Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Bittersweet Chocolate Almond Torte 

for the torte

1/3C water

1/2C sugar

1 stick unsalted butter, cubed

12 oz. bittersweet chocolate, cut in pieces

1 tsp. instant espresso powder

¼ tsp. salt

1/3C almond liqueur or cold brewed coffee

2 tsp. almond extract

6 eggs


for the ganache

1/2C cream

4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, cut in pieces

1/2C sliced almond, toasted

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

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

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

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

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

MAKES:  8 – 12 servings


Saturday, October 10, 2020

Grilled Eggplant Rolls w/red pepper vinaigrette 

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

    or grilled 3 minutes per side

3 Tbsp. pitted Kalamata olives, chopped

3 Tbsp. chopped fresh herbs

1/2C goat cheese

2 Tbsp. toasted pine nuts

Freshly ground pepper

red pepper dipping sauce

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

2 red bell peppers, cored, seeded and sliced

1 red jalapeno pepper, seeded and sliced

1 tsp. minced garlic

1/4C red wine vinegar

2 Tbsp. lemon juice

salt and freshly ground pepper

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

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

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

MAKES:  6 – 8 servings



Sunday, September 13, 2020

Northern California – August/September 2020 

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Monday, September 7, 2020

Chicken Rolls with prosciutto and goat cheese

6 thin slices chicken breasts, pounded slightly if necessary 

6 thin slices prosciutto

5 - 6 oz. goat cheese, room temperature

salt and pepper to taste

2 tsp. spice rub of choice 

2 Tbsp. olive oil


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

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

roasted onion vinaigrette 

small red onion, cut in half crosswise

3/4C olive oil

3 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar

2 Tbsp. chopped fresh chives

salt and pepper to taste

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

MAKES:  6 servings


Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Roast Potato salad with grilled corn and red onions
16 small red potatoes, unpeeled, cut in half
olive oil
2 ears corn, silk removed
spice rub
thyme sprigs
1 jar grilled artichokes, sliced
1 red onion, peeled and thickly sliced
2C arugula
5 oz. goat cheese

1/2C pitted kalamata olives
2 Tbsp. sherry wine vinegar
2 Tbsp. champagne vinegar
2 tsp. honey mustard
½ tsp. spice blend of choice
6 Tbsp. olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Shake all the vinaigrette ingredients in a jar and set aside.  Preheat oven to 400F.  Toss the potatoes with olive oil, salt and pepper, thyme sprigs and spice rub and roast until tender.

Place each ear of corn on a piece of foil, top with thyme sprigs and a drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper and grill about 15 minutes until tender.  Remove kernels.  Toss the onion slices with olive oil and grill along with the corn.  Toss the potatoes in a bowl with some of the vinaigrette while warm.  Add the remaining ingredients except goat cheese and toss again.  Sprinkle with goat cheese and toss lightly.
MAKES:  8 servings

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Sautéed pear salad with and farro
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
2 Tbsp. oil
4 ripe but firm Bosc pears, quartered, seed removed
salt and pepper to taste
spice rub of choice
2C wild arugula
1C kale, cabbage mixture
1/2C cooked farro
6 pieces prosciutto, cut in half
1/2C Parmesan cheese, shaved
1/2C toasted walnuts

2 Tbsp. pear or champagne vinegar
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
2 tsp. honey mustard
salt and pepper to taste
6 Tbsp. olive or walnut oil

Heat the butter and oil in sauté pan over medium heat.   Season pears with salt, pepper and spice rub and cook over medium-high heat, turning occasionally, until golden brown and starting to soften, about 5 – 7 minutes.  Transfer to a platter and let cool.

Shake vinaigrette ingredients together in a bowl.  Toss the pears with some of the vinaigrette.  Toss arugula, kale mixture, and farro together and divide among plates.  Place two prosciutto halves around the greens.  Top with pears and sprinkle with cheese and walnuts.
MAKES:  6 servings

Friday, April 3, 2020

Oman – January/February 2020 - Part 2
Taxi came in the morning to my hotel in Muscat and I arrived at the airport with plenty of time to spare.  Going through security was a breeze so I found a coffee shop and enjoyed my favorite chocolate chip muffin and coffee as I waited for the flight up to Khasab.  I stayed at the Khasab Hotel in town and they picked me up at the airport which was about 10 minutes away. 

Checked in to the hotel and then walked up to the Khasab Fort worked by the Portuguese in the seventeenth century.  The castle was first redesigned in 1990 and again in 2007.  There is an excellent museum in the circular tower with information on fishing boats, architecture, etc. and upstairs are apartments and kitchens with furnishings of how people lived.  In the courtyard are several interesting ships and a house of locks built by a master craftsman.  Well worth a couple hours!

Walked up to Lulu Hypermarket and sat outside by the water at a little restaurant inside.  Had a delicious shawarma with chicken while beautiful classical music played.  Leisurely walked back to the hotel.  There is really nothing else to see in town…Hotel dropped me off at Al Shamaliah where I fresh grilled fish, tabbouleh salad and bread which were all delicious.

The breakfast buffet was rather dismal but there was some delicious dates and honey to put on the toast.  Took a Dhow boat trip in the Musandam fjords for the day and it was fabulous.  There were only 6 of us on our wooden boat and we sailed through a variety of rock formations branching in and out of the ocean with stunning views and it was a really nice sunny day.  Stopped at Telegraph Island to swim which felt wonderful.  Water was warm and refreshing.  Stopped again at Seebi Island but only a few swam there.  Saw some dolphins off and on throughout the day, some running along the side of the boat.  They put out a really nice lunch with warm chicken, fish, rice, salad and tea and water were available all day.  It was a lovely day.  After a nice hot shower and a rest the hotel took me to Aroos Musandam Restaurant where I had the best menu in Khasab, i.e. chicken tikka with yogurt sauce and biryani rice followed by a glass of lightly sweetened mint tea.  Got a ride back to the hotel.

Walked up to Atana Musandam resort after breakfast, located in the northern tip of the Musandam penisular.  It is a beautiful hotel where many of the rooms have a view of the waterway.  I did not stay here but wandered around a bit and then had a delicious lunch outside on the patio at Al Mawra.  My crisp falafel sandwich was freshly made and their signature chocolate dessert was amazing!  It was a cup of chocolate/nut and cream custard topped with a wafer of chocolate and the server poured a rich chocolate sauce over the top, melting the wafer and pouring into the cream.  It was sooo good!  Walked back to the hotel where a guide picked me up at 2:30 p.m. for a tour of Khasab.  Drove the Khasab – Tibat road, a feat of engineering with spectacular views across the Straits of Hormuz.  Stopped at the Bukha fort which was interesting and then stopped at the UAE border.  Watched the sunset from the beach.  Had dinner at Wadi Qata which was rather disappointing, grilled fish, rice and tomato/cucumber salad.  There was no one else in the restaurant and it needed a lot of updating…

Got to the airport in plenty of time in the morning for my 12:30 p.m. Oman Air flight to Muscat and on to Salalah but the flight was delayed so much that when I arrived in Muscat I missed my connecting flight to Salalah.  I had booked my connection with Salem Air and they would not help me with another flight.  A lesson learned.  Had I booked both flights with Oman Air I would not have had to purchase another connecting flight.  However, even though there was no space on the 7:00 p.m. flight to Salalah the Oman Air manager made sure I was on that flight which I appreciated.    My airbnb host Mustafa met me at the airport and took me to the studio next to the Millenium Resort which worked out perfectly.  We walked over to the Resort and I talked with the manager about perhaps having breakfast there for the next five mornings I would be there and he worked out something fabulous for me.

In the morning I walked over to the resort and was offered one of the most wonderful buffets ever, pancakes, Arabian breads, fresh yogurt and fruit, eggs, honey, dates, cakes, etc. plus any type of coffee desired.  I sat outside by the pool every morning and started my day in heaven!!!

Took a taxi to the Frankincense Museum in the morning where I learned about the historic and maritime heritage of Salalah.  I particularly enjoyed the Maritime Hall which dealt with the skills of seafaring and housed several very interesting traditional vessels.  Took a walk around the Al Baleed Archaelogical Park and then went into town and wandered around the fish and vegetable market until meeting Mustafa who would be my guide for the next five days.  We had a very nice lunch at an Indian restaurant nearby, i.e. butter chicken and naan bread and then to the Sumhuram Archaeological Park where we wandered around the ruins.   Stopped at Wadi Darbat to see the waterfalls and took a nice walk.  Every evening we stopped at a beach so I had about an hour to walk alone and see the sunset on my return…We went to the old souq which was rather small but quite nice where I picked up a couple stuffed camels for my grandsons, not realizing until I got home that they were musical as well!!

We picked out some fresh fish and shrimp at the fish market and looked around the market as it was prepared for us.  Sat outside and thoroughly enjoyed the fresh flavor and spices of the fish.  Afterwards we stopped at a special konafa bakery where we shared this delicious dessert which I had had in Muscat as well.  We spent a great deal of time eating together which I thoroughly enjoyed!!

In the morning we drove to the eastern part of Salalah and visited Ayn Razat, the most important source of spring water in Dhofar.  The water flows 7 km to Al-Mamurah Palace, the sultan’s residence when in Salalah.  On to Ayn Athum, one of the most beautiful limestone waterfalls in Salalah.  To Mughsail Beach to see the blowhole but it was quite small. Stopped at a Turkish restaurant for lunch and sharad chicken kebabs and cheese bread, Turkish bread and pita bread!!!   Mustafa picked up an assortment of sweets and we stopped for coffee to enjoy them.  I walked for a bit on Mughsail Beach which was lovely.

We stopped at Souly Eco Lodge, a unique lodge constructed with natural and local materials like stones and recycled wood from the Salalah area.  The bungalows are near the ocean and it looked really nice.  Saw some frankincense trees, camels, irrigation systems, etc.  It was a lovely day.  Dinner at a Pakistani restaurant Al Ghad where we shared spicy butter chicken, kingfish, naan bread, an okra dish and ended with rice pudding and a coconut dessert.  Great food!!  Food in Oman has been really amazing.

Visited Mirbat Castle in the morning, a beautiful location on the beach.  The fort is nicely restored and provides good information about the 1972 Battle of Mirbat.  Stopped by the resort nearby, walked on the beach and then had a cheese “pie” for lunch as there were few restaurants around.  We stopped in Darbat and took a nice boat ride on Wadi Darbat.  Later that evening we went to a camel restaurant where we sat in our own little room on the floor and shared camel shwarma, tiny camel kebabs from young camels and slow cooked camel meat with yemen bread along with some hot tea.  Stopped at another café for kanafe but it was not quite as good as the first one…

Mustafa was busy the following day so his friend Jacob was my guide which turned out very well.  We talked about Oman and he shared some insight into how it is to live in Oman.  First stop was the Sultan Qaboos Mosque which towers over the city and is exquisitely beautiful.  Inside the crystal chandelier hangs from an intricately carved dome and a 20-ton handwoven carpet covers the floor.  On to Taqah Castle about 33 kilometers east of Salalah.  It was built in the 19th century and used to be a private residence for a tribal leader.  It became the property of the government in the first half of the 20th century and is now a museum.  The rooms of the castle are now used to display numerous exhibits such as weapons and cookware and showcases the old Omani way of life.  I really enjoyed this one.  On to Nabi Youns’ tomb also known as the tomb of Job set high in the lttin mountains and the beautiful area of Ayn Garziz..  There is his grave, his foot print, an old praying area and water spring.  Stopped at Nabi Umran’s tomb in the center of the city.  It is a very long and impressive tomb.

Jacob dropped me off at the mall so I could look around and have a coffee and cake at Costa Coffee for a change from all those heavy lunches!!!  Mustafa met me about 2:00 p.m. and we wandered around the vegetable and cheese section of the mall.
Wandered around the caves and springs of Ayn Razat and then took a walk on the beach near the Millenium and watched the sun set.  Dinner again at Al Ghad where we sat in a little room of our own and shared barbecued chicken, king fish, dal and garlic naan.  Also tried a couple of new desserts but they were very sweet.  My last dinner in Salalah!

Had a delicious breakfast at Millenium outside by the pool complete with espresso.  Mustafa met me about 10 a.m. and we went to the mall for our last “meal” together.  We shared a delicious flourless chocolate cake with a gooey inside topped with ice cream and complimented with another rich espresso at dip dip chocolate.  Really fun.  Took my last walk on the beach and then to the airport where I caught a flight back to Muscat.  

My host from the airbnb picked me up and later we went to dinner at Kargeen Café.  Kargeen is the old Omani word for a little wooden cottage and this modern restaurant combines old cosiness with a modern lounge experience.    Sat outside among the trees filled with dozens of lights and some of the cooking was going on outside as well.  The menu is filled with traditional Omani dishes but I decided just to have a meze platter, Arabian bread and some crisp Omani herb bread which was all delicious.

In the morning I walked along the corniche to the National Museum which contains 14 permanent galleries – The Land and the People, Splendors of Islam, Renaissance, etc.  A fabulous collection.  Walked back to the old souq where I caught a taxi to quram beach for a last walk around.  Had dinner at Beach Restaurant in the Chedi Hotel, a very opulent place!  I sat outside overlooking the Arabian Sea and had a very nice (but very expensive) dinner, i.e. mussels with coconut milk, grilled tuna with barcolli beans and my first and only glass of wine in Oman.   A warm chocolate cake to finish.  My host picked me up and drove me to the airport where I caught the 2:15 a.m. flight to Frankfurt, on to Houston and finally Orange County where a friend picked me up.  It was really an amazing trip and I would highly recommend Oman to everyone!

Friday, March 13, 2020

Oman – January/February 2020 – Part I
A few years ago while in Dubai I booked a trip to the Musandam peninsula in Oman, filled with fjords and beauty but the guide never arrived so it has been on my mind every since.  This year I decided to visit Oman and see those fjords for myself.  Some friends of mine did the trip on their own but mentioned it would have been a lot better with a guide.  This information I took to heart and decided to do some of the trip on my own and some with G Adventures.

Left SNA on January 27 and arrived in Muscat on January 29.  Many long flights and layouts but as I used my United miles the trip was essentially free!!  I booked an airbnb in Mutrah near the souq and my host picked my up at the airport.  The airbnb was about a 15 minute walk to the corniche, the fish market, etc. which was a really good location.  I walked to the fish market to see the fresh fish and vegetables and then into the souq selling Omani and Indian artefacts and one of the oldest marketplaces in Oman dating back two hundred years.  Climbed up to the Mutrah fort built by the Portuguese in the 1580s and then into the Ghalya’s Museum which I thoroughly enjoyed.  This delightful museum is a reconstruction of what an Omani house would have looked like between 1950 and 1975.  There were beautiful wooden doors crafted from East Africa and some lovely jewelry and garments used for weddings.

Walked back to the souq along the corniche and found a little café upstairs where I had a nice Greek salad out on the patio.  Later that evening I walked to Bait al Luban, a traditional Omani restaurant, near the fish market and had a delicious shuwa lamb dinner on the patio.

In the morning I had some baklava and coffee with my host and then we visited the Al Bustan palace, a beautiful hotel set along the beach.  Stopped to see sohar, a replica of the boat which sailed to Guanzhou in China.  She dropped me at Bait al Zubair, a fabulous museum in old Muscat where I spent a couple hours learning about the life of the Omani with displays of traditional handicrafts, traditional clothes, face masks, swords and a replica of a traditional Omani house.  Walked to the Sultan’s palace and then took a taxi to the “cave” area where there are a lot of restaurants and had a nice Greek salad outside on the top at a Lebanese restaurant.  Taxi back to the souq and then walked to the Al Riyam Park where I started a walk back to the souq but it seemed too dangerous so I gave it up…

Later that evening I had a wonderful Indian dinner at Mamtaz Mahal.  My tandoori roasted cauliflower and tikka masala chicken with garlic naan were very tasty and I enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere.

Worked something out with a friend of my host so didn’t have to rent a car.  He dropped me in the morning at Starbucks on Qurum Road near the beach and I had a “real” coffee and muffin.  There are no coffee shops in Mutrah and I had missed a cup of good coffee to start the day.  Wandered along the road to Qurum beach and found some cute little restaurants and shops.  Had a coffee and cake at Costa Coffee overlooking the sea and then walked to the Qurum Natural Park and enjoyed the beautiful waterfalls and paths filled with plants and flowers. 

Dinner at the Turkish House was really nice.  Decided to dine in the old part serving seafood and started with a meze platter filled with hummus, eggplant and Turkish bread followed by nicely grilled fish.

Another delicious coffee and muffin at Starbucks the next morning, before being dropped off at the Grand Mosque, a gift from Sultan Qaboos to mark his 30th year of reign.  He died this year and was much loved.  The mosque can accommodate 20,000 worshippers and the prayer carpet is a major feature of the design of the interior.  Also of note is the extraordinary chandelier above the praying hall.  While visiting the mosque was the only time I needed to wear a head scarf.

Got a ride up to the Al Ameen white marble mosque on the hill.  I was fortunate it was still open so I could see the hand carved works of art in stone inside in the form of Islamic patterns and calligraphy.  Breathtaking inside and out.  Caught another ride to the Royal Opera House and took a guided tour.  Considered one the most beautiful and technically advanced opera houses in the world, it was fascinating to see how many ways it could be transformed.  Because Sultan Qaboos was so musical no music or musical performances are allowed for 40 days in Oman out of respect for this great man…

In the afternoon, I walked along the Qurum Beach to Costa Coffee where I enjoyed a delicious coffee and cheesecake overlooking the sea.  Taxi back to Mutrah.  Got a ride to Shabestan, a Persian restaurant later that evening and had an excellent meal, i.e. side platter of arugula, feta, olives and bread, chicken kebabs marinated in lebnah, saffron and lemon and three rice.

Walked along the corniche almost to old Muscat and back in he morning and then was dropped off at my new hotel where the G Adventures trip would begin.  I had thought about renting a car and doing this part by myself but decided I would probably miss many things without a guide and a 4 wheel drive car.  Walked to the beach nearby and stopped at the W Hotel to see their lovely bar/tapas area called Living Room which was very ecletic.  On to Costa Coffee for a coffee and chocolate cheesecake, always  enjoying the view of the sea.  Our group meeting was at 6 p.m.  There will be 12 of us, some from Australia, England, Scotland, etc.  Our guide was from Oman.  Got a nice briefing of what’s to come and then I walked down to LoKanta where my former host works and she sat me at a lovely table upstairs.  It is an upscale Turkish restaurant and I enjoyed my meal, i.e. meze platter with hummus, eggplant, yogurt and cucumbers and roasted pepper dip with warm bread, grilled lamb kebabs with vegetables and a spectacular dessert called kunafe made with kadif and warm cheese drizzled with a light syrup.

Nice breakfast buffet in the morning and then to the Grand Mosque again, this time with a guide which made the visit more memorable.  Dropped by the souq in Mutrah where I had already been and then to the Museum in Old Muscat where I had also been but enjoyed seeing some of the exhibits again.  Lunch at Le Cave at a Turkish restaurant where we all shared a large meze platter, lamb and chicken kebabs, grilled fish, salad with feta cheese and cucumbers and a light mango custard for dessert.  On our own for the afternoon.  Took a walk to the beach as it is close by and made some flight reservations for my upcoming trip to Salalah.

In the evening I walked up to the Crown Plaza hotel on the hill and had a delicious tuna tartar outside on the patio overlooking the sea.  Unfortunately my chocolate dessert was terrible and I had to send it back but on my way out I was offered some nice Arabian desserts which I ate on my way back to the hotel…

In the morning we drove along the coast towards the picturesque Bimmah Sinkhole, a limestone “lake” of turquoise waters about 60 m deep, perfect for swimming.  Continued on to Sur, stopping along the way at a local restaurant where I had delicious grilled fish with naan bread and a simple salad.  Stopped at the Dhow Shipyards to see how craftsmen build dhows, the teak boats the traditional way, without plans.  Unfortunately now people prefer to build fiberglass boats because they are much cheaper to make and easier to maintain.  Drove along the corniche to our hotel.  Had a nice Omani date cake and ice cream with tea before leaving for Ras El Jinz about 8:30 p.m.to visit the turtle sanctuary.  As it was not the season to see the turtles it was a futile trip as there were none to see…

After breakfast on the patio, we drove in 4 wheel drive cars towards Wadi Bani Khalid, a rocky oasis nestled in the East Hajar mountains filled with natural pools.  There was a rather difficult walk to a low cave which was interesting to see if you had a flashlight.  I crawled in just far enough to see inside and it was worth the walk.  Stopped for a snack and then into the dunes where we climbed around and watched the sunset before settling into our desert lodge at Wahabi Sands.

Met in the lodge for a buffet dinner, i.e. chicken kebabs, rice, cucumber salad, breads, hummus and several cakes and Arabian desserts.

Pancakes and honey for breakfast with delicious dates served at every meal.  Leaving the desert behind, we headed towards Ibra and stopped to visit the Jabrin castle which dates back to about 600 years ago and has undergone an extensive renovation.  It is filled with history of how life was in Oman and there are many rooms inside all of which served a specific purpose, i.e. a special room where dates were crushed into liquid.   We spent about an hour enjoying all the lovely rooms.  Stopped at a little café for a falafel sandwich and then at the historic fortress of Bahla but didn’t go in unfortunately…  Saw some racing camels with remote controls which was very interesting.  Children used to ride them but now it is done by remote control!!!  Arrived in Nizwa about 5 p.m. and wandered through the old and new souqs, sampling dates and halvah.  We had time on our own so I visited the Nizwa Fort and Castle which was fabulous.  The castle part was filled with interesting exhibits about making indigo, how the palm trees are used, etc. housed in the beautiful rooms of the past.

Picked out a fresh fish for dinner at a little restaurant nearby and had it grilled along with a Greek salad.  Checked into our hotel, a bit far from town.

Early breakfast and then into Nizwa for the goat market which was great fun.  People were crowded around as goat sellers paraded their goats calling out the price until someone was interested.  Also stopped by the vegetable and fish markets and the weapons market where antique guns and knives were sold.  Stopped by LuLu Hypermarket to pick up a salad for lunch and then on to Al Hamra to visit the traditional mud houses of Misfat Al Abriyeen.  The village boasts amazing agricultural terraces, beautiful alleys and old houses built on top of solid rocks and learn about the Falaj network, Oman’s ancient water supply system.  Returned to Nizwa via Jebel Shams where we had a picnic overlooking Wadi Nakhr known as the Grand Canyon of Oman and then walked down into the “snake point” of the gorge which was a really nice walk. 

In the evening we all met in the lobby and drove to a nearby Turkish restaurant where we had a delicious dinner outside. I had chicken kebabs with yogurt sauce and Arabian bread and part of a spinach and cheese filled Turkish pizza which was really nice.

After breakfast in the morning, we drove through Wadi Bani Awf which offers some of the best off-road driving with beautiful scenery and stunning cliffs and canyons throughout.  Took a nice walk along the creek and continued to Snake Canyon where we picked up ice cream to hold us over until our late lunch.  Stopped at a really nice Turkish restaurant where we shared a kebab platter, meze of spreads, selection of breads and salads.  It was really delicious.  Arrived back in Muscat and had a few hours to take a walk along the beach. 

Later I walked down to Lokante where my friend works and had kanafe, the delicious dessert I had last time I was there and a cup of hot tea.  In the morning I fly to Khasab and finish the remainder of my time in Oman on my own which I am truly looking forward to!!!

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Couscous crusted salmon
1C boiling chicken stock or water
1C instant couscous
6 Kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
2 Tbsp. Italian parsley leaves, chopped
salt and pepper

Six 4 – 5 oz. center cut salmon filets
1 tsp. spice rub of choice
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
2 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2C fruity Pinot Noir
2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp. Italian parsley leaves, chopped
½ - 3/4 stick soft butter

Preheat oven to 500F.  In a small bowl, pour the boiling stock over the couscous, cover with a plate and let stand until the water has absorbed – about 20 minutes.  Stir in the olives, Italian parsley, salt and pepper to taste.  Place the salmon filets, skin side down on a lightly oiled cookie sheet and season with spice rub, salt and pepper.  Carefully mound the couscous on the filets, pressing lightly to help it adhere.  Bake the salmon in the upper third of the oven for about 10 minutes, or until the topping is crisp and the salmon is cooked through.

For the sauce:  Heat the butter in a sauté pan, add the shallots.  Sauté a few minutes.  Add the Pinot Noir and vinegar and boil over moderately high heat until the liquid is reduced to ¼ cup. Remove from the heat and add the Italian parsley and butter.  Shake to thicken.   Season with salt and pepper
MAKES:   6 servings

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Chicken smothered in herbs and almonds
2 large chicken breast halves, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tsp. lemon juice
2 tsp. Kosher salt
6 Tbsp. olive oil (1 Tbsp., 5 Tbsp.)
3 Tbsp. sliced or slivered blanched almonds
2C thinly sliced onions
1 Tbsp. finely chopped peeled garlic
1 Tbsp. finely chopped ginger
1 stick cinnamon, 3 inches long
8 green cardamom pods
4 whole cloves
2 tsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. blackened spices or spices of choice
1/2C chicken stock
½ -1C pureed canned tomatoes
3 Tbsp. almond butter
1/3C Greek yogurt
1/2C cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped

Place chicken pieces in a bowl with lemon juice and salt.  Cover and marinate ½ hour, or refrigerate overnight.

Heat one tablespoon oil in a pan; add the sliced almonds and sauté until light brown.  Remove and set aside.  Add the remaining oil to the pan; add the onions and sauté until light brown – about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add the garlic and ginger and sauté 2 minutes.  Add the cardamom, cinnamon and cloves and cook until puffed and beginning to brown.  Reduce heat to medium, add the chicken pieces and cook until lightly seared.  Add the remaining spices and stir to distribute.  Add ½ cup tomatoes, almond butter and ½ cup chicken stock.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer until fork tender – 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.  If necessary add more pureed tomatoes or chicken stock.  Stir in the yogurt.  Turn off heat and let the dish rest, covered, for at least one hour.  When ready to serve, heat thoroughly, season with salt and pepper to taste and serve, sprinkled with cilantro leaves.
MAKES:  8 servings.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Roast Pork Tenderloin with carrot romesco
1/4C toasted pine nuts
1-1/2 lb. small carrots, halved lengthwise
7 Tbsp. olive oil
3 tsp. spice rub of choice
salt and pepper to taste
two tenderloins, trimmed
2 garlic cloves, peeled, finely chopped
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
2C spicy greens, i.e. watercress, pea sprouts, etc.

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

Preheat oven to 450F.  Toss carrots with 2 tablespoons oil, one teaspoon spice rub and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Spread out on a baking sheet and roast, tossing occasionally, until softened and browned, about 15 – 20 minutes.  Let cool slightly.

Meanwhile, season with pork tenderloins with salt, pepper and two teaspoons spice rub.  Heat a sauté pan to high, add 2 tablespoons olive oil, salt and pepper and sear the tenderloin on all sides.  Transfer to oven and roast until a thermometer inserted into the center registers 145F – about 10 minutes.  Let rest 10 minutes before slicing.

roast pork tenderloin with carrot romesco
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Pulse the pine nuts, garlic and red pepper flakes in a food processor with remaining 3 tablespoons of the oil, salt and pepper to taste.  Add one-fourth of the carrots, the vinegar and process until a coarse puree; add more oil if necessary.

Toss the greens and remaining carrots with vinaigrette.  Slice pork and serve with romesco and carrots.
MAKES:  6 servings