Friday, May 28, 2010

Divine M’semmen with Goat Cheese, Harissa Honey and Olives

Villa Oasis Lisl Dennis/”Living in Morocco,” Thames & Hudson
I read in the NYT’s magazine a few weeks ago that Bill Willis had died. You may not know his name but if you are a fan of design you probably know his iconic style from his work on Yves St Laurent’s Villa Oasis in Marrakech. He made Marrakech chic again in the 60’s by creating sensual retreats where one could live and breathe in the vivid colors and patterns of the harems and souks of Morocco. It was decadent and exotic to lie on silk cushions before a pool scented with rose petals, the intoxicating perfume of spices (and drugs) coming over ancient courtyard walls… no wonder it was a playground for rock royalty and wild young rich things.
Jardín Majorelle
As I looked at the images of Jardin Majorelle (the painter Jacques Majorelle’s 1924 homage to cobalt blue that St. Laurent adopted that you can see here: Majorelle : A Moroccan Oasis (Small Books of Great Gardens)I had a hankering for a favorite dish I had discovered at Orangette’s blog 2 years ago when I was seduced by this passage: “I should begin by saying this: do not underestimate the combined power of fresh goat cheese, honey, and olives. (Or spicy olives, to be specific, coated in something akin to harissa.) It is the trifecta. It will slay you."
She later mentioned M’semmen as the buttery vehicle for this gathering of delicious ingredients inspired by a Moroccan stall in Brussels. By the next day I had made the breads, spread the goat cheese, sprinkled on the olives and drizzled my spiced honey. Just so you know, m’semmen are flaky breads like chapati with buttery layers. They are easy to make and to store (freeze them uncooked then thaw for a few minutes and fry). M’Semmen with honey is a traditional breakfast in exotic Marrakech. These will get your sexy back. There is something deeply sensual about the combination of warm flaky bread with that sweet hot honey, melting soft cheese and piquant salty olives. I have made it regularly since finding the description 2 years ago. It never ceases to delight, nay, to woo and romance with its flavors. Licking the hot peppery honey off your fingers is…well…you know… a good experience to share.

Finding the cheese and honey is simple and you can buy harissa fairly easily, but I love a version from the late Bert Greene's Kitchen bouquets (there are so many great things in his books) and it is very good with the honey.

M’semmen with Goat Cheese, Harissa Honey and Olives

Soft goat cheese (I use a wonderful spreadable chevre from Patches of Star Dairy in NYC Union Sq. Market)
1 Part Harissa* to 2 Parts honey (I like my favorite Champlain Valley crystallized honey or a mild acacia or heather honey for this)
Chopped Moroccan wrinkly olives (remove pits)
Mint (optional)

Take a m’semmen and cover with goat cheese. Sprinkle with chopped olives and drizzle with 1 or 2 t. harissa honey. Add mint if you would like. It’s great served with mint tea.

M’semmen (makes 14)

1 ½ c flour
1 ½ c semolina
1 c warm water
1 ½ T oil
½ t salt
4 T butter

Add the ingredients together and knead for a few minutes. Let rest for half an hour. Roll into 14-16 balls. Roll out till thin and cover one side with butter, fold 1/3 over and butter the top. Fold the other side over. Turn. Repeat process and rest in the fridge for a few minutes. Roll again to a thin rectangle about 8”x5” cover one side with butter place the other side in a buttered skillet, fry on till brown spots appear then turn and do the buttered side.


2 cloves garlic
2 oz dried chili pepper, seeded (ancho is good for this)
2 t. Aleppo pepper (optional)
4 t caraway seeds
1 t ground cumin
1 t ground coriander
1 t salt
1 T hot pepper sauce

Toast chili for a moment, add spices and put in blender with salt and garlic. Slowly add ¼ - ½ c olive oil.

This keeps for months in the fridge.

And, thanks again to everyone for hitting the Google Ads...


Ken Albala said...

I assume you have naked houris drop this into your mouth, with the sound of a courtyard fountain trickling, myrrh smoke wafting though, reclinging on silken pillows. Right?

Diane said...

This sounds just amazing. I like Ken Albala's way of eating it that really appeals!! Diane

Stella said...

Hey Deana, goat cheese, honey, and spicy olives is the perfect trifecta! I would have to agree with that statement. You know, I grew up in an Algerian kitchen as well as a Southern American kitchen, so m'semmen and these types of flavors are no stranger to me. In fact, this is what we eat. I should probably post more stuff like this...
Anyway, super interesting. Oh, and I loved your article on B.C. about Ms. Jennie Benedict. And I want to make that mayo-I'm just worried to try without an exact measurement on the vinegar...

Decor To Adore said...

Oh yum! Do you happen to have an extra plate?

I hope you'll stop by and see my video for a French Macaroon video. There are bloopers. :)

I am also hosting a giveaway for a French Basketeer tote.

Linda said...

Deana...that is a sexy plate of food...gorgeous pics. My mouth is watering now...
Have a good weekend!

Fresh Local and Best said...

I love your description of m'semmen - the buttery vehicle for this gathering of delicious goat cheese, honey, and olives. This will truly get your sext back!

Sarah said...

This is my kind of food. What an amazing dish. Love all the history and commentary with it. I will be looking for some fresh spring honey and making this soon.

Lazaro Cooks said...

What a gorgeous post. Love the combinations of flavors at work here. This is a winner.


By the've got gmail! Check it out.

Deanna said...

Love the flavors. I'm sure this is a knockout for a Moroccan themed dinner party.

Sanura said...

This week has been about harissa, cinnamon, cardamom, oranges and so forth. It's everywhere. I made harissa a couple of weeks, ago. Misused it in the first dish, but the second dish was great. The flavors of Africa and Arabic cultures are so intriguing. Now, I'm looking forward to using it in honey.

Becky said...

Sounds delicious -- I'm glad you included the recipe for harissa.

SavoringTime in the Kitchen said...

I have got to start liking goat cheese! This does sound like an exotically delicious recipe and I was almost seeing Rudolph Valentino next to me on a pillow as we shared a bite. Whoa, you really can set the mind wandering with your posts!

BonjourRomance said...

THis sounds so good, will definitely try this. The honey and goat cheese is a mouth-watering combinatin.
Happy weekend to you,

Anonymous said...

This is an amazing savory treat! The combination of fresh goat cheese, honey, and olives sounds truly incredible!

pam said...

Oh my gosh! This sounds amazing! I have to make it.

tasteofbeirut said...

I was also fascinated by Moroccan culture and I knew Yves St Laurent ( and a few others) had a beautiful house there; how can one not be mesmerized by the exotic appeal of it all? When you mentioned the words goat cheese and spicy olives I was already sold; I have never tried this bread but it sounds ...what did you say? you get your sexy back? with a vengeance I should say!

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

Denea, in turn you have seduced all of us with your words! I had no idea of his name but knew of his influence and as always I love learning new things as I always do on your blog! :D

Barbara said...

I'm feeling sexy just reading this post, Deanna! There's just something about Morocco...

I had no idea who Bill Willis was, but then that's why I love visiting your blog. I will always learn something I never knew.
As for m'semmen, I have GOT to try this and it sure sounds simple enough to make and I love that you can freeze it.
Honey, olives, goat cheese on top? Verrrry sexy.

Jessica said...

My mouth is watering and my senses are tingling right now with your description of this culinary delight! Love it!

Unknown said...

I just adore Moroccan food! This looks absolutely to die for. Into my bookmarks it goes :)!

Trissa said...

I had to google BIll WIllis after reading about him in your blog - and you are right - he was genius - beautiful work... and the msemmen was also new to me - again, genius!

Faith said...

I bet this dish is as delicious as it is gorgeous. I love harissa, but I never would have thought to pair it with honey...brilliant!

Jane said...

What a glorious combo of flavors. Goat cheese is such a fabulous backdrop for so many dishes. I just love it paired in some way with honey, and the addition of olives? Heavenly! This post is wonderful.

Deana Sidney said...

Ken> How did you know.. exactly!
Food Fun> You are so right... can you think of it any other way?
Stella> I love your backround... it must be an amazing kitchen you have.. do share the exotic with us.. I know I want to taste more.
Laura> look forward to stopping by although me and macaroons will never go together!
Linda>They are so good
FreshLocal> They are really that good.. try them... Orangette was not wrong.
Sarah> you will love it... made it for 8 this weekend and there wasn't enough!!! very sad little puppies licking their plates... it was that good!
Lazaro> Thanks for the guest post invite.. you do have the best and friendliest policy!
Deanna> It really is perfect for a dinner party. Fry them ahead of time and warm them up... i sliced each into thirds and that was perfect.
Sanura>This may not be the most authentic harissa... but it is plan good...I love it with honey.
Becky... you will love this recipe!
Savoring> you have it exactly right.. Rudolph on the pillow!

Deana Sidney said...

BonjourROmance> this is right up your alley, to be sure!
5Star> It is something I think would appeal to your taste
Pam> I hope so!
Taste of Beirut> I would have thought this would be in your recipe file... you will love them.. just with honey they are delish!
Lorraine> I know, I felt so sad that he had sort of faded away... well not anymore... the book is great!
Barbara> I really would love to live in one of his lairs... I have used Moroccan elements on sets (especially bookcases without shelves!) and am crazy about Majorelle blue. As for the dish.. i think it is a perfect Florida snack... on your veranda!
Jessica>it is so good.... my friends this weekend were a little suspicious when I said honey and olives.. but one bite and they were sold!
Heavenly> bookmark away, you will thank me!
Trissa> yeah, isn't he cool? love the NYT article about him.
Faith> honey and harissa are a guilty pleasure... you will love it!
Jane> I know... it was a genius combination... who ever thought of it is an angel!!!

Brownieville Girl said...

Man oh Man - that looks fantastic, wish I had some to eat right now!!!

Wonderful blog :-}

Anonymous said...

Fantastic post! Love the flavor combinations and thanks for the harissa recipe. I will be giving this a try!

Clarity said...

This quite possibly has to be my favourite recipe that you have posted. Even the photographs are decadent, yours?

As for Jardin Majorelle, I visited it and was swayed by the romantic beauty of it. One day again, Marrakesh - which I love as though it had a soul.

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

That looks and sounds fantastic! What a beautiful combination of flavors and a great way of serving M'semmen.

Morocco must have beautiful gardens...



lindaraxa said...

This sounds divine! thanks for stopping by and commenting on my blog.

Mary Bergfeld said...

What a lovely post. This sounds like such an appealing way to eat. I must make the m'semmen
and top it in this fashion. It looks and sounds wonderful. I hope you are having a fabulous day. Blessings...Mary

Deana Sidney said...

Brownieville> thanks for stopping by... it may not be chocolate but it's almost as good!
What's cookingdoc>you will love that harissa!
Clarity> thanks... the photos are mine if they don't have a tag under them! So glad you like it... it's splendid... and you can cheat and get chapatis to spread all those good things on.. just make sure they are warm!
Rosa> Marrakech is a magical place!
Lindaraxa> you have a fun blog... glad I found you!
Mary> it is awfully good, Mary. I think you will like it!

Tanantha @ I Just Love My Apron said...

Those are gorgeous combination of flavors! The bread is as beautiful as your writing is!

Emily said...

I'm dying to be seduced by this combination of flavours. Your photos are so wonderful and make me wanna start on the preparation right away, although I'll have to wait until the weekend as all shops are closed not.

Sue said...

Deanna this looks like heaven. I haven't come across Harissa before so I am going to have to try and hunt some down over here! I adore goats cheese so this recipe is a MUST TRY!!! Many thanks for another wonderful post!

Deana Sidney said...

Tanatha> that is most kind, thanks so much for the compliment!
Vanessa>YOu will love it... it is right up your alley~
Sue> I think you will like it~

funkiefoodie said...

My noun for this post is nitid. Flaky flat bread, Harissa honey,(inspired) goat cheese and olives, surely this food is transcedent.

funkiefoodie said...

Sorry... missed the "n" in transcendent.

Magic of Spice said...

Now I really love this, and great photos:)

Tovie said...

Oh, that sounds so good! I'll have to try this.
There's a Moroccan restaurant here that makes a honey harissa sauce that is to die for. I could literally eat it on just about anything. They cook eggplant in it and serve it over lamb stuffed dates (and I order a side of it and pour it over most of the other things on the menu).