We realized that Chanukah was coming when we smelled the aromas from the bakeries in the Jewish Quarter of the city, where we all lived. In Morocco we didn't have expensive menorahs, because it was illegal to import them from Israel. Instead, every year just before Chanukah, the blacksmith added crafting tin menorahs to his regular horseshoe trade. When the holiday was over, we discarded our tin menorahs and went back for new ones the next year.
The lights were different in Morocco because we didn't use Chanukah candles. We used wicks and olive oil. Later, I found out from my rabbi here in Los Angeles, that according to the sages, this is the preferred way to light the chanukiah.
As with all Jewish holidays, for Jews all over the world, we had rituals and special Chanukah foods.
In Casablanca, we lit the chanukiah at sunset and then celebrated with fresh mint tea and delicious fried pastries called beignets. I remember my grandmother frying the beignets, and my mother adding the fruit jelly on top, and my cousin and I sneaking a hot beignet off the tray.
Dinner would be late that evening, with lots of extended family. We always started with six or seven salads, followed by chicken, vegetables, and a special couscous that was reserved for holidays.
- 1 chicken, cut up in 8 pieces
- 1 onion, diced
- 1/2 bunch parsley, chopped fine
- 1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped fine
- 2 carrots, peeled, cleaned and diced
- 2 turnips, peeled, cleaned and diced
- 2 zucchinis, peeled, cleaned and sliced
- 1 small butternut squash, peeled, cleaned and diced
- 5 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 500-gram package of couscous
- 1/2 can of garbanzo beans
- 2 1/4 cups water
- Salt and pepper to taste
In large Dutch oven, heat olive oil and put in onions to soften on medium heat.
Add chicken, skin-down, until brown. Next, add parsley, cilantro, and 1 1/2 cups of the water. Cover and cook on medium heat for 35 minutes. Test chicken for to see if its done, then add all vegetables. Simmer for seven minutes and remove from heat.
While chicken is cooking, rinse couscous and place in microwave-safe bowl to dry for 10 minutes. Cook in microwave for 10 minutes on high. Remove couscous and add olive oil, salt and pepper to taste, and the remaining 3/4 cup of cold water.
Open the grains of the couscous with a wooden spoon. Set aside for five minutes to rest.
Cook in microwave another 10 minutes.
Place couscous on large serving platter. Arrange chicken and vegetables on top.