Tunis, Day One Million

It’s teetering toward late April; Sunday, sunny. We’re going to have rain most days of the next ten, according to my weather app. It’s time for a panoramic shot from the balcony to help me remember what I like about Tunis once summer hits and I decide I thoroughly hate it.

For approximately four months, starting in May, you will find me hiding under my bed with the aircon remote.

Random shot of us

Today I bought a case of wine – Ramadan is coming, and wine will not be for sale. Apparently there is a back-alley liquor store that, in normal times, I’ve wanted to visit. But there’s too much risk that it’ll be closed, or with long lines, during quarantine. I thought getting myself loaded up was best.

Important movie news!

Before I forget: DC Filmfest will have a virtual film festival the next few weeks. All free! Check it out here. I have loved the Filmfest ever since I first started going – I call that first one my lost fortnight. They do such an amazing job of curating the selection. It’s like they see inside my mind! If anyone wants to have a virtual watch party with me, I’m up for it.

Pretzel gnocchi

All set to cook pretzels today, had the yeast in its solution and was getting ready to make the critical soda water bath that is, according to pretzel experts, the secret to the soft pretzel color and taste. Except that critical step requires a half cup of baking soda, and I had only two little envelopes. That’s how they sell it here – packets of a couple teaspoons each. So I abandoned ship. Even though it was only 3:30 p.m., the stores were already closed.

So then I thought I’d make ricotta gnocchi and a pomarola sauce from Samin Nosrat’s genius cookbook. I loved the idea of using a stick blender in a hot pot of gloobing stuff – that is one of the things that, to me, looks like “what a real chef does”, along with:

  • rolling herbs between your hands to crush them
  • sauteeing garlic and mushrooms in butter
  • having all the ingredients ready to go in little glass bowls
  • making your own spaghetti sauce
  • fanning the smell of something toward your nose
Hungry Chef GIF by Disney Pixar - Find & Share on GIPHY

That little rat is my cooking spirit animal.

Other things also look like “what a real chef does” like speed-chopping and plating things prettily, but neither of those is gonna happen in this house.

The sauce came out very good – though I forgot I was doing about 2/3 the recipe size when I put in the last ingredient – 3/4 cup of olive oil that was supposed to emulsify into the sauce. It looks… a little oily, like it’s sitting in a bed of oil. But I guess I can scoop out of the middle, right? I think I will use it tonight to make shakshuka.

The gnocchi plan collapsed when the parmesan I had frozen a couple weeks ago… was not frozen properly. The Interwebs told me not to even use it, that the trick with freezing cheese is actually a great seal – which I unfortunately never read. I just tossed it in the freezer in a PAPER wrapper from the deli. Eejit! Very sad – not a good thing to toss cheese. But I’ll try again. I love gnocchi.

I found a recipe for three-ingredient peanut butter cookies, and I might try that now to give us something for dessert (since I gave most of our carrot-pineapple muffins to the neighbor fellow who works as a superintendent for the building. Oops.) Or a chocolate mayo cake. I’m getting recipes from the NYT right now while they’ve relaxed their rules on accessing recipes on their site.

When the pretzels and then the gnocchi fell through I was more than bummed. I had saved the day for cooking – if I couldn’t do that, what would I do with my time? I’m not up for another re-puzzle.

I’ve never been a fan of cooking before. Opposed to it, is a more accurate way of putting it. But it has been such a lifeline to be gainfully engaged in the kitchen.

Dish of the week

Dish of the week was thin noodles with peanut sauce – peanut butter and soy sauce and vinegar and a bit of maple syrup – with random veggies thrown in. It was such a delicious blend, then we put chopped peanuts and cilantro on top, and I thought I’d gone to heaven for a little while.

Also made the artichoke-cherry tomato confit with basil and tossed it with pasta again – delish. You just put stuff in the oven awhile on low heat in olive oil – and that becomes your sauce! You can mix it up, I’m sure, with whatever you have on hand, though the tomatoes seem to be a very key part of it. We drank aperol spritzes to go with it – even Ramon joined me!

Fail of the week was last night – hummus is really weak without tahini, but I bought something that says Tahinia but is not, in fact, tahini. It is halvah, which if you know it is probably making you gag right about now as you imagine it in my hummus.

Luckily I did not make the idiot move of mixing them, as the previous paragraph suggests. I took a picture of the item I bought and put it on a Tunisian Expats facebook page, asking for advice. Some 25 people all gave me good counsel and pointed me toward where I could get actual tahini. My favorite was the guy who just said, “No.”

I’m also crazy about growing the herbs and tomatoes and, now, greens in a little proprietary dealie called Hamama. Growing something has given me a concrete and realistic thing to look forward to, in a time frame I can deal with. But this is the last of my “seed quilts” so this will be the end of this till I get back to the U.S., whenever that is.

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