Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Fruit Pie; I'll Never Take What's in Season for Granted Again


1 cup flour

½ tsp salt

1 tsp sugar

¼ cup COLD butter, chopped up a bit

¼- ½ cup chopped almonds

1 ½- 3 tbl COLD water

- Bring together flour, salt, sugar and butter with a fork until it’s nice and crumbly.

- Work in almonds and then water, adding just enough water for it to stick together nicely.

- Form into a ball, wrap in a small plastic bag, and store in a fridge or cool place for at least a half hour (since I don’t have a fridge, I double bag it, tie it securely and place in a bowl of water to keep it cool) while you prepare the filling.


around ½ kilo or 2 cups chopped apricots, peaches, cherries, etc. or any combination of delightful fruits currently in season

½ cup, more or less, sugar

1 packet vanilla sugar

fresh squeezed lemon juice

¼ tsp salt

2 tsp cinnamon

fresh ground cloves

fresh grated nutmeg

dash black pepper

dash ginger

- Pit fruit, pull apart or chop and bring to a boil in saucepan with water and all other ingredients, add a bit of flour or cornstarch to thicken if desired.

- Allow to grunt and boil 20 minutes or so, tasting periodically to be sure its yummy, and in the meantime prepare the crust and topping.

- Remove the crust from plastic, place on floured surface, sprinkle flour on top and roll out until it’s the right size to line the bottom and sides of your pie pan.

- Carefully place the crust into the pan and bake until it’s just barely crispy. In my flaming Moroccan oven, I generally bake it on top for a bit, and then on the bottom (below the flames) until it’s just barely browned. You don’t actually have to prebake the crust, I just like to have a crispy barrier.

- Checking the crust often, now prepare the topping.

Crumble topping:

½ cup oats

chopped almonds and/or walnuts

1 tbl flour

½ tsp salt

2 tsp cinnamon

3 tbl white and/or brown sugar

melted butter

- Mix all ingredients except butter, then add butter just until it’s all coated, shiny and crumbly.

- Pour the pie filling into the pre-baked crust, carefully top with the crumble, place in the oven and bake until the crust is just browned. You can also place the pie on the bottom for the last couple minutes to get it good and crispy. Enjoy with real or imagined vanilla ice cream!

Between burning crust, too many cloves, far too tart fruit, etc., etc, my first few attempts didn’t quite make it, but recently I won the gold. The only thing it was painfully lacking was some good vanilla ice cream. This pie became two great meals when I made it with my good friend Jed and we added too much water to the filling. After the fruit and sugars cooked down for 15o r 20 minutes, I just strained out the gooey fruit with a fork into the crust, and left over in the saucepan was perfect apricot syrup! The next morning, though still full from the night before, I made Swedish pancakes and topped them with this syrup and it was delicious! I should mention the crust recipe comes from David Orr, a great cook featured on the podcast Earth Eats: Real Food, Green Living. And the filling was inspired by him, as well as Mollie Katzen, the good ol Peace Corps Morocco cookbook and of course, trial and error. The crumble is similar to the topping for “Sour Cream Coffee Cake” in the PCM cookbook. I swear I’ll add some heartier and healthier recipes soon!

This second picture is of the cherry pie I made a few weeks back. The filling was amazing, but I hadn’t discovered the crust-cooling-in-water trick yet, so that part turned out hard and thick rather than light and flaky. If you want to make a covered pie like this, double the above crust recipe and eliminate the crumble.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

so sorry

No I have not abandoned cooking or computers, I’ve just been mighty busy in my village, and my camera was out of commission for a bit. I’m kinda annoyed for finally starting this blog when I’m finally busy, but shoot, that’s the way it always is. I’ll have some goodies for you all soon as I can, but I’ve got much else to do in my short cyber time today and the connection sucks so I’ll have to do it some other time soon!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Bri’s Best Bread 2.0

olive oil

2 tsp dry active yeast

1 cup wrist temp water

1tsp salt

1tbl honey or sugar

1 ½ cups wheat flour

1 ½ cups white flour

garlic, finely chopped (roasted or sautéed for more flavor)

about 1tbl your desired combination of fresh ground flaxseed, sesame seed, rosemary, pepper, garlic salt, basil, and the like.

  • Place water in olive-oiled bowl and sprinkle in yeast, stir gently and let sit for five minutes.
  • Add honey and salt, and stir until dissolved, then add garlic and spices.
  • Add flour cup by cup, first stirring, and then kneading. Knead for a few minutes, adding flour and/or olive oil as needed until it's all good and doughy.
  • Oil a bowl, plop the dough in, and add more oil to the surface and cover with a cloth (be sure the bowl is at least twice the size of the dough before its risen and that the cloth won't hit the dough at any point) put in a warm spot and let rise for one hour, or until its doubled in size.
  • Punch down dough, knead a bit and let rise 20-30 minutes more, or, if you're impatient as me, get out the baking tray now.
  • Oil a baking tray, then begin stretching out the dough as if for a pizza in the air, then press it out into the pan, and brush the top with oil.
  • Bake it until lightly brown on edges, then put the pan on the bottom to brown the top (if you add some grated cheese before this last bit, you'll have a yummy slightly crunchy, cheesy foccacia)
  • Enjoy!

The first version of this bread was inspired by Mollie Katzen's Focaccia recipe, and I made it all the time! I developed this new version because I finally got access to wheat flour, and a friend who told me to grind and add flaxseed. Experiment with different types of flour to find your desired combination. The first picture is me kneading (one of my favorite hobbies now) and the second picture is of my awesome bread-rising apparatus. Since I often make Pumpkin Curry Chickpea soup (or any kind of soup really) to go along with the bread, the hour or so it takes those dang chickpeas to cook is a great time to put the energy you're already using to a second purpose-to rise the dough! They end up being done at just about the same time, and it's a wonderful hot (though a bit carb-heavy, oops) meal for cold winter nights. Though lhamdullah those cold winter nights are over! I'll try and start bringing you cooler, happy spring dishes now!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Figuigi Green Beans

¼ kilo green beans

¼ cup chopped almonds

1 tbl. or about half a small lemons worth of juice

salt and/or garlic salt

olive oil

  • Bring some water to a boil while you pop the ends off the green beans; if they're real long break them in half as well.
  • Put the green beans in the boiling water 5-10 minutes, just until tender. While they're cooking, slice the almonds, lengthwise or however you prefer.
  • Heat a skillet with some olive oil, drain the green beans and throw them in. Stir them up a bit, and then throw in the salt, almonds and lemon juice. Sauté it all until the almonds darken (or even burn just a bit, mmm).
  • Lay it out on a plate and enjoy!

I first had this as a side dish while at Bob and Linda's in Figuig for the weaving training. They have since finished their service and returned to the states, but were truly great volunteers. Aside from their great work with the women in Figuig, I am grateful to them for introducing me to Mollie Katzen's Moosewood Cookbook. Mollie has since inspired many of my cooking, particularly kneading, ventures. This green bean dish is really a great appetizer or side dish, but I admit I'll make it for dinner any chance I get.

When Raindrops Keep Fallin on my Head and We’re all Qmin’ at Natalie’s House Tomato Soup

2 ½ tbl butter

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 medium onion, chopped

1 tbl or more dried basil

2 tbl flour

3 medium tomatoes, chopped

¼ cup tomato paste

dash of baking soda

salt and pepper as you like

½-1 cup peas (I generally shuck about a ¼ kilo and it's a good amount)

2 cups vegetable stock or water

dash balsamic vinegar

½ cup milk or plain yogurt

  • Melt butter in a medium saucepan and sauté garlic, onion and basil for 5 minutes or so.
  • Stir in flour, then tomatoes, tomato paste, peas, baking soda, salt and pepper, and stock or water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes.
  • Let it cool enough to be safe in the blender and puree it until smooth.
  • Return the soup to the pot, heat, and add vinegar and milk or yogurt.
  • Enjoy!

This soup is oober yummy and warming while its freezing and snowing outside. As the long title says, this soup was created at Natalie's when she had me and my cats over for a few days because it was literally pouring inside my house. I realize tomatoes are not really in season in the winter, but they are grown nearly year-round in Agadir (the California of Morocco). I pretty much keep strictly to seasonal foods here, but they do keep tomatoes abundantly available and importing from Agadir is not nearly as bad, I would say, as pineapples in January from South America to Missouri. Anyhow, not my best defense, but this soup is just too darn good. And peas, which are high in protein, really do have a limited season and I'm trying to use them in everything before they are gone for the year. This soup goes great with yogurt basil biscuits, which are in the PC Morocco cookbook, or my famous wheat focaccia, the recipe of which I'll post here soon. Also, our foolish friend Jed accidently left his real Italian parmesan cheese, so we grated in some of that too, and it was better than icing on a cake.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Great Grandma Vivienne's Swedish Pancakes

3 eggs
2 cups milk
1 ¼ cups flour
1 tbl sugar
¼ tsp salt
1 tbl oil
½ tsp baking powder
1 packet vanilla sugar

- Blend all the ingredients, in a blender or by hand, and pour onto greased pan. Super easy, cook em like regular pancakes, they’re just a thinner and a little more difficult to manage.

- Enjoy with jelly, powdered sugar and lemon, syrup, chocolate, or whatever else you might like!

It wasn’t born in my time here, but I begin with Swedish pancakes because I love them so dang much! The recipe started with my great grandma, but has been adapted by my grandma, my mom, and now me in Morocco. Swedish pancakes are kind of like an odd child of regular pancakes and crepes. This picture is of my mom making Swedish pancakes for me the morning I left for Peace Corps, 7 September 2007; it was my last meal at home.

Thursday, March 5, 2009


“Eating with the fullest pleasure – pleasure, that is, that does not depend on ignorance – is perhaps the profoundest enactment of our connection with the world. In this pleasure we experience and celebrate our dependence and our gratitude, for we are living in mystery, from creatures we did not make and powers we cannot comprehend.” Wendell Berry

Welcome to my new blog! I’m keeping up my other blog, but decided to start an additional one for my cooking adventures, just to keep it all in the right place. I’ve been living in Morocco for a year and a half this Wednesday as a Peace Corps volunteer in a rural Amazigh (Berber) village in the Middle Atlas Mountains. It’s been a wonderful journey, but certainly not without its difficulties. I have grown in many ways, and there are many more I’m sure, but one major area has been cooking, and that what this blog is about. But first, if you’re interested, a little more on how I got to this point and where I’m going with it… My experience here has led me to a very deep understanding of what I value in life and what kind of life I intend to live. No one aspect has led me to this great understanding, the best recipe I can narrow it down to is the influence of family, food and time.

Family is important no matter where you are, and I was close to my family in the states, but wow. Nothing could have ever prepared me for the intensity of the importance of family here. At times irritating, but as a whole their commitment to family is awesome. I fear living in a society again where your neighbor is not as essential and close to you as your blood sister.

There is family, and then the greater family - community. I live way out in the bled, where everyone knows everyone. In the states you might define yourself as a city person or a country person by whether you enjoy the fast-paced life and anonymity of the city or the slower, borrow-eggs-from-your-neighbor kind of life in the country. I can now say for certain, if you want to put me in a box, that I am a country person. I may always feel lost, in my mind and the world, but to be a part of a community gives me such a great sense of responsibility and belonging; closeness to people keeps you on the ground. To use my usual metaphor of weaving, we are all essential threads in the great weaving of life, and the broken or fallen threads affect those closest the most. To be a real member of your community and family is to be strong, to be present, to keep weaving, to keep growing.

The hospitality of this country amazes me every day. Morocco is not without its domestic, social and otherwise problems, but I’m intent on keeping this blog positive, and in truth, my overall experience here is positive. The fact that I can walk into a completely new village, speak a few words of Tam and be welcomed with open arms to tea, a meal, and essentially a lifetime invitation, if not obligation, to return is amazing. Except for the usual joke about marrying their son and taking him to America, the hospitality is genuine and without expectation for anything in return. They take great pride and joy in providing, which leads me to food.

As Michael Pollan wrote in
In Defense of Food, “The shared meal elevates eating from a mechanical process of fueling the body to a ritual of family and community, from mere animal biology to an act of culture.” I can attest that here in Morocco no one eats alone, that aspect of the culture does not appear to be on its way out anytime soon. There is no better way to say, especially when you don’t know the language too well, that you appreciate someone than to accept their invitation to tea and, often, the meal too. The diet, though seemingly awful by our snooty American upturned noses, is really not so bad. The real “problem” is the overabundance of oil, bread and sugary tea. Bread is considered holy (you’re not allowed to throw it away), and, especially for the poor, the most abundant source of sustenance. But aside from that, and much of the offal, I love the food here; unbelievable couscous, tagine, pizara (fava bean soup), fresh bread and on and on.

The source of all food is the very social event of the weekly souq. Oh souq. I LOVE souq. I wrote about it on my other blog on
Feb. 26 if you want to read more about it. Back in the states the Farmer’s Market was always the “better but more expensive” option I usually forgot to go to, oh but I have changed here. Since I could no longer walk directly into the pre-packaged food section at a supermarket, I quickly had to find a way to make these beautiful whole foods into meals. And so I did. I’ve found that the cravings for certain restaurants have all but ceased, and unavailable ingredients have been substituted or forgotten.

I have the greatest ease of access to the most important food - real food, whatever is in season, fresh every week, and well within budget. It’s not organic, but it’s not industrialized either. I’ve learned that the possibilities are endless in cooking and enjoying the beauty and taste of each special food as it comes in season is a joy unlike any other. As Barbara Kingsolver said in
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle when writing on the ridiculousness of a year-round easy-access food system, “…there is a simpler reason to pass-up off-season asparagus: it’s inferior. Respecting the dignity of a spectacular food means enjoying it at its best.” I have a deep respect for all food, and when the season for one food ends the goodbye is painful, but the joyful hello to the next food in season keeps the balance.

And then there is time. Time is what has allowed me to discover and appreciate family and food in an entirely new way. I work of course, but not in the 8-5, punch-in, punch out style. Some days it’s a 24/7 job; between 48 hour weddings, tea dates, odd hours at the cooperative, visiting host family, and over all mingling in town, it can be exhausting. Other times I’ll spend an entire day or two in my house with only myself, my cat and my books. In this way time has allowed me, or really forced me, to take a far closer look into my soul; my yearning, my weakness, my strength, my values.

I think it took me a full year here to really “go native,” though I’ll never actually be native. What I really mean is it took a full year for me to fall in love with this part of the earth I’ve been living on, and also to see my future bathed in light rather than a dark haze of uncertainty. I’m at the age of discovery, the age most of us want to really get a move on and into our “professional life”. With help from so many different sources-culture, people, books, etc., I believe I really have found it. I’m still not able to fully articulate all my reasoning and exactly where I aim to be in a couple years, but I know I want to farm. It’s as simple, and as complicated as that. It’s just so obvious. It’s often too simple for me to comprehend, like being more confusing would make it more right. I’ve realized that the intersection of all that I value, family (the people that sustain us), the earth and food (the thing that sustains us) and self (what we are, and in turn what we do) is farming. For the manual labor that I love, for the philosophies on life working with rather than against the earth (i.e. holism) instills, for the people in which it provides nourishing food and education, and the relationships and community this builds in the exchange of pure goods (tangible and intangible). Well, that’s what I’ve got so far anyway.

While I’ve developed a deep love for this country and its people, I’ve also further developed a love and sense of responsibility for my home in America. I am American, for better or worse, and think these ideas and desires are very necessary and the people ready for the new food revolution there. My plan is to keep reading all these great books on farming, finding connections and researching farms via the internet, keep cooking and of course all of my Peace Corps work until I finish my service this November, just in time to make it home for Thanksgiving, visit family and friends, recover from reverse culture shock, and train/get back in shape for my first season on a farm. Most internships begin in March or April and run until October or so. And then… well I’ll let you know…

So beyond that awful lengthy introduction is this here blog. I promise all future posts will be free of my long-winded blabberings on life’s confusions, findings and ideas. My intension with this blog is fairly straightforward – recipes! I take great pleasure in being a host and cooking it up for people and, thus far at least, it’s been quite well received. My recipes are inspired by and often more than partially stolen from far better cooks than I. I hope to make it applicable to anyone, I hope you enjoy and please let me know what you think!