I apologize if the reference is too obscure, but it’s all I could think about. Also, I would be remiss if I made Moroccan dinner without couscous, cucumbers, lamb, and mint. I tried to incorporate all these things in a movie night meal fit for a Moroccan.
To start, I made a cucumber salad. The best way, I have found to cut a cucumber for salad, is to cut it in half, lengthwise, and scoop out the seeds. Now, it is not necessary to scoop out the seeds, but can be annoying sometimes to have them in your salad. You are also welcome to peel the cucumbers if you don’t want the skin, but I liked the color and I don’t mind cucumber skin, so I didn’t bother.
Once I chopped the cucumber, I added tomatoes, salt and pepper.
Then I roughly chopped some mint and added it to the salad with a touch of oil and rice vinegar. Toss it all together and you have a nice, light, fresh salad to accompany an otherwise pretty heavy meal.
As I said earlier, I wanted to incorporate lamb into the dinner, but had already settled on making stuffed chicken breast as the entree. Since lamb stuffed chicken seemed too decadent, even for me, I decided to go a different route.
Much to my delight, I found an authentic Moroccan dish called “meat cigars,” so naturally I had to make them. A lot of times, they are made with beef and are a common Moroccan appetizer, so I decided to make a lamb variation. I bought ground lamb and browned it in a pan.
Once it was browned, I drained the meat and added garlic, cinnamon, paprika, cumin, and allspice and mixed it all together.
Then I added fresh, diced tomatoes.
The idea of these cigars is that they are little appetizer roll-ups. I used frozen phyllo dough, because baking is not my strong suit (as readers of this blog can attest to). You will want to use quite a few sheets per cigar so that the dough doesn’t rip when the meat is added. I just put a little bit of the filling on one end and rolled them up tightly, tucking in the sides as I went.
Then I put them on a baking sheet and baked them. I used a toaster oven and just kept an eye on them until they browned. You should turn them halfway through cooking so that they will brown evenly. Also, brushing them with oil or butter might help to keep the dough from getting too brittle. I didn’t end up serving them with any kind of dipping sauce, but traditionally they are served with a pepper or harissa dip (chile paste) or even a yogurt or creamy dip.
Then on to the main course! I wanted to make couscous so I decided stuffed chicken breasts would be a nice way to incorporate it. I just bought boxed couscous and cooked it according to the instructions. I added scallions and garlic to the water I boiled for the couscous to give it a little extra something.
Once the couscous was finished cooking, I added red onion, chopped mint, some cumin, and a little olive oil.
To stuff the chicken breasts, I trimmed off any fat and then cut along the long edge enough to make a pocket. I then stuffed each one with the couscous mixture and put them in a baking dish. If I were going to do this again, I would most likely give them a little more room. They baked alright, but if I had a larger dish, I would have spread the out and then baked them covered. Once they were mostly cooked, I uncovered and baked a few minutes to let the couscous brown and crisp up a little.
Despite the close quarters, they turned out pretty good and the chicken was cooked all the way through, which is all you can really ask for. I guess that’s what happens when you make up a recipe, but I find it more fun that way!
Of course, I had to make some sort of vegetable to lighten the meal. At this point, we had already eaten most of the cucumber salad with the meat cigars, so I just tossed some green beans in a skillet with a little oil, salt, pepper, and chili pepper. I cooked them until the beans had softened a little, but still maintained a nice crunch.
Then I served up the chicken with the beans and a little of the extra couscous on the side and we were ready for our movie night dinner!
If you’ve stuck around this long, I commend you! I just made a move across the country so I’ve been taking a little break, but I am hoping to start cooking again soon, so bear with me and hopefully it’ll be worth the wait!