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Mar 31, 2007 08:32 PM

Arabesque: Main Courses

April 2007 Cookbook of the Month: Arabesque: A Taste of Morocco, Turkey, and Lebanon, by Claudia Roden.

Please post your full-length reviews of recipes from the sections on main courses here. Please mention the name of the recipe you are reviewing as well as any modifications you made to the recipe.

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  1. Chicken Pie with Onions and Sumac (Musakahan) - I think this was in the Lebanese section. This is made with chicken thighs, and I made the filling ahead of time. I messed up a bit with the filo - I used a smaller size sheet, and think I let it thaw out a bit too long so it was tricky to work with. As you can tell from the photo, there wasn't much filo on top - if the sheets had been the right size, there would have been a lot more, since you line the bottom with sheets and then fold over the excess on top (and I had v. little excess) before adding two sheets to the top. I think you also need more melted butter than called for. But, absolutely delicious - loved the flavor - and great to have as leftovers.

    15 Replies
    1. re: MMRuth

      I made the tomato rice pilaf with chicken amdsifinshed with sumac.It was okay. I think I would like to tweak some of the flavors

      1. re: Candy

        I am making the Tagine of Chicken with Preserved Lemon and Olives tomorrow night.... I will post all the details! :) So excited!

        1. re: Candy

          I made just the tomato pilaf last night, to go with some other dishes, and I thought it was awfully bland ... maybe needed some more salt, and more tomato ...

        2. re: MMRuth

          I posted a main course description on the meze thread, because I made a whole meal and didn't want to break it up. Also made a different chicken and onion filo pie. I've actually made the musakahan before, sans filo. You sprinkle pine nuts on tip and crumble toasted lavash on's the same thing, just more informal, I guess. Got it from, I think, Wolfert's Med. Greens and Grains.
          That sumac tast is delicious, isn't it. I also agree about the leftovers!

          1. re: oakjoan

            We made Moroccan Chicken with Caramelized Baby Onions and Honey. A very wonderful dish. I used cippolinis because the shallots available here are as large as regular onions. It was a great substitute.

            Because I'd made variations of this dish before I made a few adaptations to the Arabesque recipe. After browning the chicken I poured off some of the fat. I could have poured most of it away. You can see in the photo, there is still some left. I also used chicken stock instead of water, because I had some good stock that needed to be used.

            After the chicken was done and the sauce was reducing, I broiled the chicken pieces to crisp the skin. That's the way I've done it cooking in restaurant kitchens. We like crispy skin!

            The sauce reduced nicely and caramelized just like Claudia Roden described. It did indeed take a generous amount of black pepper to balance the sauce.

            We served it with roasted yellow finn potatoes tossed with fresh mint. It was a very enjoyable meal.

          2. re: MMRuth

            That chicken pie sounds good MMRuth - I think I'm going to make it this week.

            1. re: MMRuth

              One of my FAVORITE morrocan dishes is the Bastilla... After reading Ruths report and seeing how simple the recipe I was... I just had to try it... Everything went great... even the one little mistake... turned out pretty good...

              First, I prepared the chicken. Added the cinnamon and gingern and other spices... the aroma was just INTOXICATING! I could not help but take a few bites from it... I could have just eaten the chicken this way over rice and been a happy woman...


              I tossed in the Almonds and then took my Philo Dough... As I removed it from the box I realized I had made a big mistake! I had bought the wrong kind!! Still I continued and hoped for the best... I popped in the oven and when it was all done the baking made my mistake even more glaring... here... take a look at yourself..


              Yes, the Philo is GREEN... I picked up Pistachio Philo by mistake. I admit, I was mortified by it at first, but luckily P. is a good sport! :) Especially once he took a peek inside and how good it all looked despite the greeniness... :



              I served it along side TJ's Whole Wheat Couscous mixed with Zucchini and Golden Raisins. P. called it my Green Plate Special.


              And when he took the first bite of the Bastilla... he went WOW! Actually with the Cinnamon and Ginger, the Pistachio Philo dough worked!!! The flavor was slight, but he suggested I use Pistachios instead of almonds next time and it'll be even better! Hurrah!!

              And so we ended up this cookbook of the month learning a lot of things... like when it comes to Bastilla...It's always all good! :




              1. re: Dommy

                I love that, Dommy! Priceless.

                1. re: Dommy

                  Wow, I didn't even know you could get pistachio filo (or anything but plain). Was it a local brand, Dommy?

                  Oh, and by the way, I wouldn't hesitate to dive into your green bastilla - it looks delicious!

                  1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                    I don't think it was a Local Brand, but I got it at the Restaurant Supply Store called Surfas... It was Pegasus Brand


                    They have serveral different flavors such as Chocolate and Corn and several different textures, such as Country Style (Which I was hoping to get!) and Fine.


                    1. re: Dommy

                      I wish I knew where this brand was sold in my neck of the woods (the site doesn't list retail outets) - I'd love to get my hands on chocolate filo and country-style filo. What fun!

                2. re: MMRuth

                  I made this (the chicken with onions and sumac - Lebanon, pl 293) planning to do her homey variation of stuffing it in pitas. But we were too full of the appetizer to even contemplate bread, so we just had it as is. Delicious. And very easy. It was Lebanese night here - we were celebrating Lulu's return to school and LulusDad got a bottle of rose champagne and a bottle of sparkling grape juice so that Lulu could pretend she was having champers too. We sat waiting for the tennis to start (the main reason I was going for the homey variation was that I'd decided we were going to sit in front of the tv watching the men's final ... oh well) and had a GREAT meal. Starter was Little puff pastry cheese pies and side was zucchini with vinegar, mint and garlic - will post on appropriate thread about those.

                  1. re: LulusMom

                    LulusMom -- Thanks for the review. I am going to try this, the homey pita version. Do you recall about how long it took to cook the chicken? Maybe 15 to 20 minutes? I so rarely cook with boneless/skinless that I have no idea on the cooking time, but in the bastilla recipe she suggests cooking the chicken for 15 to 20 minutes, adding the raw chicken to the pot after the onions have cooked for 30 minutes already.

                    It seems like this would be good with some yogurt splashed into the pita too. Mmmm.

                    1. re: twilight goddess

                      Oh gosh, Twilight, I really don't. I just cooked it until it looked and felt done. I would say 15 minutes should do it? It really is tasty. Sorry I can't help more.

                3. Roast Cod with Potatoes and Tomatoes (p.76): I really loved this, although the next time I'll use a little more of both the potatoes and tomatoes, and slice them a little thicker, because they cooked a little too much. I also couldn't find cod (or another similiar white fish) with the skin on, so I used skinless. It was still good, but I think it would have been better with the skin on. I'd also double the amount of the chermoula (the cilantro/garlic/spice marinade), because it was really good, and I wished that I had more.

                  9 Replies
                  1. re: JasmineG

                    I had big plans of making the Tagine of chicken with olives and preserved lemons tonight- I was also going to make the orange, onion and olive salad and yogurt salad to go with it all. My fiance just called and is feeling very fluish! :( Poor guy- I am now changing my menu to some kind of soup. I usually do old fashioned chicken soup but since i have my book at home i thought i would ask if anyone who has their book with them could post the name and key ingrediants for a yummy soup recipe that would help in feeling better. If there are not any then i will go back to good old chicken! :)

                    1. re: gastronomy

                      Here is the list of soups, hope it helps! Let me know if any appeal, and I'll be more specific with the ingredients:

                      barley with yogurt (with chicken, saffron, parsley, and mint)
                      chickpea and lentil (beef/lamb broth with tomatoes, saffron, parsley, cilantro, and orzo)
                      cold yogurt with chickpea and bulgur
                      cream of dried fava bean (garlic, chicken bouillon, cumin/paprika)
                      green vegetable (w/celery, zucchini, dried mint in a chicken/veg stock)
                      pumpkin (chicken stock/bouillon base with pureed pumpkin)
                      red lentil and rice (chicken bouillon, cumin, and lemon)
                      tomato and rice (chicken bouillon, finished with egg and lemon)

                      1. re: Rubee

                        chickpea and lentil please! That sounds wonderful! I think i will use chicken instead of beef/lamb- what do you think? If you wanted to help a cold would that sound nice??
                        Thank you so much for listing them!

                        1. re: gastronomy

                          Sounds good to me! It's a Moroccan soup called "Harira".

                          Reading through, she does say you can use 1 lb of chicken - pref boneless/skinless thighs, and 3 bouillon cubes - instead of meat. The ingredients I'm going to list make a big batch - it serves 10. She says you can make it ahead of time and just add the pasta 10-15 minutes before.

                          2 large onions
                          1 cup chickpeas soaked overnight
                          3/4 cup large brown lentils
                          1 lb ripe tomatoes
                          4 celery stalks
                          tomato paste
                          black pepper, ground ginger, cinnamon sticks, saffron or tumeric.
                          5 oz orzo or vermicelli
                          cilantro and pasley

                          1. re: Rubee

                            The soup was wonderful!!!!! I halved the recipe and it still made a ton! Thats fine by us because it is so yummy and we will eat for lunch. I did stray on a few minor areas....
                            I used chicken thighs on the bone simply becasue thats what i had on hand- I took the skin off so it wasnt to much to skim. I put them in a pot with one onion roughly chopped and 8 cups of chicken stock instead of water and boulion as suggested in the variation. After that simmered for 45 min. I skimmed the tp and added diced tomatoes, tomato paste, lentils, chickpeas (canned that i rinsed and drained) and spices. While that simmered I made a batter of flour and water over a med. heat that i poured into the soup to make a wonderful texture and consistancy! I added orzo, lemon juice, cilantro and parsley. simmered for 10 more min, adjusted the salt and pepper and served with lemon wedges and dates. SO terrific! :)

                    2. re: JasmineG

                      I made this (Roast Cod with Potatoes and Tomatoes-Moroccan section) last night with some skin-on halibut. The flavors were terrific, and the dish very simple to make. If you don't mind the approximately hour of cooking time, it could easily be a weeknight meal because the prep is easy-peasy.

                      Halibut was not one of the fishes recommended, but I think that any reasonably thick fillets would be great cooked this way (even salmon). I would also make more of the chermoula next time to pour over the top at the end of cooking. I cooked it an 10" braiser with the amount of potatoes and tomatoes the recipe called for but less fish (about 1 1/4 lbs). I was happy with how the potatoes cooked, but the tomatoes (romas) fell apart. Next time, I may try adding the tomatoes half way through the vegetable cooking time to see if they hold together any better.

                      1. re: Megiac

                        I made this (Roast Cod with Potatoes and Tomatoes) last night. I also used less fish relative to the potatoes and tomatoes. (I had about 1lb tomatoes, 1lb+ of potatoes, and 1.5lb of fish). I used regular tomatoes ("on the vine") and did not peel them first, and that was fine as they become very soft anyway. I'd use more tomatoes next time. If you're doing this, rearrange the instructions and get the potatoes and tomatoes in the oven first as they take 50 minutes and the fish only needs to marinate 30 minutes. This was very good and everyone in the family liked it. Like Megiac said, this is very simple and once you've done about 10 minutes of prepwork there is nothing more to do for an hour. I used the recommended amount of marinade for the full recipe of about 2.5-3lb of fish, but only had 1.5 lb.

                        1. re: DGresh

                          Roast Cod and Tomatoes - not totally true to the recipe!
                          I made this last night - didn't have any Fresh Coriander (cilantro) so I substituted mint which is abundant in my garden right now and increased the number of tomatoes. It worked really well, very flavourful and *as another poster noted ) easy enough for mid week if you have the time.
                          I served it with roasted cauliflower (if I'm going to switch the oven on then I want to fill it :) served with the tahini cream sauce in the New Book of Middle Eastern Cooking - basically tahini, lemon juice and garlic - simple but very good.

                          As someone else noted the recipe is written in rather an odd order - you need to get the toms and potatoes in the oven before starting the fish in order to make it 'flow'. Also the English to American translation seemed weird - I'm a Brit living in the US and have plenty of cookbooks from both countries - the mix of coriander (for fresh cilantro) and new potatoes with cup measurements seemed strange - not exactly a problem but not a good a translation as other books I have.

                          This is my second COTM - the first was a couple of years ago and I only cooked a couple of things. These books seem really interesting and have a lot of recipes that sound like they can use some of the local produce available here in CT, so hopefully I'll cook a little more!


                      2. re: JasmineG

                        Made the Roast Cod with Potatoes and Tomatoes last night. Thanks to all previous posters who suggested doubling the chermoula, because that is what makes this dish. We really liked it a lot, although the 12 minutes was way way too long for the fish in my (admittedly fickle) oven. But our guest and the family all loved it - really beautiful flavors. Can't really add much; just repeat that it is worth doubling the chermoula. Oh, and I wish she'd told me to use a more significant amount of oil (she just says something like lightly cover roasting pan with oil) because I've got a big clean up job on my roasting pan sitting soaking and waiting for me.

                      3. I made the Chicken with Chickpeas and Yogurt (something like that) from the Lebanese section. It's the first of the Fettat recipes. It was delicious and very unexpected. The Lebanese food I've eaten in the past has been primarily street food while travelling in Europe, so I did not know what to expect.

                        You start out cooking a whole chicken covered with water with vegetables and spices added. I cooked the chicken for 1 1/2 hours and then pulled it out of the water (which was by then a very light stock). After it had cooled, we pulled the meat off in chunks (discarding the skin and bones).

                        I broke up some toasted pita in the bottom of a baking dish, poured some of the stock (with vinegar added) over the pita until it was soggy, then added canned garbanzo beans over the pita. I couldn't find the best beans-- they were in a geltinous liquid -- so I rinsed them before adding. Then, over the beans, went the chicken. This was covered with foil and put in the oven. The book just says to put it in a "warm" oven -- nothing more specific -- so I put it in at 350 degrees. After it was hot all the way through, I poured over a yogurt mixture (greek and whole milk yogurt with raw minced garlic and mint--the recipe called for dried mint, but I used fresh, which I think was the way to go). In retrospect, I would use about 25% less of the yogurt mixture.

                        We served it with the Lebanese zucchini slices, which were incredibly potent (more raw garlic). All said, the dish was very tasty and refreshing. Ideally, I'd like to make it again on a hot day because I loved the way the yogurt cooled the whole thing off and it just struck me as summer food.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: Megiac

                          Chicken and chickpeas with yogurt (p. 298 - Lebanon)

                          Bo-ring. The first recipe I've cooked from this book (at least in this second round) that I didn't like. And I really didn't like it at all. Blah. And worst of all, it seemed to take a lot of work. Poach the chicken; wait for it to cool and then get the meat off, toast the pitas, tear apart, make the yogurt sauce, toast the pine nuts ... and, as mentioned above, she never gives you a temp. at which to cook this. Also, this is another recipe that is written in very odd order. Why on earth make the yogurt mix first when you have up to 90 minutes while the chicken cooks? And about that yogurt - She wants you to use 4 cups of yogurt plus 3/4 cup of greek style yogurt. I cut this back to about 2 cups yogurt and 1/2 cup of the greek stuff, but kept the 2 garlic cloves and mint the same. And it was still really not enough to liven it up. Wish I'd used more because aside from that, there really isn't much flavor in this dish. Yes, the chicken is poached with an onion, carrot and some spices (cinnamon stick, bay leaves and cardamom) along with S&P, but really, how much of that is going to come through later? For me, not enough. For me, this was like hospital food - boring. "Where's the bowl of jello?" Lulu didn't much like it either, but my husband liked it enough that he's taking the leftovers in to work for the next two days. In fact he said "No, really, this is pretty good." Served with eggplant with vinegar and garlic - now THAT was really tasty.

                          1. re: LulusMom

                            Oh, how disappointing! Especially after having put a lot of work into it!


                            1. re: The Dairy Queen

                              Thanks TDQ. It really was a disappointment, although when I think back on it, I should have realized that there just wasn't much in there to bring the "kabang" that I usually like in my food. My batting average on this book is still huge.

                        2. Chicken and Onion Pie (Bstilla Bil Djaj), p. 66.

                          This came out great. A simplified version of the classic Moroccan dish, this made a nice dinner accompanied by the Jerusalem Salad from last month's Leite's Culinaria.

                          I made the filling yesterday (onions, chicken, ginger, cinnamon, and cilantro), and put it together tonight. I didn't have large sheets of phyllo to overlap, so I put put more small sheets on top as is suggested. I ended up using one sheet, topped it with the fried chopped almonds, and then three more layered with butter. I didn't cut the overhang, just tore it and tucked the ragged edges in. The top is brushed with egg yolk, baked, and the finished product dusted with cinnamon and confectioner's sugar.

                          Jerusalem Salad:

                          Pics of Bstilla

                          7 Replies
                          1. re: Rubee

                            Your pictures look amazing!! I am definitely making this.

                            1. re: nissenpa

                              Yes - beautiful - I'll also have to retry making the Lebanese version with sumac - with either the right filo dough size or making up for it with extra sheets on top.

                              1. re: MMRuth


                                MMRuth - I want to try that Lebanese version too. If you find out what brands make the large size, will you post ? I bought Athens at the grocery store, which turns out is 9 x 14.

                                1. re: Rubee

                                  Just saw your post - yes - that's the same one I found - I'll keep my eyes open at the market for the larger sheets and let you know.

                            2. re: Rubee

                              Thanks Rubee! That's on my list to make too! Hope it tasted as good as it looks... YUM! I love Bastillas... :)


                              1. re: Rubee

                                Mine was too ugly to take pix...any anyway, I forgot. What a delicious dish, though. Not too hard to make and no matter what you do with the filo, it looks great when it's all golden coming out of the oven. So don't worry too much about it ripping or drying out, etc. Just be sure to paint it with butter.

                                1. re: Rubee

                                  Chicken and Onion Pie (Bstilla Bil Djaj), p. 66.

                                  (Reposting pics):

                                2. Chicken with Tomato Pilaf - Turkey (pg. 194)

                                  This was terrific. The whole thing was nice and buttery. The rice is cooked with a tomato sauce (I used fresh but I think canned would also work) and butter is added at the end. The chicken dish looked a bit bland so I improvised. The recipe calls for a sauteed chicken pieces with butter, oil and S&P. I also threw in garlic pieces and cayenne pepper for a little bite. Serve the chicken over the rice and sprinkle the whole thing with lemon juice and parsley. It's a simple dish but very creamy. It was extremely good comfort food.

                                  I was starving and forgot to take pictures. FYI, the leftovers also heated up well.

                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: beetlebug

                                    Made the Chicken with Tomato Pilaf, and liked it very much. Two things: first, I'm really happy (as usual) that I read bb's review. The chicken was great with the addition of garlic and a bit of cayenne. Second thing: my rice came out a bit more al dente than it should have. I almost never have a problem making rice, and stick with the "don't move that lid!" rule. But in this one she has you check to make sure there is enough liquid, which there wasn't - it was drying out - so I added more. But still, it was *almost* crunchy. I think this means that there should be more watered added right from the start. Anyway, the flavor was so good, really nice with that bit of butter mixed in with the tomatoey rice, that it didn't matter at all. Everyone left the table with a clean plate, husband had seconds. I'd make it again in a heartbeat, but add a lot more liquid at the start of the rice's cooking time. Anyway, another hit.

                                      1. re: LulusMom

                                        I've had problems with rice cooking in acid-ish liquids, it seems to harden it somewhat. Needs more liquid and longer cooking to overome it.

                                        1. re: buttertart

                                          Good to know. I really loved the flavors so much, and want to make this again, so knowing what might help cook that rice more makes it more probable.