Okay, seriously, tonight’s dinner may have been one of my funnest nights in a long time. Since I chose Morocco early on in our study, I had it in my head what this night would have looked like and it completely exceeded my expectations. I was pretty much giddy with excitement with each new idea and touch that made the night so fabulous.
Looking back, this night has been in my head longer than several months….more like several years, because back in the day, Kathleen’s family threw her the most amazing 21st birthday party I’ve ever been to. I think I mentioned it during Fiji week, how we visited different country “stations” throughout their home and backyard, sampling local foods and beverages. Morocco was over-the-top amazing, a tent set up with cushions and pillows, Coke bottles and savory treats. We lounged and chatted as we partook of the cuisine…another Kathleen memory I won’t ever forget.
So, you might consider me a copycat, but that’s okay, because when something is that good, it needs to be shared. Tonight, I pulled out all the stops, transforming our backyard canopy into a “tent” with every flat sheet in our house, a tablecloth, an old shower curtain…lining the inside with our huge tarp (a.k.a. poor man’s pool cover) and sofa cushions around the outskirts. In the middle of the day I got the brilliant idea to use the kids train table as our low Moroccan table and transported that outside as well. Then, the decorating began….hung vases with water and floating passion flowers (our fragrant backyard ornament), Arabic lanterns lowered with tea light candles and finally, a line of “Khamsa” hands strung across the side of the tent. The kids decorated these Moroccan good luck hands while I worked on preparing the meal.
We also got ourselves decorated like the ancient Berber women and men (kind of ) of Morocco. Addie and I spent a few minutes on the internet looking up pictures of the Berber girls and found a few that we decided to copy. Using scarves, an old big necklace, a peasant shirt, skirt and earrings, we came up with an outfit that worked and she looked super cute in. As Tallinn and I have spent a lot of time reading about Morocco this week, I’ve been studying the Berber women images myself and remembered a few items I had that could be used. They actually have a tradition among the Berber women and men in Morocco that for three days they come together to try to find a spouse. (It’s like a three-day speed dating set-up only “for reals” with engagement as the outcome). The women dress to the nines, Berber-style, with every piece of jewelry they own basically on their body in some way, maybe as a headdress, necklace, belt. I actually kind of wish I was a Berber woman because they have such a fun, free style that I envy. Tallinn wore some puffy-type pants with a soccer t-shirt as soccer is the most popular sport in Morocco and the Berber boys don’t really get as decked out as the girls. When our guests arrived, our dear friends (Phil and Alicia, Avery, Brylie, Remy and Brea) and the meal was ready, we sat down to our Moroccan feast.
Sweet Potato Salad with Preserved Lemons
(Thankfully I had an overabundance of lemons on our tree in January and had just received my Arabesque cookbook which had a recipe for Moroccan preserved lemons. The special jar was opened just for tonight and will most definitely be used again. )
Spinach Salad with Olives and Preserved Lemons
Chicken and Onion Pie
Chicken with Dates
Almond Pastries with Honey Syrup (and a bit of vanilla ice cream)
Moroccan Mint Tea
I realized at another dinner party lately that one of the ways I define success in cooking is by getting someone to enjoy eating something they typically don’t like or wouldn’t eat. Tonight was definitely a success as Alicia, my beloved friend, admitted to not liking sweet potatoes but really enjoying these, so much so that she needed another serving. I love that! I’m also super thankful that my kids go for it and try things and seem less and less concerned about new items or “strange” dishes. Another way I define success in a meal is obviously from people’s comments and sweet Avery, told me it was the best meal she had ever had. I guess she really shouldn’t be thanking me, but Morocco and Arabesque. Moroccan food truly is amazing and we have had it a few times before. The chicken and dates is one of my all-time favorite things to make and really isn’t too difficult or expensive…onions cooked until very tender, add some ginger, cinnamon and saffron, then chicken and water and cook for about 30 minutes, then add the dates at the end. To be honest there is a lot of cinnamon in Moroccan food and perhaps that is why it’s so delicious. There is also a lot of onion and ginger and besides the preserved lemons that I made earlier this year, the additional spices in Moroccan cooking already have places on my spice shelf, and I often have fillo dough in the freezer, another staple in Moroccan cuisine. The fillo recipes for tonight were amazing, particularly the dessert which was very similar to baklava but a bit easier to make.
Tonight we left Morocco with a bang! You really could say we rocked it in a super-fun way, hence the “Morockin’ It”. We relaxed, lounged on the sofa cushions, had great conversations as we passed the couscous, laughed at our children and each other in our head garb (particularly the unique designs the men came up with for their turbans). I’d have to say, as we are “officially” homeschooling now, I’d give tonight an A+, SUCCESS!
Thank you Morocco, each day as we have read about your country and learned a bit more, it makes me so happy that we are on this journey. Your country is truly beautiful and it looks like Kathleen is planning a “make-up” journey for us in the years to come. I look forward to stepping foot in your land and actually smelling the scents and seeing the sights and breathing the air.
Until then, au-revoir.
This Week’s Verse:
Let him who boasts boast about this;
that he understands and knows me.
*both of the kids can actually say this one this week! Yay!
*Also, in case you were wondering, typically they do not drink wine in Morocco but Coke instead. We’re just not big Coke people.