It’s peak season for summer picnics and cook-outs. I really miss our summer grilling. It’s one of my favorite summer activities, and although we do have a little patio, we don’t have a grill. Grilled meat is very popular in Morocco but from what I’ve observed, there is not a lot of grilling at home. This is probably because most of the housing in the city consists of apartment style living that is not conducive to grilling. Instead, there are several forest areas just outside of the city where groups of family and friends can pack a picnic, grill, and spend an afternoon. There are also restaurants that specialize in grilled meats just outside of the city.
Last weekend, a couple of friends of ours brought us to one of these restaurants in the outskirts of Rabat. We were driving along the highway, we turn into a gas station, and drive behind the gas station. Then lo-and-behold! An entire restaurant with a garden, pond and a small cafe. I would never have guessed such a place existed behind what looked to me like a pit stop. Not to mention, it was de.li.cious. One of our friends told us that the restaurants actually keep their own livestock. I’m not sure I believed that, but wherever the meat came from, it was flavorful, tender, and fresh. We ordered a kilo of lamb chops, a kilo of kefta, grilled tomatoes, grilled onions, bread, and tea. The lamb chops we had were absolutely out of this world, lightly salted and peppered, and fired over a wood grill. It was a dinner fit for the King himself!
I’ve been impressed and enamored with the food quality here. Fresh ingredients do make simple, delicious meals. No need for fancy sauces. Here, the ingredients are ideal and I like to let their natural flavors take center stage. Since there is not a culture or market for processed food, most of the food here consists of home cooked meals made with real foods—all from scratch. (With the exception of potato chips which Moroccans appear to LOVE!) My experience with the produce is the same. Sure, there is less variety, but the produce is flavorful, vibrant and in-season. The carrots we buy here are crunchy, sweet, and aromatic. I’m not usually a fan of carrots, but these carrots are truly some of the best carrots I’ve ever had. I could rave about our peaches, tomatoes, and cucumbers to the moon and back too!
Because the produce is wonderful and because I have a crush on the lovely, old, gentleman that owns the produce stand, we’ve been eating a lot of salads. So, with grilling and hot summer cookouts in mind, I suggest you give this cool mint cucumber salad a try. It is super easy to make and it also travels well so you can share it with friends and family. Serve it up with a side of your grilled favorites to offer a cool, crispy, and clean contrast to whatever you have on your grill. This salad works well with chicken, lamb, burgers, or even hot dogs. Give it a try, it’s become one of our summer staples when we eat in instead.
COOL CUCUMBER MINT SALAD
4-5 hot house cucumbers, peeled, and sliced into thin rounds
¼ red onion, thinly sliced
½ cup, packed fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped
¼ cup fresh flat-leaf parsley or basil, chopped (I used parsley because it’s hard to get fresh basil here, but I think it might be better with fresh basil)
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon lime juice
¼ cup apple cider or red wine vinegar
¼ good olive oil
In a small bowl, whisk together honey, lime juice, vinegar and oil. In a large bowl, toss together the cucumbers, red onion, and herbs. Pour the dressing over the cucumbers and toss. Salt and pepper to taste. Cover the salad and allow the dressing to slightly pickle the cucumbers and onions for at least 15 minutes and up to 2 hours before serving.