If you want to get a taste of Morocco but only taking a subway, taxi or bike ride away – head over to Morocco, Kingdom of Taste at Hudson Yards Public Squares & Gardens this week (September 25th to September 29th, 2021). This pop-up is just right outside the glamorous mall.
When you enter, there is a station where they serve the country’s signature beverage, if you will, a refreshing sweetened Moroccan mint tea. Not far away, you would see a person or two, carrying a large beautiful silver tray piled with Moroccan sweets that are generally made with almonds (the nut Morocco eats primarily, while in the United States, we eat peanuts). The small triangular pastry called briouat is crispy, sweet but not overtly, and it’s filled with almond paste and gently flavored with rosewater. The miniature almond tart is wonderful – crisp tart crust gently sweetened with honey and decked with almonds.
The pop-up showcases Moroccan food that you may or may not know about. Did you know Morocco produces a large range of Mediterranean fruits, vegetables and even some tropical ones? They export high quality seafood like sardines and many other types of canned seafood.
Moroccan dishes have signature flavorings that could include preserved lemon, argan oil, olive oil, saffron, and dried fruits. For those who did pause for a second and think argan oil – isn’t that oil in my hair or skin products? Yes, it is that oil however this is pure argan nut oil is edible and it has a unique nutty aroma.
The staple grain today is wheat, used for bread and couscous. For those who are not aware, couscous is not a grain, it is a type of pasta, if you will. It is made of semolina, salt, oil, and water then it is hand or machine rolled.
When you go upstairs, that is where you will meet the radiant chef Yasmina Ksikes (also known as Lalla Mina) who is based in Los Angeles. She is here cooking all week and sharing her cooking tips and her takes on traditional Moroccan recipes. She mentioned that later on this week, she will be sharing her taktouka recipe (think shakshuka but pepper based).
Today, she demonstrated the zaalouk, a cooked eggplant and tomato salad that is flavored with some preserved lemon zest, saffron, smoked paprika and a Moroccan pepper that’s similar to Aleppo pepper (I forgot the name unfortunately). The chopped vegetable mixture was intentionally burnt three times to get the depth of caramelized flavors and smokiness that’s enhanced by the use of cumin and other spices. We all got a tasting of this wonderfully smoky salad on a miniature tart shell. This cooked salad could be stored in the refrigerator for several days but this was delicious that if you were to give me a pan of it, I’d happily eat this with a spoon in one sitting. It’s incredibly flavorful and healthy since there wasn’t much use of oil or fats and the recipe is very doable at home.
I’m happy to get a taste of Morocco at this pop-up. It’s also wonderful to be outside since the weather is gorgeous in New York City this week to enjoy the autumn sun and this pop-up is free to check out.
Morocco, Kingdom of Taste
Hudson Yards Public Squares & Gardens
Date: September 25, 2021 – September 29, 2021
Time: 11:00 am – 6:00 pm