First Annual Couscous Festival

apricot tagine
Photo by Flickr user Flying House Studios


We're lucky to have a great many ethnic groups and their native cuisines heavily represented in Orange County, but North African foods aren't among them. Sure, I've eaten at Moroccan restaurants a handful of times, but in fact, I know bupkes about the spices, ingredients and techniques used in North African cooking. So I'm looking forward to a little schooling in Pasadena next weekend.

Chef Farid Zadi runs the Ecole de Cuisine Pasadena and co-organizes the first annual Couscous Festival on Oct. 16 N 17. A French chef born to Algerian Berber parents, he aims to educate restaurant pros and food lovers about the Algerian food culture. As a lamb-loving barbecue guy, I'm especially interested in Zadi's whole roasted lamb mechoui and house-made merguez.

Chef Zadi told me, “I am getting the lamb from small ranches in the Chino/Riverside/Temecula area. The whole lamb will be rubbed on the inside with a mixture of North African spices, herbs, aromatics and extra virgin olive oil. The skin will be rubbed with spices and extra virgin olive oil. The whole beast will be cooked in a smoker for several hours using orange and applewood. It will be served as 'tacos.' Basically I adapted all the components (side dishes and sauces) into something that can be eaten as street food.”

Experts in the cuisine will speak, include clay pot cooking and Mediterranean and North African food expert Paula Wolfert, Clifford Wright, author of Little Foods of the Mediterranean and A Mediterranean Feast, food historian and former LA Times food editor Charles Perry, and Faye Levy, author of the International Jewish Cookbook. Check the event website for the seminar schedule.

Tickets may be purchased in advance at A $20 ticket includes $15 in food coupons for sampling multiple tagines, Algerian pastries and pizza, Spanish escabeches, Turkish coffee, and of course couscous in its myriad forms. In addition, many unique regional spices, condiments, and hard to find preserved foods will be available for sale.

Couscous Festival, Sat.-Sun., Oct. 16-17, at the Chefs Center 45 N. San Gabriel Blvd., Pasadena, (818)641-6899;

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