Comme ci, comme ça, in French means “like this, like that,” or “so-so.” It’s pronounced “Koom-see, Koom-sah,” but this isn’t a French lesson. Heck, I don’t know how to speak French, but the Comme Ci Comme Ça in New York City might inspire me to learn a few words.
The truck is owned and operated by Chef Samir, who was born and raised in Casablanca, Morocco.
As the story goes, he wasn’t much of a cook when he arrived in the States, but was determined to learn to feed himself in order to stop eating pizza everyday. He started asking his mama for tajine recipes over the phone, and one recipe after another, he fell in love with cooking. A tajine is a clay cooking vessel made of a low dish and a cone shaped lid, traditional in Moroccan and other North African cuisine. The rest is history.
After cooking for friends, word spread, and Chef Samir found himself becoming the talk of the town. It wasn’t long before he was inspired to launch his Comme Ci Comme Ça food truck. The name is inspired from a song Samir sang as a boy when he went scouting in the summertime. In the evening after dinner, the kids would gather, and each boy would pick a girl for a dance. They’d dance to this song.
Comme Ci Comme Ça
Choisi la plus belle
[Like this like that
I love you
Choose the most beautiful
Chef Samir loves cooking with couscous, so what better way to celebrate his time-honored traditions, than with his recipe for couscous with lemon chicken? It’s one of my favorites. Chef Samir and his Comme Ci Comme Ça food truck were featured on Food Network’s Eat St. this season, and after discovering this great truck, I not only want to learn how to speak French, I’m ready to go back to New York City.
Couscous with Lemon Chicken
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
2 tomatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon olive oil
1-1/2 tablespoons salt
1/2 tablespoon pepper
1 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
2 liters water
1/2 handful parsley leaves, chopped
1/2 handful cilantro leaves, chopped
1 cup chickpeas, soaked overnight
3 turnips, peeled and halved
6 carrots, peeled and halved
1 small butternut squash, quartered (or a small section of pumpkin, cut into 3” pieces)
4 or 5 small zucchinis (long or 8-ball round), ends removed and halved
2 or 3 small sweet potatoes, peeled and halved (optional)
Mix the onion, tomatoes, oil and spices in the bottom of a pan. Cook uncovered over medium to medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes, or until browned and the onions and tomatoes have formed a thick sauce. Add the water, parsley, cilantro, and chickpeas. Cover, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium, and simmer rapidly for 25 to 30 minutes.
Add the carrots, turnips, and sweet potatoes and cook about 15 minutes. Add the zucchini and butternut squash and cook for another 25 minutes. At this point, all of the vegetables should be cooked. Test the vegetables to be sure, cooking longer if necessary. Taste the sauce – it should be salty and peppery. Adjust the seasoning if desired.
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts 1/2 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon oregano
1 tablespoon thyme
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/2 preserved lemon, finely chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
Cut the chicken breasts into bite-size pieces
In a big bowl, mix all ingredients very well, cover and refrigerate for 2 hours. Skewer marinated chicken.
On a very hot grill, cook chicken skewers for 7–10 minutes, basting frequently and turning occasionally.
3 cups water
1 tablespoon salted butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 tablespoon turmeric
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cups couscous
In a large saucepan, combine water, butter, salt, cinnamon, turmeric and olive oil, bring to boil. Remove from heat. Add couscous, stir very well and cover. Let stand for 10 minutes. Toss the couscous and rub it between your palms to break up any balls or clumps.
To serve the couscous, shape it into a mound with a well in the center. Put the vegetables into the well, and arrange the lemon chicken on top and all around. Distribute the sauce evenly over the couscous and vegetables, reserving one or two bowlfuls to offer on the side for those who prefer more sauce.
Yield: 4-6 servings
Find Chef Samir online: