Sunday, March 29, 2009

Moroccan Night

The Hubster and I were invited, a few years ago, to join a newly-organized Supper Club. It's just us, three other couples and occasionally a "wild-card" couple.

Every month we rotate hosting and when you host, your reward for spending three days super deep-cleaning your house for inspection by your friends is that you get to pick...The Theme.

Damn, but I love a theme.

So yesterday the party came to our house and The Theme was Moroccan.

Why Moroccan? Why not? I have two great Moroccan stew recipes that appear in the regular rotation at Chez City and every time I prepare one for Hub I think, "Damn, this would make a good Supper Club" entree. (One is chicken-based, one is vegetarian).

It is the perfect Company Dish: One pot, minimum investment, highly flavorful and served with couscous. I'd cook camel hump if the recipe called for it to be plated on a bed of couscous.

Everyone took the Moroccan theme to heart - it was amazing. The Appetizer Couple brought a whole pineapple studded with shrimp - the presentation was spectacular. Accompanying the fruit-and-prawn sculpture were three African-themed dipping sauces.

Salad Couple brought a carrot dish they found at Marrakesh, a restaurant in Philadelphia.

Dessert Couple were the stars of the night - rose petal ice cream. OMG. It was exotic, beautiful, the texture of frozen silk and so sweet and subtly flavored. Heaven.

All-in-all, an amazing meal.

I don't remember where I originally found this recipe, but I've tweaked it enough over the years that I feel pretty confident in calling it my own.

Moroccan Chicken Stew Serves 4-6, depending on the size of the thighs

12 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Thighs - Rinsed and Patted Dry
1 Large Eggplant, Cubed
Kosher Salt
1 14 oz. Can Chickpeas, Rinsed
2 Large Onions, Sliced or Frenched
6 Garlic Cloves, Minced
1 Tbsp. Sweet Paprika
1 Tbsp. Hot Paprika
2 tsps. Turmeric
2 tsps. Coriander
1 tsp. Cumin
1 tsp. Ginger
1 tsp. Fennel Seeds, Toasted
1 tsp. Black Pepper
1 Tbsp. Kosher Salt
2 tsps. Marjoram
1/4 Cup Fresh Minced Parsley
1 28 oz. Can Diced Tomatoes in Sauce
1/2 Cup Water
1/4 Cup Fresh Lemon Juice
Olive Oil, Preferably Spanish
1/2 Cup Blanched, Slivered Almonds - Toasted
Half of 1 Lemon

Cooked Couscous

Preheat Oven to 400, coat rimmed baking sheet with oil, toss eggplant with additional oil, spread eggplant on sheet and lightly salt. Bake for 10 minutes, stir, bake for an additional 15 minutes.

In your largest saute pan, heat 1/4 cup olive oil, add onion and garlic, cover and cook until soft and translucent - about 15 minutes.

Add paprikas, turmeric, coriander, cumin, fennel, ginger and salt and pepper. Cook until aromatic, 1-2 minutes.

Add undrained tomatoes, water and lemon juice, cover and bring to simmer.

Add chicken in one layer and cool on medium-low for 10 minutes. Turn chicken and cook for another 10 minutes.

Add baked eggplant, chickpeas, marjoram and parsley. Simmer for final 15 minutes.

Serve over couscous, top with almonds.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Evolution of a Cake

It's called That Damn Cake because of the year I made so many. Sixty-three, I think. Or four. But like so many things you do over and over, it has evolved. Through mistakes or ingredient shortages. And this version is, trite as it may seem, new and improved.

I actually made this for a friend (whose birthday party I missed) last week. Turns out? She gave up sweets for Lent. I will NEVER get used to these Catholics! (I actually thought they all quit drinking for Lent.)

Really the Best Strawberry Cake
1 Duncan Hines Moist Deluxe Butter Recipe Golden cake mix
1 small box jello
2 whole eggs
4 egg whites
2/3 cup vegetable oil
1 package frozen strawberries
1 box confectioners sugar
1 stick butter, room temp
3-4 ounces cream cheese, room temp
2 tablespoons cherry preserves

Dump frozen strawberries into a bowl and chop. Let thaw.Preheat oven to 325. In large mixing bowl combine cake mix, jello, oil, eggs, whites and one cup strawberries. Mix to combine and then beat for two minutes, scraping down sides. Grease (WELL!) and flour a tube pan. Bake cake for one hour. Remove from oven, let cool in pan for ten minutes and then invert onto a cooling rack. Cool completely.

While cake is baking, beat 1/2 cup strawberries, butter, cream cheese and confectioners sugar until light and fluffy. Refrigerate. Combine remaining strawberries with cherry preserves and set aside.

After cake has cooled, use a long serrated knife to slice it into two layers. Spoon strawberry/preserve mixture onto the bottom layer. Spoon dollops of icing over the strawberries and top with the second layer. Ice the entire cake and refrigerate.