This spring I had the opportunity to vacation in Spain, not just with my taste buds but also with my feet! At the Straight of Gibraltar, Spain and Morocco are only 12 miles apart. Within an hour of leaving Spain, we found ourselves transported to another world, a world where herbs and spices permeate the air and hand-shaped loaves of bread are fed into stone ovens heated by blazing fires. Snake charmers and vegetable vendors are on every corner. Hand-painted pottery and delectable dates and herb-scented olives can be purchased from men in long robes.
I enjoyed haggling with a young man for a good price on a beautiful bowl and inhaling the aromas of the open-air market, but it will be no surprise that lunch was my favorite part of the day! We were brought plate after plate of fire-grilled meats, meats stewed with dried fruits and nuts, and savory couscous, which we washed down with sweet and herby Moroccan mint tea. What I love about Moroccan cuisine is the use of herbs and spices and the delicate balance between sweet, salty, and savory. North African food is full of flavor and full of fresh and aromatic herbs and vegetables.
From the comfort of your home, be a Kitchen Tourist and travel to Morocco. This simple and flavorful salad uses easy-to-find ingredients but elicits images of the narrow streets of the Casbah. This salad can also be used as a condiment for roasted or stewed meats. Serve it with pita chips and it becomes a Moroccan style salsa.
Moroccan Tomato Salad
Serves 4 as a salad
Serves up to 10 as a condiment or salsa
1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
juice of 1 lemon
1/4-1/2 teaspoon salt (use the larger amount of salt to serve as condiment or "salsa")
1 15-ounce can of chick peas (garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed
1 large heirloom tomato or two medium-sized tomatoes (approx. 1 1/4 pounds), chopped
1 cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves (approx. 1 small bunch), sliced into a chiffonade*
1 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro (approx. 1 small bunch), chopped
In a medium bowl, combine the onion, lemon juice, and salt. The lemon will pickle the onion while you prepare the other ingredients, so it won't be quite so piquant. Add the other ingredients and mix together. If the tomato is ripe and juicy, you may have a surplus of liquid in the bowl. Before serving, transfer the salad to a clean bowl using a slotted spoon.
*Measure the mint and cilantro in a 1-cup dry measuring cup before chopping. The best way to cut the mint, without bruising it, is to make a chiffonade, which is made by layering approx. 5 mint leaves on top of each other, rolling the pile lengthwise and slicing it crosswise like a sushi roll.