gluten-free life in morocco vegan vegetables vegetarian

Something New (+ Brown Rice Bowls with Avocado)

28 April 2014

We were in Marrakech this past weekend — I still have the image of the snow-topped Atlas mountains rimming that red-buildinged city fixed in my mind — and saw a lot of the things you would expect you’d see in Marrakech. But the most astonishing occurrence of the last few days, and the one I am here to report on today, was that Sierra voluntarily ate some ‘real food’ and not only didn’t seem to loathe it but actually seemed to fully enjoy the experience.

Let me explain.


[Roses, Marrakech, April 2014.]

I’ve never wanted to rush things with the wee one, because I know all too well how quickly the days of babyhood slip away (and she is seven months already!). Still, between me and the Internet I will admit to secretly looking forward to sharing ‘grown-up’ food with my girl. It’s true I love to cook and also to eat so when I imagined giving my ‘precious’ (how she is referred to here in Morocco by nearly everyone) some of the delicious things I so love I saw it as being really fun. I pictured her face as she took her first bite of sweet potato (or rather, Japanese yam; can’t get American sweet potatoes here): Surely she’d smile with delight and reach for more! Thus a new culinary adventure would begin — together we’d spoon up vegetable soups, nibble on steamed carrots, chew hunks of fresh bread …

Oh, ha. How very naive I was. Once S hit six months and I started offering her little bits and bites of purees and softly cooked vegetables she reacted in what I can only describe as disgust. The faces she made! Worse than that, she would gag if I gave her even the tiniest morsel of a smooth soup. On the few occasions she did actually seem interested in what we were eating and reached a hand out to play with the detritus on our plates the situation quickly dissolved into tears and an early bedtime. There was no ‘magical’ awakening to applesauce or quinoa or oatmeal or caulifower puree. Quite the contrary: She seemed befuddled, bemused, and pretty unhappy about it all.

Until this weekend.

Perhaps it was the warm(er) temperatures, the roses blooming nearly everywhere you looked, the horses briskly pulling their carriages along the narrow streets thronged by tourists, the small botanical garden we visited on Saturday, the new people and sights, a wild hair, a trick of fate. Who knows. As with much of this stuff I do not, and thus I attempt simply to go with it. She knows far better than I what she needs. So when my plate of vegetarian couscous was set before me and she, seated on my lap, tried to reach a hand in I let her. Then I offered her a little soft turnip, some carrot, a thread of cabbage. I smooshed together some of the couscous and let her try that, too. Wonder of wonders: she ate is all, there were no hysterics, no gagging, just … curiousity, and what I hope is the beginning of an appetite for vegetables.

It is definitely the start of something new.

Back home in Casablanca, I made what for us is a fairly standard dinner: brown rice, lots of vegetables, some sesame seeds. Usually I do tofu as well but didn’t feel like it last night. DW made a salad from the lettuce that is growing so well in our little container garden. One of the avocados I’d bought the previous week was perfectly ripe and I cut it up to put atop my bowl. We ate and she hung out with us and started making eyes at my dinner … so I gave her a little taste of that really quite gorgeous avocado. That went down without a hitch so she got a little more … and a little more. Suddenly my previous vision flashed into view again on the horizon. Maybe after all this won’t be such a huge deal. (I did have moments where I thought she might eschew all solids for all eternity and yes, my brain can get a bit overdramatic at times.) Maybe we will have fun with food together! We’ll bake bread! Frost (whole grain) cupcakes! Etc.!

I want to share something that is not a firm recipe — more of a smattering of details — because I feel strongly enough about my ‘bowl’ dinners to give a brief structural outline. Much as some time in nature is my mental reset button a bowl of brown rice or quinoa plus loads of vegetables, usually some sunflower seeds, and either tahini or soy sauce and chunks of avocado if I have it, is my go-to reset meal. After a few days of eating too much pizza and pasta (the vegetarian offerings are typically pretty limited here) and bread I wanted as many vegetables as I could stand. And for me, that’s a lot. Hopefully it will be the same for Sierra one day, too.

Brown Rice (or Quinoa) Bowls with Avocado

for one

Brown rice or quinoa
Sliced sauteed garlic
Vegetables of choice to sautee or roast
Sesame seeds
Handful sunflower seeds (or pumpkin seeds?)
Tahini, soy sauce, lemon juice, sesame oil (a combo?)
Ripe avocado

First off, I make a goodly amount of short grain brown rice or quinoa, enough so that it makes at least 2 meals. For me this is usually a cup to a cup and a half of rice/quinoa, though of course it depends on your appetite. I prefer short grain brown rice here.

I tend to do more roasting of vegetables in the winter; here, this winter, I roasted a lot of cauliflower, turnips, potatoes, carrots, yams. I like brown rice and roasted veg in the winter, and in spring tend to transition more to quinoa and roasted or sauteed veg although of course this is not hard and fast. It really depends on what is in season, what I feel in the mood for, and what is in my fridge.

I’ll pile the veg on top of the rice or quinoa, drizzle with soy sauce or sesame oil or tahini or lemon juice, sprinkle with sesame seeds. I love sunflower seeds as a hearty garnish; the sliced/chopped/whatever avocado is a must. Sometimes I’ll throw in some chopped fresh lettuce, too. Sometimes I bake tofu.

Then, I devour.

  • Lillie 30 April 2014 at 9:27 am

    Yum! I love the simple weeknight veggie bowl. Thanks for the inspiration for some new-to-me twists on my usual rice/beans/veg bowl this week :)

  • helen spiridakis 29 April 2014 at 2:14 pm

    Very funny…..but very sensible……veggies rule!

  • Marlene Dotterer 29 April 2014 at 7:26 am

    I love that you’re letting your wee one set her own timetable. If you keep that relaxed attitude, you may end up with little girl who thoroughly enjoys her meals. Good luck going forward!

    I know what you mean about the vegetables. I’m going to write a blog post about it, but it was so hard for us to get vegetables on our trip to Ireland and Italy. I suppose it’s because we were on a tour in Italy, but our meals, while delicious, seemed geared to American tourist appetites: lots of meat and no (or very few) vegetables. I’ve been filling our meals with veggies since we got back. Next trip, I’m going with a vegetarian option. Maybe it will help.