Feb 28, 2012

Jimmy Mirikitani and his drawings

How can one sum up a life in a few words?  Not anyone’s whole existent can fit into a blog post. I am going to try and summarize his life.  Forgive me for trying to do so. I was deeply moved when I watched the documentary about a homeless man named Jimmy Mirikitani.  The life of Jimmy Tsutomu Mirikitani has been one of trauma and hope.  He was born in Sacramento, California in 1920, a Japanese American, shortly thereafter moved to Hiroshima, Japan and was raised there until he returned to the States in 1938.  Mirikitani wanted to avoid the militarism in Japan and to pursue his art, so he decided to move back to the States. His motto is: “Make art not war”.

Shortly after returning to the states he lived with his sister Kazuko and her family.  Happy times soon ended and they were forced to leave their home and go to internment camps.  Kazuko went to Minidoka camp in Idaho and Jimmy ended up in Tule Lake, California.

The government required internees to take a loyalty test.  Tule Lake became a segregation center and those who were deemed disloyal were congregated.  Thousands of Japanese Americans renounced their citizenship, along with Mirikitani. After World War II ended, Jimmy and hundreds of others were held in the camp without charge, first in Tule Lake and then in a Department of Justice INS camp in Crystal City, Texas.

In 1946, Jimmy was transferred to a frozen food manufacturing plant in New Jersey working 12 hours shifts 6 days a week.  By August of 1947 he was released. His citizenship was restored in 1959 but Mirikitani didn’t know about it until around 2002. The government’s letter never reached him because he moved so often.

It was in the 1980’s when Jimmy Mirikitani ended up homeless. His employer died and he was suddenly without a job or a home. Within a year, he was living in Washington Square park in Greenwich Village, selling his artwork to survive. There he continued until he met Linda Hattendorf.

It wasn't until I was grown did I hear about the camps for the Japanese here in the states.  There were over 18,000 people held at the camp in Tule Lake.  The time that Mirikitani spent there left an indelible mark on his spirit, which took a trip back to mend.  Take a look at the clip from this PBS special below.

Feb 26, 2012

The Awesome Sunsets

Winter seems to take its toll on my spirit. The lack of sunshine and the cold is hard to bear at times.  Lately, I have been feeling encouraged. The clouds have disappeared and the sun is staying out longer. I get to see the most wonderful sunsets from my kitchen window.  I look at the sky and give thanks. What beauty! Yesterday, I saw some flowers peaking their tiny heads above ground and was greatly encouraged.  Before long we will be able to be outside more and enjoy the fresh air.  Come on spring, you are welcome.

Feb 24, 2012

Fried Couscous Salad

A couple of weeks ago, I visited with my brother and his girlfriend.  Before I went over I cooked a pot of Zuppa Toscano and brought it with me.  Ashley made this wonderful fried couscous salad to go with the soup.  I was so impressed with the salad that I begged her for the recipe.  There isn't really a recipe, she told me, just add what you like. So, here is my version of Ashley's recipe.


2 cups of couscous, prepared according to the package directions
1/4 cup of safflower oil, grape seed oil, or vegetable oil.
1 TBS ghee or clarified butter or plain butter
1 tsp chili powder, more if you like
1 tsp dried basil or 1/4 cup fresh, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
2-4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tbs of each Italian parsley and cilantro
salt/pepper to taste
2 cups of kale, cut into thin slices
2 cups of cabbage, cut into thin slices
1/4 cup fired roasted peppers, cut into small pieces
1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes, cut into small pieces
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1 cup of Swiss cheese, shredded or you can use ricotta cheese

Prepare the couscous according to the package directions.  In a large non stick pan over medium heat add the oil and ghee.  Once the oil is hot add the parsley, cilantro, onions, and garlic.  Saute until the onions are translucent.  Then add the cabbage, kale, tomatoes, and peppers.  Saute for about 4-5 minutes.  Next, add the spices and the couscous.  The key to this dish is to toast the couscous.  This process make take 15-25 minutes.  Once it is toasted to your taste toss in the parmesan cheese and Swiss cheese. 

Cooks Note:  You can add chicken broth instead of water for the couscous. If you would like the salad to have a bit of tang add some lemon juice. 

Feb 20, 2012

Moroccan Lentils with Swiss Chard or Abess bil Silq

No matter how hard you try lentils are just not that pretty to photograph.  Trust me though, the taste makes up for the visual any day.  Lately, the sun has been out and I feel full of life and want to cook.  Do you feel dreadful in winter?  I do and I find it hard to shake.  Some days it is all I can do to drag myself out of bed.  This dish is very tasty and healthy for you.  I have never put Swiss chard in with lentils before and found the greens to be not only pretty but pleasant tasting as well.  This is an easy recipe and I tweaked it a little to suit my taste. 

Moroccan Lentils with Swiss Chard or Abess bil Silq


1 ½ cups lentils
2-3 TBS olive oil
1 TBS ghee, optional
1 onion, finely chopped
1 TBS cilantro, chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
2 chicken bouillon cubes, optional
1 tsp paprika
1 ½ tsp cumin
Salt\pepper to taste
4 cups of water, more if needed
8-10 leaves of  Swiss chard, cut into thin slices
Lemon juice per your taste, I didn’t add any

In a soup pan on medium heat add the olive oil, ghee, onion, garlic, cilantro, bouillon cubes, paprika, cumin, salt, and pepper.  Simmer for a couple minutes to bring out the aroma of the spices and herbs.   Next, add the lentils and sauté for another minute.  Finally, add the water and bring to a boil.  Once it comes to a boil turn down a little to medium\low and let cook for about 15-30 minutes.  Once the lentils are nearly done add the Swiss chard and cook until the lentils are tender.  This will not be like a soup.  It is intended to eat with bread as the utensil.  Serve with crispy bread or Moroccan Khobz.  Enjoy! 

Cooks Note:  I found that adding the bouillon cubes and the ghee gave the lentils more flavor. If you would rather have this as soup add more water.  In cooking there are no rules. 

Feb 18, 2012

Moroccan Artichoke Hearts with Rice or Quq bil Rozz

I never had artichokes until I had a tajine with them in it a few years ago.  After the first bite I was hooked.  At Penn Station their artichoke and cheese sandwich is my favorite. The downside is that they are expensive.  At $2.00 each, a dish that includes them can be expensive.  I just discovered that my local market has artichokes in the frozen food section. I found a 12 oz bag for about $3.50, which is not bad.  I really like this dish and it can be served with anything you like. I chose to fry some chicken wings, which was perfect. In addition, I used fresh thyme for the first time.  I come from a long line of dried herb users.  The smell is incredible and well worth the effort of trying to find it. 


4 large or 8 small artichokes or use a 12 oz frozen bag of artichokes
1 cup of rice, I used basmati
2 cups of waters
2 tbs fresh thyme leaves or 1 tsp dry
a pinch of saffron
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
3-4 tbs olive oil
1 tbs ghee, optional
salt\pepper to taste
lemon or lime juice, to taste

If using fresh artichokes, first prepare each one by removing most of the stalk and leaves. The heart is at the base. Use a spoon to remove the hairy part.  Trim the sides and bottom.  Then place the heart in water with a bit of lemon juice to keep them from turning brown. If using frozen ones, thaw before using.  Then cut them into quarters once thawed.  Take a medium pan and place on medium heat.  Next, add the garlic and thyme leaves.  Saute for a couple of minutes.  Then add the artichokes, rice, water, salt, pepper, and ghee.  Bring to a boil and turn the heat down to simmer and cook until the rice has absorbed all of the water, about 15-20 minutes. Sprinkle with a little lemon or lime juice to give it a tangy flavor or not at all. Enjoy!

Feb 15, 2012

Silver Jewelry from Yemen

What woman doesn't like Jewelry?  When I came back from Morocco, I returned with some earrings that I wear all of the time.  I was given a lovely silver necklace with terracotta colored beads and a matching ring.  I will always cherish these few items that I have.  Just recently, I read an article in Saudi Aramco World about jewelry from Yemen. 

I like the rustic look of these pieces.

 My necklace from Morocco looks very much like this bracelet.

Would you ever wear jewelry like this?  If you want to read more about Yemeni jewelry click here.

Feb 13, 2012

Chicken tajine with potatoes and fennel

Today I decided to cook a simple tajine with chicken, potatoes, and fennel.  Would you believe that I had never ate fennel before I started making this tajine?  I thought that I was adventurous too.  Growing up in a southern home our exposure to foods outside of potatoes and carrots were few and far between. 

Tajine with Potatoes and Fennel

4-6 pieces of chicken or you can use 1 lb of beef, lamb or goat in 1-2 inch cubes
2-3 tbs olive oil or vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
2-3 tbs each of Italian parsley and Cilantro, chopped
1 medium tomato, skinned and chopped
Salt\pepper to taste
1 tsp each of turmeric, ginger, paprika
A pinch of saffron
1 chicken bouillon, optional
2-4 garlic cloves, minced
3-4 medium potatoes, peeled and quartered
2 fennel bulbs, cut off the tops and the bottoms and then cut into quarters

Place your tajine on medium heat.  Add the oil, onion, garlic, tomato, cilantro, parsley, bouillon cube, and the spices.  Simmer for a few minutes. Then add the chicken and simmer for about 30 minutes with the lid on, turning after about 15 minutes.  Next, place the potatoes and fennel on top of the chicken.  Try to make a star pattern if you can.  It looks more appetizing that way.  I placed the fennel first because it seems to take longer to cook than the potatoes.  Add salt\pepper to the top and simmer until the vegetables are tender enough to use bread as your utensil. 

Cooks note:  If you don’t have a tajine, use a skillet or a large pan.  It will still taste the same. 

Feb 11, 2012

Zuppa Toscana

We have a wonderful place to eat here in the U.S. called Olive Garden.  They are famous for their wonderful Italian soups, salads, and pasta dishes. My favorite soup is Zuppa Toscana.  It is made with Italian sausage and kale in a light cream base.  I make this soup regularly because it is so good and I try to impress people with my cooking skills. LOL!  Anyway, try this one.  It is very easy and tastes wonderful. 

Zuppa Toscana

1 lb mild or spicy Italian sausage, crumpled
1 onion, chopped

1 tbs ghee, optional
2 quarts of water, more water if needed
2 chicken bouillon cubes
2 large potatoes, peeled and cubed
3-4 garlic cloves
Salt/pepper to taste
3-4 cups of chopped kale or Swiss chard
1 cup of heavy whipping cream or milk
A dash of red pepper flakes
1 tbs corn starch, optional
In a soup pot over medium heat add the Italian sausage and brown, breaking into small pieces. Next add the onion and the garlic, cook until the onion is translucent.  Add the water and the bouillon cubes.  If you don’t like using bouillon cubes you can use canned chicken stock instead(2-14.5 oz cans).  Then add the kale and potatoes.  Simmer until the potatoes are tender.  Finally, add the cream or milk.  To make the soup thicker mix the corn starch to a small amount of water and add to the soup.  Serve with crispy bread and a salad. Enjoy!

Feb 9, 2012

Tajine of Chicken, Potatoes, and Green Beans

I really like a good tajine of meat and vegetables.  This one is so good and is a change of pace from the tajine with potatoes and carrots. The chicken is on the bottom and the vegetables are piled on top.  Try this recipe. You will like it.


3-4 TBS olive oil
3-6 chicken pieces or 1 lb of beef, lamb or goat
1 lb of fresh green beans, cut off the ends or you can use frozen
3-4 medium red potatoes, peeled and cut into wedges
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion finely chopped
2 TBS each of cilantro and Italian flat leaf parsley finely chopped
1 tomato skinned and chopped fine or put in a chopper and process until nearly liquid
2 bay leaves
salt\pepper to taste
1 tsp each paprika, ginger, turmeric, coriander
a pinch of saffron
a little water as needed
1 Chicken bouillon cube

Add the oil, onion, tomato, parsley, cilantro, spices, bouillon cube and garlic to a tajine or a skillet on medium heat. Next, add the chicken or meat.  Let it simmer for about 30 minutes, turning so that the mean browns on both sides.  Once the meat is nearly done add the green beans and potatoes. Cover and cook until the vegetables are tender. The green beans need to be soft if you plan to eat them with bread using your hands. Add a little water if it is needed. Serve with crispy bread or khobtz. Enjoy!

P.S. you can add a bit of preserved lemon too.

Feb 7, 2012

Conical Houses of the East and Elsewhere!

Did you know that one half of the world's population on six continents, lives or works in buildings that are constructed of earth?  This is quite a substantial sum of people living in simply made structures

The above picture is beehive houses in Syria.  Can you imagine living in a home like this.  No windows to speak of and no indoor heating or air conditioning. However, I have heard that they can be very cool in the summer when the air outside is stiffling.

Then there are the conical houses of Haran, Turkey.  I rather like this view.  It looks clean and inviting.  I can imagine myself sitting outside with a glass of mint tea and talking with neighbors.

The first recorded beehive or conical houses were recorded about 3,700 BC.  In Aleppo, Syria there is an entire village of these type of homes.  Where did the idea to build one of these gems originate? 

Do you think that travelers would see one of these homes and take the idea back with them to build for themselves?

Would you belive that these huts were made without mortar?  Yes, and they were lived in by monks in Skellig Michael, Ireland.

Native Americans had their own version of the conical hut, but not made with mud or stone but animal hides.  My home is quite simple and needing a thick coat of paint.  Anyway, a home is your castle or maybe a hut. 

Feb 5, 2012

Winter Beauty

Yesterday there was snow

It was overcast and dreary, enough to make one cry

Then the snow began to melt 

But today, the sun came out and my spirits were lifted

I saw beauty

and very soon

what is barren

and lifeless

will come to life again

So, Lion of winter, go ahead and roar.  We know that Spring is on its way.

Feb 2, 2012

Marrakesh and Maryam

My Marrakesh is my favorite blog and discovered it while trying to find out more on Morocco. I have been reading Maryam Montague's blog for a very long time. She is living a dream life in Morocco. She was born in Egypt to an American father and an Iranian mother. Maryam's father taught her that the world was hers to explore and she has done just that. Her job is as a human rights and democracy specialist, which takes her all over Africa on assignment. Maryam shares her pictures of the many people/cultures she comes in contact with via her blog. There is nothing ordinary about this woman nor the life that she lives. She and her husband have a hotel called Peacock Pavilions on their olive grove estate in Marrakesh. Yes they have an olive grove! I watched with anticipation as the hotel came into being.  Often I looked at the pictures and dreamt of staying there, listening to the quiet while enjoying the vast landscape.  Her motto about life is:"Roll down the window, turn the music up and grab the steering wheel, there's a whole world waiting for you right outside.  Be brave and don't censor yourself." Oh to live such a life!

It seems like she has been working this book forever and I am sure that it will be well worth the wait. This May it will be released and I have pre-ordered my copy because I want it as soon as it comes out. You can order it from Amazon or Barnes & Noble.