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A Moroccan Feast
The multi-layered and savory pastry called "bastilla" is a star of the Moroccan cuisine. A mix of sweet and spicy, it blends curry-scented scrambled eggs, chicken strips, and toasted almonds under cinnamon-sugar-dusted fila layers. By scaling down the butter traditionally used, the dish becomes light-style, yet flavor-packed. The entree can be assembled several hours in advance and refrigerated. I like to bake and serve it at the last minute to show off the excellence of its shattering tissue-thin layers of crust when you bite into it.
A cracked wheat and fresh vegetable salad and orange-laced zucchini and carrots make fine companions. Blaze mangoes for a dramatic finish, or serve a refreshing sorbet. You might sip a lovely 1996 Swanson Sangiovese Rosato Napa Valley, a 1995 Joseph Phelps Le Mistral, or a 1995 Bonny Doon Vin Gris de Cigare and nibble on herb-imbued olives to start.
In a plastic bag with a resealable closure, toss together 1 cup cured black olives, 1 teaspoon julienned lemon zest, 1 teaspoon each minced fresh rosemary and thyme, and 1 tablespoon olive oil. Chill until serving time.
makes 6 servings
1/2 cup finely ground cracked wheat or bulghur
3/4 cup boiling water
3 medium vine-ripened tomatoes
1 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
3 green onions, finely chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
1/2 cup diced seeded cucumber
1 small red or green pepper, seeded and diced
4 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon sumak (optional)
1/2 teaspoon allspice
Romaine or grape leaves
Place wheat in a bowl, pour over boiling water, cover and let stand until cool. Halve the tomatoes and squeeze the juice over the wheat, stirring to mix. Let stand while preparing the other ingredients. Chop the squeezed tomatoes and toss with the parsley, onions, mint, cucumber, and pepper. Add to the wheat. For the dressing, combine the oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, sumak, if used, and allspice and pour over the wheat and vegetable mixture. Mix lightly. Line a platter with grape leaves or Romaine and mound the salad in the center. Pass additional grape or romaine leaves for scooping up the salad.
Note: Sumak is a tart spice available in Middle Eastern grocery stores. Without it increase the lemon juice slightly.
makes 8 servings
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 large onion, finely chopped
5 large split chicken breasts, about 2 1/2 pounds
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1/2 cup chicken broth
6 sheets fila dough
1 tablespoons powdered sugar
1/3 cup toasted slivered blanched almonds
Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in a large frying pan and saut» the ginger, cumin, turmeric, allspice, cayenne, and 1 teaspoon of the cinnamon for 2 minutes, stirring, to remove their raw taste. Add the onion and saut» until soft. Skin the chicken breasts and place them in the pan, turning to coat with spices. Add the parsley, cilantro, and water. Cover and simmer 15 minutes. Let cool. Bone the chicken and cut into bite-sized strips; reserve the pan juices. Beat the eggs until blended and beat in the reserved 1/2 cup chicken broth. Melt another 1 tablespoon of the butter in a large frying pan and scramble the eggs softly. Let cool.
Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Brush the bottom of a 14-inch pizza or other baking pan with the melted butter and place on it, one at a time, 3 sheets fila, buttering each one very lightly and overlapping them irregularly, forming a 12-inch round. Spoon the eggs on top of the fila. Cover with the chicken strips. Mix the powdered sugar with the remaining 1 teaspoon cinnamon and mix half of it with the nuts. Scatter the almonds over the chicken. Fold the fila corners over the filling. Cover with 1 whole sheet of fila, tucking its edges underneath. Brush with melted butter. Cover with the remaining 2 sheets of fila, again tucking in the corners and brushing with butter.
Bake in a 425 degrees Farenheit oven for 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Let cool a few minutes. Dust the remaining cinnamon sugar over the top. With a knife, score through the sugar, making a diamond pattern.
Zucchini and Carrots with Orange Dressing
makes 6 servings
This piquant citrus dressing, punctuated with ginger heat, refreshes a vegetable array whether served warm, tepid, or chilled.
4 medium carrots, sliced diagonally
3 medium zucchini, sliced diagonally
2 tablespoons chopped chives or green onion tops
Ginger Citrus Dressing:
1/4 cup orange juice
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive or canola oil
In a small bowl, stir together the orange juice, orange zest, lemon juice, lemon zest, ginger, and oil. Cook carrots and zucchini separately in boiling salted water until crisp tender; drain. Mix with the dressing and place in a serving bowl. Serve warm, tepid, or chilled, sprinkled with chives or green onion tops.
Note: Other vegetables may be used as a duo, such as asparagus and yellow summer squash or peas or sugar snap peas and cauliflowerets.
makes 6 to 8 servings
3 tablespoons orange marmalade
2 tablespoons lime juice
3 large mangoes, peeled and sliced
3 tablespoons rum or brandy
Combine in a frying pan or flame-proof serving dish the marmalade and lime juice. Add the mangoes and cook until hot. Heat the rum or brandy in a small long-handled pan. Take up a spoonful, ignite it, and pour it over the mangoes. Slowly pour in the remaining liqueur; when the flame dies out, spoon the fruit and sauce into dessert bowls.
makes about 1 quart
This looks festive served in a balloon-shaped wine glass with a nasturtium or calendula tucked on top.
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1 cup orange juice
2 large mangoes (about 1 1/2 pounds)
3 tablespoons lime or lemon juice
In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar and water, bring to a boil while stirring, and cook until the syrup is clear. Remove from the heat and let cool. Stir in orange juice. Peel and dice the mangoes, discarding the seed, and puree in a blender or food processor with the lime juice and syrup. Cover and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours, or until thoroughly chilled. Freeze the mixture in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.
Triple Ginger Cookies
makes 7 dozen
Roll these as thin as you can and you achieve dozens of tantalizing, spicy-crispy wafers.
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cut in pieces
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon finely minced fresh ginger
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons bleached all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup finely diced crystallized ginger (cut in 1/8 inch bits)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until smooth and add the fresh ginger, ground ginger, vanilla, flour, soda, and salt; mix just until the dough comes together. Turn out onto waxed paper, pat in a ball, wrap and chill 1 hour. Roll out on a floured board until very thin and cut into shapes-stars, hearts, or scalloped rounds. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and scatter over the crystallized ginger in a design. Bake in the oven for 6 to 8 minutes or until browned and baked through.
Note: Use a vegetable peeler to peel the brown skin from the ginger, then you can slice it into wafers the size of a dime and mince it finely using a French knife.
Lou Seibert Pappas is a former food editor of the Palo Alto Times Tribune and a home economist with Sunset Magazine. She currently writes food, home, and travel-related articles for national magazines and newspapers and is the author of more than 30 books.