Our friend Peggy Markel just got back from months of Culinary Adventures – her own, and facilitating those of the intrepid guests that embark on her “underground” tours of Tuscany, Elba, Sicily, Morocco. Peggy seems to know everybody, that is, anybody who is seriously into food in all the places she travels. She has a nose and and eye and an openness to find her way into the heart of a place, through its food. We love her reports on her Facebook page and on her blog, often in the form of teeny unedited videos that offer a glimpse into the rest of the world. (It was Peggy who sent us the clip of the Indian Water Music and the Sardinian Women Singing while they washed dishes.). Here is one of a Moroccan cook named Baijah crushing almonds for a traditional chicken pastilla at Jnan Tamsna in Marrakech, Morocco (one stop on Peggy’s Moroccan Adventure). Baijah just folds the almonds into a clean piece of cloth (or a dish towel) and whacks them with a rolling pin, a method she refers to as the “Berber food processor”.
It is a perfect strategy for when you’re staying in a bare-bones kitchen (like a summer rental) and have big ideas. You could use this method for crushing any kind of nut, or spices like whole coriander seeds or peppercorns (the cloth keeps them from flying). We use a play on this method for pitting olives and fresh cherries, covering them with a paper towel to keep juices from spraying and lightly tapping them to break the fruit open and extract the pit. And without the cloth, you can whack the olives right on the counter into a rough paste, along with some garlic and fresh herbs like rosemary and or thyme, to make Olivada, a rough olive paste you can serve warm or room temperature.
Related posts: Sing LOUD! Like They Do in Sardinia