Every time we enjoyed a Moroccan meal at our hotel or an upscale restaurant, there was a veritable explosion of unusual flavors, the result of a very liberal use of spices (flavoring, not necessarily chilies) that are used to infuse stews, slow roasts, salads, etc. On top of that layer of flavor, there was an occasional hit of rich nutty oil that turned out to be argan(e) oil from Argan trees native to Southwestern Morocco and now an endangered species.
I thought kopi luwak or civet coffee was the only human foodstuff that was “seasoned” by passing through an animal’s intestinal tract but it turns out that goats traditionally fed on the argan nuts/fruit and they then pooped them out, at which point the locals collected the nuts, cracked them open, roasted them and pressed them for oil…. yup, poopy oil. :)
Today, we were told, the nuts are collected uneaten and unpooped, then processed for “cleaner” oils, particularly ones that are used for cosmetic purposes. Hmmm. At any rate, we did purchase a bottle of argane oil for cooking with or to dress salads, and it does have a nutty, rich, almost meaty kind of taste… very distinctive. Noticeably different from all of the olive oils I have tried. Here, a photo of some of the nuts, then the peeled roasted nuts and an old-fashioned stone press.
As we departed Amanjena, headed for the Medina in Marrakech, we were given a small bottle of argane oil, packaged in a wonderful wooden box, so we have two bottles of the stuff. You will notice them in use in a few of the dishes I will post soon.