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 CafĂ© (  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