Gems of September

September has been a month of bittersweet moments.  It’s always that way.  We reluctantly close the door on summer, while looking forward to autumn’s rotations.  School starts, people make adjustments.  We all get in our new places where we can hold tight for the next 9 month sequence.

Almost two weeks ago, we said goodbye to Gabe, who has been our housemate here since last December.  He is great company, and he loves his rituals in Carthage, including daily swims in the Med., cooking, and reading in the garden, along with studying Arabic.  He will be finishing university this year, commuting from the farm on Lummi.  Here he is with his new roommate, a weimaraner puppy that is a total heart stealer.

Gabe and Pup
Photo by Anton Bredy

Last weekend, we were witnesses to an out of time, magical experience.  We saw the Warsaw Symphony perform in an open-air concert at El Jem, The third largest remaining coliseum in all of Romandome.  The mass of the structure is at the same time thrilling and awful, especially if you have a good imagination and can picture a scene from Gladiators taking place there.

El Jem 04

El Jem 05
El Jem photos by Stan Richards

Relishing what will surely be one of the final warm evenings, we sat on cushions, amongst friends, anticipating a harvest moon that finally peeked over the tops of the upper-level arches.  Bats darted through the air as a troupe of young men climbed over the many levels, right before performance time,  lighting torches.  When the scene was perfectly set, the orchestra began.  We thought the acoustics would be something in that space.  I anticipated the sound to be large as it reverberated from the stones.  Quite the opposite, the orchestra was delicate and restrained, showing the maturity of professionals who have played together for so very long.  I sat next to our music teacher from Moscow, and she perfectly said, “It is fragile, just like Chopin should be.”  It was all that beautiful implies, but the juxtaposition between the massive, ancient space and the precise almost insect-like music is my remaining impression.  We were so fortunate to be there.

On our way home through the countryside, we bought our weekly produce.

DSC_4702

I am posting yet another picture of my groceries because I can never say enough about our fruit and vegetable situation, here.  I bought all of this:  2 large potatoes, 3 huge pomegranates, 8 young lemons, 6 red onions, and a leafy head of cabbage.  I asked the vendor to repeat the price when he told me how much I needed to pay.  It was trois dinar, neuf cent.  This is almost 4 Tunisan dinars.  This is the equivalence of about 2 US dollars.  The price of local food is one reason why Tunisia is one of the very least expensive places to live in the world, while maintaining an excellent quality of life.

I have seen some magazine articles this month for stuffed cabbage leaves, but I hit on a recipe last fall that is still resonating with me, much like that concert.  While we may think of stuffed cabbage as being heavy, stick to your ribs food, these rolls are lightened by puffed quinoa, herbs,  and freshly ground turkey.  Additionally, a delicate sweet and sour sauce lightens the traditional tomato sauce.

DSC_4703

Turkey and Quinoa Cabbage Rolls with Sweet and Sour Sauce

Adapted from a recipe by Emeril Lagasse

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup quinoa
  • 1 head green cabbage
  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 1 onion, finely minced
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons parsley, minced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried savory
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
  • 1/2  cup water
  • 3 cups tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar

Procedure

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large saucepan, parboil quinoa for 10 minutes. Turn off heat and let it sit.  Fluff with a fork before using.

Core cabbage and bring water to a boil in a large stockpot. Add the cabbage, cover the pan, and cook until cabbage is softened, about 5 minutes. Keep removing leaves as they peel off easily. Chop the leaves that are too small or torn.  Cut a triangle of the core from the whole leaves and set them aside.
Blend raw ground turkey, the onions, garlic, salt, pepper, allspice, savory, marjoram and
parboiled quinoa. Mix well, adding enough water to make mixture sticky.

Using a small ice cream scoop, mound the turkey mixture onto the broadest part of the cabbage leaf.  Wrap sides around and tuck under. Continue until all of the turkey and cabbage has been used.  If more meat remains than you can use, place it in a loaf pan to bake for 45 minutes.

Mix tomato sauce with vinegar and sugar.  Place stuffed cabbage in baking pan on top of a layer of sauce and chopped cabbage pieces. Spoon tomato sauce over the cabbage. Cover the pan with foil and bake covered for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

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