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Mourad Lahlou never intended to become a chef and open an acclaimed restaurant in the U.S. that would one day garner a Michelin star. He

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Mourad: New Moroccan Offers Modern Recipes of an Ancient Cuisine

mourad.jpg
Mourad Lahlou never intended to become a chef and open an acclaimed restaurant in the U.S. that would one day garner a Michelin star. He didn't even cook as a boy growing up in Marrakesh. But food was central to his home life and family. In Mourad: New Moroccan, Lahlou shares his journey from growing up in Morocco, to studying economics in California. He worked in Moroccan restaurants around the Bay Area, but Mourad never cooked. It was back at his apartment where he recalled flavors and dishes from his childhood and cooked them from memory, until finally his brother--a restaurant veteran--convinced him they should open their own restaurant.

While this hardbound book is nearly 400 pages, Lahlou has an economy of words and cooking advice that makes each page valuable in improving your culinary repertoire. On cooking oils, in the book's introduction, he recommends different oils for different applications, such as finishing vegetables, meat or fish, or searing and high heat cooking. He demystifies ingredients like citric acid, xanthan gum and lechithin, but otherwise just introduces a few ingredients you'll encounter in the recipes, such as capers, rose water and orange blossom water.

There are seven chapters however in a section called "Seven Things," dedicated to the building blocks of Moroccan cooking, like preserved lemons, charmoula, tagine, and harissa. The Spice is a Verb chapter introduces you to essential Moroccan spice blends such as ras el hanout and vadouvan, but also talks about fundamentals of cooking with spices, such as buying, storing and grinding spices, but also balancing sweet and savory, salt and acid, and pepper and heat. The chapter on couscous gives you step-by-step instructions for hand rolling semolina for creating the Moroccan staple.

While there are many carnivorous recipes in the book, there are several vegetarian recipes, such as charred eggplant spread, deep fried spinach roll, braised artichokes, and lentil soup with date balls. There are also recipes for grilled flatbreads, harissa rolls and other breads. Plus recipes for desserts such as curry ice cream, orange blossom parfait and a lavender almond roulade.

Of the 170 recipes, many are accompanied with mouthwatering photos that will inspire you to take on the challenge some of the dishes will no doubt present. If you don't already have the spice blends on hand, some of the dishes may be a multi-step (or multi-day) process. But for dishes such as Berbere-cured confit duck legs, lamb bacon, and beef cheeks with carrot jam and a harissa emulsion...the work will no doubt reward your hard work with delicious results.

Mourad Lahlou will be in Seattle this week to promote Mourad: New Moroccan. On Thursday, January 19 from 6:30 to 8 p.m., Book Larder has partnered with the Pantry at Delancey for a book signing including Moroccan appetizers from the book, tea and conversation for $60. Your reservation includes a signed copy of the $40 book (taxes included), or you may reserve without the book for $25.

On Friday, January 20 at 6:30 p.m., Lahlou will be at Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park for a free book signing.

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