Light, fresh, and crunchy, a classic Moroccan salad is just the thing to jazz up your salad repertoire. Keep it simple with tomatoes, cucumber, onion, and herbs, or add a roasted green pepper for even more flavour. It's the easy, zippy dressing that will win you over. For busy weekday cooking, you can make a big batch of this salad and serve it for several days.
If you love Greek salad, you'll love this simple Moroccan Salad. It's even easier to make and has that same toothsome crunch with an irresistible fresh flavour.
We spent a glorious few weeks in Morocco over the Christmas holidays - it was a magical and unforgettable adventure. I'm still trying to process the wonderful colours, flavours, and sounds of this wildly exotic country on the northwest coast of Africa. It had been my childhood dream to see Morocco one day (check out my Moroccan Carrot Salad).
That dream finally came true!
Raymond and I joined a group of 10 other travelers on an Intrepid adventure - Morocco Uncovered. Together with our amazing guide, Mohamed, and smiling driver Musa, we journeyed into some of the most spectacular and unique corners of this richly varied country.
From riding camels and sleeping in a desert camp, hiking high in the Atlas Mountains, and wandering the crowded souks deep inside ancient walled cities to sharing meals and tea with locals in their simple clay-walled homes, every memory is burned into my mind in a kaleidoscope of sensory impressions.
I'll be sharing more photos of our stunning Moroccan trip in future posts.
The food of Morocco is flavourful and comforting. Breakfasts were simple with breads, sometimes pastries, jam, boiled eggs, olives, cucumbers, tomatoes, coffee and freshly squeezed orange juice. Lunches and dinners were tagines - lots of tagines (the name for the conical earthenware dish and also the name of the meal that is cooked inside of it) and couscous dishes. Dessert was always a platter of fresh fruit, usually sweet little bananas, fresh oranges (in season, fantastic and sweet), and yellow apples, the classic winter fruits there.
The first course of any main meal in Morocco is generally a comforting soup (served with fresh bread and dates) or one of a variety of delightful salads. The recipe for a classic Moroccan Salad I'm sharing is the most popular, available everywhere, and is the one we learned to prepare in one of the two cooking classes we took during our travels.
Moroccan Salads are very flexible. In Morocco they are made with a large variety of cooked or raw vegetables. Cooked carrots, beets, dried beans, or roasted eggplant cubes can all be prepared with this simple dressing. Salads are often made with each vegetable separately
Classic Moroccan Salad
Juicy tomatoes, crispy cucumbers, savoury roasted peppers and piquant onions all mingle with a simple lemon, olive oil and cumin vinaigrette. This salad can be prepared with just tomatoes and cucumbers, just tomatoes and roasted green peppers, or all three. Fresh flat-leaf parsley and cilantro add brightness, but it's that wonderful cumin vinaigrette that makes the salad taste typically Moroccan - slightly earthy and pungently aromatic.
Cumin is a very popular spice in Morocco. It is an integral part of a trio of seasonings common on every restaurant table or home in that country - salt, pepper, and ground cumin, either in shakers or pinch bowls. We found that a pinch of cumin added onto almost any dish adds an exotic earthiness that has now got my appetite craving it even after I'm back home.
What You'll Need
- tomatoes, seeded and diced
- cucumbers - long English or Persian type
- roasted green peppers (instructions below), optional
- onion - red onion is traditional, but any will do
- fresh parsley
- fresh cilantro
- fresh lemon juice
- good olive oil
- salt, pepper, ground cumin
How to Make It
There are two tricks to making a great Moroccan Salad that will keep for several days in the fridge: one is to seed the tomatoes. This is quick and easy to do by cutting the tomatoes in half crosswise and digging out the seeds and gelatinous juices. The process takes only a couple extra minutes, but is really worth it as it prevents the salad from becoming too watery after it sits for a while.
The other tip is to layer the chopped onions in the bottom of the bowl with the lemon juice or vinegar so they lose their harshness and get lightly pickled.
It's easy to make the salad a couple hours ahead of time if you layer the ingredients and put the salt on the top over the chopped herbs. This keeps the salt from coming in contact with the cucumbers or tomatoes and drawing more liquid out of them. Then when you toss the salad just before serving it's as if you've just freshly made it.
You can just dice fresh green peppers if you're in a hurry, but if you want to add a true Moroccan touch, roast the pepper. This makes for a deeper flavour and a more silky texture.
- make Moroccan Salad with just tomatoes and cucumbers, or tomatoes and roasted peppers, or all three.
- if you don't have both parsley and cilantro, use just one of them.
- if you don't have fresh lemons, use vinegar instead.
- add green or black olives if you wish.
- to save time, you can roast the green pepper for this salad up to 5 days in advance. Or roast extra peppers and freeze them - peel, dice and pack each roasted pepper into sandwich baggies, remove all the air, then freeze for up to 3 months. Defrost and use in Moroccan salad.
- instead of roasting the green pepper, dice it and add it fresh
- serve the salad as a first course, with fresh bread. You can even be fancy and pack it into a ring mold for a special presentation, like in our cooking class. Or serve the salad as a side dish to a main course.
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- 2 green bell peppers, roasted optional
- 1 small red onion, finely diced
- juice of half a lemon (1½-2 tablespoons) or use vinegar
- 1 lb. (454gms) tomatoes 4-5 medium tomatoes/2 cups seeded & diced
- ½ (150gms) of a long English cucumber (1 cup, diced) if you omit the green pepper, use a whole cucumber instead
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- Roast the peppers: If using the green bell peppers, roast them first. Either blister the peppers black on all sides on a barbecue grill or over a gas flame. Or to roast them under a broiler - preheat the broiler and place the top oven rack 6 inches (15cm) below the top oven element. Cut the peppers in half through the core, remove the core and seeds, and place the pepper halves cut-side-down on a metal baking sheet. Broil for 15 minutes, until blackened. Place the roasted halves into a small saucepan with a lid or into a sealed plastic bag until cool enough to handle. Then peel off most of the outer blackened skin. (Don't rinse the peppers, as this removes flavour. A few flecks of char are fine.) Cut the peeled halves into strips, then into ½-inch squares.
- Finely dice the onion, and place it into the bottom of the salad bowl. Squeeze the lemon juice over, tossing the onion to coat it in the juice. Leave it to macerate while you prepare the rest of the salad. This really helps take the 'bite' out of the onions by lightly pickling them.
- Cut the tomatoes in half 'across the equator'. Use your finger to dig out the seeds and juices from each section, discarding them. Set each seeded tomato half cut-side-down to drain while you seed the rest. Cut the seeded tomatoes into ½-inch (1cm) dice. Place the diced tomatoes on top of the marinating onions, but don't stir them yet.
- Dice the cucumber into small cubes (¼-½-inch), and layer them on top of the tomatoes.
- If using the diced roasted peppers, layer them on top of the cucumbers.
- Sprinkle with the chopped fresh parsley and cilantro.
- Sprinkle the cumin, salt, and pepper on top of the herbs.
- Drizzle the olive oil down the sides of the bowl.
- Toss and serve right away, or cover and refrigerate the salad until serving time. Toss just before serving. Taste and add more lemon juice, salt, or pepper, if desired.