Fourth of July BBQ with a Twist

Nothing says happy independence from our British overlords than eating cuisine from one of the oldest monarchies on the planet (well, at least so far… King Mohammad is making some constitutional reforms in light of the Arab spring uprisings… alas, this is a blog about food, so back to the eating). Anyway, I chose Morocco for our BBQ theme this year because, well, that’s what I chose.

Apologies in advance for the photos (and lack thereof): I forgot to take them until we were halfway through eating and then I was a few cocktails into the meal. We started with a few basic appetizers including veggies with hummus, pita chips with lentil dip, and black olives in harissa with bread. (Full disclosure: I bought the hummus and lentil dip.) Then, we moved on to a variety of meats: lamb burgers, lamb sausage with Moroccan spices, and chicken kebabs. (Again, I bought the sausage.) Our sides included couscous and this amazing salad that a friend brought. Dessert consisted of apple pie and plum torte which were both brought by guests. (Hey, we had to have a nod in the American direction somewhere during the meal.)

Please notice the lack of tagine recipes. It’s mostly because I don’t own a tagine. (Birthday gift? Hint, hint.)

Black Olives with Harissa

Harissa is a North African condiment that can be spread over a number of things (sandwiches or pita, for example) or used as a seasoning for tagines and couscous. I found this recipe at, but I’m updating the instructions a bit.

  • 1 lb oil-cured black olives (preferably Moroccan)
  • 1 t cumin seed
  • ½ t coriander seeds
  • ½ t caraway seeds
  • 2 hot red dried chilies, stemmed but not seeded (about 2 inches in length)
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • ½ t coarse salt (I omitted this portion as the olives were plenty salty even after soaking)
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, roasted and chopped coarse (I just did this on my gas stove top)
  • 1 T olive oil

In a colander, rinse olives under cold water 1 minute. Place in a large bowl and cover with cold water. Soak olives 4 hours to remove excess salt and drain well.

With a mortar and pestle, grind seeds fine. Transfer seeds to a small food processor and add chilies, garlic, and salt. Grind mixture to a paste. (It will be a very dry, loose paste.) Add pepper and oil and purée to a coarse paste.

In a large bowl, stir together harissa and olives and marinate, covered and chilled, at least 6 hours or overnight. Olives may be prepared 1 week ahead and kept chilled, covered. Serve olives at room temperature.


So, this is one where I neglected to take a picture (apologies!) But, imagine black olives in tomato sauce and you get the idea. They are super spicy, but I thought in a good way. Crunchy French bread works for sopping up extra harissa.

Moroccan Lamb Burgers with Beet and Orange Salsa

Again, an concoction worthy of the site. I doubled the recipe for nine healthy-sized burgers. This recipe will make four or six depending on how thick you like your meat patties.


  • 2 T olive oil
  • 2 T fresh lemon juice
  • 1 T honey
  • 2 beets, boiled, peeled, cut into ⅓-inch cubes (I roasted the beets in the oven, mostly because I like my root veggies roasted. Think about it, boiled carrots or roasted carrots? Now, apply to beets.)
  • 1 large orange, peel and pith cut away, flesh cut into ⅓-inch cubes
  • 1 C chopped red onion
  • ¼ C chopped pitted green Greek olives


  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 2 T chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 jalapeño chile, seeded, minced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1¼ t salt
  • ¾ t ground black pepper
  • ½ t paprika
  • ½ t ground cumin
  • 1¾ lb ground lamb
  • Hamburger buns
  • Sliced Bibb lettuce
  • Mayonnaise

For salsa:

Whisk first 3 ingredients in medium bowl to blend. Mix in next 4 ingredients. Season salsa to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and chill.

For burgers:

Stir shallot, cilantro, jalapeño, garlic, salt, black pepper, paprika, and cumin in large bowl to blend. Add lamb and mix gently to combine. Shape mixture into four ½-inch-thick patties. Can be made 8 hours ahead. Cover and chill.

Spray grill rack with nonstick spray and prepare barbecue (medium-high heat). Place lettuce and large spoonful of salsa on each bun bottom. Grill burgers until slightly charred and cooked to desired doneness, about 4 minutes per side for medium-rare. Place 1 burger on each bun. Top each with mayonnaise and bun top. Serve with remaining salsa. (I served the mayo on the side as not everyone is a fan of the white stuff.)


As mentioned before, I am not a fan of beets, but this salsa was pretty darn good in a creepy red sort of way.

Beet Salsa

I would show you a picture of the burger, but by the time I remembered to take the picture, I was halfway through eating it and, I’ll be honest, it was pretty disgusting looking. These things are messy, make no bones about it. But, satisfyingly tasty. Just get oversized buns and you won’t be sorry.

Chicken Kebabs

This recipe is based on one from (notice a trend?) But, I changed it so much that the only things that are the same are the marinade ingredients, not the proportions or the preparation.

  • ½ C extra virgin olive oil
  • Juice from two large lemons
  • 8 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 T chopped fresh mint
  • 4 t kosher salt
  • 4 t lemon zest
  • 2½ t ground coriander
  • 1½ t ground cumin
  • Pepper to taste
  • 4 chicken breasts
  • Whole dried apricots, soaked in water until plump
  • 2 red onions, each cut into chunks

Whisk first 9 ingredients in medium bowl to blend. Transfer ¼ cup marinade to small bowl; cover, chill, and reserve as basting sauce. Add chicken to remaining marinade in medium bowl; toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate overnight. In the morning, remove the chicken and cut into 2-inch sized chunks. Return to marinade, cover and chill until ready to grill. (If you cut the chicken into chunks first, the acidity in the marinade will do a ceviche number on the chicken and you’ll get weird tough bits.)

Sauté onions in a bit of olive oil until slightly limp. Set aside to cool. Remove chicken from marinade and put on skewers. Thread apricots and onion chunks alternately on remaining skewers. I had four skewers of chicken and three of apricot/onion. Brush all skewers with some of reserved marinade. Add meat skewers to the grill first, then add onion-apricot skewers. Basting with marinade and moving skewers to cooler part of barbecue if necessary to keep apricots from burning. Watch out for flare-ups, the apricots will get crispy pretty fast. The chicken is done when it is a bit charred on the edges.


This is my new favorite way to cook chicken. The apricots and onions were just what you’d expect… kind of eh, what’s the big deal? But the chicken was fabulous. (And, yes, I served it off-skewer as it were for ease of eating.)

Chicken kebab in a bowl with apricots and onions

Couscous with Fruits and Nuts

Yes, I got the basis for this recipe from the Near East brand web site. But, it was tasty, so I’m going to be proud about it. My variations are below.

  • 1 C sliced almonds, toasted
  • ½ C pine nuts, toasted
  • ⅔ C water
  • 1 C raisins
  • 1 C dates, chopped
  • 2 10-ounce packages of Near East couscous (I used the pine nut variety, but with only one spice packet)
  • Water and oil according to box directions
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • 1 t salt
  • Orange zest from half an orange

Toast almonds and pine nuts. Set aside. Place raisins in a bowl. Boil water and pour over raisins. Let plump 15 minutes or until most of liquid is absorbed. Stir in dates; set aside.

Cook couscous according to box. Fluff with fork when finished. Mix in all of the other ingredients. Serve immediately.


I’ll be honest. This recipe is easy. It could be one of those weeknight recipes when you’re sick of rice or pasta. I recommend it for the easiness and the not so bad tastingness.


The Other Stuff

Because I couldn’t resist, here is a picture of my friend’s awesome salad.

Ann's Salad

I didn’t get pictures of the desserts as they were pretty well decimated by the end of the night. I can tell you that we had Pimm’s Cups before dinner, red or white wine (diner preference) and Oberon with dinner, and pomegranate/vodka cocktails with cardamom-infused simple syrup between dinner and dessert. Tasty!


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