Cook with May Bsisu

Chicken with Dried Fruit
I prefer to buy whole chickens and cut them up myself. I cut the breasts into two pieces and separate the thighs and legs. Serve this Moroccan dish with couscous or saffron rice.

Serves 10 to 12

½ cup canola oil
2 chickens, each cut into 10 pieces, rinsed & patted dry
2 cups chopped onions
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
4 tomatoes, peeled and chopped
½ cup sun-dried tomatoes, halved
2 tablespoons sun-dried tomato paste
2 teaspoons coarse salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups chicken stock
½ cup each of dried apricots, raisins, and plums
½ cup pine nuts, toasted
Cilantro leaves for garnish

Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Using tongs, add a few pieces of chicken, skin side down, to the pot. Cook about 4 to 5 minutes until golden brown, turning once to cook on the other side. Remove the chicken to a platter and continue until all the pieces are browned.

Lower the heat to medium, add the onions and garlic, and sauté for 5 to 7 minutes until the onions are translucent. Stir in the cilantro. Add the chicken, fresh and dried tomatoes, tomato paste, salt and pepper. Cover and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes. Add the chicken stock and dried fruits. Bring the liquid to a boil, then lower the heat and cooked covered for 1 hour until the chicken is tender when pierced with a fork and the sauce is thick. Taste and adjust salt and pepper.

To serve, arrange the chicken pieces on a round serving platter. Ladle fruit sauce into a bowl and put the bowl in the middle of the serving dish. Garnish the sauce with pine nuts and the chicken with cilantro leaves just before serving.

The Traditional Way to Clean Chicken
Before cooking a chicken, my mother always cleaned it with a combination of lemon and vinegar—and often with a flour rub as well. This removed sliminess, odors, and made the chicken taste better. I still use these traditional techniques, even with fresh products.

To clean chicken pieces, combine 2/3 cup bottled lemon juice (don’t bother squeezing fresh in this case) and 1 cup white vinegar in a shallow glass pan. Rinse the chicken under cold running water, and then add to the lemon-vinegar mixture. Add more lemon juice and vinegar to cover, if necessary. Let the chicken pieces soak for 15 to 20 minutes—no longer. Rinse under cold water and dry thoroughly before continuing with the recipe.

To clean a whole chicken, rinse it well under cold water. Drizzle some of the lemon juice and vinegar into the cavity. Rub the cavity with 2 tablespoons flour. Rinse it well. Then soak the chicken in a bowl with the remaining lemon-vinegar mixture for 15 minutes, turning the chicken to make sure all sides are immersed at some point. Rinse under cold water and dry thoroughly before continuing the recipe.
Roasted Vegetables with Couscous
Nothing is more beautiful that a large platter of roasted vegetables on a pillow of fluffy couscous. Make this dish any time of year, depending on what vegetables are in season. The quantities are just suggestions; use whatever’s available. My summer version is below, but try thinly sliced winter squash, halved Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower florets in autumn and winter, or asparagus and small artichokes in spring. These vegetables can be served alone as a vegetarian meal or an accompaniment to a more elaborate feast. Grill the vegetables on a gas or charcoal grill, or in a pan on the cooktop. Best of all, the vegetables and dressing can be prepared a day or two ahead and served at room temperature.

Serves 6 to 8


½ cup extra virgin olive oil
8 garlic cloves, mashed with 1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound (about 4 small) zucchini, quartered lengthwise
1 pound (about 3 small) summer squash, quartered lengthwise
½ pound (2 or 3 thin) eggplant, quartered lengthwise
3 red or yellow peppers, seeded and quartered
2 large red onions, sliced ½-inch thick


2 garlic cloves, mashed
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons ground cumin
2 tablespoons sun-dried tomato paste
1 tablespoon tomato paste
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice (about 3 limes)
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 cups dried couscous

Combine all the marinade ingredients in a large flat dish. Add the vegetables to the marinade and let sit for 2 hours.

Blend all the dressing ingredients in a food processor or blender until combined. Pour the dressing into a small bowl or pitcher and set aside.

Preheat a grill or grill pan to medium. Remove the vegetables from the marinade and grill until cooked, but not mushy, and slightly charred. The vegetables should have some bite to them. Some will take longer than others to cook. As they finish cooking, remove the vegetables to a foil-lined sheet pan.

When the vegetables are cooked, put the couscous in a large, deep heatproof serving dish. Add 2 cups boiling water, cover with aluminum foil for 15 minutes, until all the liquid is absorbed. Uncover and fluff the couscous with a fork.

To serve, arrange the grilled vegetables on the couscous and accompany with the dressing. This can be served at room temperature. The vegetables can be made a day or two ahead.
Chickpea Salad with Tahini
Dried chickpeas have better taste and texture than canned ones, but canned are so convenient. If using canned chickpeas, pour them into a colander and rinse them well. To prepare dried chickpeas, place two cups chickpeas and ¼ teaspoon baking soda in a bowl and add water to cover. Let soak overnight, drain and rinse well. Put the soaked chickpeas in a saucepan, cover with water and bring to a boil. Skim the foam on the surface until no more appears, reduce the heat and cook the chickpeas for ninety minutes, or until tender, but not mushy. Cool in the cooking liquid and then use as needed, scooping them from the liquid. Double or triple the recipe, freeze cooked chickpeas in the cooking liquid and you’ll always have some on hand. The chickpea salad and the dressing can be made a day ahead and tossed together just before serving.

Serves 6 to 8

1 ½ pounds cooked chickpeas or canned drained and rinsed
1 medium onion, chopped
2 tomatoes, peeled and diced
2 bell peppers (yellow, red or green), seeded and diced
3 small cucumbers, diced
1 tablespoon ground sumac
½ teaspoon coarse salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts


½ cup tahini
1 tablespoon garlic minced with ½ teaspoon salt
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper, optional

Toss the chickpeas, onions, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, sumac, salt and cumin together in a large bowl.

Whisk the tahini and garlic together in a small bowl. Whisk in the lemon juice. Gradually add up to ½ cup cold water, whisking constantly, until the texture is like mayonnaise. Whisk in the olive oil and red pepper, if using. Taste and adjust salt.

Add the dressing to the vegetables and toss. Taste to adjust flavor, garnish with the pine nuts, and serve.
Carrot Soup
3 tablespoons canola oil
2 large onions, chopped
2 pounds carrots, sliced ¼-inch
2 three-inch cinnamon sticks
3 bay leaves
8 whole cloves
½ teaspoon white pepper
2 teaspoons coarse salt
6 cups vegetable stock
2 tablespoons cornstarch dissolved in 1 cup water
2 tablespoons whipped yogurt
Fresh mint

Heat the canola oil in Dutch oven or soup pot over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes. Add the carrots and for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, cloves, pepper, salt, vegetable stock, and 6 cups water. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat, cover the pot and simmer for 1 to 1½ hours, until the carrots are tender.

Remove the pot from stove. Discard the bay leaves and cinnamon sticks. Puree the soup using an immersion blender. If using a standing blender, puree the soup in batches Remove bay leaves and cinnamon sticks. Process with inversion blender till smooth or use blender in patches. Return the pot to medium heat, add the dissolved cornstarch and stir continually until the soup comes to a boil again. Taste and adjust for salt and pepper.

Ladle the soup into individual soup plates, garnish with a dollop of yogurt and a mint leaf, and serve.