Moroccan Grilled Kabob with Chardonnay

In my old “potato-bag-looking” Peace Corps dress, which was apparently designed to drive away unwanted male attention, I headed to Marrakesh‘s souq (Islamic traditional market) in Morocco. On a winding busy street, a bright red silk carpet hanging on a rack caught my eyes. I walked into the shop and asked, “how much?”. The owner, who expected to play a bargaining game with me, quoted an outrageous price. I smiled at him and said, “I’m not your typical tourist. I’m actually very poor. Look at what I’m wearing. I am a starving student.” The owner looked at me up and down and said, “I’ll give you a special price if you sit right in front of my store for awhile. You’re my lucky charm, because many people are coming into my shop when you are here.” I didn’t mind drinking a Moroccan mint tea in front of his shop as his “model”, since he promised to give me his beautiful red silk carpet for only $50.

The Moroccan souq is a fascinating meeting place for buyers and sellers, as well as story-tellers and spectators. I loved getting lost in ancient, zig-zagging streets filled with vibrant colors, delicious aromas, lively laughter, and constant movement. To fill this year’s Memorial Day weekend with a similar kind of fun, I’ve decided to make Moroccan grilled kabobs.

First, I mix 1.5 lb lean ground beef with 1 sweet onion (grated), 2 teaspoons cumin seeds, 2 teaspoons coriander seeds, 2 teaspoons caraway seeds, 1 teaspoon paprika, 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, 2 teaspoons sea salt, 2 Tablespoons Italian parsley (chopped) & 2 Tablespoons cilantro (chopped) by hand. I then divide the mixture into 8 portions and mold it into the shape of sausages around fondue forks (because I forgot to pick up some skewers from the store). Next, I pour some extra virgin olive oil on the grill and barbecue the kabobs on each side until golden brown. Finally, I sprinkle some finely chopped parsley and serve with Harissa and bread.

Just like I unexpectedly turned into a Moroccan shopkeeper’s “lucky charm” in the center of the souq, the kabobs will draw a lot of attention at your Memorial Day weekend BBQ. The meat is very juicy and has a great smoky and nutty taste to it. Not only do coriander, caraway & cumin seeds add such interesting flavor complexities and texture, but they also bring an earthy and warming feeling in every bite. What a great way to welcome friends and family to a balmy cook out get-together.

I’m pairing the kabobs with a 2009 Cuvaison Chardonnay from Carneros. This wine has rich textures with great flavors of stone fruits, grapefruit, clove & all spice. Its balanced acidity counterbalances the moderate richness of the dish, while beautifully complementing the Middle Eastern spices and smokiness of the kabobs. I love that it isn’t too oaky to drink with foods. In the mouth, fruits and oaks are harmoniously dancing a perfect rhythm. Where is my music?

I wish everyone a very happy Memorial Day weekend and hope you enjoy the taste of Morocco. Happy cooking!

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