Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Roast Potato salad with grilled corn and red onions
16 small red potatoes, unpeeled, cut in half
olive oil
2 ears corn, silk removed
spice rub
thyme sprigs
1 jar grilled artichokes, sliced
1 red onion, peeled and thickly sliced
2C arugula
5 oz. goat cheese

1/2C pitted kalamata olives
2 Tbsp. sherry wine vinegar
2 Tbsp. champagne vinegar
2 tsp. honey mustard
½ tsp. spice blend of choice
6 Tbsp. olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Shake all the vinaigrette ingredients in a jar and set aside.  Preheat oven to 400F.  Toss the potatoes with olive oil, salt and pepper, thyme sprigs and spice rub and roast until tender.

Place each ear of corn on a piece of foil, top with thyme sprigs and a drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper and grill about 15 minutes until tender.  Remove kernels.  Toss the onion slices with olive oil and grill along with the corn.  Toss the potatoes in a bowl with some of the vinaigrette while warm.  Add the remaining ingredients except goat cheese and toss again.  Sprinkle with goat cheese and toss lightly.
MAKES:  8 servings

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Sautéed pear salad with and farro
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
2 Tbsp. oil
4 ripe but firm Bosc pears, quartered, seed removed
salt and pepper to taste
spice rub of choice
2C wild arugula
1C kale, cabbage mixture
1/2C cooked farro
6 pieces prosciutto, cut in half
1/2C Parmesan cheese, shaved
1/2C toasted walnuts

2 Tbsp. pear or champagne vinegar
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
2 tsp. honey mustard
salt and pepper to taste
6 Tbsp. olive or walnut oil

Heat the butter and oil in sauté pan over medium heat.   Season pears with salt, pepper and spice rub and cook over medium-high heat, turning occasionally, until golden brown and starting to soften, about 5 – 7 minutes.  Transfer to a platter and let cool.

Shake vinaigrette ingredients together in a bowl.  Toss the pears with some of the vinaigrette.  Toss arugula, kale mixture, and farro together and divide among plates.  Place two prosciutto halves around the greens.  Top with pears and sprinkle with cheese and walnuts.
MAKES:  6 servings

Friday, April 3, 2020

Oman – January/February 2020 - Part 2
Taxi came in the morning to my hotel in Muscat and I arrived at the airport with plenty of time to spare.  Going through security was a breeze so I found a coffee shop and enjoyed my favorite chocolate chip muffin and coffee as I waited for the flight up to Khasab.  I stayed at the Khasab Hotel in town and they picked me up at the airport which was about 10 minutes away. 

Checked in to the hotel and then walked up to the Khasab Fort worked by the Portuguese in the seventeenth century.  The castle was first redesigned in 1990 and again in 2007.  There is an excellent museum in the circular tower with information on fishing boats, architecture, etc. and upstairs are apartments and kitchens with furnishings of how people lived.  In the courtyard are several interesting ships and a house of locks built by a master craftsman.  Well worth a couple hours!

Walked up to Lulu Hypermarket and sat outside by the water at a little restaurant inside.  Had a delicious shawarma with chicken while beautiful classical music played.  Leisurely walked back to the hotel.  There is really nothing else to see in town…Hotel dropped me off at Al Shamaliah where I fresh grilled fish, tabbouleh salad and bread which were all delicious.

The breakfast buffet was rather dismal but there was some delicious dates and honey to put on the toast.  Took a Dhow boat trip in the Musandam fjords for the day and it was fabulous.  There were only 6 of us on our wooden boat and we sailed through a variety of rock formations branching in and out of the ocean with stunning views and it was a really nice sunny day.  Stopped at Telegraph Island to swim which felt wonderful.  Water was warm and refreshing.  Stopped again at Seebi Island but only a few swam there.  Saw some dolphins off and on throughout the day, some running along the side of the boat.  They put out a really nice lunch with warm chicken, fish, rice, salad and tea and water were available all day.  It was a lovely day.  After a nice hot shower and a rest the hotel took me to Aroos Musandam Restaurant where I had the best menu in Khasab, i.e. chicken tikka with yogurt sauce and biryani rice followed by a glass of lightly sweetened mint tea.  Got a ride back to the hotel.

Walked up to Atana Musandam resort after breakfast, located in the northern tip of the Musandam penisular.  It is a beautiful hotel where many of the rooms have a view of the waterway.  I did not stay here but wandered around a bit and then had a delicious lunch outside on the patio at Al Mawra.  My crisp falafel sandwich was freshly made and their signature chocolate dessert was amazing!  It was a cup of chocolate/nut and cream custard topped with a wafer of chocolate and the server poured a rich chocolate sauce over the top, melting the wafer and pouring into the cream.  It was sooo good!  Walked back to the hotel where a guide picked me up at 2:30 p.m. for a tour of Khasab.  Drove the Khasab – Tibat road, a feat of engineering with spectacular views across the Straits of Hormuz.  Stopped at the Bukha fort which was interesting and then stopped at the UAE border.  Watched the sunset from the beach.  Had dinner at Wadi Qata which was rather disappointing, grilled fish, rice and tomato/cucumber salad.  There was no one else in the restaurant and it needed a lot of updating…

Got to the airport in plenty of time in the morning for my 12:30 p.m. Oman Air flight to Muscat and on to Salalah but the flight was delayed so much that when I arrived in Muscat I missed my connecting flight to Salalah.  I had booked my connection with Salem Air and they would not help me with another flight.  A lesson learned.  Had I booked both flights with Oman Air I would not have had to purchase another connecting flight.  However, even though there was no space on the 7:00 p.m. flight to Salalah the Oman Air manager made sure I was on that flight which I appreciated.    My airbnb host Mustafa met me at the airport and took me to the studio next to the Millenium Resort which worked out perfectly.  We walked over to the Resort and I talked with the manager about perhaps having breakfast there for the next five mornings I would be there and he worked out something fabulous for me.

In the morning I walked over to the resort and was offered one of the most wonderful buffets ever, pancakes, Arabian breads, fresh yogurt and fruit, eggs, honey, dates, cakes, etc. plus any type of coffee desired.  I sat outside by the pool every morning and started my day in heaven!!!

Took a taxi to the Frankincense Museum in the morning where I learned about the historic and maritime heritage of Salalah.  I particularly enjoyed the Maritime Hall which dealt with the skills of seafaring and housed several very interesting traditional vessels.  Took a walk around the Al Baleed Archaelogical Park and then went into town and wandered around the fish and vegetable market until meeting Mustafa who would be my guide for the next five days.  We had a very nice lunch at an Indian restaurant nearby, i.e. butter chicken and naan bread and then to the Sumhuram Archaeological Park where we wandered around the ruins.   Stopped at Wadi Darbat to see the waterfalls and took a nice walk.  Every evening we stopped at a beach so I had about an hour to walk alone and see the sunset on my return…We went to the old souq which was rather small but quite nice where I picked up a couple stuffed camels for my grandsons, not realizing until I got home that they were musical as well!!

We picked out some fresh fish and shrimp at the fish market and looked around the market as it was prepared for us.  Sat outside and thoroughly enjoyed the fresh flavor and spices of the fish.  Afterwards we stopped at a special konafa bakery where we shared this delicious dessert which I had had in Muscat as well.  We spent a great deal of time eating together which I thoroughly enjoyed!!

In the morning we drove to the eastern part of Salalah and visited Ayn Razat, the most important source of spring water in Dhofar.  The water flows 7 km to Al-Mamurah Palace, the sultan’s residence when in Salalah.  On to Ayn Athum, one of the most beautiful limestone waterfalls in Salalah.  To Mughsail Beach to see the blowhole but it was quite small. Stopped at a Turkish restaurant for lunch and sharad chicken kebabs and cheese bread, Turkish bread and pita bread!!!   Mustafa picked up an assortment of sweets and we stopped for coffee to enjoy them.  I walked for a bit on Mughsail Beach which was lovely.

We stopped at Souly Eco Lodge, a unique lodge constructed with natural and local materials like stones and recycled wood from the Salalah area.  The bungalows are near the ocean and it looked really nice.  Saw some frankincense trees, camels, irrigation systems, etc.  It was a lovely day.  Dinner at a Pakistani restaurant Al Ghad where we shared spicy butter chicken, kingfish, naan bread, an okra dish and ended with rice pudding and a coconut dessert.  Great food!!  Food in Oman has been really amazing.

Visited Mirbat Castle in the morning, a beautiful location on the beach.  The fort is nicely restored and provides good information about the 1972 Battle of Mirbat.  Stopped by the resort nearby, walked on the beach and then had a cheese “pie” for lunch as there were few restaurants around.  We stopped in Darbat and took a nice boat ride on Wadi Darbat.  Later that evening we went to a camel restaurant where we sat in our own little room on the floor and shared camel shwarma, tiny camel kebabs from young camels and slow cooked camel meat with yemen bread along with some hot tea.  Stopped at another café for kanafe but it was not quite as good as the first one…

Mustafa was busy the following day so his friend Jacob was my guide which turned out very well.  We talked about Oman and he shared some insight into how it is to live in Oman.  First stop was the Sultan Qaboos Mosque which towers over the city and is exquisitely beautiful.  Inside the crystal chandelier hangs from an intricately carved dome and a 20-ton handwoven carpet covers the floor.  On to Taqah Castle about 33 kilometers east of Salalah.  It was built in the 19th century and used to be a private residence for a tribal leader.  It became the property of the government in the first half of the 20th century and is now a museum.  The rooms of the castle are now used to display numerous exhibits such as weapons and cookware and showcases the old Omani way of life.  I really enjoyed this one.  On to Nabi Youns’ tomb also known as the tomb of Job set high in the lttin mountains and the beautiful area of Ayn Garziz..  There is his grave, his foot print, an old praying area and water spring.  Stopped at Nabi Umran’s tomb in the center of the city.  It is a very long and impressive tomb.

Jacob dropped me off at the mall so I could look around and have a coffee and cake at Costa Coffee for a change from all those heavy lunches!!!  Mustafa met me about 2:00 p.m. and we wandered around the vegetable and cheese section of the mall.
Wandered around the caves and springs of Ayn Razat and then took a walk on the beach near the Millenium and watched the sun set.  Dinner again at Al Ghad where we sat in a little room of our own and shared barbecued chicken, king fish, dal and garlic naan.  Also tried a couple of new desserts but they were very sweet.  My last dinner in Salalah!

Had a delicious breakfast at Millenium outside by the pool complete with espresso.  Mustafa met me about 10 a.m. and we went to the mall for our last “meal” together.  We shared a delicious flourless chocolate cake with a gooey inside topped with ice cream and complimented with another rich espresso at dip dip chocolate.  Really fun.  Took my last walk on the beach and then to the airport where I caught a flight back to Muscat.  

My host from the airbnb picked me up and later we went to dinner at Kargeen Café.  Kargeen is the old Omani word for a little wooden cottage and this modern restaurant combines old cosiness with a modern lounge experience.    Sat outside among the trees filled with dozens of lights and some of the cooking was going on outside as well.  The menu is filled with traditional Omani dishes but I decided just to have a meze platter, Arabian bread and some crisp Omani herb bread which was all delicious.

In the morning I walked along the corniche to the National Museum which contains 14 permanent galleries – The Land and the People, Splendors of Islam, Renaissance, etc.  A fabulous collection.  Walked back to the old souq where I caught a taxi to quram beach for a last walk around.  Had dinner at Beach Restaurant in the Chedi Hotel, a very opulent place!  I sat outside overlooking the Arabian Sea and had a very nice (but very expensive) dinner, i.e. mussels with coconut milk, grilled tuna with barcolli beans and my first and only glass of wine in Oman.   A warm chocolate cake to finish.  My host picked me up and drove me to the airport where I caught the 2:15 a.m. flight to Frankfurt, on to Houston and finally Orange County where a friend picked me up.  It was really an amazing trip and I would highly recommend Oman to everyone!

Friday, March 13, 2020

Oman – January/February 2020 – Part I
A few years ago while in Dubai I booked a trip to the Musandam peninsula in Oman, filled with fjords and beauty but the guide never arrived so it has been on my mind every since.  This year I decided to visit Oman and see those fjords for myself.  Some friends of mine did the trip on their own but mentioned it would have been a lot better with a guide.  This information I took to heart and decided to do some of the trip on my own and some with G Adventures.

Left SNA on January 27 and arrived in Muscat on January 29.  Many long flights and layouts but as I used my United miles the trip was essentially free!!  I booked an airbnb in Mutrah near the souq and my host picked my up at the airport.  The airbnb was about a 15 minute walk to the corniche, the fish market, etc. which was a really good location.  I walked to the fish market to see the fresh fish and vegetables and then into the souq selling Omani and Indian artefacts and one of the oldest marketplaces in Oman dating back two hundred years.  Climbed up to the Mutrah fort built by the Portuguese in the 1580s and then into the Ghalya’s Museum which I thoroughly enjoyed.  This delightful museum is a reconstruction of what an Omani house would have looked like between 1950 and 1975.  There were beautiful wooden doors crafted from East Africa and some lovely jewelry and garments used for weddings.

Walked back to the souq along the corniche and found a little café upstairs where I had a nice Greek salad out on the patio.  Later that evening I walked to Bait al Luban, a traditional Omani restaurant, near the fish market and had a delicious shuwa lamb dinner on the patio.

In the morning I had some baklava and coffee with my host and then we visited the Al Bustan palace, a beautiful hotel set along the beach.  Stopped to see sohar, a replica of the boat which sailed to Guanzhou in China.  She dropped me at Bait al Zubair, a fabulous museum in old Muscat where I spent a couple hours learning about the life of the Omani with displays of traditional handicrafts, traditional clothes, face masks, swords and a replica of a traditional Omani house.  Walked to the Sultan’s palace and then took a taxi to the “cave” area where there are a lot of restaurants and had a nice Greek salad outside on the top at a Lebanese restaurant.  Taxi back to the souq and then walked to the Al Riyam Park where I started a walk back to the souq but it seemed too dangerous so I gave it up…

Later that evening I had a wonderful Indian dinner at Mamtaz Mahal.  My tandoori roasted cauliflower and tikka masala chicken with garlic naan were very tasty and I enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere.

Worked something out with a friend of my host so didn’t have to rent a car.  He dropped me in the morning at Starbucks on Qurum Road near the beach and I had a “real” coffee and muffin.  There are no coffee shops in Mutrah and I had missed a cup of good coffee to start the day.  Wandered along the road to Qurum beach and found some cute little restaurants and shops.  Had a coffee and cake at Costa Coffee overlooking the sea and then walked to the Qurum Natural Park and enjoyed the beautiful waterfalls and paths filled with plants and flowers. 

Dinner at the Turkish House was really nice.  Decided to dine in the old part serving seafood and started with a meze platter filled with hummus, eggplant and Turkish bread followed by nicely grilled fish.

Another delicious coffee and muffin at Starbucks the next morning, before being dropped off at the Grand Mosque, a gift from Sultan Qaboos to mark his 30th year of reign.  He died this year and was much loved.  The mosque can accommodate 20,000 worshippers and the prayer carpet is a major feature of the design of the interior.  Also of note is the extraordinary chandelier above the praying hall.  While visiting the mosque was the only time I needed to wear a head scarf.

Got a ride up to the Al Ameen white marble mosque on the hill.  I was fortunate it was still open so I could see the hand carved works of art in stone inside in the form of Islamic patterns and calligraphy.  Breathtaking inside and out.  Caught another ride to the Royal Opera House and took a guided tour.  Considered one the most beautiful and technically advanced opera houses in the world, it was fascinating to see how many ways it could be transformed.  Because Sultan Qaboos was so musical no music or musical performances are allowed for 40 days in Oman out of respect for this great man…

In the afternoon, I walked along the Qurum Beach to Costa Coffee where I enjoyed a delicious coffee and cheesecake overlooking the sea.  Taxi back to Mutrah.  Got a ride to Shabestan, a Persian restaurant later that evening and had an excellent meal, i.e. side platter of arugula, feta, olives and bread, chicken kebabs marinated in lebnah, saffron and lemon and three rice.

Walked along the corniche almost to old Muscat and back in he morning and then was dropped off at my new hotel where the G Adventures trip would begin.  I had thought about renting a car and doing this part by myself but decided I would probably miss many things without a guide and a 4 wheel drive car.  Walked to the beach nearby and stopped at the W Hotel to see their lovely bar/tapas area called Living Room which was very ecletic.  On to Costa Coffee for a coffee and chocolate cheesecake, always  enjoying the view of the sea.  Our group meeting was at 6 p.m.  There will be 12 of us, some from Australia, England, Scotland, etc.  Our guide was from Oman.  Got a nice briefing of what’s to come and then I walked down to LoKanta where my former host works and she sat me at a lovely table upstairs.  It is an upscale Turkish restaurant and I enjoyed my meal, i.e. meze platter with hummus, eggplant, yogurt and cucumbers and roasted pepper dip with warm bread, grilled lamb kebabs with vegetables and a spectacular dessert called kunafe made with kadif and warm cheese drizzled with a light syrup.

Nice breakfast buffet in the morning and then to the Grand Mosque again, this time with a guide which made the visit more memorable.  Dropped by the souq in Mutrah where I had already been and then to the Museum in Old Muscat where I had also been but enjoyed seeing some of the exhibits again.  Lunch at Le Cave at a Turkish restaurant where we all shared a large meze platter, lamb and chicken kebabs, grilled fish, salad with feta cheese and cucumbers and a light mango custard for dessert.  On our own for the afternoon.  Took a walk to the beach as it is close by and made some flight reservations for my upcoming trip to Salalah.

In the evening I walked up to the Crown Plaza hotel on the hill and had a delicious tuna tartar outside on the patio overlooking the sea.  Unfortunately my chocolate dessert was terrible and I had to send it back but on my way out I was offered some nice Arabian desserts which I ate on my way back to the hotel…

In the morning we drove along the coast towards the picturesque Bimmah Sinkhole, a limestone “lake” of turquoise waters about 60 m deep, perfect for swimming.  Continued on to Sur, stopping along the way at a local restaurant where I had delicious grilled fish with naan bread and a simple salad.  Stopped at the Dhow Shipyards to see how craftsmen build dhows, the teak boats the traditional way, without plans.  Unfortunately now people prefer to build fiberglass boats because they are much cheaper to make and easier to maintain.  Drove along the corniche to our hotel.  Had a nice Omani date cake and ice cream with tea before leaving for Ras El Jinz about 8:30 p.m.to visit the turtle sanctuary.  As it was not the season to see the turtles it was a futile trip as there were none to see…

After breakfast on the patio, we drove in 4 wheel drive cars towards Wadi Bani Khalid, a rocky oasis nestled in the East Hajar mountains filled with natural pools.  There was a rather difficult walk to a low cave which was interesting to see if you had a flashlight.  I crawled in just far enough to see inside and it was worth the walk.  Stopped for a snack and then into the dunes where we climbed around and watched the sunset before settling into our desert lodge at Wahabi Sands.

Met in the lodge for a buffet dinner, i.e. chicken kebabs, rice, cucumber salad, breads, hummus and several cakes and Arabian desserts.

Pancakes and honey for breakfast with delicious dates served at every meal.  Leaving the desert behind, we headed towards Ibra and stopped to visit the Jabrin castle which dates back to about 600 years ago and has undergone an extensive renovation.  It is filled with history of how life was in Oman and there are many rooms inside all of which served a specific purpose, i.e. a special room where dates were crushed into liquid.   We spent about an hour enjoying all the lovely rooms.  Stopped at a little café for a falafel sandwich and then at the historic fortress of Bahla but didn’t go in unfortunately…  Saw some racing camels with remote controls which was very interesting.  Children used to ride them but now it is done by remote control!!!  Arrived in Nizwa about 5 p.m. and wandered through the old and new souqs, sampling dates and halvah.  We had time on our own so I visited the Nizwa Fort and Castle which was fabulous.  The castle part was filled with interesting exhibits about making indigo, how the palm trees are used, etc. housed in the beautiful rooms of the past.

Picked out a fresh fish for dinner at a little restaurant nearby and had it grilled along with a Greek salad.  Checked into our hotel, a bit far from town.

Early breakfast and then into Nizwa for the goat market which was great fun.  People were crowded around as goat sellers paraded their goats calling out the price until someone was interested.  Also stopped by the vegetable and fish markets and the weapons market where antique guns and knives were sold.  Stopped by LuLu Hypermarket to pick up a salad for lunch and then on to Al Hamra to visit the traditional mud houses of Misfat Al Abriyeen.  The village boasts amazing agricultural terraces, beautiful alleys and old houses built on top of solid rocks and learn about the Falaj network, Oman’s ancient water supply system.  Returned to Nizwa via Jebel Shams where we had a picnic overlooking Wadi Nakhr known as the Grand Canyon of Oman and then walked down into the “snake point” of the gorge which was a really nice walk. 

In the evening we all met in the lobby and drove to a nearby Turkish restaurant where we had a delicious dinner outside. I had chicken kebabs with yogurt sauce and Arabian bread and part of a spinach and cheese filled Turkish pizza which was really nice.

After breakfast in the morning, we drove through Wadi Bani Awf which offers some of the best off-road driving with beautiful scenery and stunning cliffs and canyons throughout.  Took a nice walk along the creek and continued to Snake Canyon where we picked up ice cream to hold us over until our late lunch.  Stopped at a really nice Turkish restaurant where we shared a kebab platter, meze of spreads, selection of breads and salads.  It was really delicious.  Arrived back in Muscat and had a few hours to take a walk along the beach. 

Later I walked down to Lokante where my friend works and had kanafe, the delicious dessert I had last time I was there and a cup of hot tea.  In the morning I fly to Khasab and finish the remainder of my time in Oman on my own which I am truly looking forward to!!!

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Couscous crusted salmon
1C boiling chicken stock or water
1C instant couscous
6 Kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
2 Tbsp. Italian parsley leaves, chopped
salt and pepper

Six 4 – 5 oz. center cut salmon filets
1 tsp. spice rub of choice
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
2 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2C fruity Pinot Noir
2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp. Italian parsley leaves, chopped
½ - 3/4 stick soft butter

Preheat oven to 500F.  In a small bowl, pour the boiling stock over the couscous, cover with a plate and let stand until the water has absorbed – about 20 minutes.  Stir in the olives, Italian parsley, salt and pepper to taste.  Place the salmon filets, skin side down on a lightly oiled cookie sheet and season with spice rub, salt and pepper.  Carefully mound the couscous on the filets, pressing lightly to help it adhere.  Bake the salmon in the upper third of the oven for about 10 minutes, or until the topping is crisp and the salmon is cooked through.

For the sauce:  Heat the butter in a sauté pan, add the shallots.  Sauté a few minutes.  Add the Pinot Noir and vinegar and boil over moderately high heat until the liquid is reduced to ¼ cup. Remove from the heat and add the Italian parsley and butter.  Shake to thicken.   Season with salt and pepper
MAKES:   6 servings