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Thursday, May 3, 2012

Cinco de Mama

At our latest Los Angeles Food Bloggers' potluck we were asked to bring a recipe that represented something from our mother's repertoire.  After hearing from several bloggers that their mothers didn't cook, heated-up tv dinners, or ordered out, I realized again how lucky I was to have a mother who cooked every night, and as a bonus, her cooking was really good.   Maybe that's why I cook almost every night, and really good too I think.

While my mother was able to embrace a variety of cuisines, so there was spaghetti, chop-suey, and many "American" dishes on the menu, her specialty was and is Moroccan food, and my favorite has always been her Tomato and Preserved Lemon Salad.  I loved the other salads too, and there were usually at least 4-5, but I'd be happy if there was just T&PLS, with hunks of bread for scooping, dipping, and sponging.

Since this salad has some of the best qualities of a really, fresh tomato salsa and since Cinco de Mayo is coming up, I thought I'd cross-purpose the salad to accompany some easy, delicious Tamales, with a Moroccan twist.  Starting with Melissa's Tamale kit, I added some ground cumin to the masa mix, set this aside, and then roasted strips of sweet potatoes and zucchini sprinkled with cumin, cinnamon, sea salt, fresh ground black pepper, and olive oil.  The beauty of this kit is that the masa mix is made by simply adding water, and is already very tasty just that way but will gladly except any flavor you'd like.  The corn husks are pre-soaked, pliable, and after adding a nice amount of the masa mix, they can be topped with anything you can imagine - in this case, the roasted, spiced veggies.  No cheese was added because a. not Moroccan, and b. not necessary - the roasted sweet potato added an almost cheesy texture.

In about 1 1/2 hours (30 minutes to roast the veggies, 1 hour to assemble and cook the tamales) I had a dozen, hot, steamy, creamy, flavorful tamales to be deliciously embellished by my mother's wonderful tomato salad.

So for those of you celebrating Cinco de Mayo and/or Mother's Day (whether your mother cooked or not),  I take my sombrero off to you all!

Marie's Moroccan Tomato & Preserved Lemon Salad
8 ripe Roma tomatoes, diced
10 pepperoncini peppers, stems and seeds removed, diced
1/4 of a preserved lemon, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
handful of fresh parsley, minced
extra virgin olive oil
salt/pepper to taste

1.  Mix everything together.  You may not need salt because the preserved lemons are salty, but you decide.
2.  See #1.

Serve this salad as an appetizer alongside chunks of French bread or equivalent, use as a salsa, or any other way you'd like.  It's really good. 


  1. What a sweet tribute to your mother. I used to think I missed out on certain foods (like pizza) as a child because they weren't kosher in our area but you reminded me how lucky I was too that my mother cooked all our meals.

    Delighted to see your mother's delicious Tomato & Preserved Lemon Salad in such beautiful photos and to have the recipe in print.

    Glad to also know how to make a vegetable filling for tamales, to use with the tamale kit. How nice that you added some step-by-step photos. Those roasted vegetables look like a yummy dish even without a tamale. I love your tip about seasoning the masa mix with cumin.

    Happy Mother's Day from us to your mom. Just bought more fresh fava beans to make her soup from your post about it again.

    1. Faye, thanks so much for your lovely words. I know you have many wonderful recipes from your mother too. The tomato salad made me think of salsa and the tamales are a little similar to couscous, therefore the Moroccan connection. The tamale kit is super easy and versatile, so you can even make each one in your kit differently, maybe some savory ones, and some sweet ones too, e.g., golden raisins, cinnamon.

  2. That salad was amazing! I'm definitely adding it to my repertoire this summer!

    1. Thanks Kate! So glad you liked it. Preserved lemon oil is fantastic on so many salads - beans, grains, beets, grilled veggies. Nice seeing you. Take care.

  3. Nancy, you are so creative, thinking of a connection between tamales and couscous!

    1. Masa, couscous, polenta, etc., are similar enough I think to inspire lots of fusion recipes. Thanks Faye!

  4. It was great seeing you at CampBlogaway. Hey I have a tamale kit like that (thanks to you). GREG

  5. Hi Nancy,

    Where does one get preserved lemons? Say hi to your mom for me. Julie

    1. Julie, so good to hear from you. Preserved lemons are really easy to make, just lemons and Kosher salt. Or you might be able to find some in the gourmet/ethnic section of a specialty store or on-line. E-mail me if you want me to send you a link on how-to. I actually made 5 jars today and will post in the future.

    2. 5 jars - wow! Are you refrigerating them?

    3. Not yet - leaving them on the counter for a few days and then in the fridge.