New York – Many of the ingredients found in Moroccan food promote good health, as Moroccan food tends to rely on whole food ingredients freshly prepared, sing herbs and spices for flavor rather than deep frying.
Bread tends to be baked from whole grains, and many entrees include both vegetables and dried fruit to achieve that balance between sweet and savory that is characteristic of Moroccan food. Here a few of the healthiest ingredients and dishes found in Moroccan cuisine.
Also known as garbanzo beans or bengal gram, chickpeas are a legume high in nutrients and are also highly digestible, a concern for some people who are sensitive to beans. Chickpeas are rich in protein, fiber, and folate, as well as many important dietary minerals like iron, phosphorous, and zinc. Chickpeas are found in many Moroccan dishes including tagines, spreads to be served on bread, and a huge variety of soups and stews.
The turmeric commonly used in cooking is a dried yellow-orange powder prepared from the rhizomes (root-like parts) of the turmeric plant, a member of the ginger family. Turmeric is used in many Asian dishes and is also commonly used in herbal medicine. Turmeric extracts have been shown to possess anti-fungal and anti-microbial properties and are under study for their potential effects on cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and other common diseases.
Ginger root is another medicinal rhizome used frequently in Moroccan cuisine. Medicinally, ginger is frequently used to treat mild nausea, though as it is an irritant it is not recommended for use by pregnant women looking to treat morning sickness. In the amounts typically used in cooking, ginger supplies a large amount of dietary manganese along with a bright warmth of flavor. Ginger is one of the most frequently used spices in Moroccan cuisine and is found in many dishes. It is often used of tagines and teas.
One of the most popular Moroccan foods across the globe is couscous. In Morocco, it is often served as a dish consisting of a bed of couscous served with a rich seven-vegetable sauce, sometimes topped with stewed meat and caramelized onions. This is a deeply traditional dish. Every family has their own favorite blend of vegetables and spices. Traditional spices found in the recipe are turmeric, ginger, and pepper.
Whole Grain Bread
Every culture has a starch component to their diet, and for Moroccans, the starches are primarily couscous and rolls baked from whole grains. These leavened whole grain rolls accompany all of the vegetable dishes and meat stews. The traditional rolls are often spiced with fennel and anise seed for added flavor. Morocco also has a traditional sweet roll called the krachel, sweet bread flavored with anise, orange flower water, and sesame. These rolls are similar to brioche: the dough is rich and includes eggs and butter.
Vegetables are a large component of the Moroccan diet. A vegetable medley salad precedes almost every meal. Commonly used vegetables include potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, artichokes, and carrots, among many others. Vegetables also round out most meat dishes, providing depth and flavor as well as nutrients and fiber. Of course, almost everywhere there are vegetables, there are also chickpeas present to add even more fiber and lots of protein. To mimic a common vegetable dip, add some cumin, coriander, and lime juice to Hampton Creek’s Just Mayo. Dip your veggies and enjoy the flavor of Morocco.
Dried fruit is often responsible for sweetening desserts. However, you will find dates, raisins, apricots, and prunes not only in sweets but also in savory dishes. One of the characteristics of Moroccan cuisine is the careful balance of sweet and savory in many recipes. Tagines are an excellent example. They are traditionally meat entrees where spiced meat is slow-cooked with vegetables and spices in a shallow baking dish with a tall, conical lid (the baking vessel is called a ‘tagine’).
Moroccan food is a very healthy national cuisine. With a heavy emphasis on vegetables, whole grains, and sweetening with fruit rather than refined sugar, this North African food tradition has served its followers well for centuries. The intriguing balance between sweet and savory in many dishes is not found in many other food traditions. Try a few Moroccan recipes in your own kitchen, and enjoy the taste and reap the health benefits.