Monday, July 15, 2013

Museum of Food and Drink's Meet & Greet Tweetup

BOOM! The Puffing Gun

Update: Thanks to the MOFAD team, Dave Arnold and our food community, the tweetup was a huge success. Check out the MOFAD Q&A page to see everything that was shared for you to learn all about this amazing museum. Enjoy!

Please join us on Friday, July 19th from 4 to 6 PM ET for the #mofad Q&A tweetup. We are holding this event to give you an opportunity to chat with Dave Arnold of Cooking Issues and the MOFAD team about the Museum of Food and Drink and its first pop up exhibit: BOOM! The Puffing Gun and the Rise of Breakfast Cereal.

What do you want to know about the museum or the puffing gun? Do you have any other questions you’d like to ask the MOFAD crew? Tweet your questions using #mofad anytime before and during the chat. We’ll select some to post during the tweetup. Please do your best to limit the characters to 125 to allow us flexibility for adding question prefixes.

We organized this tweetup because MOFAD is going to change the way we learn about food and they won't succeed without our community support. They only have until 9 PM on Saturday, July 20  to fund the effort on Kickstarter. Please take the time to check out the explosive video at and consider a contribution. Each and every dollar amount, no matter how big or small, counts.

Please feel free to post @mofad to find out more about their effort.

Official abbreviated link to the Kickstarter:

Here are some brief instructions for those of you new to Twitter # chats.

Option 1: If you only plan on quickly checking out the chat & posting a few tweets.
·         Use the Twitter search function during the time of the chat and search for: #mofad. This will display all of the tweets with #mofad.
·         If you want to post a tweet to the chat, add #mofad to any part of your post.

Option 2: If you plan on chatting for an extended period
·         Log onto:
·         Type in: mofad

Thursday, April 26, 2012

A Place for Meeting...

Mache from the Rooftop Garden

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a long time. I’m hoping what I learned from Chef Steve Johnson of Rendezvous will be just as informative to you regardless of the time and place you read this.
It was a cold day with snow on the ground and I was thankful when the kitchen staff let me in. Shortly after I warmed up, Chef shows up and asks me if I’d like a cappuccino. Who could refuse?

We ended up at the bar and struck up a conversation about his citrus trees growing in the restaurant. He discussed the difficulties with the bugs that were a constant battle. He was only able to yield one grapefruit that was zested for use at the bar. He segued into how he had this amazing Meyer lemon jam from a friend's tree. "It was one of the best things I tasted that year." At that moment, I knew this was going to be a fun conversation.

Chef Johnson was flattered that he was being interviewed on the heels of Chef Jose Andres and Harold McGee. I expressed to him that my interest in people of the food world was not based on popularity but what I could learn and share with others.
He began to talk about how On Food and Cooking influenced him. He bought the book shortly after it came out and it was his bedside bible. “I took the book to the beach with me on summer vacation … while my friends were reading paperback detective novels. Once I started reading the book I couldn’t put it down. Twenty years ago, I was completely fascinated by what was inside that book.”
“This is it. It’s exactly what I’m looking for. I understood better the science of cooking and the why behind the how. You take those two building blocks and it completely advances your knowledge. For me, that book is one of the top five influences on my career.”

The Questions

What inspired you to move to France in ’76 and become a chef?
He discovered an interest in language early on and found he had a knack for it. He took a French class in the eighth grade and it blossomed from there. Eventually, he targeted a college with an abroad program that put him in Montpellier his junior year.
“It was that point in time that I came into contact with all these flavors. [There were] … approaches to food and ways to think about food that I never encountered before. It was an awakening for me for sure.”
He was fully immersed in the culture, which in France meant food. Chef also came to understand that he preferred to work on his feet. When he returned to the U.S., he got a job washing dishes in a restaurant. His parents were not pleased.
He worked his way through the ranks and chose jobs with skills of interest. “Little by little I fashioned myself a culinary education designed around trying to recreate in a professional setting my experiences as a young person in France.”
How did food impact you as a child?
“I was born in a rural small town in Central Ohio in ’56. …in that part of the world, people ate differently than they do now. My mother’s father had an enormous vegetable garden and we ate out of it a lot. He was very generous. When he went to visit neighbors, he would bring a basket of vegetables as a gift and he was a very popular man in our town… “
“I enjoyed spending time in the garden. I thought it was a wonderful place. I was impressed at an early age by the way he gave food that he grew himself as gifts to other people and made them happy. A very early lesson in how food can be a vehicle to give pleasure to other people. In the heart of every cook, there’s that sentiment or motivation.”
What are you working on? What’s new?
“My approach is I’m a tinkerer. I’m not a big concept guy. I like to go to work, put on my apron and fiddle around. That’s how I go about my business.”
“My ingredients mostly come from local and seasonal sources. There are no big wow discoveries.”
He frequents the farmers' markets, finds what looks interesting and works his magic. He also goes through seed catalogs, tries out what strikes his fancy and utilizes what works.
“I’ve fallen in love with Maras, a pepper from Eastern Turkey. I spend a lot of my time week in and week out trying to find out new ways to use this ingredient. It has a smoky kind of quality to it much like ancho peppers, but they’re not smoked. I get rough cut milled that still has oils in the flesh. It has a moderate heat to it. I use it to make chicken soup and sautéed squid. I’ll use it for anything.”
What’s the oldest piece of equipment in the Rendezvous kitchen that’s irreplaceable?
“Two 24” double handled cast iron skillets. We use them multiple times every single day.”
His crew was cooking some pears when I arrived. Just prior, pork shoulder for the cassoulet. Later on they plan to saute mushrooms.
“They’re indispensable. One piece of equipment beyond a chef’s knife and a pair of tongs would be a cast iron skillet. Hands down. I have friends who moved into a cottage and I gave them a cast iron skillet for Christmas. It’s the most obvious first gift.”
What profession would you pursue if you were not a chef?
“Late in life I came to appreciate the marine environment. I am fascinated by the natural world. I don’t want to say marine sciences because it sounds too lofty… I might have been a deck hand or a marine biologist.”

The Winter Bounty

In the middle of the interview, I got a tour of the Rendezvous rooftop garden. We managed our way up a metal ladder and a set of cinder blocks posing as stairs with snow crunching under our feet. I was pleasantly surprised by what I saw.
Like any garden, there are tools, compost and an owl.

The flat rooftop has full sun exposure. I was fascinated by his irrigation system that was simply condensed water from the restaurant’s air conditioning units.

“By using these vegetable crates from deliveries, lining them with cardboard and setting them in the puddles…  Roots pick up water as they need it. We run these units from Memorial to Labor Day. When the sun is the hottest throughout the middle of the summer, I have an abundant supply of water. April, May, Sept and October…  natural rain supplements. It takes care of itself.”

“November through April, I compost with earthworms. When it was a warm day, I gathered earthworms from the bottom of the crates and put them into the compost pile.”

He showed me wintered over mint, chives, sage, thyme, lavender and horseradish. Crates were strategically placed to take advantage of the limited sun of the season. 

"This is mache. It’s a lettuce. It’s extremely hearty. It’s not uncommon to see it growing in the snow. It’s a slightly bitter green. Also referred to as corn lettuce.”

He fashioned a greenhouse so the rosemary bushes would survive the winter. Their size over the years made it difficult to transport them seasonally up and down the ladder. It was built with windows from a local restoration salvage house. It was strategically set over a vent from the restaurant that heats it throughout the winter. The biggest plants were celebrating their fifth anniversary. The melting snow and occasional rain was enough to keep the plants watered throughout the winter. 
“So we use this rosemary to flavor the roasted chicken broth. Also use it to flavor the pizza dough that we use for grilled pizzas and flatbread for bar snacks. We make this pizza dough in large batches two or three days a week.“
“[The garden] bigger last year and it will probably get bigger next year. Herbs work best because they are most tolerant of conditions. I grow some cherry tomatoes up here for fun so I can snack while I’m up here.”

The Takeaway

I learned a lot about Chef Johnson that day. The food he serves is a glimpse into how he was raised and his adventurous pallet rooted in his Southern France experience. A tinkerer who developed his own rooftop irrigation system and greenhouse with resources that would otherwise be wasted. A gardener who grows his own ingredients influenced by his grandfather’s generous spirit. A Francophile in touch with flavors of the Mediterranean sewn into the cuisine he serves. Chef Johnson has made Rendezvous a restaurant of its namesake. A wonderful place to meet up and get some downright solid food made by someone who truly cares about making people happy. I must get back there and see what's new.

The Where

Rendezvous in Central Square
502 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02139
(617) 576-1900 

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

OCQ Tweet Up: Food Idea Marathon - All day, all night

Please join us on Wednesday, March 23rd for the #OurCookQuest Food Fest marathon chat. We have folks lined up to post ingredients for you to respond with your immediate inspirations, recipe links, or whatever else comes to mind. There will be one ingredient posted every ten minutes from 8 AM EST to 1 AM EST the next day. That's seventeen hours of continuous food chatting and 102 total ingredients.

Swing by for an hour block to chat with a handle you know, pop in and out to comment on ingredients posted or join in because you are interested in the current theme. We organized this tweetup because we all know how much people who love food enjoy sharing their ideas and knowledge.

Here's the list of our eighteen generous volunteers who will be tossing out inspiring ingredients. Below are their start times, handles, themes and ingredient number assignments.

8am - @eatingtheweek - eat right with color - In1 to 6
9am - @poodle_power - breakfast - In7 to 12
10am - @veryculinary - dessert - In13 to 18
11am - @savvyhost - TBD - In19 to 24
12pm - @vagablonde515 - Mediterranean - In25 to 30
1pm - @authorjane & @silvanamondo - hungry for spring - In31 to 36
2pm - @heather_atwood - TBD - In37 to 42
3pm - @culinaryvixen - perplexing produce - In43 to 48
4pm - @thedailypalette - seasonal - In49 to 54
5pm - @ridining - sustainable seafood - In55 to 60
6pm - @oursweetlife - Italian -In61 to 66
7pm - @familyfoodie - ethnic food - In67 to 72
8pm - @ourcookquest - a surprise - In73 to 78
9pm - @chefatthemarket - farmers' market - In79 to 84
10pm - @bethanyrydmark - Zanzibar - In85 to 90
11pm - @nieceymo - sweet - In91 to 96
12am - @kimhonan - TBD - In97 to 102

Here are some brief instructions for those of you new to Twitter # chats.

Option 1: If you only plan on quickly checking out the chat & posting a few tweets.
  • Use the Twitter search function during the time of the chat and search for: #ourcookquest. This will display all of the tweets with #ourcookquest.
  • If you want to post a tweet to the chat, add #ourcookquest to any part of your post.
Option 2: If you plan on chatting for an extended period

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

OCQ Tweet Up: Joining Local Food Forces

A new #TweetUp started to connect everyone who has an interest in supporting local food. Our first chat was held on Wednesday, February 16th and it was quite the success. It was wonderful to see folks sharing knowledge and learning. The enthusiasm made me see how passionate people are about good food. There were a lot of amazing folks who truly appreciate the efforts of their favorite farms, purveyors and restaurants.

OCQ is all about community and the local food pages below were created to share what we learned about local.

Check out the informative Q&A exchange on local food basics and thoughts on being a locavore -

We started a nationwide local food master list to make it easier for you find what's available your area -

Future #OurCookQuest chats will be scheduled at least three days in advance. The tentative date for the next one is March 16th at 10pm EST. The focus is farmers and their plans for Spring. Please encourage your favorite farms to join the chat to tell us about their products and help spread the word on better food choices. If they're not on Twitter, swing by and be their advocate.

Food tastes so much better when it's grown by people who care about what you eat.

Monday, January 24, 2011

OCQ's "Special of the Week" Recipe Contest, A Community Supported Effort

Ingredient Guessing Game*


Thank you for your interest in the community supported recipe contest.  It is community supported because:

1. The prizes are being donated by generous parties.
2. The judges are from all over (US & Canada) and have a wide range of culinary experience.
3. A large group of food enthusiasts took the time to spread the word to bring you here. 

The focus of this contest is fun and I hope everyone who is involved has some. We're glad you're here to showcase your creativity and look forward to seeing what you come up with.


Background Story

I recently had an exchange with Lisa Waddle of  It started with her tweet about Sustainable Sundays being the new Meatless Monday. A few tweets later, I proposed a recipe contest.

That was the easy part. The daunting task was organizing the event and I knew that I couldn't do it all myself. I decided to use the power of social media to find volunteers. I pounded the pavement and was able to find a lot of generous folks willing to spare their time and donate to the prize pool.


What Do You Have to Do to Enter?
(See the Contest Rules page for all the requirements prior to submitting your entry.)

Come up with a recipe that has a catchy name. The use of alliteration is suggested, but not required. For example: Turmeric Tomato Turkey Tagine.

Highlight the recipe with a local/sustainable ingredient from a purveyor you support.

Snap a couple of pictures (one plated, one in process).

Email it to us.

Contest Rules Page


What Do I Have the Opportunity to Win?

There is a prize pool that is building. Most of the contributions are recently released cookbooks from well known authors. A good portion of them are signed copies.

The current prize pool contributors are (listed in alpha order): Chef Jose Andres, Melissa Clark, @Cooks_Books, Suzanne Cope, Chef Stuart Reb Donald, Amanda Hesser, @HiddenBoston, Evan Kleiman & yours truly.

Prize Pool Donor Page

We will keep the prize pool open for donations until the end of the first judging stage. Please tweet us at ourcookquest if you know anyone who's interested.


Who Else Wins?

One local/sustainable purveyor from each of the winning recipes will have a featured post on Local In Season to help promote their efforts.


What's Up With the Picture?

Each of the seven ingredients above start with the same letter as each day of the week. The first fully completed entry contestant to guess the seven dry/dried ingredients will win a single prize from the pool.


Sincere Thanks

A huge community of food enthusiasts made this happen. We couldn't have done it without your support.

I want to start by thanking all the judges on the panel for sacrificing their free time to make this all possible. I hope that we'll learn a little more about each other and share culinary knowledge as we go through the process.

Your Judges Page

A big shout out to our prize donors! We recognize that their wonderful contributions are key to gaining all the attention and excitement. Brilliant!

Last, but not least, I want to thank all of OCQ's followers for supporting our efforts and getting the word out.

* Photo inspired by Jane Ward and her daughter.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Keys to Harold McGee, an Interview

No pretty pictures this time.  It was the end of Dr. Harold McGee's "Keys to Good Cooking" book tour and I had to respect that.  

I find myself in the lobby of The Charles Hotel having a moment of deja vu.  It wasn't long ago when I was sitting right there with Chef Jose Andres.  However, Bianca and Cathy aren't there to support me this time.  I'm doing this one solo.  I make my way over to the reception desk, politely state my business to the attendant and she calls up.  She relays the message that he'll be down at the scheduled time.  I find a seat in the line of sight of the main stairs.  I break out my snazzy new audio recorder, so I won't miss a beat.   

I see Dr. McGee out of the corner of my eye as I'm setting up and walk over to greet him.  I ask him about recording our conversation and he approves.  We start to get settled in and hear the voices from the reception desk carrying over.  He suggests that we find a quieter location.  I agree.  We locate a decent spot and get comfortable.  Dr. McGee made it a point to find an optimal location for recording and I am thankful for his pragmatism.

During our search for a place to chat, I asked him, "What convinced you to meet with me?"  He told me that Chef Andres persuaded him.  This was Chef's response to a request I posted about meeting with Dr. McGee while he was in town.  I abide by the rule, "It never hurts to ask," because this is what happens. 

The Interview

Note:  My questions/comments are in bold and Dr. McGee's responses follow in standard font. 

Can you talk about umami or glutamate's role in food?  Fish sauce as well?

The Japanese have believed for more than 100 years now that we had a fifth basic taste sensation.  It’s caused by MSG and other related compounds that stimulate a particular receptor.  It’s still a mystery why we’ve got that taste.  The original idea was that it’s because glutamate is an amino acid and many of our tastes have to do with essential nutrients or avoiding poisons in the case of bitterness.  People thought that maybe this is an indicator of protein content.  It’s true that many of the fermented foods that we get our biggest hits of umami from are protein rich and fish sauce is an example of that.  Where you start with animal tissue, full of protein, let it sit around for a few months or years with bacteria and the fish’s own enzymes going to work on the proteins.  They get broken down into amino acids and that’s how we end up with a condiment that’s especially rich in umami.

What is your favorite preservation method?

I’m not sure I can say that I have a favorite preservation method.  The combination of salting, drying and fermentation give us cheese, sausages and preserved fish.  In a way, those three go together.  Each one by itself has preserving effects, but practically speaking we rely on all three at the same time for many things.  Alcoholic fermentation has a lot to say for it, but I’d hate to choose between wine and cheese.

What food discovery are you most proud of and why?

Well, I’m not sure I’ve made any discoveries.  I’ve certainly looked at a lot of things, but discovery...  I’m not so sure what that might be.

What’s your earliest childhood memory of investigating food?

I didn’t really do much with food myself until I was an adult.  I did a little bit of cooking at the age of maybe ten or twelve, but it was more learning the ropes than experimenting.  I certainly remember making bread for the first time, using yeast for the first time.  But, that was more just following a recipe and being amazed by the result.

Is that memory strong with you?  What did that lead to?

I think that it was part of my experience with the world.  I certainly don’t call up that memory up every time I bake.  It takes some effort to remember it, but you know those kinds of things become part of you.  Whether they’re conscience memories or not.

Chef Andres once said you were, “...the guy with the light when we didn’t even know there was darkness.”  What are your thoughts on that?

Well, I think that’s a very generous and eloquent thing to say.  A very beautiful thing to say.  I’m happy to say that I think there’s an element of truth to it, but it was more a historical accident. 

I think it’s true that chefs didn’t understand because they had never been encouraged to think about food.  They were encouraged to learn specific ways of preparing foods, but not to really think for themselves.  I feel very fortunate to have been in a position to help turn on the lights, but it’s as much because cooking as a profession was tradition bound and people weren’t writing about the science of cooking.  I lucked into a unique moment in history when someone could turn on the lights.

What’s your favorite fundamental cooking technique?

I don’t have favorites if you know what I mean.  The reason I do what I do in fact is that I love that there are so many different foods, ways of doing things and ingredients.  People often ask me, "What’s your favorite dish?" or "What’s your favorite cuisine?"  My answer is, I don’t have a favorite.  What I love is the fact I can do something different for breakfast, lunch and dinner today, tomorrow and the next day.  The same with techniques, each one of them is fascinating in its own way.

How do you feel your research would be received by Brillat-Savarin if he were still alive today?

I think he’d approve.  I think he’d be interested in all the details since he’s one of the first people to make the connection between cooking and chemistry.  I think he’d be happy to be alive today since there’s so much interesting stuff going on.

What is your food related guilty pleasure that no one would ever suspect?

I’m not sure no one would suspect because it’s a pretty common one.  I love potato chips.  I could eat a seven or eight ounce bag at one sitting with no problem.

Any particular kind of potato chips, preparation?

I actually like both styles.  The blond, very thin … style, but I also like the darker kettle style.  They’re both delicious in different ways.

I assume you’ve made your own.  What types of potatoes do you like to use when you’re making chips?

Yukon gold because they have a very pretty color and I think they have a little more flavor than some other potatoes.  Most potatoes make pretty good chips.  Maybe not the white and red really moist ones.  Russets are great. Yukon golds are great.  Purple potatoes make pretty good chips.

Have you ever used beets or sweet potatoes?

I’ve played around with sweet potatoes, not so much beets or other root vegetables.  Celery root would be good.  I've never tried that.

That does sound good.

What are your thoughts on smell-o-vision?

Well, I think there are some basic challenges to doing that kind of thing.  The fact that smells linger and you have to get them into your system and get them out fast, the air around you as well.  I did read that there was a presentation in New York.  I think it was a short opera that was accompanied with perfumes or smells.  It did sound intriguing.  The only direct experience I have had with anything like that are scratch and sniff John Waters movies, which are fun but in a fairly crude sort of way.

I spoke to you before the Chef Adria seminar at Harvard.  You expressed that there were a lot of nights when you were writing "On Food..." wondering if anyone would be interested in the material.  What kept you going? 

A fascination with the material and a belief that other people would be as fascinated as I am if I were able to communicate it well enough.  A very basic interest in and curiosity about these natural materials and what it is that human beings learned to do with them.

How did you get into photographing food at the microscopic level? 

Foods are such beautiful materials.  As a kid, I loved photography.  My father gave me a camera when I was very young and I used to develop my own film, so that’s been a life long interest.  That’s something I enjoy doing when I can excuse myself the time.

Do you still develop your own film?

I only did black and white.  I still love black and white for what it can offer.  I no longer have the equipment, facilities or the time.  That is the great thing about digital.

In all your research, what universal truths have you discovered?

I’m dubious about universal truths.  Partly because foods are complex, human beings are complex, and the interaction between them is so complex.  If there is a universal truth, it would maybe be that things are too complex for us to understand and encapsulate in one single view.  It's much easier to talk about universal truths as a physicist or theologian.  For me, food doesn’t lend itself to that way of thinking.


After the interview, I thank the good doctor for his time.  I offer him refreshments that I brought, the choice between a basil seed or mangosteen drink.  He settles on the mangosteen because it didn't contain any artificial flavors.  I also had some of the thin Chef Andres inspired brittle I prepared.  I explain to him how Chef suggested that I pulverize the peanuts to make it thin.  I read that Dr. McGee didn't have a sweet tooth, but couldn't help myself.  He tried it and said, "It's nice." 

I talked about my recent basil seed discovery and my plans to source my own and infuse flavors into them.  He suggested that I investigate fenugreek, which is now on my list.  He took interest in who I was and he listened to me go on about my adventures in blogging and interviewing people who are passionate about food.  I appreciated that.    

At the end of our meeting, Dr. McGee thanked me for travelling a distance to see him.  I expressed my gratitude for his time.  It was a long trip for him and I was honored that he squeezed me in at the end of his book tour.  I invited him over for a home cooked meal the next time he's in town and said, "I’m not a great cook."  He said, “Neither am I.” 

The scholarly gentleman who wrote "On Food and Cooking" tells me, "I’m looking forward to see what you write," before he departs.  I'm hoping this post finds him well. 



1.  Don't think that most of your questions will have the response you're hoping for, even if you've done a ton of research. 

2.  Don't ask interviewees what their favorite "X" is, because you probably wouldn't like it either.

3.  Keep sharing your knowledge because it opens doors.  Something that I've always believed in.  I have Chef Jose Andres to thank for reinforcing this to the Nth degree.

4.  It's never too late to start pursuing a passion.

Please feel free to post yours in the comments.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Moroccan Magic - Olive Market in Malden, MA

Olive Market's Harira, Traditional Moroccan Soup

A good friend of mine hounded me for weeks a couple months ago to visit Olive Market in Malden.  Eventually, I made plans with my family to go there with him, check it out and make dinner with product from the store.  We all had an awesome experience learning about Moroccan cuisine and ingredients.  I had such a great time meeting Mostaf (the owner), his wife Nora, son Adam and the staff.  They all made us feel like family while we were in their lovely store.  I felt the least I could do in return was to blog in hopes that I could help spread the word.  I talked Mostaf into doing an interview in a few weeks.

I show up before Mostaf and start chatting with Nabil, a student employee.  I explain to him my plan to write about Olive Market.  I request to take some shots of the store.  Below are pictures of just a few of the many Moroccan items they carry.

Traditional Tagine

Countless Bags of Dried Mint
Coconut, Nuts and Dried Fruits

After I mill around the store for a bit, I grab a seat and Nabil serves me a bowl of harira.  "Mostaf told me to take care of you."  I thank him for the soup and begin enjoying it.  My friend walks into the store shortly after.  Mostaf shows up and quickly greets me.  He heads out back to touch base with his crew and get ready for the day.

A family heads up to the counter immediately to my left and starts chatting it up with Mostaf.  I figure the lady's a regular and I tell her that I'm writing about the store.  She introduces herself as Aisha and she's originally from the UK.  I ask her to talk a little about Mostaf, his family and the establishment. 

Here's what she had to say:
"There's nothing like this in the whole of Malden and I'm a foodie, so I look.  Seriously, I come every day.  It's fresh... not the same as everyone else's menu.  [Olive Market has] ...all the traditional things from Morocco." 

Kefta Being Prepared with Freshly Ground Meat


"I have bought the kefta from here because it's all hand made and it's got the spices in it already and the sausages as well."

One focus of the store is the organic Halal meat.  They carry chicken, beef, lamb and goat.  They typically have sides of beef, whole lamb and goat hanging in the walk in for cut to order.  They also provide all sorts of offal.


I hear the meat band saw buzzing through bone at the end of our conversation.  I love that sound, so I head over to see what's going on.  Lahcen, the butcher, has shifted over to grinding some beef. 

He sees that I have a camera and asks me to take a good picture of him.  He requests that I send him the prints, so he can send them home to his family.  How could I refuse his heartfelt request?

Nabil is cooking some chicken on the griddle.  I ask how it's been seasoned and Mostaf tells me that it has turmeric, white pepper, paprika and cinnamon.

I notice that Mostaf is heating up a skillet.  He tells me that he's making an egg and tomato scramble for his breakfast.  He seasons it with paprika, turmeric, black pepper and salt.

"Usually, I add some blue cheese, but we don't have blue cheese [today]."  I really wished he had.

Lahcen requests to have more pictures of him to be taken.  Who’s going to refuse a nice guy who cuts meat for a living?  I get a good one of Mostaf and Lahcen together.  Mostaf comments, “We have to lose weight.”  I say, "Nah, you guys look fine." 

I ask Mostaf about the coffee he’s making.  He tells me that Moroccans, “…don’t just use regular coffee. We use cinnamon, ginger, black pepper and nutmeg.”

Back to the eggs.  “When I eat it, I add something different.  I’m going to add tahini. It’s very rich in calcium.” He also adds a side of raspberry jam and surrounds the eggs with some dates.  “I love dates in the morning."

We all sit down when Mostaf finishes plating his brunch that will carry him until late in the evening after closing. Mostaf offers me some of his chef’s meal.

I ask my friend if he’d like some too, but he protests with, "That’s all he’s going to eat until the end of the day."  Mostaf adds, “I’m glad he already had the soup, otherwise he’ll eat all my breakfast.” We all have a nice chuckle at my expense.  “Eat! No double dipping!  People, when they eat together they become family.” 

Mostaf begins to explain how, “Moroccans love to eat with their hands. I prefer using my hands because my hands are the best tool.”  He rips off a small piece of bread, demonstrates and says, “Remember maximum three, two on one.”


So we start the interview...

JD:  What are your favorite parts of the animal to prepare outside of main cuts?

Mostaf:  Shoulder and neck of the lamb. "It depends on the mood and what you want to eat," as well as the season.  "You must cook with the bone, because it brings flavor."
Dedicated Sign for Couscous, Enough Said

JD:  For those who haven't tried Moroccan cuisine, what should they try?

Mostaf:  "Couscous is a must. [It's] very healthy, has lots of vegetables and it's steamed.  It brings family together.  Twenty people eat from one plate," that's about two feet in diameter.

JD:  You once said to me that, "Guests are a gift from God." Can you talk a little more about that?

Mostaf:  "When you have a guest, give them the best you have.  If we are cooking lentils and chicken, we give them the meat. The hospitality in Morocco is very unique."

Harira Simmering Away

JD:  What are your favorite things to cook for family?

Mostaf:  "Soup, harira, lots of good stuff inside.  Sometimes I like to do a tagine with lamb." 

Start of the Beef and Prune Stew

"Beef with prunes, good for [the] digestive system.  You always need bones with meat."

JD:  What are your favorite spices?

Mostaf:  Paprika, cinnamon, nutmeg, white pepper and tumeric.  "If it was up to me, I would put cinnamon in everything."

JD:  What is unique about Moroccan tea?

Mostaf:  "Every house has tea. Everybody drinks tea."  The fresh mint has to be strong.  The plants need to get lots of sun.  Farmers starve the plants of water for five to seven days before harvest to concentrate the flavor.   There is an interesting method of pouring the tea.  It is poured from a distance by raising your hand high in order to make it foam.  One tenth of the glass should be foam.  "Never, ever fill up the glass. Always half way," because it's elegant.   

Making Moroccan tea is a very old tradition.  "You learn from a professional. You can observe for ten to fifteen years before you start learning."  People specifically ask for trained individuals to make tea for large parties.  If you make tea for guests, "you have to be confident, 200%."  It's an honor if you're asked and people enjoy your tea. However, it's a disgrace if it's not good.    

"You need two to three hours to enjoy tea.  It's quality time with tea and friends."

Mostaf closes the interview with, “Wait until we get the hood. We [will] do shawarma, falafel, Moroccan cuisine…then you’ll see the difference.”


I learned a lot from Mostaf and his family at Olive Market over my two visits.  I am still in awe of the Moroccan hospitality.  It is refreshing to experience and quite infectious.  I also took away an interest in implementing sweet preserved fruit elements into savory dishes, which I only dabbled in before. 

Please go to Olive Market and take part in this family's American dream.  I plan to do a monthly run to get some great cuts of meat and my date fix.  Maybe I'll see you there?  I close with a quote from Aisha, "I think everyone should come.  Everyone needs a part of Morocco in their house."

74 Pleasant Street
Malden, MA 02155
(781) 324-5900


Here's what I made with ingredients I picked up.  Enjoy the show.

Moroccan Spice Rub:
Paprika, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, White Pepper and Turmeric

Lovely Color & Scent

Moroccan Spiced Lamb Chops w/ Mushroom Tomato Marsala Sauce
& Braised Freshly Made Sausages

Chops Rubbed with Spices and Olive Oil

Seared on the Cast Iron

Braised Sausages, Mushrooms & Tomatoes Plated

Lamb Chops Plated & Sauced

Moroccan Spiced Roasted Butternut Squash
w/ Pearl Onions & Golden Raisins

Large Dice of Butternut Topped with Spice Mix

Mixed Above with Olive Oil and Golden Raisins

Results After 15 Minutes @ 400 F

Stop, Sweet Savory Squash

Moroccan Spiced Couscous

Toasting Couscous with Onion and Spice Mix

Couscous with Chicken Broth Added

Pearls of Goodness

Drop me a comment and let us know about your recent Moroccan experience.  Would love to share it.