Moorish Fusion Cuisine: Conquering the New World
When we hear the term "moor," most people think of Shakespeare’s tragic hero Othello. But that deeply complicated literary character actually comes from a culture much older than Shakespearean England, a culture that survives today through an array of ingredients we use in everyday cooking.
In his new book "Moorish Fusion Cuisine: Conquering the New World," (Emerald Book Company; October 2011; $38.00/hardcover; ISBN: 978-1-934572-98-6), acclaimed chef Zouhair Zairi (Chef ZZ) combines the traditional recipes and flavors of his Moorish family with a refreshingly new sense of food as a creative venture.
The Moors represent a people of Arab and Berber heritage who settled in Northern Africa, mainly Morocco. The rich Moorish cuisine has inspired the world through the innovative use of spices and ingredients indigenous to North Africa, including olives, almonds, saffron, grapes, pomegranates, and artichokes.
Moorish cuisine incorporated cinnamon, chilies, and other spices traded from as far as China and from other areas that had been visited or conquered by Arabian forces. Their diet could be described as Mediterranean, containing an abundance of ingredients from their region: fish, shellfish, citrus fruits, aromatic essences, and flowers.
Relying heavily upon memories of his mother’s and grandmother’s fare in his youth, Chef ZZ’s ground-breaking cookbook, Moorish Fusion Cuisine, introduces a unique approach to a mouthwatering ancient gastronomy and represents a personal homage to the Moorish cuisine of his homeland.
"My approach is to showcase the ingredients and keep it simple. I have a knack of combining herbs and spices and transforming them into complex, aromatic blends that I sprinkle onto meat, poultry, and fish. I enjoy using traditional ingredients, like rose petals, orange blossom water, and precious argan oil, in new ways. I add rose water to my vinaigrettes, which adds a beautiful fragrance and is soothing to the palate."
"Moorish Fusion Cuisine" has been compiled by a Moroccan-born chef and represents authentic Moorish cuisine fused with new elements reflecting Chef ZZ’s adopted home of Maui, Hawaii, artfully combined to create fresh new ideas for home cooks everywhere. Few cookbooks on the cuisine of the Moors have been written. Chef ZZ approaches traditional recipes with an eye for lighter ingredients, while never sacrificing Moorish authenticity.
"By reading this book you will discover the passion that Zouhair Zairi has for his Moroccan roots. There is nothing as noble as carrying on the old traditions of an ethnic culture and blending them with modern ways. Zouhair creates modern Moorish cuisine without sacrificing the traditional flavors, while also retaining basic cooking techniques," says Christian Chemin, Executive Chef, Maître Cuisinier de France, Member, L’Academie Culinaire de France
Zouhair Zairi left his family in Morocco for America at the tender age of 19. His first job was washing dishes in a Mediterranean restaurant in Atlanta. After a while his responsibilities were increased and he was encouraged to learn all aspects of the business. His skill in management and his artist’s eye for food presentation led him to a rewarding career in the hospitality/culinary industry. His gastronomic abilities include casual to fine dining, planning and execution of large banquets, and cooking Southern food.
For two decades he worked on both sides of the house. As an exceptionally gifted executive banquet chef, he created intricate food presentations for the 1996 Olympic tennis team’s "Gala Affair." Training in classic cuisine, Zouhair advanced to become an executive sous chef, mentored by esteemed Master Chef of France Christian Chemin. With Christian’s guidance he planned and hosted the nineteenth Master Chefs of France elite dinner.
In 2002 Zouhair became the executive chef and director of his own restaurant, Spices in Maui. It was named Best New Restaurant by Maui No Ka ’Oi Magazine. Two years later he moved on from Spices to work at a five-diamond resort where his abilities and passion earned him the coveted Culinary Excellence Award from the JW Marriott Resort & Spa and a Certificate of Appreciation from the White House.
Now, at the age of forty, "ZZ" has come full circle. Having accomplished his dream of becoming a success in the culinary world, his greatest joy is spending time at home with his wife and two sons in Maui, while creating and sharing new culinary delights with home cooks.
Tomato, Fennel, and Saffron Soup with Olive Oil-Poached Artichokes
Serves 6 to 8
In this recipe I combine two of my favorite ingredients, fennel and artichoke. This light, healthy, saffron broth is a perfect soup any time of the year.
Preparation: 25 minutes
Cooking: 1 hour, 30 minutes
4 whole artichokes, cleaned and quartered (leave stem on for presentation)
1 cup olive oil, reserving
2 quarts fennel broth (see recipe below)
1 pinch saffron, toasted
1 shallot, julienned
2 garlic cloves, sliced very thin
1 whole fennel, julienned (reserve top part for stock)
8 organic grape tomatoes or cherry tomatoes
Kosher salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Zest of 1 lemon
Fresh parsley leaves
Poach the artichokes as follows. In a small sauce pot, over medium heat, place the artichoke quarters in the olive oil and
poach for about 15 to 20 minutes or until the artichokes are tender. Keep warm.
In a medium soup pot, bring the fennel broth to warm, add the toasted saffron, and simmer for 30 to 45 minutes, allowing the saffron to release all its flavors.
Meanwhile, in a separate soup pot, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Sweat the shallot and garlic for a few minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure the shallot and garlic don’t burn. Add the julienned fennel and cook for a few more minutes. Pour the saffron broth into the mixture and cook for 15 more minutes.
In a small sauté pan, heat ∏ tablespoon of oil over high heat and sauté the tomatoes for a few seconds or until their skins start to blister. Add to the soup and simmer for 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
To serve, ladle the soup into medium bowls and top with artichoke quarters crisscross. Sprinkle with lemon zest and
garnish with fresh parsley leaves. Serve at once.
Yield: about 3 quarts
2 fennel bulbs with tops, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
2 bay leaves
4 parsley stems
4 quarts cold water
Combine all ingredients with 4 quarts of water in a large stockpot. Bring to a boil and simmer for 45 minutes. Strain and reduce to about 3 quarts. Chill and use according to recipe. The broth can keep for up to 5 days.