Tag Archives: Winter

How I Learned to Love My Oven

The chilly winter weather is finally turning the aspens and fig trees a glorious yellow, and their leaves are beaten off the branches by the seasonal cold rains,  which are hitting us more than they did last year. I could see my breath in my house last night – and with all of the world my refrigerator, I could finally buy 1/2 a kilo of real, co-op made butter in Tinjdad last week and not worry that it would melt all over my bag on the way up! As I’ve been using store-bought margarine or, occasionally, heavily salted butter made by neighbors, this is a glorious addition to my kitchen.

View from my roof this morning. Cloudy day!

The butter was purchased to be part of a pie crust – it was agreed that a pie crust would be ashamed to be made of margarine, and I wanted to make a practice pie or two before making them for a group at Thanksgiving. I also bought a kilo of pumpkin – I really wasn’t sure if it would cook down or not, and I needed two cups per pie.

Before I got around to making the pie, though, I got cold and hungry. I started searching online for Pumpkin Soup, but that always had some exotic ingredient in it (cream? who has that?), so I started searching for curries or black bean and pumpkin something-or-other. I was shocked when I was searching for recipes online – while I was certainly guilty of this myself back home, I forgot how much Americans rely on cans. They wanted canned tomatoes, canned black beans, and canned pumpkins – well, I had fresh pumpkin and tomato and dried black beans, and I’m now convinced life is better that way. Black beans take a little over half an hour in the pressure cooker, so after they’d been cooking for 25 minutes I added pumpkin, then started cooking garlic and tomatoes in a pan. I mixed all that up with traditional chili spices and some coriander and a pinch of cinnamon, then decided it would go really well with some whole wheat cornbread. Hemdullah, the cornbread came out of the oven perfectly cooked (and delicious, I’m never using white flour in cornbread again).  This was pretty much the most delicious thing I’d cooked in a long, long time. I wish I had a picture of my pumpkin chili and cornbread, but I was sadly remiss in taking one.

Anyhow, this set off a bit of a cooking extravaganza for me. I haven’t strictly eaten at home this week – on top of the usual visiting people for lunch, I’ve also been to two weddings (after which it’s impossible to eat dinner, they feed you so much!). Even so, after finishing my chili, I made my first from-scratch pumpkin pie (lesson: steam rather than boil the pumpkin) which, encouragingly, came out delicious enough for me to bring the last third down to my landlord and his wife, who wolfed everything down immediately (I’ll take that as a compliment).

Then, since I didn’t have enough pumpkin for another pie (1/2 kilo),  I made mashed pumpkins and potatoes (about 1/2 pound each of pumpkin and potato, mashed around 1/2 an onion and some garlic fried in a little bit of butter. No spices necessary). This sadly was the last of my pumpkin. I tried to get more at the shops in my neighborhood, but they were all plumb out of pumpkin – so I got some eggs instead, and after considering my options at home, made some quichelettes:

Yay for baby quiche!

I’ve been hesitant to use my oven very much before this point, because I (a) never baked a lot in the states and (b) have had a very slow learning curve in trying to get my Moroccan oven to obey me. I think, though, that I’ve finally figured out how to stop burning things while simultaneously under-cooking their insides, drying them out, or, as one friend recently did, burning my eyebrows off due to lighting difficulties.

I’m super excited to go to souq on Sunday in Tinjdad to pick up more pumpkin – in gearing up for Thanksgiving, I fully intend to be the pie fairy, delivering pies to friends of mine in town and wishing them happy ‘3id n shukr’, Feast of Thanks.


Spring in January?

Almond trees in bloom

Theoretically it’s winter right now, but for all of my life I have lived in places where it snows in the winter. I was told it snowed here at least once every year, but I’m not so sure it’s going to this year. There’s still a little time – I was told the window of opportunity for a snowfall was late December through February. This afternoon some clouds moved in, and those clouds gave us a little rain for the first time since September or October – but that was rain, even after it got dark outside and the temperature started dropping! If the clouds stick around and it keeps precipitating intermittently through the evening, there’s a small possibility some of that would turn to snow early in the morning before the sun gets a chance to heat up the town again. We’ll see.

Other things that would signal to me that it was spring are that there are beautiful little yellow flowers on one type of thorny bush around here (I don’t have a picture of that yet) and that the seed pods of the Alily plant, below, have finally sprung open.  All of these things are probably perfectly on schedule – I was told almond trees, for example, always bloom early – but they’re very shocking to me. I’m still adapting to this climate.

These seeds are softer and fuzzier than they look.