Intro

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A herd of goats eager to climb the branches of the argan tree

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The room opens to reveal a half dozen women sitting around its edges using colorful carpets and blankets to soften the blue and white check floor on which they sit. Their ragged hands move in a way that informs that they have made these motions countless times. With each set of dark eyes closely examining us they immediately begin to chatter in Arabic in a way that even if you don’t speak the language you know they are prattling on about their latest visitors.

Using stones as their tools these women work relentlessly to crack open the hard seeds of the argan tree in order to produce a rich oil used for both cooking and cosmetics.

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The argan tree is indigenous to the coast of Morocco between Essouira and Agadir. Recently the argan tree has been protected by both Slow Food and UNESCO as it’s livelihood has been threatened. The interwoven trunk and low lying branches make it possible for goats to climb up and settle in to enjoy the fruit. The seeds are left behind to be collected and gathered in the room in which I now stand admiring the work of the women in this cooperative.

The production of Argan oil is managed by the women of Morocco. Cooperatives line the roads along the coast and each is responsible for the production of this highly sought after oil. The money they make by the sale of the oil goes directly back into the cooperative and supports the surrounding community.

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Argan oil that is intended for cooking has a robust nutty flavor due to the roasting of the argan nut that resembles sliced almonds. In this particular cooperative each step of the process is still done by hand including the grinding of the nuts that are crushed between two stones. In the kitchen the oil is used similar to that of a fine olive oil – as a dip for bread, to boost the flavor of couscous and as a salad dressing. Because of the expense, argan oil is used sparingly. It’s flavor is rich and intense so a little is all that is needed.

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And then there is Amlou, a staple of Moroccan breakfasts. Made with toasted ground almonds, honey and argan oil, Amlou in similar to peanut butter if peanut butter was a perfectly sweet, deeply flavored, runny spread perfect for Moroccan fried bread. Nearly every morning it was the promise of Amlou that had me bouncing out of bed, eager for breakfast. My plate would be filled with bright citrus, stewed dried fruits like apricots or prunes and Amlou drizzled generously over it all. I could think of little else that makes a better start to a day.

 

 

Amlou

from Paula Wolfert’s, The Food of Morocco

I realize that seeking out argan oil may seem a bit much of me to ask but it will be worth it, I assure you. Beware of imitation oils. Paula Wolfert recommends ordering argan oil from either chefshop.commustaphas.com or zamourispices.com

Amlou makes a perfect accompaniment for toast, pancakes, waffles or just about anything.

8 ounces almonds, blanched, peeled and toasted until golden brown

1 teaspoon coarse sea salt

½ cup argan oil

¼ cup (or to taste) light honey, such as orange blossom

If you have a mortar and pestle grind the almonds in it with the salt. Once a smooth paste has formed slowly add the argan oil as if you were making mayonnaise. When the oil has been added and the mixture is smooth and creamy, add the honey a spoonful at a time. You can also make the amlou in a food processor, it just won’t have quite the same consistency. Store amlou in a cool place, but not in the refrigerator. It will keep for about one month.

33 Responses to “Argan Oil”

  1. Bethel

    First of all, I am enjoying all of the posts on Morocco, it’s always been a dream of mine to visit. Secondly, would you happen to know where I can get Argan oil from this particular cooperative that you showcased? I’ve been planning to purchase Argan oil, but if there is a more ethical and responsible way to get it, I’m on board to spend the money on it!

    Reply
    • Ashley Rodriguez

      @Bethel – That cooperative doesn’t sell online but I trust that the sources I listed seek out ethically produced argan. I hope you get a chance to visit someday!

      Reply
  2. Mary Gabel

    I have studied up on this oil a few years ago, but have never had the pleasure of trying it, on my list though:) I bet you had a blast while on vacation over there. Looks very intriguing for sure!

    Reply
  3. Jeanne

    I’m sure this adventure is an ethnic cuisine lover’s/photographer’s dream! The colors in this post are amazing. I’m now feeling inspired to seek this rich ingredient out.

    Reply
  4. Maggie

    I agree! Beautiful pictures! I did not know it was edible either! We sell several of the skincare products in our store….www.honeysucklehome.com.

    Reply
    • Ashley Rodriguez

      @Maggie – Thanks for commenting. I’m excited to check out your products. I also bought some argan oil for my skin and it is amazing. I used it a lot while over there and my skin never felt better.

      Reply
    • Ashley Rodriguez

      @Sue – Wow. Thanks so much. There is cosmetic oil and there is cooking oil. Cooking oil is roasted where as cosmetic oil is kept raw. That SHOULD be the only difference but if you decide you want to cook with argan oil, just be sure it’s food grade. :)

      Reply
  5. Pennie Azran

    I happen to have argan oil on hand, being that it’s one of my husband’s favorite ingredients! We usually drizzle it on tomato or pepper salads. I’ll have to try this recipe–I’m sure it will bring back childhood memories for the hubby. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
  6. Mikaela Cowles

    I feel like I just took a trip with you. Isn’t it amazing how you can just know someone is talking about you, but you have no idea what they are saying? And how wonderful of an experience to see this being made! Not to mention getting to eat it fresh. Wow, I am green. Just green!

    Reply
  7. jenjenk

    I’ve never heard of Argan Oil…but this just sounds so wonderful! Love reading up on your posts Morocco! Dying to go now!

    Reply
  8. Paolita

    I’ve been using argan oil on my face and hair for a while and love it, would have never guessed it was edible, let alone delicious… What a marvelous little tree.
    BerryHaute

    Reply
  9. Saadia_Organics

    That looks like it was a nice co-op. Great photos, as always. :)

    My MIL always sends us a nice bottle of her culinary Argan Oil when she sends us a shipment of cosmetic Argan Oil. Nothing is better on a salad…

    Reply
  10. Lala superstar

    I used to use Argan hair oil but I switched to the Shielo shine restoration oil – its is a type of amazon oil which I heard about on TV. The Shielo hair oil is nothing short of amazing. I’m a product junkie with thick/frizzy hair, and have NEVER experienced a hair product like this before. I have tried this formula both ways: on wet and on dry hair. Using it on dry hair gives it a bit of a shine…and even a little body.

    Reply

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