moroccan vegetable tagine + ras el hanout yogurt

ras el hanout yogurt dip via millys-kitchen.com

People often ask me what we eat at home. They imagine, I think, each of our meals must be an imaginative affair involving hours spent in the kitchen and crowned with an elaborate dessert. 

This is not even close to the truth.

I used to feel guilty about this. I have food-industry friends who have the magic ability to turn a pile of disparate ingredients into a restaurant-worthy meal. These particular friends (a ridiculously stylish and affable couple to boot) seem impervious to the siren song of a bowl of breakfast cereal for dinner.

moroccan vegetable tagine via millys-kitchen.com

I used to think settling for anything less than a beautiful home-cooked repast was a small failure. My inner perfectionist looked on scornfully as I scarfed cold pizza for breakfast or cobbled a pile of wacky leftovers into a “meal”.

Then one day last year, I stepped back and looked at this pile of crazy thinking. “Seriously?”, I asked myself. “We both know that may be possible for some people, but it certainly isn’t for you, my dear.” There simply aren’t enough hours in the day to craft an elaborate meal each evening. So I let it go.

It helped that I’d recently returned from a trip to Brussels and Paris where I’d seen friends throw together delicious, seasonal meals on the fly. Steamed artichokes dipped in garlic yogurt with a bottle of white wine. Scrambled eggs and mushrooms on toast. A few slices of ham and a wedge of cheese with a handful of radishes from the garden. I decided these sur le pouce meals were just what I wanted my weeknight suppers to be. Simple. Straightforward. Delicious. 

moroccan vegetable tagine via millys-kitchen.com

After a little experimenting, I've found my groove. Scrambled eggs are my new best friend. A plate of charcuterie and cheese comes together in 5 minutes. A jar of mustardy vinaigrette shaken together on a Sunday night makes salads a cinch all week long. And--another trick I learned from the French--a glass of good wine elevates even the humblest fare.

For those of you who feel pressure to produce a culinary masterpiece seven nights a week, I suggest you give the on-the-fly method of weeknight dining a go. If you need a little nudge, I have two in-a-flash recipes for you from my friend Mehdi.

ras el hanout yogurt dip via millys-kitchen.com
ras el hanout yogurt dip via millys-kitchen.com


In addition to being a charming human being, Mehdi is also an amazing cook. Oh, and he knows a ton about Moroccan food, too. His company, Villa Jerada, started off as a venture to import his neighbor’s olive oil from Morocco to the U.S. It has grown to include high quality Moroccan oils, spices and artisan-made goods. When Mehdi stopped by a couple weeks ago to drop off some olive oil and a tin of his wildly fragrant saffron, he offered to show me some new ways to work Moroccan ingredients and techniques into quick weeknight meals. (Score!)

ras el hanout yogurt dip via millys-kitchen.com

His vegetable tagine takes about 15 minutes to prep and turns out fragrant and silky with olive oil. His three-ingredient Moroccan-spiced yogurt is the essence of simplicity. (And super addictive. You’ve been warned). Accompanied by a plate of crunchy vegetables and a soft-boiled egg or two, these recipes make a perfect on-the-fly summer meal. 

Don’t forget the wine.

Moroccan Vegetable Tagine

  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 medium yukon gold potatoes, peeled and sliced ¼ inch thick
  • 1 large tomato, cored and sliced ¼ inch thick
  • 1-2 Anaheim peppers, seeded and sliced lengthwise ¼ inch thick
  • 1 clove garlic, very thinly sliced
  • About 1 ½ cups water
  • 3-4 tablespoons best quality olive oil
  • 1-2 tablespoons harissa
  • 1 teaspoon kefta rub
  • 15 saffron threads
  • Sea salt + freshly ground black pepper
  • About 8 small sprigs cilantro, plus additional to garnish

*Notes: I can’t recommend the whole line of Villa Jerada spices, rubs and olive oils highly enough! I’ve been cooking Moroccan food for over a decade and these are the best ingredients I’ve ever worked with. In this dish, I used Mehdi’s Dessert Miracle olive oil along with Villa Jerada harissa, kefta rub and saffron. See below for Seattle stockists and online resources.

- If you can’t find Anaheim peppers or if you want a milder or spicier option, feel free to substitute another pepper. I think this would be nice with either very thin slices of jalapeño or serrano (to mitigate the heat) or ¼-inch slices of red bell pepper.

moroccan vegetable tagine via millys-kitchen.com

Scatter the onions over the bottom of a large sauté pan or tagine and salt lightly. Tile the sliced potatoes over the onions. Arrange the sliced tomatoes, peppers and garlic over the potatoes. Pour the water into the bottom of the pan. The precise amount will vary slightly based on the size of your pan, but you want enough to form a thin layer over the bottom of the pan, just covering the onions. Pour the olive oil over the vegetables. (Don’t skimp on the olive oil, it’s part of what makes the potatoes silky and soft when they’re done cooking.) Dot the harissa over the vegetables. Season generously with salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Sprinkle with the kefta rub and saffron then arrange the cilantro sprigs over the top.

Bring the water to a gentle simmer over medium heat then cover and cook until most of the water has evaporated, the potatoes are cooked through and the tomatoes are starting to fall apart, about 20 minutes. You may need to reduce the heat a little. If there’s still a little water in the bottom of the pan when the vegetables are done, remove the lid and cook off the excess.

Sprinkle with additional cilantro to garnish, if desired, and serve in the pan.

Makes 3-4 servings.

Recipe by Mehdi Boujrada

ras el hanout yogurt dip via millys-kitchen.com

Ras El Hanout Yogurt

  • 1 ½ cups full-fat greek yogurt or labneh
  • 2 teaspoons Villa Jerada ras el hanout spice blend
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • Best quality extra virgin olive oil, to serve
  • Raw sliced vegetables, to serve

*Note: I love all the Villa Jerada products but the ras el hanout spice blend is especially fantastic. It's much more delicate and floral than any other version of the spice blend I've tried. It works perfectly with the honey in this dip. 

Whisk the yogurt, ras el hanout and honey together in a medium bowl. Set aside for 10 minutes to allow the flavors to come together. Serve with vegetables and topped with best quality olive oil. (I used Les Terroirs de Marrakech extra-virgin olive oil.)

Recipe by Mehdi Boujrada

Where to by Villa Jerada products in Seattle:


Where to buy Villa Jerada products elsewhere and online:

moroccan vegetable tagine via millys-kitchen.com

celery root gratin with apple and blue cheese

celery root gratin with apple and blue cheese

Those of you who read last year's post on Thanksgiving know that, until recently, I'd lost touch with this holiday. Several things led to the rift between Thanksgiving and I. I left home for college, then grad school. My grandparents passed away. I spent several years living abroad. The ties to that steadfast notion of “home” from my childhood grew thinner and thinner until one day they were gone. Eroded by time and distance and my own apathy and self-centeredness, I suppose. For a long time, I simply couldn’t be bothered to make much of an effort.

celery root gratin with apple and blue cheese

But as I wrote last year, I've begun to embrace Thanksgiving again. I am married and settled and happy, with friends and family nearby and work that I love. Beau and I are talking about enlarging our own little family. 

I spent my 20s and most of my 30s ping-ponging around the globe, looking for The Thing that would click my life flawlessly into place. I wanted the coolest job. The most enviable husband. A perfectly decorated house with a closet full of the chicest clothes. But of course I’ve finally realized things are perfect right here--in this home I’ve built for myself. It’s far from flawless, but it’s all mine. And it has nothing to do with what I own.

celery root gratin with apple and blue cheese

This is not a new tale, I know. But it makes me happy to think on it. And it makes me particularly happy to look forward to Thanksgiving again. This year, we’ll be attending Friendsgiving at our friends Alex and Kelsey’s house. There will likely be a ridiculous amount of food, far too much wine and hopefully a highly-competitive game of Celebrities afterwards. (I kill at Celebrities. And yes, I’m one of those people when it comes to boardgames. You've been warned.)

celery root gratin with apple and blue cheese
celery root gratin with apple and blue cheese

I’m thinking I might bring this Celery Root Gratin with Apple and Blue Cheese to dinner. I always feel like serving this dish is cheating a little though, since it’s virtually impossible for guests not to like it. It’s got thinly sliced potato and earthy celery root, bathed in crème fraîche and baked until meltingly tender. There’s apple for a hint of sweetness and blue cheese adds a savory, salty, umami layer. Emerging from the oven golden and bubbling, this gratin is sexy enough to serve as a vegetarian main. And of course, it plays well with turkey and stuffing and especially tart cranberry sauce. 

As I type this and think about a Thanksgiving full of friends and games and comfort food, I realize I actually can’t wait for next Thursday. This year, it seems I have a little extra something to be thankful for. 

celery root gratin with apple and blue cheese

Celery Root Gratin with Apple and Blue Cheese

  • 1 ¼ to 1 ½ pound celery root, peeled, halved and sliced ⅛ inch thick
  • 1 large russet potato (weighing about 1 lb), peeled, halved and sliced ⅛ inch thick
  • 1 large sweet-tart apple, peeled, cored, quartered and sliced ⅛ inch thick
  • Coarse salt and freshly-ground pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups crème fraîche
  • 6 ounces blue cheese
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped chives

*Notes: If you haven’t worked with celery root (also called celeriac) before, note that they have a gnarled root end that is almost always full of dirt and will have to be cut off completely. I call for a 1 ¼ to 1 ½ pound celery root to make up for lost root end. Once your celery root is cleaned, it should weigh somewhere between 14 oz and 1 lb. But a gratin is a very accommodating thing; a little more or less celery root, potato or apple won’t hurt anything.

- You can make this in a 13 x 9-inch baking dish if you like. The gratin will be thinner and there will be more of the crispy, golden-brown top to go around. This is an especially good option if you’re going to serve the gratin as part of a holiday buffet for a lot of people. I prefer to make it in a smaller roasting pan (the one pictured measures 8 x 12 inches), which yields thicker slices. 

- This dish has always been a crowd-pleaser for me and I’ve had many sworn blue cheese haters ask for seconds. If you’re serving this to anyone who claims to dislike blue cheese (!), I have two recommendations: First, use a mild, creamy and salty blue cheese rather than a dryer, more pungent one. I recommend Fourme d’Ambert or Bleu d’Auvergne. These two French blues are delicious, fairly mild and have the added bonus of being inexpensive as far as cheeses go. A second, sneakier, option is to fail to mention that the gratin contains blue cheese. A lot of people never even realize it's there.

- If you really, REALLY hate blue cheese, just substitute another sharp, salty cheese. Sharp white cheddar or an aged gruyère would be delicious.

2015_11_Celery Root Gratin-3.jpg

Preheat the oven to 400°F and generously butter a medium baking dish or roasting pan. Arrange half of the celery root, potato and apple slices in the pan. For this first layer, you don’t need to arrange the slices very artfully as they won’t be seen, just be sure to distribute them evenly over the bottom so each bite contains some celery root, apple and potato. Generously salt and pepper this layer. Stir the  crème fraîche to loosen the consistency then pour half over the top. Spread it to the edges with a flexible spatula, if necessary. Crumble half the blue cheese over the crème fraîche.

For the top layer, neatly arrange the slices of celery root, potato and apple, overlapping them as necessary to fit them in your pan. Generously salt and pepper this layer then cover with the remaining crème fraîche and blue cheese.

Bake the gratin for 20 minutes then cover with aluminum foil and bake until the potatoes are tender (they take the longest to cook through), about 30 minutes more. Check for doneness with a paring knife; you should feel almost no resistance when you insert the knife into the gratin. Take off the aluminum foil and continue to bake until the top is deep golden brown, about 15 minutes longer. Remove the gratin from the oven and let rest for 10-15 minutes. Sprinkle with chopped chives just before serving. 

Makes about 6 servings.

celery root gratin with apple and blue cheese

warm potato, kale and octopus salad with chorizo vinaigrette

Warm Potato Kale and Octopus Salad with Chorizo Vinaigrette // Millys-Kitchen.com
Warm Potato Kale and Octopus Salad with Chorizo Vinaigrette // Millys-Kitchen.com

In May, I was in Portugal for a photography workshop with the super-talented women behind Little Upside Down Cake and Local Milk. Sanda and Beth offered guidance and encouragement as we chased light and shadow through the winding streets of Lisbon. I learned a lot. And connected with a group of inspiring, creative women from around the world.

Portugal // Millys-Kitchen.com
Portugal // Millys-Kitchen.com
Portugal // Millys-Kitchen.com

After the workshop, I wandered Lisbon and Porto solo, scouting unique restaurants, shops and markets to share on my upcoming culinary tour. Which resulted in me falling more in love with Portugal than ever. It’s funny to think how a tiny country I’d never dreamed of visiting two years ago, has fast become one of my very favorite places.

There are so many reasons to fall for Portugal. The light, for one. There’s something about the clear, bright light and the way it casts deep shadows. It’s so unlike the soft, cloud-filtered light we have in Seattle. 

Portugal // Millys-Kitchen.com

The architecture in Portugal is another. It is at once incredibly grand--baroque churches and towering castles--and slightly down-at-heel. The country is full of peeling, timeworn monuments to its history as a renaissance super-power of the high seas. 

The people also make Portugal easy to love. The Portuguese have a slightly reserved but warm and generous spirit. Everyone I met was eager to help me out when I got lost or share information on where to find the best salt cod fritters or traditional egg pastries. 

Portugal // Millys-Kitchen.com

And the food. 

I almost don’t have words to describe how much I love the food in Portugal. Maybe because, unlike with the cuisine of France or Italy or Spain, I harbored no high expectations for the food of Portugal. It’s excellence was a total surprise. 

Portugal is a country of creamy soft-ripened cheeses and expertly cured meats. The most amazing fresh sardines I’ve ever had, charred and smoky from the grill. Salty-crisp cod fritters. And everything anointed with the country’s superlative gold-green olive oil. 

Portugal Culinary Tour // Millys-Kitchen.com
Portugal // Millys-Kitchen.com

The ubiquitous pastel de nata (egg custard tart) is a thing of beauty still warm from the oven with a cup of strong coffee.  And I had something called a pão de deus--a fluffy brioche with a creamy layer of coconut under a golden, crisp coconut top--that almost brought tears to my eyes it was so good. 

Portugal Culinary Tour // Millys-Kitchen.com

When I returned home, I found myself missing the flavors of Portugal. So I put together this salad  to remind myself of my time in Lisbon and Porto. It is not a traditional dish by any means. But it has all the classic Portuguese flavors I love: kale, chiles, silky potatoes dressed in olive oil, tender grilled octopus and--perhaps best of all--smoky chorizo.

It’s my own little ode to the flavors of that sunny country by the sea.

Warm Potato Kale and Octopus Salad with Chorizo Vinaigrette // Millys-Kitchen.com

Warm Potato Kale and Octopus Salad with Chorizo Vinaigrette // Millys-Kitchen.com

Potato, Kale and Octopus Salad with Warm Chorizo Vinaigrette

  • 2 cups stock or water
  • 1 small onion, peeled and quartered
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 small dried chile (or a large pinch of chile flakes
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seed
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus additional to season
  • 1/2 cup olive oil, divided
  • 1 small octopus (mine weighed 3 ¾ lbs), cleaned
  • 1 lb. new potatoes
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seed
  • Generous pinch chili flakes, or to taste
  • 3 oz Spanish- or Portuguese-style cured chorizo, cut into very thin matchsticks
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons sherry vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 small bunch kale (I like Lacinato kale), stems removed and torn into 2-inch pieces
  • ¼ cup hot or sweet pickled peppers, cut into rings or roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons parsley leaves
  • ¼ cup whole mint leaves

*NOTES: If you live in Seattle, you can buy excellent quality octopus at Wild Salmon Seafood Market

I like Mama Lil's pickled peppers, but any hot or sweet pickled pepper will add the kick you need to balance the chorizo and olive oil.

Combine the stock, onion, bay, chile, peppercorns, coriander, ½ teaspoon salt and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed stock pot or Dutch oven. Bring to the boil over high heat. Add the octopus and bring the liquid to a simmer. Reduce the heat to maintain a bare simmer, cover and braise the octopus until it is very tender, about 90 minutes.

Remove the octopus from the braising liquid and set it aside to cool. When cool enough to handle, cut the tentacles from the body. Arrange the octopus on a platter or sheet pan and place in the refrigerator to cool completely. (You can braise the octopus a day in advance if you like.)

While the octopus is braising, cook the potatoes. Place in a large saucepan with enough cold water to cover by 1 inch and a generous pinch of salt. Bring to the boil over high heat then reduce heat and cook at a simmer until the potatoes are very tender, but not falling apart. The time will vary based on the size of your potatoes, but start checking after 8 minutes. Drain, but do not cool by running under cold water. Set aside.

Warm Potato Kale and Octopus Salad with Chorizo Vinaigrette // Millys-Kitchen.com

Heat the remaining 6 tablespoons of olive oil over medium high heat in a large saute pan. Add the fennel seed and chili. Cook for one minute then add the chorizo. Cook until crispy, about 5 minutes. Remove the chorizo strips with a slotted spoon. Set aside. 

Place the minced garlic in a medium bowl. Add the hot oil and spices from the saute pan along with the lemon juice, sherry vinegar, ½ teaspoon salt and pepper and whisk to combine. 

Cut the warm potatoes in half and place them in a large mixing bowl. (If you let them cool completely, they don’t absorb the dressing as well.) Toss the potatoes with the kale and ¼ cup of the vinaigrette. 

Heat a grill or grill pan to high heat. Toss the octopus with one tablespoon of the vinaigrette. Grill until the octopus is slightly charred and crisp. When it’s cool enough to handle, slice the octopus  into 2-inch pieces.

Add the grilled octopus to bowl with potatoes and kale. Add the pickled peppers, herbs and reserved chorizo. Toss to coat. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding the rest of the vinaigrette and more salt and pepper if desired. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes 4 main-course servings.

Portugal Culinary Tour // Millys-Kitchen.com