January 24, 2009

Africanized Dinner

Last week I cooked a few dishes for a North African dinner menu. I feel that I have almost no experience eating North African foods and even less experience cooking such cuisine. Consequently, the results were mixed. Anyway, here's the menu:
Spicy Eggplant Dip and pita chips
Moroccan Lamb Tagine with Honey and Apricots
Garlic Couscous
Yogurt with Cucumbers and Dried Mint
Pistachio Cake
Muhallebi: Fragrant Rice Pudding

African Dinner

Let me first say, I'm crazy for ethnic cuisine. If I'm going out to eat, it's most likely to eat Thai or Indian food. Both cuisines are known for their depth of flavors and especially their spiciness, and I can never get my food spicy enough. My problem is that the waitstaff engages in racial profiling. No matter how much I beg for them to kick the heat level of my food up to max, I think they just see this goofy looking white girl and decide I can't handle it. When they ask, "Mild, medium, or hot?", even though I say "hot hot hot hot," "fiery hot," "as hot as you can make it," I'm usually disappointed.

African DinnerI had high hopes for the Spicy Eggplant Dip recipe. It passed the litmus test for new recipes. It contained lots of stuff I like: eggplants, yogurt, cumin, garlic. There was an intriguing ingredient: harissa chile sauce. As I couldn't find harissa sauce for sale in town, I tried this recipe. I was very disappointed with the heat level. That recipe called for New Mexico chiles, and I don't think they're using New Mexico chiles in North African cooking.

African Dinner

I was happier with the main dish, an Emeril recipe for Moroccan-spiced lamb. I seared seasoned leg of lamb pieces on the stovetop and then slow cooked them for another hour and a half with chicken broth, saffron, and cilantro. I really cannot convey how strange my house smelled for a couple of days afterward. I liked this dish overall. The lamb was tender and sweetened by honey and apricots, with a kick from cinnamon. A dash of cayenne and good dose of black pepper would have helped it, though. It tasted good with the couscous (the grain with the coolest name on the block), and Gul brought some yogurt with cucumbers and mint that also complemented the lamb nicely.

African Dinner African Dinner

Dessert was a little off, too. I tried a recipe for Muhallebi rice pudding. A very simple recipe, calling for only rice flour, milk, sugar, and orange blossom water, then it's topped with cinnamon and nuts. I've only made one other recipe with rice flour, the Filipino bibingka. The bibingka had a spongy and strange texture, and this rice pudding had an almost stretchy texture. I compared it to Gak, that weird flubber-like stuff that came out in the 90s. It actually tasted pretty good, but like Gak, I'd rather play with it than eat it. Luckily, Gul had brought a Pistachio Cake which saved the day.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I once went to Maharaja and told them "I want you to make it like YOU eat it." I couldn't even finish half of it :)