I returned from Germany and Switzerland two months ago. I was planning on writing several posts about my wonderful trip but didn't. My April-May trip was wonderful. I savored every minute and criss-crossed Germany on the train by myself visiting places and friends. I decided to write a post on how to navigate the German trains because some people have ask me to do so . Hopefully this post will unravel some the mysteries of German Railroad travel.
ICE means Intercity Express. It is the fastest train of the GermanRail system and provides high-speed connections between metropolitan areas. They usually run every hour and have a dining car and a bistro for food and drinks. However, I would recommend taking your own food and drinks. Ok, maybe the lentil soup is fine and so is the potato salad with a hot dog. Most of the trains have WiFi.
The dining car in the ICE train divides first class from second class. It is called Bordrestaurant. Some people stay in the dining car for the duration of their trip and order a drink or something to eat.
You can order food and drinks in first class. Of course it's expensive and that is why I often bring my own lunch which is totally ok. Larger rail stations have several food courts , a book and magazine store, and an information center where most of the agents speak English and can help you with your ticket and other questions you have.
Most of the time I take the ICE but sometimes I take the IC/EC ( InterCity/EuroCity). They are slightly slower than the ICE and are usually older trains. I have never taken an overnight train with sleeping accommodations. I often take the Regional Express (RE) or RB (ReginalBahn) that connect smaller towns.
Each railway station is different and it takes some time to navigate your way to the train. Most rail stations have escalators and elevators but occassinally you have to carry your own suitcases down some stairs. I always have to negotiate stairs in Hamburg which is my least favorite railway station.
Once you arrive in the station look for an electronic display for the departure of trains. This display will tell you from which track your train is leaving and if it is on time. You will also find the information posted on boards in the railway station. These boards will show you the cities at which the train stops. White boards show the arrivals and yellow boards show the departures. Each train is numbered . Compare the number on your ticket with the number on the board to get the right one.
You made it to the right track, called a Gleis in German. This was my train leaving at 12:14 pm to Interlaken Ost (East). I was getting out in Göttingen which is not on the board . You see the A B C D E F G and the knife and the fork. The knife and fork indicate the dining car. The 1 and 2 indicate first and second class. The next train following my train was an IC going to Amsterdam and the one after that was a regional train going to a small town nearby.
At the track where your train is leaving you will find a board like the one below. It has your train number and the location of your car if you made seat reservations. Even if you didn't make seat reservations I recommend deciding where you want to enter the train. The last thing you want to do is to slog your luggage through a train. Not good, believe me. On the blue board an announcement was made indicating the train cars were in a different order than on the yellow board. If you ever are not sure don't hesitate to ask other train passagers or a conductor.
Here you can see how long some of the trains are and why you want to be in the right section. In this case it is G. The trains will only stop for a few minutes and the doors close automatically. I know of an American family that lost their father because he wanted to get something outside the train. They eventually reunited but it ended up to be a stressful day.
The ICE has a little booklet called "Ihr Reiseplan" a travel itinerary that shows when your train arrives at your destination and connecting trains at the different stations.
Whenever I plan my trip to Germany I decide on what to buy for a train ticket. If I know exactly what I am doing and where I am going I buy tickets ahead a time with the Deutsche Bahn. This is the least expensive way. The Deutsche Bahn has a good English website. I also have the app on my phone. When you buy tickets you have to use the train you buy the ticket for, changing times and trains can be expensive.
These days I prefer to buy a German Rail Pass for a set number of days. You can buy this pass before you travel or at some stations like the one at the Frankfurt Airport. I always bought mine ahead of time. When you arrive in Germany you have to validate it at the station with your passport. The pass is good for four weeks and you choose which days you want to travel. For each day you travel you can go anywhere in Germany. I buy a first class pass because there are usually more seats available, second class is fine but it can be very crowded and if you don’t have a seat reservation you are liable to stand for hours. I seldom buy a seat reservation in first class, although I recommend it for long trips. There have been times over the years where I have had to stand .
My favorite train ride was in an old Hungarian train going from Berlin to Prague , the train continued to Budapest. It was in the winter and the countryside was beautiful and remote .
I hope I didn't bore you with this post, but I have helped so many American travelers that I hope this will be helpful to some. Let me know if you have any more questions that I can answer for you. Gute Reise my friends.
Asparagus was considered a beneficial herb among the Romans and later in the 12th century was given aphrodisiacal power by Indian sex gurus. It was cultivated by French monks circa 1469, and a century later in Germany.
Here in the United States we eat green asparagus, while in Germany white asparagus is popular. Although green asparagus is becoming more popular. In Germany, Spargelzeit (asparagus season) is from April to June. During that time in Germany, you will find an abundance of asparagus at the local farmer’s markets and on the menus in most restaurants. Traditionally, it is served with boiled potatoes and hollandaise sauce. You can have it with cooked or smoked ham, or Schnitzel (pork chops).
Asparagus is low in calories and rich in fiber and vitamins. It has chromium, a trace mineral that helps insulin-transporting glucose from the bloodstream into the cells. This is a big plus for the millions of people who are diagnosed with pre-diabetes or are diabetic. Click here for a recipe for asparagus frittata that I posted a couple of years ago..
I love asparagus. Once the season starts, I buy it all the time. My husband prefers steamed asparagus, but I prefer mine roasted with hazelnut oil and sprinkled with some sea salt. When I steam the asparagus, I break off the woody ends. When I roast the asparagus, I prefer the thicker stems. I break off the woody ends and peel the rest of the stalk using a vegetable peeler, leaving the tips intact. However I cook my asparagus, I like it al dente. Click here for a delicious Chinese noodle salad that is perfect for spring and summer parties.
I have been playing with the recipe for this asparagus soup for a few years. Last year, I made one using leeks that was good, but not as good as the one I am posting here. This is a very simple but deliciously creamy soup with the flavor of asparagus. It is cooked in no time and you will enjoy every spoonful. I usually serve it with some fresh bread and salad. It would also make a great first course for a fancy dinner.
Quickly, let me give you my recipe for avocado toast. Take a slice of your favorite bread (toasted or not) and spread a ripe avocado on it. Or just put slices of avocado on your bread. The choice is yours and anyone can do it. If you want to, add a fried egg and call it breakfast or lunch. Or add anything else you like. I see coffee shops and restaurants that sell these toasts for a lot of money. There is a way to elevate this simple toast into a culinary delight by adding finely chopped, preserved lemon rind. Anytime you bite into one of these crunchy little lemon cubes, your palate will experience an explosion of flavors from the floral notes of the released lemon oils to the salty fermented umami crunch.
Preserved lemons are more than just lemons, as they capture the glorious perfume of the lemon and excite your palate. They will enhance almost any dish. Sprinkle them on a salad, a chicken dish or anything else you can think of. Preserved lemons add a fermented quality that regular lemons don’t have with their tart, salty and slightly bitter taste.
Preserved lemons have been a staple in North African cuisine since the 11th century. It is a way to preserve lemons for use long after their season is over. Paula Wolfert introduced them to the American audience in 1970 with her award-winning cookbook Couscous and Other Good Food from Morocco. If you want a true Moroccan preserved lemon, add the spices.
Those who have followed me, know about my lemon trees and my ongoing love for lemons. My blog has many recipes using my Meyer lemons, which I treasure. For years, I have made preserved lemons with some of them, but I have never blogged about them. So, I thought it is time to do so. I have given many jars to my friends and wish I could share them with you too. My niece and her husband took a jar with them back to Germany. I have added whole cloves, dried bay leaves, cinnamon sticks, coriander seeds and black peppercorns. In my last batch, I used just kosher salt, and I think that’s what I prefer. Usually, I use the rind and peel only, removing the pulp and rinsing the peel thoroughly to remove most of the salt. Then, I cut them into into tiny cubes, the smaller the better. I read somewhere that the pulp is great in cocktails, but I haven’t tried that. Lately, I have been adding some preserved lemon when making my chicken stock.
Making preserved lemons at home is easy; it just takes time. Mine have lasted a year or longer in the fridge.
I am leaving for Germany in a few days and I am not sure that I will post again before Easter. Easter is one of my favorite time to visit my family and friends. The arrival of spring is a happy occasion after the long winter. Everybody is happy and ready to embrace the warmer weather and longer days. The restaurants and cafes move their tables outside, as every ray of sunshine is greeted with a smile and spring is celebrated with holidays and festivities.
This year is especially nice because the Easter holiday is later in April. I am going to be able to not only to celebrate Easter but also the first of May. In my village, this day is celebrated with a walk through the forest into the next village. Along the route, there are stands with drinks, some of them being little shots of Schnaps (a gin-like drink). The word Schnaps (according to wikipedia) refers to the fact that the drink is a consumed with a quick slug from a shot glass. In the evening, the celebration continues with a gathering around the May tree in the center of the village where Maibowle (May punch) is being served. This punch is wine steeped in an herb called sweet woodruff. I'll post more about my trip when I return, but in the meantime, I will add some photos from my trip on Facebook and Instagram. I can't wait to be with my German family again. Read about one of my previous trips and deviled eggs here.
In this nutty, chewy, not-too-sweet almond lemon cake, whole cooked lemons are being used. It is not your average lemon cake. Click here for the recipe.
Here is an easy-to-make pound cake that is infused with lemon juice. A great combination and perfect any time of the day. Click here for the recipe.
I wish you all a Happy Easter or Fröhliche Ostern as we say in German.
It is important to scrub the lemons very clean with a brush in a tub of water and dry them with a clean towel. Sterilize the jars in boiling water for 15 minutes and then dry them.
These crab cakes have a little spice with a kick and are a delicacy, especially when they are made with our local Dungeness crab. I usually buy one or two freshly cooked crabs and my husband cleans them meticulously, pulling out every little tidbit of crabmeat he can find. What a nice guy. Normally, we have crab with a salad and some fresh crusty bread. It is the perfect meal with a glass of Chardonnay. Life during crab season is good.
Then I came across an old page from my beloved Gourmet magazine that had a recipe for Louisiana-style crab cakes. Of course, I had to make it. Crab cakes are a real treat for me and I often order them in restaurants. There are many varieties, as each region has its own way of making crab cakes and using their own local crab. I am still dreaming of Maryland crab cakes made with Maryland blue crab. The secret to any good crab cake is using big lumps of crabmeat that retain its form through the cooking process. That way, you will bite into mostly crabmeat with some added flavor.
There are all kind of sauces that are served with crab cakes. I like a good tartar sauce or a remoulade. This time, I choose to make crab cakes for dinner with creamed leeks, so I didn't need any extra sauce. There is nothing wrong with a citrusy green salad and a crab cake. I can envision making mini-crab cakes, served on lettuce with a dollop of tartar sauce. What is your favorite way to eat crab cakes?
If you are looking for another special dish to prepare, try my crepes with salmon and fennel filling. In Italy, this dish is called Cannelloni Ripieni di Salmone and the crepes are called crespelle. This could be an elegant dish to celebrate the arrival of spring especially when served with fresh asparagus.
How about something sweet that is easy to make and tastes good? Try this Italian shortbread tart called Fregolotta. Pretend you are eating a slice in a little cafe somewhere in Italy.
This recipe makes 4 crab cakes and it doesn’t take more than 30 minutes to make if you buy the fresh crabmeat. Make sure your crabmeat has large pieces in it. Carefully pick over the crabmeat to remove any small pieces of shells. I finely grind the saltine crackers in my blender
This wonton soup is full of flavor, easy to make, and you end up with a light soup which is flavored with ginger, enriched with bok choy and tasty wontons. It has been my go to soup for years and I think of it as Chinese penicillin when I have a cold.. The term wonton comes from a Chinese phrase meaning swallowing clouds.
Lately I have been needing wonton soup in my house. On a cold and rainy evening this soup will warm your belly. It will do the same on a foggy summer night. I have been playing with the recipe for years . The secret is in the tasty light broth that you want to slurp with delight. Of course a homemade broth is tastier but there is nothing wrong with using commercial chicken broth.
Normally I have been making this soup with store-bought wontons that I keep in the freezer. It is an easy and light dinner that is ready in 20 minutes. But when I decided to post this recipe I had to make my own wontons. I found a recipe I liked at (click here for the video on how to make wontons). I modified the original recipe to make less wontons. I didn’t like the flavor of my wonton wrappers so I made mostly pork-shrimp balls. For all purposes you can make this soup with pork-shrimp balls only. Whatever you do, I hope you enjoy it as much as my family has.
In about a month I will be in Hamburg, a city in Northern Germany. I can’t wait, but in the meantime here is a recipe for Krabbensuppe, a delicate pureed vegetable soup , topped with bay shrimp. This soup is a staple in that region served with a tasty local little shrimp called Krabben. (click here for the recipe)
Make the wontons first if you make your own and keep them covered so they don’t dry out. The pork should be finely ground. If you don't have Mirin cooking wine try using sherry. Get all the ingredients for the broth ready before you begin cooking. Use both the stems and the leaves from the bok choy. There is enough soup for 3-4 servings .
This was a particularly special trip to Maui because my niece and her husband from Germany came with us. It was a wonderful week long vacation. Hawaii has always been my favorite tropical destination. The warm trade winds greet you as soon a you exit the airplane.
Continue to read about my Maui trip on my Wanderlust blog . Click here!
After all this traveling, I am ready to cook some food at home. Since it is crab season here in Northern California, it’s time to make my cioppino. Click here for the recipe.
If you need a more substantial meal that is absolutely delicious try my Jägerschnitzel. I just made this breaded pork cutlet with a creamy mushroom sauce and I enjoyed every bite of it. It's the perfect meal for a rainy evening. Click here for the recipe.
For dessert, let’s have something with chocolate. It’s February after all.
This is a German chocolate walnut tart with a shortbread crust. It is a chocolate lover's delight. Click here for the recipe.
These chocolate walnut delight bars are great for a crowd. The office will love you for these tasty morsels. Click here for the recipe.
The aloha spirit can still be found on the busy yet beautiful island of Maui in the Pacific Ocean. The light, the sun, and turquoise color of the ocean all add to the beauty of this island. It was a pleasure to share this trip with my niece and her husband.
On this trip we rented a condo located near Kaanapali, which we had booked last August. It has a nice beach, which is important to me because I love splashing in the water, although I’m a lousy swimmer. I love to snorkel and look at the colorful fish and turtles. To me, snorkeling is a moving mediation in water.
On the first day, we gave our kids (as we refer to them) a feel for the island with its fabulous scenery on different parts of the Island. Our first quick stop was Paia, a historic plantation town near the beach. We had a good cup of coffee while checking out all the cute little stores.
Then we went along the coast to look at places to go kite surfing, a hobby of my niece’s husband.
We continued upcountry to Makawao, where we had lunch at the Hali’imalie General Store, a must-do for me when I am in Maui. Our guests were not disappointed with their meal either. My niece and I had the fish tacos, which we decided were the best fish tacos on the Island. The fresh fish of the day was served on grilled taro tortillas with mole sauce and tropical salsa. My niece’s husband had the Kalua pork enchilada pie, which I highly recommend.
I always enjoy my visit to the town of Makawao, with its mix of eclectic stores and buildings dating back from the cowboy era. Makawao has a feel of the past and old Hawaii that I enjoy.
On the way back, we visited the Iao Valley State Park with Iao Needle. It had been years since my last visit and it wasn’t too crowded with buses or visitors.
Food was more of an afterthought on this trip, as we prepared several dinners in our condo. I seared some fresh tuna and served it with an Asian salad. The kids made us pizza.
We did have a nice meal during happy hour at the Monkey Pod Kitchen in Kaanapali. We were lucky to be seated outside with a great view of the sunset. The Mai Tais were the best.
Another day we drove through Kihei and Wailea, showing them our favorite beaches at Makena and the Kanahena Natural Area Reserve, which is an amazing peaceful spot on this busy Island. It’s where you can see the where lava flowed from the Haleakala volcano.
The kids had a lot of fun driving around the island, hiking and going kite surfing. My husband, an ardent football fan, had to watch the playoffs while I enjoyed the beach and a good book. Life was very good. The highlight of the trip was hiking the Kapalua Coastal Trail on West Maui on a day with a high surf.
The time went by fast and before we knew it, we were back on the crowded airplane returning to San Fransisco. Read about my previous trip to Maui here. Note however, that Chef Sheldon Simeon of the former Migrant restaurant at the Marriott’s in Wailea has moved to Wailuku. He opened a new restaurant called the Tin Roof in Kahului, but I have not eaten there yet. The Marriott Hotel now has a new restaurant called The Humble Market Kitchen by Roy Yamaguchi, who became famous with Roy’s restaurants. I can't wait to return to this beautiful Island.
My husband and I love to visit the Napa Valley in January or February when it is not crowded, and the rolling hills are green and covered with yellow mustard flowers. The air is usually crisp in the morning and warm in the afternoon.
Did you know that the Napa Valley is the only Agricultural Preserve in the United States? With an abundance of different wineries and fabulous restaurants, the valley’s cute little towns lure visitors from all over the world. I feel so lucky that I live within a two-hour drive to this gorgeous spot on earth. .
My husband is the wine expert in the family, so he gets to pick the wineries we visit. Since we belong to the Foley Johnson Wine Club, we always visit their wineries. Click here for our 2018 visit to Napa and read more about their beautiful wineries. If you go, I recommend you pick a few you really like, as there are so many beautiful and often spectacular ones. I read that there are approximately 475 wineries in the Napa Valley, 95% of which are family owned.
This year, we visited the Culinary Institute of America Greystone in the Napa Valley. I have eaten there several times and have never been disappointed
We only had a quick lunch at the cafeteria and it was delicious. All the food is prepared and served by CIA students under the direction of a CIA director. I had a wonderful Caesar salad with a moist chicken breast and my husband had a delicious small pizza that he shared with me. For dessert, the chocolate-caramel nut cookie with my espresso was divine. I bought some local products at their store. There are also tours of the Institute. The Gatehouse restaurant is part of the Institute and serves creative meals prepared by the students.
Just as my husband likes his wineries, I love to overnight at Indian Springs in Calistoga to swim in their amazing pool. The pool was built in 1910 and is completely fed by naturally hot geyser water that ranges from 92-101 degrees Fahrenheit. There are four geysers and the water comes from a 400-foot depth heated by the earth’s hot magma. I love to float in the pool for hours, especially at night or in the early morning. It’s an experience that I treasure.
The two days went by too fast, and before I knew it, I was back at home and dreaming of next year. As soon as I got home, I started to work on some new recipes. One of the recipes was from a famous chef and his new cookbook promoting a healthy diet, which was a Christmas gift from my son. I picked a recipe I thought I would like: fish marinated in miso and cooked in parchment paper with bok choy. It totally bombed—for which I take full responsibility. Once again, I realized that not every recipe works for me. In the meantime, I’ll stick with my foolproof Mediterranean recipe with fish and vegetables baked in parchment paper. Click here for the recipe.
There are some wonderful pears in the store right now, so here are a few pear recipes I have enjoyed over the years.
I baked this almond pear tart last week and everybody loved it. This is a variation of the traditional French-style Pear Frangipane Tart. It is easier to make than it looks.
Click here for the recipe.
This poached pears make a stunning presentation. It's a light dessert, perfect after a heavy winter meal.
Click here for the recipe.
A great bundt cake, full of spices and different flavors. The recipe is from Gale Grand, a pastry chef from Illinois.
Click here for the recipe.
Making the base for this ice cream a day before will develop the flavors. Add more sugar if you want a sweeter ice cream.
Here is a link to the rhubarb compote.
This is the first time I made strawberry jam with homemade pectin. The jam carries the fresh sweet flavor of sweet strawberries. It has the essence of the food. Nothing takes away from the flavor. It is a runny soft jam, thickened just a little by the pectin of the green apples. This is a keeper for years to come.
I bought cooked shrimp instead of cooking raw shrimp. In this case, I don't think it makes much difference. If you omit the shrimp you have a regular salad the goes well with chicken or meat dishes.
This recipe comes from "Preserving the Taste by Edon Wycott." I found it on the cooking channel site. Emeril Lagasse used it in his strawberry recipe. Remember this has to be made at least a day ahead of time before you make your jam.
Boy do I love apricots! In summer, while apricots are in abundance and at their peak of flavor, it's jam making time at my house. Yes, it's a bit of work, but isn't it worth it to have this wonderful fruit all year long? What's better than waking up in the morning, buttering some whole grain toast and then slathering on a heaping spoonful of this fruit goodness. Nothing I say. Nothing is better.
The almond pits add a delicate hint of bitter almond flavor. I roast all the almond kernels in a preheated oven at 350˚ for 10 to 15 minutes . This makes them easier to crack them open and also destroys an enzyme that generates poisonous prussic acid when the kernels are mixed with water. I crack my kernels with a hammer and roast the remaining pits for another 5 minutes. For this recipe I used about 8 pits and chopped them .
I made two batches of Jam. The Plum Jam is very tart. The second batch is dense and sweet. I like making them because they are so easy to make. While they are baking you can relax, read or clean the house. In Germany, jam is usually made with " Gelierzucker", a mix of sugar and dry pectin I assume. I made my own by mixing dry pectin and sugar together. This Jam needs to be processed in a water bath to seal correctly. Follow the manufacturer's instructions.
This is my husbands favorite jam. He uses it for his peanut butter sandwiches. It is a tart thick jam that will stay on your toast. Because of the blackberries it will have some seeds. I have made this jam with blueberries instead of blackberries and it is just as good. This is an easy and quick way to make jam. This is a tart jam with a berry flavor.
This is a recipe I have used for years and it is a favorite it has a tart fruity flavor with a tang which I believe comes from the combination of the lemon juice and the grated green apple. Last year more of the strawberries were left whole than this year and I think I like it better that way. One can manipulate the consistency of the jam by how long it is cooked. This is a no fuss recipe which is easy to make.
I was looking through my Christmas baking folder for some inspiration (which I need desperately these days) and came upon a recipe from a 2002 Gourmet magazine issue. I had written “excellent” on the recipe. Last year, I made a a similar cookie recipe from Luisa Weiss’s Classic German Baking called Baseler Brunsli (click here for the recipeBaseler Brunsli). Both these cookies belong to the family of Lebkuchen. You can find many different recipes for Lebkuchen throughout the German-speaking countries. Lebkuchen is a blanket term for German gingerbread, and this particular recipe is a smoother and more cake-like version, with a hint of chocolate, hazelnut and almond too. I love them because they are not overly sweet, but my American family is not a big fan of this tasty treat. They will go for the sweeter shortbread, sugary kind of cookie. That’s why I bake a variety of different cookies, put them in my tins and have one I like in the afternoon with my tea.
I baked these cookies because they remind me of the German Elisenlebkuchen, a treat from the German town of Nürnberg. Traditionally, they are baked on wafers and covered with either chocolate or a powdered sugar icing. I didn’t add the wafers and the icing, which makes them less sweet and easier to bake. I also liked the combination of ground hazelnuts and almonds. Instead of chocolate, this recipe uses unsweetened cocoa powder. Like all Lebkuchen recipes, these cookies improve after being stored in a tin for a few days or weeks. They are soft and chewy, and should not be stored with other cookies.
This year will be a special Christmas because my niece and her husband are visiting from Germany. It doesn’t happen very often that I get to celebrate with my German family and it is always very special to me when they come to my home in California. So, I am baking and decorating as much as I can. Check out my post from 2016 with most of my family’s favorite cookie recipes. (click here)
If you feel like a savory treat for the holidays, try my country pâté. It’s a great party pleaser.(click here )
My dear readers, I wish you all a peaceful holiday filled with good food and surrounded by people you love. May the stars shine upon you and may your home be filled with warmth and good cheer.
Fröhliche Weihnachten and best wishes for the coming year!
This is a soft, chewy cookie that will improve with age. Store them in a tin box between wax paper. For the nut flour, use roasted and peeled hazelnuts and peeled almonds.
Every year, I eagerly await the time when the persimmons ripen in our little town of Santa Cruz. They are a sure sign that fall has arrived. I don’t have a tree myself, but friends and locals are willing to share their bounty. Hachiya persimmons are the ones I get most of the time. They are teardrop-shaped and have to soften before you can use them. Fuyu persimmons are the flat-looking ones that are great sliced in salads and other dishes. Persimmon trees can grow up to 70 feet tall, and one of these wonderful trees grows in my girlfriend’s son’s garden.
I have been cooking and baking with persimmons for years. Read more about persimmons and the recipe for my persimmon bread on a previous post (click here).
Each year, I can't wait to make this chutney. The recipe comes from a twenty-year-old local newspaper clipping. The chutney is great with a variety of different foods. This year, I am going to make it part of my Christmas cheese board. It is also great with fish, on duck breasts, or with any food you can think of. In the photo above, I am serving it with my muffin quiches without a crust . These quiches make a healthy snack. (click here to get the recipe)
My chutney is rather mild and not overly sweet. The fresh ginger gives it a great flavor. Since I am hosting our book club next week, I am giving each member a jar of my chutney and persimmon bread as a gift.
I have also made this persimmon chutney with apples or pears using lemon or lime juice. Personally, I prefer lime juice. The jury is out on whether to use apples or pears, so it is really a matter of your taste. The pears should be firm. For my last batch, I used golden delicious apples. Instead of dried cranberries, you can substitute dried blueberries. The chutney develops its full flavor after a couple of days in the fridge.
“Discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”
by Marcel Proust
One of my husband’s hobbies is checking out reasonably priced flights and hotels. I am the lucky recipient of the great deals he finds, for which I am very thankful. One evening while sitting at his computer, he asked if I wanted to go to Singapore. For a short window of time United Airlines had affordable business class tickets and he found a luxury hotel for a competitive price. Bingo! Before I knew it, we had booked a vacation to Singapore. Maybe it had something to do with my one-day layover in Singapore en route to Bali in 1992 or watching the recent movie Crazy Rich Asians.
Anyway, I asked myself several times what the heck was I doing to embark on a 16-hour trans-Pacific flight and why Singapore. I was questioning my very sanity. But in the end, I am so glad I did because we had a great time and enjoyed the many cultural layers of ethnicity. Singapore is much more than the sum of its numerous attractions. Singapore is a wealthy city state in southeast Asia, adjacent to Malaysia. Different ethnic and religious groups live together in harmony and peace and seem genuinely happy to be where they are. The country is known for its transition from a third-world country to a first-world country in a single generation. It places highly in the key social indicators concerning education, healthcare, life expectancy, quality of life, personal safety and housing. When it comes to safety, we never once felt that we were in any kind of danger. I have never seen a cleaner subway than in Singapore. And you can use the restrooms, which has not been the case in any other country I have been to including the USA. I’d rather pee in my pants then go into a restroom in the subway in New York, Frankfurt or Paris. I realize that Singapore is a flawed democracy, with harsh sentences and limited free speech. Maybe I am just naive because I am not familiar with the nuances of the culture. But I liked what I saw and enjoyed this friendly city with its happy and helpful people.
Our outbound flight was pleasant because we went nonstop from San Francisco to Singapore. United’s new Polaris class is fine, and adequately comfortable as I could turn my seat into a small bed where I could stretch out with two pillows and two blankets. Since we flew at night, I was able to sleep for six hours and watched three movies. I loved Mister Roger’s Neighborhood. Our return flight was turbulent and not as comfortable. The new 787 Boeing airplanes are sleek airplanes, and the air circulation system seems to have been improved. However, everything seems to get smaller to add more seats. I miss the old 747 jumbo jets.
We arrived at 6 am, and after checking into our lovely hotel, walked to the Botanical Garden. The 184-acre garden opened in 1859 by the Agri-horticultural Society and was an important center to cultivate plants, especially the rubber tree. I could spend days there to enjoy the tranquility of this lush tropical garden. The garden is free to enter and became a Unesco World Heritage site in 2015. There are 10,000 different species of flora can be found in the garden.
The orchid garden is in the forefront of Orchid Studies and has been a pioneer in the cultivation of hybrids. Visiting heads of state and celebrities have orchids named after them.
This is the orchid named after Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor. She is one of my favorite politicians at the moment.
There are several different restaurants located in the park. The corner house is a one-star Michelin restaurant. There are two other restaurants in the garden that are more casual. I didn’t eat in either, but I enjoyed a wonderful cup of ginger tea. It was the best I ever had, made with ginger from the garden.
And then there are the Gardens by the Bay, spanning 250 acres of reclaimed land. It has a fantastic futuristic design that would take days to explore. It is an enormous botanical garden, located right by the waterfront of Marina Bay, consisting of three parts: Bay South Garden, Bay Central Garden, and Bay East Garden. Like most tourists, we concentrated on the Bay South Garden with the Super Trees, Cloud Forest and the Flower Dome.
The Cloud Forest Dome is absolutely amazing. It has the world’s tallest indoor 35-meter waterfall which descends through a mist-filled, temperature-controlled cloud walk and treetop walk. Both my husband and I were taken by this marvel of engineering and plant life that ranges from tropical highlands to ferns and hidden floral gems with an abundance of orchids. It is a jungle built on concrete that makes you feel like you are in an alien and surreal world.
Next to the Cloud Garden is the Flower Dome. It is the largest glass greenhouse in the world. Here you will find plants from the Mediterranean and semi-arid subtropical region. We took a little break in the California Garden and felt at home.
There is so much more to see and experience in this uniquely designed outdoor space.
We also decided to visit the ArtScience Museum which had an interesting light exhibit. I am interested in that because my niece is an architect in light design.
And then there is Singapore’s iconic hotel called Marina Sands with the world’s largest infinity pool on the roof, a casino with shopping and eating until you drop. We decided to visit the rooftop bar and had a Singapore Sling while enjoying the view, although we were not allowed in the pool since we were not guests of the hotel. I was going to go to the Raffles Hotel for my Singapore Sling, but unfortunately it was closed for renovations.
Our hotel, the Saint Regis, felt like an old-fashioned luxury retreat in a very busy world. I was always happy when the doorman greeted me with a smile. I know I could relax, go for a swim after being immersed in the humid climate of Singapore. Almost every afternoon, I treated myself to a wonderful hazelnut dessert and at night we had a drink at the Astor Bar admiring the original Picassos on the walls. What a life! Oh, and let’s not forget the breakfast, with an astonishing variety of international dishes that made it difficult to choose. Every morning, I ate my fill.
On a late Sunday morning, we decided to take the local bus to Kampong Glam, an area with an eclectic blend of history, culture and a trendy lifestyle scene. It is a vibrant district, one of Singapore’s oldest urban neighborhoods. “Glam” is a local term for glamorous and “Kampong” derives from the Malayan word kampong which means “compound.” It’s a buzzing neighborhood with locals and tourists alike. The streets are lined with generations-old heritage stores, independent boutiques and craft shops. There are many local culinary delights to discover in this area, unfortunately I didn’t try any. Haji Street is the in most popular street visited by tourists. This is the only street where graffiti is allowed and you will find the trendiest boutiques and shops. We also liked the surrounding area, which I thought was more authentic. It was so interesting to observe the local culture here with its diverse lifestyle.
Singapore is a paradise for foodies. People are obsessed with their food and have a strong opinion on where and what to eat. I concentrated on the local food, even though they have everything else. It would take months to write about eating in Singapore. Each culture has their own specialties and for most of the population, they are affordable due to the Hawker Centers in town.These food stalls are true melting pots where you can share good, affordable Chinese, Indian, or Malayan food in one place. It is here where Singaporeans from across income levels and ethnicities gather to eat with dedicated purpose. Everyone has their own opinion on where to get the best chicken rice, chili crab, or other ethnic dishes. You will find pages and pages of recommendations.
I followed the advice of a New York Times article and ate at the Hawker Chan, a Chinese eatery in Chinatown. It was awarded a Michelin star in 2016, and I don’t know why. The chicken rice was very good, but the place had no resemblance to any Michelin-starred restaurant I have ever been to. Michelin stars are earned based on food, service, and ambience, at least that what I thought. Somebody, please explain this to me. I had a delicious Banh Mi sandwich in another stall at a different Hawker Center, which I thought was just as good.
We also enjoyed a great Chinese meal in the huge Marina Sands complex during a torrential downpour.
Unfortunately, because of the humidity and tropical climate, I could not eat a lot. I saw some fantastic food that I wanted to try, but it I didn’t have the necessary appetite to do so. Everybody recommended to try the chili or pepper crab, a specialty of Singapore. My husband and I shared one outdoors overlooking the Singapore River. It was delicious, as we picked out the live crab that was imported from Alaska.
One early afternoon we took a 45-minute boat tour on the Singapore River which was pleasant.
Was Singapore worth the trip? You bet it was. It was an interesting experience with many choices and lots to see. I travel because it gives me the opportunity to observe another culture and enjoy watching people. It makes me more humble and I hope gives me more understanding. I always learn something new. And I love mingling with the locals and in water falls on hot humid days.
How can it already be Thanksgiving again? Time flies by so fast, it's scary. During previous years, we often traveled. I remember the duck dinner in Prague and the beautiful week in Rome where we had pasta for Thanksgiving. This year we are going to our little cabin in the Sierra Mountains to celebrate with my sister-in-law and her family. It's going to be low-key and relaxing, especially since my brother-in-law will barbecue the turkey and my nephew is a great cook. For Christmas, I will have a full house since I will celebrate with my niece and nephew from Germany and my American family. I am always very happy when I get visitors from Germany because it's during the holidays when I miss them the most.
When it comes to Thanksgiving, each family has their treasured recipes that have been passed down from generation to generation. There is Aunt Mary's jello salad and the bean casserole from your grandmother. And let's not forget sweet potato pie. Tell me, what are some of the recipes you make each year? My family tradition is my red cabbage which is liked by everybody, so I will be making it again this year. Click here for the recipe.
Years ago, when I was a vegetarian, I would cook everything but the turkey. The centerpiece would be my stuffing served with mushroom gravy. I apologize for the poor quality of the photos, but they are all from previous Thanksgiving posts. I have been making this shiitake and chestnut stuffing as long as I can remember. Click here for the recipe.
If you are looking for a juicy small bird for Thanksgiving, check out my recipe for dry-brined turkey with silky gravy. I will be making this one for Christmas. Click here for the recipe.
For me, sauces and condiments are just as important as the bird. My cranberry ketchup is a wonderful addition for the holidays and I make it every year. Here is a link to the recipe.
For those of you who don't want to tackle a whole bird, I have a recipe for turkey parts. Here, I brine the parts overnight, which makes for juicy and tasty turkey. If you are interested, click here for the recipe.
Toasted, roasted, baked and done! I hope your Thanksgiving is lots of fun.
Oh, one thing, don't forget to give your compliments to the chef, and help with the dishes afterwards.
Wishing you all a relaxing Thanksgiving feast with good food, family and loved ones. May your home be filled with laughter and happiness.
I really shouldn't do this, instead I should go for a walk to give my old body some exercise before a very long flight. But I just have to share this because fig season is almost over and I love this mustard. Have you noticed that I am running a little behind when it comes to seasonal cooking? Later on, I will try making this recipe using dried figs and add it here.
It all began with a basket of Italian figs that my girlfriend Diane gave me.
This mustard would be great on a cheese plate or on a turkey sandwich. In France, figs and fig mustard is often served with foie gras, and in Germany it is served with a Weißwurst (veal sausage). This is not a sweet mustard, but it is full of flavor with the taste of the figs and a hint of vinegar.
I used Italian figs but mission figs or any other figs can be substituted.
Fall is in full swing and tomato season is over. Here in Santa Cruz there are still some wonderful heirloom tomatoes at the farmers market. I savor every one of them, as I know only too well that pretty soon they will all be gone. Many of my blogger friends who grow their own tomatoes have posted some great recipes for canning and preserving them one way or another.
About three weeks ago, I picked my meager cherry tomatoes in my sad-looking garden. Since I was going away I needed to do something with them. Years ago I slow roasted some regular-sized tomatoes and I remember enjoying them. Being pressed for time, I tossed them with some herbs, garlic and olive oil and roasted them in the oven. The result was a delicious tasting treat that could be used in many ways. It’s perfect on a slice of baguette, in a salad or on a sandwich. The leftover oil is wonderful by itself.
For my second try I choose some store bought cherry tomatoes . They were not as good as the first batch because I think the skin of the tomatoes was too thick.
I used my farmers market vegetables for this delicious Mediterranean fish baked in parchment paper with anchovies, green beans, olives and tomatoes. This is an old recipe that I always enjoy making and it takes little time to prepare. It is a healthy dinner any time of the week.
Cooking in parchment paper is a simple and healthy way to steam food in its own juices and it seals in all the wonderful aromas. There is little cleanup afterward and you can be creative with the vegetables and fish.
Make sure tat the tomatoes are thin skinned . Bake the tomatoes until they have wilted but only some have burst.
Fall has arrived and I have been happily cooking away in my kitchen with my new-found treasure Zwetchgen, a small unassuming purple plum that is called Italian plum in this country. In their natural state these plums have very little flavor and taste bland—but once baked, they transform into a treat , perfumed, tart, and sweet. I made several batches of my plum butter and I am thrilled to have them in my pantry (garage). The flavor is amazing, rich and earthy. But I also made several cakes.
Every September, from 1983-1989 the New York Times printed Marian Burros’ recipe for plum torte. Here is a link to the recipe (and I love reading all the comments). I have made this cake twice now, and have adjusted the recipe to my taste. I also baked a tart with a custard that my Swiss friend made for me in Switzerland. It was delicious and I hope to post it one of these days. My French girlfriend made a tarte aux quetsches, unfortunately I didn't get to taste it. Zwetschgenkuchen in Germany is usually baked with a lot of plums and a yeast-based sheet cake. Marian Burros’ Plum Torte recipe is a no-fuss, easy-to-make dessert. It is similar to other cake recipes with fruit that I have made many times. My tasters approved, but my fussy husband thought it was a little dry.
I also like using plums for my galette. Click for the recipe here.
The original recipe called for a cup of sugar. I only used ½ cup, but to make up for the lack of sweetness, I sprinkled the top with 4 tablespoons of turbinado sugar that gave the cake a crunchy crust. Apparently, this cake freezes well when double-wrapped in foil and placed in a plastic bag. But I have not tried this. If you want to be fancy, you can grind the lemon zest with the sugar in a food processor.
When I was a child, we had several plum trees in our garden. One variety was called Zwetschgen, similar to the prune. Our Zwetschgen tree would overflow with fruit and our family would make Zwetschgenmus (aka spiced plum butter) in a huge copper kettle that was heated by a piece of burning wood from underneath. We would have big glass canning jars with rubber rings in our pantry filled with delicious plum butter.
As children we could not get enough of this sweet, rich and gooey plum butter spread on country bread and topped with schmand. The best way to describe schmand is a fresh cream that is similar to Créme Fraîche or whipping cream. I used greek yogurt on my sandwich .
In this country we call Zwetschgen Italian plums and they are seldom available where I live . You can imagine how happy I was when I found them in a local food stand. I bought all they had and made two different batches of Zwetschgenmus and baked two different cakes.
My Zwetschegenmus is a tartly rich and earthy-tasting fruit butter with a slight taste of cinnamon and allspice. These sour little plums (without much juice or flavor) once baked turn into an amazingly flavorful treat. It’s like the frog that turns into a prince. For the Zwetschgenmus, I chose a recipe from Louisa Weiss’s Classic German Baking book. I have to say it turned out just as good as Helga Papas,’ my village neighbor who has made it for decades in Germany and always shared some with my family. My brother is especially fond of it and I will keep a jar for him to eat when he comes to visit me this year. If you see this little unpretentious plum in a store next to their juicy voluptuous cousins, don’t pass them by. You will not regret it when you have a spoonful of Zwetschgenmus.
The plums are baked in a heavy cast iron pot until they turn into a sticky mass and are completely broken down. Make sure you use a four-quart cast iron pot. I used a smaller one in my first batch, and it took twice as long to bake them the next day. The second time, I used a four-quart pot and baked it in 2.5 hours instead of 4. Luisa Weiss says that the recipe is easily doubled, but unfortunately I ran out of plums.
WELCOME TO SUNNY COVE CHEF
Thank you for visiting my blog. My two passions are cooking and traveling. Traveling exposes me to a wide variety of food and experiences. I walk around cities looking for markets, restaurants, bakeries, shops, you name it, and if it is related to food you will find me there, tasting, smelling, talking to vendors, and having a great time.