Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Smoked Salmon Rolls

4 oz. wild smoked salmon
2/3C mascarpone cheese or cream cheese, room temperature
2 Tbsp. fresh dill
2 Tbsp. capers, rinsed, dried (optional)
salt and freshly ground pepper
round crackers of choice

Whip the cheese with the dill, salt and pepper to taste.  If desired fold in the capers.

Place two 10-inch pieces of plastic wrap on the counter and top each with 4 slices of smoked salmon overlapping to form 3 x 8 inch rectangles.  Spread half of the cheese mixture on each to completely cover the salmon.  Roll up tightly from the long side into a tight jelly roll using the plastic wrap.  Wrap in foil and chill at least 3 hours.

Slice each into 8 pieces and press gently on the cut sides to widen the round.  Place on crackers of serve.
MAKES:  6 servings

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Mini Chicken Alfredo

24 dry jumbo pasta shells
olive oil
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast halves or tenders
2 tsp. spice rub of choice
freshly ground pepper to taste
4 slices prosciutto, chopped
2 Tbsp. basil leaves, thinly sliced
1-1/2C heavy cream
1-1/2C grated Parmesan cheese
freshly ground pepper to taste
1/4C fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced

Cook the shells in boiling, salted water until al dente, 12 – 15 minutes, drain and set aside.

Preheat oven to 400F.  Toss the chicken with olive oil, spice rub and freshly ground pepper and roast until tender – about 15 minutes.  Cool and shred.  Place in a bowl with prosciutto and 2 tablespoons basil.

Boil the cream until thickened – about 5 minutes.  Off the heat, add one cup cheese, 1/4C basil leaves and freshly ground pepper.  Pour over the chicken mixture and stir to combine.  Fill shells with chicken mixture.  Preheat broiler with rack 5 inches from element.

Rub a 24-cup mini muffin tin with olive oil and fill each cup with a shell.  Sprinkle shells with remaining cheese and broil until sauce bubbles and Parmesan turns golden – about 3 minutes.  Serve hot.
MAKES:  24 shells

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

France, 2011

October is a bit late to be going to Europe as it is rather cold but rates are low and few people are about!!  I chose the Jeanne d’arc hotel (  in the Marais area for my initial stay.  My first morning I visited Victor Hugo’s house nearby and afterwards had a standing room only lunch at l’avant-comptoir near the metro stop Odeon which was delicious.  It is a tiny little place with the “menu” items hanging from the ceiling.  My afternoon was spent at the Arts Decoratifs Museum (  on the rue rivoli with its exhibits of period furniture, objets d’art, tapestries, etc.  Dinner that night at Spring ( , a restaurant run by chef Daniel Rose from Spring in Chicago.  If you want to eat here you need to plan two months ahead!!  My prix fixe dinner of eggplant caviar, warm octopus salad, fish stuffed with foie gras, pigeon with a rich glaze and pear clafouti was quite nice. 

The next morning I took the RER to Fontainebleau Castle 55 km away and it was enchanting.  Constructed in the 12th century it was used by many kings.  In the 18th century Napoleon Bonaparte began to transform it into a symbol of grandeur after it had fallen into disrepair.   In the evening I dined at my favorite restaurant Le Salon d’Helene (  The prix fixe menu of little exquisite small plates was  absolutely delicious.  A few of the wonderful dishes were foie gras with fig confiture, eggplant ravioli with cepes, fish with leeks and caviar, squid with black rice and praline mousse with hazelnuts.

The following morning after a walk to the Arc du Triomphe and a wander down the Champs Elysees, I picked up my rental car and headed into Normandy.  I had purchased a TomTom GPS with a European map before I left the U.S. and it worked perfectly throughout my trip.  My first stop was Les Andelys (  where I climbed to up to Chateau Gaillard, a fortress designed and built by Richard the Lionheart and now an interesting collection of ruins.  On to Lyons La Foret, a charming little town with Normandy style half-timbered houses.  I stopped at a little café overlooking the square for a creamy lemon tart and café before visiting  the L’Abbaye de Mortemer, a former Cistercian monastery.  The ruins are interesting but amidst the grounds are 13 larger than life size unique wooden carvings of the kings and queens of France – very impressive.  Rouen was my final destination that day and my Hotel de la Cathedrale ( was right around the corner from the famous cathedral and a perfect choice.  Originally built as a Roman Catholic Gothic Cathedral it was added to in the Renaissance style.  The famous impressionist painter Claude Monet painted a large series of paintings of this cathedral during his lifetime.  Dinner at the two star Gill ( was salmon mousse in little porcelain spoons, scallops with mushrooms and butternut squash puree, chicken with truffle sauce, local cheeses and a medley of chocolate desserts.  After a lovely buffet breakfast I drove to the Abbaye de Jumieges founded in 654 and at one time numbered nearly a thousand monks.  The French Revolution ended its existence leaving only the impressive ruins to wander in.  On up through Fecamp to Etretat, where I hiked along its famous white cliffs to the Falaise d’Aval – a large arch.  After a warm sugar filled crepe I headed for Honfleur, an adorable port city where I stayed at L’Ex-Voto, a friendly little bed and breakfast inn.  After strolling along the little narrow streets, past the impressive cathedral and down around the port I had dinner at Le Breard ( which was outstanding.  The chef had spent time in Japan and it showed in many of the dishes from the appetizer sushi roll of salmon to the tuna three ways (tempura, rare with a wasabi sauce and grilled with soy dipping sauce) to the rare magret of duck with a maki of vegetables wrapped in nori!!  One of the chocolate desserts was tempura filled with melted chocolate.  It was one of the best meals I had on my trip.

After a warm crisp croissant and café I drove to Trouville and its twin city Deauville, both beautiful resort cities and then on to Houlgate with its quaint little houses.  I visited the Abbaye des hommes in Caen, a former abbey church finally donated by William the Conqueror inside which he is buried.  I drove on to Bayeux as I wanted to visit the tapestry before the museum closed for the day.  I first checked into the elegant Tardif Hotel ( nearby and spent a couple hours viewing the famous tapestry.  The embroidered cloth is nearly 230 feet long and depicts the events leading up the Norman Conquest of England.  There is also a museum upstairs which explains in more detail how it was made.  That evening I looked into the cathedral and then walked around the little streets and shops until I arrived at the quaint little restaurant La rapiere ( for dinner.  It was filled with people from everywhere and the food was excellent.  I chose foie gras de canard served with chutney and apple cakes, duck with pommes anna and roasted cauliflower, local cheeses and a crisp apple tart with cinnamon ice cream – really delicious!

After a  truly gourmet breakfast of local cheeses, cured ham slices, croissants, breads, homemade jams, fruits and rich café, I tried to visit the Belleroy Castle nearby but it was closed when I arrived.   Instead, I stopped in St. Lo, and walked around the remains of its medieval walls and into the partially restored Notre Dame Church before heading to Coutance famous for its many cathedrals.  Granville, the last city to visit that day, was charming.  The old part of the city is up on a hill and you walk through an ancient drawbridge to access it.  On to Hambye where I stayed at Auberge de l’Abbaye ( in the countryside a few hundred metres from hambye abbey which was closed when I arrived.  I drove 5 miles into Villedieu les Poeles for dinner as, unfortunately, the highly acclaimed restaurant at the auberge was closed on the night I was there.  In this cute little town famous for its copper pots I had a delicious entrecote du boeuf with béarnaise sauce (who makes that anymore!!!???) at Le Fruitier, a rather gaudy restaurant decorated in pinks and reds and my chocolate dessert oozing melted chocolate was also excellent.  

After breakfast alone in the dining room (since this was the off season I was often the only person staying at many of the inns I booked), I headed back into town where there was a cute little farmer’s market near the cathedral.  After a quick look around I drove on to Mont St. Michel.  Coming upon Mont St. Michel, a rocky tidal island, is breathtaking.   The Benedictines settled in the abbey in the 10th century and the island was an impregnable stronghold during the hundred years’ war, its ramparts and fortifications resisting all English assaults.  During the revolution, following the dissolution of the religious community, the abbey was used as a prison.  It is now listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.    I stayed at Hotel du Guesclin ( and had lunch at La Mere Poulard
(www.  The restaurant dates back to 1879 and is most famous for its grand omelettes several inches thick and cooked over the open fire – buttery, crisp and delicious.  After lunch I took a guided tour of the abbey and then spent about 2 hours watching the tides slowly come in as the sun set covering the land around the island.  A peaceful (since most people had left the island) dinner at Auberge de St. Pierre (www.auberge-saint-pierre) of foie gras de canard with fig jam and warm toast, rack of lamb with ratatouillle and tarte normande with caramel sauce. 

The next morning I drove to Dinan, a small medieval town with cobblestone streets and half timbered houses; to Saint Malo, a walled port city in Brittany in the English Channel; and ended up in Paimpol, a tiny port city.  I stayed at Pondevann ( , a delightful inn set in the countryside near a gorgeous lake.  I drove into Paimpol that evening for a fresh fish dinner outside overlooking the port.  In the morning, I was heading up to Perros Guirec and the cliffs of red granite when I had a flat tire.  I stopped at a little tabac shop to call Europcar and within an hour they had replaced my tire and I was off again.  I drove on up to Ploumanach and found the path leading to the pink granite rocks along the sea wall and up to the lighthouse – gorgeous.  From there I drove across the Quimper on the coast where I spent the night at the Manoir de Lanroz (  surrounded by lakes and countryside.  It was the best place I stayed during my entire trip.  Genevieve and Erik, the owners, were friendly and delightful and suggested I have dinner in Quimper at Ambroisie ( which I did and it was outstanding.  A tiny glass of gazpacho, a little spoon filled with crab to start followed by foie gras with roast apples, fish with artichokes and tomatoes, pigeon with phyllo stuffed mushrooms, cheeses and “baked Alaska” on a pool of chocolate sauce – divine.  The owners were waiting up for me to see how I liked it as they had never been!!!

Breakfast the next morning in the elegant dining room with the fire blazing and classical music playing was wonderful.  There was an apple cobbler and well as the usual croissants, homemade jams and fruit and the ambiance was unique and restful – I didn’t want to leave.  On my way into Quimper I stopped by the famous ceramic factory but it was closed until 2 p.m. so instead I visited the ceramic shop in town to get a feel for its famous porcelain and wandered the town a bit. 

As suggested by my hosts, I stopped in the medieval town of Locarn for a quick look around and then to Pont Aven,  a lovely little city where the Gauguin lived and painted.  I visited the Bois d’Amour which he loved and later sat by the quai and had a Crepe Bretonne – crisp with sugar before driving to Carnac, the site of more than 3,000 prehistoric standing stones.  These were erected during the Neolithic period (from around 4500 BC until 2000 BC) and easily accessible.  On to Rochefort en terre
before it got dark where I stayed the night at Le Pelican ( in the center of town.  The hotel is also known for its restaurant and dinner that night was delicious:  terrine of quail/fois gras/mushrooms, roast fish with sun-dried tomatoes and chocolate covered caramel mousse.

After breakfast in the morning, I drove to the large city of Rennes, visited the old part of town, the famous cathedral and found an enormous farmer’s market on my way back to the “parking”.  It started with fresh flowers and continued with fruits and vegetables, fish and ended in a hall filled with local cheeses, pastries and bread – what fun!!!  I drove on to the historical medieval castle of Fougeres surrounded by a moot and used as a stronghold and then to Vitre Castle nearby, considered one of the most beautiful fortresses in Brittany and also a personal residence.  I decided not to go inside Fougeres but held out for Vitre and was not disappointed – even the little city was delightful.  That evening I stayed at Hotel Ricordeau in Loue and dined in their elegant restaurant acclaimed for its cuisine.  I had squash soup following by scallops with Brussels sprouts leaves on celery root puree, fish with fennel puree, fennel jam and creamy risotto, local cheeses with arugula salad and chocolate tart with caramelized bananas.

Into the Loire Valley – first stop Saumur Castle constructed in the 10th century and recently restored. This lovely old castle has a dungeon and watchtower and houses a unusual museum of the horse.  The nearby L’Abbaye de Fontevrand founded in 1100 was majestic and extremely interesting to visit.  It became a double monastery with both monks and nuns on the site and it is easy to imagine them wandering the lovely gardens.   The Chateau d’Usse was one of the loveliest castles I visited and was the inspiration for Charles Perrault’s “sleeping beauty”.  That evening I stayed near Azay-Le-Rideau at Pom’Poire ( , a charming inn overlooking some lovely gardens.  As the restaurant was closed I went into town and found a little French bistro filled with people and enjoyed ripe melon slices with local cured ham and a delicious pave du boeuf with cheese sauce.  In the morning after another wonderful breakfast alone in the dining room of croissants, pain au chocolat, home jams, fresh fruit, cider and strong French café, I visited the Chateau d’Azay-Le-Rideau, a splendid fortified castle built on an island in the Indre River.  After stopping to see Alexander Calder’s mobile in Sache, I arrived at the Castle of Villandry and its famous gardens.   The kitchen gardens are planted in a rotation of more than 40 types of vegetables arranged with regard to color, form, etc.  A fascinating experience.

I took the long picturesque road to Sully sur Loire, passing many lovely castles along the way. I spent the night at La Closeraie (  with its delightful staff and had a delicious dinner (fish filet with crisp skin and vanilla crème brulee) at the charming Cotes et Jardins ( nearby.   That night I slept extremely well in my cosy little room after a nice hot bath…  In the morning, I visited Chateau Sully Sur Loire, an idyllic little castle surrounded by a moot containing numerous tapestries.  and period furniture.   With good luck, I arrived at the L’Abbaye de Saint-Benoit-du-lac (  at 12:00 p.m. just in time for the Gregorian chant service  which was awesome!  The Abbaye is beautiful and 50 monks live inside in silence.  I stopped by Briare to see the famous aqueduct designed in part by Gustave Eiffel beween 1896 – 2003 which was unique and ornamental.   My last stop of the day was Gien to visit the porcelaine museum and to purchase a plate or two.   It started to rain so I was happy to finally reach Les Conviv’hotes ( , a charming bed and breakfast in the old part of town of Chartres.  I parked my car in the locked garage and walked to Le Grand Monarque ( where I had an elegant dinner composed of a tiny glass of gazpacho, zucchini “pasta” stuffed with crab, carpaccio of fish with tiny cauliflower forets, foie gras with mushrooms, langoustine tails with caviar, fish with bread crumb crust, roasted pepper dice and baby spinach, duck with pistachio crust, local cheeses, chocolate decadence and petits fours.  Carefully following my map and asking a person or two along the way, I found my way back to the hotel.  In the morning after a wonderful breakfast of homemade bread, jams, fruit and croissants, I walked to the enormous Chartres Cathedral built in the 12th century.  The majority of the original stained glass windows survive intact and the exterior is dominated by very impressive heavy flying buttresses.  I left town about 9:00 a.m. and returned the car in Paris

This time I stayed two nights at the Studio La Garconniere (  in the Marais area, a very small but cute little room with hot shower and stove.  Lunch late that day at Les Fables de la Fontaine ( was absolutely delicious!!!  The daurade (fish) was served with a butternut squash sauce and risotto and dessert was a crisp little cake surrounded by poached fresh figs.  I took the metro to La Musee de la Musique ( to see the Paul Klee Polyphonies exhibit but didn’t quite “get” the it so was given a free ticket to return the next day.  I leisurely walked back to the studio and later that night sat at the counter in Les Fines Gueules (  and enjoyed my warm chocolate cake before calling it a day.

My last day in Paris was a full one.  I spent the morning at the La Musee National de Ceramique-Sevres which contains collections of earthenware, faience, porcelain and pottery from around the world.  Lunch at les papilles (  was a delicious rack of lamb with winter vegetables and rice pudding for dessert.  In the afternoon after a quick walk in the Luxembourg Gardens nearby I went back to the La Musee de la Musique and am so glad I did!!!  The permanent collection is 5 floors of instruments from all over the world.  There is also a free audio guide so you can listen to the sound of any instrument that has a number as well as watch videos showing people playing their native instruments in their native countries – it was one of the best museums I have ever been to!!!

Dinner at L’Ardoise was a nice ending to a great trip and my 3 course menu of mushroom and foie gras ravioli/bass with caramelized leeks and crisp onions/chocolate tart with Crème Chantilly was just as delicious as the dinner I had here last year.
C’etait un Bon Voyage!!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Ethiopian Teff Tart

For the crust
1C teff grains
1C unbleached all purpose flour
¼ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. sugar
1-1/2 sticks cold, unsalted butter, cut into cubes
3 – 4 Tbsp. cold water

For the filling
2 medium sweet potatoes, poked with a fork, placed on a piece of foil and baked in a
  375F oven until soft
2 medium red onions, peeled and cut into ¼-inch slices
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
4 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1 5 oz. bag baby spinach
8 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
pinch red pepper flakes
2 large eggs, beaten
salt and freshly ground pepper
2 red peppers, roasted, peeled, sliced

Place the teff, flour, salt and sugar in a food processor and processor 2 – 3 minutes to grind the grains.  Pulse in the butter and add just enough water to form a dough.   Form the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and chill 30 minutes.  Roll out into 14 inch circle and unroll into an 11-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom.  Press the dough into the sides of the pan and roll the pin over the top of the pan to remove excess dough.  Chill the tart for 30 minutes.  Preheat oven to 375F.  Line the tart with foil and dried beans or pie weights and bake until the edges turn golden – about 10 minutes.  Remove the foil and beans, prick the bottom of the tart and return to the oven until set – about 5 minutes.  Let cool.

Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoon of the olive oil in a sauté pan, add the onions and sauté until the onions will and caramelize – about 10 minutes.  Add one tablespoon balsamic vinegar and cook until it evaporates.  Remove the onions and set aside.  Heat the remaining olive oil in the pan and add the garlic.  Cook one minutes, and then add all of the spinach leaves, salt and pepper to taste.  Stir until the spinach wilts.  Sprinkle the remaining balsamic over the spinach and let evaporate, stir in the red pepper flakes.  When cool, add the eggs and mix together.

Cut the sweet potatoes, without peeling, into 2 inch rounds and spread into the prebaked crust.  Top with the spinach mixture, red onions (and optional pepper slices) and sprinkle with feta cheese.  Bake until the cheese is nicely browned – about 30 minutes.  Slice and serve.
MAKES:  6 – 8 servings

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Pear Salad with grape crostini

3C arugula or baby greens
1C shaved fennel
2 medium ripe pears, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
1/3C roasted almonds
6 thin slices focaccia bread, toasted in a 400F oven until crisp on both
grape chutney
8 oz. goat cheese, softened

3 Tbsp. pear vinegar
1 Tbsp. raspberry vinegar
2 tsp. honey mustard
6 Tbsp. olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper

Toss the vinaigrette ingredients together in a jar and set aside.  Place the pears and fennel in a large salad bowl and toss with vinaigrette to coat.  Add the arugula and almonds and toss to coat.

Spread each crostini with goat cheese and top with some of the grape chutney.  Divide the salad among 6 plates and top each with one crostini.
Makes 6 servings

Grape chutney
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2C minced shallots (2 shallots)
1 Tbsp. minced garlic (3 cloves)
1 tsp. cumin seed
1/2C red seedless grapes
1/2C black seedless grapes
1C green grapes
1C diced red bell pepper (1 large)
1/4C golden raisins
1/4C cider vinegar
3 Tbsp. poblano chile pepper
1 Tbsp. minced fresh gingerroot
1/4C grape juice
2 Tbsp. light brown sugar
¼ tsp. kosher salt
2 Tbsp. Italian parsley leaves, coarsely chopped

Heat oil in a sauté pan over medium heat, add the shallots, garlic and cumin seed and sauté until fragrant – about two minutes.  Add the grapes, bell pepper, raisins, vinegar, chili and gingerroot.  Reduce heat to medium-low; cover pan and let chutney simmer for 15 minutes.  Remove the lid and stir in the grape juice and brown sugar.  Continue to simmer, stirring often, until most of the liquid is evaporated – about 15 minutes.  Remove chutney from the heat and stir in the salt and parsley; let cool.
MAKES:  1-1/2C

Thursday, September 1, 2011

New York City in August

August is not the best time to visit NYC but this year it worked for me.  It wasn’t too humid and it even rained one day which cleaned the air nicely.  I stayed at Park79
( near the natural history museum and took a nice walk around the Jacqueline Kennedy Reservoir nearby in central park once I arrived to stretch my legs.  My first lunch was at Del Posto (  – a delicious three course prix fixe menu which started with little tastes of Italian bread soup, miniature lobster sandwich and tiny fritters.  Lunch was a beautiful salad of raw and cooked vegetables, greens, ricotta, etc. - almost too beautiful to eat; ricotta filled dumplings with white and green asparagus; and rich chocolate tortoni for dessert.  Afterwards I walked along the high line, a former abandoned elevated railway turned into a park, 30 feet above the ground.

With my 7 day metro pass I took the subway to the National Museum of the American Indian, a free Smithsonian museum housing some 700 works of native art, i.e. headdresses, robes, jewelry, toys, etc.  Dinner at Sorella ( , a tiny Italian restaurant near Delancey Street where I enjoyed delicious spinach pasta with corn and mushrooms and chocolate fudge pudding for dessert.

I started day 2 at the Metropolitan Art Museum (  The special exhibits I wanted to see were “Thinking outside the box”, featuring a selection of 100  examples of important boxes and small chests; “the Andean Tunic” with tunics drawn from the museum’s collection and “Reconfiguring the African Icon” with creative
re-imagings of the iconic form of the African mask and a docent to explain the artists’ intentions.  Lunch in the village at the Little Owl ( , a very sweet little café.  A simple salad of arugula, sliced peaches and artichokes with shaved parmesan and a warm rhubarb crisp left plenty of room for my upcoming dinner that night at Blue Hill at Stone Barnes ( in Tarrytown!!!

Any foodie would love dining at the farm.  The menu lists the fruits and vegetables you will see creatively executed on your plate as you leisurely enjoy the chef’s creations.  Make sure to arrive early as dinner lasts about 4 – 5 hours!!!  Some of the highlights were tiny roasted tomato burger on a bed of sesame seeds, crisp deep fried kale and sweet potato slices/tempura green beans from the garden, little whole grain brioche topped with house made ricotta and Swiss chard marmalade, slow roasted onion with condiments, pasta with ostrich egg, grass fed beef with spaezle, petite sachertorte and a mint milkshake in a shot glass…

The Brooklyn botanic gardens are free on Saturday mornings and open an hour before the museum.  It is delightful to stroll through 52 acres of Shakespeare, Cranford Rose, Japanese-hill-and pond gardens, etc. before entering the Brooklyn Museum of Art.  On view was Vishnu:  Hinduism’s blue-skinned savior comprising many statutes, paintings, etc. of Vishnu, his life and his ten avatars.  Lunch at ABC Kitchen of beets in yogurt and spinach and goat cheese pizza and a surprise complimentary salad of roasted carrots, avocados, sunflower seeds and crisp croutons!!!  I wandered around the Greenmarket nearby and spent an hour at the Museum of Arts & Design on Columbus Circle.   I was rather disappointed in the exhibits so instead took a walk down Madison Avenue!!  Dinner in the Ink Hotel at Print.  The halibut with corn chowder/roasted peppers/shiitake mushrooms and whipped chocolate flan were delicious, but the restaurant lacked atmosphere so I didn’t linger….

The next day after a nice walk in central park I visited the Whitney Museum.  I was hoping to see the Cirque Calder but it was being repaired…  I did, however, enjoy an exhibit on Lyonel Feininger who started out as a cartoonist and I learned a lot about his works from the docent.  As it was a rainy day, I was happy to sit inside cozy Lupa for a lunch of oil-poached tuna with cannellini beans, deliciously warm focaccia bread and tartufo for dessert.  On to the Jewish Museum on 92nd street (  where I had never been before for a great exhibit of the Cone sisters’ eclectic collection of art.  They collected paintings by Matisse (whom they met!!), Van Gogh, Picasso, etc., as well as textiles, jewelry and rugs from their travels all over the world.  When they died they donated this collection to the Baltimore Museum of Art.  You can watch a video showing their home and how their art had been displayed.  Dinner at the elegant and rather expensive Marea ( on Central Park South of rouget with black farro, tortellini with nettle pesto and a luscious chocolate tart with espresso ice cream.

The Rubin Museum of Art: Art of the Himalayas (  is open on Mondays and this year the special exhibit was about pilgrimages and faith, i.e. the role of pilgrimage in three of the world’s largest religions – Buddhism, Christianity and Islam.  The museum itself is stunning with its winding staircase and unusual permanent collection.  Lunch at the busy little Spotted Pig (  where the tables are tiny and the food is wonderful.  I had gnudi with ricotta and basil pesto and a creamy lemon tart and read my book as the noise bustled all around me.  Later I wandered around Greenwich village and Soho looking in shops and watching the people go by.  I also walked up to Mario Batali’s Eataly, a large Italian artisanal food and wine marketplace on fifth avenue.  It is a food lover’s mecca filled with restaurants and boutiques selling cheeses, bread, homemade pasta, desserts and more.  Dinner at Stanton Social (   with its little plates of potato and goat cheese pierogies, red snapper tacos, hand pulled chicken arepas and peach and almond crisp.

My last morning I spent at the Frick Collection (  and was amazed at the number of masterpieces which fill this mansion of art.  Highlights for me were Hans Holbein’s portrait of Sir Thomas Moore and Francois Boucher’s little cherubs in the Boucher Room among other things!!!!  An unusual prix fixe lunch at Eleven Madison composed of mini little “amuse”, i.e. goat cheese-beet lollipop, crisp mini goat cheese fritters with lemon dipping sauce, egg shell filled with creamy custard and smoked sturgeon and a 3 course lunch of black bass tartar/sashimi with peaches, very tender chicken breasts with creamy mushrooms/faro/corn and chocolate glazed hazelnut “cake” with express ice cream.  Subway to the airtrain, airtrain to JFK, JFK home…

Friday, August 26, 2011

Parmesan and Prosciutto PInwheels

1 sheet puff pastry, thawed and cut into two rectangles
4 slices prosciutto
2 Tbsp. basil leaves, thinly sliced
1/2C finely grated parmesan cheese
1 egg beaten with 1 tsp. water (glaze)

Place two prosciutto slices on each of the rectangles, sprinkle each with half the basil and cheese, leaving a ½-inch border along one side.  Brush the ½-inch borders with egg glaze and starting at the long side opposite the border, roll up the pastries jelly-roll style, pressing gently to seal the long edges.  Wrap rolls in plastic wrap and chill 1 – 2 hours or until firm. 

Preheat oven to 400F.  Cut logs crosswise into ½-inc thick rounds.  Arrange on a cookie sheet and bake until golden brown on the bottom, about 8 minutes.  Turn over and bake until brown on the other side – about 8 minutes.

Using a metal spatula, transfer pastries to a platter.  Serve warm.
MAKES:  30 slices

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Washington, D.C.

May, 2011
As it had been several years since I visited Washington D.C. I decided it was time to go again this year.  There is so much to do and see there!!!   I stayed at Adams Inn near the Woodley Park Zoo ( where I have stayed before.  It is very conveniently located near Dupont Circle, on a quaint street and quite charming.  Before I left I looked online at the various museums and decided what I wanted to see and where I wanted to go.  I made all my lunch and dinner reservations through Open Table so was very well prepared when I arrived.

Some of the museums I visited were the Renwick Gallery, the American Art Museum (  where they had some Alexander Calder portraits on display and the American History Museum to see the first ladies’ dresses and the kitchen of Julia Child.  I also visited some new museums I was unfamiliar with but would highly recommend.  I loved the underground Museum of African History, all the more as I had just been to the Fowler Museum in Los Angeles where they were exhibiting wooden masks and arts from Nigeria.  I spent two days in the new National Museum of Crime and Punishment ( which is open until 8:00 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights when all other museums are closed!!!  There are 4 – 5 floors filled with Bonnie and Clydes’ bullet hole riddled car, information about the Salem witch hunts, unsolved crimes, etc.  Really fascinating.  There is also a National Pinball Museum ( which I didn’t visit.

The only “museum” I booked ahead was the Ford Theater and the One Destiny play.  It has always been under renovation whenever I have been to Washington D.C. and I didn’t want to miss it this time.  The museum tells the story of Lincoln’s life up until he was assassinated in that very building with some of his keepsakes and the top hat he wore.  The One Destiny play is well worth seeing as it is a “what if” type play which goes over the events of the day Lincoln was assassinated and how his death might have been avoided if more people were paying attention….

One day I spent walking the monuments which takes about 3 hours.  I started at the Washington Monument which you can go up to the top of if you like, on to the Lincoln Memorial from where you can usually see the Washington Monument reflected in the pond.  However, the pond is under construction so it is not filled with water at this time.  On around to the FDR /Eleanor Roosevelt memorials with bronze figures of the president in his wheel chair and men standing in line for jobs and then to the impressive Jefferson Memorial with Jefferson standing bigger than life in the center.  I stopped by the Korea and Vietnam Memorials on my way back but it would surely save time to stop and see them before the Lincoln memorial.  After all that walking the Hirshhorn Sculpture Gardens ( is a good place for a rest!!!

I decided to go to Mt. Vernon during the week as the weekends are generally very crowded.  I took the yellow line metro to Huntington Station and then caught the Fairfax connector bus #101 to Mt. Vernon which dropped me off at the entrance.  It is enchanting to visit George and Martha Washington’s home and imagine them living there.  Wandering around the grounds, gardens and slave quarters is leisurely and enjoyable and a visit to the museum gives insight into their lives.

Georgetown is another great place to wander around, especially along the canals when the weather is fine.  On the way you can visit the Old Stone House at 3051 M Street.  It is the oldest standing building in the city and is a simple dwelling built and inhabited by common folk.

The Dumbarton House (, an historic house museum filled with Federal period furniture gives one a look into life in Georgetown.  The Tudor Historic House ( nearby, built in 1816, is also worth a visit.  It was originally owned by Martha Custis Peter, the granddaughter of Martha Washington and its grounds are lovely.  It houses silver, ceramics, furniture, etc. from the period 1750 – 1983 as well as the 1919 Pierce Arrow owned by Armistead Peter III.  You can also stroll in Dumbarton Oaks and as well as visit the private Phillips Collection of art (, both of which I will do on my next visit!

Overall I was well pleased with my choice of restaurants.  I had a delicious sesame seared tuna/pastrami cured salmon/Napa cabbage slaw crudo plate at Ris Restaurant ( on L Street; Asian chicken salad with cabbage, noodles and peppers/Chilean sea bass with short ribs and yuzu sauce at Oya ( on 9th Street;  cooked greens, lentil puree and olive salad with whole pistachios/shrimp with mustard sauce/Turkish chocolate cake with caramel sesame seeds at Zaytinya ( on 9th Street and beet salad with carrots and goat cheese/coconut rice and salmon with black sesame seeds at Corduroy ( on 9th street.

I enjoyed Sunday dim sum brunch composed of shrimp with squash puree/scallops with cauliflower puree/lamb plantain empanadas, cauliflower quinoa “couscous” at Café Atlantico ( on 8th Street; the “blue plate special” composed of grilled asparagus spears/baby artichoke hearts on potato puree/cold melon soup/succotash of fava beans, peppers, corn, etc. and warm Georgian pecan pie at Vidalia ( on M Street and a very expensive prix fixe dinner at Citronelle (  also on M Street.  I spent about 3 hours savoring an oyster shooter/split pea soup “coteccino”/tempura soft shell crab with tahini/halibut w/lobster broth/lobster burger w/homemade potato chips/rack of lamb with fava, black and white beans/short ribs with peppercorn sauce/cheese platter/ “lemon meringue pie”/chocolate crunch bar and petits fours – Whew!!!  One of my favorite restaurants is Komi but I couldn’t get a reservation this time. 

All is all, I think it is always good to leave a city knowing there are still a few things left undone!!!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Tuscan Bean Soup with Cauliflower

1C navy or great northern beans, soaked in cold water over night,
  Rinsed well
6 – 8C chicken stock
1 Tbsp. dried thyme
1 Tbsp. dried basil
1 Tbsp. dried oregano
1 small onion, peeled and sliced
2 celery stalks, sliced
1 bay leaf
1C pureed tomatoes
1/4C Italian parsley leaves, chopped
1/2C fresh corn kernels (optional)
2C baby spinach leaves
½ head cauliflower, cut into florets
2 Tbsp. olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Place the beans in a large pot with chicken stock, thyme, basil oregano, onion, celery and bay leaf.  Bring to a simmer and simmer until beans are tender – about 45 minutes. 

Place the cauliflower florets on a cookie sheet and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.  Roast in a 400F oven until tender, turning once.

Add the pureed tomatoes, Italian parsley, corn and spinach to the soup and bring to a simmer.  Add the cauliflower and heat.  Serve hot.
MAKES:  8 servings

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Arabian Eggplant Stew

1/2C chickpeas, soaked overnight, drained, simmered in chicken stock
  until tender, peeled
1 – 2 Tbsp. olive oil
4 Japanese eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes
one yellow onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1 – 2 tsp. Mediterranean spices
pinch red pepper flakes (optional)
2 garlic cloves, peeled and diced
1/4C white wine
1-1/2C whole tomatoes, pureed
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
2 Tbsp. fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced

Heat olive oil in a sauté pan; add the eggplant cubes and sauté 3 – 4 minutes.  Add the onion slices, spices and red pepper flakes and sauté until soft.  Add the garlic.  Add the white wine and reduce to 2 tablespoons.  Add the tomatoes and tomato paste and cook until thickened.  Stir in the chickpeas and basil.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.
MAKES:  6 – 8 servings


Turkey – April 2011
It was a long, rainy drive from Aleppo, Syria to Turkey but the countryside along the way was lush green and soo lovely.  Once we crossed the border it seemed we had arrived in a Western country.  We stopped in the fairly large city of Urfa for a delicious lunch of spicy lamb adana kebabs/pita bread/tomatoes and onions and then had an hour of free time to explore.  I visited the citadel for a great view of the city but it was almost to cold to do more.  We changed into long skirts, required for our visit to the homestay, and Omar drove us to the little Kurdish village of Yuvacali where he and his British wife Allison now live.  We sat on the floor of the living room and Allison told us of her decision to follow Omar from their beautiful apartment in Istanbul back to his Kurdish village in the hills to help the people.  Our hostess prepared a delicious meal of lentil soup, lahmacun (flatbread filled with spicy meat, folded over and cooked on the griddle outside) and cold juicy oranges.  We slept on mattresses spread out on the floor and used the outhouse outside.  In the morning each of us took a turn at rolling out bread, cooking it on the wood fired “oven” and then communally we all spread it with honey, homemade sheep’s cheese and jam for breakfast. 

Later that morning, we took nice walk through the surrounding countryside amidst the pottery fragments everywhere and then Omar drove us to the ferry which took us across the water to a little village where we had lunch in a private home.  We ate cucumber/tomato salad, bulgur rice pilaf, eggplant chicken stew served in platters set on a table cloth spread on the floor.  At 4 p.m., dressed in everything I had brought with me, we climbed Mt. Nemrut.   The mountain was blanketed in snow but since it was not “snowing” we were allowed to climb to the summit.  Antiochos I built this famous sanctuary of colossal heads as a funerary monument.  On the Eastern terrace there are stone bodies of eagles, lions, Alexander the great, etc. and the heads are on a level below.  It was very impressive as you can imagine!!!  We stayed in a nearby hotel and luckily had an electric heater in our room which kept us warm throughout the night.

After a nice hearty breakfast we drove to Goreme.  On our way we stopped at the underground city of Kaymakli, one of 36 in the Cappadocia and the widest, and visited 4 of its 8 storeys.  Underground cities were constructed for security reasons and their chambers (chapels, silos, cellars, etc.) are linked by corridors and narrow staircases.  We checked into Hotel Kose in Goreme and had some free time to wander the streets and climb among the breathtaking “fairy chimneys”, awesome valleys and rock formations created from the erosion of rain and wind.  A meze platter for dinner at Nazar Bork consisted of roasted eggplant, roasted peppers, feta cheese, yogurt cheese and pita bread and then a few local guys picked up some instruments and played some wonderful Turkish music…

In the morning I took a walk around town and saw some of the hot air balloons floating above the rock formations.  We all met a 9 a.m. for a lovely walk up into the rocks where hidden caves housed churches with frescoed ceilings, pillars and altars.  Lunch at Nazar Bork and a piece of his delicious baklava and then we met at a carpet shop next door for a very enlightening commentary on the different kinds of rugs made in turkey.  Dinner at Fat Boys.

A 20 minute walk from the center of town, the Open-air Museum is a world heritage site is a must see.  It is filled with rock-cliff byzantine churches, chapels and monasteries.  It is easy to spendt the whole morning just wandering around.  After lunch we took the local bus to Ankara where we caught the 10 p.m. overnight train to Istanbul.  I was surprised how elegant the restaurant in the train station was and thoroughly enjoyed my chicken kebab/rice dinner before we boarded. 

The train arrived about 7:30 a.m. in Istanbul and we walked to the hotel, our last stop as a group.  By this time we were more than ready to go our separate ways – at least I know I was!!!  My Hotel Sapphire (  was just around the corner and it was a perfect choice for many reasons, i.e. great location, friendly staff, delicious buffet breakfast, quiet and reasonable room.  My room was not ready when I arrived so they offered me breakfast while I waited.  After the overnight train ride and the freezing cold weather I was delighted to enjoy fresh scones, cheeses, honey, olives, tomatoes, eggs, fruit, coffee, etc. etc. in the nice warm dining room before showering and heading out into the great city of Istanbul.

The blue mosque was my first stop as it dominates the skyline with its six minarets.  Construction was started in 1609 and it took 7 years to complete.  Inside the high ceiling is lined with the 20,000 blue tiles that give the mosque its popular name.  On to the Great Palace Mosaic Museum which houses mosaics from the byzantine period under to decorate the pavement of a peristyle court.  Hunger drove me to the Galata Bridge built in 1992 which spans the Golden Horn.  Nearby there are traditional boats tied to the quay on which fish fillets are grilled and stuffed inside half loaves of bread along with some spices and onions.  You can sit down at a low table overlooking the Bosphoros and enjoy the delicious flavors!!!  The Hagia Sofia was my next stop.  Built between 532 – 537 A.D. by the byzantine emperor, Justinian, it was converted into a mosque in 1453 and points in the direction of Mecca.  It is now a museum and known for its massive dome and incredible mosaics.  I took a bus to the elegant Asitane Restaurant ( for dinner.  After much research, their menu is only comprised of dishes from the of the Ottoman palace kitchens.  I had the Asitane “treats” to start – four little oval spreads, i.e. crushed chickpease w/currants and pinenuts, “lor” cheese blended with rosemary, creamy fava beans and pounded cucumber salad with pistachios, each set atop a cucumber slice, crisp piece of bread, etc.  My “main” course was the crisp cheese bourek filled with olives and walnuts.  A special treat was the guitarist who played soft Turkish music during the evening.

The next day was pouring rain but I decided to visit the Topkapi Palace nevertheless as did many (!!) other people.  This was the official residence of the Ottoman sultans from 1465 – 1856 and is now a museum.  It contains large collections of porcelain, robes, Ottoman miniatures, treasure and jewelry.  Also within the palace are the harem quarters where approximately 300 concubines lived in luxury guarded by eunuchs.  I walked down to the pier and took a ferry across the Bosphoros to Kadokoy on the Asian shore where I had a fabulous lunch at Ciya Sofrasi ( . You can choose what and how much you want from a multitude of delicious dishes.  I had rice, lentils/bulgur, stuffed sun-dried tomatoes, sun-dried spicy cheese, couscous, homemade puffed pita bread for about $3.  Afterwards I wandered in the nearby markets filled with fish, vegetables and pastries and didn’t even mind the rain...Stopped at the covered Grand Bazaar filled with lively shops and people before calling it a day.

After another outstanding buffet breakfast, I took a bus to the incredible Byzantine Chora Church.  It is well worth a visit as its interiors are covered with the world’s finest mosaics and frescos.  After the arrival of the Turks in Istanbul in the 16th century, this church was converted into a mosque, like the Hagia Sophia.  In 1948 it was made into a museum.  Next stop the Islamic Art Museum housed in the restored Palace of Ibrahim Pasa.  Inside are Turkish carpets, illuminated Kur-ans, carved and inlaid wood as well as a fully-furnished nomad’s tent.

The Basilic Cistern was next on my list.  Built in the 6th century to provide water for the city, this cathedral size cistern is an underground chamber now virtually empty of water.   Its walkways and atmospheric lighting were installed in 1990 and soft music plays as you wander about.   By this time I was hungry for another fish sandwich so walked to the Galata Bridge where I sat a few minute and enjoyed my warm lunch.  I took the little tunnel train across to the Beyoglu, the heart of the more modern district of Istanbul, and walked the pedestrian, shopping street of Istiklal Caddesi.  Ambling down the street and off into the little alleyways filled with cafes and bars took about an hour, ending in the
Taksim Square
.  I had spotted a little restaurant on my way so returned to Sofyali 9 for a delicious walnut spread with pita bread, an Israeli couscous salad with peppers and olives and a little warm piece of cheese Bourek.  I ended evening with a long, leisurely walked back to the hotel as the lights lit up the streets.

My last day in Istanbul was spent cruising down the Bosphoros from the Galata Bridge.  The boat passed by beautiful palaces, hotels, grand summer residences built by the Ottomans and little wooden houses turned into restaurants.  We stopped in Anadolu Kavagi for a few hours where I walked up to the Medievel Castle and then relaxed in a restaurant overlooking the sea until the boat cruised back to the pier.  I returned to Ciya Safrasi for my last lunch and it was just as delicious as before.  I bought a little Turkish lamp with some of my remaining lira and had the delicious rice pudding everyone had been telling me about at MADO.  One last look at the Blue Mosque by night and my trip was over…

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Prosciutto Chicken

6 chicken breast halves, skinned and boned
6 slices provolone cheese
12 thin slices prosciutto
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2C chicken stock
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
2 Tbsp. basil leaves thinly sliced

Salt and pepper the chicken breasts.  Make a slit in the center of each and fill with provolone cheese slices, folding slices over until the fit inside the breast.  Roll breasts around the cheese.  Lay pieces prosciutto on a cutting board, two pieces side by side and wrap each chicken breast in two pieces.

Preheat a cookie sheet in a 400F oven.  Heat a sauté pan, add oil and heat.  Sauté the chicken breasts until golden on all sides.  Transfer to the hot cookie sheet and bake about 10 minutes or until cooked through.

Meanwhile, add chicken stock to the sauté pan and reduce to 2 tablespoons.  Add the butter and turn off the heat.  Whisk the butter until a sauce consistency, add the basil, salt and pepper to taste.

Remove chicken from the oven and slice each in half.  Serve with sauce.
MAKES:  6 servings

Monday, June 27, 2011

My Favorite Books

Great Books
The Postmistress  (sarah blake)
Little bee (chris cleave)
The Tea rose (jennifer donnelly
The Winter rose (jennifer donnelly)
Last night in twisted river (john irving)
The Outlander (Gil Adamson)
Altogether in one place (jane kirkpatrick)
No eye can see (jane kirkpatrick)
What once we loved (jane Kirkpatrick)
Rashi’s Daughters (maggie anton)
  Book one – joheved
  Book two – Miriam
  Book three – Rachel
Paths of glory (jeffrey archer)
Prisoner at birth (jeffrey archer)
The Travels of Jaime McPheeters (robert lewis taylor)
Bound (sally gunning)
Widow’s War (sally gunning)
Never Let Me Go (kazuo ishiguro)
A pale view of hills (kazuo ishiguro)
The Glass Room (simon mawer)
The Fall (simon mawer)
Roses (leila meacham)
Fortune is a woman (elizabeth addler)
The Property of a lady (elizabeth addler)
The Object of Beauty (steve martin)
Room (emma donoghue)
At Play in the fields of the lord (peter matthiessen)
Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell (susanne clarke)
Flower Net (lisa see)
Interior (lisa see)
Dragon Bones (lisa see)
A Wife's Tale (lori lansens)
People of the Book (geraldine brooks)
Year of Wonders (geraldine brooks)
The Faithful Spy (alex berenson)
No Angel (penny vincenzi)

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Tuna Steaks with Citrus

six ¾-inch thick tuna steaks
2 Tbsp. sesame oil (as necessary)
2 Tbsp. black sesame seeds
2 Tbsp. white sesame seeds
1 - 2 Tbsp. olive oil (used to sauté)

citrus-ginger sauce
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2C thinly sliced fresh ginger
3 medium shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
3 large garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
1C fresh red grapefruit juice
1C fresh orange juice
1/3C fresh lemon juice
3/4C dry white wine
3 Tbsp. light soy sauce
2C chicken stock
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
½ stick unsalted butter, soft

1/4C wasabi paste (optional)
pea sprouts (optional garnish)

In a large pan, heat one tablespoon oil, add the ginger, shallots and garlic and cook over moderate heat until softened – about 3 minutes.  Add the remaining ingredients and boil over high heat until sauce is reduced to ½ cup and is slightly syrupy – about 40 minutes.  Add the butter and turn off the heat.  Whisk in the butter to form a thick sauce.  Heat a sauté pan until hot, add one tablespoon olive oil and heat.  Sauté the steaks, turning once, until medium rare.  Transfer to plates, spoon the sauce over and garnish with pea sprouts and wasabi paste.
MAKES:  6 servings


Syria - April, 2011
This morning after breakfast we drove from Madabar, Jordan to Syria and had no problems crossing the border.  We changed into a Syrian minivan and drove into the fascinating capital of Damascus, one of the oldest continually inhabited cities.  I walked around the corner to a recommended falafel stand and had a delicious sandwich before we started our orientation walk of old Damascus.  We delved into the ancient alleyways and bustling bazaars, visited the beautiful Umayyad Mosque and had Turkish coffee in the courtyard.  The Umayyad Mosque is one of the largest and oldest mosques in the world as well as the fourth holiest place in Islam.  Non Muslim women must wear an abheya covering us from head to toe but so dressed we could wander freely throughout the mosque.  That night we had a fabulous dinner at Al-Khwali including spicy hummus, eggplant and chickpea “stew” and crisp pita bread. 

The next morning it was breakfast at Al Nawfara Café near the mosque and afterwards a visit to the Azem Palace.  It is a lovely old palace filled with fountains, courtyards, formal halls, baths, etc. with models in the rooms showing how wealthy people dressed and lived in Damascus a long time ago.  I also visited the Assad Paha Khan which had  acourtyard of shops on the first floor and lodgings on the second in former times.  As you walk through its lovely domes of black and white Ottoman architecture you go back in time.  It was great to have the whole day to wander the covered and uncovered old city, stopping into old homes turned into restaurants and really getting a feel for Old Damascus. 

Late in the afternoon I stopped at Bakdash, famous for its pistachio coated Booza, a pounded ice cream known around the Arab world and so delicious.  Early that evening, I returned to Nawfara café to listen to the storyteller telling his ancient stories of Damascus for about 30 minutes.  He spoke in Arabic so it was just the experience of being there that I enjoyed.  I then wandered on down Straight Street for dinner at Naranj, a fantastic restaurant.  I told them I was a chef so was able to first visit the kitchen and see what they were cooking up.  They then prepared a tasting menu for me that must have included at least half the items on their menu.  The meze platter contained about 20 little tastes, including mini stuffed grape leaves, crispy meat/vegetable turnovers, beet dip, etc.  The main courses were little lamb kofta, lamb kebabs in sour cherry sauce, lentils, rice, spinach with crisp onions and finally for dessert an enormous platter of Syrian baklava, cookies, fried pastries, etc. followed by a basket of fresh fruit!!!   I must have spent at least 2 hours eating – a highlight to be sure.  Returning to the hotel so late at night was another story I will keep to myself!!!

In the morning I visited the nearby National Museum filled with artifacts from many villages in Syria.  We then took the local bus to Palmyra where we arrived just in time to drive up to the old castle and watch the sun set.  The town is very small and quaint and the weather was very cold.  Dinner at the Palmyra Restaurant was delicious:  lentil soup, eggplant and potato casserole, chicken with eggplant/rice/toasted almonds.  In the morning we had a guided tour of the roman ruins, i.e. the temples, baths, pillars and statues which are very well preserved.  We left after having cheese and jam pancakes for lunch and drove to Krak de Chavaliers.  Our room had a view of this enormous medieval crusader castle with its two moots.  A typical Syrian dinner of chicken, lentils, eggplant, fried cauliflower, pita bread, lebneh, etc. was served in the dining room with a stunning view of the castle.  In the morning we watched the sunrise over the castle from our balcony and then walked up to it after breakfast.  Our guide showed us the hidden passageways, fortifications, slits in the walls for bows and arrows, dungeons,  etc. as we climbed all around, imagining all the fighting which must have taken place there.  More falafel sandwiches for lunch before catching the local bus to Aleppo, our final Syrian city.

My roommate and I decided it was time to have our own rooms.  Mine overlooked the courtyard and it was wonderful having my own space!!!  We all met at 5 p.m. and wandered through the old souk to the mosque, outside the walls, to the Baron Hotel where T. E. Lawrence stayed and finally to Al-Kommeh for dinner.  My eggplant/lamb kebabs and tabbouleh were very tasty and I picked up a couple pieces of pistachio baklava to eat on our way back to the hotel. 

The next morning Jess, our tour guide, took us on a little walk to some of the old buildings in Aleppo.  We visited an old asylum with bars still on the windows, an old restored house with an exhibit showing how many of the old homes are being restored so people can live in them again, ending up at the citadel, which was once a walled city.  The great throne room with its stained glass windows and wooden ceiling was a highlight along with all the staircases leading down to the dungeons and up to the top of the wall for great views.  I wandered through an enormous fruit/vegetable market on my way across town to the old Armenian quarter and visited a traditional home/museum and the lovely church of the 40 martyrs of Christ dedicated to the 40 proclaimed Christians who were condemned naked on a frozen pond to freeze to death… 

Dinner that night was at an Italian restaurant for a change – mushroom pizza baked in a wood fired oven.   Afterwards, we wandered slowly back into the walled city for the night.  In the morning we had Turkish coffee and baklava for breakfast and then drove out of Syria and crossed the border into Turkey…