Customer Reviews: The Food of Morocco
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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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on March 31, 2013
This book gives the ambitious American home cook all the info needed to create stunningly delicious Moroccan meals. Of the nine recipes I've made in the month I've owned it, eight--the almond milk drink, the cucumber and orange water salad, the crushed spiced carrot salad, the basic couscous recipe, the chicken tagine with apricots and pine nuts, the chicken smothered in tomato jam, the lamb tagine with toasted almonds and hard-cooked eggs and the tangier-style chickpea-lentil soup called harira--were lick your chops 'can we make this again tomorrow' amazing. The last one, a carrot salad with cumin, cinnamon and sweet paprika, was pretty good but given all the other amazing recipes in this book I probably won't make it again.

To use this book you need to be ready to start the day before, if needed--as many recipes have a few do-ahead steps such as soaking chickpeas or fermenting flour with lemon juice overnight. You can buy much of what you need at a regular supermarket, but the recipes are better if you follow the advice on ingredients at the beginning of the book. For example, for many dishes, Ms. Wolfert recommends Ceylon cinnamon, a milder-tasting version of the spice than the standard American version; I bought some on Amazon and it is delicious. If you are really ambitious, you can make your own preserved lemons...which marinate a month before they are ready.

For the most part, the instructions are detailed and clear. The book could have benefited from user testing in some parts. Occasionally there are unclear spots--for example, is the tagine supposed to be covered or not? One confusing spot in the Tangier-Style Harira recipe, for example, is the instruction to put beef marrow bones and diced lamb in a deep pot "without any added fat, cover and steam over medium-low heat." The use of the word "steam" here puzzled me at first...was I supposed to use a steamer? Add liquid? I puzzled over it with a friend who is a professionally trained chef; at first she, too, was confused and then she finally told me to just cook it on medium-low and let it steam in its own juices. That worked great. But if this recipe had been user tested this sentence would likely have been clearer.

This is a minor quibble and I only care because this book is SO good I want to make all the recipes. But for those considering the pros and cons of this book carefully, here are a few other criticisms--and collectively the main reason I knocked off a star. My actual rating is about 4.5!

1. **Too Rich and Meat Heavy:** The recipes are skewed towards those with a LOT of meat--at the expense of equally authentic and delicious "poorer" dishes. It is true that Moroccans love meat, and on feast days and in fancy restaurants, the dishes will be giant hunks of meat with sauce or veggies as garnish. But in the home cooking I ate at friends' homes, and in working-class restaurants, a tagine is often a small hunk of meat smothered in vegetables. Some of my favorites have been big mounds of veggies and potatoes with a poor little piece of meat underneath. My friends taught me that, when sharing a tagine with others at the table, you eat the veggies first, exposing the meat---and then the small piece is divided into equal parts so everyone gets a bite. I love this "poorer" style, and I also think it is healthier. I would have loved to see at least several of these veggie-rich tagine recipes included. The book has a few veggie-only tagines but none where meat is present in a cameo role.

2. **Too few practical photos/Too many fun photos** This 500+ page book is full of gorgeous color photos, making it you know, heavy enough to use for bicep curls in a pinch. But paradoxically many of the recipes don't have pics of the finished product. For example, in the poultry chapter, only ten of the 29 recipes have photos that show what the dish looks like when it is finished. This was a good artistic choice, allowing the author to showcase gorgeous National Geographic-style spreads of Morocco which I must admit make it a better coffee-table book than photos of chicken style A, chicken style B etc. But I'm greedy gourmand in this just for the victuals--and I want to see every recipe so I can decide if I want to make it.

3. **Fresh tomatoes? Please. Let's be realistic here.** A very large number of recipes call for fresh tomatoes. But unless it is summer and you have your own garden or access to a farmer's market, the tomatoes you will get will be tasteless plasticey industrialized orbs that were picked green and gassed to make them look red before they put them on supermarket shelves. If you don't believe me, read the book TomatoLand. Anyway, given this sad reality, Ms. Wolfert should have acknowledged that canned tomatoes actually may be better and told us how much to use. In some recipes the author gives cups of tomatoes cut which makes it possible to substitute but in other recipes she uses pounds of fresh tomatoes as the measure, making it hard to know how many canned tomatoes to used. I substituted canned San Marzano plum tomatoes in the chicken with tomato jam recipe with excellent results but I had a lot of anxiety about how much to use and ended up making another pot of jam later. (Note: At least one recipe, the tomato and caper salad, clearly needs to be made with amazing tomatoes in season. I'm talking about the cooked dishes only.)

4.** Short cuts. What short cuts? ** One of the things I love about this book is that it gives the long way to do everything if it is the best way. And much of the time I'm happy to start the day before or spend four hours cooking dinner. But on days when I'm not, can you give me a shortcut the lesser of evils? For example, for the Harira, Ms. Wolfert has you soak chickpeas at least ten hours, then peel them (by running over them with a rolling pin). Results were spectacular. But if I'm just planning Tuesday a.m. for what I'm eating Tuesday evening, can we get a shortcut--like tips on inserting canned chickpeas in the recipe? And if I can't marinate the chicken overnight, will four or five hours do the trick?

5.** No Harissa recipe. Really?** Granted that Harissa, this spicy chili-garlic paste, is actually from neighboring countries and has gained popularity in Morocco. And it's also true that no Moroccan I know actually makes it, as it is cheap and fresh and delicious at your corner souk. But I don't have a corner souk and while yes, I can find it in Boston or order it mail-order from one of the sources helpfully listed in her book, it's faster to make it than schlepping all over town--and given the quality available here, likely better and fresher. So why does Ms. Wolfert (who gives us the long way around for everything else) simply tell you to use pre-made Harissa paste? She does have a recipe for Harissa, available on the 'net, but chose not to include it in this book. Pffft.

And after all this criticism, I'll add one more thing I love. Ms. Wolfert gives a recipe for homemade tomato paste she calls "Tomato Magic." You take sundried tomatoes and put them in the food processor with a good-quality jar of tomatoes, then cook for a half hour until color and flavor deepens. Honestly, I thought it would be more of a pain than it's worth but in fact it is absolutely delicious. And I LOVE her idea of freezing leftovers in tablespoonfuls on a cookie sheet then scraping them off and freezing them in a ziploc. It's better than commercial tomato paste and it solves the irritating problem of opening a can of tomato paste every time I need a tablespoonful and having the rest go to waste!

Overall, this is an amazing book and I can't wait to make everything in it. As I try other recipes I'll add to this post.

EDITED WITH UPDATES on August 31, 2014:

Nearly 1.5 years after buying this book, I still use it regularly, and I have now made more than 30 of its recipes. My skill level has increased, and I'm in the habit of always pre-making basic ingredients--such as tomato magic, kama spice mix etc, and as a result I now find many of the recipes fairly easy. Compared with other cookbooks which can be hit or miss, this one has a great track record with me: Everything I made has been at minimum very very good, and at least half of the recipes in here are exceptional to my palate at least.

A dozen of the recipes in this have become regular favorites in my household, including the amazing Eggplant Zaalouk cold salad, the cucumber-oregano salad with olives, the orange-romaine walnut salad, the dessert couscous (with golden raisins and almonds), fish charmoula, the baked red snapper or sea bass with almond paste and lamb kefta tagine with tomatoes and eggs. The chicken-apricot tagine, mentioned at the top of the review, has become a regular on my dinner table, and I often make several of the easy flatbreads in the book as well, my favorite being the Bread with Sesame and Anise seeds.

It's refreshing to work with a book where I know in advance that the results will be good, even if it is the first time I'm making a recipe. I have had some issues (mainly cosmetic stuff) with a small number of recipes. An example is the baked fish with almond paste. You are supposed to decorate a whole fish with a pretty design of almond paste before baking. In theory this is supposed to be done with a spatula. No way does this work for me...maybe I'm a klutz, but I end up with such an ugly, unappetizing design I just smooth it out to make a layer of almond paste. And also, serving a whole fish to several people when it is covered with almond paste in my hands still ends up as a mess. But it is a delicious mess and so far I've made it twice. Maybe by the fourth or fifth time I'll figure out how to make it not a mess. But in summary, all the recipes in this book are at least delicious...a few are just a tiny bit difficult so you do have to enjoy a bit of adventure!

Also, I want to note that, while I complain above that there are no "poor" tagines with a small amount of meat above, I did discover that the book has three veggie dishes (not strictly tagines) which have a small amount of meat confit in them. I just made the first one, lentils with swiss chard, butternut squash and meat confit. It is absolutely STUNNING and will probably make the short list of stuff I make again and again.
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on November 11, 2011
Paula Wolfert's new book on Moroccan cooking is indisputably the best book ever written on the subject. She draws on a life experience of over 40 years with Morocco making her observations and insights invaluable. If you have ever read any of her other books, and I say read, because her books are more than just collections of recipes, they are a highly readable collection of history, anecdotes, stories and great cooking, then you will know that this is consistent theme in all of her books. Here recipes have been painstakingly written down, perfected, tested, adjusted, and made to work beautifully.

This is a rarity in today's world of cookbook writing, but with Paula's recipes, you know that they will always work, that they are unambiguous, clear, and concise. If you are after the quintessential book on Moroccan cookery, then this is it.
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on July 30, 2012
WOW! I'm not sure I could effectively convey how much I LOVE this cookbook. I came across a review on Amazon for this cookbook and decided I would see if it was available through the local library as I've bought many disappointing cookbooks in the past. Within minutes of perusing the cookbook I knew I would be ordering my own copy. In a word? AMAZING!

I married a Moroccan man who hails from a very culinary gifted family! After a nearly month long visit to Morocco in 2010 - I was homesick for not only Morocco but the many delicious dishes my in-laws prepared! Salads, breads, sweets, etc... I'm quite skilled in the kitchen but have yet to conquer Moroccan cooking... this cookbook was definitely the answer to remedying that!

I've made several recipes from the book with great success (however, I will concede that I've altered preparation methods here and there - or tweaked recipes ever so slightly to my family's preferences). My absolute favorite recipe thus far is the Winter Squash with Carmelized Onions; honestly, I wanted to eat the entire dish! I believe it was intended as a side dish but served with salad - it makes for a wonderful vegetarian main dish!

I'm in the process of making the Fish Tagine with Creamy Onion Charmoula - when hubby noticed me cutting the fish and smelled the charmoula he got very excited!

Many thanks to Ms. Wolfert who composed this wonderful cookbook - AND - many thanks to the many Moroccan chefs/cooks who contributed their prized recipes as well... You have helped heal my homesickness for Morocco through food!

If you're interested in Moroccan food - or if you want to try new healthy, flavorful dishes - this cookbook will NOT disappoint!!!
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on May 6, 2012
For years foodie friends have been telling me about Paula Wolfert's books on Moroccan cuisine but I thought, well, I'll work through the books I already have first. What a mistake! Wolfert's book is the bomb! It's true that I learned authentic Moroccan cooking from Ghillie Basan's excellent Modern Moroccan cookbook and I don't regret a single lesson, especially since confirming the accuracy of her recipes on a recent trip to Morocco. But Wolfert provides more than just recipes. She understands regional cooking, historical cuisine and cultural uses of food. The recipes are inspirational and the book's photos are gorgeous--and very motivational.

If you own just one book on Moroccan cuisine, it should be this one. If you have room for two, add Ghillie Basan's Modern Moroccan. Bon appetit!
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on December 1, 2011
I liked this book and really enjoyed the pictures but was sadly disappointed that this was a retread of the authors earlier work on Couscous from 1973. Some of the text and recipes are exactly the same.... I erroneously bought both... and as I was reading the second found it very familiar..... it was the exact same story in the same words. So for $26 you get pictures and for $13 you get recipes with no pictures. You decide. Note that the new book ($26) does have some additional recipes in it.
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on December 7, 2015
This is yet another eBook cookbook that is filled with great recipes and is fun to read, but is next to impossible to actually use. While the table of contents is clickable, there is no way of bookmarking recipes to get back to them. Thinking I could at least look up recipes in the index (which lists recipes by dead tree book pages, and is not clickable) by using the search function, I was greeted with the message that this book is not yet enabled for the search function and to check back later. They have my money now, why isn't the eBook ready for me to use now?

Too many publishers obviously consider the buyers of their eBooks to be unworthy of a fully usable cookbook. Until they give eBook cookbooks the same usability as their dead tree cookbooks, I will be returning for refund their eBooks, as I have done this one.
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on February 2, 2013
I made several of the recipes in this book which were very competent. But it was not until I purchased a tagine and tried one of Wolfert's chicken dishes (with apricots and pine nuts) that I was truly blown away. I felt like I had been introduced to an entirely new cuisine and way of cooking, and it was such a great experience that I will continue to try more dishes in the book.

I bought this book after I had a conversation with a professional chef in Boston, when he saw me eyeing this book at bookstore. I bought it after he told me it was without a doubt the finest book he had worked with featuring Moroccan food. My gut told me that he knew what he was talking about, and I have not regreted this purchase.

I would also add that I splurged and purchased the Emile Henry tagine, and it is just so well made that I am glad I spent the extra money. I also purchased a diffuser for ten bucks on Amazon, and they worked beautifully in tandem. The red onions in the dish just melted in your mouth, transforming from bitter to amazingly tender and sweet. The chicken fell off the bone and was luscious in the sweet apricot sauce. And using Wolfert's instructions on how to steam couscous was mindblowing, as it transformed an ingredient I had been eating for years into something entirely new and infinitely better.

Can't wait to explore more in this book.
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on November 28, 2012
I'm giving this book four stars because it is a well-executed cookbook with just the right mix of text and photos. It's informative without being tedious. The recipes are also easy to read and follow with lots of photos of the finished product.

However, I feel that as a reviewer it is only fair to warn prospective buyers of a few things. I learned from this book, and I trust Paula Wolfert really knows her subject, that Moroccans eat a lot of meat. I was a bit surprised to see some form of meat in so many of the bean/legume and vegetable dishes. And I believe most if not all the couscous recipes have meat in them. I did not expect this, but I guess it tells me something about authentic Moroccan cuisine that I didn't realize. This leads me to believe that the delicious vegetarian dishes I've had in various Moroccan restaurants here in the states have been altered to fit American tastes. While I'm not a complete vegetarian, I am trying to cut down on my meat consumption and am always in search of interesting meatless recipes. Sadly there are not many to be had here.

I knew going into it that because this is a Moroccan cookbook I would probably need to buy some things that I don't normally stock in my larder, but it seemed like almost every recipe required some sort of exotic ingredient(s) and/or new piece of cooking equipment, parchment paper or some such nonsense, and/or was just a general hassle. My warning here is, be prepared to invest a considerable amount of time, energy, and money into making the dishes in this book. It is truly meant for the person who is willing to put the effort into totally duplicating real Moroccan cooking, which I'm not. So, if you have a busy life, and are a bit of a lazy cook like myself, this book is not for you. I'm so glad I took it out of the library for review before purchasing.
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on March 13, 2012
This book is still the benchmark and the classic for learning about Moroccan food. Other books, by others and by Wolfert herself, may add to the knowledge about this appealing cuisine with its long-cooked tagines and artful spices, but none can top it. It is worth learning to make preserved lemons (she tells you how) so you can make tagines that include that ingredient.
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on September 20, 2015
Paula Wolfort's "Couscous and Other Good Food from Morocco" is one of my all-time favorite cookbooks, so I eagerly purchased this new book sight unseen. Unfortunately it seems to be a retread of the first book, albeit with beautiful pictures and some additional recipes.
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