Scent of Orange Blossoms: Sephardic Cuisine from Morocco

Scent of Orange Blossoms: Sephardic Cuisine from Morocco


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During Spain's infamous Inquisition, Jews were forced to flee the country for more welcoming shores. Many of these refugees landed in northern Africa, specifically Morocco, and a unique cuisine was born of the marriage of Spanish, Moorish, and traditional Jewish culinary influences. SCENT OF THE ORANGE BLOSSOMS celebrates this cuisine, presenting the elegant and captivating flavors passed down through generations of Jews in Morocco. The mouthwatering recipes include Fresh Fava Bean Soup with Cilantro for Passover, Chicken Couscous with Orange Blossom Water for Yom Kippur, and Honey Doughnuts for Hannukah. Illuminating the important connection among food, family, and tradition, the recipes are interspersed with letters between mothers and newly married daughters, discussing special events and menu planning. ‚Ä¢ Features black-and-white photography of traditional Sephardic families.‚Ä¢ Includes sample menus for all major Jewish holidays. 

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781580082693
Publisher: Ten Speed Press
Publication date: 03/28/2004
Pages: 208
Product dimensions: 7.69(w) x 9.59(h) x 0.83(d)

About the Author

DANIELLE AFLALO MAMANE is a native and current resident, with her husband, Jacques, of Fez, Morocco. Her ancestors settled in Fez following their expulsion from Spain at the time of the inquisition. When she is not in her exclusive boutique at the legendary Palais Jamai Hotel, Danielle can be found in her kitchen, preparing delicious Sephardic meals.
KITTY MORSE was born in Casablanca, Morocco, and emigrated to the United States in 1964. As a graduate student, she began perfecting her family recipes and hosting Moroccan diffas (tribal feasts), which ultimately led her to start a Moroccan catering company. In 1973, she began teaching Mediterranean cooking throughout Southern California. She has since produced and hosted two television series of her own. Kitty has written seven cookbooks.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Basic Ingredients and Methods

Almond Paste 4

Beef Stock 4

Chicken Stock 5

Couscous 5

Olives 6

Olive Oil 6

Orange Blossom Water 6

Peeling Fresh Fava Beans 7

Peeling and Seeding Tomatoes 7

Roasting Peppers 7

Saffron 7

Soaking Dried Beans 8

Toasting Nuts 8

Toasting Sesame Seeds and Aniseeds 8

Rosh Hashanah

In early fall, at the height of the autumn harvest, the sound of the shofar (ram's horn), symbolic of Abraham's sacrifice, heralds the beginning of the two-day New Year celebration of Rosh Hashanah (head of the year), when God selects those for reinstatement in the book of life for the coming year.

    For this celebration, housewives bring out their finest linen and tableware. There is a crystal decanter of wine for kiddush. Two loaves of bread and a saucer of salt, oneof life's essential ingredients, lie bidden under a delicately embroidered napkin. On this night, pieces of bread, used for the motze (blessing), are dipped in sugar rather than salt, as a symbol of hope for the coming year. Celebrants partake of symbolic foods during a series of blessings, called berahoth.

First Day


Assorted fresh or cooked salads
Holiday Potato and Meat Pie (PAGE 28)
Tagine of Lamb with White Truffles (PAGE 111)
Fresh, seasonal fruit
Quince Compote (PAGE 168)
Assorted Pastries and Mint Tea (PAGE 172)


Assorted fresh or cooked salads
Cornish Hens with Fresh Figs (PAGE 92)
Sweet Roasted Vegetables for Rosh Hashanah (PAGE 117)
Fresh, Seasonal Fruit
Quince Compote (PAGE 168)
Assorted pastries and Mint Tea (PAGE 172)

Second Day


Fish Fillets Fez Style (PAGE 130)
Zahra's Beef with Preserved Kumquats (PAGE 102)
Ground Meat Kebabs (PAGE 109) or
grilled lamb chops
Fresh, seasonal fruit
Quince Compote (PAGE 168)
Assorted pastries and Mint Tea (PAGE 172)


Rosh Hashanah Cabbage Soup (PAGE 48)
Meatballs in Cinnamon-Onion Sauce (PAGE 97)
Pomegranate Seeds with Walnuts (PAGE 157)
Quince Compote (PAGE 168)
Assorted pastries and Mint Tea (PAGE 172)

Almond Paste

This paste, found in many Sephardic pastries and confections, is made of ground almonds and sometimes sugar. It is available in the baking section of many supermarkets. Some bakeries sell almond paste by the pound. To make your own, see page 159. To store almond paste, tightly seal it in plastic wrap to prevent drying, and refrigerate for up to 6 months.

Beef Stock

Makes about 8 cups

10 cups water
3 pounds beef shank meat, on the bone
1 pound beef bones, rinsed under running water
2 onions, peeled and sliced
8 peppercorns
1 (3-inch) stick cinnamon
1 tablespoon salt

In a stockpot or large soup pot, combine the water, beef shank, beef bones, onions, peppercorns, and cinnamon stick. Bring to a rolling boil over medium-high heat. With a slotted spoon, skim off the foam. Decrease the heat to medium-low, cover, and cook until the stock acquires a full flavor, 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Pass through a fine-meshed sieve, capturing the liquid and discarding the solids. Season with the salt. Use immediately or refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours, then skim off the fat.

Chicken Stock

Makes about 8 cups

10 cups water
3 1/2 pounds chicken wings and backs, rinsed under running water
1 leek, white and green parts, sliced
2 stalks celery, sliced
2 carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 bay leaves
1 (3-inch) stick cinnamon
5 peppercorns
1 tablespoon salt

In a stockpot or large soup pot, combine the water and chicken. Bring to a rolling boil over medium-high heat. With a slotted spoon, skim off the foam. Decrease the heat to medium-low. Add the leek, celery, carrots, bay leaves, cinnamon, and peppercorns. Cover and cook for 2 to 2 1/2 hours. Pass through a fine-meshed sieve, capturing the liquid and discarding the solids. Season with the salt. Use immediately or refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours, then skim off the fat.


Couscous is the staple of the Moroccan diet. The word itself refers to the durum wheat semolina product, as well as to the sweet or savory dish in which it is the primary ingredient.

    Moroccan housewives prepare couscous by rolling semolina with lightly salted water, using their fingers and palms to form tiny granules. At this point, the couscous is ready for steaming. Once steamed, couscous can be eaten immediately or dried and stored in an airtight container for months, and even years.

    Couscous is traditionally steamed in a couscoussien, the French word for the special implement consisting of a colander set over a large, pot bellied soup pot. The seam between the colander and pot is sealed with a strip of cloth dipped in water and flour, forcing the steam to move directly through the couscous. The couscous is cooked, uncovered, until puffs of vapor rise through the granules. This steaming process is sometimes repeated two or three times, until the couscous expands to approximately three times its original size. After the final steaming, the couscous is lightly oiled, moistened with a small amount of liquid from the pot, then fluffed with a fork. A savory couscous is presented on a large platter and topped with meat and vegetables from the stew; a sweet version is generally garnished with dried fruit, nuts, and sugar. Regular and whole wheat couscous are sold in packages or in bulk in large supermarkets and health food stores.


Green olives, purple olives (the intermediate stage between green and black), and black olives are staples of the Moroccan kitchen. They are served as a snack, added to salads, or used for garnish. Brine-cured green and purple olives are the ones most commonly used for cooking.

Olive Oil

For cooking, use any good quality imported or domestic virgin olive oil. Use extra virgin olive oil in salad dressings.

Orange Blossom Water

Sephardic cooks make frequent use of this fragrant distilled product in pastries, desserts, and beverages. In the United States, orange blossom water is available in large supermarkets, liquor stores, Middle Eastern markets, and specialty foods stores. Orange blossom water is good as long as it remains fragrant.

Peeling Fresh Fava Beans

Shell the bean pods. If the beans are small, young, and tender, they do not need to be peeled. Peeling is recommended however, for larger, more mature beans with tougher skins. Bring a saucepan full of water to a boil and prepare a bowl of ice water. Drop the beans into the boiling water and blanch for 30 seconds. Drain and immediately transfer to the ice water. Use your fingernails to slit and peel away the skins.

Peeling and Seeding Tomatoes

Lightly score the base of each tomato. Immerse in boiling water for 30 seconds, then drain. When cool enough to handle, peel off the skin. Cut the tomatoes in half crosswise and gently squeeze to remove the seeds. Use as directed.

Roasting Peppers

Preheat the broiler. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place the peppers on the prepared baking sheet and broil, turning carefully with tongs, until the skins blister evenly, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer the peppers to a bowl and seal with plastic wrap. Let cool for 15 to 20 minutes. With your fingers, peel off the charred skin and remove the core and seeds. Drain. Use immediately or freeze for up to a month in a tightly sealed container.


Saffron, the world's most expensive spice, is obtained from the hand-harvested stigmas of the Crocus sativus. When purchasing saffron, be sure you're getting the real thing. In some ethnic markets, the stamens of the inexpensive safflower are passed off as saffron. I use the term "Spanish saffron" to differentiate from this cheap imitation. Lightly toasting the delicate threads helps release their intense aroma. Place the requisite number in a small skillet over medium high heat, shaking gently until the threads darken slightly, 1 to 2 minutes. Do not overcook or they will turn bitter. Grind the stigmas with a pinch of salt in a mortar and pestle, or steep them in a little stock, before proceeding with the recipe.

Soaking Dried Beans

Place the dried beans in a bowl of cold water to cover by at least 2 inches and soak overnight. Discard the skins that float to the surface. Drain the beans in a colander, place them on a clean dish towel, and rub them until the remaining skins slough off. Proceed with the recipe. To quick soak, place the beans in a large soup pot with 10 cups of hot water and 2 teaspoons of salt for every 1 pound of beans. Boil for 3 minutes, then remove from the heat. Let the beans stand in the cooking liquid for at least 1 hour. Drain, and proceed with the recipe. The older the beans, the longer they will take to cook.

Toasting Nuts

Preheat the oven to 350º. Place the nuts on a baking sheet and bake for 15 to 20 minutes until fragrant and lightly colored, tossing 2 or 3 times in the process. Let cool. Place the nuts on a clean dish towel and rub until most of the skins slough off.

Toasting Sesame Seeds and Aniseeds

Place the seeds in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Toss occasionally until they turn golden and begin to pop, 1 to 2 minutes.

My darling daughters,

    What a good idea to celebrate Rosh Hashanah! It is an important holiday, the only one that calls for two whole days of feasting. Rosh Hashanah is the time of year when God reregisters us in the book of life.

    Since you asked, I'll tell you how we observed Rosh Hashanah in Fez when I was a child. The whole family, along with a number of guests, used to gather at my grandparents', Joseph Atlalo, my dear grandmother, Esther Atlalo-Benzimra. On the first evening, grand-mère set the table with her finest embroidered tablecloth, scintillating silverware, and delicate crystal. A score of Limoges porcelain bowls held the symbolic foods for the berahoth (blessings):

    A boiled lamb's head—to remind God of His promise to Abraham.

    A slice of apple dipped in honey—for a "sweet" new year.

    A salad of cooked Swiss chard—symbolizing the plants that grow close to the ground.

    Freshly picked green olives soaked in settled water—symbolizing renewal.

    Aniseeds or sesame seeds—representing all of Earth's creatures.

    Dried figs or fresh dates—for a "sweet" new year.

    Pomegranate seeds with orange blossom water—for fertility.

    A bowl of granulated sugar or honey—for a bountiful new year.

    A platter holding seven sweetened vegetables: garbanzo beans, turnips, carrots, leeks, onions, zucchini, winter squash, all sprinkled with raisins, sugar, and cinnamon—for the berahoth.

    We helped ourselves to each one of the vegetables on the platter, eating them only after my grandfather recited the appropriate beraha. Afterwards, he would say the kiddush, the blessing for the wine, and pass around a communal, crystal goblet. He would then break the two golden loaves in front of him into bite-sized pieces, and recite the motze, the blessing for the bread. He dipped the bread in sugar rather than salt, as we usually do for Shabbat and distributed a piece to each of us.

    After the berahoth, we were ready for the main course. Most of the time, we scarely had room for anything more, satiated as we were from all we had already eaten. The atmosphere around the table was cheerful and carefree. My grandparents glowed, surrounded by their numerous children and grandchildren.

    Unfortunately, our family began to drift apart when I reached young adulthood. Parents followed their children to other countries, or other continents. Today, your great-aunt, your father, and I are the only ones who remain in Fez. And although we are separated from you, my darlings, I find solace in the fact that you are spending this Rosh Hashanah around a festive table with your Parisian cousins. Thank you for the lovely cards of good wishes.

    Shana Jova!

    Your loving mother and father


Moroccan Hot Sauce 12

Danielle's Fresh Chile Hot Sauce 13

Salted Green Plums 15

Pickled Vegetables 16

Preserved Kumquats 18

Preserved Lemons 20

Preserved Lemon Relish 21

"Top of the Shop" Spice Blend 23

Moroccan Hot Sauce


Makes about 1 1/2 cups

Spanish explorers introduced New World chile peppers to Iberia. The popularity of the exotic capsicums soon spread to other parts of the Mediterranean, including North Africa. Sephardic palates developed a particular fondness for harissa, a blended chile paste condiment. The piquancy of harissa depends upon the variety of chiles you select—guajillo or ancho chiles for a milder flavor; chiltepíns or red cayenne for a little more intense heat. Commercially prepared harissa is available in Middle Eastern or specialty markets.

8 large or 16 small dried chiles
1 red bell pepper, roasted (page 7)
4 cloves garlic, peeled
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for storage
1 teaspoon salt, or more
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin, or more

With a small knife, cut open the chiles, scrape out and discard the seeds, and remove the stems. Chop the chiles into small pieces and transfer to a bowl of warm water. Soak until soft, 25 to 30 minutes. Drain the chiles and pat dry with paper towels.

In a blender or food processor, combine the drained chiles, bell pepper, garlic, lemon juice, oil, salt, and cumin. Process until smooth. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Transfer to a clean pint jar. Cover with a thin layer of oil. Harissa will keep in the refrigerator for up to 6 months. Serve as a condiment on the side.

Danielle's Fresh Chile Hot Sauce

(Harissa de Danielle)

Makes about 1 cup

Danielle serves this harissa with grilled kebabs. Friends find it flavorful enough to savor on its own, by the spoonful. The piquancy of the condiment depends upon the variety of fresh chiles you use, from mild red bell peppers or red Anaheims, to fiery red habaneros. Whenever working with chiles, wear rubber gloves to avoid burning your hands. And don't touch your eyes!

2 pounds red bell peppers or red chiles, seeded, cored,
and cut into 2-inch pieces
10 cloves garlic
7 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
Juice of 1 lemon
2 teaspoons white wine vinegar

Combine the peppers and garlic in a blender and process until fairly smooth. Transfer to a colander and allow to drain for 1 hour.

Place the pepper mixture in a nonreactive saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring, until the liquid evaporates completely, 25 to 30 minutes. Add 5 tablespoons of the oil, the salt, lemon juice, and vinegar. Continue to cook, stirring, until the moisture disappears, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons oil and stir until a smooth paste forms. Transfer to a glass jar, and let stand overnight at room temperature. Seal and refrigerate; it will keep for up to 2 weeks.

Excerpted from The Scent of Orange Blossoms by Kitty Morse and Danielle Mamane. Copyright © 2001 by Kitty Morse and Danielle Mamane. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Table of Contents

Basic Ingredients and Methods1
Rosh Hashanah2
Kappara and Yom Kippur24
Soups and Salads39
La Mimouna62
Main Courses and Side Dishes80
Desserts and Preserves141
Tisha B Av144

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