Grabbing the Gusto

Deirdre Reid – Freelance Writer & Home Cook

Charmoula is the salsa verde of Morocco. Or you could think of it as the pesto of Morocco. Or the chimichurri of Morocco. Ok, I’ll stop now.

The recipe for this bright, bold sauce or paste vary by chef, home cook and region of North Africa. If you do a search on “charmoula” or “chermoula,” you will see what I mean. The recipe I use below is from Bon Appetit.

This recipe makes enough charmoula to go on the fish and into the recipe for Moroccan-Style Chickpea Salad. If you only want to make the fish, use half the ingredients—the second set of ingredients below.

If you don’t have striped bass (aka rockfish in the Mid-Atlantic), you can substitute catfish, grouper, haddock, halibut, monkfish, pollock, Pacific rockfish, snapper, sturgeon, swordfish or tilefish.

Moroccan-Style Striped Bass with Charmoula

Moroccan-Style Striped Bass with Charmoula | Grabbing the Gusto

Moroccan-Style Striped Bass with Charmoula

You’ll need a spice or coffee grinder (or mortar and pestle), an immersion or regular blender (or small food processor), sealable container for marinating, and large oven-safe nonstick skillet.

You can save time by starting the prep on the fish. It needs at least one hour of marinating.

The first set of ingredients below makes enough charmoula for the fish and the Moroccan-Style Chickpea Salad recipe, about 3/4 cup. If you only wish to make enough charmoula for the fish, skip down to the second set of ingredients.

Yield about 3/4 cup.

  • 1/2 tablespoon fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoon coarsely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole white peppercorns or 3/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 3 (6- to 7-ounce) striped bass fillets

Yield about 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons.

  • 3/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarsely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon whole white peppercorns or 3/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
  • 1 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

Combine fennel seeds, rosemary, cumin seeds, red pepper and white pepper in a spice or coffee grinder and process until finely ground. Or, use a mortar and pestle. Transfer to a blender (or small food processor).

Add parsley, cilantro, mint, lemon juice and garlic to the blender. With blender running, gradually add the oil and blend until a coarse puree forms. Season to taste with salt.

Note: Charmoula can be made 1 day ahead. Transfer to a bowl, cover and refrigerate. Let it stand at room temperature for 1 hour before using.

Place fish on plate. Pour 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons charmoula over fish—that’s half the first set of ingredients or the entire second set of ingredients—turning to coat. Cover and refrigerate the fish at least 1 hour and up to 1 day.

Heat olive oil in skillet over medium-high heat. Add fish with marinade still clinging to surface and cook until brown, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer skillet to oven and roast fish until it’s cooked through, about 8 minutes.

Serve fish alongside or on top of Moroccan-Style Chickpea Salad.

Original recipe: Marinated Sturgeon with Moroccan Chickpea Salad, Bon Appetit

This chickpea salad features roasted red bell peppers, toasted pita, cucumbers, walnuts, raisins and capers with a spicy, herby, bold dressing.

~~~

Charmoula (or chermoula) is the star of this chickpea salad. According to NPR:

“Born in Morocco, chermoula is a blend of spices like coriander and cumin along with fresh chilies, giving it a rich herby and spicy taste. Olive oil turns the combo into a paste.”

“There is no one recipe for charmoula,” says Paula Wolfert in The Food of Morocco. The recipe I found on Bon Appetit doesn’t include coriander (except in its leaf form, cilantro), but I suppose you could substitute coriander seeds for the fennel seeds, or just add them to the recipe. You could also increase the heat factor by adding more red pepper. I plan to play around with the ingredients in future versions.

You can use charmoula as a marinade and rub for chicken, pork, lamb, beef, fish (as you’ll see in the photo below and my recipe for Moroccan-Style Striped Bass), pasta, potatoes, and roasted vegetables like eggplant, winter squash and cauliflower.

Moroccan-Style Chickpea Salad

Moroccan-Style Chickpea Salad | Grabbing the Gusto

Moroccan-Style Chickpea Salad

You’ll need a spice or coffee grinder (or mortar and pestle), an immersion or regular blender (or small food processor), sealable bag, and large bowl.

You can save time by starting the prep on these ingredients first: roast the red bell peppers and toast the flatbread and walnuts.

The first set of ingredients below makes enough charmoula for this chickpea salad and Moroccan-Style Striped Bass with Charmoula, about 3/4 cup. If you only wish to make enough charmoula for the salad, skip down to the second set of ingredients.

Yield about 3/4 cup.

  • 1/2 tablespoon fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoon coarsely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole white peppercorns or 3/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/2 cup olive oil

Yield about 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons.

  • 3/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarsely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon whole white peppercorns or 3/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
  • 1 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

Combine fennel seeds, rosemary, cumin seeds, red pepper and white pepper in a spice or coffee grinder (or mortar and pestle) and process until finely ground. Transfer to a blender (or small food processor).

Add parsley, cilantro, mint, lemon juice and garlic to the blender. With blender running, gradually add the oil and blend until a coarse puree forms. Season to taste with salt.

Make ahead: You can make the charmoula 1 day ahead. Refrigerate in a covered bowl. Let it stand at room temperature for 1 hour before using.

  • 2 large red bell peppers, sliced into three or four large pieces, stem and seeds removed
  • 2 flatbreads (such as pita bread)
  • 15-1/2-ounce can chickpeas, drained
  • 1 cup diced seeded cucumber
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, toasted, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 2 tablespoons drained capers
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Char bell peppers over gas flame, in broiler or toaster oven until the pieces are blackened. Transfer to sealable bag. Seal the bag and let it sit for 15 minutes. Peel skin off peppers and chop.

Toast flatbreads directly over gas flame, in broiler or toaster oven until crisp and charred in spots on both sides. When cool enough to handle, tear into bite-size pieces.

Preheat oven to 400 F. Place peppers, torn bread pieces, chickpeas, cucumber, walnuts, raisins and capers in large bowl. Add 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons charmoula—that’s half the first set of ingredients or the entire second set of ingredients. Toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper.

Original recipe: Marinated Sturgeon with Moroccan Chickpea Salad, Bon Appetit

I’ve been obsessed with nesting tables lately. If we didn’t already have enough end tables and TV trays around, I might spend hours online trying to decide which look to go for. Instead, I’m going to share some of my finds with you.

Nesting tables are a great option for small homes—and by “home” I mean a house, apartment, loft, or studio, wherever you live is your home. Nesting tables are a group of two or three tables of varying sizes that nestle inside each other. You can save space by storing them all in one place—next to your sofa or a reading chair. Then, if you’re having people over, you can pull one or two out and arrange them around the room so everyone has a place to put their glass of white wine sangria with strawberries.

Or, you can pull each table out about halfway and create a tiered end table—I think that’s a very cool look.

The truth is, some of my favorites are just too expensive, so I’m sharing the ones I like that are under $200 and can be found (at least right now) online or at national chains. The prices can be all over the place for the same set, so Google shop around.

Ikea Vittsjo nesting tables - small space furniture

Ikea Vittsjo nesting tables

You can always count on Ikea for the best deal. At $60, the steel and glass Vittsjo nesting tables pair a coffee table (with a bottom shelf) with an end table. Check out how Kristin at Hunted Interior glammed her Vittsjo up.

These tables would be even better for a small room if that bottom shelf was glass as well. Transparent materials, like glass and acrylic, don’t block sightlines and allow the eyes to move through and beyond the furniture–expanding the room visually.

Target Winsome Regalia walnut nesting tables - small space furniture

Target Winsome Regalia walnut nesting tables

Here above is a more traditional look from Target for $65 in walnut. This group of three nesting tables is the look you’ll see most often. Target has several other options under $200.

AMB Furniture black & chrome nesting tables - small space furniture

AMB Furniture black & chrome nesting tables

This modern set of two nesting tables in black and chrome is $96 from A.M.B. Furniture & Design.

See how slender (and interesting) these table legs are? Like the other nesting tables featured in this post, that airy look helps the eye to roam through the furniture to the edges of the room. If you’re trying to visually enlarge your small space, look for sofas, chairs and tables on slender legs.

Classy Home grey metal and wood nesting tables - small space furniture

Classy Home grey metal and wood nesting tables

Here’s another modern look in gray metal and wood from The Classy Home for $102. And this one also has a bottom shelf.

Wayfair oak Mission style nesting tables - small space furniture

Wayfair oak Mission style nesting tables

If you like the Mission look, this set of three nesting tables from Wayfair ($109) might appeal. If your home is more traditional, this set also benefits from the vertical slats on the side, lifting the eye up and making the tables look slimmer.

Target black metal and glass nesting tables - small space furniture

Target black metal and glass nesting tables

Instead of three end tables, this black metal and glass set from Target for $114 features two end tables that nestle under a console table. A console table makes a great drop zone in an entry way–just minimize clutter–the enemy of small spaces. Or, you can put one behind a sofa that’s dividing an open space. If you keep your supplies organized, you can use a console table as a workspace too, and turn it into a buffet when friends come over.

And there’s more, but I’ll save those for another time.

A tasty dinner of shrimp and asparagus roasted with black garlic and lemon—the perfect choice when you’re low on time.

~~~

My brother from another mother is a black garlic fiend. Some even know him as Black Garlic Man. I can’t blame him. Black garlic is pretty darn tasty—lots of flavor yet much more mild, sweet and somewhat fruity than regular garlic.

Both Black Garlic Man and I get our black garlic from Obis One, a family farm in South Jersey owned by my honey’s cousins. Besides selling bulbs of black garlic, they have a wide range of black garlic products. I’m a regular user of their black garlic sea salt and New Bay 33—a homage to Old Bay.

When I saw the Man’s recipe for Black Garlic Shrimp with Roasted Asparagus, I thought, hmm, that looks gooood. However, I wasn’t in the mood for an Asian dish so I took my version in another direction, and, boy oh boy, it was good.

And, it was so quick and easy to make. You can make it even quicker by purchasing peeled and deveined shrimp. But, please for the love of our American fisheries, don’t buy farmed shrimp from Asia. Not just because it might be harvested by slaves (really) but, most importantly, our American fisheries and the families who work them need our support.

Yeah, you might pay extra for American wild shrimp, but it’s worth it. I could go on and on about other reasons not to buy Asian farmed shrimp but instead I’ll refer you to this article which mentions several disgusting reasons.

What about Argentina shrimp? I don’t know about them, all I know is I like to support American families and communities first, so I buy shrimp from the Eastern seaboard, usually from North Carolina. Find a seafood market or a supermarket with a real seafood counter with people you can trust and who know what they’re talking about, not your typical chain, unfortunately. Maybe that means you’re not buying shrimp as much as you do now, but then it will be more special, right?

Off my shrimp soapbox. When I made this shrimp dish, I served couscous on the side. To punch up the flavor, I first sautéed chopped onion and garlic in butter and then added the water for the couscous to the same small pot. Not that couscous needs much help, but the hints of onion and garlic were mighty tasty.

Roasted Shrimp and Asparagus with Black Garlic and Lemon

Roasted Shrimp and Asparagus with Black Garlic and Lemon | Grabbing the Gusto

Roasted Shrimp and Asparagus with Black Garlic and Lemon

You’ll need an immersion blender or small food processor (or a bowl and a whisk if you don’t have either tool), bowl (for the shrimp), and a sheet pan.

  • Zest from 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
  • 6 cloves black garlic or 3 cloves regular garlic, roughly chopped – if you don’t have an immersion blender or food processor, finely mince the garlic
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 pound asparagus, woody ends trimmed
  • 1 pound U.S. caught medium or large shrimp (avoid Asian shrimp), peeled and deveined
  • 1/3 cup grated or shaved Parmesan or Pecorino Romano (optional)

Preheat the oven to 450. Add lemon zest and juice, shallots, black garlic and 2 tablespoons olive oil to an immersion blender cup or food processor. Blend until puréed. Season the vinaigrette with salt and pepper to taste.

If you don’t have an immersion blender or food processor, add lemon zest and juice, shallots and black garlic to a bowl and whisk until well blended. Slowly add 2 tablespoons olive oil while whisking. Season the vinaigrette with salt and pepper to taste.

In a bowl, toss the shrimp with half the vinaigrette.

Place the asparagus in a pile on the baking sheet and toss with half the vinaigrette. Then, separate the spears. Roast for about 4 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven and arrange the shrimp on top of the asparagus. Return the pan to the oven and roast until the shrimp are almost opaque throughout and the asparagus are crisp-tender, about 3-5 minutes, depending on the size of the shrimp. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with cheese.

Disclosure: I do not receive compensation of any type from Obis One but I am related to them, well, sort of, through my honey, not legally, but you know what I mean. I am admittedly biased toward them, but I’d buy their black garlic even if I wasn’t sort of related, it’s such a great ingredient. Just wanted you to know!

~~~

3 years ago on Gusto: Turkey Pesto Meatloaf with Balsamic Tomato Sauce

4 years ago on Gusto: Broccoli Cheese Soup

Kale florets (or napini) is becoming a new favorite in this house. Slightly bitter and full of flavor, it reminds me a bit of broccoli stalks. Give it a try if you see any at the farmers market.

~~~

You may not have ever seen kale florets before unless you visit a farmers market or get a CSA share. Here’s what Ben Shields of In Good Heart Farm wrote about napini in the Western Wake Farmers Market newsletter:

“Napini, also called ‘Run Ups’ in East Carolina, are the flowering stalks of over-wintered greens such as collards, kale, cabbage, turnips, tatsoi, etc. Napini is the less refined but very delicious cousin of Broccoli and Broccoli Raab. Cook as you would Broccoli in a stir-fry, oven roasted or sautéed. Store for up to a week in a cool and damp (but not wet) place in the fridge.” 

Kale Florets (Napini) | Grabbing the Gusto

Kale Florets (Napini) | Grabbing the Gusto

We love napini. I also saw them referred to as kale florets so I’m using that name for the title of this post and recipe.

If the stems of your kale florets are rather thick, let’s say, more than a quarter inch diameter, the bottom part might be tough and woody. Treat it like asparagus. Hold the middle of the stem between the thumb and first finger of your left hand (if you’re a rightie) and hold the base of the stem between the thumb and first finger of your right hand. Carefully bend the bottom woody part of the stem until it snaps off. You’ll have to find the right place (where it transitions from woody to edible) by bending the stem just at the bottom and then moving up until it snaps.

I read that wooly aphids love the buds of kale florets so give them a good rinse. I let them hang out in a bowl of water for a bit. Don’t dry them when you take them out of the water—you want to leave the clinging water on the greens. I transfer them directly into the pan from the water.

Sauteed Kale Florets (Napini) | Grabbing the Gusto

Sauteed Kale Florets (Napini) | Grabbing the Gusto

To prepare the kale for the pan, I pull the leaves and buds on the lower half off, then chop the lower half of the stem into 1” pieces.  I leave the top half of the stem together with its leaves and buds.

You could change the recipe by adding lemon zest and juice, or maple syrup, or vinegar — I think sherry vinegar would be especially good– or white wine or dry vermouth.

Sauteed Kale Florets (Napini) | Grabbing the Gusto

Sauteed Kale Florets (Napini) | Grabbing the Gusto

Sautéed Kale Florets (aka Napini)

You’ll need a large pan and maybe a lid.

  • 2 slices bacon, chopped (or 2 slices pancetta, chopped)
  • 1 onion
  • 1/2 red bell pepper (or 1/4 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 bunch kale florets (napini)
  • Salt
  • Parmesan cheese (optional)

Cook bacon over medium heat in a large pan until the fat starts to render, about 3 minutes. Add onion and red bell pepper, and cook until softened, about 3-4 more minutes. Add garlic and red pepper flakes, and cook 1 minute.

Add kale florets and stems, any clinging water, and salt. Cover, if you wish, and cook a few minutes. Check after a minute or two to see if it’s sticking and if you need to add more water. You only need the water to help it cook. Cook until the stems are crisp-tender, maybe about five minutes total – a lid makes for a faster cook. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese when they’re done.

A quick side dish that will even have your Brussels sprouts haters seeing the light. After all, how can you go wrong with bacon, onion, mushroom and red bell pepper?

~~~

Some dishes I take for granted, like this one. It’s pretty flexible. If you’re out of one thing, substitute something else. But, you really do need some kind of pork and I can’t imagine making it without onions and garlic.

If you don’t have red (or orange or yellow) bell pepper around, you can add a bit of sweetness and a pop of color with sun-dried tomatoes, grape tomatoes or dried cranberries.

The other night I made a boneless leg of lamb—swoon—and didn’t get my vegetable act together until quite late. I had greens in the frig but I just didn’t feel like destemming them and washing them and slicing them—you know the feeling. Lazy.

Luckily, I had a package of Brussels sprouts in the freezer. I don’t even remember buying them—must have been a sale—but I’m glad I did. All of a sudden, I was inspired to chop. After five minutes or so, I had chopped bacon, onion, mushrooms and red bell pepper in the pan sizzling away. With little effort, I had the perfect accompaniment to our rosemary and garlic lamb along with its bed of roasted potatoes, carrots, parsnips and onions—the perfect Sunday dinner.

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon, Mushrooms & Red Bell Pepper | Grabbing the Gusto

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon, Mushrooms & Red Bell Pepper | Grabbing the Gusto

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon, Mushrooms and Red Bell Pepper

You’ll need a large skillet with lid.

  • 4 slices bacon or pancetta, chopped
  • 1# Brussels sprouts, stem end trimmed, sliced in quarters lengthwise
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 6 to 10 ounces mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth or water
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan

I often substitute one of these for the red bell pepper:

  • Optional: 1/4 cup sliced sun-dried tomatoes or 1/2 cup halved grape tomatoes
  • Optional: 1/4 cup dried cranberries

In a large skillet, cook bacon until it just begins to crisp. Add Brussels sprouts, onion, mushroom and red bell peppers, and cook until softened. Add garlic (and optional sun-dried tomatoes or dried cranberries), cook until garlic begins to golden, about 1-2 minutes.

Add chicken broth and cook until it’s absorbed. By now the Brussels sprouts should be tender as well. If not, cover the skillet and let it steam, adding more broth or water if necessary.

Remove from heat and sprinkle with Parmesan.

~~~

4 years ago on Gusto: Cranberry Scones

I wrote a post today on my other blog that will be helpful to anyone who has too much stuff, especially those of you who live in a small home or plan to move into a smaller home — Finding the Right Language (and Mindset) for Dealing with Our Stuff.

This is a fascinating topic for me. The logistics and tactics of downsizing, or as I prefer to call it, editing your stuff is only part of the problem. It’s your mindset that will determine your success and how happy you will be with the results of your editing. And this mindset doesn’t only apply to stuff — it applies to the rest of your life as well.

Head on over to Reid All About It to see how I’m approaching this challenge.

edit your stuff and your life

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Robert Benner)

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