VENUE: Phoebe’s Apartment, Flatiron
PARTY SIZE: 3
TYPE: Casual Weeknight Meal, Moroccan Comfort Food
MENU: Merguez and Green Chard Tagine; Herbed Quinoa with Golden Raisins
A few weeks ago, my friend Steph returned from Morocco, where she joined the newly London-based Whitney for a ten day adventure. Before she left, I tried my best to offer any recommendations on travel routes, must-sees, and places to stay. As the stories of my own travels (and the food I’ve learned to cook along the way) may reveal, I have a bit of an obsession with Morocco, and was probably less than subtle about my intentions to try to both plan their itinerary, and live vicariously through it. Steph managed to fight me off, and instead relied on the advice of an ex-boyfriend’s friend’s cousin who lived in Rabat and offered, seemingly selflessly at the time, to take the girls in and point them in the right direction for the first leg of the trip.
This all would have sounded peachy to me as well if I were in Steph’s shoes. There is no better way to see a country than to stay in the home of a native, albeit a stranger. And while Moroccans can be occasionally pushy and not too subtle in their motives, they are also endlessly generous and welcoming. Steph’s tales that first night back revealed a slightly more sour experience of this cultural balance.
In short, since it is not really my story to tell, the girls spent their first two nights in Rabat emotionally tip toeing around their new friend’s apartment as she hosted late night drug binges, forced them to lend her money, and, ultimately, wouldn’t let them leave. Eventually, not even Whitney’s Midwestern manners could make light of the situation, and the girls fled for Marrakech down $200, 1 camera, and 2 make-up bags which had been stolen out of their luggage when their hostess forced them to take an obligatory field trip to the ATM.
Luckily, the trip only went uphill from there, and the girls spent a relaxing next few days in Essouira eating fresh seafood and hanging out by the shore. This was the portion of the journey Steph quickly told me on the phone as we were discussing dinner, and since my first questions were naturally about what she had been eating while over there, my initial horror about her experience was that she barely tried any tagine.
I whipped up this quick Merguez and chard version of the classic dish to set the scene for her stories. Now, having heard them, I hope the meal can somehow add to the good memories of Morocco, as something delicious she might eat, should Steph ever decide to return there.
From my kitchen, always an extension of travels, good and bad, to yours,
Phoebe, THE QUARTER-LIFE COOK
Merguez and Green Chard Tagine
Makes 4 servings
The key to this recipe is grating the onions and the tomatoes, a trick I learned from my cooking teacher in Fez. The grating gives the vegetables an ideal texture for a tagine-like stew, while pureeing in a food processor would just turn everything to soup and take a long to time to reduce and thicken. You can adjust the consistency of the sauce by adding more or less water. If you prefer a sauceless dish, the onions and tomatoes will form a thicker paste that clings to the sausage and chard as you saute the ingredients.
1 lb Merguez sausage, cut into 2-3 inch pieces
1 large bunch green chard, stalks removed, thinly sliced
½ large Vidalia onion, grated
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 plum tomatoes, grated
½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp turmeric
1 tsp salt
In a large cast-iron skillet lightly coated in olive oil, brown the sausage over medium-high heat until dark brown and crispy. Set aside.
Add the grated onion, garlic, and chard to the pan. Deglaze with 1 cup of water, and stir the chard mixture to loosen any remaining remnants of sausage drippings. Simmer for 5 minutes or so, until the chard is tender. Add the tomatoes and remaining spices. Cook for another few minutes, adding any additional water to keep the mixture saturated. Add the sausage back to the pan and simmer for an additional three minutes so the flavors incorporate.
Serve the Merguez over a bed of herbed quinoa, with a piece of crusty bread if there is enough sauce to warrant sopping.
Herbed Quinoa with Golden Raisins
Makes 3-4 servings
1 cup quinoa
2 cups chicken stock (1 15oz can)
½ Vidalia or yellow onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
½ tsp turmeric
½ tsp ginger
¼ tsp cumin
½ lemon, juiced
1/3 cup golden raisins
1/3 cup cilantro, chopped
¼ cup mint, chopped
1/2 tsp salt
In a medium Dutch oven or lidded sauce pan, sauté the garlic and onion in ½ tablespoon of olive oil for two to three minutes. Add the quinoa, stock, turmeric, ginger, cumin, and salt, turn the heat to high, and bring to a boil. Cover and gently simmer for 10-12 minutes. Fluff with a spoon, turn the heat off, and let rest covered for five minutes or so, until the Merguez mixture has finished cooking.