Thursday, December 29, 2011
What is it about New Year’s Eve? I remember when I was younger, I used go to parties and watch people drink and drink some more, get happy and happier, and then kiss the wrong person. These days, my favorite ways to spend New Year's Eve is with best friends and family toasting with rosé champagne and eating smoked salmon and caviar pizza. I love it when the clock strikes twelve and I'm kissing the right person.
An optimist stays up until midnight to see the new year in. A pessimist stays up to make sure the old year leaves.
~ Bill Vaughn ~
As I thought about the new year or 2012, nostalgia and melancholy set in. 2011 was momentous for me. Losing my Dad had a huge impact. Sure, I’d lost my grandparents, my godfather, my favorite aunt and my husband’s brother but when it came down to it, really I knew nothing about the losing-your-parent club. And you never really understand that club until you're forced to join. The dues are horrible, the rules and regulations worse.
That was 2011. I’m truly looking forward to 2012 and my New Year's resolution...
Another fresh new year is here... Another year to live! To banish worry, doubt, and fear, to love and laugh and give!
~ William Arthur Ward ~
I have so much to look forward to in 2012. My new TV show Joanne Weir’s Cooking Confidence will launch nationally on PBS on January 14 along with a video-centric companion app. Joanne Weir Wines, which you will very soon hear more about, will launch in February and in March/April I will open my first restaurant, Copita. I have a lot to be thankful for as well as having all of you in my life.
May this new year bring many opportunities your way to explore every joy of life. May your resolutions for the days ahead stay firm turning all your dreams into reality and all your efforts into great achievements.
Happy New Year and love to all!
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
“Good morning! How are you? When are you coming back? The weather is beautiful in Marrakech,” he said in one sentence.
“I’m counting the time until I can get back there!” I said as I fell back into a dreamy Moroccan state.
To round out the cast of characters on my Morocco trip…. I have to tell you about Abdoul.
Abdoul was recommended to me by Meryanne, owner of Jnane Tamsna, where I stayed with my students for 2 weeks in Morocco. She said I would love him, that he’s the guide of guides, knows everyone and won’t waste a minute of our time.
Abdoul is a guy who’s bigger than life in both stature and spirit. When I met him for the first time, I felt like I’d struck gold. And as the days passed, I got richer and richer.
Every day we wandered into the souk, the hub of life in Marrakech. It's full of bright color, a mix of sounds and smells of olive, saffron, mint and leather. And it's wild! Scooters buzzing by and hawkers selling everything from shoes and purses to ceramics and rugs.
On the first day, Lisa, one of my students saw a straw bag in the souk that she liked. She asked the price. I think the shop keeper wanted 100 dirham or about 12 bucks. Abdoul said, “We’ll give you 50!” at which point he handed her a 50 dirham bill and grabbed the bag. No fooling around.
“Hmmmmm “ I said kinda liking this guy. Nope, Meryanne was right, he won’t waste our time.
The next day in the medina or center of the old town, we passed the same woman selling straw bags. Another student, Susanne, decided she also wanted a bag. In Morocco, if you buy two of anything, it’s always cheaper. This time, since Abdoul got a better price for Susanne than the day before, he gave Lisa back a few dirham.
Yup, I really like this guy. He's not only a great bargainer, he’s honest, genuine and a great shopper showing us all of the best artisans. But what I loved most was that Abdoul showed us streets in Marrakech where no tourists venture. We saw the real souk, his medina.
Towards the end of the week, he came to our kitchen at Jnane Tamsna and brought all of the makings for a tangia. Don’t get tangia mixed up with tagine, a popular stew made in a conical pot. A tangia is a stew made in a tall terracotta urn that’s cooked overnight in the embers of the hammam.
In the kitchen that day, he assembled his famous tangia and carried it off to the hammam.
Was it delicious? It was as warm, inviting and wonderful as Abdoul!
Oh, delicious too!
Abdoul's Tangia6 pounds beef shanks
2 whole preserved lemons
2 heaping tablespoons ground cumin
12 whole peeled cloves garlic
5 tablespoons smen or preserved butter (or unsalted butter
1 teaspoon saffron threads
1 cup water
Rub the beef shanks with the preserved lemon. Place the shanks on the bottom of the tangia pot. Top with the remaining pieces of lemon, cumin, garlic, smen, saffron and water.
Place foil over the top and parchment on top of that. Tie securely with twine and place in the embers of a smoldering hamman (You have one in your backyard of course, don't you?) overnight.
In the morning, remove the twine, paper and foil. Give it a stir and serve this succulent stew.
Wednesday, November 30, 2011
When I arrived, Bahija, the chef and cooking teacher at Jnane Tamsna, met me wearing her chef's jacket, white apron and white head scarf . Full of enthusiasm and English words mixed with Berber and French, she apologized again and again for her English. I was the one who should be apologizing. My French is beyond rusty. Just getting off a week of teaching in Spain and my classes last year in Italy and Provence, my French had turned into a combination of languages I call Sfritalian.
Immediately I warmed to Bahija. How could I not? As she and I talked about the week, I knew we would end up being be friends.
"Class #1 will be chicken tagine," she said. The word tagine has two meanings,-- an aromatic stew and the conical terracotta vessel used for cooking the stew. I was excited.
For the next few hours as I unpacked and settled into my room that looked like a harem (and I say that in a good way), taxis stirred up dust in the driveway unloading my students and their luggage.
After everyone was settled into their rooms, we had an early dinner. It was a little different than my classes and the meals that I share with my students in Spain, Provence or Italy which can sometimes turn into a party. In a Muslim country like Morocco, though they make wine, wine and alcohol aren't so much of a focus. And you know, sometimes it's kind of nice to go to bed early and wake up the next day feeling good.
That next morning, after a breakfast of fresh mint tea, luscious fruit, fresh squeezed orange and grapefruit juice, and homemade wheat flatbread called khboz, we headed to the kitchen for our first cooking class.
Bahija was already in the kitchen with everything set out on a big marble table,--cutting boards, tons of spices, vegetables, dried fruit, almonds and a husky knife for everyone. And ofr the next couple hours, we concentrated on tagine basics, everyone making their own.
It was fun and the assortment of tagines, both sweet and savory were amazing. I stood back and let Bahija do the teaching. BTW there were no recipes. I decided the best thing I could do was to hand scratch the recipes with pen and paper and later transfer them to my iPad. Then we could print them for everyone.
It was tough for me though, I wanted to teach. I'm so used to it! A few times I bit my tongue when I wanted to teach a technique or trick. Can't I just show them how to peel ginger with the tip of a spoon or mince garlic with the back of a knife? It was everything I could do to keep my mouth shut. Instead I wrote...
When everyone had finished assembling their tagines, we brought them outside where we cooked them over individual braziers.
They didn't take long to cook. Maybe 30 minutes or so. When we brought them to the table and removed the covers, the aroma was intoxicating. One of my favorites was this one with grapes and raisins. Imagine the sweetness against the ginger, black pepper, saffron and turmeric.
Here is the recipe I wrote for the 20 or so tagines we made. And if you don't have a terracotta tagine, try using a stainless pot with a lid. It won't be same but when you smell the aromas of the tagine cooking in your kitchen, I promise you, the romance will take over and you'll think you're in Morocco.
CHICKEN TAGINE BASICS2 pieces of chicken with the skin
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Pinch of saffron
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 red onion, diced
In the tagine, place the chicken. Sprinkle with ginger, pepper, saffron, turmeric, olive oil and onion. Rub it into the chicken.
SAVORY TAGINE WITH PRESERVED LEMONS1/4 preserved lemon
1 tablespoon cilantro
1 clove garlicSeparate the skin from the flesh of the lemon. Chop the insides and thinly slice the peel. Top the chicken with the chopped flesh.
Mash the garlic and cilantro in a mortar and pestle. Top the chicken with the cilantro and garlic.
Finish with the various optional ingredients. Here are a few options.
1- Fennel and sunchokes
2- Green beans, carrots and oil-cured olives (optional but boil first)
3- Cherry tomatoes and baby zucchini
4-Tomato, quartered, peeled, carrots, green beans and zucchini
5-Artichokes with English peas
6- Fennel, artichokes and cherry tomatoes
7- Green beans, carrots, fennel, peas and cherry tomatoes
8- Carrots and sliced apples
9- Onions and tomatoes
10- Peppers, fennel, artichokes and carrots
Add 1 cup water, cover and cook on medium low heat until the chicken can be easily skewered.
Garnish with preserved lemons before serving.
SWEET TAGINE WITH HONEY
1 teaspoon ras el hanout
Optional ingredients;Dried apricots
Sliced Red onions
Sliced Dates pitted and stuffed with almonds
1 pear, peeled and quartered
Pineapple, peeled, quartered, 3/4- inch slice
Rub the cinnamon and ras el hanout onto the chicken.
Finish with various optional ingredients. Here are a few options:
1- Dried apricots and sultana raisins, toasted almonds and walnuts
2- Sliced tomatoes and sliced onions
3-Pitted dates stuffed with almonds, soaked sultana raisins, almonds and peeled and quartered pears
4- Pineapple 4 slices and dried apricots
5- Pear and apricot
6- Peeled and quartered apples and almonds
7- Apricots and prunes
8- Apricots and Walnuts
9- Dates stuffed with almonds and raisins
10- (Believe it or not, a Bahija invention) Bananas and dates
11- Raisins and grapes(I love this one)
Drizzle with honey just before serving.Serves 1
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Magical Morocco is all I can think about, talk about and write about!
I got off the plane mid-October and it was sultry hot. As we rode in the van, first through the old part of Marrakech and past the medina and La Mamounia Hotel, I recalled my last trip here in the early '90's when I stayed at la Mamounia for nearly a week. Had Marrakech changed I thought? But when I saw the camels with the Berber blankets strapped to their backs, I thought, NOPE! Nothing ever really changes... Thank Allah!
Jnane Tamsna, which means the gardens of Tamsna, was to be my oasis for the next couple of weeks. Surrounded by olive and orange trees, blooming jasmine and palms, I once again fell in love. Yes, I'm back in Morocco and it's just as I left it, both physically and in my mind and heart.
The last time I left Marrakech, I promised myself I'd be back and here I was again. I pinched myself a few times to see if (1) I was really here and (2) to make sure it wasn't a dream. Yes, I was really here and it made me smile.
For me Morocco is magical... It's about the sounds, the smells, the flavors, the sights. It brushes with all of my senses and touches my soul.
"A glass of freshly squeezed orange juice?"
"Sure, I'd love that!" I said as I dissolved into an outdoor divan soaking it all up. And just then there was a call to prayer, that eerie music that becomes so familiar 5 times a day. I'm home!
And I hadn't been on the ground for but an hour....
Stay tuned for lots of recipes, cooking classes with Chef Bahija and walks through the old medina with guide Abdoul. You're in for a treat, as was I.
Tuesday, November 1, 2011
Monday, October 3, 2011
Friday, September 30, 2011
Fregola is Sardinian pasta. But it's not your classic pasta. It's not like fusilli, penne, pappardelle or rigatoni. Instead it is little pellets of lusciousness. It looks like couscous, kind of the cousin to Israeli couscous but the flavor and texture of Israeli couscous can't compete with fregola. It's made of semolina and the little pellets vary in color. Some are white, some are golden and some are light brown due to toasting. In the end, it tastes nutty and wheaty and slightly toasted. It cooks quickly and is is the best comfort food.
I am so excited about this recipe. Enjoy it and please tell me what you think? Send me a picture. I'm eager to hear.
© Photo by Tim Bellan
For more fregola recipe...
FREGOLA, CLAMS AND TOMATOES
2 tablespoons water
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups fregola, about 16 ounces
2 peeled, seeded and chopped tomatoes, fresh or canned
Pinch of crushed red pepper
3 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
3 cups chicken stock
Kosher sea and freshly ground black pepper
Place the clams and the water in a large frying pan over medium high heat. Cover the pan and cook until the shells open, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the clams with a slotted spoon and place in a bowl. Let the clams cool 5 minutes. Discard any clams that do not open. Shuck all but 10 clams and reserve. Discard the shells and reserve the steaming liquid.
In a large frying pan over medium heat, warm the olive oil and add the garlic. Cook, stirring often, until the garlic is light golden, 1 minute. Add the fregola to the pan and stir to coat the grains well with the olive oil, 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, crushed red pepper flakes, 2 tablespoons of the parsley, chicken stock and reserved clam juice. Stir together. Simmer slowly until the fregola is double in size and firm to the bite but cooked through, 20 to 25 minutes.
Just before serving, add the clams and stir together. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer the fregola to a deep serving platter. Garnish with the reserved clams in their shells and sprinkle the remaining 1 tablespoon parsley on top. Serve immediately.