12 November 2019

Crème caramel

I remember eating the dessert called a crème caramel in Paris restaurants and cafés back in the 1970s. I'd never had anything like that before. And the places I frequented were certainly not fancy restaurants — I didn't have that kind of income. Only years later did I find out that the Mexican flan is pretty much the same thing — an egg custard cooked in a baking dish, the inside of which has been coated with a dark caramel (melted, cooked sugar).


Since I seldom go to restaurants any more, I hadn't eaten a crème caramel in years. I decided to make one. It had been decades since I'd done so, I believe. Instead of cooking it in individual ramekins, I just made the crème caramel in a soufflé dish. We can cut wedges of it and drizzle on some of the liquid caramel sauce.

This is not a hard dessert to make — if you can get the caramel to work. My first attempt was a flop. I tried to make it in the microwave, directly in the soufflé dish I wanted to cook the custard in. But the caramel re-crystallized when I tried to thin it slightly by adding some hot water. I started over and made the second caramel in a pot on the stove, and then poured it into the soufflé dish and let it cool. That worked. It hardened pretty fast so I had to swirl it around quickly to cover the bottom and sides of the soufflé dish.


To make the crème or custard, bring half a liter of milk up to the boiling point on the stovetop or in the microwave (don't let it boil over!) Add some vanilla extract (in the U.S.) or a packet of sucre vanillé (in France). In a bowl, beat three eggs with 100 grams of sugar (half a U.S. cup – 8 tablespoons) until the sugar starts to dissolve (you can put in more or less sugar to taste). Then gradually pour the hot milk over the egg-sugar mixture, stirring it constantly with a whisk. Pour the crème into the soufflé dish that has hardened caramel on the bottom and sides.


Set the soufflé dish in a pan of hot water — enough water to come halfway up the sides of the soufflé dish. This is called a bain-marie in French — a water bath. Put the pan in the oven at 180ºC (350ºF) for about 30 minutes, until the custard has set up and is no longer liquid. Test it with a skewer or the blade of a knife to judge whether it's cooked through. Then take the dish out of the bain-marie and let it cool for 30 minutes before putting it in the fridge for a couple of hours, or even overnight, covered.

Finally, when the crème caramel is completely cold, run a sharp knife around the sides of the soufflé dish to loosen the custard up. Put a shallow bowl or pie plate over the top and quickly flip the dish over. If you're lucky (and we were), the custard will fall neatly into the bowl or pie plate, and the caramel, completely liquefied, will run off the top of the custard and fill in around sides of the dish. Cut into wedges and serve cold.

11 November 2019

Pâté de pommes de terre

Several regions in central France claim the culinary specialty called pâté de pommes de terrele Berry, le Bourbonnais, la Sologne, le Limousin, and la Creuse, among others. The other day, I found a ready-made "potato pie" at the supermarket and let myself be tempted.


This one was made by a company in the town of Issoudun, which is 35 or 40 miles southeast of Saint-Aignan in the old Berry province. It's called Les Charcuteries Issoldunoises and it distributes products including pâtés, sausages, and cured or cooked pork to supermarkets in our region.


One thing that attracted me to this pâté de pommes de terre was the ingredient list — potatoes, crème fraîche, onions, shallots, salt, pepper, and parsley for the filling. And a pie shell made from flour, butter, water, salt, and egg yolks. That was it. No preservatives, no food colors, no chemicals.


What I didn't find on the label was cooking and serving instructions. I just assumed we could heat the potato pie up before we ate it, or we could eat it at room temperature or even cold. We heated it up in the oven at low temperature for 30 minutes or so before we cut into it and enjoyed it at lunchtime.


This would a pretty simple thing to make at home, especially if you buy ready-made pâte feuilletée (puff pastry) rather than make it yourself. Actually, it would be very good with standard pie crust (pâte brisée) too, and that's much easier and quicker to make (the late Joël Robuchon, a chef famous for potato dishes, uses pâte brisée in his recipe). Here's a segment from a Carnets de Julie show that might help you if you want to attempt it. Notice that the cook doesn't make puff pastry for his pie.



P.S. By the way, some recipes call this un pâté de pommes de terre but sometimes, as on the label pictured above, you see or hear pâté aux pommes de terre. Maybe it's a regional difference. Joël Robuchon gives a recipe for un pâté de pommes de terre solognot. Maybe if you call it a tourte, which means a pie with a top and bottom crust, it might be called une tourte aux pommes de terre. So much for un-split hairs...

10 November 2019

The Renaudière vineyard at sunset in November

I went out into the vineyard for a late afternoon walk with Tasha yesterday afternoon, and I took my "new" old camera with me. It was a test. Reviewers say the Sony DSC-RX100 M2 camera can take good pictures in low-light situations. It was almost dark when I went out just before sunset, especially since a bank of dark clouds was moving in from the west. I'm pretty happy with the results I got — these images are much sharper than the ones my Panasonic cameras can produce, even though some of them are still pretty soft when viewed at full size on a big monitor. I processed the photos in Photoshop Elements, cropping them and adjusting sharpness, contrast, brightness, and colors.



I was lucky yesterday — it didn't start raining until I had been back in the house for a few minutes. So far, I'm pretty happy with the Sony camera. It doesn't have a very long zoom, but I already have a Panasonic camera with that feature. What the RX100 does have is a good wide-angle lens and a 1.8 F-stop setting, which is better for low light conditions. For this test, I took both close-up and wide-view shots. The slide show runs for less than two minutes.

09 November 2019

Around the hamlet these days


Above, you can see what I meant when I said yesterday that I like the spacious an airy feel that cutting down those two apple trees has given to the back yard. There used to be two plum trees out there too, but they were uprooted in a big windstorm in 2010. That's a cherry tree behind the garden shed, and it is sickly too. It might go next year. The vegetable garden is on the right side of the photo, and there's all the firewood we got from the apple trees.





Here's a vineyard scene from Thursday afternoon. Rain was moving in from the south, but the setting sun was shining, accentuating the yellow color of the leaves on vines and trees.




I took the two photos above using a Panasonic Lumix ZS8 camera that I bought used a few years ago. The ZS8 is called the TZ18 in Europe. I found it on eBay, used, for a good price. I think a lot of people buy fancy digital cameras but almost never use them, so they're a great value second-hand.


The last three photos here are ones I took using my latest acquisition, a "new" but second-hand Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100M2 compact camera. When I was N.C., I thought my newest cameras had given up the ghost. It turned out that it was the battery charger that had failed. But by the time I realized what the problem was, I had done some research and let myself be tempted by the Sony camera, a 2013 model that I bought for about 220 euros on Amazon France. A new toy! (I figure it would be very easy to spend 200 euros for a meal in a nice restaurant, and I never do that.)



The bush in the photos above is a snowball bush (Viburnum) showing off its fall colors. I took both photos of it from our front terrace yesterday.

I also took the photo on the left with the new Sony camera. It was our lunch — two duck leg/thigh sections baked in the oven on a bed of white beans flavored with duck fat, thyme, bay leaf, salt and pepper. The duck legs came out of a can, and the beans came out of a jar. They are French fast food, and lunch was delicious.

08 November 2019

Why are they dying?

I'm talking about trees. They seem to be in some kind of death spiral right now. Let me count the trees: two apple trees in our yard. At least two in our neighbors' yard. One out by the pond — it's is still standing but is completely dead. And don't forget our pear tree, which died about a year ago. Also, two very tall trees in the plot of woods on the north side of our property have come crashing down over the past year or two, for no obvious reason.





Here's a January 2019 photo of the big apple tree we lost last month. It's demise wasn't sudden. We'd been watching it decline for a few years. As I've said, mistletoe may have contributed to the tree's demise, but the parasite may well have just been taking advantage of a tree that was already sickly. We'd been seeing a lot of mushrooms growing around the tree's trunk for a few years. That's a bad sign, I guess.




Compare the photo above of a skeletal tree full of clumps of mistletoe to the one on the right, taken in the spring of 2017. That might have been the last time we had a good crop of apples from this big old tree. It certainly had a lot of blossoms that year.




Here's what happened to the tree about a week ago. Weather too must have contributed to its death, but not wind. Just rain and rot. First the limb on the left crashed to the ground, and a few days later down came the one on the right.




So now we have this view out toward the garden shed from the back door and the greenhouse. I sort of like it this way. It's open and airy.



And here's the view from the back gate toward the house. You can see that the crew that helped us by removing the fallen apple tree also cut up the burnable wood and stacked it for us. Our plan is to burn it in the wood stove starting in 2020.






Finally, and this one is maybe the saddest loss for me, the pecan tree in my mother's back yard in Morehead City, N.C. — behind house I grew up in and where Ma lived for 54 years — suddenly gave up the ghost this year. I learned about it when I was there in October. There will be no more crops of those delicious paper-shell pecans. It was a tree my mother had grafted and planted back in the mid-1970s. Is all this just weather-related, or is it climate change?

07 November 2019

Timber!

The day before yesterday, we had two sickly apple trees and one dead pear tree in our yard cut down and sawed into firewood. We had lived with those trees for 16 years and had watched as fungi and mistletoe sapped their strength. All three trees were probably about 50 years old. I blame frequent summertime drought, combined with recent mild, damp winters, for their demise.


In October, the biggest of our four apple trees fell — or more precisely, its two main limbs broke off — for no other reason than that the tree was near death. There was rain the day the first limb crashed down, but no wind. A few days later the second big limb dropped. I had just returned from my trip to North Carolina. We basically did nothing about the broken-down tree as we waited for the gardening service we have hired for the past few years to send out a hedge-trimming crew for their annual visit.

The man who runs the business said they would be glad to cut up the dead wood for us as well as trim the hedges, and the five-man crew did the whole job in one eight-hour day. It would have taken us weeks to do that much work — I'm not sure we would ever have got it done. The remaining two apple trees in the back yard seem healthy — with no mushrooms growing on or around their trunks, and no mistletoe growing on them.

The job went pretty fast because the laurel hedge didn't grow much this year. That's because of the severe drought conditions we experienced from June until October. The little pear tree on the northeast corner of our property had suddenly died more than a year ago. The little apple tree by the back gate was so sickly that we put it out of its misery. And of course there was no way to save the biggest apple tree. Sic transit gloria mundi...


06 November 2019

Wheat Semolina Dumplings

I've mentioned before that our big pots of couscous broth usually turn into soup before we consume all the broth and vegetables. That's what we had for lunch yesterday. And now I realize that I probably shouldn't call this "couscous" soup — Moroccan vegetable soup would be a better name for it. Here's a spicy Moroccan vegetable and chickpea soup, with a recipe the author says can be varied at will.


So what are those round-shaped yellow things floating in it? They're dumplings made with wheat semolina. I got the idea first from Thickethouse, who frequently comments on this blog. Dumplings are good in soup. And I made these with semolina, which is what couscous "grain" is made with. So the taste is about the same, but the texture completely different. Recipe below. (In French you might call them quenelles de semoule de blé.)


The vegetables in this soup include tomatoes, green beans, bell peppers, turnips, celery root, rutabaga, onions, zucchini, and eggplant — not to forget chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans). The other important ingredients are the Moroccan spices — powdered cumin, turmeric, ginger, nutmeg, coriander seed, cardamom, black peppercorns, caraway seeds, paprika, fennel seeds, and fenugreek. There's a commerically available Moroccan spice blend call ras-el-hanout that contains some or even all of these spices. Optionally, you can add some meat, and I did so because I had a few pieces of cooked veal and a couple of merguez lamb-and-beef sausages that I diced up and put into the soup pot.


I had more vegetables than broth left, so I added some chicken broth to the soup to thin it slightly. I cooked the dumplings in the chicken broth, then added the broth and the dumplings to the soup. The dumplings were tasty, and they were easy to cut and eat with a soup spoon. Here's how to make them:

Wheat Semolina Dumplings

2 eggs
60 grams of butter, softened (about 4 Tbsp.)
a pinch or two of baking powder
pinches of salt, pepper, allspice, fenugreek, etc.
150 grams of wheat semolina (4 oz., or about ¾ of a U.S. cup)

Put the softened butter in a bowl and stir it until creamy. Mix in the eggs, the spices, and then the semolina, little by little, to make the dumpling dough. Add the semolina in several stages and mix each time until you have a thick dough that can be shaped into dumplings. Add more than the quantity specified here if you need to.

Let the dough rest for 20-30 minutes, preferably in the refrigerator. With two spoons, form the dumplings — with one spoon, take a lump of dough out of the bowl, and with the second shape the dumpling. (If your dough is stiff enough, you can just shape the dumplings using your hands. That's what I did. I made 16 of them about the size and shape of new potato — smaller than an egg.)

You can either let the dumplings cook for 5 minutes in soup (you might end up with small pieces of cooked dough floating in the soup) or you can cook them separately in salted water or broth and then add them to the soup. The cooking liquid should simmer just slightly. Otherwise the dumplings might fall apart.

This dumpling dough very much resembles the dough we make for the fried cornbread called "hushpuppies." Next time, I'm going to make soup dumplings with that kind of cornmeal dough.

05 November 2019

La flotte

Flotte meaning "rain" or "water" is a funny word in French. It's not quite slang, but is marked as populaire or familier in some dictionaries when it has those meanings. Populaire means "of the people" (the unwashed masses is understood). I think we might say "colloquial." I think we would say "informal" for familier. But I hear la flotte used this way all the time. On peut boire de la flotte — drink water, in other words, instead of wine.






Mostly I hear people saying things like Il tombe de la flotte — "it's raining." It's even used as a verb to mean "raining" — Il flottait ce matin quand je suis sorti dehors — "It was raining when I went outdoors this morning." I've been able to say that to myself many times over the past two weeks.


The gravel road through the vineyard is flowing like a shallow stream most days. It rained twice during the two weeks I was in North Carolina. Each time, it rained very hard and the rain stopped after 5 or 6 hours. Then the sun came back  out .




Here in Saint-Aignan, it's been raining constantly. Skies are gray most of the time now. The grass is green again, but even when you think you are stepping on grass you realize you're walking in a puddle.
Here's a photo showing the pond out behind our back gate, the equipment and trailers that have been out there for the past three weeks, and our house in the background.

By the way, the verb flotter means "to float" in more proper French, and the noun flotte means "fleet."

04 November 2019

La vie de chantier



There's an expression in French that describes what we might call "the good life" — it's la vie de château. The definition in French is: une existence très agréable passée dans le luxe et les loisirs... It describes a time when "you've got it made." It's like living in a castle — luxurious and leisurely.



That's not what it's like around here right now. Instead of la vie de château, we're living la vie de chantier. I made that up, but it fits. What does chantier mean? Well, one definition is something like "a construction site" — with all the disruption and dirt that entails.




Another definition is this one: Endroit où sont entassés ou travaillés des matériaux de construction — a place where building materials are stored or worked on. That's more the case here, since there's no real construction going on in our hamlet. Even so, we get the disruptions of the chantier...



Instead, the work is going on down the hill, a kilometer or so from our house. I'm not even sure what the work is all about. Maybe the work crew is undergrounding electrical wires, or fiber optics cable. Nobody has told us anything. All we know is that the crew seems to be working in the ditches along the road. But they didn't set up their chantier down there.




The crew is working down along the river road, but they are eating breakfast and lunch almost in our back yard, in one of the trailers you see in these photos. And they're keeping their backhoe (tractopelle) right outside our back gate. It doesn't help that the weather is so rainy right now. Rain means mud, when you live out in the country. I hope the job is finished soon.

03 November 2019

Le vignoble en novembre

A big storm — une tempête in French — named Amélie is sweeping across France this morning. Wind gusts as high as 160 k.p.h. (100 m.p.h.) have been recorded on the Atlantic coast south of us (Bordeaux, Basque Country) and to the west in Brittany. We've been having heavy rains for 12 hours or more, but we've been spared the wind.



Here's a slideshow made up of photos I took early yesterday morning on my walk with the dog out in the Renaudière vineyard. The light was very dim, so I've processed some of the photos in Photoshop to rescue them. The storm was approaching at that point and it started raining around noontime.

02 November 2019

Couscous au veau (3) : le service

"Rain starting in one minute." That's what Accuweather says about the weather in Saint-Aignan this morning. The sound of hard rain woke me up sometime in the wee hours last night. That said, it's weirdly warm outside. As I mentioned yesterday, a strong, wet warm front is moving across France right now, and it's pushing drier, cold air off to the east. Where the two air masses meet, rain falls.

The warm front is going strong, but I've kind of run out of steam (as it were) with the couscous posts. It's not that we have finished eating it, but I think that I might make it into what we call "couscous soup" for today's lunch. That just means dicing up all the vegetables and meat, and maybe adding some water to the broth to make it a little soupier. On the right is the couscous as we served it a day or two ago. I hadn't yet sprinkled on some broth with harissa hot-pepper paste dissolved in it when I took this photo.
The second time we ate a lunch of couscous, I poured all the meat and vegetables into a big, shallow roasting pan so that we could better see which vegetables we wanted to eat with the couscous grain. Covered with aluminum foil, into the oven it went for a slow reheating. We cooked another batch of couscous grain to have with it.
On the left is the couscous served with some of the broth and some harissa poured or drizzled over it. You can make it as spicy hot as you want with the pepper paste. As for preparation of the couscous "grain" in a steamer pot (couscoussier), here's what you do. It takes a while, and it's probably better if you use long-cooking rather than processed, pre-steamed couscous grain:

Cooking the coucous "grain" in a souscoussier

Fill the bottom container of the couscoussier (steamer) pot two-thirds full of water or broth and place it over over high heat.

When the liquid comes to a boil, set the perforated steamer basket containing uncooked couscous on top of the pot. Make sure the two containers fit together snugly so that steam rises up into the couscous grain and doesn’t escape out the sides. If the holes in the steamer basket are large enough that the couscous grains might fall through, line the basket with cheesecloth or a clean, thin kitchen towel.

Put the lid on the steamer basket. After about 30 minutes, take the grain out, pour it into a large flat dish, and let it cool slightly. Oil your fingers and work the grain to break up any clumps. Put the grain back in the steamer basket over the boiling liquid and repeat the process twice, not forgetting to work the grain with oiled fingers each time to to break up any clumps. After the third cooking, dot the couscous grain with small cubes of butter and serve it with vegetables, meats, and the spicy couscous broth. Optionally, mix plumped  raisins into the grain.

The above is a loose translation of instructions I found in the 1990s electronic Larousse Gastronomique food and cooking encyclopedia. The older 1960s print edition of the LG gives the following instructions as an easier way to prepare the grain:

Cooking the couscous grain "by spontaneous boiling"

For this method, you don't need a couscoussier pot. Moisten the couscous with a little water and wait for it to absorb the water and plump up. Then carefully pour the couscous little by little into about a liter of boiling liquid, preferably strained couscous broth — or just water, clear chicken or vegetable broth, or milk.

Stir constantly. Cook the couscous for about 15 minutes. When it's done, strain it and and dot it with butter. Serve it hot with stewed couscous vegetables and meats.

The third method is to follow the instructions on the package. For example, to serve two, put a cup of couscous into a saucepan. Pour a cup of boiling water over it and let it soak for five minutes to absorb the water. Stir with a fork to break up lumps. Add a little olive oil or butter. Serve hot. This method assumes you're using quick-cooking couscous grain, which is about all you can find dans le commerce these days. I've looked at amazon.fr for couscous that requires long, slow cooking, but I haven't found any. Here's another take on the whole couscous cooking issue.

01 November 2019

Couscous au veau (2) : pourquoi ?

Before I continue posting about the couscous we are eating again today and probably into the weekend, let me show you what our weather is like today. Here's the forecast for this morning. Saint-Aignan is of course under the clouds and rain being brought in by what they call une pertubation — the French-English dictionary calls it "a weather disturbance" — a warm front bringing rain. See the dot on a white cloud just below the number 50? That would be Saint-Aignan, or Tours actually. There are two other 50s south of it. That's the wind speed in kph (30 mph).

And here's the forecast for the afternoon. It's not much better. We're in for your classic rainy day. It's been raining nearly every day since I got back from North Carolina a week ago, in fact. At least we don't have to worry about forest fires. La pauvre Californie ! So far, I haven't seen any reports of fires near where our friend Sue lives, between Lake Tahoe and Sacramento. I hope it stays that way and that the winds pushing the fires westward will soon diminish in intensity. Meanwhile, we will be wearing rain parkas on our walks with Tasha.





Back to the couscous: When cooking the meat for the stew (le bouillon) — lamb, chicken, or veal — brown it first in olive oil. Then pour on vegetable or chicken broth with some tomatoes or tomato sauce added, and let it simmer until the meat is tender. Also add the North African spices to the broth. The veal in my photo is yellow because of the addition of turmeric and other spices to the pot.



The sausages in this photo are called des merguez and are made with beef and lamb (no pork). Merguez sausages are fairly spicy. They're cooked separately and served as a kind of garnish with the stewed vegetables and meat. The other garnish is some harissa red pepper paste, dissolved in some of the broth and drizzled over the stew and the steamed couscous.


After I had let the carrots, turnips, and eggplant cook in the couscous broth long enough to start becoming tender, I added in chunks of peeled zucchini along with some pre-cooked green beans and cubed celery (from the freezer). Zucchini cooks quickly. Yesterday, I also cooked a red bell pepper (from the garden) in a small amount of the broth, along with some frozen okra, and added those to the stew.


Walt cooks the couscous according to the instructions on the box it comes in: Plump up some raisins in a cup of hot water. Then cook a cup of couscous in a cup of boiling water with the raisins. Turn it off when it comes back to the boil and let the couscous completely absorb the water. Add salt and a little vegetable oil, and also a tablespoon of butter for flavor just before serving the couscous with the stew and broth.
By the way, here's the weather forecast for the next week or so. Several more fronts are going to sweep across France, bringing rain on a daily basis. This is typical Toussaint (All Saints' Day) weather in France. Happy November!

[More about couscous tomorrow...]

31 October 2019

Un couscous au veau (1) : les ingrédients

I know that couscous is available in most American supermarkets. I know that because my mother used to buy boxes of it in the supermarkets in the little town of Morehead City, N.C. She would cook it according to the directions on the package and eat it with melted butter as a breakfast cereal. Actually, it's a form of pasta, made with durum wheat semolina (semoule de blé dur). Think cream of wheat but not boiled, just steamed so that the grains of semolina remain separate.


In North Africa, the Middle East, and France, couscous is much more than just the couscous "grain" or semoule. The Larousse Gastronomique food and cooking encyclopedia says that couscous is « le plat national tant de l'Algérie que du Maroc et de la Tunisie. » It's not about breakfast cereal. So what is it about? Couscous as a dish is a stew — a mix of peeled vegetables cooked in a broth (chicken or vegetable) flavored tomatoes and with ras el hanout, which is a powered spice blend.
Here are some of the vegetables that go into the stew. I think you can identify them. They include what we might call summer vegetables like eggplant, zucchini, and green beans, as well as winter vegetables like turnips, rutabagas, carrots, celery root, and leeks, along with onions and shallots as well as chickpeas (garbanzo beans).

The spicy stew of tomatoes and vegetables make a sort of sauce that is served with the couscous "grain". Putting meat in the stew is optional, because it can also be served separately as a first course (spit-roasted lamb called méchoui is a standard, but chicken and other meats are often included). The hot-pepper paste called harissa is a standard accompaniment. Serve a pile of steamed couscous on a plate, put some vegetables and meat and broth over the grain. Then fill a small ladle with broth and stir in some harissa paste before dribbling it over the couscous and vegetables to spice it all up.
For this couscous, I decided to cook some veal that often goes into acreamy white stew called blanquette de veau, flavored with onions, carrots, white wine, and mushrooms. Veal is a mild-tasting meat, like chicken or turkey, that won't clash with couscous broth and vegetables, I thought, when I saw that Intermarché was having special on veal at 8.50€/kg. This is stew meat that needs long (two hours or more), slow cooking before it becomes tender and succulent. (In the past, I've also cooked this kind of veal in tomato sauce with olives.)

First, sauté the veal (or chicken) in olive oil to brown it. Pour 1.5 liters of chicken broth over it and let it simmer for 90 minutes (less time for chicken). Taste it for tenderness. Add in some bay leaves, black peppercorns, and allspice berries or cloves. And add in two tablespoons of ras el hanout spice powder (powdered cumin, turmeric, ginger, nutmeg, coriander seed, cardamom, pepper, caraway seeds, paprika, fennel seeds, and fenugreek are some of the spices in the spice mixture).

[More tomorrow...]

30 October 2019

Two sunrise photos

Sunrise on the western end of Bogue Banks, NC, USA — October 19, 2019 — Photo by Sue N.

Sunrise at La Renaudière, near Saint-Aignan, Loire Valley, France — October 27, 2019 — Photo by Ken B.

I'm busy this morning working on my first big cooking project since I got back from North Carolina. I'm making a big pot of the stew that is served with the North African pasta/cereal called couscous. We're having chilly, damp weather, and the hot, spicy broth, the vegetables (carrots, eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, turnips, rutabagas, celery, bell peppers, okra, green beans, and chickpeas) and the stewed meats will be good comfort food. As a twist on a classic dish, I'm cooking the couscous broth with veal rather than lamb this time. Heavy rains are predicted over the coming weekend. More later...