Gather Around the Moroccan Table

Gather Around the Moroccan Table

Unwrapping the Flavors of a Moroccan Friday Night

I’ve been searching for the right words to describe what this Friday night dish means to me, but I’ve decided that I won’t find them. I’ve entertained the thought that it’s silly to have a deeply rooted, intense association with food, but I’ve dismissed it because it’s not purely a matter of taste – it’s much bigger than that.

Perhaps it’s because this Moroccan fish is what my mother made for many Shabbat meals, only alternating with Libyan chraime, which I found too mouth-puckering and tangy for my younger palate. Or maybe it’s because this dish has all of my favorite flavors mingling and creating something extraordinary.

The pungent, peppery taste of the scarlet red paprika, along with the softened cloves of garlic that make an excellent topping slathered over challah. The rich sauce over the soft chickpeas, contrasted by the delicately sharp acidity of the preserved lemons. And let’s not forget the serious heat of the chile peppers – not optional. Finally, the cilantro gives its fresh, herby flavor, rounding things off perfectly.

It’s all of it – the tradition, the taste, and everything I feel about Shabbat in one dish. On some occasions, I’ll make a different fish for Shabbat, and every time I do, a tinge of regret rears its head because it should have been this. It always needs to be this one. Make it, and you’ll see.

Diving into the Moroccan Fish Feast

The base of this dish is a blend of chickpeas, bell peppers, garlic, jalapeños or chile peppers, dried chili peppers, and preserved lemons. These ingredients create a flavorful and textured foundation for the star of the show – the salmon fillets.

To prepare this Moroccan fish feast, you’ll need the following:

  • 1 15oz can chickpeas, rinsed
  • 2 bell peppers, cored and sliced
  • 6-8 garlic cloves
  • 2 jalapeños or 1 chile pepper
  • 5 dried chili peppers
  • 6-7 slices preserved lemons
  • 1.5 lb (5-6 pieces) salmon fillet
  • 1/2-3/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 heaping tablespoons paprika
  • 1.5 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1 bunch cilantro, stemmed and chopped

Start by placing the chickpeas, bell peppers, garlic, jalapeños, dried chile peppers, and preserved lemons in a wide pan. Top with the salmon fillets. In a small bowl, mix the olive oil, paprika, and salt, then brush this mixture generously onto the salmon. Pour the remaining paprika mixture around the fish, and add 1.5 cups of boiling water.

Turn the heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a boil. Baste the fish often, then cover the pan partially and let it cook for 8-10 minutes. Cover the pan completely and reduce the heat to a simmer, cooking for an additional 25-30 minutes. The sauce should become nice and thick.

Once the cooking is complete, turn off the heat and garnish the dish with the chopped cilantro. This Moroccan fish feast is not only a delight for the senses but also a nod to tradition and family.

Expanding the Moroccan Palette

While salmon is the star of this dish, you can certainly experiment with other types of fish. My mother often makes it with Corbina, which I highly recommend. I’ve also tried it with Tilapia and Tuna, but I don’t particularly recommend those options as they don’t hold up as well to the bold flavors. However, I believe Chilean Sea Bass would also fare well in this Moroccan-inspired recipe.

Regardless of the type of fish you choose, the key is to let the flavors of the preserved lemons, paprika, and herbs shine through. The chickpeas and vegetables provide a hearty base, while the fish becomes a delicate counterpart, soaking up all the delicious juices.

A Cozy Moroccan Mint Latte

As the weather transitions from the bitter cold of winter to the gentle embrace of spring, I find myself craving a warm, comforting drink to accompany my Moroccan feast. Enter the Moroccan Mint Latte, a delightful concoction that blends the refreshing notes of mint with the rich creaminess of chocolate milk.

I first discovered this drink at Coffee Bean almost nine years ago, on one of my first visits to LA. My mother-in-law took me for a stroll at The Grove, and though I can’t remember much else from that visit, this drink stands out. Perhaps it was the warm gesture from my mother-in-law or the perfect combination of mint and warm milk (with a touch of soy and chocolate) that left a lasting impression.

Regardless of the reason, this Moroccan Mint Latte has become a cozy companion, a soothing respite in the midst of changing seasons. Now that I’m a bit too far away from the convenience of a coffee shop, I’ve taken it upon myself to recreate this delightful drink at home.

While it’s not an exact match to the Coffee Bean version, my homemade Moroccan Mint Latte is perfectly delicious in its own right. Without a fancy milk frother or the chocolate powder they use, I’ve opted for a simpler approach that still captures the essence of the original. The combination of minty tea and chocolate milk creates a delightful drink that may be lighter than hot cocoa, but in a better way.

It’s not intensely chocolate, but somehow the flavors meld so delightfully that you might find yourself holding on to that cozy feeling just a little longer. So as the trees outside my window burst into bloom and the birds chirp cheerfully, I’ll be curled up with my Moroccan Mint Latte, savoring the perfect balance of mint and chocolate, and reminiscing about those warm gestures and delightful discoveries.

Embracing the Moroccan Culinary Journey

Gathering around the Moroccan table is more than just a meal – it’s an immersive cultural experience that transports you to the vibrant streets of Marrakech or the serene coastal towns of Essaouira. The rich tapestry of flavors, the communal spirit, and the deep-rooted traditions all come together to create a dining experience that nourishes both the body and the soul.

At El Bahia, our Moroccan restaurant in the heart of New York City, we strive to capture the essence of this captivating cuisine and share it with our guests. From the moment you step through our doors, you’ll be enveloped in the warm, spice-scented air and the inviting atmosphere that so beautifully reflects the Moroccan way of life.

Our menu is a testament to the diversity and depth of Moroccan gastronomy, with each dish telling a story of tradition, innovation, and the passion of our culinary team. Whether you’re indulging in a fragrant tagine, savoring the flaky layers of a freshly baked bastilla, or sipping on a refreshing mint tea, every bite and sip will transport you to the vibrant heart of Morocco.

But the Moroccan experience extends beyond just the food. At El Bahia, we believe that gathering around the table is a celebration of community, where friends and family come together to share not just a meal, but a deeper connection. It’s a place where laughter echoes, stories are shared, and the boundaries of culture and geography melt away, leaving only the universal language of hospitality and good company.

So, the next time you find yourself craving a culinary adventure that combines the rich traditions of Morocco with the vibrant energy of New York City, we invite you to gather around the Moroccan table at El Bahia. Let the flavors of the Maghreb captivate your senses, and the warmth of our hospitality nourish your soul. After all, in the world of Moroccan cuisine, the table is not just a place to dine – it’s a gathering place where memories are made and bonds are forged.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top