Morocco has been on my culinary radar ever since I first ate couscous in the Paris Jewish neighborhood of the Marais at age 12–it was a revelation. In years since, I had the opportunity to work with several Moroccan and Tunisian chefs, who inspired me to finally plan a trip there. Researching my two books on spices (Field Guide to Herbs & Spices and The Magic of Spice Blends), I became convinced that I needed to make that trip. And, I am very happy to say that my culinary/cultural tour with 13 guests was a delight for all, though not without its challenges–road to the Sahara closed due to snow (!), very slow-going to cross the Tichka Pass over the snow covered peaks of the High Atlas Mountains to Fez, and sleeping bundled up in every piece of clothing I owned including hat and gloves in a tent in the bitter cold of the Sahara night, which was nonetheless a high point of the trip for all.
I am happy to announce that since my first tour sold out, I am organizing a second Morocco Culinary & Cultural Tour starting February 13, 2018 for a 11-night tour filled with culinary delights, cooking classes, market tours, tastings, and visits to farms. We’ll learn to make an array of the small Moroccan salads such as the ones shown above, whether eggplant, carrot, artichoke, zucchini or fava beans. We’ll enjoy wonderful flavor-packed food based on seasonal vegetables, local olive oil and rare argan oil, purple, green, black and violet olives, fresh local seafood, and a deft hand with herbs and spices. For this small-group tour (maximum 10 guests), we’ll be staying in riads (traditional inn with inner courtyard based on Andalusian style) and will even have one night in the desert where we’ll stay in a luxury camp and bake bread in hot sand fueled by an open fire.
Tour highlights include: Tasting tour of Fes (the Moroccan spelling of Fez, Spice Workshop with Master Blender, an Exploration of Moroccan-Jewish Cooking, and cooking classes in the Atlas Mountains, a visit to the spectacular Dades Valley where we’ll stay at the justly-famed Chez Pierre, Marrakesh, and Fes.
Beginning in Rabat, the historic, Atlantic Coastal capital of Morocco, we’ll travel next to the Imperial City of Fes. Next we travel south into the Sahara Desert, and then onto the Dades Valley. We continue to Marrakesh, the beautiful ochre city and then on to the charming, windy fishing village of Essaouira before heading to Casablanca for a final night before departing Morocco.
We’ll be drinking pots full of Moroccan mint tea made with nana mint (spearmint), traditionally poured from a great height to cool the boiling hot tea.
Only two spaces left!
Here are some images from the heritage-rich riads and hotels where we will be staying:
Window at Maison Arabe, Marrakesh
Poolside dining at Maison Arabe, Marrakesh
Court with pool, Palais Amani, Fes
Click on this link to get to the itinerary for the tour (I’ll upload a new file with the correct dates in the next few days but the itinerary will be the same as shown here with the tour starting February 20th): Itinerary for February Morocco Culinary Tour
Click on this link to get to the Payments page for pricing information: Aliza Green Morocco Cooking Tour Feb 18 Pricing
Any questions, please send a message to ChefAlizaGreen@gmail.com.
Just back from my fabulous, dizzying culinary tour in incredible India! Eleven guests plus myself and my trusty assistant traveled from Delhi (madly busy, loved Old Delhi and its spice markets-shown here–and flower markets) to Jaipur (the pink city with a fabulous outdoor cooking class at the gorgeous Raj Mahal Palace Hotel), Agra (absolutely perfect weather for our early morning visit to the Taj Mahal), Lucknow (a sophisticated city with complex cuisine not often visited by Americans), and back to Delhi.
Whether by bus, tuk-tuk, taxi, auto-rickshaw, train, and even an elephant ride up to the Amber Fort in Jaipur, we made our way, doing food walks in the bustling crazily-crowded narrow streets of the old parts of Delhi, Jaipur, Agra, and Lucknow, tasting a myriad of vegetarian and non-vegetarian foods, learning new recipes, culture and history, and having the opportunity to speak to knowledgeable locals.
We happened upon this procession of women honoring a local fertility god while visiting the 8th Century Stepwell. All were dressed in the same brilliant yellow-orange and carrying earthenware water pots on their heads filled with coconuts and bananas as offerings.
Along with irresistibly beautiful hand-woven silk and pashmina shawls dyed with natural materials such as eggplant, tomato, saffron, and turmeric, I brought back the best saffron in the world, from Kashmir–deep red threads potently fragrant, rare white poppy seeds (known there as “opium seeds”) used to make creamy korma sauce, big fat deep green freshly harvested cardamom pods, and hard-to-find hand-pounded silver leaf used to decorate pastries. Show above are two masala dabas (spice containers) each filled with colorful, fresh spices used for our first cooking class at the charming Saffron Palate in Delhi–a charming rooftop kitchen overlooking bustling Delhi.
Have you been dreaming about a trip to Morocco? I know that I have since I love cooking Moroccan-inspired food from slender lamb cigari; fish, vegetable and meat tajines; and baked fish in chermoula to chicken b’stilla with cinnamon and almonds; m’hancha (the serpent)–pistachio, almond and rosewater filled coiled fillo pastry; and slow-cooked lamb shoulder with homemade ras el hanout and preserved lemons. I will be leading a small group culinary & cultural tour to Morocco departing January 3, 2018–just one year away! Eight to 12 guests will join me for a 9 night tour with an optional 3 night extension. Highlights include a tasting tour of Fes, a spice blending workshop with a master, an exploration of Moroccan-Jewish cuisine, bread-making in the Sahara and overnight in a luxury tent camp, a cooking class in the breathtaking Dades Valley, and a rejuvenating hammam (Turkish bath/spa) session in Marrakech. Cut and paste the Google Slides document below for detailed information:
AlizaGreen Morocco Culinary Tour
And, here is a link to the payments page
Please send a message to me if you have any questions and let me know if you’re interested even if you’re not ready to make a commitment.
I am happy to say that I will be guest chef in residence from January 7 to 9th at the gorgeous spa/retreat in the Poconos, The Inn at Woodloch. Follow this link for details: Aliza at the Inn at Woodloch. I’ll be doing a demo of a spice blend and a delicious vegan soup from my newest book, The Magic of Spice Blends, attending a reception and Q & A in my honor, and meeting with the chefs for a career discussion. Many thanks to my friend, Tina Breslow, of Breslow Partners for arranging this culinary get-away.
I attended the recent Philly C-CAP Gala honoring the major culinary contributions to the city of Philadelphia of Chef Jean-Marie LaCroix, longtime executive chef of the Four Seasons Hotel in Philadelphia and mentor to a generation of chefs. With him is his colleague and sometimes rival, Chef Georges Perrier. I never worked with Chef LaCroix but know him as a fellow Philly culinarian from my days at A’Propos in the 80s where I worked with his lovely wife, Vivienne. And, I almost went to work for Chef Perrier but instead chose to go work at A’Propos where I cooked Mediterranean-inspired California-style cuisine with a wood-oven and mesquite grill. Although I was torn by it, I made the right decision because three months after I started, I got pregnant. A few years later, I was honored to be asked by Chef Perrier to co-author his cookbook–a wonderful opportunity for me and an experience that I will always treasure. Vive La France!
Sharing a meal is a sacred act that brings people together, encourages conversation, and helps us relax, digest, and take pleasure in the small joys of civilized everyday life: friendship, good food, lively discussion, and maybe a bottle of wine to share. Food that calls too much attention to itself and demands quiet adulation gets in the way of lusty enjoyment.
I am inspired to cook food from places that I’ve traveled to or have had the opportunity to learn directly from local cooks. Earlier in my career, as chef of a Northern Italian restaurant, I studied Italian for five years to connect with Italian culinarians and learn their stories and culinary secrets. In my cooking, I emphasize food from the Mediterranean region, especially Greece and Turkey, where I’ve studied cooking;; from Tunisia and Morocco, cuisine that I learned by working with local chefs; from Mexico where I lived in my early teens: from Israel where I attended first grade; and from Brazil, India, and the Caribbean, all places where I’ve had the opportunity to travel and cook.
I believe food should look like what it is, not something else:
To me, presentation should showcase the essence of the food, not because of elaborate plate-painting and arranging food with surgical tweezers. Too many hands and too much fussiness get in the way of flavor and simplicity. I avoid plate painting, complex plate designs, tiny, precisely-cut vegetables, and molded food. Instead I might cook whole lamb shoulder on the bone, rub it with homemade Ras el Hanout spice then slow-roast it, pull it from the bone and serve it surrounding a whole roasted lamb shoulder on the bone.
Make it, don’t fake it:
At Baba Olga’s Cafe & Supper Club, where I serve as chef, we make all our own foods including hors d’oeuvres, desserts, sauces, stocks, even our own spice and herb blends. The vanilla in our baked goods comes from vanilla beans that we soak in rum. The flavorful butter comes from Vermont, famed for its high-quality dairy products, and our eggs are brown shell that we crack (never from a carton). We ripen our fruits and vegetables like tomatoes and peaches to increase juiciness and flavor. I avoid purchasing processed foods so, as many people comment, “our food tastes clean.” Oil is extra-virgin olive or canola for light, fruity flavor.
For our own health and the health of our planet’s environment, I aim to cook and eat deliciously healthy by serving foods that are 80 percent vegetable and legume based and 20 percent animal protein. I emphasize local vegetables, greens, legumes, and fruits. My first book, The Bean Bible published in 2000 was an early look at the amazing variety of flavors, colors, and shapes of legumes. Beans are beneficial to our health and put needed nitrogen back into the soil and we should all be eating more of them and less red meat. So, I make dishes like red lentil cakes with date-tamarind chutney, hummus with chipotle, and Moroccan white bean and tuna salad with chermoula.
I cook food with roots:
My cooking is inspired by traditional foods in many parts of the world, often the food of women who pass down their knowledge from generation to generation. I avoid arbitrary combinations and foods with too many, often unrelated components. Foods have a reason that they go together—basil and tomato, beans and greens, lamb and mint, lemon and olive oil–for the sake of the garden the palate and for ease of digestion so you won’t leave feeling uncomfortably overstuffed.
I cook seasonally and locally:
While I live in a part of the country with cold winters, so our growing season is not year-round, I work with as many local farms as possible, something I’ve been doing as a chef since 1980. We work closely with Common Market, a local aggregator of foods from farms in the Tri-State region, Green Meadow Farm in Gap, Pennsylvania, who I’ve been buying from since the late 80s, and from the closest farm of all, Heritage Farm, on the grounds of the Methodist Home for Children on Belmont Avenue. I serve only local strawberries when they are in-season so they are a late spring treat rather than more of the same commercial berries shipped unripe across-country.
I aim to be creative with trimmings and by-product:
I do my best to use every part of the food in the interest of environmental awareness and lower food costs, which allows me to buy the best quality ingredients and keep prices reasonable. We treat the food with respect and don’t waste it. So, chard leaves are cooked as greens while the stems become part of our Greek vegetable Briami; corn kernels are cut off the cob while the cobs go into the pot to make sweet, golden corn cob stock for soup; herb stems are saved for soups and stews, while the leaves flavor and add shape and color to finished dishes;; chicken trimmings become stock while its fat is rendered to make chicken schmaltz.
Leftovers are an opportunity to make new culinary delights:
One of the tests of a chef is how well he/she can turn excess of one dish or its components into a wonderful new dish. So, I roast mushrooms for a warm mushroom salad and turn leftover mushrooms into a rich filling for our hand-formed mushroom fillo turnovers. Prosciutto is sliced for salad and other appetizers, the valuable skin and fat are simmered with red beans to make Caribbean style red beans and rice or Tuscan white bean soup.
Preserving allows me to work with high-quality local ingredients out of season:
I pickle vegetables like Roma beans, okra, and mushrooms to serve on mezze and antipasto trays. To build up my stash for winter, I freeze things like corn kernels cut off the cob, raspberries and blackberries, and even local tomatoes. We use tomato juice pressed from local tomatoes and packed in glass jars throughout the year.
The uglier the produce, the better it tastes:
Lumpy produce with bad spots here and there that must be trimmed will be the best tasting, ripest produce. I buy large quantities of deliciously colorful heirloom tomato seconds to make into tomato-basil sauce which we freeze and then use in our catering menus and for other dishes where that taste of summer is so welcome in cold weather months.
I focus on environment awareness:
I cut down on waste by using every part of the product, save all our food scraps for composting, use compostable, recyclable paper goods, serve filtered rather than bottle water, buy local so shipping distances are less, and work to serve foods lower on the food chain, which require less water and other natural resources to produce.The fish I purchase is MSC (Marine Stewardship Council) certified. The meats I serve are sustainable and come from smaller local farms.
If you’ve got far too many chives–and they’re doing so well with all the rain we’ve been getting, see my tips for using chives which appear in this article in the Washington Post Food Section: http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/food/herb-dilemmas-solved-by-the-bunch/2013/06/11/e130e822-cca5-11e2-8845-d970ccb04497_story.html.
Of all the books I’ve written, Field Guide to Herbs & Spices is still a personal favorite that I turn to again and again. I include the names of each herb and spice in 15 to 20 languages, depending on where in the world it is used most, their scientific names, common uses around the world, characteristics, how to choose, store, and use them, flavor affinities, and simple preparations and recipes. The book has been translated into French and Spanish. I had to come up with 240 (!) different herbs and spices to do the photos and had shipments arriving from Australia, Sri Lanka, Wellsweep Farm–an amazing herb farm in New Jersey–Mexico, the Caribbean, Italy, Greece, and Turkey. So much fun! My dream is to write another spice book, this time focusing on spice blends.
How to store herbs and spices from an article I was interviewed for in Real Simple Magazine: http://www.realsimple.com/food-recipes/shopping-storing/herbs-spices/best-way-store-herbs-00000000015652/index.html.
Here’s a link to the World Spice Merchant’s page about my book: http://www.worldspice.com/wares/field-guide-to-herbs-spices. Check out the gorgeous blossoming chives on the cover from my own herb garden. The white blossoms from Chives chives are also delicious–just make sure to pull the blossoms off the tougher calyx for both types before using.