I've been day dreaming of Morocco for years now. Landscapes awash with sand, doorways painted bright turquoise, and dirty street markets flicker through my mind as I doze off. I want to see Morocco. I want to taste the flavors of North African cuisine on my tongue and I want to know what it smells like. While I don't always admit it, I'm a lot like my Dad: he taught me to wander, to see the world. He taught me to embrace "from scratch" recipes, and he showed me world cuisine (Thanks, Dad!).
As you may have gathered in my recent tropical vacation post, when I can't hop a plane, I travel with my tastebuds. While I've been dreaming of Morocco for years (seriously, it's been on the top of my travel wish list for 6 or 7 years), I have yet to make the trip.
In my day dreams I can be more creative than I might be if I knew what traditional Moroccan food actually entailed. It's liberating really--my minds is free to pair traditional spice blends with less traditional produce items. Case in point: Broccoli is actually a Mediterranean vegetable, but it works well (really well) with Za'atar, a toasted, nutty, herbaceous spice blend used in North Africa and Middle Eastern cooking.
You can buy Za'atar at some grocery stores, but it is actually pretty simple to make. To me, traveling is all about awakening your senses: what you see, what you feel, what you taste, and what you smell. Make your own Za'atar at home. Toasting the spices fills your kitchen with the sweet scent of toasted sesame seeds, sumac, and thyme. It smells like a Moroccan kitchen and, as my Dad might point out: homemade just tastes better.
Serves: 4 | Total Time: 40 minutes
- 1/2 red onion
- 1 large sweet potato
- 1 medium eggplant
- 1/2 head cauliflower
- Generous amount of olive oil
- Note: you may also test out other veggies! Try broccoli, summer squash, winter squash, etc. For the spice blend (Za’atar-inspired):
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon ground sumac
- 1/2 teaspoon dried dill
- 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Note: classic Za’atar does not include garlic, salt and pepper, but all three really help this recipe taste delicious! For serving:
- 1/4 cup minced parsley
- Preheat oven to 450°F. Dice the veggies into equal-sized pieces. Spread out on sheet pan, and drizzle with olive oil, tossing the veggies to coat.
- Combine the spices in a small bowl, stirring to incorporate. Then, sprinkle over the vegetables generously.
- Place vegetables in oven and bake for 35-40 minutes, until all of the vegetables are cooked through, and the eggplant and cauliflower is beginning to brown.
- Garnish with parsley and serve hot.