Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Valentines Day - Casablanca Style

Valentine's Day is on Saturday this year. So is the premiere of Fifty Shades of Grey. The movie theaters have already sold out. You can't get a restaurant reservation no way, no how. Total craziness in our neck of the woods.

But ManO and I don't care. We have far more romantic plans. Our daughter gave us tickets to the NC Symphony's Pop Series: An Evening with Casablanca.  The symphony plays the score live as the story of Rick and Ilsa's WWII love story unfolds.

Our daughter knows us too well. We're Casablanca obsessed. Everyone knows it. No coincidence one of ManO's friends was born in Casablanca, the largest city in Morocco.

We have multiple copies and formats of the classic movie.
One of many reasons I fell in love with ManO is because Casablanca is his favorite movie of all time. An engineer with a romantic soul and love of old movies. Not sure he loves it more than he loves his trains but when he has this picture in his office, you know it's at least a tie.
The Paris train station set of Casablanca where Rick waits for Ilsa.

Every Valentine's Day, I craft ManO a handmade card. Looking through old ones for inspiration, I  noticed if the theme isn't Paris or trains, the sentiment includes something from Casablanca. Sometimes a combination of all three!
"We'll always have Paris." and "We go together like Rick and Louis." Yep, obsessed.
Back to Valentine's. I have a standing rule ManO can't buy me flowers. As a daughter of a florist, I know prices are raised through the roof for the week of and a few days after. (Because florists know some guys forget!)  We've also learned it's always tricky trying to get in and out of a restaurant in time for a show. If we could even get a reservation, as if. So being both time and budget minded, I told ManO we'd stay home and I'd make a Moroccan feast for dinner.

What is that? Well, we've talked to our friend, been to enough cosmopolitan places, that I have an idea. The best part is this meal is budget-friendly, simple to cook, gluten-free, and corn free. I used chicken instead of the traditional lamb, because I watched Lamb Chop the puppet growing up. ManO loves lamb and I love ManO. But I just can't go there. Plus, chicken thighs are so cheap!

"Here's Looking At You, Kid" Casablanca Feast       

Appetizer : Hummus and veggies. Since it's Valentine's weekend, I'll be purchasing rather than making my own hummus. We have so many good restaurants and marts with homemade hummus around here I'm taking advantage.  And folks have started producing gluten free pitas in their Mediterranean bakeries. Yay!  But we are keeping it to low carb veggies for dipping because of the fruit in the main dish. 

Entree: Chicken Tagine for Two (makes enough for leftovers the next day)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium sweet onion, peeled and sliced into rings
2 pounds chicken thighs cubed
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Salt to taste
Ground black pepper to taste

Enough water to cover meat

4 pears ­ peeled, cored and cut into 1 1/2 inch chunks
1/2 cup raisins (crasins or dried cherries are also tasty, especially if you use pork instead)
1/2 cup slivered almonds
(Numerous recipes include coriander and far more pepper but we are going for mild here)
Cooked rice or couscous

Heat the oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Fry the onion in the oil until soft. Add the chicken to the pan, and fry until just browned on the outside. Season with cumin, ginger, cinnamon, salt and pepper. Pour just enough water into the pot to cover the meat. Cover, and simmer over low heat for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until meat is tender and the mixture is stew­like. Check at an hour and slightly uncover if there is too much water, stirring occasionally.

Add the pears, golden raisins and almonds to the stew, and cook for a few more minutes.

Serve over cooked rice if you are GF or couscous if not.

Salad: Romaine with feta cheese and olives.  Keep the salad simple. A dressing of vinegar and
olive oil is just fine. After all, this is Valentine's so who wants to work too hard in the kitchen. 

Dessert:  Honey and cinnamon drenched orange slices. How easy is that? I'm also adding dark chocolate chips on top. Not quite traditional Moroccan but what Valentine's dessert doesn't have chocolate? Love the orange and chocolate combo!

 So, are you a Casablanca fan? What is your favorite romantic movie? Do you like meals that have a theme?  Is Valentine's Day all about chocolate, conversation hearts or something else?



  1. It's so cute that you and Man O have this in common. I'm not a Casablanca fan, but the continued theme is very inspirational. I may give something a try someday.

    1. It's kind of unexpected. We tend to view Casablanca as more a story of sacrifice than actual romance since there isn't an HEA. I expected to have a hard time finding food that went with the movie but no.

  2. This is charming! I refuse to let Valentine's Day interrupt my one day of non-working writing, so it will be tuna sandwiches or pizza or a pot of soup here. And I'm a minister of Holy Communion at Mass that day, so that's always a lovely way to spend some quiet holiday time!

    I agree about not going out on Mother's Day or Valentine's Day. It's crazy busy, not relaxing, and if I'm going out, I love things calm.... So we go out on off days when we go out. I'm also not good waiting in a bar, drunken people push too many old buttons, so going out on quieter nights removes that issue completely.

    I love the theme, Julie! I love Casablanca, I think the deeper meaning of the movie and sacrificial love are shrugged off these days. I wouldn't go so far as to have Moroccan food when God made Porterhouse steaks, but I'm applauding your ingenuity!!!


    I do love candy, though.... and my friend is a florist, so when Dave does flowers, it's from her or from the mega grocery store he helps manage, so the price gouging isn't involved, but you're right there, too. It gets crazy.

    I sent my Manhattan boys cookies. They will love me a lot. :) So will their co-workers.

    And that's about as into Valentine's Day as we get. Like you, I will not go near the weekend premiere....

    Once I get images into my head, it's very hard to distance myself from them and there is nothing in a story line like that that I want revolving in my brain.

    I think it says sad things about our culture to think that's okay. Is it prudish of me to say that????

    1. No, it's not. I'm not a prude by any means but I still don't like bad writing in a book, bad writing in a movie, and "blurred lines."

      There is something magical about making our own holidays, I think.

    2. It isn't prudish to have good taste. Just sayin'.

    3. True and apparently the reviews are bearing this out.

  3. The chicken sounds delicious! We almost never go out on the 14th because of the crowds. I think hubby is taking me out on Friday instead this year. And who knows, we may even do a lunch date.

    For us, we seem to rotate chocolate and flowers as gifts. I tend to get him chocolate most of the time since he's crazy about dark chocolate. But I'm not such a huge chocolate person (unless it's in brownies or cake). So he sometimes gets me flowers instead. Of course, I wouldn't turn away jewelry either! LOL (I hope he's reading this.)


    1. I just e-mailed it to him, darling.

    2. Good for you Missy. And good for Ruthy to follow up. This year ManO gets train room construction that starts in March. That ought to see him through a few gift seasons. Me? He'll probably do the dishes after dinner.

  4. We've never bought anything for each other for Valentine's day. Instead, it's always a reminder of what every day of the year is like. :)

    But oh, do we love Casablanca! What a great idea to watch the movie for Valentine's day! We haven't seen it in at least a year....

    And I have to try the Chicken Tagine. Not sure hubby would like the rest of the menu, so we'll just start out with one item. A la carte.

    1. There you go, baby steps. And if hubby doesn't like Moroccan, you can always do a French menu. After all, Paris is mentioned!