When we were in Paris last summer, we had some delicious Morrocan cold cooked carrots and when it came to planning our Thanksgiving dinner, I thought I would replicate the dish. Chermoula is a Moroccan paste which goes with a variety of dishes. In Moroccan cuisine, chermoula is the magic wand to deal with fish. It is classically a mix of fresh cilantro, garlic, and spices, bound together with lemon juice and olive oil. The combination of spices varies depending on the cook's preferences, and fresh parsley, fresh mint, or chopped onions may be added, but the basic idea remains the same: to form a thick paste that will be used as a marinade before grilling or baking the fish, or as a condiment at the table. Chermoula is used mainly with fish in Morocco, but you can marinate vegetables just as nicely, including carrots or even broccoli. Carrots go absolutely marvelous with it as we will see in this post.
Ingredients for Chermoula:
- One medium to large lemon and zest
- 3 bunches of Cilantra or about 2 cups pressed
- 3-5 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced
- 1-2 teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted
- 1-2 teaspoon coriander seeds, toasted
- 1 teaspoon sweet smoked paprika
- 1 heaping tablespoon of Harissa or 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes or 1/2 teaspoon of Thai red pepper paste
- A pinch saffron threads (optional)
- Several Mint leaves (optional)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
Toast the cumin and coriander seeds for 3-4 minutes in a frying pan and add to a spice grinder or coffee grinder and pulverize to a fine dust. Add all the ingrediants to a small food processor and grind into a paste. Place in an airtight container and add a layer of olive oil. It will keep for about a week.
This sauce deserves some notes. Lisa doesn't like cumin and/or coriander, so if I make it for both of us, I add 1/2 teaspoon of cumin and coriander. For myself I add 2 teaspoons of cumin and coriander. Lisa doesn't like a lot of spicyness, so for her, I add 1/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes or Thai chili paste or when I have it, 1/2 tablespoon of Harrisa. The Safron and mint are optional but I think they add some nice flavors. Some people don't like Cilantra, if you don't like it substitute Italian parsley. Finally there is the issue of the mortar and pestle vs a food processor and the issue of picking off the leaves vs using a knife. If you cut the leaves off with a knife you will get pieces of stem which the food processor will not reduce. You will have stems left in the paste like the top picture. It is a huge pain, but picking the leaves gives you the a much smoother paste than just cutting off the leaves. At this point you can grind the result in a mortar and pestle to get a true paste, but I have found little change in taste. I have a great mortar and pestle from Mexico made from lava stone, but you lose a fair amount of product by the time you scrape out the results. For me, the paste I got with the food processor was good enough but if you don't have a small processor you should grind.
Steam the carrots until tender, about 10 to 15 minutes. Drain, and immediately cover the carrots with cold water to stop further cooking. Drain again. Add two heaping tablespoons of chemoula and toss the carrots with the chemoula until fully mixed. Put in the refrigerator for at least a few hours or overnight if possible. Just before serving I like to toss in some flat Italian parsley, the juice of one lemon and green olives. You can also just leave it plain.
Chocolate and Zucchini: http://chocolateandzucchini.com/archives/2007/06/chermoula.php
Splendid Table: http://www.splendidtable.org/recipes/chermoula