When the going gets tough, the tough get cookin’….
The Kasbah Chronicles: now in its 12th year!
Quarantine edition, March/April 2020
(Full disclosure: I started these chronicles 3 weeks ago)
Time flies when you are quarantined.
Diary of a quarantine
Chard and more recipes available on my website
The 60th anniversary of the Agadir Earthquake of 1960
Kitty’s Whale of an Adventure
Kitty in the media
Links of Interest
My pet peeves (on restaurant menus)
My best wishes for
a Happy (virtual?) Passover
a Happy (virtual?) Easter
Anyone can subscribe (send me an email) or unsubscribe (you know what to do!)
Diary of a quarantine:
I hope these Chronicles find you and yours in good health, albeit perhaps chomping at the bit. I can’t think of a better place to be than at our very own Kasbah, and for that, I am grateful. My heart breaks for all those who do not have a roof over their heads, especially homeless students and San Diegans. I can only hope that most have found food and shelter during this horrible “storm”.
We are quarantined in Vista, as is everyone else around the world. Being stuck at home is no hardship, since I spend most of my days at my computer in any case, but there is a strange aura about. The world is topsy turvy, but plants are thriving; my fig tree is off to a new start, so is the pomegranate bush; rose bushes greet me with a new bud each morning (I thank them profusely). Meyer lemons are just about done (have you made your preserved lemons yet. Check out my website!) My blood oranges fall to the ground by the dozen so I spend hours making marmalade and syrup.
The funny thing is, I feel like cooking. I want comfort food! As I have written on numerous occasions, my favorite comfort food is couscous. The classic dish calls for 7 different kinds of fresh vegetables which I may or may not have on hand. So I added what I find in the recesses of my freezer: frozen broccoli? Frozen artichoke hearts? As long as I have fresh cabbage, I am happy.
Whenever I am uninspired, I fall back on one of my first books, 365 Ways to Cook Vegetarian (HarperCollins) written under duress and edited over the phone during an epic and exhausting Labor Day week-end with a (manic) New York editor. The book sold tens of thousands of copies (not much in it for me), and one day reappeared under a new cover and size on the shelves of Barnes and Noble under the B and N imprint. OOPS, no one had let me know.
The book contains some of my favorite recipes, all meatless (not vegan, though it contains many vegan recipes). 365 is my go to cookbook, the one that contains all sorts of dishes from family and friends (they all get credit!) One of my personal favorites is the Vegetable Lasagna, one given to me by a local farmer.
The other is a super Vegetarian Harira, a meatless take on the Moroccan bean soup served during the month of Ramadan. My new adaptation: HARIRA WITH KALE. And, surprise, I even rediscovered my recipe for Egg Foo Young (remember egg foo young, the fake Chinese special??) Talk about antiquated comfort food!!
I didn’t have all the “Chinese” ingredients, so I chopped up some kale and other left overs, added eggs and Asian flavorings, and BINGO! My off with the virus version wasn’t half bad, and cleared the fridge!
KITTY’S RECIPES: Please visit the link below for MY LATEST TAKE ON Vegetarian Harira with Kale, and others.
I love feedback, let me know if they work for you, or add one of your own!
To fight the virus eat 2 garlic cloves.
It’s of no use
but it’ll keep people away from you!
Week one: March 16 to 21, 2020:
The virus is still at bay, or so we think. I go on what turns out to be last shopping expedition at my favorite supermarket.
Faced with a wall of greens, I purchase chard (which I rarely use) and a very expensive box of baby zucchini. My imagination is at a standstill. I purchase 3 containers of coconut yogurt, and a pound of sliced ham. Two mangos and an indispensable bunch of cilantro.
I head for home, aware that confinement might begin the same week. A light bulb goes off: I call the family farm down the street to subscribe to a weekly CSA box: I will get farm fresh greens and a dozen eggs beginning Saturday. On the appointed day, I pick up more chard and kale. And the curly kind at that. What will I make with this abundance of curly kale?
It rains the next day: my Pavlovian response is to make soup. How about a sort-of-Tuscan Kale soup (white beans aside, since my husband is off carbs) I fill my crockpot with chard, broth, a sliced carrot, and half a leftover sausage. Relief comes the next morning: We have kale soup for several days. I must use the rest of the kale before next Saturday!
Week two: March 23 to 27, 2020
It is still raining. I need comfort food, and for me, that means couscous. I limit myself to making the meatless couscous stew (from The Vegetarian table: North Africa; I have a handful of new copies, if you are interested.) Used copies on amazon.com. My vegetable bin holds celery, cabbage, one limp zucchini, an onion, and yes: chard. I fill my crock pot with canned tomatoes, vegetables and spices necessary for couscous soup and usually requires 7 different kinds of vegetables, The new chard-laden version warms the cockles of my heart, and I serve it with “instant” couscous on the side. It’s so comforting to inhale the aromas of home: saffron, ginger, cilantro, turmeric. Two days’ worth of meals!
Chronicle Books also made a calendar out of it. It’s way past its sell by date, but has gorgeous pictures and recipes for 12 dishes
Oh NO: More green leaves left: I flip through my own Moroccan cookbooks to “rediscover” Kale a la Chermoula (from Cooking at the Kasbah). Chermoula spices flavor a marinade of cumin, salt, garlic, herbs, lemon juice and olive oil. Combine that with a little tomato sauce, and you have a killer base for chard. So, I chop (very fine) my curly leaves, and pop them in a pan with olive oil. A good amount of garlic and some diced preserved lemon rind: voila. So much for chard.
I discovered a box of Trader’s Joe’s chakchouka, or shakshuka in English. I had my doubts about a TJ special, but much to my surprise, the flavors are there, though the amount is pitifully small inside a big plastic bowl, so forget TJ and make your own. TJ’s is a pureed of peppers with chermoula spices—in North Africa, the real chakchouka is chunky, made with ROASTED bell peppers and tomatoes, and used as a nest for tiny meatballs or poached eggs.
Make your own!
My freezer held other surprises. I often forget to label left overs. I once gave my mother what I thought was a perfect dinner—whatever it was—and she thanked me the next day for her mystery dessert. I now use masking tape.
My rummaging yielded a large package of frozen scallops (from Costco’s, they are delicious.) That evening my husband, Owen, was inspired. He is more scientist than cook, and shuns common “cooking rules” when it comes to scallops. No quick searing for my guy. He dices them when they are still a little frozen, cooks them in butter, lemon juice and white wine until they are caramelized. He then combines them with diced avocado and sprinkles the dish with chopped cilantro. I even wrote down that recipe so we don’t forget it.
Week 3: March 23 to 28:
We have plenty of food, but I need cilantro (kesbour, coriandre, Chinese parsley)! Je ne peux cuisiner a la marocaine sans kesbour) s
My closest supermarket offers home deliveries via Instacart. Except deliveries now take over a week.
Thus, 2 ½ weeks into our confinement, I decide to brave the aisles of my favorite food store, Frazier Farms, in Vista (CA). I know the layout by heart, so I plan my “razzia” accordingly. Surprisingly, the store was not busy, hardly anyone was wearing a mask (I was) and kept to their own business.
Life goes on at the farm: First fraises des bois of the year!
It was the disinfecting routine once I got home from the supermarket that exhausted me:
Make a shopping list
Don mask at home and save the gloves for the store
Jump in the car.
My husband drops me off in front of the store.
I tie a bandana over my mask (the bandana soon slips off)
I clean the handle of my market basket.
I enter the store
I avoid human contact
I consult my shopping list and zig zag all over the store to find the items
The store is well stocked, much to my surprise
I check out and have to bag my own items in my own bags
My husband asks me to hop in the back of the car with the purchases
We enter the garden where we had prepared a large container of bleach water
We dip all plastic wrapped items in the mix
Meat goes in a cooler with a large ice pack for 24 hours
I take a shower in our back bathroom and leave my clothes on the floor
I get dressed
I AM EXHAUSTED. I DON’T CARE IF I GET ANOTHER OVERLOAD OF KALE.
Since my shopping expedition, I have learned this:
DO NOT TAKE REUSABLE BAGS TO THE STOR
A friend called me with a query:
She loves my tagine of chicken with prunes (now called dried plums) but she didn’t have prunes.
Could she substitute dried apricots? Bien sûr!! Or dried cherries, or dried cranberries… That’s the beauty of tagines: the meat and fruit combination is up to you. What counts are the spices. Fruit tagines usually call for cinnamon, ginger, ras el hanout, or nutmeg. Many seafood tagines rely on a chermoula blend (see Kale with Chermoula) of cumin and paprika, among others.
UNDER the corona wire: My whale of an adventure:
I had planned a trip in mid-February, before the Covid-19 scare, to pet the whales in Guerrero Negro, Baja California. I thank my lucky stars for being able to go, for this is a trip to remember. What an out-of-this world experience to float alongside friendly cetaceans larger than our panga (boat). I still cannot get over the thrill of seeing a whale pop up next to us (or thump the underside of the panga), and cast a glance at the exhilarated humans trying to make physical contact. The thing is, the animals seemed to like it! Access to the lagoon is limited and regulated by the Mexican government. Thank you, Mike Essary of www.bajacustomtours.com, a San Diego-based Baja expert who leads small expeditions to Guerrero Negro and many other parts of Baja. I will describe my adventure in greater detail in a later issue of the Chronicles.
Kitty in the media:
This is what I have been up to: You can read a few of my travel stories on this link:
Look at what was on display at the San Diego Library: thank you so much, dear readers of the Chronicles, for sending me these pictures and at the Museum of Man in Balboa Park: eBook cover News of Morocco and beyond:
Morocco is under the same total lockdown as we are.
A look back at the Agadir Earthquake of 1960: I was there
February 29 marked the 60th anniversary of the Agadir earthquake, a tragedy for Morocco. On that day in 1960, a horrible earthquake destroyed the port of Agadir (at the time, the world’s leading producer of sardines.) Though we lived in Casablanca, about 300 miles north of the Atlantic fishing port, I still recall the terror we felt living on the fifth floor. The building shook for what seemed forever, to the point where we lost our balance. My parents, as terrified as anyone, herded my brother and me into the lift, an antique wooden “crate” with swinging doors, and by some miracle, we reached the rez de chaussée, or ground floor. We ran across the street into Casablanca’s largest park, now known as Parc de la Ligue Arabe, to join the hundreds of other casablancais escaping swaying buildings. We spent one night in the park, but many erected tents, and remained there for days. We discovered later the earthquake’s terrible toll: the magnitude 5.7 created a tsunami, and flattened the port of Agadir, a town of 47,000 inhabitants. 15,000 (more or less) people perished in 15 seconds.
Did you know? Le saviez-vous?
Pionniers français du Far West!
French pioneers of the American frontier.. who knew..
Los Angeles has a French history
Los Angeles en français, le spécialiste des activités touristiques francophones à Los Angeles.
I can’t wait to take a French tour of LA!
On language: A word issue where I needed correcting:
One day last week, a TV reporter was interviewing an elementary school teacher. She was telling how she “conversates” with her students.
“I conversated with them, and told them that everything was OK,” said she.
Really? Conversate? I laughed, and so did my husband (and so did a couple of friends with whom I happened to “conversate”). A day or two later, said friend and I consulted GOOGLE…
I literally had to EAT MY WORD:
Conversate is a NEW WORD recently added to the American lexicon:
According to grammerly.com is due to “back-formation.” (Never heard of that either!)
- “The Definition of Conversate. Conversate means to have a conversation. To get to conversate, you’d have to take the noun “conversation,” remove the suffix -ion, add an “e” at the end, and use it as a verb. That process is called back-formation, and the result is often a word that’s considered nonstandard—at least for a while.”
So, let’s keep conversating!!
More on the subject of English: The challenge of irregular verbs
Un cauchemar que les verbes irréguliers anglais.
Heard almost daily on TV:
I should have WENT (Aie aie aie!)
I have went (Yes, I heard this)
I been there
He done that
ANOTHER OF MY PET PEEVES! French words listed on American restaurant menus:
AAARRRGH: gravy “au jus”?? REDUNDANT….
It seems to me that if a patron is spending $80 and up for dinner in a chichi restaurant the equally chichi menu should be FREE of foreign language mistakes: It’s easy to correct: call the nearest French dept at a university or high school. OR SEND ME AN EMAIL!
Overheard a Surfer Dude on TV:
“It was like Amazingly awesome!”
I don’t think I can top that!
Correction: an eagle-eyed reader of these Chronicles brought to my attention that the Queen Mary is NOT moored in Laguna Beach, but in LONG BEACH (CA). Thank you for bringing this to my attention.
Can I blame the self-correct feature on the computer (Probably not!)
PS: If you have time on your hands, I always appreciate a LIKE on y Facebook page for Le Riad au Bord le L’Oued or for Mint Tea and Minarets. And a review on the amazon pages for the books.
Si vous avez une liste de correspondants e-mail, vous pouvez faire circuler lien pour Le Riad au Bord de l’Oued sur la page Facebook ou sur Amazon.com
Every click helps.
WEAR YOUR MASK!