Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Bittersweet Chocolate Almond Torte 

for the torte

1/3C water

1/2C sugar

1 stick unsalted butter, cubed

12 oz. bittersweet chocolate, cut in pieces

1 tsp. instant espresso powder

¼ tsp. salt

1/3C almond liqueur or cold brewed coffee

2 tsp. almond extract

6 eggs


for the ganache

1/2C cream

4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, cut in pieces

1/2C sliced almond, toasted

1/2C cream, beaten with sugar and vanilla to taste

Preheat oven to 325F.  Butter a 9 x 2-inch round cake pan, line with parchment and butter again.  Bring water and sugar to a boil; remove from heat.  Add the butter, 12 oz. chocolate, espresso powder and slat and let sit a few minutes.  Stir until smooth.  Add the liqueur and almond extract.

Whisk eggs until thick.  Add the chocolate mixture and fold in gently.  Pour batter into prepared cake pan and place cake pan inside a roasting pan.  Add warm water to roasting pan halfway up the outside of the cake pan.  Bake until puffed and soft to the touch, 40 – 45 minutes.  Remove roasting pan from oven, then remove cake pan to a cooling rack.  Let cool one hour.

Run a knife around inside of the cake pan; invert onto a platter.  Peel off the parchment; cool completely.

Before serving, heat the cream for the ganache, add the chocolate and let sit a few minutes.  Stir until smooth.  Let cool slightly.  Spread over the top and down the sides of the torte.  Sprinkle top with toasted almonds.  Serve with whipped cream.

MAKES:  8 – 12 servings


Saturday, October 10, 2020

Grilled Eggplant Rolls w/red pepper vinaigrette 

8 Japanese eggplant slices, cut 1/4-inch thick, broiled

    or grilled 3 minutes per side

3 Tbsp. pitted Kalamata olives, chopped

3 Tbsp. chopped fresh herbs

1/2C goat cheese

2 Tbsp. toasted pine nuts

Freshly ground pepper

red pepper dipping sauce

6 Tbsp. olive oil (3 Tbsp., 3 Tbsp.)

2 red bell peppers, cored, seeded and sliced

1 red jalapeno pepper, seeded and sliced

1 tsp. minced garlic

1/4C red wine vinegar

2 Tbsp. lemon juice

salt and freshly ground pepper

For the rolls:  Combine the olives, herbs, goat cheese, pine nuts and pepper in a bowl.  Spread one heaping tablespoon on each slice and roll up – if too large cut in half after spreading the cheese mixture and make two rolls.

For the dipping sauce:  Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a sauté pan.  Add the pepper and garlic and cook until tender.  Add the remaining oil, vinegar and lemon juice and cook for one minute.  Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.  Puree in a food processor and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Place in a small bowl.

Serve the rolls on a platter with dipping sauce in the center.

MAKES:  6 – 8 servings



Sunday, September 13, 2020

Northern California – August/September 2020 

I decided to take a road trip up into the redwoods to see how easy it would be.  My friend drove me to the SNA airport where there were very few people and I got there with enough time to enjoy a coffee sitting alone at one of the tables spread around the airport.  Flight was full, center seats unused and everyone wearing masks for the short 1 hour 15 minute flight to OAK.  Took the Bart into the city which was the only public transport I used.

I booked a stay at the Hilton (got a good price through booking.com) with a private bathroom as I wanted to stay somewhere well known and in the union square area.  Walked over to the Embarcadero and up to Fisherman’s Wharf, stopping for grilled octopus at Coqueta on Pier 5 known for its tapas.  Weather was rather cold and a bit windy which made mandatory outside dining a bit tough…Regrouped at the hotel to get warm and then walked to Waterbar on the Embarcadero and had a wonderful dinner outside overlooking the Bay Bridge, lit up so beautifully at night.  Enjoyed grilled figs with goat cheese and peach puree, tuna tartar with rice crackers and a luscious sticky toffee pudding with whipped cream.

In the morning I walked to the ferry building and picked up a cinnamon roll from Acme bakery and some coffee and sat outside on the one of the large benches by myself overlooking the Bay Bridge.  Took a walk before picking up my rental car at Enterprise nearby.  So far so good!!

Because of the wild fires I was not sure if some of the roads heading north would be closed so I drove Highway 1 to Bodega Bay, stopped at the Fisherman’s Café for some grilled fish tacos, sitting outside by myself and then on to Gualala where I stayed at St. Orres in a creekside cabin for a couple nights.  As it was so cold the restaurant was only doing take out that night, so I ordered an appetizer portion of the mushroom raviolis with spinach (which I have had before and they are to die for!) and a slice of ginger cake with custard sauce and whipped cream – both excellent.  Sat in my cabin at a little table overlooking the meadow and made some hot tea to go with my nice meal.

In the morning, I picked up some complimentary fruit in the kitchen and then drove down to 2 Fish Bakery in Stewart’s Point for coffee and a pecan sticky bun.  Sat outside by myself at one of the benches and enjoyed my little breakfast.  It is a great bakery and I always go there for breakfast.  St. Orres does a breakfast bento box which they leave on your porch but I much prefer the pastries and ambiance of 2 Fish…


Headed North and stopped at Manchester Beach for a leisurely walk and then to Philo for a delicious lunch at the Bewildered Pig, an adorable café that has gotten excellent reviews.  Weather was warm and sitting outside was not problem.  Tables were 6 feet apart, covid rules in place and the restaurant was fully booked…Had a Nicoise Salad with freshly grilled tuna, green beans, tapenade, etc. and a lemon tart with meringue on top for dessert.  Drove back to Gualala and had some tea and a linzer cookie (picked up from 2 Fish that morning) for “dinner” as my lunch was quite filling.  Was able to turn on the heat in my cabin as it was pretty c o l d!!

Another delicious coffee, cinnamon roll (only made on the weekends!) and fruit from St. Orres in the morning at 2 Fish.  Such a great way to start the day.  Stopped in Point Arena at Fanny Café as I had heard it was fabulous and the baker had worked at Chez Panisse.  Picked up a salted pecan brownie for later.  Walked Manchester beach again and then drove to Mendocino where I had lunch at Café Trillium outside on the patio.  A nice warm day so it was delightful.  Had grilled fish tacos with cabbage slaw and warm peach/blackberry pie with ice cream.  There were a lot of people in town so I was careful as I wandered the streets a bit. 

Arrived in Phillipsville about 5:30 p.m. I had booked a little room (with private bathroom) through airbnb and picked up the key at a market nearby.  It was small, nice and clean and perfect as it was situated right on the Avenue of the Giants.  Made some hot tea later and enjoyed my yummy brownie for “dinner”.

Sunday all the coffee places were closed except for Daily Grind in Myers Flats which had terrible pastries but very good coffee.  Stopped by the visitor’s center and got a map and some great information on what to see.  Decided to spend the day along the Avenue of the giants where all the redwoods are.  It is only about 30 miles in length but filled with so much natural beauty.  First stop was the Women’s Grove, on to the Founder’s Grove where the Dyerville Giant (375 foot fallen tree) is located, to the Rockefeller Forest where I spent a couple hours taking a few different trails through the trees and finally up to Pepperwood to walk the Drury Churny loop trail.  Had another linzer cookie from 2 Fish Bakery and had my “lunch” before walking the trail which took about an hour and was very beautiful. 

Returned to my room for a shower and change of clothes and later drove to Benbow Historical Inn nearby for dinner on the patio overlooking the creek.  Treated myself to a class of wine and had a white melon salad with goat cheese and pea shoots, rock fish ceviche with jalapenos and tortilla chips and a tiny chocolate mousse in a very large glass with fresh raspberries.  Tables at least 6 feet apart and servers wore high tech masks as they took your order and served the food.  Nice…

Drove to Garberville in the morning for a freshly baked blueberry scone and coffee at Flavors.  Walked the Drury Churny trail again but more leisurely this time.  Stopped in Trinidad for lunch.  Was planning to eat at Seascape on the pier but it was cold and windy so I went to the Lighthouse Restaurant which was my second choice for take away.  Ordered blackened rockfish served over organic greens and a cup of tea and sat behind a tree nearby out of the wind.  Returned for a chocolate waffle cone which I ate in another secluded spot.  They are “famous” for their ice cream and it was very good.

Stopped at Patrick’s State Park and walked the rim trail, stopping at the viewpoints, i.e. Patrick’s Point, rocky point, etc. along the way; however, I missed the wedding rock as I ran out of time.  Plan to return on my way back.  It was a lovely park and a nice warm day to be walking.  Very few people on the trail and considerate as well, staying a safe distance away…

Drove to Crescent city and found my airbnb easily, a spacious room with private entrance and private bathroom about 10 minutes from town.  Hosts were very nice and suggested I hurry into town as the restaurants closed early.  They recommended Fisherman’s at the harbor so I drove over there immediately.  They had just started a “dine in” so I was able to sit inside which was great as it was cold and windy there as well.  Ordered a cup of clam chowder which came piping hot and delicious and finished with hot tea and chocolate pie, also delicious!  They closed promptly at 8 p.m. so I was lucky to get there with only a little time to spare…

Stopped by Java Hut in the morning, but all the coffee places are drive through so ended up at Sally’s by the Sea as their pastries are supposed to be fabulous!!!  Got a cinnamon roll (hot from the oven) and a red eye and sat in my car and enjoyed my breakfast…There were no tables outside and it was rather cold anyway so this worked for me.  Drove to Jedediah  Smith Redwoods State Park to see the Stout Grove but it was a 4 mile walk in so I just took an hour hike among the tallest trees in the world then headed down to Prairie Creek State Park driving the Newton B. Drury Scenic route.  First stop was prairie creek where I hiked around for a bit and then to the Big tree, 286 feet high and estimated to be 1500 years old and finally to the visitors center where I got some information on fern canyon.

Sat at a little table and had my last 2 fish linzer cookie before driving towards fern canyon.  Parked about a mile from the trail as there was a rather deep creek I would have had to cross in my tiny Chevrolet and I didn’t want to get stuck!!  Once I got there the hike was gorgeous, over board walk covered creeks, along trees, etc. to a wall of ferns.  It was well worth the walk in.  A really nice lady stopped for me on my way back and gave me a lift (a bottle of water and some chips!!!) back to my car.  Really nice.

Returned to my room, showered and changed into something nice.  Drove to Brookings, Oregon about a half hour away and had a “dine in” dinner at the Black Trumpet which was really easy to find.  Started with a yellow and red beet salad with goat cheese, arugula and candied nuts, spicy shrimp to follow with a nice glass of wine.  Finished with a slice of very rich 5 layer chocolate cake.  All excellent and it was nice to be inside as well. 

Stopped by Sally’s again in the morning for a warm cinnamon roll and coffee and sat in my car as before then drove to Patrick’s State Park again to see the things I had missed.  Took the rim trail again and turned off at the Ceremonial rock sign and followed the trail to the ancient rock which rises 107 feet above the meadows with a great view of the ocean.  Steep staircase so had to be careful but it was lovely at the top.  Next stop was the Wedding Rock, a massive boulder, also a bit hard to climb, with great views.  From there you could go down to the tide pools but I didn’t…

Stopped in Garberville at Flavors for a cream cheese brownie, hot tea and a cup of fresh fruit before heading to Mendocino where I stayed at the Trillium Lodge where the café is located.  It was closed the night I was there…

Wandered around the city a bit before heading south to Little River and dinner on the patio at Wild Fish, my best meal of the trip!  Weather was nice so it very pleasant sitting outside near the ocean.  Ordered the endive salad with nectarines, frisee and pumpkin seeds topped with a crispy skin blackened salmon which was perfectly cooked.  Had a glass of wine and finished with a warm sticky toffee pudding.  It was delightful.  They have another location in Pacific Grove which I plan to try next time I am there. 

Walked to the Good Life Café for coffee and a pumpkin muffin in the morning with seating outside on the patio and took a nice walk along the cliffs in the state park.  Called the fire department to make sure the road to Calistoga was open and then drove to Solbar in the Solage Resort.  It was a beautiful day to sit outside by the pool.  Ordered the rock fish tacos with cabbage and tomatillo salsa and ended with butterscotch pudding with caramel beads.  Stopped to see my brother in Napa and then checked into the Cedar Gables Inn where I stayed the night.  Wandered to the Oxbow Market and down Main Street to see what the city was like now.  Had planned to dine at Torc but ended up at Grace’s Coastal Kitchen instead… Had a piece of their famous cornbread, a Nicoise Salad with freshly grilled ahi tuna and a slice of delicious chocolate layer cake.  My Inn was close by so I walked back.

Stopped by the Monday Bakery on Second Street in the morning and picked up a pecan sticky bun that looked really good.  Also stopped by the Paris Bakery nearby on Brown Street where the pastries looked amazing but there was nowhere to sit…Ended up at the Oxbow market, picking up coffee at the Model Bakery and sitting at one of the many benches by myself, leisurely enjoying the coffee and sticky bun (both excellent). 

Drove across the Bay Bridge to San Francisco and returned the car.  Walked up to the Chancelor Hotel on Powell Street which is very nice and centrally located.  Wandered over to Waterbar on the Embarcadero for lunch outside overlooking the bay bridge.  This time it was warm and sunny and my tuna tartar with rice crackers and sticky toffee pudding with whipped cream were just as good as when I had had them for dinner a week ago!

Wandered south along the Embarcadero to Orchard park where the Giants were playing (without fans) and then sat outside behind the ferry building and read my book for a bit…Later I walked to Chambers Eat + Drink for dinner outside under some heat lamps as it was a bit chilly.  Had grilled salmon with succotash and corn puree followed by a flourless chocolate cake with hazelnut cream.  It was quite nice.

In the morning I stopped at the ferry building for a cinnamon roll at Acme and some delicious coffee at an organic little tent.  Saturday market was going strong with vendors selling fruits and vegetables, food stands selling breakfast combos, etc.  I was amazed at all the people.  I found a bench and enjoyed the vibes.  Took a nice walk, checked out and took the Bart to the airport.  Don’t know where my mind was but I ended up at the San Francisco Airport and was leaving from the Oakland Airport!! With a great deal of stress I hopped back on the Bart to the Colosseum and then the Bart bus to the airport.  Luckily I had no bags to check and with TSA approval I made it with about 5 minutes to spare!  Had a great time!


Monday, September 7, 2020

Chicken Rolls with prosciutto and goat cheese

6 thin slices chicken breasts, pounded slightly if necessary 

6 thin slices prosciutto

5 - 6 oz. goat cheese, room temperature

salt and pepper to taste

2 tsp. spice rub of choice 

2 Tbsp. olive oil


Preheat oven to 375F.  Place chicken on parchment, sprinkle both sides with spice rub, salt and pepper to taste.  Lay a slice of prosciutto on each breast and spread each with some of the goat cheese.  Roll up like jelly rolls.

Heat olive oil in a sauté pan and sear the rolls, seam side down until golden on all sides.  Place in an ovenproof dish and bake about 12 minutes, turning once, until the chicken is cooked through.  Serve with roasted onion vinaigrette.

roasted onion vinaigrette 

small red onion, cut in half crosswise

3/4C olive oil

3 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar

2 Tbsp. chopped fresh chives

salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350F.  Place the onion and olive oil in a small ovenproof dish and cover tightly.  Bake for 30 – 40 minutes, or until the onion is soft.  Let the onion cool in the olive oil, and then remove the onion, reserving the oil.  Julienne the onion and place in a medium bowl.  Add the balsamic vinegar and slowly whisk in the reserved olive oil.  Add the chives and season with salt and pepper to taste.

MAKES:  6 servings


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