A Moroccan Thanksgiving Part I: Salads

Note: Because there’s so many moving parts to this meal, I’ve organized it into 3 parts. This post is only on the appetizers, the next is on the tagine with beef short ribs, apples, and prunes, and the final post is on the tarte tatin with apples, raisins, and rose water.

Thanksgiving is by far one of my favorite holidays. The whole point is gathering people around the table to eat a gorgeous meal and to enjoy the day centered around food, friends, and family. No pressure about gifts or spending tons of money on things someone might not need or like. So, that got me thinking that while traditional Thanksgiving meals are great, why don’t we try cooking something different than the regular turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce meal? Don’t get me wrong, I seriously love me a good Thanksgiving turkey, and all the sides and desserts, but none of us were in the mood to be arbitrarily told what to eat on a certain day, and thought it’d be fun to explore. So, Moroccan it is! On Wednesday, not Thursday, nonetheless.Last year, I got The Food of Morocco by Paula Wolfert, a beautiful encyclopedic book on Moroccan cooking, which has taken me almost a full year to finally use. No better time than Thanksgiving to attempt an entirely new cuisine, right? Thankfully it’s only me, my parents, and my older brother for the holiday, so first time kitchen experiments may be slightly better received than if we had a huge family gathering, so I went out and bought a hand-painted tagine, or the cone-shaped clay pot that so many Moroccan dishes are cooked in.

Because this was an entirely new way of cooking for me, I wanted to be sure I picked out a recipe that was feasible. No messing around with appetizers and sides that need to be served warm; I picked out only those appetizers that need to be served cool or at room temperature, to take a bit of the pressure off in case timing didn’t work out perfectly.

A Moroccan Feast

Orange and Olive Salad
Roasted Beet Salad with Cinnamon
Floral Carrot and Golden Raisin Salad
Cooked “Wild Greens” Salad

Appleton Farm Pub Cheese with Coriander and Lemon
Castleton Rosemary Crackers & a Toasted Baguette
Warm Marinated Olives
Olive Tapenade

Tagine with Beef Short Ribs, Apples, and Prunes

Tarte Tatin with Apples, Raisins, and Rose Water

The salads were simple, yet subtly exotic. It was great being able to set them out and not worry about the temperature, while I worked on the rest of the meal. I won’t try to pretend it was a cinch pulling this all together; I didn’t put the time in to prep in the days leading up to Thanksgiving, aside from shopping, and falling asleep without doing any preparations the night before (most importantly seasoning the tagine, more on that in the next post) meant I needed to get up at 3:45 to be organized.

I’ll happily try the savory recipes without the added sugar next time, but since it was my first time cooking Moroccan food, I want to go by the recipe exactly. I do think the small amount of sugar added a nice flavor and sweetness, that you’d expect from this type of cuisine.

Orange and Olive Salad

Serves 4-6

  • 3 navel or temple oranges
  • 24 juicy black olives (I used oil-brined olives, rinsed several times to reduce the saltiness)
  • 2 tbl extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbl reserved orange juice
  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin, preferably Moroccan
  • 1/4 tsp sweet paprika
  • Pinch of cayenne, or to taste
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt, or more to taste
  • 2 tbl chopped flat-leaf parsley
  1. Peel and section the oranges; use a paring knife to do this. Reserve 2 tbl of the juices for the dressing. Basically, use a seesaw motion to peel the orange with the knife, and carefully cut away all the white pith from the flesh. If you peel the orange with your hands, you’ll end up with all the white pith left on the orange. Cut or section into slices.
  2. Rinse and pit the olives, soak in fresh water for 10 minutes, then drain.
  3. To make the dressing, combine the olive oil, orange juice, cumin, paprika, cayenne, sugar, and salt in a bowl. Toss with the olives. Taste and correct the salt if necessary.
  4. Scatter the olives and chopped parsley over the oranges and serve at once.

Roasted Beet Salad with Cinnamon

Serves 4-6

  • 1 pound beets (3 to 4 large beets, more if smaller)
  • 2 tbl coarse sea salt
  • 1 tbl sugar
  • Juice of 1 lemon, or to taste
  • 1 tbl extra virgin olive oil
  • Large pinch of ground Ceylon cinnamon
  • 1 tbl chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • Salt to taste
  1. Rinse and thoroughly dry the beets, being careful not to break their skins. Cut off the tops, leaving about 1 1/2 inches.
  2. To roast the beets in the oven, tightly wrap the beets, with the coarse sea salt, in foil or parchment paper and set in a shallow baking dish. Bake at 325F for 2 hours. To check for tenderness, open one end of the packet and test a beet with the tip of a knife to see if the flesh has softened.
  3. Peel the beets, cut into bite-sized pieces, and put in a bowl. Combine the remaining ingredients, pour over the beets, and let marinate for 1 hour before serving. Serve at room temperature. (God I love that room temperature serving!!)

Floral Carrot and Golden Raisin Salad

Serves 4-6

  • 1/2 pound large carrots
  • 1 tbl sugar
  • One 1-inch Ceylon cinnamon stick
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • 2 tbl fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 1 tbl orange flower water
  1. Trim and peel the carrots, halve them lengthwise, and cut out and discard the hard core. Cut the carrots into 1/4-inch dice, place in a small saucepan, add the sugar, cinnamon stick, salt, lemon juice, and water to cover, cover, and cook until tender. Drain the carrots in a sieve set over a bowl and quickly use the hot liquid to soak the raisins.
  2. When the liquid has cooled down, drain the raisins and mix with the carrots and orange flower water. If you want to serve it in the traditional way, pack into a 2-1/2 to 3-inch mold, chill overnight, then invert the dome onto a plate and serve cool. Otherwise, just refrigerate the salad until cool enough to serve, which is what I did.

Cooked “Wild Greens” Salad

Serves 4-6

This makes a creamy, almost pureed salad. You can beat in more olive oil if the salad isn’t creamy enough.

  • 1 pound mixed greens (I used green curly kale and radish greens; you could also use spinach, Swiss chard, purslane, arugula, and/or beet greens. Bonus: make the beet salad and use the greens for this!)
  • 1 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves, roughly chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, unpeeled
  • 1/2 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt, or more to taste
  • 3 tbl extra virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
  • 1/4 tsp sweet paprika
  • Pinch of cayenne
  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin, preferably Moroccan, or more to taste
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon, or more to taste
  • 1/2 preserved lemon, pulp removed, rind rinsed and slivered (I didn’t have time to make these, so bought them at a specialty food store)
  • 12 oil-cured olives, pitted and soaked in several changes of water to remove salt
  1. Wash the greens well, drain, stem, and roughly chop.
  2. Steam the greens, parsley, and garlic for 10 minutes. Cool.
  3. Squeeze out as much moisture as possible from the greens and finely chop. Peel the garlic, place in a mortar with the cilantro and salt, and crush to a paste.
  4. Heat the olive oil in a 10-inch skillet. Add the garlic paste and chopped greens and cook over medium-low heat, turning the mixture often to avoid burning, until all the liquid has evaporated, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and let cool slightly.
  5. Beat enough oil into the greens to create a texture similar to that of whipped potatoes. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving.
  6. Correct the seasoning with more salt and/or lemon juice if necessary, and whip once more the lighten the mixture. Shape the mixture into a smooth hemisphere on a plate and decorate with the slivered lemon peel and black olives. Serve cool.

Warm Marinated Olives

I didn’t follow a recipe for this, but briefly warmed some leftover green, unpitted olives in olive oil, chopped fresh rosemary, fresh ground black pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes. This was good for the teeny tiny green olives I had that would have been really tedious to pit.

Olive Tapenade

I also didn’t follow a recipe for this. With my additional leftover olives (bright green castelevtrano and the spicy ali baba olives), I pitted them, crushed them in the mortar with some fresh garlic, olive oil, parsley, coriander, and preserved lemon rind. You can pretty much make it however you want, as far as I’m concerned!

What about the rest of the meal?

Head over to Part II to read about the tagine of beef short ribs, apples, and prunes! It was a really delicate and tender, yet sticky sweet and comforting dish, something I know will bring me back to life time and again this winter.

Or skip straight to Part III for the dessert – which might be one of the most addicting desserts I’ve tried – tarte tatin with apples, raisins, and rose water.

7 Replies to “A Moroccan Thanksgiving Part I: Salads”

  1. Wow! I love the recipes and everything looks amazing. I even see you are using the new serving bowls you bought in New Haven.

  2. catbird365 says:

    Oranges and olives together…..fantastic! I am going to make this. Thanks for sharing.

  3. […] only a week ago? (Need I remind anyone, we ate so much I had to spread the meal out over three blog posts.) Swore off sweets, swore off treats, it’s back to being good for this one. Well…that […]

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