Somewhere over the Big-I and two nights before the 17th Annual National Fiery Foods & Barbecue Show, my boyfriend and I find ourselves sitting in a Village Inn, one booth over from a chatty, convivial man named Matt. Actually, he is the Chef Matt, of Chef Matt's Hand Crafted Arizona Habanero BBQ Sauce, recipient of the 2005 Scovie Award for barbecue sauce. Matt is working miracles in our section, cracking jokes with our evasive and at times bitchy waitress. Service has sped up considerably since his arrival.
A culinary delight for food explorers, the menu at Mediterranean Café sails like Marco Polo from port to port along the silk trade routes of yore. The dishes delight with the bold combinations of sweet, sour, savory and salty flavors, typical of Moroccan, Tunisian and other Middle Eastern cuisines. Cumin, saffron, dried ginger, cinnamon, paprika, rose water, dried fruits, preserved lemons, salty olives and nuts all mingle peacefully on the plate.
This recipe is by Paula Wolfort, the author of a book called Couscous and Other Good Food from Morocco. Wolfort got the recipe from Aziza ben Tanfous, curator of the Sidi Zitouni Museum on the island of Jerba, who learned it from her grandmother. It was published in a more recent book, Mediterranean Cooking. You probably don't have a couscous steamer at home, but feel free to use a bamboo or aluminum steamer lined with a layer of cheesecloth. It'll work almost as well.