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Alfresco in Bolinas

Chef roughs it to prepare Moroccan feast

Guests dine on chef Mourad Lahlou’s (seated third, on the right) Moroccan feast cooked on site at Warren Weber’s (seated first, on the right) Star Route Farms in Bolinas.

Photo by Tim Porter

On a sunny day, one that straddled both an unbearable heat streak and a chilly fog-doused weekend, Star Route Farms owner Warren Weber, who has been called “the father of organic farming in California,” welcomed Aziza chef and Sausalito resident Mourad Lahlou to cook a Moroccan feast for a group of Marin foodies. Unlike at his fine dining restaurant, Lahlou would be working strictly with the basics. There weren’t any commercial-grade ovens, expensive stainless-steel pots and pans or even olive oil—and salt was only available after being brought via bicycle from Weber himself—but the outcome was an unforgettable alfresco lunch in Bolinas.

Lucky for the guests in attendance—who included Weber’s wife, the food stylist Amy Nathan; Lahlou’s partner and fellow Aziza proprietor Farnoush Deylamian; Lahlou’s longtime friend James Syhabout, who was the former chef de cuisine at Manresa and a 2007 San Francisco Chronicle Rising Star Chef; La Tercera Farm owner Annabelle Lenderink; and industry veteran Michael Poulos—the Sausalito resident took time from his busy career to make the curvy drive out to cook in Bolinas. The chef is on the cusp of his most exciting year to date; in the past six months he has received a three-and-a-half-star rating from critic Michael Bauer, beat Cat Cora on the Food Network television show Iron Chef, and (it’s been announced) is producing a 13-part cooking show that will take place in San Francisco and Marrakesh.

The day’s fare was cooking at its earthiest, with most of the produce from local West Marin farms and supplies limited to a borrowed barbecue, a few knives and a table. However, the Marrakesh native, who is self-taught, produced a perfectly light wild arugula salad with Yerena Farms strawberries and pecorino cheese; side dishes of bright gold chard, Meyer lemons, grilled fennel and artichokes, all from Star Route Farms; and an abundance of protein, including kumquat-and-prawn skewers, Pozzi Farms rack of lamb, Soul Food Farm chicken medallions, quail from Wolfe Farms, and lamb sausage made in house with meat from Prather Ranch. Lahlou’s dishes were all beautifully presented amid a rustic table setting, which included handpicked wild flowers, recycled-jar water glasses, Moroccan wineglasses, succulents and beautiful twig and wooden carved ball centerpieces from Corte Madera’s Tiller Digs, and linens from Sur La Table.

It’s said that Marrakesh is the heartbeat of Morocco, but this inspiring North African meal—on a spring day at the oldest continuously certified organic farm in California, with a group of food-conscious guests—would be hard to re-create anywhere else.

Lamb chops with sautéed gold chard

From Aziza chef Mourad Lahlou

3 racks of lamb (trimmed)
2 garlic cloves (sliced)
4 tbsp. olive oil
4 tbsp. grapeseed oil
2 sprigs rosemary (stemmed and chopped)   
9 sprigs thyme (stemmed and chopped)
6 sprigs marjoram (stemmed and chopped)   

Mix garlic and all chopped herbs in a ceramic bowl or platter. Rub racks with olive oil and half chopped herbs and marinate at least 8 hours or overnight. Place on grill for approximately 8 minutes, flipping after 4. (Vary time according to preference.) Or, to use oven, preheat oven to 425 degrees. Heat grapeseed oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Sear lamb on all sides. Transfer to preheated oven and cook for about 10 minutes or until medium rare. Remove lamb from oven and let rest.

2 bunches gold or red chard, washed
Extra virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely sliced
Marash pepper, pinch
Preserved lemon, pulp removed, thinly sliced (half of 1 lemon)

Separate the stems of the chard from the leaves and cut stems into 2-inch pieces. Roughly chop the leaves. Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat; add garlic and stir briefly.  Add stems to the pan and sauté for about 5 minutes. Add leaves and sauté another 5 minutes or until wilted and tender. Add Marash pepper, preserved lemon and salt. Drizzle with high-quality extra-virgin olive oil before serving. Serves 6.Guests dine on chef Mourad Lahlou’s (seated third, on the right) Moroccan feast cooked on site at Warren Weber’s (seated first, on the right) Star Route Farms in Bolinas.

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