The wonderful kitchen crew, including Creative Chef Jesus Gonzalez (over my left shoulder) at Rancho La Puerta
I have had a week or two to catch my breath after returning from a week at Rancho la Puerta (http://www.rancholapuerta.com) where I was invited to give Moroccan cooking lessons. I can’t tell you what a treat it was to teach in the state of the art Cocina que Canta, which is surrounded by a beautiful organic garden that provides the fruits and vegetables for this unique resort and spa. Chef Jesus Gonzalez, the creative executive chef, and his staff, couldn’t have been more helpful and attentive to me or to the class participants.
The cuisines of Morocco and Mexico share many common threads, especially when it comes to flavorings such as cinnamon, cumin, nutmeg, even dried rose petals (an ingredient in ras el hanout). One different flavor that sets the two cuisines apart, however, is that of sweet Hungarian paprika. Be careful to use paprika, and NOT chili powder in your Moroccan dishes, or the flavor will be altered (I learned the hard way when I purchased “paprika” in bulk at my health food store. It was really chili powder that had been mislabeled and I had to test the dish several times before I figured it out!) “Students” at the Cocina first took a guided tour of the organic garden to pick the ingredients for a trio of Moroccan salads; we then joined forces in the large kitchen to assemble a tagine of seafood and fennel bulbs; b’stila of salmon; couscous with seven vegetables in a saffron broth; and of course, my indispensable salted preserved lemons. You can now spend a Saturday at the spa that includes round trip transportation from San Diego, a cooking class with the chef, a tasting, and use of many of the spa’s amenities. The Cocina alone is worth the trip!
A bientot, Kitty
PS: I have been asked to return on Saturday, August 23rd, to teach a hands-on class.