Cooking Dinner with Guests

We’ve been hosting a lot of guests at our house lately and having a great time. One of the things I’ve made available is a cooking class, which in our small home kitchen, is mostly a demonstration. I’d like to make some room for it to be more of a teaching experience, definitely on the to do list. Recently, I made a lamb tagine (I don’t have a actual tagine, but I do have a le crueset dutch oven and it works great) with spiced rice, a riff on Zaalouk, which is a Moroccan eggplant salad, naan with za’atar, and an orange flower ruffled milk pie.

We talked about za’atar from Syria, pomegranate molasses, orange and rose water, preserved lemons from Morocco, and ate sheep milk feta. It was fun to share my take on flavors from Morocco; the region that stretches from Iran to Morocco is home to some of the tastiest foods in our beautiful world so I love an opportunity share flavors that represent any country in that area.

Lamb Tagine

adapted from


  • 3 -4# leg of lamb, bone in or out, out is easier to find
  • 2 ½ tsp salt, more as needed1 ¾ c lamb, beef, or chicken stock
  • 5 oz dried apricots
  • 2 T extra-virgin olive oil, more as needed
  • 2 onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp tomato paste
  • ½ tsp grated fresh ginger
  • 2 small cinnamon sticks
  •  Large pinch saffron
  • 1 T pomegranate molasses
  • ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
  •  c fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 T unsalted butter
  • ½ c slivered almonds
  • 2 scallions, finely chopped
  • 2 T chopped parsley
  •  Fresh lemon juice, to taste


  1. Rub lamb with salt, let sit up to one hour at room temperature.
  2. Heat oven to 325 degrees. In a tagine, Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot with a tight fitting lid, warm 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat until hot. Add lamb to pot,  and cook until well browned on all sides. Remove and set aside.
  3. Add onions, tomato paste, ginger, 1 cinnamon stick and the spices to the pot, and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
  4. Return lamb and any juices on the plate, the apricots and stock, and half the cilantro. Cover pot with foil and then its lid if lid isn’t tight enough.
  5. Cook in oven for 3 hours, or until lamb is tender, turning it occasionally. (If using a tagine, you don’t need to use foil.) Taste and adjust seasonings, if necessary.
  6. Meanwhile, in a small skillet, heat butter and 1 cinnamon stick over medium heat. Add almonds and 1/4 teaspoon salt, and cook until golden brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Discard cinnamon stick.
  7. To serve, transfer lamb and juices to a serving platter. Top with toasted almonds and any butter left in the small skillet, scallions, parsley and remaining cilantro. Sprinkle with fresh lemon juice to taste. Serve with flatbread or couscous, if desired.



Eggplant Zaalouk

adapted from

  • 4 small eggplants, cut into bite size
  • 2 medium tomatoes or 1 c cherry tomatoes
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 bunch parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp Vietnamese cinnamon
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • I added 3 summer squash, sliced into 1/2″ half moons (bite size pieces), 2 bell peppers cut into rough 1″ squares and spinach. It’s not traditional, but we can all use more veggies in our lives.


  1. In a large saute pan, heat 2 T oil over high heat.
  2. Sear eggplant until golden, remove from pan and do the same with squash and tomatoes
    1. alternately you can leave your vegetables in larger pieces and grill them, then cut into smaller pieces
  3. When tomatoes turn soft, add minced garlic, cumin, cinnamon, and paprika. Cook 1 minute.
  4. Return eggplant to pan, add parsley
  5. Drizzle olive oil and add a pinch of cayenne.

Spiced RiceIngredients

  • 2 c white basmati rice
  • 2 T butter
  • 6-8 whole cardamom pods
  • pinch saffron
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 2 1/2 c water
  • salt to taste


  1. rinse rice thoroughly, let drain about 5 minutes
  2. melt butter in a saucepot with a tight fitting lid
  3. add rice to pot and saute about 1 minute, stirring frequently
  4. add spices to pot then water; Note, I don’t usually measure water for white rice. If you touch the top of the rice with your finger the water should touch your first knuckle.
  5. stir, bring the water to a boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes
  6. allow to rest for at least 5 minutes before removing lid and serving


Ruffled Milk Pie

This is directly from  I highly recommend you read her complete post. I won’t even try to rewrite it, Deb’s done a lovely job already. The only change I made was adding 1 T orange water, and 1/2 tsp cinnamon to the custard.

  • 5 tablespoons (70 grams) butter, melted (I used unsalted but if you want to use salted, just skip the added salt)
  • About 7 sheets store bought filo, defrosted (mine were 12″x17″)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract or seeds from half a vanilla bean
  • 1 1/2 cups (355 ml) whole milk
  • Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting
  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Brush a 9-inch round cake pan lightly with butter, then use a large sheet of parchment paper to fit into the bottom and up the sides of the pan, creasing as needed. (This allows you to remove the pie in once piece. You can also skip this and serve it right in the pan.)
  3. Brush inside of parchment with butter.
  4. Place stack of filo sheets on counter and cover with a larger sheet of waxed or parchment paper (see note up top) followed by a larger lightweight dishtowel. Mist towel with water to get it damp all over, but not soggy wet.
  5. Remove first filo sheet and place it on unused part of counter and replace waxed paper and towel.
  6. Brush first filo sheet with butter and use your fingers to scrunch it the long way into a loose fan-like strip; don’t worry if it breaks or tears.
  7. Wind it up into a loose, messy spiral. Place in middle of prepared pan. Repeat this with remaining filo sheets, making 6 more ruffle spirals.
  8. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, checking at 20, until filo is medium golden brown (you can go a shade darker than I did) and crisp.
  9. Remove from oven, leaving oven on, and let rest on a cooling rack for 10 minutes while you prepare the custard.
  10. Whisk eggs, sugar, salt, and vanilla in the bottom of a medium bowl. Pour in milk, whisking the whole time.
  11. Once 10 minutes of resting is up, pour custard all over baked filo and return pie to oven.
  12. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until custard is set.
  13. Let cool slightly before serving, dusting generously with powdered sugar before you do.
  14. Do ahead: Leftovers keep in fridge (impressively crisp, in fact) for, well, it’s been 3 days and I don’t think I’m going to find out if it can make it to 4, 5, or 6. But I think it can.

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