Wednesday, August 26, 2009

My Apologies

My apologies folks. I am nursing broken bones and I am simply not finding the motivation at the moment to blog. I do, however, plan a new entry before Saturday.

Saturday is my birthday and I will be away for that weekend. So, I will get something up for you by Friday night, August 28th.

Thank you for your continued patience!


Saturday, August 1, 2009

Going Away Recipe

Well, I am going away for the next week and have been quite busy trying to get through each day with some badly shattered foot bones and a surgery that did not successfully fuse said bones. Another surgery is on it's way in a month or so.

So, I will leave you with a recipe and a bit about the recipe. It is the ubiquitous Moroccan sauce tomatish found on every table for lunch and dinner as a truly special condiment. This is not a cooking sauce as one follower of my column discovered. Jan down under if you're out there, you rock lady! Her dad, before he passed, found this to be the best thing ever with his lamb. Patrick, I shall never forget you kind Sir.

This recipe and information is reprinted from one of my first couple of columns written while living in Morocco. I was in Oujda when I wrote this particular column. Some has been omitted as it was just unnecessary verbiage for this time. Mohamed mentioned within was a friend of mine who actually sparked me to move to Morocco as it had always been a dream of mine. I tried out many recipes on him and his family.

SAUCE TOMATISH (tomato sauce), though not just *any* tomato sauce but the ones used here in Morocco and trust me, it is ubiquitious! You will go to no restaurant whether big and fancy or a little home cooking hole in the wall without receiving your sauce tomatish. It is also made at home betweeen 2-5 times a week if not more in my house. In fact, yesterday I made one version for macaroni and much later on, another version to go with our main meal. The stuff is habit forming and has become a comfort food for this humble cook. It is sort of like mac & cheese is for me; I will even scoff bad sauce tomatish!!

You will need to be sure and use tomato concentrate/paste which we purchase in large to huge cans here as your base. All of the recipes are based on that for two reasons. Number one, is that this is how it is done here and I haven't yet run into a can of what we from the West call tomato sauce; which I don't think would make a great base. Number two, it needs to have that strong vibrant tomato taste that only comes from very good tomato concentrate/paste. So, think volume when you buy your tomato paste and if you can get one made with plum tomatoes, all the better. A plum tomato paste will give you a close approximation of the bright red color and bold fresh taste of those available in Morocco.

Please though don't avoid this recipe if you need to buy "Hunt's" tomato paste, you'd be missing out on something so very Moroccan! Please choose the *sweetest* white onions that you can find, as truly, here you can eat the onions like apples! There is no hint of yellow or yellow onion in them at all and they carry the pink/purple shades on the outside the same as the garlic does. Also, please do use a light cooking oil or cooking oil blend containing no olive oil. Olive oil is rarely used to cook with and is reserved mainly for dipping bread into at breakfast and occasionally with mint tea as a mid-afternoon/late evening snack. Here, we all use a cooking oil which is a blended vegetable oil to cook with and it is sold in 2 or 5 litre jugs.

One thing I have done with my Moroccan cooking is cut the oil a bit. Most Moroccan women who I know use just far far too much of the stuff. I cut back on it without telling Mohamed and he thanked me stating that as one of the main reasons that I am a better Moroccan cook than his mother! Mohamed and I *always* fight over the sauce tomatish and last time we went out to eat I slapped his hand with a piece of bread. That was the night that he laughingly began to ask for 2 bowls when we eat out! As well as Miloud and other friends. We know enough to make plenty at home for a meal in Morocco. All of this column's recipes freeze very well and can be doubled, tripled,,,,,,,,,? I would suggest for now that those who are brand new to Moroccan cooking use this sauce as an accompaniment to your usual meals with nice flatbread (not pita bread) for dipping, or over pasta or rice for now.

Elizabeth's Wicked Sauce Tomatish

8 oz. Tomato Paste/Concentrate
6 oz. Water, plus extra for more thinning as necessary
2-3 Garlic Cloves - chopped finely
1 c. Sweet White Onion - chopped finely or 1/2 c. grated
2 Fresh Tomatoes - grated and set aside
2 Tbsp. Fresh Flat Leaf Parsley - chopped
1 Tbsp. Fresh Coriander - chopped
2 tsp. Paprika
1/4 tsp. Cooking Salt - or to taste
1/2 tsp. Fresh Black Pepper - oh go on and heap it just a bit!
1 1/2 Tbsp. Vegetable Oil

1. In a skillet or heavy bottomed saucepan place the oil, onions, garlic, parsley, coriander, salt and pepper. *Then* turn your burner or flame to low and saute until soft and translucent with no browning at all, stirring occasionally. Add paprika and allow to blend over heat for 1 minute.

2. Add grated tomato, stir to blend.

3. Turn heat up to med and add tomato paste. Stir and blend with other ingredients for 30 seconds. Add water and stir well.

4. Turn heat to med-high and bring to a bubble adding more water to reach your desired consistency. Here is personal choice time. Acceptable sauce tomatish can run from nearly "chicken broth" thin to as thick as canned tomato sauce and just a bit thicker. I like mine on the thicker end of the scale though sauce tomatish is never so thick that it doesn't slide nicely from the spoon.

Simply Basic Sauce Tomatish

8 oz. Tomato Paste
6 oz. Water - plus extra for thinning as necessary
1/8 tsp. cooking salt
1/2 tsp. sugar

Mix all together in a suacepan. Bring to a bubble and thin as necessary.


It is more than fine to "play" with your sauce tomatish and I follow one simple rule though. If the ingredient cannot be found in Morocco or it can be but is silly, then do not add it *if* looking for completely authentic Moroccan food. Here is a list of things that I have added to my own sauces and I leave the amounts to you bearing in mind The Essential Kitchen guidelines such as not 1 single dominant flavor. No mint either.

Lemon Juice - small amounts or it will be the base for or a soup not sauce tomatish.
Ginger - ground
Pickled Small Green Chili - chopped finely or added whole
Large Piece Lemon Peel
Small Piece Cinnamon Stick - though not done in my area of Morocco, you can use it.
More Sugar
No Sugar
Corriander Seed - ground, not to replace the fresh coriander
Garlic according to taste, I don't recommend using more than 4 cloves.
Fresh Thyme
Chopped Green or Purple Olives - it is very worth it to buy non-pitted olives, just don't use the "Martini" type and nix the pimento "jello" stuffed ones as well.
Sauce Tomatish is sooo good that even when it is bad it is good! As I said you will always find it served in bowls here with bread and your meal, BUT Moroccans also use this on homemade batatas frites (french fries), every sandwich stand has it on hand to pour into your hot sandwiches which we do at home and out. Sauce Tomatish is served warm or room temperature, never bubbling hot or ice cold. I prefer mine at room temperature to slightly warm.

I hope that these 2 recipes inspire you to try mine and get creative with your sauce tomatish. I would like to see as many people as in love with this sauce as me, Mohamed and our friends are. I now wonder what a meal would be without it and am highly disappointed, to the point of leaving one restaurant that had run out, for another, when I can't get or make it. Just as a by the way, Mohamed makes a mean sauce tomatish, similar to my own recipe!

c./23 July 2005 07.51
Oujda Morocco

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Beginning

Well, my friends, the obvious place to begin is Morocco. Morocco was the last country in which I lived before returning to the US. I lived in Oujda and Zaio, both in the Northeast and not very far from the Mediterranean coastline. Oujda, a fairly big city where University Mohamed I is located. Zaio could not be more different. Zaio, a small town located in the Rif section of the Atlas Mountains with less mix of Arabic and Indigenous peoples; Westerners like to call Berbers. Oujda being more Arabic. I will explain the genesis of the word Berber in another time.

If you think that preserved lemons, cinnamon and olive oil are staples in Moroccan cooking, think again. It is a rare Moroccan who can afford the dark green briny olive oil and things such as preserved lemons and sweet warm spices are extremely regional. For preserved lemons think Marakech and the Western Sahara where refrigeration used to be, and in many cases still is, a luxury.

You'd need to be staying at a tourist hotel such as The Hilton Casablanca to be fed what is known as Court Food; the old days food of the wealthy. If you are eating there then you're not tasting the real Morocco. The simple every day meals laid upon the tables of Moroccan households and tiny ''hole in the wall'' local's eateries.

Yes, this photo is of me with a raging sinus infection and having colored my hair auburn. I had colored my hair in England before moving to Morocco and this is of me preparing my first meal, in my first Moroccan house, wearing the first Moroccan house dress ever given to me by the mother of a friend in Oujda. This would have been 2004 near the end of April as I arrived on April 8, 2004.

The meal was a lamb tagine cooked in a pressure cooker as all Moroccan households do nowadays. A tagine is rarely, if ever, cooked IN a tagine any longer. There were also many side salads (slatas) and vegetables such as roasted peppers (fil fil), eggplant (braniya) cooked with cumin, the ever present bread (khoubz) as a utensil and always sauce tomatish as a condiment. Fruit, soda and bottled water are always at the table as well. All is served on communal platters and a meal is more than mere food. It speaks to culture and where one comes from.

Check in next time for a recipe!


Sunday, July 26, 2009

Who am I?

Just who am I running a site called The Authentic Ethnic? Well, I am many things to many people. I am a 45 year old woman currently residing in Maine. I have, though, lived in several states, on a few continents and in a few countries such as the UK (Wales and England) and Morocco.

This was borne purely out of my own frustrations at seeing ''the world'' from home cooks posting recipes to five star trained and acclaimed Chefs creating foods from many countries and yet showing a major lack of even the most basic of concepts regarding whatever particular country the dish is meant to represent.

I once had a website dedicated only to Morocco and Moroccan cooking, the real Moroccan cooking. Because someone puts tomato and basil in a dish does that automatically qualify it to be called Italian? Of course not! I still to this very day cannot watch such notables as Bobby Flay and Cat Cora do their ''Moroccan'' cooking. I simply cannot do it!

For the love of all that is good in this world, at the very least add ''style'' to the end of it; such as Moroccan Style, Italian Style, etc. I am so very tired of food misconceptions and myths that I intend to attempt to put a stop to it in my own little corner of the world at the very least.

I have written food columns published in Morocco, Spain and India and the lack of understanding I found regarding true ''ethnic'' cuisine was astounding! Need an example? Here goes. I spent three years writing a Moroccan food column in print overseas and then placed online at a popular cooking site post publication here in the US. I received an email one day from a very sincere lady wanting to throw an authentic Moroccan dinner party. So, she sent me her menu and asked me for ideas as well as what was missing from this menu. I had to write back and say ''everything is missing! You have an Indian menu here. If you'd like, we can work out a Moroccan menu for you together.'' She was shocked as was I.

As I have said, this is my own attempt once again, to bust the myths concerning cooking from around the world. I owe it to myself and also to those truly seeking to make the real deal and not some faux representation. I will write as often as time allows, post THE most authentic recipes and add some photos all being well.

So, hop on and enjoy the culinary ride!