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The Kasbah Chronicles Feb 2018 edition: It’s the process

The Kasbah Chronicles
February 2018 edition

 Happy Valentine’s DayCONTENTS:
Note to self: It’s the process. . . .stoopid….

Last call for Niki de St Phalle
at the Escondido Center for the Arts.

I am off to Vietnam in April:
any insights or special addresses to share?

It’s happening!  Edible Flowers: a Kitchen Companion is now an eBook.
Download through

Kitty’s presentations and bookings:
LIFE, Mira Costa College
Poway Library
Does your club or group need a speaker this summer? Call me!

Bravo to my creative colleagues: Nan, Susan and Naz

Travel: News of Morocco and beyond

A world of local food from Peru to Mexico and Vietnam
Pisco Restaurant Review

A reader’s insights on the InstantPot pressure cooker.


As I muse…. and sifted through eFiles, I realized with a start that The Kasbah Chronicles is now entering its tenth year. Pas croyable. Ten years of sharing news of San Diego County, Morocco, and beyond. Whatever made me think, à l’origine, that anyone would read it? And read it some of you do, judging from your encouraging feedback. For me, a great part of sharing this information comes down to . . . It’s the process….stoopid...: Why am I compelled to jot words on “paper,” electronic or otherwise. I can’t explain! Neck ache, backache and all, typing standing up… I love sharing my musings with all of you. So merci and thank you for reading.

Last call for Niki de St Phalle exhibit!!
I have been going on and on about the Niki de St Phalle exhibit at the California Center for the Arts in Escondido, a milestone for the center. The show celebrates the 15th year of Queen Califia’s Magical Circle ( the only public park of its kind in the US. The show ends on March 4th, so hurry and call up to make a reservation for a docent-led tour. The exhibit is paired with A Mosaic Invitational, featuring masterful mosaic works by local artists. Speaking of mosaics, did you know: San Diego Historic Tile and Ceramics Self Guided Tour map showcases mosaics from Balboa Park and Downtown with sites from the House of Hospitality to Little Italy.
It was my pleasure to introduce Niki and her nanas to high school students from La Jolla Country Day last week… best of all EN FRANCAIS!!
View the video here:
Instagram :
To book a tour contact Arts Education Program Supervisor, Kirsten Barrientes at 760-839-4176 or

Eva Struble, a professor in the school of Art and Design at San Diego State, was invited to show her work in conjunction with the exhibit. Cover Crops reflects her interest in San Diego County farms. Eva’s talk, free and open to the public, was co-sponsored by Edible San Diego magazine The show reflects two of my own passions: one for art (food of course) and the other for California farms. Coastal Roots, Solidarity, and Terra Madre farms were her inspiration.

Visit Edible San Diego magazine’s excellent website for up to date information on San Diego’s food scene:

Please share with your friends:
Exciting news on the book front: Edible Flowers: A Kitchen Companion is now an eBook, easily downloaded on Amazon. If the book isn’t up yet, please try again. I am dealing with a national distributor in Chicago.

Classes and presentations;
Do you know about L.I.F.E, LEARNING IS FOR EVERYONE, a program of lifelong learning at Mira Costa College? If not, here is their site I will be the featured speaker on edible flowers, on Friday, Match 16th. Free and open to the public

I will be at the Poway Library in July…I am available for speaking engagements throughout the summer from May 2018 on (after my trip to Vietnam.)

About Morocco and beyond:
An encouraging economic update for Morocco:

The fastest train in Africa zips through the Moroccan countryside.

Should couscous be classified as a World Heritage item? Mais oui, bien sûr.

GOOD news for travelers. US State Dept says  Morocco is among the safest, alongside Canada, Norway etc, . . .

Pour les voyageurs américains, le gouvernement de Washington a classé les pays du monde en quatre catégories : ‘‘Pays considérés comme sûrs’’, ‘‘Pays où la prudence est recommandée’’, ‘‘Etes-vous sûrs de vouloir visiter ce pays’’ et ‘‘Vous allez dans ce pays à vos risques et périls’’. Et le Maroc figure dans le 1ère catégorie en compagnie de pays comme le Canada, Islande, Norvège, Suède, Finlande, Irlande, Monaco, Suisse, Liechtenstein… Quant aux voisins algériens, tunisiens et égyptiens, ils figurent dans la catégorie ‘‘Pays où la prudence est recommandée’’.

Why I LOVE love Spain! It’s almost HOME!! And their manchego? The cheese in Spain stays mainly in the . . . .

Meawhile, camels (really dromedaries) take part in a Saudi beauty contest:

and in Hollywood, les français et les Oscars: La French touch aux Oscars, NINE French-inspired nominations. . .
Bessie Coleman: les ailes noires en France

Ca alors, what next for the French language??
Leïla Slimani, “Mme Francophonie” de Macron, veut “déringardiser le français” (wants to update the French language), and make it one of the top three languages in the world. .
‘Le français “pourrait” en effet devenir la deuxième langue internationale, derrière l’anglais. Elle est la quatrième aujourd’hui, devancée par l’espagnol et l’arabe. Mais cela ne pourra être que “si les efforts en faveur de l’éducation des pays francophones sont suffisants”,

Ever wonder about air kissing? Pourquoi se fait-on la bise ?
La bise est une coutume typiquement française ( a French custom). . . .

Anthony Bourdain’s reading list is eclectic!

Check out my creative colleagues:
Sally Bernstein and her newsletter:

Nan Sterman, host of A Growing Passion ( on KPBS holds classes around the county to help you jump start your spring plantings. Join Nan for a hands-on workshop where you will plant your entire summer vegetable garden in just two hours. Nan provides the supplies – you take home the plants seeded and ready to sprout

Susan McBeth, the brainchild behind Adventures by the Book, whose mission is to link authors and readers, launches a nationwide adventure: NovelNetwork…
Book clubs, register to find an author/speaker. Authors, register to let book clubs know you are available as a speaker.

After founding a company that paired consumers with farmers around the county, Naz Athina Kallel, is launching a “Craigs List” for food lovers. Save Good Food is San Diego’s Food & Beverages Classifieds for Farms, Chefs, Brewers, Winemakers and Artisan Food Makers. Chefs, farmers, fishermen, ranchers, restaurant owners, artisan food & beverage makers, brewers, wine makers, event planners, purveyors will find a powerful social platform for buying, selling, collaborating and investing in local food. First 3 months free and then only $10 per month for unlimited ads for sellers. Buyers always free.

My new favorite snack:
Roasted Brussels Sprouts

One restaurant  Happy Hour featured these addictive sprouts, all for the unbelievably “low price” of $7.99. $7.99? I decided to make them myself:
Buy Brussels Sprouts
Trim outer leaves
Cut sprouts in half
Parboil in boiling water 1 to 2 mns
Pour into a large baking dish
Sprinkle with olive oil and garlic
Roast for 25 minutes, turning once.
Snack. (Better than chocolate truffles, and lo-cal)

San Diego’s multicultural North County:
No need to drive down to San Diego’s Asian shopping district on Convoy Street. Just head to 840 East Valley Parkway to find Cho Viet Nam (aka: The Asian Market and formerly La Sorpresa Barata, don’t you love it) a large market stocking Asian specialties. The adjoining take out, So’n Tra, offers excellent banh mi sandwiches, authentic and flavorful eggrolls much like the “nem” I grew up on in Casablanca (there is a thriving French speaking Vietnamese community in Morocco.)

And for good measure, a new Peruvian restaurant opened in the North County, off Palomar Airport Road, close to Legoland CA. Pisco took over the space Sammy’s Pizza occupied, and has the same owner. I have never met Sammy Ladecky but that man has a palate that never misses. The first time I tasted his roast chicken, I knew the flavorings were Middle Eastern. This time, he heads south: Pisco is named for the national drink of Peru (and Chile, depending upon who you talk to), and Peruvian flavors fill the menu. From excellent Chicken Empanadas, and leche de Tigre… an excellent ceviche, though, in my view, lacking in the bolder flavors of “our” Mexican ceviches. I sampled a Peruvian ceviche in Chile (where Peruvian cuisine is considered “haute”) and noticed the same thing. I loved Pisco’s papas a la huancaina, and the classic drink of Pisco Sour with crème de banane and strawberry puree tastes like dessert. A riot of a treat for anyone having a birthday is a MOUNTAIN of cotton candy. Definitely a place to try. However, I will not abandon the old Sammy’s and its terrific thin-crusted pizzas.

Aren’t we cosmopolitan?!
Egypt comes to Quail Botanic Gardens: UNTIL MARCH 31, 2018 at the San Diego Botanic Garden, 230 Quail Gardens Drive, Encinitas, CA 92024
For the second year, the tapestries from the Ramses Wissa Wassef Art Centre in Egypt will be on display. The Egyptian artists vividly celebrate the flowers of the desert, villages, and Nile River in their work . . . Fifteen wool tapestries and twenty cotton weavings will be on display in the Ecke Building at the San Diego Botanic Garden in Encinitas. Admission/Cost: $14

Reprinted with permission:
Joy, a longtime Kasbah Chronicle reader allowed me to reprint this letter. She is an advocate of the new Instant pot, an implement which I have not even SEEN yet! Some of you may find her input of interest. This is a SERIOUS cook who makes her OWN MOROCCAN OUARKA dough!

Date: Mon, January 01, 2018 9:55 am
Happy New Year, Kitty! Thanks for another wonderful year of Moroccan email goodies.
 I am now the owner of 2 electric pressure cookers, a Power Pressure Cooker 10 quart for the last year or so, and an Instant Pot 8 quart (for this Christmas). A most wonderful 7+ vegetable Berber Tagine recipe I saw on YouTube comes out perfect in about 5 minutes or less. For the chicken variation I brown the chicken first so it is at least half cooked because raw chicken pieces cook in 10 minutes and I don’t want the veggies to be over done, so if I brown them first it is all finished in 5 minutes or less. Yum!!!
You have mentioned in the past that modern Moroccan cooks often resort to their pressure cookers. Perhaps this year on Kasbah Chronicles you could share some recipes using that technique as it is done in Morocco. Of course the Moroccan cookers are probably stovetop versions, but the new electric cookers are amazing doing things that stovetop cookers can’t do because stovetops take more water to run them and the pressures are higher than an electric cooker. For the electric cookers, think “baked” ziti put in dry out of the box and yummy cheesy goodness after an 8 minute cycle (also lasagna with normal noodles dry out of the box), perfect hard boiled eggs on a 6 minute cycle, soups in 10-15 minutes, dry beans without soaking in 15-40 minutes, steamed flans in 15-20 min etc etc. 5 minutes was a little too long for my pre-browned chicken tagine, 4 minutes would have been better.
If you don’t have one of these yet, it will revolutionize your life in the kitchen. I would suggest the Instant Pot or the Power Pressure Cooker (“PPXL”), both run at the same psi pressure ranges 10.2-11.6 and around 7.2. but the PPXL also has a 3.2 psi slow cooker cycle. The Instant Pots default to the higher pressure settings for their presets, and the PPXL defaults to the lower pressure settings for their presets which I like better, but either can be done with either. All the presets are just different times for the default psi’s. High pressure on the PPXL is the “Canning cycle”, the Instant Pot allows to choose high or low pressure with a pressure toggle button, but the result is the same.  Many other electric cookers default to 5psi and 10 psi which is not as versatile and takes lots longer. If you already have one, share with us some Moroccan pressure cooker faves!

The Kasbah Chronicles


My wish for you for 2018:
A year filled with crimson sunrises, such as this glorious sunrise in Vista, captured from our rooftop terrace.


To art lovers and couscous aficionados:
Thank you so much for remaining on the The Kasbah Chronicles email list. It never occurred to me, when I began to write it in December 2007, that so many of you would remain faithful readers 10 years on. Merci, and Thank you all.

Niki de St Phalle exhibit in Escondido (CA)
Presentation to the Culinary Historians of San Diego

As I mentioned in previous Chronicles, I am now a docent at the Escondido Center for the Arts ( which is proud to present an exhibit featuring 50 works by internationally renowned Franco-American artist and sculptor Niki de St Phalle ( Some of you may have noticed one of her “nanas” jutting out of the fountain adjoining the Pompidou Center in Paris. The Pompidou has nothing on Escondido however! See how fortunate are we:
( Serpent Tree) etc. . .  by Niki de Saint Phalle (
Niki lived in La Jolla, CA (la “Riviera” américaine) during the latter part of her life and left an kaleidoscopic legacy of private and public works to the county of San Diego. Escondido is fortunate to shelter the only public “garden” she created in the United States: Queen Califia’s Magical Circle (behind Kit Carson Park in Escondido, CA, open special hours only) now a destination for art lovers from around the world.
(http://Niki Charitable Art Foundation)
The show lasts from January 12 to March 4, 2018. A Public Opening Reception will take place on Friday, January 12, 2018 from 6:00-7:30 PM.  Fee: $10 non-members includes light bites and a no-host bar.

Visite en français: Pourquoi pas?
Amis et amies francophones, professeurs de francais, etudiants et francophiles, je serai ravie de vous faire faire une visite guidee DE GROUPE en langue française.
Teachers and students of French, French conversation classes, or private French conversation groups, why not view the exhibit with a French-speaking guide? I would be delighted to oblige. GROUPS ONLY. Reservation required. Contact:
Kirsten Barrientes
Arts Education Program Supervisor
California Center for the Arts, Escondido
Tel: (760) 839-4176

JOIN ME Saturday, January 20, 2018 at 10:30AM

and the Culinary Historians of San Diego
for Couscous and Tagines: a History,
Neil Morgan Auditorium of San Diego’s
Central Library (accessible by trolley)
330 Park Boulevard, SD
Free and open to the public
Couscous happens to be my FAVORITE comfort food.
which I covered in my  book,
Couscous: Fresh and Flavorful (Chronicle Books)
I hope to see you at one of the events

The weather is topsy-turvy and so is the world.
Let’s hope it’ll turn back upright in 2018.
PS: Overheard during our daily walk at Oceanside (CA) Harbor
“Every year, I stress about it and I don’t know why. . . “

My advice:
Don’t stress
But if you must

I am still picking the most luscious tomatoes of the year.
My poor plants do not know anymore what season it is.
December 30th crop

Bismillah, Bon Appétit,
Bonne Année!

The Kasbah Chronicles November 2017: New York, Catalina, and much more

The Kasbah Chronicles: November 2017

Kitty travels Afar and Afield

Lady Liberty upon my first visit to New York in 1961:

Merci, Statue of Liberty

New York today

The new World Trade Center slices through the clouds like a silver blade

Musings on New York and elsewhere9/11 Memorial
Discovering Harlem
Grazing New York: Harlem Shambles, Eataly, Murray’s Cheese, FishsEddy, Grand Central Market and more
Rodin and Gertrude Stein
Walking through Brooklyn Heights
Overheard in Flushing, NY
Dia de los Muertos in Escondido, CA
A hop to Avalon on Catalina Island
Recipe: Pumpkin Garbanzo Bean Soup
Mail order gifts
Moroccan pastries made in the USA!
How to help Sonoma winemakers recovering from the fires (après les incendies de la Californie du Nord)
Classes and presentations
News of Morocco and beyond

Art Buchwald’s famous column on Kilometre Deboutish (aka Miles Standish) explique pourquoi nous celebrons Thanksgiving, le Jour de Merci Donnant (voir ci-dessoous.)

Afar and Afield in New York City and
Avalon, CA.
Return to New York

As always, it seems I just wrote my last edition of the Kasbah Chronicles, but two months have already gone by. So Happy Thanksgiving! It is Thanksgiving eve and 85 degreesI love a little chill in the air, and even snow on the ground at Thanksgiving. But not in these parts.

This afternoon I remain bemused and befuddled at the administration’s decision to remove restrictions on the importation of African elephant trophies from Zimbabwe and Zambia, and allow more big game hunting there. Can anyone explain to me how a country in ruins like Zimbabwe can honestly manage its conservation program? Fortunately, I just heard the edict was rescinded (maybe??)

I am not here to dwell on politics but rather on my bucket list. The first destination is New York. One of my goals was to say “thank you” to the Statue of Liberty. This I did, from the deck of the Circle Line. Without her welcome and acceptance, I wouldn’t be writing to you today. My mother, brother and I were immigrants, and this is the original trunk we arrived with, on board a Yugoslav freighter loaded with cork, and in the WORST storm I have ever encountered.

By the time we entered the bay, Lady Liberty  was bathed in sunshine, just like this!

The statue viewed from the Circle Line in 2017


My other mission was to visit the 9/11 Memorial.

What a stunning building

The enormity of the destruction of the site, the number of lives lost, the evil cunning and planning of the perpetrators along with the heroism of first responders took on a larger-than life dimension as I stood in the footprint of the building. Hundreds of visitors from around the globe milled about in a hushed atmosphere that added to the poignancy. A wall of remembrance displayed images of the victims, and these, coupled with individual bios. So many personal tragedies on display.

The new building

New York for me also holds bucketsful of happier memories. I lived in The Big Apple for a few months in 1965, to work at the NY World’s Fair. At that time, there was nothing more exciting for a wide-eyed 18 year old than to occupy the cashier’s cage and collect entrance fees to the fake Tower of London that sheltered fake Royal Jewels. .  . in Queens, NY!! That’s when I fell in love with NY.

The city has evolved, and the BIGGEST SURPRISE was its cleanliness. My last visit, which probably took place 20 years ago, showed a New York in decline with dirty streets, crumbling buildings, and graffiti everywhere, including the subway. No more graffiti in the subway. Incroyable!

I had the good fortune of staying with my friend Vivian, a seventh-generation New Yorker, who lives in Harlem, an up and coming section of town. We walked across Barnard College (and cooled our heels a Max Caffe, a college hangout), ambled through CCNY, saw Hamilton’s home (yes, that Hamilton), which occupies a prominent hill in Hamilton Heights.

Trendy restaurants like Maison Harlem and Ponty Bistro with its French-speaking Senegalese waiters, and superstar chef Marcus Samuelsson‘s Streetbird Rôtisserie ( have all turned into gastronomic destinations. Vivian, a superb cook, shops at the famed Harlem Shambles butcher on Frederick Douglas Boulevard where we purchased merguez and a rosy breasted organic chickens as plump as a poulet de Bresse. What a thrill for me to stand under the marquee of the fabled Apollo Theatre! Harlem is a cool place!


Now onto more serious things:
I did manage to dash into several museums: The Rodin exhibit at the MET was as crowded as Grand Central. I wanted to see the Moroccan courtyard built by Moroccan artisans. It was a bit of a letdown for our own centuries old riad courtyard at Dar Zitoun is three times the size. The Museum of the City of NY was an eye-opener, with a tour led by a passionate docent who delighted in divulging some of the city’s darkest secrets. One day, we stumbled upon an Ai Wei Wei installation, a mesh “Arch” with two cutout figures, occupying the center of the marble arch at Washington Square Park. My favorite remains a discreet bronze statue of Gertrude Stein, holding forth in Bryant Park, behind the NY Central Library. Gertrude and I became well acquainted (on paper) during my graduate studies.

Food was never far from my thoughts, bien sûr. From Mario Batali’s lively EATALY ( to the Chelsea Market, that soft scallion bun at the Chinese bakery next to the subway station on Flushing’s Main Street, and a gargantuan croque-monsieur at the Chinese-run Tous les Jours bakery, also in Flushing, NY delivered.

I am not a fan of Mario Batali’s but his idea is a great one: Across the street from the Flat Iron Building, he has assembled all foods Italian under one roof. Each stall features a specialty, from prosciutto and artisanal hams, to wheels of parmesan, fresh seafood, hand made pasta, and pastries.  Ordering at EATALY, where the posted mantra is “LIFE is too short not to EAT WELL” is in itself a New York experience. Take a seat in the eating area, until a waiter appears.
Waiter: “Talk to me.”
Me: “Excuse me?”

Waiter (brusk but pleasant, sort of): “Talk to me.”
Me: “OK” (as I finally grasped his New York speak.)
His final words when we paid the bill:
“Just another day in paradise!”

We nibbled at a generous platter of sliced prosciutto, pâté, freshly baked bread and fig preserves, and the price was very fair. Contrast that with the nearby Chelsea Market, which I found on the tacky side with its dozens of touristy boutiques lining tunnels that were once a Pillsbury Cookie Factory. My native New Yorker friend led me along Ladies’ Mile (search the origins) to Fishs Eddy ( a very early precursor of Sur la Table, with kitchen gadgets galore (pricey!!), Murray’s Cheese (, the heavenly, decades-old cheese emporium on Bleeker Street in the Village. The counter at 8PM was as crowded as on a Saturday morning. Onto nearby Joe’s Pizzeria, another New York institution and, which, according to Vivian, makes the best pizza in New York, and for good measure, the Grand Central Market and its cascades of luxurious edibles inside the station. Phew.

Vivian works in Flushing, so off to Flushing I went, on a graffiti-free subway! Eavesdropping there was a challenge since hardly Chinese and Korean prevail. As I was waiting in the doorway of Modell’s Sporting Goods (Gotta Go to Mo’s), a Flushing institution, an elderly Caucasian couple walked past me:

OVERHEARD in Flushing:
Old man: “Why should we pray for him? NO need to pray for him! He doesn’t care about anybody anyway!” Sporting a pensive look, the old lady continued shuffling her way through a tide of Asian faces…


We capped my visit with a hop to Brooklyn, where I had never been. We explored Brooklyn Heights, a yuppie haven of tree-lined streets and nannies pushing strollers past historic Pilgrim Church. Jacques Torres, the chocolate king, maintains a storefront here, near the very first Hagen Daaz ice cream store. A highlight was a walk along riverfront The Promenade and wilderness preserve towards the famed Carrousel. All this and the location for Moonlight, the classic movie featuring Cher, where I gazed upon the very same view of Manhattan she did.



This will warm the cockles of your heart
Kitty’s Pumpkin and Tomato Soup with Garbanzo Beans
Serves 4

1 medium onion, finely diced
2 pounds butternut OR Mediterranean squash, peeled and cut into chunks
4 stalks celery, coarsely chopped
5 medium tomatoes, peeled and quartered
2 tablespoons tomato paste
15 sprigs cilantro, tied with string
1 cup drained garbanzo beans
1 teaspoon cumin
2 to 3 cups chicken broth
Milk to thin soup, optional
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
A touch of cayenne, for serving (optional)

In a large saucepan or soup pot, combine the broth, squash, celery, tomatoes, and cilantro. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, and cook until vegetables are tender, 20 to to  25 minutes. Let cool. Discard the cilantro. In a blender or food processor, blend the vegetables and the garbanzos

In increments, adding the reserved broth a little at a time to obtain a smooth, thick puree. Return the soup to the pan. Bring to a simmer. Add more broth or milk for a thinner soup, and heat through. Season with salt and pepper. Serve hot.

 Meanwhile back in San Diego County:

 Calissons (Broadway brand!) for my maman

I flew home in time for the Dia de los Muertos, The Day of the Dead celebrations, which is turning into an ubiquitous multi-cultural ritual in our border city. I joined in at the Escondido Center for the Arts where, alongside dozens of other families, I created an “altar” to honor my mother, which, according to custom, contained one of her favorite foods: calisson cookies from Aix-en-Provence. Keep an eye out for tbeir upcoming Nikki de Saint Phalle exhibit (San Diego’s collection of her sculptures is much more impressive than what I saw at the Pompidou in Paris years ago.) I am now a docent at the California Center for the Arts and am thrilled that the center is holding an exhibit of Niki de Saint Phalle’s artwork from January 13 to March 4, 2018. Don’t miss this! Did you know she was a “local?” You are in for a treat!

A quick trip to Avalon on Catalina, allowed me to catch the Chihuly exhibit at the newly opened Catalina Island Museum. The show is over in early December, but the museum is worth the detour. As we did last time we were in Catalina 2 years ago, we lunched two days in a row at Blue Water Grill. The waterfront restaurant still offers the best value for the money on the island, and the location couldn’t be more idyllic on a sunny day: watching the waves lap at the shore through the slats in the deck as you savor an assertive Caesar salad or a bowl of addictive poke. I had no idea this was a California chain until I complimented the chef on using chermoula, the classic Moroccan marinade. I haven’t tasted their paella yet, but judging from the other dishes, it is sure to be a winner. A new Blue Water Grill is now open in Carlsbad (where Fish House Vera Cruz used to be.)

Kitty in the media: Edible Flowers
Modern Salt is one of the most literate food blogs:

Classes and presentations:
Great organization if you are a food buff.

January 20, 2018: Free and Open to the public
Tagines and Couscous: a history
10AM; San Diego Central Library

March 2018:
LIFE, Mira Costa College
Edible Flowers
Presentation and book signing

July 2018:
Poway Library, Poway CA
A taste of Morocco

Mint Tea and Minarets: a banquet of Moroccan memories



While in New York I met up with Mehdi Menouar, an enterprising young Moroccan businessman and founder of MESKA SWEETS, that produces REAL Moroccan pastries in New Jersey, and distributes them by mail order (www.meskasweets). I can vouch for the classy packaging and authenticity of flavors. Mehdi and his wife employ a team of bakers turn out mignardises from gazelle horns, chebakia (honey coils), feqqas (biscotti), and almond cookies according to traditional family recipes. Great gift, corporate or personal. The company contributes 5% of its proceeds to educate underprivileged Moroccans (in Morocco).

Help a Sonoma winery destroyed by fire
Ancient Oak Wine Cellars (
was entirely destroyed in the Santa Rosa Fire. “On Redwood Road, there is nothing there, just flat blackened earth”, told me the mother of winemaker Melissa Moholt-Siebert. “Their website is the best place to order wine by the case or bottle,” she adds. Should you wish to contact her directly, go to:
Similarly: makes and distributes fine wines in Northern California. Read their enlightening blog about the fires:

For aspiring authors:
Annie Lamott is a wonderful author who writes for and about writers. This is worth a look:
Anne Lamott: 12 truths I learned from life and writing | TED Talk |

News of Morocco and beyond:
The new Yves Saint Laurent Museum in Marrakech:
and m:

Casablanca, the movie, memorialized:

The French are coming (encore une fois)! The French are coming!
And on the subject of memorials:

Thanksgiving: Le Jour de Merci Donnant:
reprinted from the New York Times
The dinde is dandy, so let’s give thanks
By Art Buchwald
Published: Thursday, November 27, 2003

One of the most important holidays is Thanksgiving Day, le Jour de Merci Donnant. . . . “Le Jour de Merci Donnant was started by a group of pilgrims (Pèlerins) who fled from l’Angleterre before the McCarran Act to found a colony in the New World (le Nouveau Monde) where they could shoot Indians (les Peaux-Rouges) and eat turkey (dinde) to their hearts’ content. They landed at a place called Plymouth (subsequently a voiture Americaine) in a wooden sailing ship named the Mayflower, or Fleur de Mai, in 1620. But while the Pèlerins were killing the dindes, the Peaux-Rouges were killing the Pèlerins, and there were several hard winters ahead for both of them. . . .”

All that is left is for me to wish you a
Bon appétit

The Kasbah Chronicles June 2017

Our lives have taken on a different turn since I wrote this blog in late June. My mother left us on July 11, 2017, two days before her 94th birthday, July 13th, 2017.

Her last two months were spent at home, with us. It was a privilege to be able to take care of her, and to be with her until the end. This photo was taken on her 93rd birthday. To you, maman. To us. I miss you.



The Kasbah Chronicles

June and July 2017



Vienna and Nice

(Part 3: Unforgettable Toulouse and more Paris)



Luxuriating in chocolate decadence at Demmel’s,

HOP from Vienna to Nice

Mes vols HOP!


Lunch in Ventimiglia

. . . and much more


News you can use

My favorite salsa for summer

Bookings for presentations

News of Morocco and beyond

Les News en français


Le Riad au Bord de l’Oued

(Mint Tea and Minarets: a banquet of Moroccan memories)


Dateline: Vista, Vienna and Nice


A little French verse, “Le bonheur est dans le pré, cours-y vite, cours-y vite, makes me appreciate my own backyard, but it doesn’t stop me from sharing my far away French, Viennese, Italian, and Toulouse adventures. Here is part 2: RETURN FOR PART 3 NEXT MONTH!

A visit to Vienna was inspired by three books partially set in that fabled city: The People of the Book (extraordinary), The Hare with Amber Eyes (superb), and Monuments Men (inspiring to say the least). I had forgotten how “compact” Europe is! A little over an hour’s flight took me from Paris to Vienna, and I was still in the same time zone!

Since I was staying a little out of the city center, I had to take the train, then the bus to reach the pulsating heart of Vienna, the pedestrian only Stephanplatz, site of St Stephan’s Cathedral and its multicolored tiles ( All well and good and beautiful, but absolutely swamped with tourists.

To escape the crush, I ducked into Restaurant Haas and Hass ( behind the cathedral and sought refuge under a colorful umbrella. The “traditional” noodle soup and smoked fish platter the waitress recommended were rather tasteless and overpriced, but the intimate courtyard was an ideal spot for lunch. That same evening, my hosts, my cousin Helene and her husband Dr. Rainer Claus, an indie publisher himself ( sonnberg,) longtime Vienna residents, knew just where to take me for an authentic Austrian tafelsptiz. This cross between a French pot-au-feu and a Chinese hot pot is the specialty of Plachutta on the Wollzeille ( We spent a balmy evening on the terrace, retrieving various cuts of beef and vegetables from the delicate beef broth, and happily consuming Viennese sausage and sautéed cabbage. Love that Viennese tradition!

Again to evade the hordes on St Stephan Square the next day, I turned my back on the nearby Lipizzaner horse stables, the Sisi museum, and stores spewing authentic Austrian souvenirs made in China. I lusted after more sausages. I followed the wide pedestrian mall past the Vienna Opera house to the Naschmarkt, a market in business since the 16th century. (

Up and down along the Naschmarkt’s bustling aisles lined with dozens of stands offering Turkish pastries, Turkish preserves and otherwise exotic dumplings, spices and fruits. But where was my sausage? I finally stumbled upon a REAL Austrian sausage maker.

Casting aside my half-nibbled candied hibiscus blossom, I binged on an enormous sandwich oozing mustard. Well, half of a sandwich anyway. Nothing like fusion sampling! I must admit that the sausages in Milwaukee (WI), our quintessential US German city, were tastier than the one in Vienna. No matter. The experience was worth it.

I needed to walk off massive amounts of calories, and retraced my steps towards St Stephan Square and a plaza lined with tour buses. A barker lured me with a “Wanna go to the Schønnbrun Palace?” Why not? A chat with him revealed we were both from Casablanca. That was good for a 5 euro discount! The tour highlighted the royal bedchambers with their gilt ceilings, and hand-painted wallpaper but the poor emperors’ totally public way of life was in no way appealing. As I stepped outside the palace, a lone mime in Mozart costume was singing Beatles tunes. I captured my selfie with “Mozart.”

I decided to forego a slice of the “original” sacher torte at the Hotel Sacher, simply because a line of hungry tourists snaked out the door. My heart and my stomach were set on pastries, so upon returning to Vienna’s navel, the platz, I sought out Demmel’s, one of the world’s best-known pâtisseries.

The establishment seemed more gentile, the sort of place your grandmother would take for tea. The glassed-in pastry kitchen is a brilliant idea, allowing patrons to watch pâtissiers at work, on the extraordinary pastries and confections on display around the store. Their artistry made my mouth water, and I settled into one of the intimate salons with a chocolate soufflé smothered under a calving cliff of whipped cream. Bliss!

But the Côte d’Azur beckoned, with a flight on HOP, the new low-cost French airline operated by Air France ( The attendants actually offer you the day’s newspapers and free drinks! Incroyable!

 I mentioned in my previous edition of the Kasbah Chronicles that I took this trip to reconnect with childhood friends from Morocco. In Nice, Joelle, my “best” pal in école maternelle, was waiting for me at the airport. Though we hadn’t seen each other in 40 years, we resumed our conversation as though we had just parted ways the day before.

Joelle is also a terrific cook, and treated me to a platter of fromages and fine charcuterie (which she purchases in nearby Italy, funnily enough), canard confit and foie gras. How can I describe the ethereal flavors of her Consommé de Foie Gras, made of the most delicate chicken broth and the lightly poached foie gras peeking through. AMBROSIAL!

When in Nice don’t miss the beautiful Chagall Museum. The airy showcase holds some of the artist’s most colorful works. Or a ride along the Côte d’Azur (aka the French Riviera). The famed stretch of coastline stretches from Toulon to the east, to the Italian border to the west. Nice, its largest city, lies barely 29 kms from the Italian border. Indeed, many Niçois, including Joelle, frequent the weekly market in nearby Ventimiglia, Italy. Prices are lower, even though in euros.

Did I mention my lunch? The dish of home-made tagliatelle with vongole (clams) at Trattoria dei Pani, Via Roma, 16, was so subtle and light, unlike any I have eaten in the States. Was it the Italian air? I barely refrained from licking my plate.

No passport! No border! An empty building marks the spot. It is uncanny how you know you are in a different country as you cross the non-existent line. Apart from signs and sounds, a sort of Italian laissez faire in the air contrasts with the sterile high-rises of Monaco, or, as I dubbed it, Manhattan on the Med. This is the place where billionaires like to hang out? They can have it! Laguna Beach, Santa Barbara and La Jolla have it all over Monaco’s narrow, quasi-impassable winding streets and concrete high rises.

Joelle filled my belly with champagne, more foie gras, and a memorable tartiflette (scalloped potatoes and cream dish buried under a blanket of melted Reblochon cheese.) I practically waddled back to the airport, to catch my flight to Toulouse. And the “Ville Rose” (Pink City), a revelation to me, merits a Chronicle unto itself. Come back for the next installment!



From my book, Couscous: Fresh and Flavorful (Chronicle Books, 1999) a favorite summer recipe:

Couscous Fritters with Fresh Corn and Tomato Salsa

Serves 4

2 large, ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded, finely diced, and drained

2 ears sweet corn, shucked and cooked (about 1 1/2 cups kernels)

15 sprigs fresh cilantro, finely chopped (about 1 1/2 tablespoons)

2 tablespoons finely diced onion

1 teaspoon fresh lime juice

3/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1 tablespoon ketchup

3/4 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup broth

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 tablespoon butter

1/2 cup couscous

1 egg, lightly beaten

Vegetable oil for frying

Fresh cilantro leaves for garnish


In a medium bowl, combine the tomatoes, corn, half of the cilantro, the onion, lime juice, 1/4 teaspoon of the cumin, the ketchup, and salt. Set aside.

Prepare the fritters: In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the broth, chili powder, butter, and remaining salt. Bring to a boil. Add the couscous in a stream. Stir once. Cover and remove from the heat. Set aside until the couscous is tender, 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl and combine with the egg.

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F. In a medium skillet over medium-high heat, pour vegetable oil to a depth of 1/2 inch. Heat until a pinch of couscous sizzles instantly. Place the couscous mixture, in 1/3 cup increments, into the skillet. With a spatula, flatten into croquettes 3 to 3 1/2 inches in diameter. Fry until golden brown, 6 to 8 minutes on each side. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to drain. Keep warm in the oven. Top each fritter with some salsa and serve!

Classes and presentations:

I am available for talks and presentations on edible flowers or Moroccan cuisine and culture


Books for sale: Need a gift? I’ll sign and send one of my books!

News of Morocco:

The modern Moroccan art scene is alive and well. Thanks to His Majesty Mohammed VI, Rabat now has its very own museum of modern art, a first in the Arab world. Learn more this is a very informative site. Artist Mahi Binebine and

This was all over the news. I have travelled this road to Marrakech since childhood and look at what they unearthed.

You have to love this man: The Book Rescuer

Links of interests:

Cookbook lovers, head to:

. . a selection of cookbooks on Classics Cookbooks.

This collaborative exhibition draws from the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego’s (MCASD) permanent collection, featuring works by beloved California artists.

Food find, in Rancho San Diego (about 50 mns from Vista) but worth the drive:

I have already told you about Sahara (2990 Jamacha Road, El Cajon), a family-run, Middle Eastern restaurant in Rancho San Diego. Fresh and home-made are key words here. We rarely drive far afield from the North County, but we regularly make our way to Rancho San Diego to fulfill our craving for their hummus and pickles, mouth-watering chicken tikka sandwiches, flatbreads baked in a stone oven, and excellent kibbe. Other Mid Eastern business occupy the strip mall including Pistachio Delights and Pastries (2999 Jamacha Road, Suite 102, El Cajon) where you will find a plethora of Mid Eastern pastries from baklava to knafa, freshly baked on site, and sip Turkish coffe.

North San Diego County readers:

Are you aware of the online newsletter, The Vista Press? The informative newsletter covers Vista, Oceanside, Carlsbad, and more. Send in your local news! Yours truly will have a periodic byline.


Kitty is selling: I will send you pictures and prices via email:

Moroccan artifacts:

Vintage Moroccan dagger made of carved bone inlaid with colored stones. Black woven silk rope.

Authentic Moroccan tagine pots, small and medium size (no shipping for these)

Copper items:

Vintage lamp base bought in Casablanca (red copper) about 24 inches tall, shaped like a vase.

Etched box with domed lid bought in Casablanca.

Copper (red copper) cooking pot with handle bought in Casablanca

and much more.

Until next month,



The Kasbah Chronicles April/May 2017 edition (Part 1)

Ah! Ces Parisiens! Love and French water keeps you going!

The Kasbah Chronicles

April/May 2017 Edition

Part 1 of 2, or perhaps 3!


Part 1: Paris and Normandy



Rediscovering Paris and Normandy

La Gare Montparnasse: An urban playground!

Les Passages Couverts de Paris

Le Salon du Livre 2017

AU SECOURS! HELP! A cell phone quandary

Travel information

A Note from Kyrgystan


News of Morocco and beyond

POKE in Paris?

Update: Le Riad au Bord de l’Oued

(Mint Tea and Minarets: a banquet of Moroccan memories)


Dateline: Paris and Normandy

The Kasbah Chronicles were on hiatus for a month, when, this being a banner year for me, I took myself to France for three weeks. It was time to reconnect with aging family members, and with grade school chums from Casablanca, and meet up with girlfriends, one of whom I hadn’t seen in at least 40 years. As “best” school pals would, we simply picked up where we had left off.

Since my cousin lives ATOP the Gare Montparnasse (the rooftop is a public park!) I had plenty of opportunities to step inside the gare. This is what I observed:

Quelle idée géniale! Two cyclists powering their cell phone while on an exercise bike. I burst out laughing and the two cyclists thought I was the nutty one. And then, there was a public piano:

I joined the line forming in front of Chez Paul sandwicherie inside the main hall. This I did, once, twice, three and four times over the course of a week. I had just stumbled onto one of Chez Paul’s internationally known sandwich shops. I was instantly hooked with a CRUNCHY baguette sandwich filled with a generous helping of jambon de Paris. And his fresh Tarte à l’Abricot. Chez Paul operates franchises in Casablanca, Qatar, Koweit, and Portugal among others. Best of all, you will find Chez Paul inside the terminals at Charles de Gaulle airport, a most appealing alternative to the overly priced and tasteless pseudo Chinese, Italian, or Japanese fast-food.

The other craze from Paris to Vienna to Toulouse is sushi! Every hole in the wall restaurant features sushi on the menu (A sushi and a dim sum bar at the staid Galeries Lafayette? Oui madame.) And POKE. POKE?! Hawaii’s national dish! In that regard, I ask the same question I do about argan oil: Argan argan everywhere, but where does it come from (a tree traditionally is endemic to Morocco’s southern regions.) How can the world’s oceans produce ENDLESS amounts of FRESH RAW FISH??? Je ne sais pas. Make sure you know its source.

Non merci: When in France, feed me cassoulet, a butter-logged croque-monsieur, frites, fresh baguette, a squishy baba oozing with Martinique rum (such as the one at the Brasserie Montparnasse, where the waiter brought us a liter of rum, and told us to finish it off by pouring the contents on two babas.) Our waiter was a transplanted Camerounais! Who said Parisians were unfriendly?

Les Passages de Paris:

My first “retrouvaille” was with my dear friend Roselyne Rahoule, who happens to be our neighbor at Dar Zitoun (and in former times, in Casablanca.) Roselyne had planned a special day that included browsing through Les Passages Couverts de Paris. What a treat. Les Passages consist of a series of nineteenth century commercial “alleys” bisecting buildings, and topped with gorgeous glass domes. Most of them grace the right bank near the Grands Boulevards. Up to 150 passages existed in the late 19th. and

What a perfect stroll on a rainy Parisian day. The sumptuous Galerie Vivienne which took more than 2 hours to explore, with unique boutiques, and Pakistani, Moroccan, Thai, sushi bars, and yes, even an authentic Parisian bistro. A real bistro lunch of Noix de St Jacques in garlic butter and Magret de Canard at Le Café du Commerce (café provided the icing on le gâteau. Among the most enticing boutiques was Emilio Robba’s ( magical display of artificial plants and flowers. In nearby Passage des Panoramas, the charming Hemingbird (sic) lured us inside with its delightful paper goods. We got to chat with the owner, who, wouldn’t you know, hailed from Chile! Merci Roselyne for these memorable retrouvailles (her husband, Abderrahmane Rahoule, is one of Morocco’s best-known contemporary artists.)

Paris’ annual LIVRE PARIS, Salon du Livre de Paris, book expo, beckoned a day later. Emmanuel Macron, possibly France’s next president, made a brief appearance. More important, I met with a publisher regarding my French translation for Mint Tea and Minarets, Le Riad au Bord de L’oued. Hope springs eternal. I am determined to see that book published in French! Among many treasures I obtained a brochure listing the Federation du Village du Livre en France, villages and towns all over France that specialize in bookstores of all genres.

My next retrouvailles took me to Normandy to meet up with Pat, who was our neighbor in Casablanca in the late 1950s. With Pat and her husband Jean Dominique I discovered Caen and its environs, where my friends Pat and Jean-Dom took me on an aerial tour of the Normandy beavhes in their home-built ORION plane. An excursion to remember!

Behind the Tour Montparnasse, a stone’s throw from the Gare, lies the atelier/Musée Bourdelle, a new one for me. Antoine Bourdelle was a sculptor who created many a public monument. The unusual juxtaposition of Bourdelle’s work and Balenciaga’s signature BLACK evening dresses proved arresting. (until July 2017)

Buses: I used the Flexbus and the Ouibus to get from Paris to Normandy, and return from Caen to Charles de Gaulle airport. JUST NINE euros (about USD12) buys a two-hour, relaxing bus ride from Paris to Caen, or return. Depart from the somewhat off putting La Défense, or Porte Maillot. You can even purchase a ticket online. Check out the bus companies’ websites.

Metro: The Paris metro is overcrowded and lugubrious, yet the most convenient means of transportation. I got lost in the underworld maze of the Gare St Lazare, and I wasn’t the only one! So I latched on to a school of equally aimless lemmings, got on the wrong train, did an aller-retour only to return where I started from, only to locate my exit on the opposite side of the corridor. TAKE THE BUS! A Metro ticket buys you a seat on any bus. What a relief to remain above ground and catch glimpses of the Eiffel Tower, the Champs Elysées, the Opera, and the Louvre MOBBED, MOBBED, MOBBED, with tourists. Thank goodness I didn’t feel I had to visit it once again.

CELL PHONE quandary:I have an iPhone, but I am very slow on the uptake. I purchased a Verizon plan for 30 days’ overseas service. I managed to connect to my cousin’s wi-fi in Paris (I travelled with 3 phones one for Morocco, one for Chile, and the iPhone.) “Non, neither the Moroccan nor the Chilean cell phones will work en France,” said the friendly techs at Darty dept store. SO I purchased a fourth phone for local use. “Can you sell me a sim card for the phone?” “Ah! Non, so sorry, for that you have to go to the ORANGE (phone co.) store on the Rue de Rennes.” Half an hour’s walk and 2 miles later, I staggered into the Orange Store, exhausted, ready to cast all my phones in the Seine.

Classes and presentations:

I am home for the summer and Fall. I would be happy to schedule a presentation, either on Moroccan cuisine and culture, or on edible flowers. Short lead times are OK with me! As you know, I have given these to schools, museums, universities, cookbook, garden, and book clubs. Send me an email for information.

Next time: Vienna, Nice, more Paris, and Toulouse

Suite au prochain numero, stay tuned!