I’ve always discouraged friends to go to Marrakesh in the summer yet I did. It was hot, a furnace of dry heat. The kind of heat that strips you of your energy and makes you think of Siberia as paradise on earth. Besides a few trips to the pool, I mostly stayed indoors, reading. And waiting for the sun to set so I can set foot outside.
Along the main boulevard we walked
Past the mosque
Heard live music
And the sound of splashing water
Found a table nearby
Under the sunset and an olive tree
Refreshed at last
It is true that its altstadt is considered the longest bar in the world and its beers are some of the finest.
It is true that people were drinking ginormous mugs of beer glistening like gold in the early morning sun for breakfast.
But it is more, much more than that.
Heinrich Heine, the German poet who once described his love for his lover as more precious than the treasures of the sea and the lights that spatter the heavens above, lends his name to the old part of town. As I walked the still sleepy allees, cafes were preparing to open. A couple of bars were serving a group of musicians in uniform practicing for the afternoon fun fair and procession in celebration of the patron saint St. Apollinaris. Everything else was closed. I stopped at the St. Lambertus church and peeked at its impressive ceilings through the half-opened door, slowly daring to push it open, my chin ahead of me, my head leaning forward to sniff the presence of another soul. I was alone. I could have felt like it was all mine. Instead I felt like it owned me. It was majestic. It was awe-strikingly beautiful.
Past a statue of a mother carrying her child I continued, briskly walking the quiet streets, my eyes moving back and forth between the map in my hands and the street names trying to locate the museum of modern art. A very friendly bunch at an outdoor bar graciously showed the way then continued its jovial chatter.
Bratwursts, kochwursts, blutwursts, liverwursts, stuffed pretzels, pretzel sandwiches, pretzel pizzas, spaghetti ice cream. The food at the street fair smelled of baked bread and grilled meat. I grabbed chicken skewers and made it just in time for the one o’clock boat ride on the Rhine. I struggled to stay attentive to the voice explaining the tour. Between the German accent and the poor sound system, all I managed to understand was that Dusseldorf had the largest Japanese community in the world outside of Japan and was called Japan’s capital in Europe. Even that I might have gotten wrong. I gave up. I fell asleep to the sound of the water.
I had heard of the wonders of the German kartoffel but didn’t think it tasted better than any other. It did. It was smaller and more yellow. It was young and less starchy. It was new potato, harvested early while its skin is still thin and its size small. It was full of flavor– a more pronounced earthy flavor. It is not a myth that the people of Germany love potatoes. They were served at practically every dinner I had there. Leftovers were eaten for breakfast and snacks.
After over 30 years in Germany, my cousin, Charaf, seems to have mastered the art of cooking potatoes. He made them gratinéed and in a salad. They tasted amazing even simply boiled and peeled. Each dish was a piece of potato art. Simple. Good. Like many men, Charaf often disappeared in the kitchen for a mere five minutes–or what seemed like it– and came back with uber delicious dishes. I’m jealous. If only I were a man. If only I were quick and efficient. No, no, no; if only I were a potato artist.
This potato salad is different than any other I’ve had because it had a sweet ingredient. A savory salad containing both apples and apples of the earth combined with eggs tasted very fulfilling. Charaf said he sometimes adds fresh peas when he has some handy. I tought it tasted perfect the way he made it and didn’t change a thing even though the temptation to add raisins and walnuts crossed my mind.
Apple Potato Salad Recipe
5 small Yukon potatoes, peeled and cut into bite-sized cubes
2 large Golden Delicious apples; peeled, cored and cut into bite-sized cubes
1/4 cup sliced cornichons
1/2 cup canned corn kernels, rinsed and drained
3 eggs, hard-boiled, yolks and whites separated and chopped
3/4 cup light mayonnaise
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
Place the cubed potatoes in a pot and cover with salted water. Cook over medium high heat until the potatoes are tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer the potatoes to a colander and let drain and cool a few minutes.
In a large bowl, combine the potatoes with the apples, pickles, corn and chopped egg whites. In a small bowl, stir the egg yolks with the mayonnaise and apple cider vinegar. Add the mayonnaise dressing to the salad and toss. Serve cold or at room temperature.
Breakfast can’t get any better than this.
I called mine a German breakfast. It was in Germany. But it could have been anywhere.
Yes a breakfast of orchard apricots, backyard red currants under the shade of a pregnant cherry tree can’t get any better.
It was a breakfast to remember.
It could have been anywhere.
A jet-lagged woman and her daughter having breakfast at noon while others were already eating lunch. And so it went for the rest of their days there. It was the countryside after all and time had little significance.
Our culinary dictionary has come to an end and I’m not so sure what I would do with my Thursdays from now on. I could of course just post recipes but I have gotten used to this themed Thursday thing. I would really appreciate suggestions as to what to do with Thursdays. Any ideas or inspirations would be greatly welcomed. What would you like to see here every Thursday?
Thanks you so much, very dear readers, for being such wonderful Thursday companions. It’s been a ton of fun.
Za’atar/Zahtar: Middle Eastern mix of Ground roasted sesame seeds, dried herbs and spices.
Zakuska: Russian-style assortment hors d’oeuvres usually shellfish, smoked salmon,
caviar and cheeses.
Zeitoun/ Zaitoun: Arabic for olives–zeit zeitoun is olive oil.
Zingara (à la/alla): Means « Gypsy –style » and refers to a chicken, beef or turkey dish cooked with ham, chopped tongue and mushrooms in tomato sauce.
Letters A, B, C, D, E , F, G, H , I , J, K, L , M, N, O, P, Q, R, S, T, U, V, W, X, Y and Z.
It was my first visit to Germany to stay with my cousin Charaf, a brilliant former belly dance and ballet instructor and his wonderful wife, Sylvia, in their late 1800′s fach werk outside Hannover in a village called Uetze.
I was picked up from the Hannover train station–Hautbanhof– by Younes, Charaf and Sylvia’s 26-year-old son and an ascending star in the German media who has done interviews with the likes of Kate Perry and Depeche Mode. On the way to Uetze, kilometers of potato fields spread endlessly on both sides of the road, studded with aeolian energy turbines and ancient-looking tractors. Visions of cows, horses and barns became more and more frequent as we advanced. We were officially in the German countryside.
On our first morning out, we went for a walk across the river and into the farmlands. We payed a visit to the local barns, much to my daughter’s delight. Her face beamed at her first close encounter with chickens, rabbits, cows and horses.
The air was warm and still. Almost as warm as what we’re used to in Florida. It was quiet. It smelled of barns, hay and horse manure. It was enchantingly rustic. It was pretty. It was typical European countryside.
On the way back, we walked by houses in front of whose doors were baskets of eggs, red currants, blueberries, zucchini and potatoes for sale. Ah the potatoes. The Kartoffel. I was later to discover they were the tastiest I’ve ever had.
After a much enjoyed trip to Germany, I am now in Marrakesh spending time with family, enjoying slow-paced moments, and taking a short break from cooking but certainly not from enjoying wonderful food and company.
While taking time away to savor simple summer moments, I will be twittering a couple of times a day. So keep up with my far away adventures by following me on Twitter.
With love, from Marrakesh
This is an effortless summer salad to be enjoyed with a simple drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar as an appetizer, side dish or light meal. It is also fantastic for brunch or while entertaining a big crowd. It is easy to assemble especially if you buy pre-washed, pre-stemmed arugula.
Oh lazy summer days, how perfect you are for this kind of salad. How perfect you are. Period.
Arugula Salad with Brie, Blackberries and Almonds Recipe
1 cup baby arugula, washed, stemmed and dried
2 ounces brie, cubed
½ cup blackberries
2 tablespoons sliced almonds
Extra virgin olive oil
Assemble the ingredients for the salad by topping a bed of arugula with brie, blackberries and almonds.
Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar, to taste.
I get inspired from the words in the culinary dictionary every week. I’m already thinking youngberry jam and yuzu ice cream. My imagination kicks off immediately when it comes to food.
Yarrow: Also known as milfoil, it is a sweet aromatic herb with a slightly bitter taste.
Yorkshire Pudding: Not a pudding but baked puff rolls that resemble popovers. Yorkshire pudding originated in Yorkshire, England and is traditionally served with roast beef.
Youngberries: A larger variety of blackberries with a reddish color.
Yuzu: a Japanese citrus fruit with a distinct flavor used in cooking.
Letters A, B, C, D, E , F, G, H , I , J, K, L , M, N, O, P, Q, R, S, T, U, V, W, X, Y and Z.
This healthful ice cream is very easy to make and tastes delicious. In Morocco, pistachio is a popular ice cream flavor and is sold in every creamery. When I moved here I was surprised to see that few places had it and even fewer people claimed it as a favorite ice cream flavor. Talk about culture shock. Small (or big) things like this shocked me more than others.
Pistachio Kefir Ice Cream Recipe
2 cups plain kefir
½ cup unsalted shelled pistachios
¼ cup agave syrup or honey
½ teaspoon pistachio extract or almond extract
Bring a pot of water to a boil. Blanch the pistachios for 2 to 3 minutes. Drain the pistachios, let them cool and peel off the red skin using your thumb and index.
Combine the kefir, pistachios, agave syrup or honey, and pistachio or almond extract in a blender container. Blend until completely liquefied.
Transfer to an ice cream machine and churn according to manufacturer’s instructions.
Transfer the ice cream to a lidded container and freeze until set, about 3 hours.