Monthly Archives: October 2015

Cooking adventure in Morocco with Joanne Weir

When someone asks me to join them in Morocco to cook and explore I find that I can never say no. Last spring the amazing chef, cookbook author and tv personality, JOANNE WEIR,  www.joanneweir.com, suggested I join her group in Morocco for a week. That is how it all began. 

On Monday 10/21/15 I arrived at the beautiful compound in Marrakech called Jnane Tamsna, owned by Meryanne Louin-Martin and her husband Gary. Jnane Tamsna, http://www.jnanetamsna.com, is located about 15 minutes outside of the main city of Marrakech, our home of the next week. This amazing walled garden is the perfect place to return to each day after the hectic noises and sights of the medina. Monday night we gathered in the main building to meet the rest of the guests. This building is like a small hotel plus there are 2 houses on the grounds a total of 25 unique bedrooms, plus 5 large swimming pools.  

 Joanne energizes her group of 18 guests that would spend their mornings cooking in the beautiful outdoor classroom and then sit down to lunch in the garden to enjoy the dishes we created . Joanne  gave each of us a packet of recipes and beautiful new aprons and began to tell us all the exciting adventures we would experience in the next week.

Tuesday morning we cooked our first tagines, these were small personal tagines that we would enjoy for lunch.  

 Half of us did a lamb tagine with preserved lemons and the others made chicken with dried fruit. Each tagine was set on a brazier for an hour while we wandered into the garden where tables had been set up for our lunch. We each got our personal tagine placed in front of us along with lovely salad and of course a glass of local rose. After our lunch a few of us went to Maison de Zoe to order beautiful linens and  cotton bathrobes, 366 zone industrelle de Sidi Ghanem. Zoe also has a small boutique in  La Mamounia Hotel. 

Each morning chef Bahija and Chef Joanne Weir were ready with our list of recipes and all the ingredients we needed to prepare our dishes for our lunch. Everyone gathered with knives in hand cooking together with only a break for our morning tea to be served.  

 After another beautiful lunch we would venture out into the markets to explore and of course shop for our individual treasures.  We were met by our amazing guide ( ABOUL, mohmoudtours@yahoo.fr ) his card says expert on shopping, shipping and history of the country. If you want the best guide in Merrakech ABOUL is the one to contact, cell 00212 (0) 661 173 971, in advance. He helped us bargain for great prices, he took the group that wanted carpets to a warehouse with an amazing selection showing the patience few men have. 

For lunch in the medina look at “La Table du Palais” with a bountiful garden behind it walls. Love the Caftan store next door, “Maison Du Caftan, 65 Rue Sisi El Yamani.” Something for everyone and great prices and quick alterations if something did not quite fit. After crazy shopping, buying spices, saffron and argane oil we headed back to change for dinner. 

Joanne arranged for dinner atan all woman run restaurant called “Al Fassia” famous for its roasted lamb shoulder. You start with 12 small plates of different salads and dips  

 then when the roasted meat arrives you are sure you will never finish the whole plate, but it seems to disappear. Make reservations, 002120 524383839, M. Fatiha will take great care of you. 

The next day ABOUL took everyone to an amazing upscale shop “AYA’s  11 Bis, Derb Jdid Bab, next door to restaurant Tanjia.  

 This is the place to buy top quality Moroccan style clothing, jackets, dresses and accessories. After all the shopping we headed to “El Fenn” at sunset for drinks on the roof, http://www.el-Fenn.com, worth the stop.  We then walked to dinner at “La Patisserier”, I would like it better for lunch since the view over the Medina from the roof would be wonderful. 

Friday we did not cook instead we went to the wonderful spice gardens called “Nectarome”. Nectarome is about and hour out side of Merrakech toward the Atlas Mountains. Interesting place that has developed over the past 6 years and now is selling their products at retail is several locations, Jnane Tamsna had the shampoo in the showers. After our lunch in their garden several of us enjoyed a 20 minute foot soak in their unique sunken footbaths with special salts. I fell asleep on the way home I was so relaxed.  

 The other gardens that we visited when back in town was “Jardin Majorelle, the gardens of Yves Saint Laurent where his personal home is.

The next day we made a quick trip to “Galerie des Tanneuns” I bought a beautiful blue suede shirt and several wallets for gifts. Their prices are great and if they don’t have your size they are happy to make it for you. 

Before dinner we went to La Mamounia for a drink in the garden, be prepared the martini was 19 Euro, but it is beautiful and worth the experience. Dinner that night was at a small restaurant called Nomad, back in the Medina. I would suggest it for lunch, trying to wander through the maze of alley ways at night is difficult. I had a simple piece of fresh fish, a nice change from all the tagines we had been eating. 

We spent our last day saying good bye to Marrakech, some people doing one last trip to the Souke for those little gifts to take back home. Some of the group just sat by the pool for the last bit of sun. 

The last evening we were invited for a magical dinner in the gardens surrounded by the many olive and citrus trees. 

   Everyone dressed in white and Meryanne and Gary opened their lovely home for cocktails before Joanne lead us through the garden to a long table surrounded by hundreds of candles. Music was  being played from under the trees by local musicians,  

 it is hard to say good bye to Marrakech especially as we sat under the stars and listened to the sounds of the night. 

Thank you Joanne of creating memories in one week we will all have with us for a lifetime.

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Filed under Cooking & Recipes, dining, Joanne Weir, shopping, Travel

The best salsa I have ever tasted!

My sister in law, Rosie, grew up in Southern California and most of the year they had plenty of vine ripe tomatoes. This year when I was over loaded with tomatoes I shared a bucket of my ripe fruit with Rosie. She spent the next several hours creating the salsa as she had learned to make it from her Grandma June. 

Rosie recounted how she would walk into her grandmothers kitchen, counters scattered with fresh vegetables. They would blanch and peel the tomatoes together and then Grandma June would carefully chop and cook the salsa. Rosie said the salsa was packed in jars and sold to the neighbors and friends. They were always waiting for the next batch to be done. 

Last week when she made the salsa for the family we all just sat and ate chips dipped in the bowls of salsa  and then talked about the eggs we wanted the next morning so we could enjoy more.

Rosie freezes the salsa in containers for later use. I am sure this could also be preserved in small jars. It will be gone in a flash if you just leave it in the refrigerator. I have cut her recipe In half since most of you will not have a need for 4 or 5 quarts of salsa. 

Grandma June’s Salsa

15 to 20 tomatoes depending on size, we used ripe Roma tomatoes and added a few slicing tomatoes that we very ripe.

2 large yellow onions diced

3 bunches of cilantro, washed and most of stems chopped off

5 or 6 jalapeños chopped and seeds removed, you can use more depending on how hot you like your salsa

2 full heads of garlic, skins removed and chopped

2 tablespoons of ground black pepper

2-3 tablespoons of salt

Rosie blanches and peels the tomatoes, I rough chopped the tomatoes and cooked them about 30 minutes and out them through a food mill to remove the skins. Either way works fine, so if you have a good food mill, I love my Rosle food mill, this is a faster option.

Once the skins are off the tomatoes you will cook them about an hour on a very low simmer.  Now add all the remaining vegetables to you pan and continue to simmer on Very low for 3 to 4 hours, or until all the water is cooked off. Once the salsa is thickened remove from the heat and allow to cool. Use a blender to remove any vegetable chunks remaining so you have a smooth salsa. 

This is when I love my Vita Mix it makes quick business of creating the perfect finished sauce. At this point you can adjust for salt and if you want it hotter add a little hot sauce but, I think you will find it perfect. 

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Green Posole with ling cod

I love when my new Bon Appetite arrives each month. This week my magazine had a recipe that caught my eye, the head liner said The Perfect Hominy and one of the main ingredient was Tomatillos. Since the garden was drawing to a close and I had plenty of chilies and tomatillos I recreated the recipe last night. We loved it, with a few changes I will make the lovely light stew again and want to share it with all of you.

Green Posole with cod and cilantro

This recipe made enough for 4 as a main course or 6 as a smaller serving 

4 tablespoons olive oil

2 large shallots, chopped

4 large cloves of garlic, finely chopped

1 Serrano chile, thinly sliced

10 medium to large tomatillos, husks removed, stem end removed and chopped

1 cup of cilantro leaves and a few of the tender stems 

1  15 oz can of white hominy, drained 

 1. 8 oz bottle of clam juice

1 cup water

Salt and pepper to taste

Garnishes:   A few radishes sliced thin , squeeze of fresh lime before serving and a few pieces of chopped cilantro. If you want more spice you can pass extra thinly sliced seranno chilies.
Heat oil in large pot, add shallots, garlic and half of sliced chili sauté over low heat until soft and fragrant.

Meanwhile, purée the tomatillos in a blender until smooth. If you have a vita mix this is the place to pull it out.  I suggest chopping the tomatillos into smaller pieces if you are using a regular  blender. 

Add half of tomatillo purée to shallots and heat stirring until it begins to thicken. Season with salt and pepper. Add cilantro to blender with remaining purée and blend to smooth liquid. Set aside

Now add hominy, water, clam juice to pot, lay the cod in broth and return to low simmer and gently cook until cod is opaque and begins to flake, about 8-10 minutes. Now add remaining puréed tomatillo and cilantro  and stir in gently breaking cod into large chunks. 

Divide stew between the bowls top with garnish, a squeeze of lime and pass chilies for those more daring.

Thank you to Bon Appetite for the basic recipe,it is wonderful with just a few changes I made. Their version was a little to spicy with more chilies and I added extra tomatillos for a more robust broth.

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Twenty four hours in LA

I flew to LA last week to attend an amazing concert with Renee Fleming, Andrea Bocelli and Placido Demingo

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