Archive for October, 2012

Morocco and Spain Recommendations and Recipes:

I have been back from Spain and Morocco just under a month and I am still dreaming of the light as it seeps mysteriously through lanterns; I am still listening to this song that somehow captured so many of my feelings in this wonderful world; and tasting the spices on my tongue.

My bag and I were reunited half a week after my return. There were so many gifts I had packed into its bulging sides and forgotten about. I was happy to replay much of my trip in my mind and on phone calls with friends and family. Then I got right to work in my kitchen bringing some of the flavors home with me forever.

Below are three recipes from Marvelous Marrakesh. I also wanted to capture some the places I went on this trip so they didn’t just sit on slips of paper or as notes in the margins of my dog eared travel books.

SPAIN:

Cadaques – what a special place that really makes one think what a wonderful and stunning world we live in. This is the kind of place that I want to go back to a million times over and I hope will never change – relaxed, beautiful, warm, and shimmering by the water and mountains.

Hotel Blaumar – I stayed here and couldn’t have asked for more. A few minutes walk from the center of town but with stunning views of the entire scene from my room. There was a pool. Close to heaven.

Hotel Playa Sol Cadaques – This was one of the other hotels I looked into. Situated in the heart of town and right a beach of the bay.

Casa Nun – I had a great and simple lunch here. Lingering with views of blue seas dotted with white boats, a bottle of wine (a small one), fish, crema catalana after a kayak trip and I was ready for a siesta in pure delight!

L’Hostal Tapas Bar – Wonderful Tapas and drinks and an art history to match. Dali designed the logo in 1975.

Collioure France – Artists lives and stunning scenery, why not indulge in life a little more? I am happy for the days I spent here and would happily return for more.

Le Mas Des Citronniers – I had a lovely stay here, in a wonderful room with my own private patio in the shade. Situated in the center of town, and I loved the patisserie right next door.

Hotel Casa Pairal – This was the other hotel I considered with a pool. As it turned out the two are joined by a courtyard, and the weather was too cool in mid September to use the pool.

Barcelona, some yummy eats – A few of my favorite bites in Barcelona—but who could ever choose in such a delicious city?

Xiringuito d’Escriba – Viva la paella on the beach! I can’t say enough about this. We licked the plates, our fingers, and the giant pan the delicious dish was served in. Gracias!

Sagardi – Pintxos Bar where we had wonderful Basque style pintxos (tapas), it was so good I went back by myself for a second round and a few cups of cerveza.

Tapa 24 – My last night I indulged in some higher end tapas here. Well worth the journey.

MOROCCO:

Peacock Pavilions – A stunning way to spend some time in life. This is where the yoga retreat was and I am so happy I had a chance to experience this singular and fantastic place. A green boutique hotel that feels more like staying as houseguests to a very generous family with the most amazing hand picked art everywhere you look.

Riad Magellan – This was the Riad I stayed in my first night in Marrakesh and it was a fantastic welcome. In the heart of the medina, remember I had to be walked in with a man and a cart; the vibrating center of the city is steps from this serene sanctuary.

Riad L’Orangerie – This was one of the other Riads I looked into staying at; two notes here: most Riads are only 5 – 6 rooms large so they fill fast and in advance, also many require 2 or 3 night stays. This one was right down the lane from where I stayed in the center of town. It is a green Riad and looked lovely.

Café des Epices – Wonderful place in the medina to luxuriate on the rooftop while eating delicious couscous dishes and salads.

Le Tanjia – Stunning dinner with a belly dance show, this is the place.

Les Bains de Marrakech – For luxurious hamam and spa treatments that make you feel like royalty, and ease every care in the world away; and I am not even a spa person so that is saying something.

Goat Cheese with Fresh Herbs:

This was one of the amazing things they served up for us at Peacock Pavilions. They served this simply in a spoon as an amuse-bouche but I have served this on thin slices of baguette as a crostini of sorts.

6 oz goat cheese

4 oz ricotta

2 cloves garlic minced or grated

1 tablespoon fresh chopped flat leaf parsley

1 tablespoon fresh chopped cilantro

Dried Apricots cut in half

Bread for Serving

Combine all ingredients but apricots and bread and whip into smooth consistency. Spread cheese over slices of bread and top with slice of dried apricot.

Zaalouk (Spicy Eggplant and Tomato Salad): recipe from Flavors of Morocco

I had this in a variety of ways and this was included in most salad plates as one of the trio or up to 11 salads one night that were served. This was in most cases my favorite, sometimes served spicy and sometimes more of the sweet note.

2 large eggplants

4 large tomatoes

6 tablespoons olive oil

2-3 cloves garlic minced or crushed

1 teaspoon Harissa (North African Chili sauce. You can use more to kick up the heat or eliminate according to your taste)

Small bunch flat leaf parsley finely chopped

Small bunch of cilantro finely chopped

Freshly squeezed lemon juice of 1 lemon

Salt and black pepper to taste

1-teaspoon cumin

Preheat oven to 400 Degrees F. Put the eggplants on a baking sheet and bake them in the oven for about 30 minutes, until soft when you press them with a finger. Put the tomatoes in an ovenproof dish and pour half of olive oil over the top. Place them in oven with eggplants, cook for 10 – 15 minutes until skins are soft and starting to burst.

Remove eggplants and tomatoes from the oven and leave until cool enough to handle. Cut eggplants in half lengthwise and scoop out the warm flesh and chop it to a pulp and set aside. Skin the tomatoes, cut them in half and scoop out the seeds and chop the flesh into a pulp.

Heat the rest of the oil in a heavy-based skillet; add the garlic and sauté until it begins to color, stirring constantly. Add the tomatoes and harissa and cook over medium heat for 5-8 minutes until thick and pulpy. Add the eggplants, parsley, and cilantro. Stir in the lemon juice and season with cumin, salt, and pepper. Serve warm or at room temperature with chunks of bread.

Marinated Carrot Salad:

1 pound of carrots cut into 1 inch pieces

Juice of 1 Lemon

Juice of 1 Orange

2 tablespoons sugar

½ teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Pinch paprika

Pinch Cayenne

Salt and Pepper to taste

Peel carrots and steam just until tender. Mix remaining ingredients to make dressing. Combine carrots and dressing. Serve cold.

26

10 2012

Curried Coconut Chicken for Camila

This is a special post dedicated to my sister. This is more her story and beloved dish than mine. This is one of the many stories of our mother’s items lost and then found later in the most unusual times, remember that Kugel?

Our mother cooked and baked incredible things. With friends she prepared an entire shadow dinner with five courses and wine; she would also serve a simple supper of eggs and frozen peas followed by Haagen Daz chocolate ice cream when it was just us girls. She showed her love in the million ways she could – a soup, a cookie, a crocheted blanket, or one of her drawings. But there was one thing above all else she did specially for my sister and that was a chicken coconut curry. Every time my sister came home from her life in Washington, my mother would make a giant pot of this steaming on the stove. We might not eat it for a specific dinner but she made it and would have it nestled in the fridge between her half and half, diet Pepsi, and pink wine. It was one of my sister’s favorite things and my mother never failed to show her love by keeping it on hand.

Three years ago when we packed our mother’s life into boxes including the many cookbooks, my sister and I talked about the things our mom cooked that we would miss. The first and almost only thing my sister asked if we had was the recipe for this curried chicken and although I had made it before sitting in the corner of the kitchen next to the stove just to be near my mother’s shuffling warmth, I had to say no. I knew it was made with green curry and that plum sauce was what gave it the pink hue, I knew there was an orange peel, but beyond that I was lost.

Over the summer I decided to bake some cookies, I opened my mother’s hand written cookbook to get some inspiration. I flipped through her recipes, who knew she had so many for biscotti, I never remember her making that. There were variations on her chocolate mousse and notes to herself. And there between the pages a stained envelope and the note: Michael’s Curried Coconut Chicken For Barbara! I knew immediately what I had found and how happy it would make my sister to have this special recipe again. I have waited for the seasons to change so I wouldn’t curse the stove as I sat over it with this bubbling away, and this past weekend felt like the perfect time to break it out and share it.

The recipe is not spicy at all but rather comfortingly sweet and savory at once. It’s creamy and feels like it warms you from the inside out. I can’t seem to figure out if it tastes how I remember my mother’s but it certainly tastes close enough and who can ever recreate the love and devotion my mother put into each pot. But it filled a place in my stomach and heart and I know how deeply it will do the same for my sister. So this is a rather public way to share one of our family’s most intimate expressions of love.

Love,

Ra

Original recipe from Michael to my mother is below, my small input in italics.

Curried Coconut Chicken For Barbara! Love Michael!

Sauce:

1 cup/can coconut milk (I used light)

¼ cup plum sauce

2 Tbsp. Fish Sauce

2 ½ Tbls Green Curry Paste or Curry Powder

Jalapeno or Cyan to taste (my mom never used either)

*

1 Tbsp. Cooking oil

2 ½ lbs. chicken (cut into 1 inch cubes)

1 onion minced

4 cloves garlic

2 large potato skinned and diced (my sister and my memories diverge here I remember this as sweet potato and my sister remembers it as a russet insisting that is what makes it so hearty)

2 pieces Tangerine or Orange Peal

Salt to Taste

Combine sauce ingredients in a bowl and mix up!

Put oil and onion in a heavy bottomed pot or pan and start to sauté. Add chicken and cook until pieces are white along the outside, it will continue to cook in the sauce. Add tangerine peel, garlic, and sauce, bring to boil. Add potatoes and cover, then simmer for about 30 min or until potatoes are soft. Remove orange peel.

Serve to loved ones or keep it all to your self?!

My mother served it over steamed rice I added some sauteed seasonal vegies on the side.

*******

Also just a few things I can’t get enough of these days.

I can’t stop humming this song

And all of the amazing reviews the current show at Ars Nova is getting, and well deserved I must say! Congrats Nova!

19

10 2012

Marveling In Marrakesh And Feeling My Heart Beat So Fast

“You Who Enter My Door May Your Highest Hopes Be Exceeded”

This is the quote written above the door as one enters the Ali ben Youssef Madrasa in Marrakesh, Morocco, but I would dare say the same could be true for my entire experience in Marrakesh. From the time our ever so small prop-job of a plane left Madrid it felt like I was flying to a world far away, passing over the sliver of water I never could have imagined was so narrow that divides Spain and Africa. It awed me; for a moment I thought it was a lake we were flying over. Then over golden dunes of sand and sparse earth below before landing in a city that is completely made of pink; seriously, there is an ordinance and the city of Marrakesh is almost entirely pink in color.

From my first walks down winding streets that promised and succeeded in confusing and losing me in their inner labyrinths, I knew this was going to be a place far from anything I had ever experienced. From the man who met my car outside the Medina’s (old city) walls with a cart and happily piled my luggage in and led the way through crowded souks and narrow alleys, the entire way speaking French and Arabic and pointing out “hamam, hamam, café, square, hamam” as if my mind could remember or comprehend any of the activity that was happening faster than I could even take it in. Shop keepers called to me, a man tried to sell me chickens just killed with the feathers still on, another man offered spices, and yet another jewelry. Where had I landed?

That is how Morocco welcomed me—an over stimulating trajectory into what became a time spent fully alive. And all of this on the way to my Riad. The noise, the smells of incense, spices, wood burning fires cooking food, dirt, and yes, donkeys crowded the streets as we walked along deep into the maze like confounds of the Medina. It was hectic and confusing and then we arrived at a big black gorgeous door. There was a man who was ready to receive me having somehow been called by this peculiar man with a cart. Before any business of checking into my riad I was offered tea, which I accepted happily, ready for a few moments to adjust. And then within the walls of the riad, the door closes behind me and mysteriously in a sanctuary a world away, the noisy street disappears, the smell becomes one of fresh water from the inner courtyard’s fountain, and flowers blooming, incense, and mint; so is the world inside the pink walls of a riad in the inner Medina, and I found over my time so is the way inside many walls in Morocco a secret is hidden within. Like the desert it resides in Morocco holds a million secrets, there are oases I could never dream of lingering behind a bustle of activity I could never understand.

On my first days whenever I would venture out of the safe walls into the bustle of the immediate souks and city life I would feel a strange pounding, a beating, and fluttering in my chest and stomach that felt almost palpable. To the sound of snake charmers’ music and the call of vendors for orange juice, water, dates, nuts, or the men with monkeys, I could feel the exhilarated pace of my heart. I felt like Morocco put a spell on my first days. I walked through Djemaa el-Fna, the main square, I marveled at the Koutoubia, I tried intrepidly to not get lost down the winding lanes that all lead to dead ends (I almost never succeeded but was always met with a person who happily would show me the way out for a small gift). I woke early to sunrise and the first call to prayer as a pink sky met the pink buildings of the city.

As I was in Marrakesh for a yoga retreat I did move to a lovely place outside the city in a more quiet and remote location, the blissful and truly oasis like Peacock Pavilions. We ventured into the city for visits to the Badi Palace, and Jardin Majorelle. The colors of doors and mosaics were like the fine masterpieces hanging in museums around the world. We went for a day to Essaouira along the coast and rode camels at sunset along the Atlantic Ocean.  I spent a day in a hamam and had a woman scrub more of me clean then ever before in my life.  We dined on the most delicious food – tagines, couscous, goat cheese, and tomato tarts all infused with spices to the point of delicacy. Mint tea flowed from endless streams of high pouring teapots.

But all of this is not what I took away from Morocco; all of this was lovely and it felt like gilding to a deeper place. The people were the kindest and happiest. The smiles and welcomes and cajoling presses to enter their shops all with a grace and openness. There were the calls to prayer that wafted through the air.  And there was this deep sense of being alive and being present. As we drove through the city one afternoon our young and hip driver Abdu, he couldn’t have been more than 27, with French Hip Hop playing or Modern Moroccan Rock on the radio gently turned the dial on the volume down. It was imperceptible if you weren’t paying attention but sitting right behind him I noticed, and then I noticed through the window the faint chant from the mosque I had become acquainted with. Then just as imperceptibly he turned the radio back up when the Adhan was finished. No cars stopped, no one bowed on the streets, but when we asked our driver he said, “I take notice when I hear it, I do not need to stop in my day, I just become aware.” I loved that, I loved it the entire time I was there hearing this call in the early hours of morning, through the afternoon, and again as the day closed. It made me think what if throughout our day whatever we believed or didn’t believe we took notice, what if we stopped and breathed if nothing else 5 times a day consciously and then what if it all happened together? It moved me more than I could ever say and more than I ever imagined but it did because it made me pause and think about my own days and the activity that inhabits them much of the time. Perhaps my days are not filled with donkeys and mopeds at fast speeds, there are not shop owners calling and pulling towards me but my days feel hard at times and what if I just stopped 5 times and breathed, I took notice of myself, and I said there is something I am not sure what but something larger than just me here.

I understand the world is at a hard place now; you can’t travel and not notice the warnings and the news briefs. But I also know I am not ready to stop traveling yet. There are more places to discover, people to meet, cultures to be introduced to. I have found the best way to know myself is to see myself in these different places and to take a piece of them with me. I wanted desperately to spend more time in Morocco; I am determined to go back. I wanted to learn more Arabic and refine my very rusty French. I saw in my confusion and my fast beating heart that there is so much more to learn and discover in the world. But more importantly I saw that as fast as my heart might race, I can pause in my day I don’t have to do more than that, I can take a moment and I can find myself perhaps again.

Shukran to the marvelous people of Morocco for sharing a part of your world with me.

Ramona

07

10 2012