Tag Archives: food

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). . .


Summer updates and a trip to Catalina Island


View from Mr Wrigley’s casino (THE Mr. Wrigley chewing-gum)

NO gambling allowed

“Only 26 miles across the sea” . . . but decades removed from the mainland. Even though we have lived in California since 1973, we had never been to Catalina! Rather than the classic “26 miles” I could imagine Alvin and the Chipmunks belting out “Won’t you take me to Funky town” as a more apt description. I took my husband to celebrate a momentous anniversary, and also to see if I would get seasick during the 90 mn crossing from Dana Point to Avalon. Success! I didn’t toss my cookies (or rather a rather so-so fish taco lunch from a restaurant in the Dana Point Harbor. Skip the downstairs terrace of Harpoon Henry’s!) The weather was glorious, the crossing smooth, and the boat flew across the waves towards Calatina.

Much to our pleasant surprise, we landed smack in the middle of a set for Grounghog Day, a combination of a small Mediterranean seaside village lightly touched with the colorized exoticism of a vintage postcard. The hotel only reinforced the impression of stepping back in time. We could see the Hotel MacRae’s bubblegum pink facade from the ferry landing. Up the staircase we went (no elevator) to the office set in a corner of the terrace. The establishment reminded us of old hotels in France and Spain, where you first climb upstairs to a “lobby”, and then up more stairs to your room. This hotel offers a great location and very comfortable rooms. Next to the entrance is a karaoke bar open half the night, so make sure you ask for a room at the back.

The quality of the food on the island turned out to be a pleasant surprise, as well. The menu and the décor of Blue Water Grill are equally appealing. We dined on the deck with the waves crashing under our feet the two nights we spent in Avalon. We walked along the harbor, past Mr. Wrigley’s (yes, THE chewing gum Wrigley) famed art deco casino (well worth the visit), towards the Descanso Beach Club. a private club open to the pubic. The menu needs some rethinking and the food is overpriced, but you can’t beat the location on a palm-shaded deck with steps leading to a pocket-sized beach. The wait-staff consisted of a group of young foreigners, here on a tourist visa for the summer.

No cars in Avalon! (some waiting 30 years apparently, to obtain a permit.) Private golf carts dart around the narrow streets lined with diminutive beach cottages, most of them vacation rentals. The main beach is nothing to write home about, but you can reach more remote harbors by boat. The drive up to the Airport in the Sky was memorable not only for the excellent guide (via the Catalina Island Company tours), but also for hairpin turns that reminded me of driving through the High Atlas Mountains. I still don’t understand how he navigated the extreme turns in a BUS! Even though I don’t suffer from vertigo, I had to refrain from looking down the cliff in a few cases.

48 hours later, home we went, rolling our suitcases down the main street towards the ferry terminal. We may return! We celebrated July 4th with  a Moroccan menu consisting of zahlouk eggplant salad, brochettes (kabobs) of chicken, lamb and beef liver (try it!) marinated in charmoula spices. Aren’t we citizens of the world?!

4th of Jul kabobs 2

Petites salades

The Kasbah Chronicles April 2015

Exciting news!  I am to be a guest on A Growing Passion, a wonderful garden show hosted by Nan Sterman on San Diego’s KPBS station. Nan has gathered a number of “experts” who will show and tell how to preserve the harvest. Should be fun! The show airs Thursday, April 16 at 8:00 PM and repeats Saturday, April 18 at 3:30 PM.  The subject of this episode is preserving the harvest – pickling, canning, preserving (make your own Moroccan style preserved lemons!), fermenting, and more. For information on upcoming shows or viewing the current show online after it airs visit www.agrowingpassion.com 

I had the pleasure of speaking to a Global Studies class at C-SUN (Cal-State University Northridge) a few weeks back. I was thrilled to receive this feedback from professor of art history Peri Klemm, PhD.

“Subject: Inspired… “I made some Moroccan garbanzo beans for dinner with cinnamon, turmeric and other seasonings!!  I loved meeting Kitty today, so fun! “Thanks, Erin

Love to inspire someone to try Moroccan cuisine!

On another occasion, I was hosted by culinary students of Vista High School. Chef Kim Plunkett is in charge of a wonderful program that prepares high school students for a career in the culinary arts. One graduate is now employed at the Biltmore in New York City.

Upcoming classes and appearances:

Cardiff Library

Thursday, May 21, 2015. 6PM

Second time around! Join me for an informative evening and sip a glass of iced mint tea.

A Taste of Morocco presentation followed by a sampling and book signing

Macy’s School of Cooking

Saturday, May 23, 2015


Phone: 888-424-3663

Address: 1555 Camino de la Reina – Mission Valley – San Diego

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


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

Saturday, May 30, 2015

For members only. Why don’t you join? I will lead a farm tour of North San Diego County for the Culinary Historians of San Diego. My admiration for California farmers developed long before the farm-to-table movement became popular. The California Farm Cookbook is still in print and available on Amazon.com. It features a number of farmers from San Diego County including the farm we will visit.  www.CHSanDiego.com or find them on Facebook.They generally meet on one Saturday morning a month at our gorgeous Central Library.

More later!


Alimentum, The Literature of Food, reviews Mint Tea and Minarets

I am a fan of Alimentum, an online magazine dedicated to the Literature of Food. The editors try their best to showcase some of the best food writing around. I was doubly thrilled with their review of Mint Tea and Minarets.

So here it is, and do visit their website. You’ll leave hungry for more!


Bon appétit!





The Kasbah Chronicles Jan/Feb 2012



February 2 marks La Chandeleur (Candlemas), when crêpes are de rigueur on French tables–a tradition my mother upheld all the while I was growing up in Casablanca. Simply sprinkled a crêpe with a little powdered sugar, and celebrate! Another cause for celebration is

La Saint Valentin

and this sumptuous dessert 

 A tulip (pesticide free, of course) as a receptacle for chocolate mousse! The recipe for the mousse au chocolat comes from my grandmother and is exerpted from my lovely little gift book, Edible Flowers: A Kitchen Companion (Ten Speed Press, 1995). 

Chocolate Moussed Tulips

serves 6 to 8

Tulip (Tulipa species and cultivars):  Tulips originated in Turkey, and over the centuries acquired enormous commercial value, not only in Asia Minor were the bulbs were once used as currency, but in countries like the Netherlands were tulips eventually became part of the national landscape.  From an edible standpoint, the petals of the tulip have a light crunch, and make beautiful edible receptacles for fruit sorbets, sweet or savory mousses, or finely minced, crisp vegetables.  Their delicate sweetness is especially prevalent in the white, peach or pink-colored blooms, ideally suited to this filling of chocolate mousse.    

 4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate

1/3 cup sweet butter

2 egg yolks

2 tablespoons Grand Marnier

3 egg whites

1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

2 teaspoons sugar

12 to 14 tulips, rinsed and dried

2 pints raspberries, rinsed and drained

     In the top of a double boiler, or inside a bowl set in a pan filled with simmering water, melt the chocolate until smooth.  Stir in the butter.  Remove from heat and allow to cool.  Stir in egg yolks, one at a time, then the Grand Marnier.  Set aside. In a medium bowl, beat the egg whites with cream of tartar until fairly stiff. Halfway through, add the sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks form. With a spatula, carefully fold the chocolate mixture into the beaten egg whites. Refrigerate 10 to 15 minutes. Mound a teaspoon or two of mousse in the bottom of each of 8 dessert cups and keep refrigerated.

      Prepare tulips for filling.  Carefully push petals apart, and with a small pair of scissors, cut out pistil and stamen.  Cut off the stem. Fill each blossom 3/4 full with mousse, gently holding the petals. Press a filled tulip into each cup so that it stays upright in the chilled mousse.  Surround with a few raspberries. Chill until ready to serve.

copyright 1995