Bringing Morocco Home…and a recipe for Winter Squash Cassolita

Oct 07, 2020

All photographs by Christine Moss

Chef Moss pulls us into a Moroccan dream — and envelopes us in an experience of travel even during a time of no travel — inspiring us to do the same

Who says you need to go anywhere to have an adventure?

Remember, our imaginations are powerful things. And if we allow ourselves to be absorbed by the experience, it is just as real to our bodies and minds no matter our location on the planet (which for most of us right now during COVID is in our own living rooms). But don’t let that stop you. I know, I’m not.

Instead, think of this as pre-production; planning for future travel. Set yourself up in advance by familiarizing yourself with foods, music, language and art activities to expand your cultural horizons and get you excited for adventures to come. Now’s also a great time to learn a new language. For example, Moroccan Arabic is a spoken language (not written) and there are some great lessons for beginners right at your fingertips on Youtube.

Where do you want to go?

Cave of Hercules, Tangier, Morocco

Last year my travels to Spain and Morocco clearly got under my skin and grabbed a part of my heart and soul. It’s like tasting something delicious for the first time…and wanting more. I pretty much miss everything about that trip — especially afternoons spent in a hammam. Moroccan hammams are a part of daily life, similar to Turkish baths. I will describe an at-home hammam experience below.

So, this is what I’m doing instead which is keeping me connected to my Moroccan yearnings (but be forewarned, it might spark your own):

I begin my day by harvesting bundles of fresh mint for a day's worth of tea and then put on some mellow Moroccan chill music that can be found on Youtube or Spotify. Check these out and  you’ll see what I mean. Envelope yourself in ambiance — it transports you right away!

A bounty of fresh mint, left...steeping into mint tea

I gather and stack up all of my books I’ve been collecting on arts, cooking and experiences of Morocco.

I light candles all day and into the night. An amazing friend had a collection of Moroccan glass lanterns that she gifted me when she redecorated. They are gathered in clusters around the house and are hanging in my windows lit with beeswax tealights.

Moroccan glass lanterns

For breakfast I prepare strong coffee and plate up little dishes of pastries, fresh and dried fruits and cups of orange juice. It is a good time to read through my books and get inspired. Recipe pages are marked with little strips of paper.

A Moroccan breakfast

Then, I proceed to do a thorough cleaning of the house to upbeat music. I feel it transforms the energy of the space and charges it with positivity. I follow this by burning some incense (myrrh on charcoal) and prep for cooking lunch and dinner.

Vegetables are peeled and cut. Nuts and dried fruits are soaked. Phyllo dough is defrosted. Chickpeas that have been soaked overnight are rinsed and placed on the stove to simmer.

Lunch consists of a bowl of Harira (chickpea and lentil soup) and flat bread. Followed by a piping hot glass of mint tea.

Supplies for the evening hammam ritual are set up and readied.

A little bit of afternoon time is spent sketching in watercolors at the table in the sunlight.

The tagine (named after the Moroccan clay cooking pot it is prepared in) is seasoned with the sizzle of onions and garlic, and then layers of local autumn squashes and root vegetables are arranged on top. The conical lid is set in place and the transformation begins.

Moroccan clay cooking pots, known as tagines

Couscous is steamed with cardamom, cinnamon, cumin and turmeric.

While home becomes warm and fragrant with spices, the air is brisk and chilly outside. The sun sets earlier than before. Dinner is served and shared with family. Eaten slowly and followed by more mint tea outside on the patio.

Now the sky is dark and even more candles are lit around the house. It is time for a slow ritual of hammam.

Preparing for hammam

Here’s what you do:

  • The water in the shower is turned on as hot as possible to steam the room. A few drops of essential oil of pine are splashed into the tub to fragrance the steam. Candles are lit and electric lights are turned off. A cool glass of water to drink is within reach.
  • Allow your skin to soften in the steam and wash with a traditional Moroccan black soap. It comes as a jelly-like substance in a jar and is made from olive oil. It is different from African black soap which is solid and made from the ashes of palm leaves and shea butter. I chose the traditional type with argan oil, which has a very subtle natural scent that reminds me of freshly woven reed baskets. But it can also be found scented with fragrances like vanilla or rose if you prefer. It does not lather like traditional soap but makes a light foam.
  • Use a traditional kessa mitt or natural scrubby or sponge to exfoliate your skin and then rinse in warm water.
  • Apply a thin layer of a full body mud mask and let that sit for 5-10 minutes. Rinse well with warm water and pat yourself dry.
  • Massage a rich moisturizer or body butter into your skin while it is still warm and damp.
  • Wrap yourself up in a cozy robe and prepare a cup of rose tea or chamomile tea to sip before a restful night of sleep.
  • Extinguish all candles before falling asleep.

Aaah, Morocco. I will dream of you and we will meet again. But until then, I thank you for your bounty of traditions. And for you friends, don’t allow anything to stand between you and your travel visions — bring them alive right where you are. And please share your home adventures with us, especially your pictures! Bon Voyage.


Recipe: Winter Squash Cassolita with Caramelized Onions

(adapted from Paula Wolfert’s book, The Food of Morocco)



  • 2 acorn squash halved and seeded
  • 3 TBSP olive oil
  • 1 large onion thinly sliced
  • ½ cup raisins
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 TBSP vegan butter
  • 1 TBSP brown sugar or maple syrup
  • Salt 


  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Rub 1 TBSP of the olive oil into the bottom of a baking dish and sprinkle a little salt on the insides of the squash. Place cut side down in the dish and roast uncovered for about 30 minutes, until it is tender. 
  2. Heat the remaining 2 TBSP olive oil in a large skillet or cast iron pan and add in the sliced onion. Turn the flame very low and allow the onion to cook until translucent without stirring until it begins to brown on the bottom. Sprinkle the cinnamon and brown sugar over the onions and then stir. Add in the raisins and salt to taste. 
  3. Continue to stir occasionally over low heat for another 30 minutes. Add a tiny bit of water if needed to keep it from sticking. 
  4. Scoop out the flesh from the roasted squash and gently fold it into the caramelized onions and raisins. Season with more salt if needed and freshly ground black pepper.
  5. Serve warm.

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