Monday, September 28, 2015

Lemon Cake with fresh fruit compote
3C all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
¾ tsp. salt
½ tsp. baking soda
3/4C buttermilk
3/4C fresh lemon juice (1/4C, 1/2C)
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
2-1/2C sugar (2C, 1/2C)
5 large eggs
3 Tbsp. (packed) finely grated lemon zest
2 tsp. vanilla

sifted powdered sugar
mint leaves
1/2C cream beaten with sugar and vanilla to taste

Preheat oven to 350F.  Butter a 10-inch spring form pan, line with parchment paper and butter again.  Mix flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda together to blend.  Combine buttermilk and ¼ cup lemon juice in a small bowl.  Beat butter until smooth, gradually add 2 cups of sugar and beat until well blended.  Beat in eggs, one at a time, then lemon peel and vanilla.  Add dry ingredients in 3 additions alternately with buttermilk mixture.  Transfer batter to prepared pan and bake until golden brown and slightly cracked on top – about one hour.

Meanwhile combine remaining ½ cup sugar and ½ cup water in a small pan and bring just to a boil to dissolve the sugar.  Set aside.
Transfer cake to a rack and cool 15 minutes.  Prick the cake with a fork and spoon syrup over the cake, allowing syrup to be absorbed before adding more.  Let cake cool.  Remove sides of the pan.  Dust with powdered sugar, serve with fruit compote and whipped cream.
MAKES:  12 servings

Fresh fruit compote
1-1/2C fresh berries
1-1/2C fresh stone fruit, i.e. plums, nectarines, peaches, sliced
1/4C sugar
1 tsp. lemon juice

Combine fruit, sugar and lemon juice in a pan and toss to blend.  Let stand 15 minutes.  Place pan over medium heat and stir gently until sugar dissolves and a light syrup
forms – about 5 minutes.  Let cool.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

South America – July/August, 2015
Left orange county the morning of July 11 and arrived in Ipanema, Brazil the following morning about 9:30 a.m.  Took the blue express bus to Ipanema Osorio and easily found my airbnb, a delightful stay with Maria.  There was a great lively open air art market going on as it was Sunday so I wandered around looking at the jewelry, paintings, etc.  Stopped at Terezzo café for lunch and sat outside and enjoyed my delicious leek quiche before catching the metro into Rio.  Visited the museo de belas artes near the old teatro municipal, modeled after the Paris Opera House. 

Art museum was great.  A concert was going on in the lobby so you could hear wonderful music throughout the museum.  There were lots of nice 19th and 20th century pieces which gave me a feel for the art in South America.  Back to the airbnb for a shower and a rest and then took a taxi to Quiteria restaurant.  It was rather close by but I had heard so many things about the dangers of walking around at night that I decided to play it safe.  Had a very tasty half order of potato gnocchi with oxtail ragout and fried cheese before returning by taxi.

I tried to access by email account but got locked out and google “detected” something unusual.  I had forgotten my backup email so was locked out of tarlacuisine during my whole trip.  Luckily my dear daughter opened a new account for me so I could communicate with family and friends along the way.

In the morning I walked along the beach to Cafeina for breakfast and sat outside and enjoyed my “cereal” croissant and an orange.  Walked along the beach toward Leblon and took a bus to the botanical gardens but they didn’t open until 12:00 p.m.  However, I met a couple of delightful ladies from Argentina and we spent the afternoon together sightseeing!!!

We first took a bus up to Corcovado (Christ the redeemer), inaugurated on October 12, 1931 by the President Vargas.  He rises more than 100 feet from a 20 foot pedestal and weights 700 tons – very impressive!!

Afterwards we took a bus back to the botantical gardens, i.e. 340 acres containing more than 5,000 species of tropical and subtropical plants and treats.  First, we stopped at the little café and had croissant cheese sandwiches before taking the tram tour of the gardens which lasted about 45 minutes to give us an over view.  They left afterwards and I wandered around another hour or so on my own as it was really beautiful.  Took a bus back as it started to get dark and later took a taxi to Zuka in Leblon for dinner.  I ordered the tuna with ponzu and it was lovely and a Brazilian chocolate dessert which was decadent. 

In the morning I wandered around the fruit/vegetable market on the square and bought a half melon.  I had breakfast at Terezzo on the patio, i.e. toasted roll and honey, coffee and my melon.  Walked along the beach to copacabana and took the metro to the teatro municipal and was soo lucky!!!  There was a ballet going on and as it was almost over they let me in to watch the remainder.  Afterwards I had about 30 minutes to visit the teatro and enjoy the beautiful stained glass windows, marble columns, tiled floors, etc. and didn’t have to pay or wait in line!

I walked down to the famous cathedral shaped like a pyramid with beautiful stained glass windows inside.  Wandered around passing some old unique homes and took the metro back to Ipanema.   Walked to Tupac where I had a wonderful lunch, i.e. ceviche to start served with crisp and fresh corn kernels, red onions in a lime marinade which was really fresh, followed by grilled salmon with mashed potatoes and mushroom sauce.

Tried to find the fundacao eva klabin which looked to be nearby on the map but just couldn’t find it.  Finally asked a policeman in the park and he was sooo nice.  He called them to find out where they were located and then walked me to the door!!!  The home was given to Rio by Eva Klabin in 1980 just before her death and it is filled with more than 2,000 pieces of art she collected from all over the world.  Took a guided tour which was wonderful as the art pieces were explained and I got to see many of the clothes and shoes she wore when she entertained many famous guests, i.e. even Henry Kissinger!  Took the metro back to the airbnb and checked out…

Took the metro to Copacabana and then walked to the hotel where the G adventure trip would begin.  Met Santiago, our lead/guide from Bolivia and then we all walked to a restaurant nearby.  A great group of people, mostly from Australia and mostly in their 20’s and 30’s. 

In the morning I walked along the beach and then had a great buffet breakfast.  Most of our breakfasts contained an abundance of fresh fruit, sometimes eggs, sometimes local cheeses and meat and always bread and jam.  Drove to Angra dos Reis, stopping for a quick sandwich along the way and then took a ferry to Illha Grande – a beautiful trip across the water.  Checked into the hotel and wandered around the town until we all walked to dinner on the beach.  Shared a fish stew with bananas with one of the gals which was delicious.  Found the food excellent during the whole trip!

In the morning we took a ferry near Lopez Mendes and then walked about an hour to the beach which was lovely.  Spent the day relaxing on the beach, swimming, etc., taking the ferry back just before sunset.  Had some delicious tortellini with pesto sauce for dinner and then stopped at an outdoor café to listen to some music.

After breakfast we took the ferry back to Angra dos reis and then a bus to Paraty, a beautiful old colonial town with walking streets made of old cobblestones.  At one time it was an important transit point for transporting gold until a new trail was cut in 1720 straight to Rio.  It was rediscovered and UNESCO has placed it on the list of world heritage sites.  Walked around town and along the canals and had a delicious ice cream in the square.  Later we all went out to dinner at a local restaurant and I shared a fish stew with hearts of palm, asparagus and potatoes with one of the travelers and it was quite good.

In the morning we took a boat around some of the islands for the day, stopping in lagoons to swim.  Nice relaxing day.  Thai Basil for dinner of pad thai which was nice.

After breakfast a few of us went to the cachaca distillery.  It is a local drink made from sugarcane.  We tasted a few variations, i.e. one mixed with tangerines, one with caramel and one with lemon – all quite tasty, especially the one with coffee.  Took a little walk to the river but needed to get back to catch the bus to Trinidad.  Walked down to the secluded beach and enjoyed the beach.  I took the bus back early and after a shower went to Quintal des letras, a wonderful French/Brazilian restaurant, for dinner. I had a little “glass” of pumpkin soup, ceviche with potatoes, fish with manioc crumbs, banana puree, basmati rice with palm hearts and a chocolate dessert plate composed of chocolate crème brulee, chocolate peanut tart and chocolate mousse – divine.

Left early in the morning and arrived at Sao Paulo airport about 1:30 p.m.  Had a delicious warm hearts of palm empanada and chocolate chocolate chip ice cream for lunch before flying to Iguazu.  Dinner at a brazilian meat restaurant Churras, i.e. all you can eat for $10!!  There was a nice buffet of salads, vegetables, yams, fruits, desserts, etc. and while you ate waiters would come by with large pieces of different cuts of pork, beef, lamb and chicken and slice off a piece or two for you.  Great flavors.  Chocolate and caramel flans for dessert.  Won’t need to eat again for a week!!!

In the morning we took a bus to Iguazu and then took a train up to the falls.  First visited Garganta del Diablo on the Argentinian side which was unbelievable… It is the highest and deepest of the falls.  We then walked to San Martin Island for some different viewpoints.  Some took the boat ride to view the falls from below while the rest of us walked the lower circuit and really enjoyed the views and leisurely walk.  In the evening we went to a Brazilian “barbecue” on the large patio of a private home and had a buffet of salads, potatoes, chicken wings and grilled steaks.  It was a bit cold outside so a few of us went back to the hotel early while others stayed to dance.

After the best breakfast ever, i.e. fruit, toasted rye bread, cornmeal cake, etc. etc. walked by Hotel Das Cataracts where I remember staying about 10 years ago and then along a beautiful walkway bordering the falls on the Brazil side.  Bus back into town and dinner at a cute little Arabian restaurant where I shared hummus, eggplant dip, pita bread and falafel with a couple people.  Overnight bus to Bonito…

Arrive about 9 a.m. and took a bus to a nearby river where we put on wet suits and fins and did some snorkeling down the river.  The water was shallow so we saw a lot of beautiful fish and we leisurely glided down the river.  Had a delicious buffet lunch and then took a walk around the area before leaving before sunset about 5 p.m.  Went to dinner but after such a big lunch I wasn’t really very hungry…

Had a free day in the beautiful colonial town of Bonito.  Visited a ceramic factory where they were making some lovely plates.  Took a walk around town, had an ice cream for lunch and then we all met for dinner at Cantinho across from the hotel where Jordan and I shared  delicious fish and mashed potatoes as we listened to some beautiful music being played on a traditional string instrument.

In the morning we headed out in a large air-conditioned bus to the wetlands of the Pantanal where we saw macaws and caiman (which we tasted as well).  Got into an open truck (like a safari) and drove into the swamps looking for wildlife.  Lots of mosquitos!!!  We are all staying in a large room with hammocks for everyone.  There are cold showers and the room is pretty cold as well.  Had a delicious buffet lunch with pumpkin, rice, tomatoes and cucumbers and then relaxed on the porch until later in the afternoon when we took a two hour walk through the swamps.  Dinner was the same as lunch and later some lit a fire and we all sat around talking – really nice.  Very hard to sleep in the hammocks as there were a lot of people snoring and it was pretty cold….

Got up early and went horsebacking riding after breakfast which was really fun as we rode through the jungle, across a river, etc.  They prepared a vegetable torte for lunch which was quite nice along with shredded carrots/beets arrange like a heart along with eggplant and rice.  Later in the afternoon we went out again in the trucks and saw some toucans and macaws.  Stopped at the bridge to do some fishing and some caught several little piranhas using long bamboo poles.  Later they were cooked for dinner and were quite delicious.  Enjoyed another evening by the fire…

Left the Pantanal after breakfast and headed for the Bolivian border.  I was the only one needing a visa and had got one before I left so the crossing was easy and uneventful.  Changed some money and spent the day in a hotel pool where we also had some vegetable soup for dinner before boarding the overnight bus to Santa Cruz.  Not much to do there so took a walk, had pickled eggplant, carrots, onions and raisins with warm pita bread for lunch which was nice.  There are some famous Jesuit churches a bus ride away but I didn’t want to go there on my own… Later we stopped at a little bakery and had lemon meringue pie for dinner, calling it an early night…

In the morning we flew to Sucre, the capital of Bolivia.  Santiago took us on a city walk and pointed out some museums, shops, restaurants, etc. and then we stopped by Joy Ride, a tour agency, to book the Inca walk to the crater in a couple days.  Had apple pie and ice cream in their café for lunch and then walked around the historical area and the lovely square.  Went to a Bolivian show and dinner later that night which was excellent.  The costumes, dances, music, etc. were all very traditional and the chicken dinner was also quite nice served with quinoa, sweet potatoes and mushroom sauce.

Took a bus to Parque Cretacico, housing the world’s largest collection of dinosaur tracks.  In 1994, a nearly vertical mudface was discovered in a cement quarry bearing about 5,000 tracks of at least eight different species of dinosaur.  There are also several life-size models of dinosaurs all around the park.  Pretty interesting…

After returning to town I visited the museo de etnografia y folklore which contained about 30 different masks from festivals, etc.  Upstairs there were interesting baskets and information about the people “of the water” and how they lived.  Stopped at Abis and had a cheese Panini and later that evening we all went to Cosmo Cafe to have some fresh trout.  Afterwards we stopped by Goblin Cerveza Artesanal and sampled a few of their in house made beer which was quite nice.

After breakfast we meet at Joy Ride and took the bus to begin our Inca trail.  The bus ride took about 1-1/2 hours and the walk took about 2 hours, all downhill and really nice.  Stopped at Maragua and had our lunch by the river and then climbed up to the crater where there was a nice view.  Walked to a nearby village where a woman was weaving some shawls, etc. and then returned to Sucre.  Had a delicious dinner at Taberna, i.e. pumpkin soup, trout with rose petals and chocolate almond cake.

I visited the Museo costumbrista in the morning and had a guided tour in Spanish which I understand pretty well.  There were clothes worn in the 16th century, hair accessories, jewelry, furniture, etc. and the guide explained how the people lived during that time.  Really great.  Visited the Church San Felipe de Neri which is a working convent with a beautiful courtyard and fountain.  On the second floor there are chapels, frescoes and great views from the roof. 

Had lunch at the vegetarian condor café which was a delicious vegetarian empanada and salad.  Spent the rest of the afternoon in the Textile museum which was very informative about the 3 kinds of textiles, i.e. upper earth, i.e. sky and stars, middle earth, where we are now and the underworld.  There was also an open-air market nearby where I wandered as well.  The zipper on my little red kipling pack cannot be fixed so I found a cute little textile bag that will work in the meantime.  Delicious chicken with mushroom sauce/spinach and potatoes at Taberna…

Drove through Potosi in the morning but couldn’t stop as there were demonstrations by the miners and it is too dangerous.  Arrive in uyuni about 1:30 p.m. and had lunch at a nearby café.  Wandered the Sunday market and then stopped in a few shops where almost everyone bought something.  It was very cold!!!  In the evening we walked to a pizza place specializing in quinoa pizza and I shared a goat cheese/spinach one with one of the travelers – delicious.  Floors are heated in the hotel which kept me warm.

Drove all day long towards the salt flats.  Stopped at the hot springs for lunch, i.e. rice, potatoes, tomatoes and cucumbers and some spent a few minutes in the hot springs but we were pretty short on time.  Stopped to visit the red lagoon, green lagoon, some geyers and mud ponds in the national park and saw some vacuna and llamas as well.   Arrived late to the hotel where four of us shared a room.  VERY COLD!!!  Asparagus soup, chicken, mashed potatoes and warm bread for dinner and then Santiago pointed out some constellations in the sky which was soo clear!!  Had rented a sleeping bag and hopped in it with all my clothes on to keep warm.

Delicious yogurt, warm bread and jam for breakfast.  Walked down to the lagoon to see the pink flamingos and storks in the water.  Stopped to see some amazing rock formations, a museum of Bolivian history and a necropolis with stone caves where people had been wrapped in cloth and buried.  Pasta with oniony tomato sauce for lunch before visiting the quinoa museo next door.

Headed out into the salt flats with miles and miles of very deep salt with a puzzle like surface.  Climbed up a hill to get a better view and then spent about an hour taking pictures before the sun set.  Arrived at the hotel which was a bit warmer and had a nice meal of roasted potatoes and an onion/tomato mixture.

Back to the salt flats where we spent a couple hours taking pictures.  There is an interesting perspective that makes things look out of proportion, i.e. we all “danced” into a pringles can lying on its side, it was turned right side up by one of our travelers and the lid put back on???!!!!  Stopped by the salt factory where fine and coarse salt is produced and then returned to uyuni for showers.  Shared another quinoa pizza with Nicole just before boarding the overnight train to La Paz….

Checked into our hotel and then had a walking tour of La paz to the church Francisco, the cathedral and the plaza murillo.  Lunch at Sol and Luna and a walk along the witches market where very strange things are sold...  Rode the funicular to the top of the mountain to get a view of the city and then down into the restaurant area.  Had a delicious salad at Fellini restaurant which was our last meal as a group.  Tomorrow we continue our trip with another guide.  Four people are leaving and two new Australians will be joining us.

A free day so went to the folklore museum housed in an ornate 18th century building.  Wandered down the calle jaen to the museum of instruments which was excellent as there were unusual instruments from all over the world.  Had a delicious vegetarian $5 lunch at
Namas te, i.e. salad with shredded carrots, cucumber, tomatoes, mung beans, chickpea soup, rice with a spicy pumpkin corn stew and plantain cake. 

Took a taxi to the textile museum where there were models of native people in traditional dress – very unique.  Later I met with our new guide Dennis as I was dining at Gustu that night and would miss our orientation meeting. 

So enjoyed a wonderful five course dinner with two half glasses of wine.  Started with a tiny potato tart followed by trout gravlax with caviar, quinoa rolls, beef cheeks with potato puree, rabbit confit with corn and corn puree, chocolate cake w/chocolate ice cream and strawberry sauce with strawberries and strawberry gelato – excellent!!!  I look forward to meeting our new Australian couple tomorrow and continuing this fantastic trip which has begun so well!!!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Potato Salad w/broccoli rabe and ricotta mint pesto
1 lb. red skin potatoes, cut in half, roasted in a 400F oven until tender
½ lb. broccoli rabe, grilled, cut in one-inch pieces
1/2C fresh corn
2 Tbsp. sherry wine vinegar
3/4C cucumber, seeded, coarsely grated
1C baby arugula

Ricotta pesto
1C packed mint leaves
1C whole-milk ricotta cheese
1/4C olive oil
1/3C grated Parmesan cheese
2 Tbsp. toasted pine nuts
salt and pepper to taste

Process the mint leaves, ricotta, olive oil, Parmesan, pine nuts, salt and pepper in a food processor; set aside.  Toss the cucumber with a generous pinch of salt in a small strainer.  Drain 15 minutes.  Squeeze well to remove excess moisture.

Toss warm potatoes and vinegar together and let stand until room temperature.  Add the broccoli rabe, corn and some of the pesto to coat.  Add the arugula and cucumber and more pesto if necessary.
MAKES:  6 servings