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Ras el hanout is a spice blend of North African origin and even though there are a few common ingredients among the different recipes for it, the main rule seems to be that everyone’s ras el hanout is different. I saw lots and lots of different blends, each using different spice combinations and different proportions. So for my mix here I went through my spice cabinet and basically grabbed all my favorites: cardamom, cumin, clove, coriander, peppercorns, fenugreek, fennel seeds and cinnamon.
I ground everything up in my mortar with my pestle (a good right–arm workout) and then mixed it into a yogurt-based marinade that I used for the chicken. It turned out quite tasty, it’s a new and different spin on the traditional Caesar. But you don’t have to stop there, the ras el hanout is quite versatile beyond the salad as well. I’ve used it on roasted vegetables and yesterday I even sprinkled some on my pasta and tomato sauce lunch.
- 1 teaspoon cardamom seeds
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- ½ teaspoon whole cloves
- 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 cup plain yogurt
- 1 tablespoon ras el hanout
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- one large or two small boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite–sized cubes
- ¼ cup mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon anchovy paste
- 1 garlic clove, minced or pressed
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tablespoons milk
- romaine lettuce
- grated Parmesan cheese
- chopped chives
- Grind all ingredients except for the cinnamon in a mortar with a pestle until finely ground.
- Mix in the cinnamon.
- Whisk yogurt, ras el hanout, salt and lemon juice together in a bowl.
- Mix in the chicken cubes and marinate in the fridge for at least 2 hours or up to overnight.
- Shake the marinade off the chicken, then grill on a grill pan on the stove or on a grill (skewer the cubes if using a grill).
- Whisk all ingredients together and season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Keep in the fridge until you use it.
- Put lettuce on plates, top with chicken and Parmesan and serve with dressing and a sprinkle of chives.
Food Photography and Styling: Styling salads is really difficult in my experience and one of the things I have learned over time is that it’s best to just let the lettuce fall naturally and then adjust. Placing every leaf on the plate with intent ends up looking terribly staged. So for this photo I grabbed a bunch of freshly cut lettuce and dropped it on the plate from a few inches up. I did that a few times until I thought it looked natural and inviting.
My new marble tile became the surface for this shot because I could not think of ANY other surface that would have worked with the romaine shade of green… To make the set look less boring I added a drop of salad dressing next to the creamer on the tile. (I actually started by trying to make a trail of several drops but that turned out to be impossible to do by myself, I wasn’t fast enough back up the ladder with my camera to take the shot before the drops had spread out and run into each other. Sometimes it would be nice to have an assistant :)).
Nikon D600, 105mm, f/6.3, 1/160 sec., ISO 100. One Hensel Integra Pro Plus 500 Monolight, 35″ x 58″ Softbox.