A cold month deserves some hot warm spicy food and Patricia Wolfert’s “The Food of Morocco” supplies us with a large dose of sunshine, warmth and spice. The Charm City Cookbook Club girls got together with their men and a few last minute guests and cooked up a spicy, lemony, Moroccan storm.

We started with some olives and spiced almonds from Trader Joe’s. You need something to keep you going while you cook. Elizabeth then took us into salad with a beautifully prepared blood orange, romaine and toasted almond salad. The salad called for rose flower water which we thought Maria was going to bring, but she had already marinated her raisins in it so we used the raisin infused rose flower water with the lemon for the dressing. Beautiful and tasty.

Here is the table all set with Elizabeth’s salads.

Meanwhile everyone is frantically cooking in the kitchen. Chris and Pam, who were last minute invites because of a drop out, took up the challenge of making bread. The Msemmen pancakes, made with semolina flour, were an intensive process involving making the dough, letting it rise, then pressing it into a large square. Thanks goes to Pam for the patient patting of buttery squares.

After this you brush with Oudi (thyme scented butter) or Ghee if you’re cheating, fold it into a smaller square and fry. As you can see,¬† Chris has a deft hand balancing¬† frying and drinking wine.¬† Note as well Maria’s tarte tatin and Julie’s soup simmering in the background.

Julie’s butternut squash and tomato soup was divine served with the bread. The goat cheese she put on top was so fragrant that people were sneaking it as she ladled the soup in the bowls and topped it with the harissa and cheese.

Next up the main course and side. Alayne had chosen the winter squash and caramelized onion dish and she caramelized and caramelized and caramelized. She cut the squash in 1/2 and roasted it cut side down in the oven. Then combined the two, adding toasted almonds and raisins and popped it in the oven.

I decided to make braised lamb with fresh spinach, confit lemon and olives. My lamb had been sauteed before the cookbook club members had arrived and had been simmering on the stove with it’s spices for 3 hours. I sauteed the spinach:

then added it and the olives and the confit lemon slices. We served this with Finn’s couscous that he made in the traditional manner, adding water and steaming three times. This process takes some time and is finished off with the thyme scented oudi he had made as well.

Dinner was complex, spicy and lemony with hints of olive. The butternut squash casserole and couscous were a perfect foil to the lamb and spinach dish.

All in all I felt the book was a success. It brought a bit of the warm Mediterranean to cold wintry Baltimore. The complexity of the recipes challenged us, the book had beautiful photography and cultural notes throughout. I would highly recommend this book to anyone wanting to explore Moroccan cuisine.