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Local Chef Zouhair Zairi writes cookbook- Moorish Fusion Cuisine: Conquering the New World

Sitting in Bangkok Cuisine on Dairy Road, I’m eating some of the best roast duck on the island with Chef Zouhair Zairi and his wife Yuka Kashiwabara. Zairi is fresh off his Japan and U.S. tour, in which he promoted his new cookbook, Moorish Fusion Cuisine: Conquering the New World. Chef ZZ, as he’s also known, conceptualized and produced the book in his kitchen on the slopes of Haleakala but says he created the book not just for Maui, but for the world. He wants to teach people “21st century cuisine,” he says, which is nothing short of a new way to eat.

Drawing on boyhood inspirations of the food his mother and grandmother cooked in Morocco and the experience he gained in the restaurant industry in the U.S., Chef ZZ put together a compelling argument for his new food style.

“Actually Moorish fusion cuisine is based on Ancient Moroccan traditions and ingredients,” he says. “I believe that the Moors were the founders of fusion cuisine since [they] combined the flavors from the lands they conquered; Spanish, Berber, Arab, North African, to create their unique style of cuisine. In my cookbook now, old world meets new. Moorish fusion cuisine is basically Moroccan cuisine fused with the diverse flavors, ingredient and  cooking style of the 21st century.”

The Moors have an ancient culture of Arab and Berber heritage. They settled in Northern Africa. Their food is steeped in recognizable Mediterranean influence with several exotic twists. Moor cuisine incorporates cinnamon, chilies and other spices traded from as far as China and from other areas that had been visited or conquered by Arabs.

As a young man, Zairi was expected to go to college and become an engineer, but his cowboy and Indian fantasies won out. Instead he left Morocco to seek his fortune in America. With $500 and no plan, Zairi crossed the Atlantic and almost instantly fell into restaurant work, starting at the ground level. He worked in many different locations and kitchens, collecting a wealth of knowledge. Eventually he reached Executive Chef status. On Maui, he opened Spices in 2002 as director and executive chef, and two years later moved on to JW Marriott.

Moorish Fusion Cuisine

In January 2010, Chef ZZ decided it was time to write a cookbook. He wanted to start recording a legacy of recipes after the birth of his two sons. All of the recipes have been tested on his family.

Zairi found an accomplished food photographer, Alan De Herrera, and food stylist, Tamara L. Kaufman, and his book project was a go. The book is large and hardcover, with many of its 200 glossy pages dedicated to showcasing locally sourced foods. Photos of divers with fish, Coca Farms and various dishes are gorgeously depicted.

“Tears came down my eyes when I saw a poster of my book and my name as author advertising the upcoming book signing event at Barnes & Noble in Houston Texas,” Zairi says. “The second proudest moment was how my wife, my kids, family and friends were blown away once they saw the book and how impressed they were.”

His top five recipes in the book are:

1) White Gazpacho

2) Deep fried cauliflower with Saffron batter

3) Cucumber salad with rose water vinaigrette and fresh mint

4) Duck Two ways: almond-crusted duck leg confit with organic Honey and rose-marinated duck breast with Amlou.

5) Braised oxtail with pomegranate molasses, golden raisins and toasted sesame seeds

Please note, however, that the recipes in the book are complex. Zairi says he has a special knack for combining spices and flavors. Lavendar, rose, rosemary, saffron and paprika are just some of the seasonings he uses.

The book has six chapters of food recipes, ending with a basics section where you can master broths, flavored oils and vinaigrettes used in the other recipes. The seafood section has a lot of creative recipes for fresh fish and prawns.

“Basically you can find 99 percent of the ingredients in the stores we have available here on Maui,” says Zairi. “Mana Foods has most of the specialty items. Meat, chicken and duck can be found in Whole Foods. One item that you have to buy online are gold leaves.”

You can find Moorish Fusion Cuisine: Conquering the New World, (Emerald Book Company; October 2011; $38.00/hardcover; ISBN: 978-1-934572-98-6)  at Barnes & Noble Lahaina and online. Or comment below in 3 three sentences or less and be entered to win a copy of the book.

 

Here are two recipes to try from the book:

 

• Tomato, Fennel, and Saffron Soup with Olive Oil–Poached Artichokes

Serves 6 to 8

In this recipe I combine two of my favorite ingredients, fennel and artichoke. This light, healthy, saffron broth is a perfect soup any time of the year.

Preparation: 25 minutes

Cooking: 1 hour, 30 minutes

 

4 whole artichokes, cleaned and quartered (leave stem on for presentation)

1 cup olive oil, reserving

1½ tablespoons

2 quarts fennel broth (see recipe below)

1 pinch saffron, toasted

1 shallot, julienned

2 garlic cloves, sliced very thin

1 whole fennel, julienned (reserve top part for stock)

8 organic grape tomatoes or cherry tomatoes

Kosher salt to taste

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

 

Garnish:

Zest of 1 lemon

Fresh parsley leaves

 

Method:

Poach the artichokes as follows. In a small sauce pot, over medium heat, place the artichoke quarters in the olive oil and poach for about 15 to 20 minutes or until the artichokes are tender. Keep warm.

In a medium soup pot, bring the fennel broth to warm, add the toasted saffron, and simmer for 30 to 45 minutes, allowing the saffron to release all its flavors.

Meanwhile, in a separate soup pot, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Sweat the shallot and garlic for a few minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure the shallot and garlic don’t burn. Add the julienned fennel and cook for a few more minutes. Pour the saffron broth into the mixture and cook for 15 more minutes.

In a small sauté pan, heat ½ tablespoon of oil over high heat and sauté the tomatoes for a few seconds or until their skins start to blister. Add to the soup and simmer for 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

To serve, ladle the soup into medium bowls and top with artichoke quarters crisscross. Sprinkle with lemon zest and garnish with fresh parsley leaves. Serve at once.

 

Fennel Broth

Yield: about 3 quarts

 

2 fennel bulbs with tops, roughly chopped

1 tablespoon fennel seeds

2 bay leaves

4 parsley stems

4 quarts cold water

 

Method:

Combine all ingredients with 4 quarts of water in a large stockpot. Bring to a boil and simmer for 45 minutes. Strain and reduce to about 3 quarts. Chill and use according to recipe. The broth can keep for up to 5 days.

*   *   *

Coriander and Rosemary–Scented Lamb Rack with Brown Lentil Salad

Serves 4 to 6

Lamb is frequently used in Moroccan cuisine and throughout the Mediterranean region. The combination of fresh rosemary and ground coriander elevates the flavor of the lamb chops, which are perfectly matched with a light lentil salad.

Preparation: 25 minutes + 2 hours to marinate

Cooking: 15 minutes

 

Lamb:

2 pieces rack of lamb (7 to 8 ribs each, Frenched)

5 garlic cloves, sliced

1 tablespoon ground cumin

3 tablespoons ground coriander

4 sprigs fresh rosemary

2 tablespoons olive oil

Kosher salt to taste

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

 

Lentil salad:

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 shallot, finely chopped

1 tomato, peeled, seeded, and finely chopped

2 cups cooked brown lentils

½ teaspoon ground cumin

½ teaspoon paprika

2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, chopped

Kosher salt to taste

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

 

Garnish:

Fresh rosemary sprigs

 

Method:

Trim any excess fat from the lamb racks and French cut down between the bones of each rack of lamb to create chops (about 4 double lamb chops from each rack). In a medium bowl, combine the lamb chops, garlic, 1 tablespoon of cumin, coriander, rosemary, and 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and toss gently. Cover and marinate for 2 to 3 hours.

For lentil salad, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a medium pan, and sauté the shallot until translucent. Add tomato, cooked lentils, ½ teaspoon of cumin, and paprika, and cook for 5 to 10 minutes. Add parsley, season with salt and pepper, remove from heat, and set aside.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Remove the lamb chops from the marinade and season with salt and pepper. Place the lamb

chops in a hot sauté pan and sear over medium-high heat for 3 to 5 minutes. Roast in the oven for 10 minutes or until cooked medium rare.

To serve, spoon a large amount of lentil salad on a plate. Place 2 double lamb chops on top and garnish with fresh rosemary. Serve hot.

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About Jen Russo

I write lifestyle and food columns for MauiTime, love being a Maui girl and adore my big family. Dedicated food taster, blogger, internet fanatic, and Maui and Hawaii specialist.