Adapted from Chef Nargisse Benkabbou
New York Times, September 2022
Traditionally used to season seafood and vegetables, chermoula is a Moroccan marinade made of herbs and spices like cilantro, parsley, paprika and cumin. In this recipe, the orzo cooks in a combination of chermoula and stock, so the orzo is seasoned all the way through. In the last few minutes of cooking, just stir the shrimp into the orzo to cook, and you have a quick and easy, yet exciting, dinner. Feel free to use a protein of your choice instead of shrimp, but adjust cook times accordingly. Also, consider making a big batch of chermoula and keep it in the fridge to use as a marinade, a dressing on salads or a condiment for sandwiches.
For the Chermoula:
1 cup finely chopped cilantro
1 cup finely chopped flat leaf parsley
¼ cup Moroccan olive oil
3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon fine sea salt, plus more to taste
½ teaspoon granulated sugar
For the Orzo and Shrimp:
1/4 teaspoon good quality saffron threads
1/4 cup hot water
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup orzo
1½ cups chicken stock
¾ pound peeled and deveined medium to large shrimp, tails removed
Take one half of the 1/4 tsp saffron threads and put them in a spice mortar. Grind the spice with a pestle to a powdery consistency. Add a second pinch of saffron threads to the mortar. Do not crush these threads.
Ground saffron threads in a mortar and pestle.
Pour 1/4 cup of hot water into the mortar. Set aside and let the saffron soak for 5 minutes. This will open up the flavor of the spice.
To Make the chermoula: Finely grate the zest from both lemons and set aside for serving, then, into a medium bowl, squeeze 2 tablespoons lemon juice. Stir in the cilantro, parsley, olive oil, garlic, paprika, cumin, salt and sugar and set aside until ready to use. (You can keep the chermoula in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 5 days.)
Prepare the orzo and shrimp: Heat the butter and olive oil in a large pot over medium-high until the butter is melted. Add the orzo and keep stirring until the orzo is lightly golden, about 3 minutes. Pour the yellow saffron liquid evenly across the top of the orzo.
Add in the stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and cover the pot. Cook, stirring occasionally, until orzo starts to soften, about 10 minutes. If it looks like the orzo is too dry, add a couple of tablespoons of water to the pan.
Cover the pot again until the orzo is cooked through and most of the liquid has evaporated, 4 to 6 minutes more. Turn off heat. Gently stir in the chermoula and shrimp. Stir, cover, let stand 3 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and lemon juice if necessary.
Serve immediately, topped with the grated lemon zest.
Moroccan olive oil has all of the health benefits of Italian, Greek, Spanish, Californian, and all other olive oils, including potential advantages for heart and brain health and cancer prevention. Made in the unique terroir surrounding the Atlas Mountains, Moroccan olive oil has a flavor all its own. Once you have some Moroccan olive oil in your pantry, it’s a perfect time to delve into the delicious world of Moroccan cuisine. Try making some salads, a tagine, or a sweet and savory olive oil cake.
Shrimp needs only 2-3 minutes @ 185°F to be perfectly cooked. Any time longer than that, you will get a rubbery protein.
Fresh herbs lose color and flavor when cooked. In this recipe, they are best when added at the end of the cooking time.