Sunday, December 30, 2012

Big Sur and Hearst Castle – November, 2012
In early November my daughter, Gisenyi, and I took a drive along the beautiful California coast up to Big Sur.  We stopped in Santa Barbara for lunch hoping to eat at the Hungry Cat but there had been some sort of an emergency so little was on offer.  Instead, we walked on down Chapala Street to Silvergreens (  and had a delicious roasted tomato soup and vegetarian sandwich combination and then headed on our way.

It takes about 6-1/2 hours to get up to quaint and rustic Deetjens Big Sur Inn (  where we love to stay and it was dark by the time we checked into the Van Gogh room.  We each took a flashlight and walked up the hill to Nepenthe( overlooking the dark ocean.  Gisenyi had a beer and I had hot tea and a piece of three berry pie with ice cream and we chatted about what we wanted to do the next day.  It was rather cold up there this time of year but felt good just the same.

Breakfast at Deetjen’s is always delicious.  It is like eating in your own home only better!!!  I particularly like the yogurt parfait, i.e. layers of yogurt, blueberries and granola topped with thin apple slices – heaven!  Gisenyi orders something different each time we come.   After breakfast we drove into Carmel and parked away from the “90 minute parking” signs and took a leisurely walk along the ocean to Mission Ranch and back to town which took about two hours.  The walk took us past lovely old mansions with unique gardens on one side and the ocean on the other and luck was with us as the weather was grand.  Lunch at Ristorante Mediterraneo Dametra Café (  on Lincoln was delicious.  We shared hummus and warm pita bread, a grilled vegetable and spinach salad with feta cheese and finished with complimentary baklava for dessert.

As we headed back to Big Sur we stopped at the Andrew Molera State Park for a walk to the ocean and back.  We couldn’t really do much more as it gets dark so early.  After relaxing awhile in “little room” we decided to go up to the Big Sur Bakery ( and have a little something for dinner.  I hadn’t made a reservation as it didn’t seem like a particularly busy time of year but the bakery was packed so we sat at the counter which was just fine.  Gisenyi had warm roasted tomato soup and I had an appetizer scallop dish and we shared a pumpkin ginger cheesecake for dessert.  Snug in our little bed after hot showers we read our books before falling asleep in our “little room”…

Another great yogurt parfait for breakfast in the morning and then a long, lovely walk along the bluffs overlooking the ocean in the Andrew Molera State Park.  Lunch at Big Sur Bakery was a nice salad with sunflower seeds, carrots and greens and a warm bubbly open faced gruyere and tomato “sandwich”.  Afterwards, we drove to Cambria where we would spend the night.  After checking in to our little inn we went into town for a quick look around before heading up to Hearst Castle (  for our 6:10 p.m. reserved tour. The evening tour is a combination of all the other tours and the first one begins about 5 p.m.  The Castle was all lit up and because it was near the holidays there were Christmas wreaths, trees and decorations throughout the castle.  It was very cold but even so there were volunteers dressed for the 1920’s sitting around the pool, getting dressed in the powder room, chatting together around the fireplace, playing piano, etc.  It was really fun.  Afterwards we stopped at Robin’s
( in Cambria for a light “dinner”.  Gisenyi had a little meze plate of eggplant, hummus, pita bread and tabbouleh and I had a piece of Dutch apple pie al la mode.  Back to our little inn for hot showers and a good night’s sleep.

Breakfast in the morning was pastries and coffee at a little bakery nearby and afterwards we took a brisk walk along Main Street and back.  4 hours later and a quick stop for yogurt we were back in Irvine.  I loved spending “one on one” time with Gisenyi and hope she felt the same!!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Cauliflower and pears with brown butter and roasted hazelnuts
1 medium head cauliflower, cut into florets
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. Mediterranean spices
1 – 2 comice pears, cored and thinly sliced
8 fresh sage leaves, thinly sliced
½ stick unsalted butter
1/2C roasted hazelnuts, skinned and coarsely chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400F.  Toss the cauliflower florets with olive oil and Mediterranean spices on a rimmed cookie sheet.  Roast until almost tender – about 15 – 20 minutes.  Add the pear slices and sage leaves and toss to combine.  Return to the oven and roast until cauliflower is tender – about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile heat butter in a pan until browned but not burned.  Remove the vegetables/pear from the oven and add the browned butter and hazelnuts, tossing to combine.  Season to taste with salt and pepper and transfer to a serving platter and serve.
MAKES:  6 servings

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Warm Pumpkin Salad with Farro and candied pumpkin seeds
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1/2C raw green pumpkin seeds
1 Tbsp. sugar
½ tsp. ground cumin
¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp. paprika
¼ tsp. cayenne
¼ tsp. salt
1 small cheese pumpkin or butternut squash (2 lb.), unpeeled,
  quartered lengthwise
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1C cooked farro or barley
6-oz. piece parmesan or pecorino Romano cheese, shaved
5 oz. bag baby arugula
12 dates, pitted and sliced
1/2C fresh pomegranate seeds

2 Tbsp. pomegranate juice
1 Tbsp. sherry wine vinegar
1 tsp. honey mustard
4 Tbsp. olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

For the pumpkin:  Preheat oven to 400F.  Cut pumpkin quarters crosswise into ½-inch slices and toss with one tablespoon olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.  Arrange slices in one layer in a shallow baking pan and roast until just tender – about 20 minutes.  Remove from oven, cover with foil and keep warm.  Remove seeds.

For the pumpkin seeds:  Melt one tablespoon butter in a heavy pan over moderate heat, stir in sugar, cumin, cinnamon, paprika, cayenne and ¼ teaspoon salt.  Cook, without stirring, until caramelized.  Add the pumpkin seeds and cook, stirring occasionally, until the seeds are puffed and golden.  Transfer to a plate to cool.  When seeds have hardened, break up any clumps with your fingers.

Toss farro, arugula and dates with vinaigrette to lightly coat.  Divide pumpkin slices among plates and sprinkle with pomegranate seeds.  Top with farro/arugula/date mixture.  Sprinkle with pumpkin seeds and top with parmesan shavings.
MAKES:  6 servings

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Goat Cheese with Asian Pear Marmalade
One 2-inch piece ginger, peeled and grated
1/2C water
grated zest of one orange
2 Tbsp. fresh orange juice
1/2C packed brown sugar
1 tsp. Chinese five-spice powder
1/2 tsp. vanilla
one cinnamon stick
4 Asian pears, or a combination of Bartlett and Asian pears, peeled,
  cored and chopped into ½-inch pieces
1 Tbsp. Italian parsley leaves, finely chopped
Italian parsley leaves, garnish

11 oz. log goat cheese

In a medium pan, combine all the marmalade ingredients together.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for three minutes.  Uncover and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes, or until soft and not mushy.

Remove and discard the cinnamon stick.  Let cool to room temperature.
Place the log of goat cheese on a platter and spoon some of the marmalade on top.  Garnish with Italian parsley leaves.  Surround with crackers.
MAKES:  8 servings

Sunday, November 18, 2012

San Francisco and the Napa Valley - October, 2012
After a quick one hour 20 minute flight with Southwest Airlines I arrived at the Oakland airport about 10:25 a.m.  I took the Bart into San Francisco, left my bag at the hotel and started to walk towards Spruce ( on Sacramento where I had lunch.  Passing Grace Cathedral and many old interesting homes in the Presidio Heights area, I arrived at Spruce on Sacramento, another very cute little shopping street.  Lunches are always wonderful at Spruce and I was delighted with my golden potato gnocchi with red kuri squash, poached egg, pecans, sage and toasted pumpkin seeds.  Dessert was an adorable little plum tart with walnuts and tiny little plum slices. 

I walked down Stanyan Street to Fulton where I entered Golden Gate Park.  Since it was such a beautiful day I walked around Stowe Lake and into the Japanese Tea  Gardens.  Afterwards, after a quick stop at the hotel to check into my room, I took the bus to my favorite restaurant in the city Frances ( .  In order to dine at Frances you have to plan two months ahead to make sure you get a reservation.  It is a small casual “bistro” with delicious little plates so creatively prepared.  My first course was a canning glass jar filled with cauliflower puree topped with little roasted florets on top and served with thin lavash bread topped with nigella seeds.  Second course was a baby kale salad with duck confit and medjool dates followed by pumpkin risotto with roasted chanterelle mushrooms and parmesan cheese.  Dessert was a little chocolate torte and “pecan pie” – a pecan tart topped with chocolate “cake” and served warm with caramel sauce and nut ice cream.  Everything was sooooooooo good!!!

Breakfast at Sugar Café and then a walk to the ferry building with all its food stalls and little shops, up the embarcadero to pier 39 and then to SFMOMA.  There were some new works by Alessandro Pessoli and a small exhibit called “Paul Klee’s circus” but nothing exceptional.  Three course lunch at Michael Mina ( was outstanding!!  First course was ahi tuna tartare with habanero infused oil which has been a traditional dish in his restaurants for many years.  Second course was seared ahi nicoise w/Jidori hen egg and a crouton topped with chopped hard cooked eggs and tomatoes.  Dessert course was a chocolate and peanut “abstract” with caramel, peanut ganache, etc.  Afterwards I took the bus to the De Young museum which is open late on Friday nights and saw the exhibition on Rudolf Nureyev, the famous Russian dancer/choreographer.  There were 80 costumes which he wore in his ballets and many photographs of him dancing.  The William S. Paley Collection of modern painters was also very good.  Later in the evening I had dinner at Nopa ( and sat upstairs overlooking the open kitchen.  The place is always bustling with people and the food is creative and excellent.  I had duck breast with cranberry beans, walnuts, arugula and warm grapes and a chocolate torte with hazelnut caramel and whipped cream.  The bus system in San Francisco is so fantastic that it is easy and cheap to get around so I took the bus back to the hotel…

In the morning I took the bus to the Enterprise Rental car lot and headed to Muir Woods just over the golden gate bridge.  I took a really nice hike through the redwoods to a lookout point where you could see the bay bridge and the panorama of the ocean.  It was such a perfect day.  On to Yountsville where I had lunch at Redd ( .  which consisted of tuna tartare with yellow fin and hamachi, a small order of scallops with cauliflower puree and butterscotch pudding with two little shortbread cookies for dessert. 

It took another 2 hours to get up to Gualala and St. Orres ( where I stayed the night but the drive was beautiful especially along the coast.  As it was a weekend night I could only stay in the hotel; otherwise, there is a two night minimum.  I prefer staying in the little cottages in the meadows but will have to plan better next time!!!  Dinner in the lovely dining room overlooking the pacific ocean was the delicious wild mushroom ravioli and decadent chocolate cake for dessert.  I slept with the window open so I could hear the sounds of the ocean….lovely….

In the morning I walked along the bluffs overlooking the ocean in Sea Ranch, a very unique community of homes, before heading back down to Yountsville for lunch.  I had a delicious roasted grape salad and fig tart at Bottega and then drove on up to Calistoga stopping at Bothe-Napa Valley State Park.  It is a lovely park with several trails through the redwoods and up to some nice view points as well.  I stayed at an adorable little bed and breakfast not to far away called Fanny’s ( on Spring Street.  After checking in and organizing myself I wandered along the main street filled with cute little shops and museums and had dinner at Jole (  in the Mount View Hotel.  I ordered the tasting menu and loved every bite!!!  It started with a mushroom empanada, scallops with curry and fresh pumpkin, duck breast and duck confit with celery root puree and stout cake with pumpkin ice cream to finish.

Deana, the innkeeper, fixed an amazing breakfast for me in the morning:  crisp apple pastry, fresh fruit, thin vegetable frittata topped with organic greens, baby tomatoes and shaved parmesan, muffins, bagels, coffee and juice!!!

After a nice leisurely walk around town, I drove back to San Francisco to return the car.  I wandered around the Jackson Square area to visit some of the art and poster galleries before having lunch at Cotogna ( , a casual little Italian bistro.  First a pear, prosciutto salad with smoked almonds and arugula followed by luscious tortellini filled with cheese and butternut square drizzled with brown butter and sage.  Dessert was a thin crisp plum tart topped with honey ice cream.  Now I was ready to hop on the Bart and head home!!!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Warm Grape Salad with roasted hazelnuts and shaved parmesan
2C red flame seedless grapes, off the stems
2 Tbsp. olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
4C organic greens
5 oz. Parmesan cheese, shaved
1/2C hazelnuts, roasted, peeled and coarsely chopped

2 Tbsp. pear vinegar
2 Tbsp. sherry wine vinegar
2 tsp. honey mustard
4-1/2 Tbsp. olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400F.  Toss the grapes with oil, salt and pepper to taste in
 a shallow glass dish.  Roast 20 – 30 minutes or until slightly shrunk. 
Remove from the oven and place in a large salad bowl.  Toss with some of
the vinaigrette.

Add the organic greens and toss gently.  Add the Parmesan and hazelnuts
and toss with more vinaigrette as desired.  Serve.
MAKES:  6 servings

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Four Cheese Quiche
2C flour
¼ tsp. salt
½ tsp. sugar
6 oz. unsalted butter, cut in pieces
1/3C water

6 oz. Vermont White Cheddar cheese, grated
6 oz. Swiss Gruyere cheese, grated
6 oz. aged Monterey Jack cheese, grated
2 oz. Parmesan cheese, grated
1C cream
1C half and half
5 eggs
salt and pepper to taste

For the pastry:  Place the flour, salt and sugar in a food processor and pulse until combined.  Add the butter and pulse to combine.  Pulse in the water just until combined.  Form into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap and chill one hour.  Roll out into a 14-inch round and fit into a 12-inch tart pan with removable bottom.  Chill one hour.  Preheat oven to 400F.  Line the tart with foil and fill with pie weights or dried beans to cover the bottom of the pan.  Bake 15 minutes or until firm.  Remove foil and pie weights, prick the dough and bake another 5 minute.  Let cool while preparing the Filling.

For the filling:  Place the eggs, cream, half and half, salt and pepper to taste in a food processor and process until well combine.  Transfer to a large measuring cup with a spout.  Sprinkle all the cheese except ½ cup into the tart pan and pour the filling over.  Sprinkle the top with remaining cheese. 

Reduce the oven heat to 375F and bake the quiche until it puffs up and is firm – about 50 minutes.  Let cool on a rack 10 minutes.  Remove the tart from the ring and let cool 10 minutes.  Slice and serve.
MAKES:  8 – 12 servings

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Pork Tenderloins with corn and mushroom sauce
2 - 3 pork tenderloins, trimmed, cut in half
salt and freshly ground pepper
2 - 3 Tbsp. olive oil
2 – 3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 – 1-1/2 lb. assorted wild mushrooms, cut into thick pieces
3 – 4 ears fresh corn, kernels removed
1 small yellow onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1C chicken stock
1/2C fresh cream
1 Tbsp. fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400F.  Heat a sauté pan over high heat; add one tablespoon butter and one tablespoon olive oil and heat.  Add the wild mushrooms and cook on high heat until somewhat crisp.  Turn off the heat.

In another larger sauté pan, heat 2 tablespoon olive oil until hot.  Salt and pepper the pork and add to the pan.  Sauté 3 – 4 minutes until all sides are golden.  Transfer to a glass dish, cover lightly with foil and place in the preheated oven until almost cooked through – about 10 – 15 minutes depending upon the thickness of the pork.  Meanwhile, add 2 tablespoons butter to the sauté pan and heat.  Add the onions and sauté until soft; add the corn and basil and sauté until tender.  Add the chicken stock and reduce to ¼ cup, add the cream and cook until thickened.  Stir the mushrooms into the corn mixture.  Cut the pork halves into smaller pieces and add to the mixture, cover with foil and cook 5 minutes on low heat until the pork is cooked through.  Serve.
MAKES:  6 servings

Friday, September 21, 2012

Chicago – August, 2012
Chicago in August you say???  Actually the weather was grand!!!  I was planning to take the red eye from LAX to ORD but at 9 a.m. Monday morning United Airlines called and offered me an earlier 6:46 p.m. flight and a $250 voucher to take it!!!  Not a hard decision to make.  However, I arrived in Chicago at 1 a.m. Tuesday morning, not at 5 a.m. as originally planned.  I was staying at the House of Two Urns ( and they were good enough to just charge me half price for my half night which worked out really well for me.  The House of Two Urns is a delightful bed and breakfast about 45 minutes from the airport on the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA).  The CTA is 5 minutes away and with a 3 or 5 day pass you can travel easily throughout the city.

I had a delicious breakfast in the morning, i.e. French toast with berries and cream, carrot raisin muffin and fruit and chatted a bet with a very interesting Colombian doctor specializing in childrens’ brains!!!  First stop was Millennium Park to walk around and under the famous cloud gate designed by Anish Kapoor who creates enormous works of art.  I saw an exhibition of his in Bilbao several years ago and was mesmerized by his creativity.   The centerpiece of the park is the Jay Pritzker pavilion, an outdoor performing arts band shell designed by Frank Gehry where concerts are performed.  There is also the Crown Fountain designed by Jaume Plensa composed of a black granite reflecting pool placed between a pair of glass brick towers.  Faces are displayed on the 50 foot towers with water sprouting from their mouths – pretty incredible. 

Afterwards, I walked down Clark Street to Blackbird ( and had a delicious prix fixe lunch, i.e. fluke with sea weed and edamame, sturgeon with wild mushrooms and onion noodles and macaroons with strawberries and cream.  There is also a cute little restaurant called Avec next door but it doesn’t open until 3:30 p.m.

I took the CTA out to Andersonville where a hundred years ago Swedish immigrants arrived and helped to rebuild Chicago after the 1871 fire.  The Swedish American Museum tracks their journey from Sweden with old suitcases, rail tickets, clothes they wore, houses where they lived, etc.  Along North Clark Street are many unique shops and bakeries.  Back into town walking along Chicago Avenue I heard some jazz music coming from the Museum of Contemporary Art ( so I went inside to explore.  Tuesday on the Terrace was going on outside and the museum was free – what luck!!!  I had just seen the play “Red” about the famous artist Mark Rothko and was delighted to find some of his paintings on view.  Dinner at Balena  ( was excellent, i.e. shaved octopus salad with green farro, pasta made with duck yolks, brown butter and sage and chocolate hazelnut tart with chocolate nib ice cream for dessert.

In the morning I met my “greeter” at the Visitors Center, 77 Randolph Street.  You must register ( 10 business days in advance for a free 2 – 4 hour guided tour of Chicago with a local person and you can choose where to go!!  I chose art, architecture and ethnic neighborhoods and was delighted with my walking tour of the outside art, i.e. Calder’s “flamingo”, Picasso’s “Picasso”, Chagall’s “Four Seasons” mosaic, etc., old mansions, Chinatown, etc. ending at Naha ( where I had lunch.  I love their mezze platter which comes with hummus, cheese filled phyllo triangles, eggplant, Greek salad, pita bread, tabbouleh and Greek string cheese – so delicious.  Dessert was chocolate pave with a chocolate filled beignet.  Afterwards I wandered down Superior and Franklin Streets visiting the art galleries and then along the Chicago River Walk as it was a beautiful day.

Dinner at Michelin-starred Sepia ( and it was wonderous.  It started with a complimentary glass of Riesling champagne followed by robiolo filled agnolotti with sautéed chanterelles, warm lobster custard with truffles, scallops with yellow pepper romesco and chocolate mousse with peanut butter crunch.  It was really fun to watch Sepia chef Andrew Zimmerman win iron chef America when I returned home on Sunday after experiencing such delicious fare.

Thursday I took the CTA out to Oak Park to visit Frank Lloyd Wright’s studio and home.  I had just read “Loving Frank” and was very interested in seeing his genius.  The first part of the tour was visiting 20 of his homes with an audio guide which took about 90 minutes and then the visit continued inside his home and studio with a very knowledgeable guide.  The guide explained Wright’s philosophy of building, etc. but did not touch much upon his life which I found rather interesting.  It was an excellent tour.  Lunch at Pump Room was rather disappointing.  The restaurant was lovely and the reviews were excellent but the roast carrot salad which they toted as better than ABC Kitchen in NYC was not particularly memorable and the cherry crisp was rather ordinary.

Thursday nights the Art Institute of Chicago ( is open until 8 p.m. so I spent the remainder of the afternoon enjoying the Roy Lichtenstein exhibition, the new Renzo wing and some of the permanent galleries.  I was fortunate to get a reservation at Goosefoot ( in the Lincoln Square neighborhood that evening for dinner and Chef Chris Nugent’s 8 course tasting menu was extraordinary and was he!  I was in heaven as I ate for 3 hours the shrimp potato soup, duck breast with spiced beluga lentils, Angus beef with goosefoot, crispy goat’s milk cheese and the chocolate mousse with sea beans.  You wouldn’t want to miss that one!!! 

Friday morning I took the bus to the Robie House created by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1908 for his client Frederick C. Robie.  It is considered to be a masterpiece of the prairie style and is renowned as a forerunner of modernism in architecture.  Afterwards I visited the Smart Museum of Art ( nearby which has a wonderful collection of Asian and modern art including a dining table and chairs designed by Frank Lloyd Wright for the Robie House and No. 2 painted by Mark Rothko.  Lunch at the ever popular Frontera Grill on North Clark Street.  Luckily I had made a reservation as the restaurant is jammed with people all day long!!!  My banana leaf stuffed with jicama, cucumber and fresh pineapple strips with fresh lime juice was a delicious starter, following by cheese “quesadillas” which were more like empanadas served with 3 salsas and chocolate pecan pie a la mode with chocolate sauce – soooo good!! 

I walked along Clark Street up to tree lined Astor, one of the most famous streets in Chicago, filled with beautiful mansions. As it is so easy to get around with the CTA pass I headed to Chicago Avenue and walked along Lake Michigan for a while.  Dinner at MK ( was simple as lunch was pretty filling but my scallops with chanterelles, grapes and macona almonds and chocolate cake and shake were very tasty indeed.

In the morning I went to the Green Market in Lincoln Park where many chefs go to buy fresh produce and locals pick up their weekly fresh produce boxes.  There are also food stand manned by different restaurants preparing delicious breakfast/brunch dishes, i.e. pulled pork sandwiches, huevos rancheros, pancakes and bacon, etc.  It reminded me of the Ferry Building in San Francisco and their Saturday market.  Afterwards I visited the Field Museum (  which has a whole range of incredible exhibitions including the House of Gems, the House of Jade, the Ancient Americas which houses a wonderful historical array of American Indian antefix and a superb collection of Totem Poles.  You could spend days in there!!! I walked by Agora (which means meeting place in Greek) in Grant Park comprised of 106 nine-foot tall headless torsos made of cast iron.  The figures are posed walking in groups in various directions or standing still. It was donated by the Polish artist Magdalena Akakanowicz who was deeply affected by WWII.

My final lunch at Café Spiaggia (  overlooking Lake Michigan.  I had a delicious arugula salad with Capriole Farm goat cheese and sweet Methley plum slices, cheese ravioli with sweet corn and pesto and ricotta, Michigan cherry and chocolate filled  cannoli.  I picked up my bag from the hotel and took the CTA straight to the airport.  I will certainly return as Chicago is one of the great American cities to be sure.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Beef Satay
2 lb. flank steak or sirloin cut into strips

4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1/4C sake or sherry wine
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
2 Tbsp. honey
2 tsp. dry mustard
2 tsp. sesame oil
2 tsp. lemon juice
½-inch piece gingerroot, finely chopped

Peanut Sauce
1/2C peanut butter
½ tsp. chili powder
1 Tbsp. sake or sherry wine
2 Tbsp. sesame oil
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 Tbsp. minced onion
1C coconut milk
1/4C chicken stock
1 Tbsp. molasses

Mix marinade ingredients together, add steak and marinade for 30 minutes.  Puree peanut sauce ingredients together in a food processor.  Place steak on skewers and broil or grill.  Serve with peanut sauce.
MAKES:  40 skewers

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Rafting in the Grand Canyon - July – 2012
In the back of my mind I have always wanted to go on a white water river rafting trip in the grand canyon and was delighted when my friend el donna invited me to join her and her daughter Camille this July.  You should book a year in advance as these trips are very popular and sell out quickly. We booked a 6 day trip with western river expeditions ( and it was perfect in every way.

The meeting place was in Marble Canyon on Wednesday morning, July 25 so I decided to drive up.  On Monday I drove to Sedona, arriving about 7 p.m. and stayed at the lovely Sky Ranch Lodge ( close to the perfect outlook for watching the sunset.  I had make a dinner reservation at the Amara Resort ( in the Hundred Rox restaurant but as the restaurant was being renovated a separate room was set up for temporary dining which was very disappointing….As it was rather late and Sedona closes up early I ordered the Asian spring rolls and coriander ahi tuna which were both excellent.  It was the ambiance that I missed….I wandered the streets on 89A North and then went back to my lodge.

In the morning I stopped at the Heart of Sedona Cafe nearby and chose a delicious zucchini almond muffin and coffee and before setting out for the Bell rock trail.  It is best to hike in the morning as it gets very hot so I enjoyed the beauty of Sedona’s red rocks and the fresh air.  Lunch at the Desert flour Bakery ( before heading to Flagstaff where I visited my niece Kiva, arriving at the Marble Canyon Lodge about 8 p.m.  The drive was very straightforward and I was listening to Stardust by Joseph Kanon (who wrote The Good German) which was very compelling and made the time fly by.  A quick piece of apple pie and then bed…

After a quick breakfast of scrambled eggs on toast, we all met across the street from the Marble Canyon Lodge with our duffle bags in tow.  After a short ride to the river’s edge we loaded our duffle bags into a large dry bag containing a sheet and sleeping bag and picked up a little day bag to keep whatever we might need during the day, i.e. rain gear, water bottle, sun screen, etc.  We put on our life jackets, found a spot on the raft and started off down the river. 

The rapids varied from day to day, from 4 to the highest 10.  There were 9 possible seats in the front of the raft and I generally sat in the middle with someone in front of me unless the rapids were calm and then I would sit up front.  Wren was a fantastic “driver” so our raft never capsized nor overturned but we sure did have fun on some of those number 10’s!!!  As the water was veryyyy cold it was important to wear rain jackets and pants to avoid getting too cold as the water from the rapids soaked you at every turn. 

Our days started when the sun rose about 5:30 a.m. with one bugle call which indicated that there was coffee available and breakfast would be ready in one hour.  Most of us rose, took down the tente and cote and packed up before breakfast.  Breakfast (and all the meals!!) was delicious!!!  Some of our breakfasts were:  French toast, syrup, melons/eggs Benedict, hollandaise sauce, ham, grapefruit halves/fried or scrambled eggs, hash brown potatoes, bacon, blueberry and poppyseed coffeecake/French toast, sausages and bagels, cream cheese, yogurt, fruit.  Coffee and tea were always available. 

We would form a “fire line” and load the raft and then set off down the river.  Sometimes we would stop and hike into a canyon, up to a waterfall or into a cavern.  One day we hiked into Havasu Canyon with its tranquil pools and waterfalls.  We would stop for lunch about 12:00 p.m. and whole wheat breads, cold cuts, cheeses, tomatoes, lettuce, olives, pickles, cookies and fruit would be set out for us to help ourselves.  We would find spots by the river and relax and enjoy the view of the canyon and then load up and continue down the river.  The trip was so professionally run and well organized it made for a wonderful experience and the views on every side were breathtaking.

About 4 p.m. we would find a camping spot and dock.  A fire wall of people would unload everything and then we would each find a spot to pitch our tents and set up our cots.  It was very humid and hot at night so some people just slept outside on cots.  A tent was set up for one “bathroom” and another outside toilet was set up under the stars.  While dinner was being prepared we would take our soap and shampoo down to the river and clean up – the water was pretty cold but it felt good to be “clean” after a hot day on the river.

About 5 p.m. a bugle would sound meaning appetizers were ready and two bugle blasts meant dinner was ready.  Some of our wonderful dinners were:  grilled chicken, rice, spinach salad, corn bread, pecan pie/grilled fish, rice, salad, carrot cake/burritos with beans, rice, grilled chicken, grilled peppers and onions, brownies/spaghetti with homemade mushroom and meat sauce, garlic bread, bananas foster with vanilla ice cream and grilled steaks, mashed potatoes with mushrooms and onions, salad and chocolate cake.  We were given plates, mugs and utensils which we used for every meal. Little “chairs” were set up all around and we used our laps as tables as we dined under the stars.

Our last morning we rafted over to the helicopter site where 6 of us at a time were taken to the Bar Ten Ranch for showers and lunch and then flights back to marble canyon or Las Vegas wherever you came in from.
El Donna and Camille left first and flew to Las Vegas and we decided it would be fun to do something together gain.

I flew to marble canyon where I picked up my car and drove to Sedona this time staying at Views Inn ( in the heart of the red rock country.  I took a walk into the red rocks which felt good after the 3 hour drive and then had a wonderful dinner at the Auberge de Sedona ( outside by the creek.  I ordered peekytoe crab crepe with buttered braised shitake, rack of lamb with ricotta gnocchi and milk chocolate hazelnut feuilletine with passion fruit sauce – absolutely divine.

In the morning I stopped by the Heart of Sedona Café again for another zucchini almond muffin and coffee and then headed home, stopping in the ghost/mining town of Jerome and then Prescott, walking along the whiskey row filled with old saloons and ice cream parlors.  I picked up a chocolate walnut ice cream cone for lunch and then drove back to California….  It was really a fabulous trip!!!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

New Potato, Leek and Fennel Soup
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
3 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and diced
2 fennel bulbs, finely diced (reserve some leaves for garnish)
3C sliced leeks (white part only)
3 lb. new red potatoes, peeled and diced
1/2C Italian parsley leaves
5 – 6C chicken stock
1/2C cream
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Heat one tablespoon of butter in a sauté pan and sauté 3 tablespoons each of the diced apple and fennel.  Reserve for garnish.

Heat the remaining butter in a sauté pan and add the leeks, the rest of the apple and fennel and cover lightly with parchment.  Cook until tender – about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally – do not brown this mixture.  Add the potatoes, chicken stock and Italian parsley leaves and cook until the potatoes are tender – about 30 - 40 minutes, adding more stock if necessary.  Puree the soup in a food processor and return to the pan.  Add the cream, salt and pepper to taste and bring to a simmer.  Divide the soup among 6 bowls and garnish each with some of the sautéed fennel-apple mixture and fennel leaves.
MAKES:  6 servings

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Dubai, United Arab Emirates – April, 2012
The last leg of my trip was to Dubai but first I had two more days in New Delhi, one of which was not a Monday when all the museums are closed!!!  The flight from Paro to New Delhi took longer this time as we made a fuel stop so didn’t arrive to Shanti Home ( until 3:30 p.m.  I immediately took the metro to the Craft Museum which I have always wanted to visit but only had about an hour to see the wonderful old rugs, wood and bronze statues, jewelry, saris, wall hangings, etc. etc.  I will have to return another time…

Around the museum grounds are many old, well preserved thatched and wooden houses, craft shops and some West Bengalese musicians dancing and singing some traditional songs so all was not lost!!!  Took the metro to the City Center mall and had my last Indian dinner at Punjabi by Nature ( which was reputed to have excellent food.  I was not disappointed!!!  My chickpea dish, palek paneer, lentils and crisp tandoori roti were excellent.  Later, I had some time to enjoy my hotel which was absolutely charming – it felt like being in someone’s home.

Breakfast on the roof top was superb. Along with scrambled eggs and fruit were crisp Indian potato cakes with chutney.  The nearby metro took me to Connaught Place where I did a bit of shopping at the CCIC government store.  I bargained hard for a nomadic rug which they assured me would be delivered to my hotel later in the afternoon and so I trusted them….

Stopped at a FAB INDIA shop to look at their beautiful cotton blouses made in India and found a couple I liked; then took the metro to Hauz Klas village for another delicious rasa masala, a crisp semolina pancake filled with spicy potatoes, at Naivedyam before returning to the hotel where my rug was waiting for me at the front desk!!!  Packed my bags, took a taxi to the airport and caught the evening flight to Dubai.  Dinner on board was surprisingly delicious, i.e. vegetable curry, chapatti, lentils, rice and cake.  Arrived at 10 p.m. and the taxi easily found my hotel which was a very good choice ( being in the old part of town near the Dubai creek.

The rooms of the guesthouse surrounded a lovely courtyard where breakfast is served in the morning.  There were so many wonderful choices to savor, i.e. scrambled eggs, crisp potato pancakes, sautéed mushrooms, fresh fruits, pita bread, hummus, olives, dates, etc. as I relaxed outside and planned my day.  I walked down to the Dubai Creek and to the heritage village where I visited Sheikh Saeed Al-Maktoum’s house constructed in 1896 and restored in 1986.  It is one of the oldest residences in the city and a fine example of Islamic architecture.  I wandered along the creek and stopped by the diving village which had a great display of how pearl diving was done in the 1900’s which helped Dubai prosper.  Using the walkway under the freeway I made my way to the Gold Souk with it’s incredible array of elaborate jewelry and finally to the spice market – a wonder to be sure.

Many months ago I had reserved a table for tea in the Skyview Bar on the 27th floor at Burq al Arab ( so I took the metro and then a taxi to arrive on time.  The world’s most luxurious hotel, the burq soars to a height of 321 meters and was designed to resemble a bellowing sail.  It is impressive inside and out!!!

I was seated by the window much to my delight and spent about two hours enjoying my 7 course afternoon tea!!!  First came champagne with berries and cream followed by a small plate of beautifully arranged chicken with a tiny dollop of mashed potatoes.  Tea came next along with a selection of tea sandwiches, i.e. smoked salmon, roasted eggplant/mozzarella/tomato, etc. followed by a 4 – tier “ship” which looked exactly like the hotel filled with delights.  Top tier had clotted cream, whipped cream and jams, second tier was filled with plain and raisin scones, third tier contained crème brulee custards, Scottish shortbread fingers and ginger cakes and the bottom tier held a selection of chocolate filled cakes – everything was so fresh and delicious.  The grand finale was selection of house made truffles and more tea.  There was also lunch buffet or al la carte lunch option but the afternoon tea sounded the best to me and I was very happy with my choice.

I had also made a reservation to visit the Burq Khalifa, the tallest standing structure in the world but arrived a bit early so I watched the dancing fountains, where the waters dance to music, outside the nearby Dubai Mall.  I also wandered around the mall, one of many in Dubai, filled with every store imaginable selling everything you could ever want.  There were restaurants of every kind from every country serving anything you could possible imagine – a bit much actually.  Initially I had thought Dubai was one gigantic mall but staying in the old quarter completely changed my opinion.

At 7 p.m. I took two elevators to reach “At the Top”, the observation deck located on level 124 of Burq Khalifa.  The Burq stands over 828 meters high, has more than 160 stories and is the tallest building in the world.  The view is panoramic and especially spectacular at night when it is not quite dark.  You are not rushed to leave so can spend as much time as you like enjoying the experience.  Afterwards I watched one more dancing fountain performance and then returned to the old quarter for dinner.  I had some Singapore noodles at Bayt al Wakeel Restaurant, sitting outside on the terrace overlooking the creek and then walked back to my hotel.  That was quite a full day!!!

I had booked a day trip to Oman to see the fjords but the guide never appeared so I “regrouped” and went to Abu Dhabi instead.  We headed down the famous Sheikh Rashid road filled with all the incredible skyscrapers to the majestic white marble Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.  More than 3,000 workers and 38 renowned contracting companies took part in its construction.  Began in 1996, its maximum capacity is 41,000 people, its overall structure is 22,412 squares meters and it is still under construction.  Natural materials were chosen for much of its design and construction including marble, stone, gold, semi-precious stones, crystals and ceramics and it is truly a masterpiece.  We drove by some incredible hotels, i.e. Emirates Palace and the Jumeirah Etihad Towers and stopped by the lovely corniche for a few pictures and then stopped by the very interesting heritage village museum which gave you a feel for how the Bedouins once must have lived.  On the way back, our driver let a few of us off at one of the malls nearby where I wandered around a bit before choosing an Egyptian lunch of flatbread filled with lamb.

In the afternoon I visited the Dubai Museum which was excellent.  It had life-size dioramas which presented the traditional way of life in the Emirates of Dubai, i.e. bustling souks filled with shops and craftsmen, scenes of marine life, i.e. pearl diving and a Bedouin tent filled with objects from the daily life of Bedouins.  Afterwards I wandered around the Al Bastakiya historic area with its old houses with great iron doors and narrow lanes down to the creek where the sailing boats were docked.  My hotel was in this area so I was able to get a good feel for the old Dubai which I really appreciated.

In the evening, I took the metro to the Wafi Mall in the heart of Dubai styled after ancient Egypt with its pillars and walls the color of light brown stone.  Raffles Dubai, a 5 star hotel designed in a pyramidal shape is also nearby as kind of a “landmark”.  I had a wonderful dinner at the Khan Murgan restaurant in the open roofed courtyard filled with colorful lanterns and Middle Eastern music.  The menu was Arabian with dishes from Egpyt, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, etc. and I chose freshly grilled local fish, a Lebanese eggplant dish with pomegranates and Iranian and Egpytian flatbread.  Everything was delicious and the ambiance was delightful – a very nice “last night in Dubai” experience.

In the morning I walked along the Dubai Creek one last time before enjoying another delicious breakfast in the hotel courtyard.  Taxi to the airport and home….

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Salmon with Spinach-Arugula Pesto
8 oz. baby spinach
2 garlic cloves, peeled
½ tsp. grated lemon zest
large pinch dried crushed red pepper
2C (packed) arugula leaves
3 Tbsp. toasted pine nuts
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
3 – 4 Tbsp. olive oil
3 Tbsp. (packed) freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1-1/2 lb. salmon filets or fish of choice
2 tsp. Mediterranean spices
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/3C toasted pine nuts (optional garnish)

For the pesto:  Combine garlic, lemon zest and crushed pepper in a food processor and blend until garlic is finely chopped.  Add the baby spinach, arugula, pine nuts and lemon juice; process until coarse puree forms.  With the machine running, gradually add oil in a thin stream and blend until almost smooth.  Mix in cheese and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Set aside.

Preheat the grill.  Rub salmon on both sides with spices and olive oil.  Grill until tender – do not overcook.  Pour any salmon juices into the pesto mixture.  Divide salmon among plates and spoon pesto on top.  Sprinkle with additional pine nuts, if desired.
MAKES:  6 servings

Sunday, July 1, 2012

April, 2012 Nepal, Bhutan
After a wonderful dinner my last night in New Delhi at Bukhara, I flew the next morning to Kathmandu, Nepal, arriving at 1:30p.m.  Tourist visas can be obtained at the airport but you need a photo which I had left in my checked in bag!!!  Fortunately, there was a little booth where you can have pictures taken.  Taxi to Ambassador Garden Home ( in the center of Thamel and a delightful hotel.  I was so hungry that I walked to the Third Eye Restaurant for a tandoori stuffed naan before meeting the guide from Earthbound Expeditions ( who walked with me to their office nearby.  I had booked a three day Kathmandu valley rim trek with them so we confirmed everything including my pickup in the morning.

I had made a reservation to dine that evening at the Nepali restaurant Krishnarpan in Dwarika’s Hotel (  Years ago I stayed at Dwarika’s and it was enchanting but has become very expensive so I opted to just dine there this time.  I was met by Jyoti, one of the managers, who joined me for dinner.  Our twelve course experience was made so much richer with Jyoti explaining the history of Dwarika’s, the different courses and their origin and about Nepal – a magical evening to be sure!  She invited me back for a massage after my trek which I thoroughly enjoyed!!!

The guide came by in the morning and after a 30 minute drive we started our trek to Chiopani which took about 5 hours.  We had picked up some quiches and fruit so we stopped along the way for “lunch” and “apple” breaks.  The trek was uphill with a lot of steps but it felt good as we went along with so many lovely things to see.  The accommodations were very basic, just a little room with a cot and it was pretty cold so I was happy that I had borrowed a warm jacket from Earthbound.  I met some very interesting people in the “restaurant” where they served chow mein noodles, stuffed dumplings and crisp Tibetan bread.  Some of the trekkers had done Everest base camp, some the Annapurna trail, etc.  It rained during the night and in the early morning we were awakened to watch the sunrise.  It was gorgeous!!!  After breakfast we continued on to Nagarkot which took about 7 hours.  We stopped for a typical dal baht (rice/lentils/vegetables) lunch and rested our feet!!!  The accommodations were quite nice this time, i.e. a hot shower, bed with sheets and blankets and a buffet dinner.  It rained again during the night which made for a lovely day of walking through villages and fields to the bus stop where we had another dal baht lunch before returning to Kathmandu.  I stayed at the Ambassador Garden Home again and this time was given an enormous room.  After showering and organizing myself I had a delicious dinner upstairs at Third Eye Restaurant, i.e. cheese and nut stuffed potatoes in Kashmir sauce and garlic naan.  On my way back I picked up a fresh macaroon from the nearby bakery – heaven….

After a leisurely breakfast on the patio I took a taxi to Dwarika for my complimentary massage which lasted more than an hour and felt so good after all those hours of trekking.  I was driven to the airport nearby and flew back to New Delhi where I stayed again at the Red Maple B&B and later took a tuk tuk to Gunpowder Restaurant ( in the Hauz Klaz village.  It was rather hard to find and a long climb up some very narrow stairs but the food was good.  I sat at a table overlooking the lake and had vegetable korma with cashew nut gravy, pumpkin curry (which was a bit too sweet) and layered bread which went well with what I had chosen.

Early morning flight to Paro, Bhutan.  I flew with Druk Airlines and they served a delicious Indian breakfast of chickpeas, spinach/potato cake/chapatti bread and fruit.  We flew so close to the Himalyans that I could almost touch mount everest!!!  I was met by the driver and waited for a bit until the second traveler arrived.  We had some time to wander the open-air market and cute little Tibetan-like town of Paro before eating our first Bhutanese meal in a local restaurant in town.  The food was surprisingly delicious, i.e. fiddlehead ferns, pumpkin slices, red rice, chicken, lentils, fried bread and fresh watermelon for dessert.  We checked into our the Namsay Resort.  I was very lucky to be the “odd man out” and got a room of my own during the whole trip!!!  Took a nice walk around the countryside and passed through lovely hills, temples with prayer wheels which was most enjoyable.  Buffet dinner was fine.

In the morning we drove to the Chorten National Memorial in Thimphu.  It was erected in 1974 in memory of the 3rd king, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck and is designed in the Tibetan Style.  A large white stupa crowned with a golden spire, the Chorten is circumambulated only in a clockwise direction (reciting prayers and whirling the large red prayer wheels) as is the rule in any religion structure in Bhutan.  Visited the Trashi Chhoe Dzong and then into the town for lunch and a walk around.
Bhutan has a “high value, low volume” philosophy and charge a minimum of $250 per day (which includes, guide, food, hotel) to visitors.  There are no backpackers and no accommodations suitable for them.  For more information visit .

Our guide was very traditional and wore the Bhutanese gho, a heavy knee-length robe tied with a belt, folded in such a way to form a pocket in the front of the stomach, every day.  The women wear colorful blouses over which they fold and clasp a large rectangular cloth called a kira, thereby creating an ankle length dress.  Everyday gho and kira are patterned in simple checks and stripes in earth tones.

We walked up to the Buddha statue overlooking the Thimphu valley before returning to the hotel for dinner.  Dinner is generally a buffet in the hotel, sometimes good and sometimes bland.  We asked for the local chile/cheese condiment used to spice up the food which made a big difference.  I particularly liked the way they cooked their potatoes and the delicious fiddlehead ferns!!!

In the morning we visited the Folk Heritage Museum, a restored three-story timber building furnished as it would have been a century ago with old wheat grinders, animal bells, etc.  Drove through the Punakha valley, stopping in Dochula Pass marked by a large array of prayer flags and an impressive collection of 108 chortens built in 2005.  The pass provides a truly picturesque view of the Himalayas.

We took a lovely walk to the Chimi Lhakhang Monastery dedicated to Lama Drukpa Kuenley through agricultural fields of rice and prayer flags lining the road.  He was known as the “divine madman” for his unorthodox ways of teaching Buddhism and used the phallus as a symbol of creative power.  The Lhakhang has a golden yellow roof, rows of prayer wheels and statues of Kuenley and his dog Sachi.  The prayer hall inside contains interesting old thangkas, bells and other tantric paraphernalia. 

In the morning after breakfast we set off to visit the Khamsum Yueling Temple, north of Punakha.  We walked through fields for about an hour finally reaching the 30 foot tall temple perched on the hillside.  It has three stories of temples, one of which houses a lovely Buddha statue.  On to the Punakha Dzong constructed in 1657 and considered to be the country’s most beautiful dzong.  It is very impressive with its whitewashed walls and elaborately painted gold, red and black carved wood.  We walked across the long suspension bridge nearby which was fun.  Dinner at our hotel was pretty bleak….

A beautiful drive to the Gangte Goemba, a lovely Tibetan style monastery built on top of a hill.   On through the lovely Phabjikha valley filled with pine trees, streams and green valleys, stopping in the meadow for a delicious picnic lunch of fiddlehead ferns, roast potatoes, cheese momas, red rice, vegetables and watermelon before taking a nature walk to explore the area.  We stayed in some VERY basic accommodations with wood fired stoves and cold water but dinner in the tiny restaurant was one of the best yet, i.e. very flavorful lentil soup, vegetable curry, chickpea meatballs, roast potatoes and tea.
We enjoyed a delicious breakfast before heading back along the same route to Paro.  We had a little time to shop in town before checking in at the best hotel we have stayed in yet  Dinner was outstanding with an Asian flair, i.e. spicy pad thai noodles, curried chicken, naan bread and mango custard.  In the evening, our guide brought us to a typical “bar” where Bhutan gals dressed in their kiras danced and sang non traditional songs – rather disappointing actually….

Our last day turned out to be the best of all.  After a delicious hearty breakfast we drove to the starting trail up to Taktshang Goemba (Tiger’s Nest), a sacred Himalayan Buddhist temple complex. The monastery was built around the Taktsang Senge Samdup cave, where custom holds that the Indian guru Padmasambahva meditated in the 8th century.  He flew to this place from Tibet on the back of Yeshe Tsogyal, whom he transformed into a flying tigress for the purpose and landed at the cliff, which he “anointed” as the place for building a monastery which they did in 1692.  It is located on a precipitious cliff built into the rock face about 3,000 feet above the Paro valley.  The trek takes about 3 hours and is very scenic passing blue pine trees, prayer flags, waterfalls, etc.

After visiting the monastery and enjoying the incredible view we made it down in about 1-1/2 hours where the bus was waiting to take us to a fabulous local restaurant for lunch.  Dishes were placed on the table instead of the boring buffet we were used to and everything was absolutely delicious, especially the fried eggplant slices, cauliflower, rice and cabbage dish and the chicken with potatoes and red onions – a very nice treat.

Visited the National Museum nearby which used to be housed in a lockout tower but due to an earthquake was relocated.  It had a wonderful exhibit of ancient masks used in traditional dances and ceremonies and beautiful thangkas from Tibet.  Back to the hotel to change into swim suits for our hot stone bath.  Drove to a farmhouse which had 6 trough-like cement tubs lined up in a hot room.  Stones were heated in a bonfire before being placed at the end of these wooden troughs which are filled with water that heats up.  It felt really good for about 20 minutes but was veryyy hot. 

Showered and then had our last dinner together.  The hotel is very luxurious and the food was even better than last night ending with tea cake with mango custard.  Afterwards outside on the patio a lively dance program of traditional masked dances took place using many of the same type of masks we had seen in the museum.  The costumes, music, instruments and dancing were excellent and a perfect ending to a wonderful week in Bhutan.

I took a long walk in the morning to enjoy the last smells, sights and sounds of Paro before flying back to New Delhi to continue my trip to Dubai….

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Skordalia with toasted pita bread
3 pita breads, each cut into 8 wedges
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. Mediterranean spices
2 medium russet potatoes, peeled, cut into cubes
1/4C extra-virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp. Italian parsley leaves, coarsely chopped
3 Tbsp.  Za’atar (for sprinkling)
olive oil for drizzling

Preheat the oven to 400F.  Spread the pita wedges on a cookie sheet, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with spices.  Bake 3 – 4 minutes on each side or until crisp.  Set aside.

Place potatoes in a large pan, add cold water to cover by one inch.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium and simmer until potatoes are tender.  Drain and press through a ricer along with the garlic into a large bowl.  Add olive oil, lemon juice and Italian parsley to hot potatoes and stir with a fork until smooth.  Season with salt and pepper.   Place in a bowl, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with Za’atar.  Serve warm with pita wedges.
MAKES:  8 servings

Monday, June 4, 2012

Chocolate Fudge Cake
1C all purpose flour
6 Tbsp. cocoa powder
½ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
1 stick unsalted butter, melted and warm
1-1/4C packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2C hot water

Chocolate icing/sauce
8 oz. bittersweet chocolate
1C cream
1/2C cream beaten with sugar and vanilla to taste (optional)

For the cake:  Preheat oven to 350F.  Line a 9x2-inch round cake pan with parchment and butter.  Pulse the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt together in a food processor.  In a large bowl, combine the melted butter and brown sugar, add the eggs and vanilla and stir until well blended.  Add the liquid ingredients to the flour mixture and pulse to combine.  Pulse in the hot water.  Turn the batter into the cake pan and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean – about 30 minutes.  Let cool on a rack for ten minutes.  Run a thin knife around the edge and invert cake, peel off parchment and invert onto the rack.  Place the rack over a baking sheet and let cool completely.

For the icing:  Bring the cream to a boil, add the chocolate and whisk gently until the chocolate is completely melted and smooth.   Pour the warm icing over the cake and spread it over the top of the cake and down the sides.  Let set for about an hour before serving.  Serve with any remaining icing and optional whipped cream.
MAKES:  8 – 10 servings