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
A FRENCH ESCAPADE (Part 2)
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 (www.stephansdom.at.) All well and good and beautiful, but absolutely swamped with tourists.
To escape the crush, I ducked into Restaurant Haas and Hass (http://www.haas-haas.at.) 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 (https://sites.google/site/editions 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 (http://www.plachutta.at.) 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. (http://www.naschmarkt-vienna.com)
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 (www.hop.com). 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
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 http://www.kawnculture.com
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.http://artcenter.org/event/california-connections-selections-museum-contemporary-art-san-diego-2/
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:
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)
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,
Dar Zitoun, Our historic riad, the subject of my memoir,
Mint Tea and Minarets: a banquet of Moroccan memories is now up for sale.
Renamed Dar Azema for marketing purposes.
Please feel free to share the following link .
If you are nt yet subscribed to my rather eclectic, almost monthly newsletter, just send me an email, and I will add you to my list!
THE KASBAH CHRONICLES
March is French language month
Classes and presentations
News of Morocco and beyond:
Links of interest
DAR ZITOUN now listed with Christie’s
Our riad, DAR ZITOUN, renamed Dar Azema for advertising purposes, IS NOW LISTED WITH CHRISTIE’S.
You are most welcome to spread the word!
January came and went, as did February, and rain, rain, wonderful rain. Those who live in wet climates cannot imagine how exciting it is to experience one downpour after another. And I mean downpours! Thunder! Lightning! Frightened dogs! Traffic-stopping grey and white puffs barrel across the sky and over the hills to provide a thrill for sunbaked eyes.
Thus I deemed necessary a change of scenery: I am off to France at the end of March to reconnect with three childhood girlfriends from Casablanca . . . Lots of pâté, and lots of girl talk in store.
I have been here already: have you? Les catacombes de Paris
Francophiles may be interested to learn that March is “le mois de la francophonie.” Who knew there were still French dialects spoken in the US?? Fascinating! Check this out on France Amérique:
“ March is “le Mois de la Francophonie” — Francophone Month! For the occasion, France-Amérique takes you on a U.S. tour of the French dialects in Maine, in Missouri, and in Louisiana. Read more.
“. . . France-Amérique vous propose un tour d’Amérique des dialectes français qui vous emmènera dans le Maine, dans le Missouri et en Louisiane. Lire la suite. “
I picked a handful of green tomatoes clinging to a dying vine. They brought to mind the expanses of tomatoes that once blanketed San Diego County. Remember when the fields behind Mission San Luis Rey were covered in tomatoes? The fields have made way to homes but the farmer’s recipe lives on in my book, The California Farm Cookbook (Pelican Publishing, 1999)
(Ex) Valley Heights Ranch Fried Green Tomatoes
For seven decades, the Yasukochis have farmed the fields behind Mission San Luis Rey, the oldest continuously-operating mission in California. This San Diego County family, like other local tomato farmers, has seen its acreage shrink dramatically over the years, due to increased water and labor costs, and to the encroachment of housing developments. Yet, like their ancestors did before them, the Yasukochis remain committed to the land. Their popular vegetable stand off busy Mission Boulevard lures dozens of drivers daily with their basketsful of freshly-picked tomatoes. Jane, an aficionada of Fried Green Tomatoes, adds a pinch of dry Ranch-style or buttermilk salad dressing mix to the egg white for extra flavor.
2 large or 3 medium green tomatoes, washed, and cut in 1/4 inch slices
1 1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
1/4 cup flour for dredging
1 egg white, slightly beaten
1 tsp. dry buttermilk dressing mix
1/4 cup breadcrumbs or cornmeal for dredging
Vegetable oil for frying
Sliced cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese
Grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
Place tomato slices on breadboard or other flat surface. Sprinkle with salt, and let stand a few minutes. Pat dry. Dredge each tomato slice in flour. Set aside. In small bowl, mix egg white with dressing mix. Dip each tomato slice in mixture, then dredge in breadcrumbs or cornmeal. In large frying pan, heat small amount of oil, and fry tomato slices on both sides. Top each one with cheese slice, and turn off heat. Cover pan and let stand until cheese melts. If using Parmesan, sprinkle on just before serving. Yield: 4 servings as side dish.
Where are Kitty’s Books?
The Spanish Table, Berkeley
Books Inc, Palo Alto
Speaking of books: Opening May 16, 2017
Chicago boasts a new museum:
A National Museum Celebrating American Writers
Opening in Chicago on May 16, 2017
“Literature matters. The incredibly diverse history of this country can be accessed, interpreted, illuminated, shared, through the literatures created by its writer. . .”
TRUST EVERYONE BUT TIE UP YOUR CAMEL!!!
Classes and Presentations:
I recently had the opportunity to experience these traditional North African activities:
Zumba and Belly Dancing with instructor Marcella Alva: http://www.dance2fitness.com
Henna designs for you, just like in Morocco. Great party activity! Her designs are GORGEOUS!
And Oud music to soothe your soul:
Frank Lazarro and Alexi Rabay duo play traditional Andalusian music: email@example.com
Great food history site:
MAY IN LA: lafoodbowl.com:
21 days of fun and food
If you haven’t already booked your next culinary trip to Chengdu or Paris, Jerusalem or Oaxaca, then you might consider staying in — or traveling to — Los Angeles for some, or all, of those 31 days. Because that’s when the Los Angeles Times will be presenting Food Bowl, a monthlong food festival.
French champagne in New Mexico:
“Turn back time to 1952, when in the city of Bethon, France, a 21-year-old man named Gilbert Gruet and his wife Danielle followed their dream of establishing the Champagne producing label of Gruet et Fils. Thirty-one years later, together with their children, they visited the southwestern U.S. state of New Mexico. “WINE IN MOROCCO: How about this?? “Best sommelier”: Who thinks Morocco doesn’t produce wine. Today, the country boasts award-winning sommeliers!
News of Morocco and beyond:
. . . Nouvelle exposition dédiée aux artistes femmes au musée d’art moderne et contemporain de Rabat: Women artists showcased at Rabat museum.
Another exciting piece of news from Morocco:
“Une découverte majeure de la NASA réalisée avec l’Observatoire de l’Oukaïmeden
“The truth really is out there. NASA revealed yesterday that it’s discovered seven rocky, Earth-sized planets orbiting dwarf star Trappist-1, just 39 light years away. Three are in the habitable zone and could contain liquid water. The fact that Trappist-1 is a dwarf star. . . “
I learned to ski at the Oukaimeden, Morocco’s highest peak, where it snows until April (if one can call sliding down the slope on my backside)
LIKE the observatoire: https://www.facebook.com/Observatoire.Oukaimeden/posts/1245059385548737
I did go to France, and will fill you in next time on food and location details.
(“Better late than never.”)
Dromallama? Camellama? Abdul or Fatima?
. . .has lived with us for 40 years. Sometimes outdoors, sometimes in, always a bit tipsy. It was born and created in Salé, Morocco.
OO lala, better late than never. December slipped away, and now January. But the rains have continued, and it is cause for rejoicing.
December 2016 slipped away from me, and so did that month’s edition of the Kasbah Chronicles. I can’t say I am fond of “forced down your throat” holiday cheer.
I met my goal of translating Mint Tea and Minarets into French, and decided upon the title: Le riad au bord de l’oued : souvenirs et saveurs de Dar Zitoun. (Merci, chers amis qui m’avez aidée.) And now begins the hard work of finding it a good home!
I spent the month of December making yak meatballs and blood orange marmalade with the fruit of my overladen blood orange tree, in between savoring Geraldine Brooks’ novels (Caleb’s Crossing, People of the Book, Year of Wonders, March (Pulitzer Prize), and Foreign Correspondence.
Tangerine marmalade bubbling in the pot
Thankfully, the RAIN IS STICKING AROUND!! Lovely, air-cleansing, soul-refreshing, life-giving RAIN. Olive, our scottie, refuses to get her feet wet, but I did my little rain dance, then rushed to the kitchen to make couscous for New Year’s Eve, my favorite comfort food. I overate, bien sur. It was worth every bite. I list The recipe for Couscous Beidoui, Casablanca style couscous with seven vegetables, my favorite comfort food, in all my Moroccan cookbooks. This year, I prepared a variation on the theme: Couscous with YAK meatballs! (though couscous with meatballs is Algerian, not Moroccan.)
My friend Tershia d’Elgin, who wrote The Man who Thought he owned Water, a memoir of her family ranch in Colorado shared a precious pound of ground YAK, raised in the US of A. The dark red lean meat reminded me of ostrich and kangaroo (yes, indeed, couscous with kangaroo is an Australian invention.)The recipe for the meatballs appears in Mint Tea and Minarets. I have to say, even made with yak, they tasted very Moroccan! Recipe on the website www.mintteaandminarets.com.
Moroccan Kefta (meatballs) of American YAK.
(how cosmopolitan can you get?!)
If yak is not available, stick with a combination of beef and lamb, as in my original recipe in Mint Tea and Minarets.
Links of interest:
News of Morocco:
Morocco’s seeing an auto boom. But will it bust? http://www.ozy.com/fast-forward/your-next-car-could-be-made-in-africa/70241
Have you ever heard of cloud fishing? Well they do that in Morocco!
OZY.com is one of the most informative and entertaining news sites on the web. Quirky, up-to-date, and well written! (http://www.ozy.com/emailsignup)
Books for sale:
A Biblical Feast or Edible Flowers: A Kitchen Companion with Recipes, $15.95 plus shipping in the US only.
Mint Tea and Minarets: a banquet of Moroccan memories: only 200 hard copies left! $25.00 plus shipping in the US only.
Books from my shelf:
IN FRENCH: USD95.00
JOURS DE FETE AU MAROC
ACR EDITIONS, 2004
Ilham Ibrahimi and Moha Fedal. Photo Cecile Treal
In a cardboard box. Brand new. Box is illustrated, and bears some shelf-wear (from my travelling!!) on upper corner. Never used in the kitchen. NEW. This book weighs around 8 lbs, therefore, shipping will be higher than usual even with media mail.
Enormous coffee table book which I hand-carried back from Marrakech. Written by MOHA, one of Marrakech’s top chefs (my group had a cooking lesson at his farm outside Marrakech in 2003 or 2004.) Beautifully illustrated with scenes of Moroccan celebrations and special foods. Recipes included. This is a book to treasure if you have been to Morocco. I have several like it, and do not need this one.
IN FRENCH: USD50.00
LE JARDIN DES COUSCOUS; RECETTES DE LA TRADITION JUIVE TUNISIENNE. by Simon Nizard. L’Aube, 1998. 160 pages. OUT OF PRINT. Paperback. A memoir with food about growing up Jewish in Tunis. I purchased this book in Casablanca about 10 years ago, and read it once. Sticker removed from inside back cover, otherwise like new. Recipes included.
IN FRENCH: CASABLANCA RETRO de 1889 à Nos Jours. $115.00. One of a kind. Numéro 509. 102 pages. ISBN-10: 9954019367 ISBN-13: 978-9954019368
Editions SERAR, Casablanca, 1988. Documents réunis par Flandrin. Edition en fac-simile. 45 planches, Photos Marcelin Flandrin, avec texte accompagnant chaque photo prise dans une année différente.
45 plates showing landscape on one date, then a few years later. Unique book filled with reproductions of historic photographs taken between 1890 and 1928 by Marcelin Flandrin, Morocco’s best known architectural and landscape photographer. Gives you an idea of what Casablanca looked like at the turn of the 20th century. Book has long been out of print. One page shows 2 photos and opposite has explanatory text. ONLY 900 copies produced. This is #509.
Until next time! Kitty