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Mint Tea and Moose Sausage edition (aka The Kasbah Chronicles November 2016)

Musings: Mint Tea and Moose Sausage edition

North to Alaska with Adventures by the Book and Authorpreneurs


14484891_990463264409013_715228099704534362_nKaylene Johnson-Sullivan, Kitty, and Susan McBeth, president


Dia de los Muertos

At the historic Rancho Guajome, Vista CA. Anyone visiting San Diego should head north to see our gorgeous Mission San Luis Rey, the oldest continuing operating mission in California



A new tradition taking hold in the US??

My Alaskan Adventure

Debbie’s Salmon Chowder

Classes and presentations:

It’s party time at Le Creuset in Carlsbad, with food and prizes. No purchase necessary!

Books for sale

Need a gift? I’ll sign and send one of my books!

News of Morocco and beyond

In memoriam: My roommate, Lilli Kalis MD


As I write this right after the election, post Halloween and post Dia de los Muertos, the sun is shining, pumpkins are through a’bloomin’, and Christmas trees are making their appearance.

But I stray. To condense my memorable Alaskan Adventure by the Book  into a few lines is next to impossible. Let’s say that our 49th state is one worthy of discovery (barring the ridiculous TV series about Alaskan “pioneers”.) Dramatic, astonishing, awe-inspiring, are just a few adjectives that come to mind to describe the state’s breathtaking natural beauty.

I have to pinch myself. This year, I have flown the length of the Americas, from Patagonia to Alaska. The two areas have much in common. Towering trees, snow-capped peaks, water, water everywhere, inlets, islands, and glaciers (most of them melting away.) A moose sighting and a black bear in the wild were on my list. Both wishes were fulfilled in Alaska and more: I got to pick wild blueberries on the tundra.


Mam Moose and baby moose munching on Kaylene’s vegetable patch

As I mentioned in the previous Kasbah Chronicles, I went to Anchorage on the very first author exchange organized by Adventures by the Book and Authorpreneurs ( and , whose president, Susan McBeth, has made it her life’s work to connect authors with readers. And this she does superbly. You may recall that four San Diego authors (yours truly among them) hosted four Alaska authors last April, and Susan and her staff organized a number of literary events for them here. Alaskans reciprocated, and we San Diegans headed to Anchorage at the end of September. My hostess was my former guest, Kaylene Johnson-Sullivan (, a noted Alaskan author who specializes in Alaska’s history. Kaylene is also a great cook: thanks to her I sampled home made moose sausage, moose steak, and a memorable Alaskan seafood feast that included freshly caught salmon and crab claws almost a meter long. Heaven!



What did I do in Anchorage? Let me count the venues. Seven events in seven days. Debbie Moderow ( author of Fast into the Night, her adventures racing in Alaska’s excruciating, one thousand mile Iditarod race, hosted our welcome dinner. After I ingested three bowls of her Salmon Chowder, she was kind enough to share the recipe (see below).

The next day, author and 49writers co-founder Deb Vanasse ( had me speak at the annual meeting of the 49writers annual conference ( on how to write a memoir. Barely had I set my handouts down that I was headed for Turkey Red ( in Palmer, one of the most notable restaurants in the region. And what a meal it was! To my delight, Chef Alex Papasavas, who bills herself as local cook, caterer, and gardener, has as her sous chef Jalal Elbakkali, a graduate of a culinary institute in Fez. The two of them executed my recipes just the way I hoped, and, using local ingredients (salmon and spinach bestila anyone?) prepared one of the best Moroccan meals I have had outside Morocco. If you go to Anchorage, take the time to drive the 30 minutes to Palmer (not too far from Wasilla, where Sarah Palin can see Russia from her front yard!) Palmer is also home to Fireside Books (, a welcoming indie bookstore, whose owner, David Cheezum, sponsored that luscious Moroccan dinner cum-book-signing at Turkey Red. Merci to all.



 Allen and Peterson ( was the site of my cooking class, A Taste of Morocco, in what must be the best-equipped cooking school in the state. The store is a veritable treasure trove of all things culinary, from stoves to cooking implements and unusual ingredients. (Anchorage boasts several excellent food stores, such as Carr’s supermarket (aka Safeway) and New Sagaya, a maze of ethnic foods.) Who knew? At Allen and Peterson’s, another surprise awaited: Barley grits to make Couscous Belboula, a Berber specialty from Morocco’s Atlas Mountains. See my recipe for that unique couscous in Cooking at the Kasbah page 121. I have great difficulty finding barley grits in the Lower 48, so I was delighted to discover that barley grows in Alaska and that barley grits are processed locally. How cool is a company that lists its address as Coal Mine Road Lakes, Alaska, along with longitude and latitude?! Alll available by mail order from

The next two evenings I spoke at the Chugiak and Loussac branches of the Anchorage library, with a stop at the beautiful Anchorage Museum to view their extraordinary collection of artifacts in the Smithsonian Arctic Center ( And finally, the Alaska Botanical Garden ( inserted my presentation on edible flowers into their lecture series. These dedicated gardeners brought samples of local herbs, which, in Alaskan summers, develop to gargantuan size. The botanical garden is also home to 18 different varieties of CILANTRO! I just had to stop by to see them on my way to the airport. The experimental plants were a little frost-bitten but surprisingly fragrant.


Our hostesses made sure to squeeze in time to drive us along the spectacular Seward Highway to the equally breathtaking Alyeska Resort south of Anchorage, in time to see the incoming tide galloping up the dramatic shore of Cook Inlet’s Turnagain Arm. To learn more about Alaska’s precious and fragile ecosystem, read my host, Marybeth Holleman’s, heart wrenching The Heart of the Sound: An Alaskan Paradise Fund and nearly Lost. (

An Alaska SPECIAL for Kasbah Chronicles Readers!!
Debbie’s Salmon Chowder

Serves 6

“To tell you the truth, every batch of soup I make is a little different!” says Debbie Moderow. Prepare this a day ahead so the flavors have time to develop, she adds. This chowder freezes very well.

3 tablespoons olive oil

8 medium carrots, thinly sliced

1 medium onion, diced

32 ounces organic chicken stock

6 small red potatoes, diced

2 pounds boned fresh fish (cod, salmon, or halibut) cut into chunks

1/2 cup diced fresh dill

3 stalks fresh celery, with leaves, diced

1 (14 oz) can diced fire roasted tomatoes with green chilies

1 cup corn kernels (optional)

Milk as needed

Cayenne to taste

Parmesan cheese, for serving

The day before:

In a large pan or soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Cook carrots and onions until soft. Add the chicken broth, and bring to a boil. Add the potatoes. Cook 10 to 15 minutes until potatoes soften, and add the fish. Cook 5 to 8 minutes so it doesn’t fall apart.

Add the dill, celery, tomatoes, and corn, if using. Remove from the heat, allow to cool, and cover. Refrigerate overnight. Reheat over low heat. Add a little milk if the chowder is too thick. Before serving, season to taste with cayenne and a little fresh dill.


Back home, Chile once again beckoned. After travelling to the Island of Chiloe where mussels grow to the size of medium bananas (sorry for repeating myself), Chiloe mussels bathing in a garlic and wine sauce called out to me from Trader Joe’s freezer in Oceanside, CA. These Chilean mussels make an ideal base for the mussel mouclade recipe in my Edible Flowers: A Kitchen Companion (page 68).

Classes and presentations Spring and Summer 2016

Classes and book signings:

May 14, 2016:

Benefit cooking class for the San Diego French-American School. Private event.

May 21, 2016.

San Diego Herb Society. Members only.

Looking ahead:

To fun events in June, July, September, and October 2016.

Looking back:

Culinary Historians of San Diego:

Nan Sterman, host of KPBS’s A Growing Passion, and I gave a presentation for the Culinary Historians of San Diego. Whether your interest lies in food history, cooking, San Diego restaurants, ethnic markets, or local farms, this organization spices up body and soul!


Fullerton 2

Fullerton Arboretum:

Mark your calendar for next year’s “Green Scene” held each April at the Fullerton Arboretum on the campus of Loma Linda University in Fullerton, CA. This is such a huge event with over 100 vendors, speakers, and experts in all fields relating to gardening and even Edible Flowers! Check their website for next year’s date. Bring a wheeled wagon, comfortable shoes and a hat! There are serious gardeners out there!

If you haven’t visited Myrtle Creek Nursery in Fallbrook, you are in for a treat. The nursery was awash in blooms in late April, and the quaint gift store was filled with items not seen anywhere else. The small Café Bloom provides space for a respite. And they rescue GOATS! discovermyrtlecreek.comMyrtle Creek goats


The Kasbah Chronicles-March 2016. My travels to Chile


Llamas 1

LLamas in the Lago Andino District town of Peulla, CHILE, on the way to Bariloche, Argentina.

I would like to set Morocco aside, to tell you about my latest travels. In March, I headed south instead to CHILE, a country that has fascinated me since childhood. I have always wanted to see fist-hand my hometown’s namesake Valle de Casablanca, home to dozens of Chileans wineries. Geography classes at Casablanca’s Lycée de Jeunes Filles nourished my dreams with exotic names like Antofagasta, Valparaiso, and the Atacama Desert (even though the Sahara dunes were a mere day’s drive away from where I sat.) I must not have been alone in my imaginary wanderings, for practically every tourist I encountered during two and a half weeks in CHILE was a native FRENCH-speaker! Hardly a gringo in sight.

Casa CHILe 3

My husband doesn’t think that spending the day (or night) on a plane is a way to have fun, and thus chose to remain home. But I had itchy feet! I cashed in my miles, organized my itinerary with a delightful travel agent in Santiago (over the Internet), and finally, decided to give the Air B and B experience a try (over the Internet.) Success on all counts.

My charming Air B and B hosts, Loreto and Federico, a couple of young journalists, live in the center of Santiago in a residential area called Providencia. My room, adjoining bath, and kitchen privileges cost about USD35 a night. A concierge kept watch over the multi-storied apartment building day and night. Gladys of devised my custom itinerary: 6 days in Santiago, 4 days in the Altiplano desert (how exotic is that?!) and San Pedro de Atacama, and 5 days in the Lake District. I d

ecided to forego glaciers, since I had seen glaciers in Alaska last year. I headed instead to the Region de los Lagos Andinos, the Lake District, of Northern Patagonia. I even spent a day cruising one lake, Lago de Todos Santos, the first in a series of seven that eventually end up at Bariloche, Argentina.

Salt flats CHI

Suffice it to say that I met lovely people everywhere (in how many countries does your taxi driver drop you off, but not before giving you a friendly kiss????) travelled through scenery reminiscent of Lake Tahoe and Yosemite (in the south), hiked the slope of volcanoes as striking as Mt Fuji, explored the Atacama desert, the

driest place on earth and home to the Valley of the Moon, gushing geysers, lagoons filled with pink flamingoes, and a vast plateau dotted with herds of wild vicuñas.

Already familiar with Pablo Neruda’s food poems, I wanted to visit La Chasco

na, his house in Santiago. And, thanks to my Chilean friends Humberto and Yoli, I got to have lunch at El Meson Nerudiano, Neruda’s favorite restaurant. Friends took me to the gorgeous Casas del Bosque winery in the Valle de Casablanca, where I sampled the famed “Carménère” wine, one with origins in the Medoc region of Bordeaux, and thought to have gone extinct, and “rediscovered” in Chile in 1994.

But the place that remains foremost in my mind is the Island of Chiloé.  This  mystical island, where fairies and spirits abound, produces out-of-this world seafood including mussels the size of a medium banana, and lies just a short ferry ride from Puerto Varas and Puerto Montt, two of the main departure points for the Lagos Andinos.

To be continued . . .

Pebre, Chile’s counterpart to Pico de Gallo

Pebre 1

Kitty in the media:

Thursday, March 24, 2016

San Diego’s CW, Channel 6

San Diego Living

Having fun with edible flowers!

Laura Groch, former food editor of the North County Times, has a (what else??) food-focused blog. Subscribe at

Edible Flowers in the San Diego Union Tribune Food Section

In the San Diego Union Tribune

Dec. 16, 2015

Lavender Shortbread cookies

View the recipe and a mouth watering photo here:

Shortbread blossoms with lavender