Milk Street: Moroccan Flatbread (Ep 604)

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Moroccan Flatbreads (Khobz)
Start to finish: 2 hours (20 minutes active), plus cooling
Makes three 7-inch loaves

Khobz is a Moroccan yeasted flatbread that isn’t truly flat. It’s a low, small, pleasantly
dense round loaf present at almost every meal and, being the daily bread, is typically
quite plain in flavor. But the bread that home cook Houda Mehdi showed us how to make in her kitchen in Fes, Morocco, was fantastically flavored with sesame, flax and fennel seeds, as well as semolina and wheat bran. Hers was the most delicious khobz we tasted
during our time in Fes. We adapted her recipe, adding a small measure of olive oil for
a slightly more tender crumb and to lend a little richness, and we baked our breads in a
475°F oven. Leftovers will keep in an airtight container for up to two days; to reheat, wrap the bread in foil and warm in a 400°F oven for about 10 minutes.

Don’t add all of the all-purpose flour at the outset. Only 390 grams (3 cups) is combined with the semolina, wheat bran, seeds, salt and yeast; the remainder is added only after the dough has rested for 20 minutes. Withholding some of the all-purpose flour and resting the dough allows the semolina and wheat bran to hydrate, which results in a more manageable dough and better-textured baked crumb.

INGREDIENTS
618 grams (43⁄4 cups) all-purpose flour, divided, plus more as needed and for dusting
202 grams (1 cup plus 3 tablespoons) semolina flour
30 grams (1⁄2 cup) wheat bran
56 grams (1⁄3 cup) sesame seeds, toasted
80 grams (1⁄2 cup) flax seeds
1 tablespoon fennel seeds, lightly crushed
1 tablespoon instant yeast
1 teaspoon table salt
21⁄2 cups warm water (110°F)
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for the baking sheet

INSTRUCTIONS

In a stand mixer with the dough hook, mix 390 grams (3 cups) of the all-purpose flour, the semolina, wheat bran, sesame seeds, flax seeds, fennel seeds, yeast and salt on low speed until well combined, about 1 minute. With the mixer running, slowly add the
water and oil. Mix on low until the dough comes together, about 5 minutes, scraping the bowl once or twice. Cover the bowl and let the dough rest for 20 minutes.

With the mixer running on low, add the remaining 228 grams (13⁄4 cups) all-purpose flour and knead until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the sides of the bowl, about 7 minutes; if the dough is sticky and clings to the sides of the bowl, knead in additional flour 1 tablespoon at a time until it reaches the proper consistency.

Lightly brush a rimmed baking sheet with oil. Dust the counter with flour and turn the dough out onto it, then divide the dough into 3 pieces. Using your hands cupped around the dough, form each piece into a taut ball on an unfloured area of the counter. Press each ball into a 7-inch round about 3⁄4 inch high, then place on the prepared baking sheet; stagger the rounds to fit. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rise at room temperature until nearly doubled in size, about 1 hour; it’s fine if the rounds end up touching each other. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 475°F with a rack in the middle position.

When the breads
are properly risen, use a sharp knife to score a slit about 3 inches long into the surface of each round. Bake until the breads are well browned, 18 to 20 minutes. Cool on the baking sheet for about 5 minutes, then transfer the breads to a wire
rack and cool completely.


Moroccan Pepper and Tomato Salad (Taktouka)
Start to finish: 1 hour (15 minutes active)
Servings: 6 to 8

The popular Moroccan salad called taktouka is not a toss of fresh vegetables to be served
chilled. Rather, it’s a mix of bell peppers, tomatoes, garlic, spices and olive oil that is
gently stewed until the textures become soft and velvety and the flavors fuse. Chunky and
relish-like, it is commonly served warm or at room temperature alongside the Moroccan
bread known as khobz. Our taktouka is based on the recipe taught to us by Houda Mehdi, a home cook who resides in Fes, in northeastern Morocco. Mehdi cooks hers in a clay pot with a lavish amount of olive oil; we use a Dutch oven. To be efficient, prep the tomatoes and garlic while the peppers cook. The salad will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to five days—in fact, the taste improves over time—but bring it to room temperature before serving.

Don’t try to speed the cooking by cranking up the heat. Slow, gentle stewing ensures that the vegetables become silky-soft and that their flavors remain pure and bright. If the
vegetables are fully softened but still watery after 25 to 30 minutes of stewing, remove the lid and cook for about another five minutes to evaporate some of the moisture, but be
careful not to overdo it so the taktouka does not wind up mushy.

INGREDIENTS
2 medium green bell peppers (12 ounces total), stemmed, seeded and finely chopped
2 medium red bell peppers (12 ounces total), stemmed, seeded and finely chopped
1⁄3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
5 ripe medium tomatoes (13⁄4 pounds total), cored, seeded and roughly chopped
4 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
1⁄2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1⁄2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon harissa paste

INSTRUCTIONS
In a large Dutch oven
over medium, combine the peppers, oil and 1 teaspoon salt. Cover and cook over medium, stirring occasionally, until the peppers are wilted and tender, 10 to 15 minutes.

Stir in the tomatoes, garlic, paprika, turmeric, cumin, harissa and 1⁄2 teaspoon pepper. Cover, reduce to low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are soft and tender, 25 to 30 minutes. The peppers should be fully softened yet hold their shape, and the tomatoes should be mostly broken down.

If the mixture is very watery, cook, uncovered, over medium-low, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, up to 5 minutes; do not overcook or the vegetables will become mushy. Transfer to a serving dish, then taste and season with salt and pepper. Serve warm or at room temperature.


Moroccan Harissa-Garlic Shrimp (Crevettes Pil Pil)
Start to finish: 30 minutes
Servings: 4 to 6

This stewy, spicy Moroccan shrimp dish is deeply rich and flavorful but astoundingly
simple to make. The recipe is based on the version of crevettes pil pil that home cook
Houda Mehdi demonstrated for us in her kitchen in Fes, Morocco. All of the elements—
the warm spices, sweet-tart tomatoes, citrusy lemon and herbal cilantro—together are a
delicious match for briny-sweet shrimp. The amount of olive oil—1⁄2 cup—may seem
excessive, but that much is needed to gently oil-poach the shrimp, leaving them plump,
tender and full of flavor. We find that salting the shrimp and letting them stand for about
15 minutes allows the seasoning to penetrate, so don’t bypass this step. Serve with warm
flatbread for soaking up the sauce.

Don’t leave the heat on medium after adding the tomatoes and shrimp. Be sure to turn the burner down to low so the shrimp cook gently, and once they begin to turn opaque, remove the skillet from the heat. The shrimp will finish cooking with the residual heat trapped in the covered pan.

INGREDIENTS
1 1⁄2 pounds extra-large shrimp (21/25 per pound), peeled (tails removed),
deveined and patted dry
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
1⁄2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
6 medium garlic cloves, finely grated
2 tablespoons harissa paste
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1⁄2 teaspoon ground turmeric
8 ounces (2 medium) ripe tomatoes, cored, seeded and chopped
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons lemon juice, plus 1 lemon, thinly sliced

INSTRUCTIONS
In a medium bowl
, toss the shrimp with 1⁄2 teaspoon salt. Let stand at room temperature for about 15 minutes.

In a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the garlic and harissa; cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the paprika, cumin, coriander and turmeric, then cook, stirring, until the mixture is darkened and fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes.

Reduce to low and stir in the tomatoes and shrimp. Distribute the mixture in an even layer, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the shrimp begin to curl and turn opaque on the exteriors, 2 to 4 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and let stand, covered, until the shrimp are opaque throughout, about 2 minutes.

Stir in the cilantro and lemon juice, then taste and season with salt and pepper. Line a wide, shallow serving bowl with the lemon slices and pour in the shrimp and sauce.


Salmon with Matbucha
Start to finish: 35 minutes
Servings: 4

Matbucha is a North African cooked “salad” made with olive oil, garlic, tomatoes, sweet
peppers and spicy chilies. With a jammy, spoonable consistency, it typically is served
as a dip or spread, but we think it makes a delicious sauce that complements the
richness of salmon. In our matbucha, we use roasted red peppers, which are sweet and
silky straight out of the jar, and we ratchet up the complexity with some harissa paste
(and/or cumin) and chopped olives (and/or) capers. Serve with crusty bread or warm
flatbread for dipping into the sauce.

INGREDIENTS
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
3 teaspoons grated lemon zest, divided, plus 2 tablespoons lemon juice
3 teaspoons sweet paprika, divided
2 teaspoons harissa paste OR ground cumin, divided OR both
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
Four 6-ounce center-cut salmon fillets (each 1 to 11⁄4 inches thick), patted dry
141⁄2-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, crushed by hand
1 cup roasted red peppers, patted dry and sliced
3 medium garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1⁄2 cup pitted black OR green olives, roughly chopped OR 1⁄4 cup drained capers OR a combination

INSTRUCTIONS
In a small bowl, stir together 2 tablespoons oil, 1 teaspoon lemon zest, 1 teaspoon paprika, 1⁄2 teaspoon harissa (and/or cumin, if using), 1⁄2 teaspoon salt and 1⁄4 teaspoon pepper. Rub this mixture all over the salmon and set aside.

In a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-low, combine the remaining 2 tablespoons oil, the tomatoes with juices, roasted peppers, garlic, the remaining 2 teaspoons paprika and the remaining 11⁄2 teaspoons harissa (and/or cumin, if using). Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is thick and jammy, 10 to 15 minutes.

Stir in the remaining 2 teaspoons lemon zest. Nestle the salmon fillets skin side up in the tomato mixture. Re-cover and cook until the thickest parts of the fillets reach 120°F or are translucent at the very center when cut into, 6 to 8 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat. If desired, carefully peel off and discard the skin from each fillet, then transfer the fillets to individual plates, flipping them skin (or skinned) side down. Return the sauce to simmer over medium. Add the olives and lemon juice, then cook, stirring, until heated through, about 2 minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Spoon the sauce over and around the salmon.

Optional garnish: Chopped fresh cilantro OR flat-leaf parsley OR thinly sliced jalapeño chili OR a combination


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PHOTO CREDITS: CHRISTOPHER KIMBALL’S MILK STREET