Thursday, February 01, 2007

Appetite for seduction: Moroccan nights & forbidden fruit

When I first moved to San Francisco, 14 years ago, I was struck by the late September sunsets that paint the sky fuschia and firey orange. A friend's father told me they were called Moroccan sunsets, and the association has stuck ever since. Anyway, it seemed an especially fortuitous omen the other day when just such a sunset appeared--so far out of season--as we were about to create a Moroccan meal. Through a rather involved series of events, I ended up hosting a party with a private chef, who shared her recipe for a lamb tagine and other dishes she learned when traveling through North Africa. Thanks to Miz Kelly Molloy Whalen for sharing her divine recipes and inspiring us all.

I intend to post them all, of course, but you know what they say about good intentions. Oh, you don't? Well, apparently, the road to hell is paved with them. So, Hades here I come. In the meantime, the dish I will show you now is oranges, bathed in a sweet spicy syrup.

It's a simple, healthy dessert, but one that tastes so exotic and alluring, I'll call it forbidden fruit. It's a fabulous alternative to the regular apres-entree confections, and its flavors are ever so seductive. This recipe is for 2 (perfect for Valentines Day, oui?) If you are serving more people, you'll want to double or triple it.

Forbidden Fruit

2 seedless oranges, rind and pith removed, and sliced 1/2" thick
juice of the two oranges (reserve when cutting)
Orange Flower Water
2 medjool dates
handful fresh mint
1 T. honey
I cinnamon stick, broken into pieces
1/2 Nutmeg, cracked in pieces
Pinch ground cardamom
3 whole cloves
black peppercorns

Slice oranges and arrange them on a serving platter or individual dishes. Sliver dates over the oranges. Then, in a small bowl combine juice from the oranges, orange flower water and honey. Drizzle oranges and dates with o.j. mixture.

In a spice grinder, combine all the spices until finely ground. Sprinkle lightly over oranges and dates (you'll have leftover spices you can use the next time you make the dish). Garnish with fresh mint and serve immediately.

Now, share it with someone special. And eat it with your fingers, letting the honey drip down your chin. Or, if you're flying solo, pick up a copy of one of my favorite books, Paul Bowles' The Sheltering Sky. You'll be experiencing the exotique je ne sais quois of Morocco in no time.


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