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Festive Menu Features Moroccan Fare

July 28, 1988|ANNE WILLAN | Willan, cooking teacher and author, is founder and president of La Varenne Ecole de Cuisine in Paris. and

My first arrival in Morocco was not propitious. I stepped thankfully onto firm ground after 36 hours spent tossing on the Mediterranean in the fourth-class section of a very small cargo boat. After that, life could only improve and indeed it did.

After imbibing a couple of pints of hot sweet mint tea, I passed on rapidly to a handful of toasted almonds, some luscious sweet dates, an orange fresh from the tree. By the end of a week's visit I was an enthusiast of Moroccan cuisine.

Back home I found that its treats were not hard to re-create. The following warm salad, for instance, can be made with any readily available greens spiced with chile and plenty of garlic. A robust vegetable like curly chicory, arugula, radicchio, or even young cabbage, takes well to such treatment. The salad can be freshly made to serve warm, or left cool at room temperature.

SUPPER IN MOROCCO FOR 6

Moroccan Herb Salad

Tajine of Chicken With Tomato and Saffron

Couscous or pita bread

Orange and black olive salad

Suggested drink: Mint ice tea

MOROCCAN HERB SALAD

1 pound tart greens, curly chicory or escarole

1 small jalapeno chile, cored and seeded

6 cloves garlic, crushed

1/2 cup tightly packed fresh coriander sprigs

1/2 cup tightly packed fresh parsley sprigs

2 teaspoons ground cumin

Salt

1/4 cup olive oil

Juice of 1 lemon

Cayenne pepper

Wash greens, discarding thick stems. Dry and coarsely shred. Blanch in boiling, salted water 1 minute. Drain. Refresh with cold water, then drain thoroughly.

Puree chile, garlic, coriander, parsley, cumin, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1 tablespoon oil in food processor. Greens and puree may be prepared 12 hours ahead and refrigerated.

To finish, heat remaining oil in large skillet. Add chili puree and cook very gently, stirring, 2 to 3 minutes. Add greens and continue cooking, tossing constantly, 2 to 3 minutes. Season with lemon juice, salt and cayenne pepper to taste. Serve warm, or at room temperature. Makes 6 servings.

Note: Herb dressing is also delicious served on couscous or pasta.

TAJINE OF CHICKEN WITH TOMATOES AND SAFFRON

2 (3-pound) chickens, each cut in 4 pieces

2 (3-inch) pieces cinnamon stick

10 medium onions

2 pounds tomatoes, peeled, seeded and cut in large pieces

Dash saffron soaked in 3 to 4 tablespoons boiling water

2 cups olive oil

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon ground ginger

6 tablespoons chopped parsley

Place chicken pieces in tajine or other large earthenware pot with cinnamon sticks. Cover with 7 sliced onions and top with tomatoes. Combine 3 chopped onions, saffron and liquid, olive oil, salt, pepper, ginger and parsley. Spoon over chicken. Cover and bake until chicken is very tender, 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours.

Discard cinnamon sticks. Taste gravy to adjust for seasonings. Chicken may be refrigerated up to 3 days, or frozen. Reheat in 350-degree oven 20 to 30 minutes and serve in tajine. Makes 6 servings.

Note: Other vegetables such as zucchini, eggplant or potato may be cooked with onions and tomatoes. Cut in large chunks.

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