours, then flip the meat over. Braise for another 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
Have you ever been in a restaurant and decided on a nice, big, juicy burger for dinner? You’re super-excited and think nothing can be better than your highly anticipated burger? So you place your order with the server, and then s/he asks you, “Do you want that on a regular bun or a pretzel bun?” Literally NO ONE EVER has responded with, “Ehh, just give me the regular bun.” Why? Because even though you were excited about that highly anticipated, big, juicy burger in and of itself… a pretzel bun just makes everything better!
Ok now, translate that sentiment to Thanksgiving stuffing. We made this stuffing entirely from pretzels buns. When we made stuffing last year for Friendsgiving, we added a few pretzel buns for a little surprise, and it worked well. So this year, we decided to up the ante and go with 100% pretzel bun! The idea of pretzel bun stuffing inspired me to add a few non-traditional touches to this recipe, but it’s not so non-traditional that people will turn their noses up at it. Honestly, given the overwhelming herbaciousness of the stuffing (with very traditional herbs!), you’d never notice the extra ingredients. But you will know just how delicious it tastes as you inhale it!
Pretzel Bun Stuffing
- 8 pretzel rolls, torn
- 1 high quality beef hot dog, finely chopped
- 1 large onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 stick of unsalted butter, divided (1/2 cup + 1/4 cup + more)
- 1/4 cup fresh sage, coarsely chopped
- 1 tbsp fresh thyme, coarsely chopped
- 2 tbsp fresh rosemary, coarsely chopped
- 1/2 tsp salt
- Fresh black pepper
- 1 tbsp brown mustard
- 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 3+ cups beef stock, divided (2 cups + more)
- 2 large eggs
- Tear the bread & rolls into bite-sized pieces at least 24 hours prior to making the stuffing. Let sit out to dry.
- On the day you’re preparing the stuffing, place the bread into a large bowl.
- Toss your finely chopped hot dog into a pan over medium heat with just a splash of broth. Cook for 2-3 minutes until the hot dog has released a little fat.
- Add the 1/2 cup of butter to the pan, followed by the onions and garlic. Top with fresh ground black pepper. Saute for ~5 minutes as the onions soften.
- Now add herbs, salt, and 10 turns of pepper. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally for another 5 minutes.
- Pour this mixture over the bread in the bowl and toss well.
- Melt another 1/4 cup of butter. Whisk together with 2 eggs and 2 cups of beef stock.
- Pour that mixture over bread. Stir until liquid is absorbed by the bread.
- Add additional stock by the 1/4 cup until the bread is saturated. Wait a few minutes between adding stock to ensure it all gets absorbed. (You want the bread to be very wet, but without pools of liquid in the bowl. I used just an additional 1/4 cup this time.)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Butter a large glass baking dish. Place the bread mixture into the dish.
- Butter a large piece of foil and cover the dish. Bake for 30-35 minutes.
- Increase oven heat to 450 degrees. Uncover and bake for a few additional minutes for a crispy top.
We’re not really a picky couple when it comes to meat. We pretty much like it all. Our weekly routine usually consists of two nights of fish or other seafood, a night of beef, and pretty much the rest of the nights with chicken of some variety. We also love lamb, goat, duck, and all kinds of game meat, but get our grad-school-budgeted hands on those a little less often. But somehow, I feel like we always forget about pork. Every time we make pork, we always wonder why we don’t eat it more often. Fall and the cooler weather we’ve (finally!) been having made me think about doing a braised dish and this time, my mind went straight to the other white meat! I initially wanted to braise the pork in cider, with apples and potatoes on the side, a dish I make pretty much every fall. But then I realized that would end up being pretty darn similar to the Cider Chicken with Savory Fall Fruits that we made just two weekends ago. So I browsed our two favorite culinary magazines (Bon Appetit and Food & Wine) for some inspiration. Turns out, everyone braises pork in cider in the fall… But working back a few years, I came across the recipe we adapted this dish from – a different flavor profile that was exactly what I was looking for!
Speaking of different flavor profile… I was a little skeptical about the grapes. I thought the grapes might make the whole dish too sweet. I was happily wrong! While they do add a little bit of sweetness to the final product, it isn’t overwhelming. Even more interestingly, the grapes take on some of the savoriness of the pork. When you see them after they’ve braised for half the afternoon, you’ll notice that they’ve lost a lot of their color. I thought that might mean that they would’ve leeched out all of their flavor too. Not the case! As it turns out, the grapes ended up being my favorite part of the dish, so I’m glad I didn’t trust my first instinct to get rid of them!
Braised Balsamic Pork with Grapes
- 3lb boneless pork loin
- 2 tbsp neutral oil
- 1 large onion, sliced
- 8 cloves garlic, minced
- ~1lb black or red grapes (~3 cups)
- 1 tbsp brown sugar
- 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
- 2 cups vegetable or poultry stock
- 4 large fresh sage leaves
- 2 springs of fresh rosemary
- Season the pork loin with salt & pepper on both sides.
- In a large dutch oven, heat 2 tbsp neutral oil at just above medium heat (#6). Once hot, sear the pork on all sides, 3-5 minutes per side.
- Remove the pork to a plate on the side and lower heat to medium-low.
- After allowing a few minutes for the oil the cool slightly, add the garlic and onions to the dish. Cook, stirring occasionally for 3 minutes. Then add the grapes and top with the brown sugar. Cook for another 5 minutes.
- Pour in the vinegar and simmer for about 3 minutes.
- Add the stock and fresh herbs to the dish. Now also return the pork. Nestle the meat down into the dish (the top should still be exposed).
- Bring the liquid to a boil and then immediately reduce to low heat. Cover and cook at a very low simmer for 45 minutes.
- Flip the pork loin, re-cover, and cook at the same low simmer for another 30-45 minutes. [We suggest checking for doneness at the 30 minute mark, especially if you prefer your pork less than well-done!]
- Remove the pork loin from the dish and ensure it is cooked sufficiently with a meat thermometer (the FDA recommends a minimum safe temperature of 145 degrees for pork).
- Meanwhile, increase the burner heat to high and bring the liquid to a boil. Boil vigorously until the liquid has reduced and thickened. While the sauce is reducing, intermittently skim fat/oil/debris off the top. Also, remove the sprigs of herbs.
- Serve the pork sliced, topped with sauce.
I think risotto might be one of my most favorite foods in the world. It’s creamy, delicious, and usually at least a little bit cheesy. Plus, I feel like it’s a little bit of a labor of love. You don’t stand in front of the stove for a long time to make a dish for some one you don’t like – if you have to feed them at all, you go with something that takes way less of your time than risotto. [See our earlier post Bay Scallop Risotto for how I tried to woo Selim with my “fancy” risotto dish.]
Furthermore, I love risotto because it’s basically a blank canvass. The basics of a risotto are simple – short grain rice (usually Arborio, at least here in the US), slowly cooked in hot liquid, with frequent stirring. Generally, the dish goes like that: start with chopped onions sauteed in butter or oil, followed by the addition of the short grain rice. Then follows some wine and a hot stock, stirred until the grains of rice absorb the liquid. Of course there are some specific types of risotto: think risotto alla milanese with saffron and Parmesan cheese, or risotto al nero di seppia, a striking black dish made with squid and their ink. But for us at home, aside from the basic framework above, risotto is yours to customize!
Tonight’s dish is meant for two as a side dish, instead of the heaping main dish portions I frequently make. (Not gonna lie though – it was a pretty large side for two people.) Certainly you can upscale for a main course if you’d like though.
I’m actually pretty proud of this dish. I really enjoyed it. And I made it all by myself – didn’t follow any recipes or get inspiration from anywhere. A lot of times when I don’t have the guidance of a recipe (or Selim), I under-season things or just don’t combine flavors all that well. Not this time! All the flavors combined beautifully and it’s full of flavor! I hope others enjoy too!
Rosemary Risotto with Asparagus
- 2 tsp olive oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 2/3 cup Arborio rice
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 2+ cups vegetable stock
- 1 heaping tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
- 2 cups asparagus (roughly 1 bunch), chopped into 1 inch pieces
- 8 turns fresh ground black pepper
- 3oz gouda cheese, grated
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- Over medium heat, warm the olive oil in a medium pan.
- Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, heat the vegetable stock until simmering.
- Add the onions and garlic to the oil and cook for 3 minutes, until the onions have just begun to soften.
- Add rice and stir to coat in the remaining oil. Toast for 3 minutes.
- Pour in the wine. Stir frequently until the rice as absorbed the wine.
- Add the rosemary and black pepper to the dish.
- Lower heat slightly to a medium-low.
- Now begin adding the warm vegetable stock, one ladleful at a time, to the pan. Stir frequently until the liquid is absorbed.
- Repeat step seven over and over.
- Once the rice is expanding and getting creamy, taste a grain after every ladle or two. Once the rice has softened, but is still a smidge too al dente to eat, add the asparagus to the pan.
- Resume adding stock by the ladleful and stirring, but cover the dish the first time after you add the asparagus for just about 2 minutes, so the asparagus steams a bit.
- The rice is done when the dish is creamy, but each individual grain still retains its shape and a very slightly al dente texture.
- Try this suggestion for a little more concrete/visual detail – or just eat once you think it’s ready!
- After your last ladle of stock has been absorbed, turn off the heat and stir in the cheese and lemon juice.
- Taste for salt and pepper, adjust as you like. (We didn’t use any salt in ours.)
- Serve with a bit more cheese or rosemary on top if you like!
Serves 2-4 as a side dish.