Over several centuries, traders, nomads, invaders, migrants and immigrants all have influenced the cuisine of North Africa. The Berbers adapted semolina into couscous, one of the main staples of Moroccan style cooking. From the 7th century onwards, the Arabs introduced a variety of warm spices like saffron, nutmeg, ginger, and turmeric, which contributed and influenced this culinary culture. The New World brought to North Africa potatoes, tomatoes, zucchini, and chili peppers. It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship of foods and aromatic flavours. This recipe combines chicken, chickpeas, and organic farmers market New World vegetables in a spiced tomato broth. The chicken is braised and simmered.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1½ pounds chicken breast, pounded thin
- 1 onion, chopped
- 6 garlic cloves, chopped
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh ginger
- ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
- ¾ teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1½ cups homemade chicken stock
- 1½ cup crushed tomatoes with juice
- 2 cups chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- ½ head cauliflower, chopped
- 1 zucchini, cut into ¼-inch slices
- ¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- salt and pepper to taste
- In a large pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Season the chicken breast with salt and pepper and add them to the pot. Cook, turning until browned (about 7 minutes). Remove chicken.
- Reduce the heat to low and add the onion to the pot and cook until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the ginger and aromatics and cook for one minute.
- Add the stock, tomatoes, and salt and pepper to taste, scraping the bottom to lift up any browned bits. Add the chicken and any juices back to the pot and simmer for 5 minutes covered. Add the chickpeas, cauliflower and zucchini and simmer for about 10 minutes longer until the vegetables are just tender. Stir in the parsley and lemon juice. Serve over couscous.
The aromatic spices in this dish are best with a masculine, fruit-forward red, but bubbles are more romantic. Serve with a bottle of your best Champagne.
Movie Night suggestion: Michael Curtiz’s film opens on maps while a narrator provides a detailed exposition of the many twists and turns of Casablanca (1942) in French Morocco, as a refugee route from wartime Europe.
Casablanca is an action-adventure flick like no other in which victory is not won with weapons and guns but fought within the walls of Rick’s (Humphrey Bogart) head. One of the best romantic films of all time, Casablanca’s basic message is one of self-sacrifice. Here’s looking at you kid.
Ingrid Bergman is fascinating as the beautiful heroine (Ilsa), the mysterious, impossible woman of an impossible love. The magic that develops onscreen between Bogart and Bergman is enough to make me question my own cynicism. This story portrays the ideal man who all men wish to rival.
There are hundreds of films produced during this period but none falls so perfectly into place. The cinematography is outstanding, the music score is inventive and the editing is concise and timed perfectly. Bogart and Bergman’s romantic scenes create a genuine aura of love, as time goes by.
*Make it a double feature night with One Flew Over the Couscous Nest.