Moroccan Salad Platter

In my Paleo Magazine column, I teamed up with Steph Gaudreau to bring you the story of a traditional recipe and adapted it to fit into a healthier Paleo lifestyle. (I made the food; she made the gorgeous photos.) In this installment, we headed down the alleys of a medina to taste the bounty of Moroccan produce and spices.

Cooking in Casablanca

Vibrant fruits and vegetables play a starring role in Moroccan cuisine, and unlike most other African countries, Morocco grows all the food it needs for its population. Native produce includes oranges, tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, melons, and the big five of Mediterranean cuisine: olives, figs, lemons, dates, and almonds.

Traditional Moroccan meals almost always start with room-temperature salads made from both cooked and raw vegetables, delicately seasoned with a splash of citrus and aromatic spices before being tossed with handfuls of fresh herbs. The dining table in Morocco is a lively place with families and friends passing the colorful plates amid plenty of talk and laughter.

To encourage you to host your own feast, we’ve put together four recipes that showcase the variety of Moroccan salads—cooked, raw, spiced, and mild. We recommend you make them all and serve them Moroccan style, arranged together on a large platter (or in individual serving bowls) alongside simple grilled chicken or lamb with steaming cups of mint tea. End the meal with dried dates, fresh figs, and roasted almonds.

This gorgeous spread includes Jeweled Beet & Carrot Salad, Orange Salad with Olives and Mint, Casablanca Carrot Salad, and Zucchini and Tomato Salad. Recipes below.

Orange Salad with Olives and Mint

The city of Tangier in northern Morocco was declared an International Zone after World War I and was jointly ruled by nine different countries. It became a haven for smugglers, double agents, and movie stars. Similarly, this salad brings together strong players—oranges, fennel, mint, and olives—that result in an enticing blend.

Ingredients:
  • 4-5 large seedless oranges (about 3 pounds)

  • 1 fennel bulb (about 1 pound)

  • 1/4 medium red onion, very thinly sliced (about 1/4 cup)

  • 1 cup large black olives, pitted and cut in half

  • 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, coarsely chopped

  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice

  • 1 teaspoon paprika

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander

  • 1 clove garlic, minced

  • pinch salt

  • pinch ground black pepper

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil

  • fennel fronds, minced, for garnish

Directions:
1

Prep the oranges. Use a sharp knife to peel the oranges, removing all of the bitter white pulp and the membrane on the outside of the orange sections. With your fingers, separate the sections and cut them into 1-inch pieces. Place in a large bowl.

2

Prep the fennel. Remove the fronds from the fennel and reserve a few for garnish. Cut the ends off the fennel bulb, and slice it very thinly, crosswise. Add the fennel, onion, olives, and mint to the oranges. Gently combine with a rubber scraper.

3

Make the dressing. In a small bowl, whisk together lemon juice, paprika, cayenne, coriander, garlic, salt, and pepper. Add the oil in a slow drizzle, whisking continuously. Pour the dressing over the oranges and toss gently to blend. Let the flavors meld for about an hour before serving. Taste, adjust seasonings, then top with minced fennel fronds.

Zucchini and Tomato Salad

Zucchini and tomatoes are a classic combination, but they take an exotic spin with the addition of saffron and bright, grassy herbs. This salad also combines cooked and raw veggies for a texture that’s surprising and satisfying.

Ingredients:
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

  • 1 pound zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch slices

  • 2 medium sweet onions, cut into 1/2-inch wedges

  • 4 large garlic cloves, minced

  • 1/4 teaspoon saffron threads, crushed (optional)

  • 1 cinnamon stick, broken in half

  • 12 ounces tomatoes, cored, cut into 1/4-inch wedges

  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, coarsely chopped

  • 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, coarsely chopped

  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

  • pinch salt and ground black pepper

Directions:
1

Cook the veggies. Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat, 2 minutes. Add the zucchini, onions, garlic, saffron, and cinnamon stick. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the zucchini and onions are just tender, about 8 minutes.

2

Make the salad. Remove the pan from heat. Add the tomatoes, parsley, and mint, tossing to combine. Allow the salad to cool to room temperature.

3

Add the dressing. When it’s cool, add lemon juice, salt, and pepper; toss, then taste and adjust seasonings. Serve at room temperature.

Casablanca Carrot Salad

In Morocco, many salads begin with lightly steamed vegetables. When hot veggies meet spices and oils, wonderful things happen. Forget about dressing on your vegetables, this dressing is in the vegetables.

Ingredients:
  • 1 pound carrots

  • 1 clove garlic, minced

  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • dash cayenne pepper

  • juice of 1 lemon (about 2-3 tablespoons)

  • pinch salt and ground black pepper

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves, minced

Directions:
1

Prep the carrots. Wash and peel the carrots; cut on the diagonal into 1/2-inch pieces. Steam for 10-15 minutes until tender and drain.

2

Add the dressing. In a large bowl, mix the warm carrots with garlic, paprika, cumin, cinnamon, cayenne, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Place in the refrigerator until the carrots are chilled.

3

Finish and serve. Remove from the refrigerator, drizzle with olive oil and toss to coat. Add the parsley, toss for 2 minutes, then taste and adjust seasonings. Serve cool or at room temperature.

Jeweled Beet & Carrot Salad

The colors of this all-raw salad—fuchsia, orange, golden yellow, and emerald green—sparkle like gems in a treasure chest.

Ingredients:
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice

  • 2 teaspoons honey (omit for Whole30)

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

  • pinch salt

  • pinch cayenne pepper

  • 2 large red beets, peeled and finely grated

  • 2 large carrots, peeled and finely grated

  • 1/4 cup golden raisins

  • a handful of mint leaves, thinly sliced

Directions:
1

Make the dressing. In a large mixing bowl, whisk the olive oil, lemon juice, honey, cumin, cinnamon, salt, and cayenne. Set aside.

2

Make the salad. Pat the shredded beets with paper towels to remove the excess beet juice, and add to the bowl, toss with dressing. Add the carrots, raisins, and mint, then toss again to combine.

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Comments

  • Ari says:

    Made Casablanca carrots last night with a blend of carrots and zucchini (what we had in the house). Served warm on a cold night, they were delicious, and they seem like they will make a nice cold salad for lunch!

  • Julie J says:

    Mel, I would love to make all of these, and get a rotisserie chicken from the store, and just feast! If I make anything a day or so ahead, which would it be? It will be more than we can eat at once, will the salads keep all right? Thank you for all your splendid recipes!

    • All of the salads except Zucchini and Tomato can be made in advance; I would make that one about an hour before you want to eat it. And if you think you won’t finish it all in one go, maybe cut it in half because I don’t think it will hold up well over time. The others taste better on the second day and are still good on day 3, after that, they lose their bright flavors. All of the recipes work well cut in half, so you night consider that…