Moroccan Sand Cookies

Food ‘n Flix, a virtual film club, featured some great feel-good movies this summer. We’ve cooked up delicious and inspired fare for The Princess Bride and Dirty Dancing.  (In between these two classics, we did view Volver in June.   Not sure that qualifies for a feel-good movie, though.)

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For August, Courtney at Fictional Fare is hosting Secondhand Lions which definitely belongs in the feel-good genre.  If I’d seen this film, I have forgotten but we are huge Robert Duvall fans and we were both eager to watch it.  (The Hubs usually excuses himself when I sit down to watch an FnF flick.)

The film stars Robert Duvall, Michael Caine and Haley Joel Osment.  Walter (Osment) feels abandoned by his mother (Kyra Sedgwick) as she leaves him in the care of two eccentric great-uncles (Caine and Duvall).   It’s the summer of 1962 and this young man on the verge of adulthood feels neglected and alone.  As he makes a home for himself in the dusty, buggy and deserted attic, he finds a mysterious old trunk that might explain a lot about his uncles.   As you might surmise, the uncles and Walter bond—with stories of their lost youth, bar fights, failed gardening, and a cast-off lion.

Secondhand Lions is not full of culinary inspiration, but while I had my foodie goggles strapped on, I noticed the following foods and food references in the film:

  • Iced tea with lemon as the uncles sit on the porch playing “shoot-a-salesman”
  • Good country breakfasts with scrambled eggs and link sausages
  • Root beer
  • Corn on the cob
  • Bok Choy
  • Orange tree (from one of the flashbacks)
  • Basic Texas BBQ like ribs and hot links(fight scene)
  • Shiner beer
  • Steaks

I definitely wanted to do something a bit different for this round and I was more inspired from the Moroccan flashbacks (even though they were a bit cheesy).  I even thought about a dish with jasmine rice for a bit.  I finally settled on “Sand Cookies”, a version of  Moroccan Ghoriba Cookies.

Moroccan Sand Cookies

A ghoriba is a type of cookie prepared in parts of the Middle East and can take many forms. Typically it is a round, shortbread cookie made with flour, sugar, butter, and usually almonds. It is often served with coffee or mint tea.

Based on Moroccan Semolina and Almond Cookies from the NY Times.


  • 1 3/4 c. plus 2 T. semolina flour
  • 2 c. almond flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill Super-Fine Natural Almond Flour from Whole Almonds.)
  • 1 1/2 t. baking powder
  • 1/4 t. fine sea salt
  • 3/4 c. granulated sugar
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/4 c. grape seed oil
  • 1 t. pure vanilla extract
  • 1 t. almond extract*
  • turbinado sugar


  • Position racks to divide the oven into thirds, and heat it to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  • In a bowl, whisk together semolina, almond flour, baking powder and salt.
  • Put sugar in bowl of a stand mixer fit with a paddle attachment. Finely grate lemon zest over sugar, then rub them together with your fingertips until sugar is moist and fragrant.
  • Add eggs and beat on medium speed for 3 minutes.
  • With mixer running, pour oil down side of the bowl and beat for another 3 minutes.
  • Beat in vanilla and almond extract.
  • Turn off mixer, add half the dry ingredients and mix them in on low speed, then add the rest, mixing only until dry ingredients disappear into the dough, which will be thick.
  • Place raw sugar in a small bowl. For each cookie, spoon out a level tablespoon of dough, form a ball and then roll and coat in the sugar.
  • Place balls 2 inches apart on the lined baking sheets, then use your thumb to push down the center of each cookie, pressing firmly enough to make an indentation and to cause the edges to crack.
  • Bake for 14 to 16 minutes, rotating pans top to bottom and front to back after 8 minutes, or until cookies are ever so lightly colored.   (If using a convection oven, you can forego the rotations.)  Cookies will just be firm to the touch when done.
  • Carefully lift the cookies off sheets and onto racks. Cookies will keep for about 4 days in a covered container at room temperature.

*The original recipe called for one teaspoon orange blossom water.  I substituted almond extract.

I doubt they will keep very long at all.  These are a great cookie, full of lemon flavor with just a hint of almond.  I love the texture of these cookies from the semolina, almond flour, and turbinado sugar.

Duvall will always channel Gus McCrae from Lonesome Dove for us.  I think this is true in the bar fight scene.

Gus from Lonesome Dove

Berkeley Breathed, the famous cartoonist of Bloom County (which I was crazy about in college), did the drawings for the  Walter and Jasmine cartoons from the closing credits.

“The comic that never was…”

Thanks for hosting this round, Courtney.

Please join Food ‘n Flix in September as I host To Kill a Mockingbird.   Let’s see what kind of Southern cuisine ya’ll cook up.   The announcement post will be up on this site September 1.

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