November 8, 2012

Currently in my house: baby asleep, Jill working on her laptop on the couch next to me, and my mom rustling around in the guest bedroom.

My mom is here because my mom LIVES here.  Well, not in this house (that’s temporary until the moving truck with all of her stuff comes next week), but in this town.  In our neighborhood, in fact.  Less than two miles from our house!

This has been the season of major life transitions for the Mehra women; I became a working mom, she became a retired grandmother.  And we both said goodbye to the house I grew up in, the house where we last spent time with my father, the house with the yard my mother spent hundreds of hours in over the years, gardening like a crazy woman—the very same yard in which my friends and I played-pretend and climbed the side-yard fence, even though we weren’t supposed to.

I am thrilled, of course, that my mom is here, that I get to see her every day, that she gets to see her grandson every day, that we are no longer separated by hundreds of miles.  I am eager to recreate our relationship in this new context and build a whole separate set of memories and traditions as a family.  But even with all of the joy, I can’t help but feel sad at the ending of an era.  I will miss that house; I will miss my regular trips to Memphis.  I miss my father, always.

Nostalgia can be a trap, I know, and I don’t want to get caught in it.  My memory dances around how things used to be and my imagination wonders how things will be; maybe I should work on just being here with what is happening right now: my three favorite people in the world are together under one roof.  Right now, I am a very lucky so-and-so.

recipe from Cook Almost Anything

When I came across this recipe, I was excited to give it a try; I have a bit of a fascination with Morocco and Moroccan food.  I had seen several recipes calling for ras el hanout (including the one below), and had assumed that the spice blend would be difficult to come by or make.  As it turns out, I already had the requisite ingredients on hand but had never combined them in this particular way.

The resulting blend was incredibly aromatic without being overpowering or too heady.  I think it would make a wonderful rub for grilled meat, and plan to employ it again with other roasted vegetables.  As with all spice blends, feel free to tailor to suit your tastes.

Morocco is at the top of my travel bucket list, but for now I may have to settle for channeling its smells with the little jar of ras el hanout that lives in my spice cabinet!


2 teaspoons coriander seeds

2 teaspoons cumin seeds

1 teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon cardamom seeds

½ teaspoon fennel seeds

½ teaspoon black peppercorns

½ teaspoon ground cloves

½ teaspoon cayenne

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

¼ teaspoon ground ginger

¼ teaspoon salt

Over medium-low heat, toast the seeds and peppercorns in a frying pan.  Give them about 3-4 minutes, or until they smell deeply fragrant, jiggling the pan occasionally to prevent scorching. Cool, then combine with the rest of the ingredients in a spice grinder and process until smooth.

Yields a little less than a quarter cup; store in an airtight container in cool, dry place.


adapted from Gourmet, May 2008

I wish I had a photograph to show you of this lovely, hearty dish, but my computer seems to have eaten the shots that Sonya took for me about a month ago.  Seriously, no idea where they went.  And she is currently on vacation in Belize, where I am not going to bother her.  So please use your imagination on this one!  It was delicious.

The original recipe called for zucchini and carrots instead of butternut squash, so feel free to change up the vegetables used here.


½ head cauliflower, cut into 1-inch florets

½ large or 1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded, & cut into 1-inch cubes

1 fennel bulb (reserve stalks for another use), cored and cut into ½-inch wedges

1 large red onion, peeled & cut into 1-inch chunks

3 garlic cloves, very thinly sliced lengthwise

1 15-oz. can diced tomatoes

2 cups cooked chickpeas*

½ cup dried Turkish apricots, halved

1 cinnamon stick

2 tsp. ras-el-hanout

1 tsp. honey

¾ tsp. red-pepper flakes


olive oil

garnish: ¼ cup chopped cilantro, sliced/chopped almonds
serve with: cooked barley or quinoa

Preheat the oven to 400°.  Toss the cauliflower, fennel, butternut squash, & onion with generous amounts of olive oil and the ras-el-hanout.  Transfer the vegetables to a shallow, foil-lined baking dish or casserole and sprinkle with salt.  Roast until they are tender and just beginning to brown, approximately 25-35 minutes.

Once the vegetables have cooked, heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in your biggest skillet and add the garlic, cooking to infuse the oil with flavor.  Add the apricots, cinnamon stick, and red-pepper flakes, cooking until fragrant.  Pour in the tomatoes with their juice, then fill the empty can with water and add that along with the chickpeas and honey.

Spoon the roasted vegetables into the mixture and gently stir everything to combine.  Simmer until the liquid has reduced a bit, about 5 minutes.  Check for salt and add as needed.  Serve.

*I soaked & cooked dried chickpeas for this dish, instead of using canned–it’s super-easy to do and produces a wonderfully creamy texture.  Cheap, too!



  1. I love ras el hanout and this looks like a really good recipe. I use one in the UK from Seasoned Pioneers that also contains rose petals and lavender (it works, honest). And love using the spice in coucous or a lamb tagine. I have to say my attempt to make spice cookies with it may have been a step too far!

    Comment by Rachel K — November 9, 2012 @ 3:22 am

  2. Another great post and I am so excited for you and the wonderful transitions that are taking place. Living in Morocco, I take for granted that ras el hanout is available pre-made here, but I will file this recipe aside for when I return to the U.S. and will need it!! 🙂

    Comment by Lauren Bernstein — November 9, 2012 @ 6:20 am

  3. This looks incredibly flavorful! I miss my mom, I wish she lived close to me but she lives 6h away now 🙁

    Comment by Kristi @ My San Francisco Kitchen — November 11, 2012 @ 8:27 pm

Leave a comment