After spending a weekend in a place even colder than New York, I really can’t help but dream of warmer places. Maybe it’s just me, but nothing warms me up like the deep seductive flavors of the Mediterranean. Thinking of food that even hints of places like Morocco seems to usher in a premature summer. At least for a moment. I think that my imagination is one of the only things getting me through this bitterly cold winter.
I was introduced to this dish by my host mom in France. She would let it stew in a makeshift tajine, with pieces of chicken folded into the sauce to soak up all the flavors. The scent of cinnamon, honey and tomato would waft warmly through the house. It was the perfect way to end a blustery Parisian day. We would eat it ladled over a mound of couscous, or just sop up the sauce with bread, licking it off the chicken and our fingers.
Since then, I’ve made a lot of changes to this recipe. Sometimes I add slivered almonds, I almost always add spicy roasted chickpeas, and I’ve even toyed with swapping out eggs for chicken for a shakshuka inspired dish. I usually have rice around more often than couscous, so I pour it over rice instead. Like many tomato sauces, this one is quite versatile, so try it and enjoy it any way you like.
Recipe: Sweet and Spicy Morocco-Inspired Sauce
Makes 4 servings if eaten as a main course
- 1 28-oz can of peeled, stewed (or crushed) tomatoes
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 2 tbs olive oil
- 3 tbs honey
- ¼ tsp turmeric (yellow curry powder may also be substituted)
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp ginger
- ½ tsp cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes (optional)
- 1 tsp salt
- Heat oil over medium-high heat in a deep, large pan. Saute onion until the edges start to brown slightly.
- Add tomatoes, spices and honey and bring to a simmer. You may need to lower the heat and/or cover the pan to avoid tomato splatters. If just making sauce, cook until it reaches the desired thickness and use as you will.
- If you’re cooking something else in the sauce, this is time to add it. I like to add chopped raw chicken breast, whole chicken wings and legs, or my newest favorite, raw eggs shakshuka-style. Just cook covered until your added ingredient of choice is done. Chicken on the bone will take longer than chicken off the bone, which will take about the same amount of time as eggs. Expect at least 40 minutes of simmer time for any ingredient so that it has time to take on all the flavors of the sauce.
Serve over couscous, rice, bread, or even noodles. Garnish with roasted chickpeas and/or slivered almonds.
About this author: I'm a New Yorker who would rather cook than go out to restaurants. Sometimes I think I may be in the wrong city for that. Then I remember the exotic ingredients I'd be hard-pressed to find if I lived somewhere else. My cooking style is an eclectic range of everyday-American, Italian, middle-eastern, with extensive forays into Japanese cuisine, and some pit-stops into Indian and African cuisines. I love to try my hand at recreating dishes I taste. While I enjoy most anything with a flavor, from high cuisine to instant junk food, I have a soft spot in my belly for home-style cooking no matter the geographic or ethnic origin. Read more from this author...