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Market Watch: Mourad Lahlou's Strange Special Order

Every week, Lulu Meyer gives us the scoop on the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market.

Last Saturday, I caught up with Mourad Lahlou, owner and executive chef at Aziza Restaurant who was doing his weekly shopping with his chef de cuisine, Louis Maldonado. Mourad doesn’t come to the market armed with a set shopping list. Instead, he relies on experience and the relationships he’s built with the farmers who have supplied him with produce over the last several years. He also brings a copy of the current menu so he can shop with an eye towards adapting it to what looks particularly good or is newly seasonal.

Between stopping to chat with farmers and fellow chefs, Mourad talked a bit about his new PBS television series scheduled to debut later this year. Focusing on Moroccan cooking and filmed in both Marrakech and the Bay Area, the show brings traditional recipes and techniques to the North American kitchen. A cookbook on the same subject is also in the works.

While Mourad’s menu at Aziza is peppered with dishes you might expect from a Moroccan restaurant, it’s the more modern cooking tools and techniques like sous-vide and CVap ovens, and his use of infusions to add flavor that set his dishes apart. Both subtle and satisfying without ever feeling heavy, his menu incorporates tradition with an approach inspired by the desire to highlight the bounty of California farms.

This week, one of the more unusual purchases Mourad made was several boxes of green strawberries special ordered from Dirty Girl Produce. Mourad will add the green berries to a stewed Spot prawns dish and pickle them to serve with raw fish. The unripe berries hold up in stews better than ripe ones and have an astringent flavor and a slight sweetness that work well with Moroccan spices. Here are some of the other items Mourad shopped for this week:

•    Red Carrots from Heirloom Organics
•    Apricots from Everything Under the Sun
•    Baby lettuces from Star Route Farms
•    Herbs from Eatwell Farms
•    Tokyo Turnips from Dirty Girl Produce