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Briouats for my hero, Neil Armstrong

Briouats for Neil Armstrong

By

Kitty Morse

As many of you know from past Kasbah Chronicle MUSINGS (March 2019), I attended SPACE CAMP on Valentine’s Day weekend 2019, and played at being an astronaut with my friend Pat McArdle, who is, like me, a space “cadet”.

This is what spurred on the whole idea:

The 50th anniversary of the landing spurred a long-held desire to attend Space Camp at the US Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, AL.

Such was my initial fascination with the moon landing that, on D-Day, July 20, 1969, I organized a moon party in Milwaukee (WI) where I attended university, and served up a green sponge cake to family and friends. (Remember when the moon was made of green cheese?) Little did I know at the time that the Man on the Mon himself would appear at my doorstep decades later.

I had picked up a brochure advertising Space Camp in 1996. Each year since, I added it to my bucket list and slipped it under my desk calendar. The time had come to act! I called the number on the faded brochure. Yes! Adult Space Academy (US Space and Rocket Center(www.spacecamp.com) offered adult weekends of astronaut training. A fellow space junkie joined me in my lunar fantasies and we booked a fight to Huntsville.

Space Camp, aka www.RocketCenter.com, is the brainchild of rocket scientist Dr. Werner von Braun who spearheaded the development of the Apollo-era rockets that took America to the moon, and his colleague Edward Buckbee, the camp’s first director. Indeed, the Huntsville site counts a number of astronauts, engineers, and space scientists among its alumni, as well as among its docents.

The 363-foot-tall replica of the Saturn V moon rocket, visible for miles across the flat Alabama landscape, serves as a beacon for Space Camp. Upon arrival, we checked in at Habitats for Space Camp, a building resembling a well-fed caterpillar, to claim our bunk beds, before heading out across Tranquility Base where the enormous Pathfinder shuttle simulator and Saturn V, hold center court.

Our lunar-centric program kept us on the go from 7:30 in the morning until 9 at night. Over two-and-a-half days, we bonded with the dozen millennial members of our Team Pioneer, directed a simulated shuttle landing, bounced off bungee cords to experience lunar gravity, built a model rocket, and explored the nooks and crannies of the Space Station. We had the opportunity to tour NASA’s (real) Marshall Space Flight Center where scientists are in constant contact with the International Space Station.

The highlight was taking part in the Extra Vehicular Activity (pardon me, the EVA) which mirrored the Hughes Westar Satellite Repair spacewalk, an actual mission performed in 1984 to repair a communications satellite and replace the antennas to restore communication.

For that, two experienced attendants helped me into an ice jacket (the space suit is so hot that astronauts need to wear such a clothing item for an extended mission), and then into a space suit and helmet. The extra 15 pounds of ice made it somewhat arduous to crawl out into ‘space’ where I was tethered to a harness about 15 feet off the ground. My mission was to pull myself along a cable encircling the satellite, retrieve a malfunctioning antenna, and hand it to my partner who stood on a mechanical limb 20 feet off the ground.

The next morning, we breakfasted at the Mars Grill in the company of former NASA scientists and engineers, one of whom had designed the lunar rovers used during several moonshots. Both the Lunar Rover and the Saturn V Apollo moon rocket are on display inside the hangar-like Saturn V Hall of the Davidson Center for Space Exploration. We were left awestruck in front of the extraterrestrial accomplishments of Neil Armstrong and his moon bound colleagues.

Barely a dozen years earlier, I had the good fortune to meet the “man on the moon” in person on my home turf in Vista, CA. Friday April 20, 2005, we received a call from our neighbor, Bob H., a distinguished retired Marine test pilot.

“We are expecting a special guest. Would you like to come over for drinks?” Neil Armstrong and Bob were roommates in flight school and their friendship went back decades. The astronaut was to drop by Bob’s on his way to accepting an award from the Golden Eagles, a prestigious association of military flyers. That year, the organization was holding its annual meeting in San Diego.

Needless to say, my anticipation reached its peak when we knocked on Bob’s door. He had advised us not to allude to the moon landing. Neil had had enough of the world’s attention (we later learned that a barber had been selling locks of the astronaut’s hair on eBay). Neither should we ask him to pose for pictures (though Neil later broke his rule for us.)

“Hi, I am Neil Armstrong,” said the man himself, as he stood up to shake our hands.

His broad built came as a surprise. In my mind’s eye, he was still the youthful, slender astronaut who first stepped onto the lunar surface and declared to a transfixed planet earth glued to millions of television screens:

“That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

Decades on, I faced a grey-haired man in his sixties, wearing coat and tie. His eyes sparkled behind his glasses. He looked unmistakably like the younger Neil Armstrong.

“Hi, I’m Kitty Morse,” I stuttered, almost mute with awe.

My husband, more quick-witted than I, had his opening message ready:

Hi!” he said, shaking Neil’s hand. “Neil, I have had a mound of trouble trying to coax your former roommate out of his shell!” Bob, of course, being the quintessential extrovert.

“Well, that must have taken all of five minutes,” responded our visitor with a chuckle. Our former neighbor, Bob, was probably one of the most gregarious men we had ever met. At one point, knowing I was born in Morocco, the astronaut broached the subject of Moroccan cuisine. He was an avid golfer who had been a guest of the King of Morocco on numerous occasions. Indeed, Hassan II, father of present King Mohammed VI, appointed Armstrong to the Moroccan Academy of Sciences. Thus, the astronaut had visited my home turf a number of times. He sampled my briouats (Moroccan eggrolls): “My, these are tasty,” he said. “Do Moroccans use curry?” I explained as diplomatically as I could that curry is not a spice in the Moroccan repertoire. No matter. My hero reached for another briouat.

I floated on air on my walk home. The phone rang as soon as we stepped inside our front door. It was Bob.

“Hey, neighbors! Neil really enjoyed his visit with you. Could he come over and have his picture taken with you two?”

“Wait! Let me check my watch: “OK!” Owen and I floated off into “space” with excitement.

Briouats served to Neil Armstrong!

For about 24 (2  /12-inch) briouats:

3 boneless chicken thighs

½ teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon ginger powder

½ medium onion, diced

½ cup water

1 egg, lightly beaten

Salt and pepper to taste

15 sprigs cilantro, minced

½  a preserved lemon, rind finely diced

8 lumpia wrappers or thickest quality phyllo dough,  (available in specialty stores, Arab markets, Asian markets, and many large supermarkets in the fresh Asian ingredients section)

Oil for frying

In a medium saucepan, place the thighs, cinnamon, ginger, onion and water. Cook over medium heat, turning the thighs over to coat with spices, for 15 to 20 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer the meat to a cutting board. Let cool and finely chop the chicken.

To the pan, add the beaten egg. Cook, stirring, until the sauce thickens and the egg sets. Season with salt and pepper. Add the sauce to the chopped chicken. Add the cilantro and the preserved lemon. Mix well. Set aside.

Stack 3 lumpia wrappers. Cut into strips 2  ½-inch wide. Proceed in a similar manner for the remaining wrappers. Stack the strips on top of each other and keep them covered with plastic wrap or a lightly dampened cloth to prevent drying while filling the briouats.

Place 1 teaspoon of the filling about 1 inch from the bottom edge of the strip. Fold a corner of the strip so the bottom edge lies diagonally across half of the filling, but NOT flush with the long edge. Fold over to the opposite side, this time, flush with the long edge, as you would a flag.  Fold side to side until you reach the top of the strip, to obtain a triangular shape. Tuck the unused end of the strip inside the last fold. Repeat with remaining strips until all the filling has been used.

At this point, briouats can be frozen. Place on a tray and freeze. Transfer to a tightly sealed container. Freeze up to 3 months.

To fry, do not thaw. In a heavy medium saucepan, pour the oil to a depth of 2 inches. Heat it until it reaches 325 degrees F, or until a piece of dough dropped into it sizzles instantly. Fry the briouats in batches until golden, about 6 to 8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels to drain. Keep warm in the oven. Serve immediately with a sprinkle of lemon juice.

 

All text and photos copyright Kitty Morse 2019

 

 

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

or

http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/2015/dec/15/shortbread-blossoms-with-lavender/

Recipes from San Diego Living, SD Channel 6, Nov. 9th, 2015 TV appearance

November 9, 2015

 

From Mint Tea and Minarets: a Banquet of Moroccan Memories

(La Caravane, 2013)

Egg Tagine with Olives

Serves 4

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 medium onions, very finely diced

1 (14¼-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained

½ teaspoon sugar

10 green or purple olives, rinsed, pitted, and coarsely chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 bay leaf

8 eggs

1 tablespoon chopped cilantro

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 tablespoon mashed preserved lemon pulp (optional)

Freshly ground pepper

Fresh cilantro leaves for garnish

BAGUETTE slices, for serving

 

In a tagine or medium skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Cook onions, stirring occasionally, until light brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Add tomatoes, sugar, olives, garlic, and bay leaf. Mash lightly with a fork. Reduce heat to low and simmer until tomatoes thicken somewhat, 15 to 20 minutes. Discard bay leaf. Set aside half of this mixture for garnish.

In a bowl, beat eggs, cilantro, cumin, preserved lemon pulp, and pepper. Add to tomato mixture. Cook, stirring gently, until eggs are not quite set. Garnish with the reserved tomato mixture and cilantro. Serve immediately with crusty bread.


 From Cooking at the Kasbah: Recipes from my Moroccan Kitchen (Chronicle Books, 1999)

now in its  tenth printing

Cassolita

Moroccan Squash with Caramelized Onions

(serves 4)

 

1 lb Mediterranean pumpkin or butternut squash

2 large onions, thinly sliced

1/4 C olive oil

2 tsp ground cinnamon

2 T sugar

Salt and pepper to taste

1/2 C raisins, plumped in warm water and drained

1/4 C slivered almonds, toasted

 

Place unpeeled squash in baking dish and bake at 350 degrees F until soft, about 1 hour. Let cool. Peel and cut into serving pieces and place in baking dish.

 

Cook the onions in the oil, with the cinnamon, sugar, salt, and pepper, until very soft, about 15 minutes. Add the raisins and cook 5 minutes longer. Spread the mixture over the squash, cover with foil, and return to the oven to heat for 20 minutes.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS 2014 (with recipes!)

Another shot from my most recent trip to Morocco:

A cup of Starbucks Coffee at the HUGE

Morocco Mall in Casablanca.

A little cafe nearby serves mint tea,

thank goodness!

May you find much to celebrate this

holiday season

(preferably with a champagne toast.)

As I was huffing and puffing through my Jazzercise class this morning,

my instructor said she purchased 35 pounds of masa to make her

Christmas tamales.

For those outside Southern California, tamales are a Mexican Christmas

delicacy wrapped in corn husks, eaten mainly during the Christmas season.

Around these parts, families get together to make dozens and dozens

(and dozens) of savory and sweet tamales to share with loved ones.

Still huffing, my thoughts turned to my own version of tamales, one using

couscous instead of the traditional Mexican masa. I once took dozens

(and dozens) of corn husks to Dar Zitoun, to demonstrate to my Moroccan

friends how to make tamales (TAMALES FREEZE!)

The recipe is long, but believe me, the result is worth it!

 

Excerpted from my book, Couscous (Chronicle Books, 1999)

 

Kitty’s Pineapple-Banana Couscous Tamales with

Cream of Coconut

 

The inspiration for this recipe was a pineapple tamal I tasted while serving

as a food judge at the Indio International Tamale (sic) Festival, in California’s Coachella Valley.

 

Serves 12 (makes about 2 dozen tamales)

 

32 corn husks (see Note)

2 2/3 cups water

1 teaspoon salt

6 tablespoons butter

2 cups couscous

3/4 cup coconut cream (see Note)

4 medium bananas

1/4 cup tightly packed dark brown sugar

1 1/2 cups dried candied pineapple chunks

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, plus extra for garnish

3 tablespoons rum

1 cup heavy whipping cream, chilled

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

 

Immerse corn husks in a large pot of boiling water. Remove from the heat,

and let stand until soft and pliable, 40 to 45 minutes. Drain husks and pat

dry. Reserve 3 or 4 husks to line a steamer basket or colander.

With kitchen scissors, cut  2 of the husks lengthwise into 1/4-inch strips.

Set aside.

 

In a large saucepan, bring the water, salt, and 3 tablespoons of the butter to

a boil. Add the couscous and 1/2 cup of the coconut cream. Stir to blend.

Remove from the heat. Cover and let stand until the couscous is tender,

12 to 15 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl, and set aside.

 

Quarter the bananas lengthwise, and cut into 1/4-inch dice. In a skillet over medium-high heat, warm the remaining butter. Add the dark brown sugar. Cook, stirring, until the sugar melts, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the diced bananas. Stir to coat. Cook until the bananas soften somewhat, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat. Add the pineapple chunks, cinnamon, and rum. Stir to blend. Set aside.

 

To assemble the tamales, position a husk so the long edge faces you. Place

1/4 cup of the couscous mixture in the center. With a spatula, flatten the

couscous to form a 3-by-3-inch square about 1/4 inch thick. Set a heaping

tablespoon of the pineapple-banana mixture in the center of this square, and

form into a sausage shape. Leave a 1-inch border of uncovered couscous

top and bottom, and 1/2 inch on the sides. Grasp the bottom edge of the husk and fold it in half lengthwise. Compress to seal the couscous to itself and enclose the filling.

Gently unfold the husk, then wrap it around the couscous, as you would an

egg roll. Fold over the tapered end, and tie with a reserved precut strip of husk. Compress the other end. Leave open. Proceed in this manner until all the tamales are assembled.

 

Line the bottom of a steamer basket or colander with the reserved husks.

Set the tamales upright, closed end down, inside the colander. Bring water

to a boil in bottom part of the steamer. Cover tightly. Steam the tamales

until firm and heated through, 40 to 45 minutes.

In a chilled metal bowl, whip the cream until soft peaks form. Fold in the

vanilla and remaining coconut cream. Set aside.

Place a steamed tamal in its husk on a dessert plate. With kitchen scissors,

cut away a large, V-shaped piece of husk to expose the couscous. Spoon a

generous dollop of coconut cream sauce on or near the tamal, sprinkle with cinnamon, and serve.

Note: Cans of coconut cream are available in liquor stores or Asian markets.

To celebrate both the holidays and persimmon season, I offer up the

following in memory of my friend Margie Oakes of Oakes Knoll’s farm in

Fallbrook (CA), provider of the plumpest persimmons in San Diego County. Margie was also a contributor to my book 365 to Cook Vegetarian (Harper Collins 1998)

with her recipe for Easy Overnight Lasagne, an unusual meatless version

assembled a day ahead.

Fuyu persimmons can be eaten out of hand, like an apple (they resemble

a square tomato.) Hachyias must attain a pudding like consistency. In France, persimmons

are called “KAKI.” Go figure.

Margie’s Persimmon Crisp

4 or 5 Fuyu persimmons, peeled, seeded, and sliced (like an apple)

Fresh orange juice to barely cover the fruit

Candied ginger, diced, to taste

OR

Fresh, grated ginger, to taste

a sprinkle of cinnamon

 

Place all the ingredients in a pan, and bring to a simmer.

Cook about 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from heat, and let cool.

Refrigerate until ready to eat. The mixture will thicken as it cools.

July at the Kasbah

A quick recipe for  a summer dinner!

Tunisian Egg Briks

Briks are deep-fried filo turnovers, very popular in Morocco. Now that I have the time, and that Edible Flowers: a Kitchen Companion is at the publisher’s (December 2014 pub date!), I am rediscovering my “old” books, and favorite tested recipes. So much work goes into developing a good one, why reinvent the wheel???

Here is one I particularly like, even though it calls for action at the last minute. Frying the brik and serving it piping hot is part of the fun. So is eating it with your fingers and having a little egg yolk dribble down your chin! ! Briks are usually filled with an egg, a little diced onion, and chopped parsley and cilantro to taste.   I sometimes opt for a savory mix of mashed potato and tuna. Let your imagination run wild!

1 package frozen filo dough

vegetable oil for deep frying

For the filling:

1 cup onion, finely diced

1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley per brik

1 teaspoon chopped fresh cilantro per brik

12 eggs

salt and pepper to taste

wedges of lemon

Thaw the filo overnight in the refrigerator, or two hours at room temperature.  Unfold filo. Using an 8-inch bowl or plate as a template, cut filo rounds with a sharp knife.  Each sheet of filo should yield two rounds.  Place the rounds on a plate, and cover with plastic wrap until ready to use.

Use two filo rounds per brik.  Rewrap and refreeze any leftover filo for future use. Stack the rounds you are going to use.

Pour 1 inch of oil in a large skillet, and heat until a piece of phyllo sizzles.

Break one egg in a bowl.  The yolk must not break.

Have the chopped herbs, the chopped onion, and the spices ready.  Separate two rounds. Gently place them in the skillet, half in, and half hanging over the side.

Carefully place the egg on the half inside the pan, sprinkle with cilantro, onion, parsley, and salt and pepper.  Quickly fold over the other half of filo to form a turnover, and hold the edges sealed with a fork.

Using two spatulas, turn the brik over gently to fry the other side until golden brown.  Remove immediately, drain well on paper towel, decorate, and place on serving plate with a wedge of lemon.

Variation: Try a little Mexican salsa over the egg, instead of the herbs.
From The Vegetarian Table: North Africa (Chronicle Books 1998) by Kitty Morse.

PS: While I am at it:

 

I had had several requests for information about tours to Morocco lately. I am happy to share the name of the travel agent who handled 18 of my 24 tours. Just send me an e-mail.

 

FYI:

You can consuult the  Travelling to Morocco page on this website, and sign up for a phone consultation. I do not recommend latest hotels and eateries (there are dozens and dozens) but I can suggest what to do and not to do in the cities you visit. My fee is USD100 an hour, payable by Paypal.