Tag Archives: cooking

The Kasbah Chronicles April /May2016

 

More Chilean adventures

Osorno and K

I did it! Behind me, Volcan Osorno

I wasn’t quite done with a report of my trip to Chile in March. I hit the ground running soon after my return, yet “Northern Patagonia” and “Atacama Desert” still sound so exotic that I can hardly believe I actually visited. Could this reflect my French background, since I encountered dozens of other French-speaking travellers? Want to practice your French? Head to Chile!

From pink flamingos at rest on one leg in the lagoons of the Atacama Desert to the pine forests of Northern Patagonia, Chile is a land of contrasts. Not knowing much about Patagonia, I flew south to Puerto Montt, the rather uninteresting regional capital, and a popular stop for cruise ships crossing Lago Llanquihue. Thankfully, my Chilean agent had booked a hotel in neighboring Puerta Varas, “city of roses”, the delightful capital of the Region de los Lagos and a departure point for the seven lake cruise leading to Bariloche in Argentina.

Majestic Volcan Osorno, a clone of Mount Fuji (though Chileans are quick to remind you “it’s the other way round!”) towers over the lake, to create a mystical background. I could see it from my room at the quirky Hotel Casa Kalfu (http://www.casakalfu.cl) painted in a blue reminiscent of the walls of the famed Majorelle Gardens in Marrakech), a pseudo-Victorian edifice favored by Chilean and French tourists. Uneven stairs, slanted ceilings, and a fireplace or two all contributed to its charm. Excursions to volcanoes and waterfalls, a two-hour cruise to Peulla at the far end of Todos Santos Lake, mouth-watering Tablao Patagónico loaded with seafood, sausages and cheeses meals at La Gringa restaurant in Puerto Varas, and salmon ceviche purchased from a food truck kept me hopping until came time to take the ferry to the Island of Chiloe.

A spacious car-ferry links Chiloe to the mainland. Castro, the island’s capital, lies at the northern end of a two-hour drive (about 160 km) along the Carretera Austral (point “0” on the same HIGHWAY 5 that links the Mexican border to Canada.) Another riotously painted hotel, this time in bubblegum pink, welcomed me. The Unicornio Azul (http://hotelunicornioazul.com) brought to mind a San Francisco “painted lady,” with a cozy room, wi-fi, and 4 staff members who lined up to kiss my (right) cheek, a la Chilena, when I left. Nowhere else but Chile! The hotel reminded me of the renowned, still unfinished Winchester House in San Jose, California.

I was on a mission to taste “curanto”, an island specialty consisting of a stew packed with fruits de mer, “fruits of the sea,” as we say in French. Curanto is usually cooked underground, over hot coals, but Restaurant Octavio across from my hotel, features it on the menu. Among the fruits of the sea: cod, mussels (forgive the repetition, but they were really the size of a medium banana), squid, the sweetest clams I have ever tasted, sausage augmented with the area’s famed pink “potatoes” (tubers) and tangerine-size bulbs of elephant garlic. The next night, I returned for crêpe de jaiba, crab crêpe, and more seafood in Tabla Bordemar. The waiter watched me, incredulous at the glutenous amounts of food I was attempting to pack into my small frame (all in the line of duty, of course.) My new friend called out the chef to observe the ravenous foreigner. This led to an hour of talking about global culinary trends while Frank Sinatra hummed in the background. What’s not to love here?

Seafood Castro Chiloe

Sampling curanto led me to the waterfront fish market the next morning. Here, varieties of dried fish, mussels, and seaweed reign supreme. It has to be among the most scenic markets in Chile. That and Chiloe’s unique waterfront palafitas, stilt houses, were enough to entertain a return visit.

Jaiba, centolla crab Chiloe

I would be remiss, however, in ignoring the smaller island of Lemuy, a 10mn ferry ride from Chiloe across pristine turquoise waters crowded with fish farms. Chiloe and Lemuy are famous for their wooden churches, structures dating back to the late 1800s and recognized as a Unesco World Heritage. Interesting though the churches were, it is LUNCH that sticks in my mind (and to my ribs.) Imagine a 30 minute ride along narrow country roads lined with blooming fuchsia (an variety called fuchsia magellanica and its sweet, moist buds called “chilco”), and taking a sharp turn onto an unpaved stretch leading to . . . the jungle. This was Parque Yayanes (www.parqueyayanes.cl) a hideaway with cabins to rent, and an acclaimed restaurant overlooking a forest of greenery. Our hosts: the owner, Jaime Perez, a tall, distinguished, elderly gentleman with flowing white hair and beard who originally hailed from Macedonia (!!) and his Romanian cook Perla Kohan (!!) They had garnered a mention in the New York Times several years before. “We built our cabins and no one came,” explained Jaime. “So one day, we looked out our window, and we realized this was our real treasure: Our view. And the restaurant took shape.”

To be continued (and then, enough already). . .

 

The Kasbah Chronicles May 2015

OOOPS:

I had first written in my April  Enewsletter that my presentation at the Cardiff Library would take place on April 21, 2015 ( I sent out a second message with the correct date.)  Two, sharp-eyed readers caught the error.

It is on THURSDAY May 21, at 6PM

Cardiff-by-the-Sea Branch

San Diego County Library

2081 Newcastle Ave.

Cardiff-by-the-Sea, CA 92007

760 633 3631

Gabriel.aguirre@sdcounty.ca.gov

 

The Kasbah Chronicles

May 15, 2015

Two recent trips had me wondering why I yearn to hop on a plane towards distant continents.

 

The first was a drive with my mother along Highway 1’s legendary Big Sur, to Carmel, Monterey, and Salinas.

 

What pleasure to rediscover narrow roads free of traffic, emerald pastures dotted with HAPPY CALIFORNIA COWS, (the TV ad is right) and hundreds of dozing elephant seals who lay claim to the stretch of sand at Piedras Blancas.

Santa Barbara and its jacaranda-lined streets surely rival the Côte d’Azur in topography, natural beauty and architecture. In the hills, behind the awe-inspiring Mission Santa Barbara (http://www.santabarbaramission.org), we strolled through a meadow carpeted with California wild flowers, exotic displays of succulents, and even a small grove of redwoods (not to mention a lovely gift store) at the Santa Barbara Botanic Gardens (www.sbbg.org/visit)

Bouchon and Opal’s, two well-known downtown Santa Barbara restaurants, left delectable impressions. As did the weekly farmer’s market, where I learned that coffee grows in the Santa Barbara hills.

A short stretch of 101 freeway separates the gardens from Montecito and Casa del Herrero (www.casadelherrero.com), an authentic Andalucian-style estate built in the 1920s. The décor includes tiles (many inscribed in Arabic) hand-made by Tunisian artisans.

While in Montecito, I headed for Tecolote Books, a charming independent bookstore, to drop off copies of Mint Tea and Minarets.

To our surprise, tiles inscribed in Arabic also decorated a wall of the Hearst Castle. Upon arrival, my mother needed stair-free access to this hilltop landmark. A driver in a golf cart took us on a circuitous ride to the back door and the castle’s Gargantuan KITCHEN where we perused the yards of stainless steel counters and sinks. (Did you know you can purchase farm-raised beef from the ranch at the site’s cavernous welcome center?)

A few miles up the coast, the hundreds of dozing elephant seals at Piedras Blancas appeared not to have moved an inch since I had last seen them when I was tracking down commercial mussel and abalone farms to include in The California Farm Cookbook.

The unending curves of Highway 1 were easy to navigate on a beautiful day, giving us time to appreciate the natural beauty of sea, sky, and hills.  The terrace of Nepenthe, one of Big Sur’s iconic restaurants, offered one of the best views of the coast along enormous sandwiches.

Carmel’s gorgeous mission basilica is one of the first landmarks to welcome visitors into this celebrity filled town. Lucky for us, the parking lot was free of the usual tour buses. The gift store (where you will find A Biblical Feast) holds a variety of treasures, not all religious in nature.

What I longed to visit again was the National Steinbeck Center in Salinas. I last visited in 1993 on assignment to explore Steinbeck Country. I visited Cannery Row with Bruce Ariss, an acquaintance of Steinbeck’s. Ariss has passed away, but his memory lives on Cannery Row (see photo above.) At the Center, you can spend hours viewing the lifelike displays, films, posters, artwork, and films related to Steinbeck and his oeuvre. The California Farm Cookbook contains a recipe from the Steinbeck House (steinbeckhouse.com), where volunteers man the restaurant a few days a week.

A few days after my return home, I was on the road with my husband towards a totally different world, the Anza Borrego Desert and Agua Caliente County Park located along the famed Butterfield Stage mail route. Driving from the “flatlands” of the coast into the pine-covered hills of Julian, then gently “sliding” into the desert brought to mind Morocco’s Middle Atlas Mountains. Similar praire like fields and boulder-strewn hills line the road from the Alpine town of Ifrane to Errachidia on the edge of the pre-Sahara. The only thing missing were Barbary apes and caravans of dromedaries. (Ooops: Did I mention Oasis Camel dairy in Ramona, CA?! www.cameldairy.com)

Travel details:

Agua Caliente County Park has 7 cabins for rent. Bring your on bedding and food. Park closes May 21 because of the heat. In season, you can explore the trails and soak in warm spring-fed pools and a large indoor spa. www.sandiegocounty.gov/parks/Camping/agua_caliente.html

Idyllwild: Breathe in the crisp mountain air at this pretty mountain resort and artist retreat east of Los Angeles. Local resident Julie Pendray’s informative blog (specialsnotonthemenu.com) lists local happenings

Appearances and book signings:

Thursday, April 21, 2015

Repeat performance!

Come sip a glass of iced mint tea and sample

Fresh Flavors of the Kasbah: 

Moroccan adventures in food and travel

6PM

Cardiff-by-the-Sea Branch

San Diego County Library

2081 Newcastle Ave.

Cardiff-by-the-Sea, CA 92007

760 633 3631

Gabriel.aguirre@sdcounty.ca.gov

 

Repeat performance #2!

Macy’s School of Cooking

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Noon-1:30PM

Phone: 888-424-3663

1555 Camino de la Reina

Mission Valley – San Diego

Moroccan Cooking Cass

Join in the fun as I cook with renowned Chef Bernard Guillas of La Jolla’s Marine Room at Macy’s School of Cooking. Watch us prepare a sampling of Moroccan dishes. Come early. First come first seated (120 seats.) Line starts forming 45 mns ahead of time! A book signing will conclude the class.

Menu:

Tomato, fava bean, and preserved lemon crostini

from Mint Tea and Minarets: a banquet of Moroccan memories

Tagine of Eggs with Olives and Cumin

from Mint Tea and Minarets: a banquet of Moroccan memories

Orange Slices in Orange Blossom Water with Candied Almonds

How to preserve lemons, Moroccan style

Iced mint tea, Morocco’s national drink

Note: I am still booking programs for summer and beyond.

Do you follow Nan Sterman’s terrific new show, A Growing Passion, on KPBS? Nan was kind enough to invite me on the April 16, 2015 segment:

Preserving the Harvest segment

http://agrowingpassion.com/tv-schedule/?utm_source=Nan%27s+list&utm_campaign=c06d92e724-April_15_Newsletter4_16_2015&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_97e9ba1dff-c06d92e724-70362153

A French review of Mint Tea and Minarets on Toile d’Epices, a French site dedicated to spices

http://forum.toildepices.com/viewtopic.php?f=12&t=547&p=2056&hilit=morse

August 28, 2010: Book Signing in Camarillo (CA)

August 2010:

I’d love to meet you!

Drop by Le Creuset’s company store in Camarillo (CA) on Saturday, August 28th. I’ll be holding a cooking demonstration and book signing. And I will show you how to make REAL Moroccan preserved lemons.

Saturday, August 28

2-4PM

540 E Ventura Blvd., Suite 1356

Camarillo, CA 93010 (on the way to Ventura and Santa Barbara)

Phone: (805) 482-2403

 

July 2010:

 Saturday, July 31, 2010 11AM to 1PM at Earth Song Books and Gifts, a lovely store in the heart of old Del Mar (CA). I will sign copies of A Biblical Feast and Cooking at the Kasbah: Recipes from my Moroccan Kitchen. Drop in for a chat and a taste! Earth Song 1440 Camino del Mar Del Mar, CA 92014 (858) 755-4254 EARTHSONGBOOKS@YAHOO.COM

April 2010 book signing

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Time: 1-3PM

Information:

e-mail: lecreuset37@lecreuset.com

(760)931-6868

Make a day of it! 

Join me for a book signing and a cooking demonstration followed by a tasting at the Le Creuset Company Store located in the beautiful Carlsbad Company Stores mall in Carlsbad, CA, a stone’s throw from Legoland and the famous Carlsbad Flower Fields. Browse around Le Creuset’s colorful merchandise while sampling a tagine and other Moroccan specialties. Or just drop by and  chat! 

A bientot!