Sponsored: Holiday Moroccan Flavors

Jan Buhrman squeezes a finishing touch of citrus over a pot of paella. — File photo Courtesy Jan Buhrman

By Jan Buhrman

This holiday season consider a dinner that brings out the warm spices of cumin, cinnamon, turmeric, nutmeg, ginger and allspice. Similar to the spices of apple pie and  oatmeal cookies, these spices originate in North Africa and the Middle East and originated as savory meal enhancers. These flavors work well together; consider a ginger whipped cream with you next slice of apple pie or add a dash of cumin to your oatmeal cookies and be surprised at the warm subtle earthy, nutty, spicy taste with somewhat bitter undertones that cumin adds to your sweet dessert.

At the Kitchen Porch, spices are sold (at our take out joint called Back Porch & at the Farmer’s Market) that can be added to your sweet or savory dishes. Use raz el hanout  where ever you would use the “apple Pie” spices. Raz el hanout translates to “top of the shelf”, it’s the top line of spice blends created by  Moroccan spice merchants. In Morocco, you can visit 10 different spice merchanchanets and get 10 very different mixtures. We created our to be used interchangeably between sweet and savory dishes. We use in the long slow cooked chicken tagines or our sweets like our  flaky hand pies. Raz El Hanout  is one of the world’s most intoxicating spice mixes.

All some rose water and rose petals and you have this wonderful rich taste experience.

Here we present to you a whole meal- complete with hors d’oeuvres and dessert all intoxicating flavors with the warmth of subtleties. These are easy to make ahead over several days for a less stressful holiday dinner.


To start

Rose Petal Apple Cider with Bourbon



Roasted Pepper and Walnut Dip served with Endive and Warm Pita



Chicken Tagine with Olive and Preserved Lemons

Baked Rice with Shallots

Roasted Parsnips with Pomegranate & Za’atar



Carrot Halva (Naturally Gluten Free)


Rose Petal Apple Cider with Bourbon

Of course the flavors will be subtle and soft if you use the whole vanilla bean and rose pedals, but if you cannot get to your hands on the real deal, then substitute the vanilla bean with real vanilla extract and rose petals for rose water

1 whole vanilla bean ( or 1 tablespoon vanilla extract)

6 cups apple cider

½ cup dried organic rose petals  (or 2 tablespoons rose water added just before serving)

Slice the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape the seeds into a large pot. Add the cider and bring to a very low simmer. As soon as the cider simmers, remove from the heat and add the petals. Allow to steep for 15 minutes and strain. You can reheat just before serving. Serve chilled with ice and bourbon or warm.

Note: if you substitute the rose water for the petals,  add the rose water just before serving as it will evaporate over a  few hours.


Roasted Pepper and Walnut Dip served with Endive and Warm Pita

You can roast the peppers or used a good canned pepper.

3 large Peppers- Orange and Yellow or Red

2+ 4 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup roasted walnuts (roast in 350 oven for 7-8  minutes)

Zest of one lemon or 1/2 of a preserved lemon

1 teaspoon raz el hanout

3 tablespoons fresh parsley


Preheat the oven to 400. To remove the skin from the peppers;

Rub the peppers with 2 tablespoons olive oil and roast in oven for about 45 minutes. Remove from oven and place in a bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. This will allow the skins to steam off the peppers. Once the peppers are cooled, peel the skin off and remove the seeds. In a food processor, add the peppers, remaining 4 tablespoons olive oil, walnuts, lemon and raz el hanout. Process inthe processor until smooth. Just before serving sprinkle with chopped parsley. Serve with crackers, vegetables and endive


Chicken Tagine with Olives and Preserved Lemons

1 Whole Pastured chicken cut into 10 pieces (cut 2 breasts in half for 4 pieces)

2 lg onions, chopped very fine

6 cloves garlic, chopped fine

2” piece of ginger, minced

4 heaping teaspoons of raz al hanout*

2 pinches saffron threads

1 whole preserved lemon (chopped fine)

2 bay leaves

½ cup chopped green olives

4 cups chicken stock

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

4 whole tomatoes or canned 28 ounce organic tomatoes-( I like the fire roasted tomatoes)-finely diced

4 organic dried apricots, chopped fine- or any dried fruit

3 sweet seasonal fruit ( apple, peach, plum, apricot, etc) , sliced thin

¼ cup water

1 handful chopped fresh cilantro

1 handful chopped fresh parsley


* raz al hanout ingredients:

(incase you do not have our very special Kitchen Porch mixture- available at the Farmer’s Market & at the Back Porch)

2 tsp ginger

1 tsp pepper

1 tsp turmeric

1 tsp allspice

1 tsp cinnamon

½ tsp cloves, ground

1 tsp ground cumin seeds


Rub chicken with 2 tbsp olive oil and 2 tbsp of raz al hanout. Let marinate for 30 minutes. Heat half a cup of olive oil in heavy skillet. Heat ¼ cup olive oil  and add onions and garlic and cook until lightly sauteed. Add ginger. Sprinkle two heaping teaspoons (or to taste) of raz al hanout over onion/garlic, ginger  mixture. Pour in 4 cups chicken stock. Add saffron, lemon, bay leaves, and cook for 10 minutes to create raz al hanout sauce. Add 4 finely diced tomatoes, ¼ cup green olives, chopped and seasonal fruit.


Sear the chicken in ¼ cup olive oil until brown on all sides- about 15 minutes total. Place chicken in tagine pan or ceramic oven safe, pot with cover. Pour sauce over chicken and place in 350 degree oven for 35 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle with parsley and cilantro and serve. We love rice with vegetables- but traditionally it is served with couscous.


Note: This recipe is a little bit spicy. If you like it milder, use less spice. This is one of those easy to make ahead recipes for easy entertaining. You can make the sauce a few days before and sear the chicken the day before.  Allow the chicken to come to room temperature for about one hour before and then heat the sauce before pouring it over the chicken and baking it.



3 cups jasmine or basmati rice

2 Tablespoons butter

1 small chopped onion or  3 shallots

5 ½ cups chicken broth


Rinse the rice very well under cold water. Rinse the rice until the water runs completely clear. In a small Dutch oven, (if you do not have a Dutch oven, start this is in a pot and transfer to an ovenproof pan and cover with tin foil) melt the butter and add the chopped shallot.Cook the shallot until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the rice and cook, stirring the rice another 2 minutes. Add the chicken broth and about a teaspoon of salt. Bring to a boil. Cover the pot with a lid. Put the Dutch oven into a preheated 350 degree oven. Bake for 15 minutes. Let the rice stand for 10 minutes before serving


Roasted Parsnips with Pomegranate & Za’atar

Za’atar is a standard in our kitchen and we use it liberally everywhere.

You can find it everyday in the tasting jar at the counter at the Back Porch.

3 tablespoons pomegranate molasses

2 tablespoons maple syrup

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoons salt

10 medium parsnips

2 cloves of garlic, minced


For garnish:

Fresh mint or parsley for garnish

4 Tablespoons pomegranit seeds

Preheat the oven to 350

Whisk together the pom molasses, maple syrup, olive oil, and salt.  Peel and cut the parsnips in sticks about the same size. T s


Carrot Halva

1 # carrots- peeled and grated

2 cups sugar- our kitchen uses date sugar

1 cup butter ( fro dairy free you can substitute coconut oil)

2 cups rice flour

1 /2 teaspoon saffron disolved in ½ cup rose water

1 teaspoon cardamon


In a saucepan, put 2 cups water and add the sugar , stir to dissolve the sugar and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and add the carrots. Reduce the heat and cook for about 30 minutes.

In a larger pot, add the oil and heat. As soon as the oil is heated, add the rice flour and stir constantly.  Cook for 7 minutes until the mixture is a light gold color. Remove from the heat and carefully add the carrots, saffron rose water, cardamon, and stir continuously for 10 more minutes. You should have a nice thick paste. Continue to cook 5- 10 minutes more. Pour the mixture in a 10 “ spring form pan.

Pack it firmly to remove any air pockets. GArnish with chopped pistachios, rose petals walnuts and cinnamon. Cover and refrigerate. Can be made ahead  2-3 days.

Just before serving, unmold and slice.