Go Bucks!

This photo made it into the Ohio State Alumni Magazine a little bit ago:

OHIO

The caption reads:

Casablanca’s Hassan II Mosque makes a stunning “i” in this photo submitted by Ron Erb ’82, ’85 MS. From left to right are Ohio State student Rachel Erb, Matthew MacFarland ’10, ’12 MS and Cori Erb MacFarland ’10. Cori and Matthew, who met as members of Ohio State’s Marching Band, are serving in the Peace Corps in Morocco.

We took it back in December when my family visited at the Hassan II mosque in Casablanca. The mosque is a seriously amazing place to visit. It’s the biggest mosque in Morocco, the seventh-biggest in the world, and has the tallest minaret in the world. The mosque and its grounds can hold nearly as many people as Ohio Stadium, approximately 105,000 (Wikipedia).  It’s also the only mosque in Morocco that I know of that welcomes non-Muslims inside, although unfortunately we didn’t have time to take the tour. It’s great to see this picture in the Alumni magazine combining our love of Morocco and of Ohio State!

In other Buckeye-related happenings, we’ve been enjoying the football season so far and have been able to stream a lot of the games live, which has been lots of fun. One Saturday I got all excited because I thought it’d be fun to make buckeyes to add to the gameday atmosphere.

This is the extent of our game-day atmosphere. Well, this and me trying to figure out OSU songs on the recorder we have.

This is the extent of our gameday atmosphere. Well, this and me trying to figure out OSU songs on the recorder we have.

I was really proud of myself for creating a double boiler out of a big pot and a loaf pan to melt the chocolate, but that’s where my successes ended. I’m not sure if it was because the only chocolate I could find to melt was a bar with almonds, or because I deviated a bit from the recipe, but the buckeyes turned out more like chocolate-peanut butter swirl balls than buckeyes, which was disappointing. I’d had plans to photograph them and put a picture up here along with a blurb about us watching the games… but I guess my blurb was destined to be accompanied by a story about how I failed to make buckeyes instead. Such is Peace Corps, and such is life. And as Matt pointed out, those buckeyes still tasted damn good.

— Cori

From our Kuzina to yours – Harira

It’s been warmer here since March started, but the past few days we’ve seen rain and a (hopefully) quick cold spell… which means I’ve been in the mood for some delicious, warm soup! I’ve been meaning to share this recipe for awhile, but since harira is so easy to buy here I rarely make it and didn’t get the chance to finish testing it until now. Harira is definitely my favorite Moroccan food so I’m glad to finally get to share it. It’s like tomato soup, but extra delicious thanks to the additions of lentils and chickpeas – yum! Hope you enjoy 🙂

Harira (click here to download recipe w/o pictures)

Serves 2-4

Ingredients:

  • t each of finely diced fresh parsley and cilantro
  • T of finely diced celery
  • Half an onion, diced (about ½ c)
  • A couple soup bones with a little bit of meat on them (Moroccans generally use mutton, but I think anything would be good. I used chicken here)
  • ½ c soaked dried chickpeas (maybe equivalent to ¼ c dried)*
  • ½ c dried lentils, rinsed
  • 1 ½ t ground ginger
  • 1 ½ t cumin
  • 1 t pepper
  • 1 t salt
  • Puree of 4 tomatoes (approx. 2 c)**
  • 2 T tomato paste
  • 1 bouillon cube (any flavor is fine)
  • T flour
  • Some spaghetti noodles (optional)

*I only have access to dried chickpeas here – if you use dried it’s really helpful to soak them beforehand or cook them a bit on their own first to speed things up. If you have canned chickpeas that should be fine, you just might want to cut the salt a bit.

**I also only have access to fresh tomatoes, so my tomato puree is just 4 tomatoes peeled and quickly blended (or sometimes I take a page out of the Moroccan book and use a shredder). I’m sure you could use some kind of canned tomatoes but since I can’t test it for you I’m not sure how it would work or how much to use. Again, if you use something canned you might want to cut the salt.

Shredding tomatoes, Moroccan-style.

Shredding tomatoes, Moroccan-style. It’s like peeling and chopping all in one!

To cook:

  • Heat oil in your soup pot. When hot, add parsley, cilantro, and celery, then the onion. Cook 30 seconds or so, then add soup bones, chickpeas, lentils, spices, and tomato puree.
Everything minus the puree

Everything minus the puree

  • Stir and add about 4 c of water, bring to a boil and then simmer (covered) until the lentils and chickpeas are cooked (about 1 hour or a little more). Check every so often and add water as needed.
This was not enough water. You'll see why later.

I added about 2 c water, which was definitely not enough – so I recommend more like 4 c, and maybe more as it cooks according to your preference.

  • Mix the flour, crushed bouillon cube, and tomato paste with a bit of water to form a thick liquid (I like to use a little jar so I can shake it all up) and add it to the soup. If you want to add noodles, do that now. Cook for an additional 15 minutes or until soup has thickened a bit and noodles are cooked.

  • Remove the bones and enjoy!
Harira! Mine looks a little dark because I burned it (oops). Don't worry, I upped the water when I wrote down the recipe, but still - it's a good idea to check your soup every so often :)

Mine looks a little dark because I burned it due to lack of water and lack of paying attention (oops). Yours should look lighter.

– Cori

From Our Kuzina to Yours – Juices!

Not much time to post this week, so I figured I’d tide you guys over with some quick recipes… although I’m not sure you could even call them that since these are so super simple. It’s a quick collection of juices that are popular here in Morocco that I hadn’t seen before I got here (although I’m sure they’re popular around the world).

1)      Orange and cucumber juice

  • Peel, core (opt.) and chop a cucumber, add to blender
  • Pour enough orange juice in to cover the cucumber (it’s delicious with fresh-squeezed OJ, which luckily for us is being sold all over the place during Ramadan!)
  • Blend and you’re done!  This is a popular juice that a lot of Moroccans have for breakfast during Ramadan. I like to add a pinch of cinnamon and ground ginger to mine but that’s just me; I think the Moroccans usually stick to sugar.

2)      Orange and beet juice

  • Boil whole beets until tender (this takes about 45 min – 1 hr)
  • Peel beets and then roughly cut and add to blender
  • Add orange juice and a little bit of water to cover beets, and add sugar to taste
  • Blend and enjoy! I just got to taste this one at someone’s house a couple days ago and I haven’t had a chance to try it myself yet, so I apologize if the amounts are off a little. As with any of these, feel free to play with ratios until it’s something you’re happy with!

3)      Banana juice

  • Peel and slice a banana or two, add to blender.
  • Pour enough milk in to cover bananas.
  • Blend and add milk to desired consistency. I like it pretty liquidy – it’s a great snack for when you want something a little less solid than a smoothie. And I know “banana juice” sounds kind of ridiculous in English, but it’s the direct translation of what the Moroccans call it, so I figured I’d use it. This is sold at cafes, and our host family in Taounate used to have it with fruit or sweets for dinner (remember, that’s 10 pm here) when we didn’t want anything big. Moroccans usually add quite a bit of sugar but I like mine with cinnamon and ginger instead.

 4)      Avocado juice

  • Peel and slice an avocado, add to blender.
  • Add milk to cover.
  • Blend and enjoy! This one is popular at cafes here… and to be honest I’ve never actually made it. Avocados are a little expensive and I prefer to use the ones we buy to make guacamole :). But it’s definitely an interesting idea so I figured I’d share it. Let me know how it ends up if any of you try it!

I’ve been working on my harira recipe, which is like an extra-delicious Moroccan version of tomato soup. It’s not ready yet, but I’m gonna wait to post it until the fall anyway. Moroccans don’t hesitate to make it in the dead of summer (I guess the attitude is that it’s hot enough here already so it doesn’t really matter), but I can’t imagine many of you would try it out in the hot weather I’m sure you’re all having. So I figured I’d post something a little more summer-appropriate in the meantime :). Hope you enjoy!

– Cori

From our Kuzina to yours – Harsha!

Hey all! Hope you’re ready for your first Moroccan food recipe, because we finally got around to testing one out! I know we’ve been talking about posting some for months now, but it proved surprisingly difficult to come up with a decent recipe to post for a number of reasons. The biggest issue was translating a traditional Moroccan recipe into something that makes sense to Americans, and that includes more than just a language translation. Here is a rough approximation of Mama Naima’s instructions to us on making harsha:

  • “Start with this” *shows me bowl half-filled with mysterious grain*
  • “Add a little salt, a little sugar, and this” *”this” being a little packet of white powder*
  • “Add oil, and then add water” *this basically meant me adding things while she watched me like a hawk so she could tell me when to stop*
  • Then we’d go through the process of cooking it, which I never fully did, mostly because Naima made huge harshas and flipping them involved some serious skill.

Never mind the fact that these ingredients basically describe a million different kinds of baked goods, but it took me awhile to even figure out what they were. The little packet was identified easily enough as baking powder, but the mysterious grain was harder. I’d always assumed it was cornmeal, and a couple days ago I went over to the self-serve grain section at the store across the street to find some. I picked up the yellowest, cornmealiest looking grain I could find and used that in my first attempt. Naturally, it was not the right kind of grain. It was edible enough, but it was definitely not harsha! In true Peace Corps style, we ate the whole thing anyway, but we still don’t know exactly what it was….

After that debacle, I asked one of my students for help and learned that the grain I needed is called smida, and it’s actually semolina, not cornmeal. For my second attempt I stopped by a different store and had the owner help me get some semolina (this is a good lesson for me – asking for help is a good thing!). I headed home to make some harsha, and a couple attempts later… here you go!

Harsha (Moroccan Semolina Pancake)
Makes one pancake (approx. 8 in. diameter).  Serves 2 – 3. Click to download recipe (no pictures)

Ingredients:
1 c semolina (you may be able to substitute cornmeal but I’m not able to test that)
1 t salt
1 t white sugar
1 t baking powder
3 T olive oil
½ C water

Mix semolina, salt, sugar and baking powder. IMG_1629

Add oil and mix, then add water and mix. It will be a pretty wet mixture (hopefully you can kind of see the texture below).
IMG_1637

Coat a frying pan with a little bit of oil and heat on medium. Sprinkle the pan with semolina and plop the mixture into the center of the pan (the neater you keep it in this step, the easier it is to give it a good shape).
IMG_1660

Gradually pat it down, starting from the center and moving outwards, and sprinkling with more semolina as you go. It should be about half an inch thick when you’re done, but you want to pat it down slowly to keep it from tearing apart in the middle. You can neaten the edges with a spoon if you like.
IMG_1661

Cook on one side for about 5 minutes, or until the bottom is starting to look solid. To flip it, I turn the harsha onto a plate and slide it back into the pan. Cook for about another 5 minutes, shaking the pan lightly every so often to make sure it’s not sticking to the bottom. Once the bottom is cooked through, you’re done!
IMG_1671

Moroccans eat it during cascroot (afternoon teatime), usually spread with jam or laughing cow cheese, or dipped in honey or olive oil, but we also like to eat it for breakfast. I like to cut a slice in half, spread with cheese and honey, and make a little harsha sandwich. Enjoy!

– Cori

Life After Homestay

Big news — after nearly 3.5 months of living with families here in Morocco, we finally have a home of our own!  (Pictures will come soon.)  It’s something we’ve been looking forward to for months and we’re really excited to have finally moved in.  Don’t get us wrong; we’ve been extremely fortunate with our amazing host families, and we’re really excited to continue to enjoy couscous Fridays with our family here in Azilal… but there’s something about living on our own terms that is really, really nice.

For example, we can cook for ourselves again! We’ve both really been enjoying getting back in the kitchen and having control over what we eat again. Cori is glad to decrease the amount of bread she eats from approximately 2 Moroccan loaves daily to maybe half a loaf, Matt has been enjoying having eggs for breakfast every morning, and we’ve both been glad to get fresh fruits and veggies back into our diet. This also means that we can finally translate all of the Moroccan recipes that we (kind of) learned during homestay into American measurements and instructions and share them with you!

Other examples of things we’re excited for include not having to live out of our suitcases anymore, being able to read or watch tv shows without feeling super rude, listening to music out loud, working out, having time to relax on our own, and generally feeling like adults again. It’s amazing how much easier it’s been to get up and go work at the Dar Chebab when we know we have our own place to go back to.

We did have a bit of a reality check yesterday that reminded us that moving into our own apartment won’t be as easy as we kept making it out to be. We went to the big weekly market alone for the first time, and it was pretty overwhelming. There are tons of food stands, all selling more or less the same thing, and tons of people shopping at all of them. We have the language to ask for what we need, but it’s tough to use in a stressful situation like this one, with Moroccans constantly coming up next to you and interrupting (the concept of a line is a very foreign one here). In the end, although we’re not sure if we got any kind of a decent price, we got most of the food that we needed, and that’s good enough for week one.

Market trip aside, life after homestay is going pretty well so far. We’ll definitely face more challenges related to living alone, but we also now have a personal space to go home to if we need to. And our trip to the market does mean that we have all the food that we need to make tacos tonight to celebrate a fake American holiday – Happy (late) Cinco de Mayo!