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Modern Moroccan
Mourad Lahlou’s recipes build the flavors of his native Marrakesh into exciting, contemporary dishes.
Photo by: Deborah Jones

Beets with Avocado Purée and Pumpkin Seed Crumble

Ingredients

Serves 6 For the beets
  • 6 cups warm water
  • ½ cup Sherry vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 6 star anise
  • 2 teaspoons Tellicherry peppercorns
  • 2 teaspoons green cardamom pods
  • 2 teaspoons coriander seeds
  • 12 small golden beets (1½ ounces each)
  • 12 Chioggia beets (1½ ounces ounces each)
  • 12 small red beets (1½ ounces each)
For the pumpkin seed crumble
  • 6 tablespoons pumpkin seeds
  • ½ cup dried bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1½ teaspoons grated lemon zest
  • About 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt
For the avocado purée
  • 1 ripe avocado, halved, pitted, and peeled
  • 1/3 cup whole milk
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons crème fraîche
For garnish
  • 2 pink grapefruits
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Micro-greens, preferably
  • bull’s blood, chickweed, or chervil

Preparation

For the beets: Preheat the oven to 400°F. Combine all the ingredients except the beets in a bowl, stirring to dissolve the salt. Pour ⅔ of the mixture into a 9-by-13-inch baking pan and the rest into an 8-inch square pan.

Leave the roots on the beets and trim the greens to ¼ inch. Add the golden and Chioggia beets to the large pan and the red beets to the smaller one. Cover the pans tightly with aluminum foil and cook longer.

Remove the pans from the oven, remove the foil, and let the beets cool to room temperature in the cooking liquid. Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F.

For the crumble: Toast the pumpkin seeds in the oven for about 8 minutes, or until they are lightly browned. Set aside.

Put the bread crumbs, brown sugar, and lemon zest in a food processor and pulse a few times to combine. Add the pumpkin seeds and pulse a few more times to break them up. With the machine running, slowly pour in enough olive oil so the mixture comes together into a moist crumble. Season to taste with salt.

For the avocado purée Put the avocado, milk, and a pinch of salt in a blender and blend to a smooth puree. With the machine running, add the lemon juice. Transfer the puree to a bowl and fold in the crème fraîche. Add salt to taste if necessary.

Cut away the peel and white pith from the grapefruits, then cut between the membranes to release the segments. Set aside.

To serve: Starting with the golden and Chioggia beets, rub each one gently with a paper towel to remove the skin. Gently rub the roots as well–if some of the delicate roots break off, that’s fine, but keeping some of them intact will give you a more interesting presentation. Repeat with the red beats. Leave some of the beets whole and cut the rest in halves or wedges, so they have a variety of shapes. Trim off some of the stems, so that you can stand those beets up when you plate them.

Put each type of beet in a separate small bowl and toss with a light coating of olive oil. Dip the trimmed ends of some of the beets in the crumble.

Place a generous spoonful of avocado puree on each serving plate. Pull a small offset spatula through part of the puree to form a thinner base of puree. Arrange a variety of beets over and around the puree on each plate. Garnish with the grapefruit sections, a sprinkling of crumble, a few greens, and a bit of crunchy sea salt.

Photo by: Deborah Jones

Carrot Soup with Citrus Salad

Ingredients

Serves 6 (makes about 2 quarts) For the soup
  • 14 garlic cloves
  • 6 mint springs
  • 6 thyme sprigs
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2½ cups or Madras curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 8 cups fresh carrot juice
  • ½ vanilla bean
  • 8 cups thinly sliced carrots (about 19 carrots)
For the citrus salad
  • 1 grapefruit
  • 1 blood orange
  • 1 lemon, preferably a Meyer lemon
  • 2 drops orange blossom water
  • 36 small mint leaves

Preparation

For the soup: Wrap the garlic, mint, and thyme in a piece of cheesecloth and tie to make a sachet. Melt the butter in a small stockpot over medium heat. Add the onions. Stir to coat them with the butter. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring from time to time, until translucent. Add the sachet and cook for another 10 minutes to infuse the flavors and to color the onions lightly. Add the wine, bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, and cook for about 4 minutes, or until the wine has evaporated. Lower the heat to medium, add the curry, salt, and white pepper and stir constantly for 2 minutes. Add the carrot juice and bring to a simmer.

Meanwhile, split the vanilla bean lengthwise and use a paring knife to scrape out the seeds. Add both the seed and pod to the pot. When the liquid is simmering, add the carrots and cook for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the carrots are tender, adjusting the heat if necessary to maintain a gentle simmer. Remove and discard the sachet and vanilla pod.

Use a regular blender or immersion blender to puree the soup. If using a regular blender, puree the soup in small batches, never filling the blender more than half full; pour the pureed soup into a saucepan. Check the thickness of the soup. If it seems too thick, stir in up to a cup of cold water, adding a little at a time until you are happy with the consistency. If there are still some small bits of carrot, you may want to re-blend the soup. I like soup to have a very silky texture, so I strain it through a fine-mesh strainer, but if you like it as it is, you can skip that step.

For the citrus salad:Cut away the peel and white pith from the grapefruit, orange, and lemon, then cut between the membranes to release the segments. Cut the grapefruit segments in half. Cut lemon segments in a bowl, sprinkle with the orange blossom water, and toss gently.

Photo by: Deborah Jones

Kefta Tagine with Custardy Egg Yolks

Ingredients

Serves 6 For the tomato sauce
  • 2 cups diced (1/4 inch) onions
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
  • 4 cups tomato puree, preferably San Marzano
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup carrot juice
  • ½ teaspoon sweet paprika
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/16 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1½ teaspoons (2 grams) finely chopped thyme
  • 1½ tablespoons diced (1/8-inch) preserved lemon rind
  • 1½ teaspoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1½ teaspoon finely chopped cilantro
For the kefta
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¾ teaspoon sweet paprika
  • ¾ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1/16 teaspoon cayenne
  • 4½ teaspoons finely minced onion
  • ¾ teaspoon finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • ¾ teaspoon finely chopped cilantro
  • ¾ teaspoon finely chopped tarragon
  • ¼ teaspoon minced garlic
  • 4 ounces ground beef, preferably with 20% fat
  • 3 ounces ground lamb
  • ½ tablespoon egg yolk
  • Grapeseed or canola oil
For the tagine
  • 6 large egg yolks, at room temperature
  • 2 quarters preserved lemon rind, cut into 9 strips each
  • Urfa pepper
  • Fennel fronds (optional)
  • Extra-virgin olive oil for garnishing

Preparation

For the tomato sauce: Heat a film of oil in a large saucepan or small stockpot over medium-high heat. Add the onions and sauté, lowering the heat as needed, for 12 to 14 minutes, until golden and just beginning to caramelize around the edges. Add the garlic and sauté for another 2 minutes to soften.

Add the tomato puree and bring to a simmer. Stir in the water, carrot juice, paprika, cumin, pepper, cayenne, salt, and thyme, and simmer gently for about 40 minutes, until the sauce is reduced by about one third.

Stir in the diced preserved lemon, parsley, and cilantro and remove from the heat.

For the kefta: Combine the salt and spices in a small bowl.

If necessary, dry the onion, parsley, cilantro, and tarragon on paper towels; do not squeeze them. Combine them in a large bowl, add the garlic, and then gently mix in the beef, lamb, spice mixture, and egg yolk; do not overwork the mixture.

Divide the mixture into 20 portions and shape into balls. Flatten them slightly to form 11/2-inch patties. Heat a film of oil in a large nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the lamb patties, in batches, and cook for about 1 to 11/2 minutes on each side, or until browned and cooked to medium. Drain on paper towels.

For the tagine: Pour a ½-inch layer of tomato sauce into a tagine or a round wide flameproof baking dish with a lid (any remaining sauce can be refrigerated or frozen for another use). Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Arrange the yolks in a circle in the pan. Cover the pan and cook for 11/2 to 2 minutes to warm the yolks.

Remove the lid and arrange the kefta around the egg yolks. Garnish the dish with the strips of preserved lemon, a sprinkling of Urfa, and a scattering of fennel fronds, if using. Drizzle with olive oil.