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Thursday, February 13, 2014

Rock The Casbah

Watercress & Chickpea Soup with Rose Water & Ras el Hanout
Adopted from Jerusalem
Serves 4
2 Medium carrots, cut into 3/4 inch dice
3 TBS olive oil
2-1/2 TSP ras el hanout
1/2 TSP cinnamon
1 Can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 medium onion, sliced thin
2-1/2 TBS fresh grated ginger
2-1/2 Cups vegetable stock
7 OZ watercress
3-1/2 OZ spinach leaves
2 TSP sugar
1 TSP rose water
Greek yogurt for serving

This has been a particularly brutal winter filled with lots of snow, ice and polar vortexes.  I usually love this season, but these sub-zero temps have been killer, so I've found myself dreaming of warmer destinations a lot more lately.  Since our next big trip is still a ways off, I'm taking a quick journey to the middle east this week with two amazing dishes filled with warming spices.

When temperatures finally crept back up to 30 degrees I decided to take a trip down to Kalustyan's specialty market in NYC.  If you've never been, you need to go now!  It's a mecca for Asian and Middle Eastern cuisine with aisles packed with exotic spices and food products.  I picked up rose water for my interesting soup, harissa for my pork and plenty of ras el hanout - an essential spice.   

Ras el hanout and rose water lend their aromatic qualities to this surprisingly simple to make soup.  Jerusalem by Yotem Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi is an extraordinary cookbook with vivid stories and beautiful photography, just sitting down with this book alone makes me feel like I've been transported to this storied city.  The idea of putting watercress, chickpeas, ras el hanout and rose water together may sound a bit strange, but it works.  You can certainly leave out the rose water, but it really makes this soup extra special.  

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Mix carrots and half the chickpeas with 1 TBS of oil, ras el hanout, cinnamon and a healthy pinch of salt.  Spread flat on parchment-lined baking sheet.  Bake for 20-25 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining oil over medium high heat in a large pot.  Add onion and ginger and sauté until onions are soft and holder, about 10 minutes.  Add remaining chickpeas, stock, sugar, watercress and spinach.  Bring to a boil and allow greens to wilt.

Blend in a food processor or blender until smooth.  Stir in the rose water and season with salt as needed.  Set aside while the carrot mixture cooks, and reheat when ready to serve. 

To serve divide the soup among bowls and top with hot carrots and chickpeas.  Top with 2 TBS of yogurt.

Moroccan Pork Cubanos with Pickled Vegetables & Harissa Cream
Adopted from The Top Chef Cookbook
Serves 6
4 LBS pork shoulder
6 Cups low-sodium chicken and/or veal stock
2 TBS ras el hanout
3 Cups red wine vinegar
1 Cup sugar
1 TBS fennel seeds
4 Carrots, julienne
1 Red onion, thinly slices
3 Jalapenos, thinly sliced
2 TBS harissa
1/2 Cup Greek yogurt
Warm pita bread for serving

This sweet, spicy dish puts a twist on Latin street food with Moroccan flavors.  While you may not find this sandwich on the streets of Marrakech  I can totally see this being served out of a food truck somewhere in Williamsburg.  This pork is extremely addictive, especially  with the pickled vegetables and harissa cream, but it's great on it's own too.  

Tackling a massive pork shoulder seemed intimidating at first, but this dish is pretty easy to master.  All you need is some muscle and lots of time.  I actually made mine in my pressure cooker, which was even easier and much faster.  If making in a pressure cooker, just reduce stock to 1 cup, cook on high pressure for 90 minutes after browning.

Preheat oven to 275 degrees.  Season pork generously with salt and ras el hanout.  Heat skillet over high heat.  Brown meat on all sides until well browned.  Place in a large roasting pan with the stock and 1/2 cup water.  Roast for 4-5 hours, or until the pork pulls apart easily with a fork.

Set the cooked pork aside and pour the cooking juices into a sauce pan.  Reduce on high heat until 3/4 cup remains.  Shred the meat and toss with sauce.

For the vegetables bring vinegar, sugar, fennel seeds and 3 cups on water to a boil, string to dissolve the sugar.  Place cut vegetables in a heatproof bowl and pour over hot vinegar mixture.  Cover and let steam for 20 minutes.  Pour out all but 1 cup of the liquid and keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

To serve, mix harissa with yogurt.  Pile warm pitas with pulled pork and top with pickled vegetables and yogurt mixture.

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The Hungry Yuppies, Annie and Rich, are a young couple from CT who are self-proclaimed foodies. Annie is the chef, and Rich is her willing taste tester. Juggling a full time job in the city wasn't going to get in the way of Annie's love for cooking. It's about eating well whether you have just 30 minutes on a Monday night, or all day on a rainy Sunday.