Aliza Green

Chef | Consultant | Author

First Christian Church

Aliza’s Posts

Just back from a fabulous trip to Morocco, a land of mellow delights and warm, kind people

Morocco has been on my culinary radar ever since I first ate couscous in the Paris Jewish neighborhood of the Marais at age 12–it was a revelation. In years since, I had the opportunity to work with several Moroccan and Tunisian chefs, who inspired me to finally plan a trip there. Researching my two books on spices (Field Guide to Herbs & Spices and The Magic of Spice Blends), I became convinced that I needed to make that trip. And, I am very happy to say that my culinary/cultural tour with 13 guests was a delight for all, though not without its challenges–road to the Sahara closed due to snow (!), very slow-going to cross the Tichka Pass over the snow covered peaks of the High Atlas Mountains to Fez, and sleeping bundled up in every piece of clothing I owned including hat and gloves in a tent in the bitter cold of the Sahara night, which was nonetheless a high point of the trip for all.

Steaming chickpeas slow-cooked with gelatin-rich calves feet–one of the most delicious dishes of the entire trip at Dar Naji Restaurant in Rabat. 

Vegetable tajine slow-cooked on the fire in terra cotta, garnished with Moroccan pink/purple olives and tender lemon confit at the wonderful Dar Naji Restaurant in Rabat, a placed beloved by the locals for good reason

A plateful of Moroccan pastries most made with locally-grown almonds and often flavored with orange blossom water extracted from the fragrant blossoms of the bitter orange free–one was better than the next, also at Dar Naji in Rabat.

The key to the excellence of the garlic found in most dishes is that it is all locally-grown hard-neck, pink-skinned garlic. We can find this type of garlic in farmer’s markets in season but rarely in any commercial store. Juicy, plump, mild, and sweet.

Fresh cardoons, stalks of a plant closely related to the artichoke, were in season as were small, tender fresh green fava beans in the smell plastic bags on the side of the photo.

Many Moroccans do not want their photo taken and we respected their wishes. Here I was trying to get a photo of the sad-eyed donkey (donkeys are the only mode of transport in the old Medina of Fez) and happened to get a picture of this woman in blue, perhaps the owner of the donkey.

Bowls of fresh-picked herbs to be used in making tea–usually Chinese green gunpowder tea and plenty of spearmint but here, in a small stall in the Fez medina, the proprietor makes his own healthful blend of sage, rose geranium, wormwood (used to make absinthe), and perhaps a few other herbs.

While I’ve been serving the Moroccan celebration dish, Chicken B’Stilla (classically made with pigeon meat), I finally got a chance to sample someone else’s recipe during a cooking class at the Palais Amani in Fez. I wish we could get the crunchy waraka or feuilles de brik pastry they use–it’s similar to fillo but layered with oil and crunchier.

A sampling of the many (I’ve heard anywhere from 36 to 96) spices that make up the spend blend that is the pride of every traditional spice & herb vendor. Here we on the sunny rooftop terrace at Herboriste La Sagesse in the Marrakesh medina. Marrakesh is the center of Morocco’s spice trade.

More spices at La Sagesse–including Sri Lankan cinnamon, pomegranate blossoms (off to the side), fennel seed, fenugreek, wihite peppercorns, coriander seed, dried green basil, dried red basil, anise seed and more.

The legendary Argan oil must be extracted from laboriously shelled, then peeled, then roasted seeds. Only then are they ready to be ground by hand using this heavy stone mill. We stopped at a coop run by a group of women and bought our oil and other Argan products directly from the producers–I always want to support ways for women to gain financial independence.

The colorful; baskets at Herboriste La Sagesse are filled with herbs like bay leaves and dried roses, but also pumice stones, rock salt, dried hibiscus blossoms, and a special plant used as a toothpick. The giant snakeskin is from a boa.

Couscous is always presented in a carefully planned design, with alternating colors of vegetables and a center here of caramelized onions and raisins which cloak the slow-cooked lamb hidden underneath. This was served to us at lunch in the wonderful Marrakesh restaurant, Le Jardin, which combined a delicious French Salade Nicoise with delicious marinated chicken and spicy merguez lamb sausage kebobs, and this couscous followed by the most delicious French Tarte au Citron and Gateau au Chocolat. I only eat desserts if I know they are homemade from scratch and both of these met the test–well worth the calories!

I wouldn’t have believed it unless I saw it with my own eyes–yes, the goats do roam in the trees. These are Argan trees which grow in an arid climate. When they are young kids, their owners train these goats to climb the trees so that they can eat the leaves when there is little on the ground for them to consume.

When I saw the small bowls of infant radishes at the Domaine de Val d’Argan winery in Ounaga on the way to Essaouria, I knew that there was someone in the kitchen who really cared. And, I was so right–a gorgeous array of fresh, local vegetable salads (no pix, I’ll try to get them on my next visit which is coming up soon), followed by the juiciest and most tender lamb kebobs (definitely made with loin of lamb). The chef is a woman, as are many of the heads of the best kitchens of Morocco, and her name is Rachma. I look forward to greeting her on my next visit. A natural culinary talent with an eye for beauty and a wonderful hand with flavors and textures.

Doing my best to knead the bread dough we made in the small, family-run kitchen at Chez Pierre in the magnificant Dades Gorge region. This delicious bread, called medfouna AKA Berber stuffed flat bread, was to be stuffed with herbs, spices, and onions and baked. I sure loved it!

 

Learn to Cook Morocco’s Fabulous Cuisine: Travel to Morocco with Chef/Author Aliza Green, February 13-25, 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am happy to announce that since my first tour sold out, I am organizing a second Morocco Culinary & Cultural Tour starting February 13, 2018 for a 11-night tour filled with culinary delights, cooking classes, market tours, tastings, and visits to farms. We’ll learn to make an array of the small Moroccan salads such as the ones shown above, whether eggplant, carrot, artichoke, zucchini or fava beans. We’ll enjoy wonderful flavor-packed food based on seasonal vegetables, local olive oil and rare argan oil, purple, green, black and violet olives, fresh local seafood, and a deft hand with herbs and spices. For this small-group tour (maximum 10 guests), we’ll be staying in riads (traditional inn with inner courtyard based on Andalusian style) and will even have one night in the desert where we’ll stay in a luxury camp and bake bread in hot sand fueled by an open fire.

Tour highlights include: Tasting tour of Fes (the Moroccan spelling of Fez, Spice Workshop with Master Blender, an Exploration of Moroccan-Jewish Cooking, and cooking classes in the Atlas Mountains, a visit to the spectacular Dades Valley where we’ll stay at the justly-famed Chez Pierre, Marrakesh, and Fes.

Beginning in Rabat, the historic, Atlantic Coastal capital of Morocco, we’ll travel next to the Imperial City of Fes. Next we travel south into the Sahara Desert, and then onto the Dades Valley. We continue to Marrakesh, the beautiful ochre city and then on to the charming, windy fishing village of Essaouira before heading to Casablanca for a final night before departing Morocco.

We’ll be drinking pots full of Moroccan mint tea made with nana mint (spearmint), traditionally poured from a great height to cool the boiling hot tea.

Only two spaces left!

Here are some images from the heritage-rich riads and hotels where we will be staying:

Window at Maison Arabe, Marrakesh

Restaurant at Chez Pierre, Dades Valley

Poolside dining at Maison Arabe, Marrakesh

 

Court with pool, Palais Amani, Fes

Click on this link to get to the itinerary for the tour (I’ll upload a new file with the correct dates in the next few days but the itinerary will be the same as shown here with the tour starting February 20th): Itinerary for February Morocco Culinary Tour

Click on this link to get to the Payments page for pricing information: Aliza Green Morocco Cooking Tour Feb 18 Pricing

Any questions, please send a message to ChefAlizaGreen@gmail.com.

 

 

 

 

 

Quick Note on Aliza’s Culinary Tour of Incredible India

Just back from my fabulous, dizzying culinary tour in incredible India! Eleven guests plus myself and my trusty assistant traveled from Delhi (madly busy, loved Old Delhi and its spice markets-shown here–and flower markets) to Jaipur (the pink city with a fabulous outdoor cooking class at the gorgeous Raj Mahal Palace Hotel), Agra (absolutely perfect weather for our early morning visit to the Taj Mahal), Lucknow (a sophisticated city with complex cuisine not often visited by Americans), and back to Delhi.
Whether by bus, tuk-tuk, taxi, auto-rickshaw, train, and even an elephant ride up to the Amber Fort in Jaipur, we made our way, doing food walks in the bustling crazily-crowded narrow streets of the old parts of Delhi, Jaipur, Agra, and Lucknow, tasting a myriad of vegetarian and non-vegetarian foods, learning new recipes, culture and history, and having the opportunity to speak to knowledgeable locals.

We happened upon this procession of women honoring a local fertility god while visiting the 8th Century Stepwell. All were dressed in the same brilliant yellow-orange and carrying earthenware water pots on their heads filled with coconuts and bananas as offerings. 

Along with irresistibly beautiful hand-woven silk and pashmina shawls dyed with natural materials such as eggplant, tomato, saffron, and turmeric, I brought back the best saffron in the world, from Kashmir–deep red threads potently fragrant, rare white poppy seeds (known there as “opium seeds”) used to make creamy korma sauce, big fat deep green freshly harvested cardamom pods, and hard-to-find hand-pounded silver leaf used to decorate pastries. Show above are two masala dabas (spice containers) each filled with colorful, fresh spices used for our first cooking class at the charming Saffron Palate in Delhi–a charming rooftop kitchen overlooking bustling Delhi.

Dreaming of Morocco? Consider Joining me on a Culinary & Cultural Tour

Have you been dreaming about a trip to Morocco? I know that I have since I love cooking Moroccan-inspired food from slender lamb cigari; fish, vegetable and meat tajines; and baked fish in chermoula to chicken b’stilla with cinnamon and almonds; m’hancha (the serpent)–pistachio, almond and rosewater filled coiled fillo pastry; and slow-cooked lamb shoulder with homemade ras el hanout and preserved lemons. I will be leading a small group culinary & cultural tour to Morocco departing January 3, 2018–just one year away! Eight to 12 guests will join me for a 9 night tour with an optional 3 night extension. Highlights include a tasting tour of Fes, a spice blending workshop with a master, an exploration of Moroccan-Jewish cuisine, bread-making in the Sahara and overnight in a luxury tent camp, a cooking class in the breathtaking Dades Valley, and a rejuvenating hammam (Turkish bath/spa) session in Marrakech. Cut and paste the Google Slides document below for detailed information:
AlizaGreen Morocco Culinary 
Tour

And, here is a link to the payments page

AGMoroccoCookingTour-Reservation

 

Please send a message to me if you have any questions and let me know if you’re interested even if you’re not ready to make a commitment.

Happy travels!
Aliza

Please join me for a special Dinner with Aliza at the Academy of Natural Sciences, January 18, 2017, presented by 12th Street Catering

12th-street-dinner-poster

Aliza to be Guest Chef at The Inn at Woodloch, January 7 to 9, 2016

I am happy to say that I will be guest chef in residence from January 7 to 9th at the gorgeous spa/retreat in the Poconos, The Inn at Woodloch. Follow this link for details: Aliza at the Inn at Woodloch. I’ll be doing a demo of a spice blend and a delicious vegan soup from my newest book, The Magic of Spice Blends, attending a reception and Q & A in my honor, and meeting with the chefs for a career discussion. Many thanks to my friend, Tina Breslow, of Breslow Partners for arranging this culinary get-away.AKP-TLAW-WINTER-2014-1

 

Three veteran Philly chefs

20151102_180055I attended the recent Philly C-CAP Gala honoring the major culinary contributions to the city of Philadelphia of Chef Jean-Marie LaCroix, longtime executive chef of the Four Seasons Hotel in Philadelphia and mentor to a generation of chefs. With him is his colleague and sometimes rival, Chef Georges Perrier. I never worked with Chef LaCroix but know him as a fellow Philly culinarian from my days at A’Propos in the 80s where I worked with his lovely wife, Vivienne. And, I almost went to work for Chef Perrier but instead chose to go work at A’Propos where I cooked Mediterranean-inspired California-style cuisine with a wood-oven and mesquite grill. Although I was torn by it, I made the right decision because three months after I started, I got pregnant. A few years later, I was honored to be asked by Chef Perrier to co-author his cookbook–a wonderful opportunity for me and an experience that I will always treasure. Vive La France!

 

How and Why I Cook

Aliza at Vegan Cooking Class 05 23 15I cook to make people happy:

Sharing a meal is a sacred act that brings people together, encourages conversation, and helps us relax, digest, and take pleasure in the small joys of civilized everyday life: friendship, good food, lively discussion, and maybe a bottle of wine to share. Food that calls too much attention to itself and demands quiet adulation gets in the way of lusty enjoyment.

I cook on the spot:20

I am inspired to cook food from places that I’ve traveled to or have had the opportunity to learn directly from local cooks. Earlier in my career, as chef of a Northern Italian restaurant, I studied Italian for five years to connect with Italian culinarians and learn their stories and culinary secrets. In my cooking, I emphasize food from the Mediterranean region, especially Greece and Turkey, where I’ve studied cooking;; from Tunisia and Morocco, cuisine that I learned by working with local chefs; from Mexico where I lived in my early teens: from Israel where I attended first grade; and from Brazil, India, and the Caribbean, all places where I’ve had the opportunity to travel and cook.

I believe food should look like what it is, not something else:

To me, presentation should showcase the essence of the food, not because of elaborate plate-painting and arranging food with surgical tweezers. Too many hands and too much fussiness get in the way of flavor and simplicity. I avoid plate painting, complex plate designs, tiny, precisely-cut vegetables, and molded food. Instead I might cook whole lamb shoulder on the bone, rub it with homemade Ras el Hanout spice then slow-roast it, pull it from the bone and serve it surrounding a whole roasted lamb shoulder on the bone.

Make it, don’t fake it:

At Baba Olga’s Cafe & Supper Club, where I serve as chef, we make all our own foods including hors d’oeuvres, desserts, sauces, stocks, even our own spice and herb blends. The vanilla in our baked goods comes from vanilla beans that we soak in rum. The flavorful butter comes from Vermont, famed for its high-quality dairy products, and our eggs are brown shell that we crack (never from a carton). We ripen our fruits and vegetables like tomatoes and peaches to increase juiciness and flavor. I avoid purchasing processed foods so, as many people comment, “our food tastes clean.” Oil is extra-virgin olive or canola for light, fruity flavor.

80/20: Vegetables/Meats19

For our own health and the health of our planet’s environment, I aim to cook and eat deliciously healthy by serving foods that are 80 percent vegetable and legume based and 20 percent animal protein. I emphasize local vegetables, greens, legumes, and fruits. My first book, The Bean Bible published in 2000 was an early look at the amazing variety of flavors, colors, and shapes of legumes. Beans are beneficial to our health and put needed nitrogen back into the soil and we should all be eating more of them and less red meat. So, I make dishes like red lentil cakes with date-tamarind chutney, hummus with chipotle, and Moroccan white bean and tuna salad with chermoula.

I cook food with roots:

My cooking is inspired by traditional foods in many parts of the world, often the food of women who pass down their knowledge from generation to generation. I avoid arbitrary combinations and foods with too many, often unrelated components. Foods have a reason that they go together—basil and tomato, beans and greens, lamb and mint, lemon and olive oil–for the sake of the garden the palate and for ease of digestion so you won’t leave feeling uncomfortably overstuffed.

I cook seasonally and locally:

While I live in a part of the country with cold winters, so our growing season is not year-round, I work with as many local farms as possible, something I’ve been doing as a chef since 1980.  We work closely with Common Market, a local aggregator of foods from farms in the Tri-State region, Green Meadow Farm in Gap, Pennsylvania, who I’ve been buying from since the late 80s, and from the closest farm of all, Heritage Farm, on the grounds of the Methodist Home for Children on Belmont Avenue. I serve only local strawberries when they are in-season so they are a late spring treat rather than more of the same commercial berries shipped unripe across-country.

I aim to be creative with trimmings and by-product:

I do my best to use every part of the food in the interest of environmental awareness and lower food costs, which allows me to buy the best quality ingredients and keep prices reasonable. We treat the food with respect and don’t waste it. So, chard leaves are cooked as greens while the stems become part of our Greek vegetable Briami; corn kernels are cut off the cob while the cobs go into the pot to make sweet, golden corn cob stock for soup; herb stems are saved for soups and stews, while the leaves flavor and add shape and color to finished dishes;; chicken trimmings become stock while its fat is rendered to make chicken schmaltz.

Leftovers are an opportunity to make new culinary delights:

One of the tests of a chef is how well he/she can turn excess of one dish or its components into a wonderful new dish. So, I roast mushrooms for a warm mushroom salad and turn leftover mushrooms into a rich filling for our hand-formed mushroom fillo turnovers. Prosciutto is sliced for salad and other appetizers, the valuable skin and fat are simmered with red beans to make Caribbean style red beans and rice or Tuscan white bean soup.

Sri Lankan Vegetable Curry 12 12 15Preserving allows me to work with high-quality local ingredients out of season:

I pickle vegetables like Roma beans, okra, and mushrooms to serve on mezze and antipasto trays. To build up my stash for winter, I freeze things like corn kernels cut off the cob, raspberries and blackberries, and even local tomatoes. We use tomato juice pressed from local tomatoes and packed in glass jars throughout the year.

The uglier the produce, the better it tastes:

Lumpy produce with bad spots here and there that must be trimmed will be the best tasting, ripest produce. I buy large quantities of deliciously colorful heirloom tomato seconds to make into tomato-basil sauce which we freeze and then use in our catering menus and for other dishes where that taste of summer is so welcome in cold weather months.

I focus on environment awareness:

I cut down on waste by using every part of the product, save all our food scraps for compostAncient  Grains Salading, use compostable, recyclable paper goods, serve filtered rather than bottle water, buy local so shipping distances are less, and work to serve foods lower on the food chain, which require less water and other natural resources to produce.The fish I purchase is MSC (Marine Stewardship Council) certified. The meats I serve are sustainable and come from smaller local farms.

Too Many Chives; How to Store Herbs; Where to Buy Field Guide to Herbs & Spices

Everyone should have this guide to herbs and spices on their bookshelves

Everyone should have this guide to herbs and spices on their bookshelves

If you’ve got far too many chives–and they’re doing so well with all the rain we’ve been getting, see my tips for using chives which appear in this article in the Washington Post Food Section: http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/food/herb-dilemmas-solved-by-the-bunch/2013/06/11/e130e822-cca5-11e2-8845-d970ccb04497_story.html.

Of all the books I’ve written, Field Guide to Herbs & Spices is still a personal favorite that I turn to again and again. I include the names of each herb and spice in 15 to 20 languages, depending on where in the world it is used most, their scientific names, common uses around the world, characteristics, how to choose, store, and use them, flavor affinities, and simple preparations and recipes. The book has been translated into French and Spanish. I had to come up with 240 (!) different herbs and spices to do the photos and had shipments arriving from Australia, Sri Lanka, Wellsweep Farm–an amazing herb farm in New Jersey–Mexico, the Caribbean, Italy, Greece, and Turkey. So much fun! My dream is to write another spice book, this time focusing on spice blends.

How to store herbs and spices from an article I was interviewed for in Real Simple Magazinehttp://www.realsimple.com/food-recipes/shopping-storing/herbs-spices/best-way-store-herbs-00000000015652/index.html.

Here’s a link to the World Spice Merchant’s page about my book: http://www.worldspice.com/wares/field-guide-to-herbs-spices. Check out the gorgeous blossoming chives on the cover from my own herb garden. The white blossoms from Chives chives are also delicious–just make sure to pull the blossoms off the tougher calyx for both types before using.

 

 

 

 

Aliza Green is a Creative and Innovative Food Consultant Specializing in International & Sustainable Cuisine

Aliza Green is a culinary innovator, a ground-breaking chef and industry leader, and a creative and experienced consultant. Her specialties include sustainable foods, local/regional cooking, made-from-scratch recipes, seasonal produce, herbs & spices, fish & seafood, kosher cuisine, Italian cuisine, fresh pasta, gelato, homestyle baking, Mediterranean cuisine, soupmaking, healthy cooking.  

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