East of Paris Bookstore

Tuesday, May 31, 2011


Portofino is a calm and dreamy anchorage. Staying here involves lots of lounging about,
and looking a yachts.
Outside our balcony, the 65 meter Silver Angel rests behind Mi Sueno, a "smaller" vessel. I liked the look of the Silver Angel until I checked the photos in the link -- it needs massive redecoration in my view. And, at night, its name (on each side of the yacht) was illuminated in bright lights ... sheesh!

The mega yacht in the back of the photo is the 62 meter Moneikos.  I admired it's beauty and sleekness, surprising due to its size.  Even more, I admired its captain, who backed it into a narrow slip between two other boats.

 Even our hotel room had clipper ship prints (with U.S. flags) on each wall!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Oddities & Observations

Don't try this at home!
or this ... antiquing a flat screen TV.
Tickled pink in Portofino!

Contrasting  neighboring lifestyles ...
 I miss my doggie!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Italy -- Encore

There must be something about throwing coins into the Trevi Fountain.  Legend has it that if you throw in a coin, you will be back.  Well, we are back in Italy and will be in Rome next week.

Long haul travel is both rewarding and extremely tiring.  We arrived in Milan's Malpensa Airport this morning.  Mostly, I was happy that the flying part was finished and that we arrived safely.  One wants so little these days!  Anyway, we are going to be traveling for three weeks and taking a cruise, so we brought a mountain of luggage.  However, after thanking God for the safe flight, minor annoyances become a distraction.

It seems that the days of porters and free luggage carts are over.  Our luggage arrived quickly and then came the callenge of getting out through customs and to our rental car.  Oh, there are many luggage carts, but they cost 1 Euro each.  But, the machines only take coins in 1 Euro or 1/2 Euro denominations.  They do not take credit cards and there are no currency exchanges until after customs.  The smallest coin we had was 2 Euros.  In the midst of our frustration, a nice lady gave us change for two Euros and we got two carts, piled up our luggage and made it out to car rental.  Thank you to the anonymous lady!  You made our life so much easier.

An hour later, entry struggles in the past, we pulled up to our hotel in Lombardia on Lake Como.  More about that after we address jet lag.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Quark -- Not Just Another Sub-Atomic Particle

Pancakes with quark filling and plum butter mitt schlag
I read and posted on Facebook yesterday that Novak Djokovic (tennis) is gluten-free. Then I had lunch with my friend Vickie (hiker), who is going vegan. Later I got an email from my friend Jasna (marathon runner) telling me that she is micro biotic, gluten, dairy, meat and fish free.  Not to forget my friend Jeff (Mt. Everest climber) who’s been vegan for over 30 years.   All too much to take in one day!  It made me (former ballerina, current couch potato) fall down a quantum physics wormhole into the land of quarks.

While a quark is an elementary particle and a fundamental constituent of matter, it is also a fresh creme cheese enjoyed in Eastern Europe. [Actually there are 6 kinds of quarks, 7 if you count the cheese.] 

East of Paris : The New Cuisines of Austria and the Danube (Ecco)I recently found some quark from Vermont and had to try out the Bohemian Pancake recipe in David Booley and Melissa Clark's elegant cookbook:  East of Paris : The New Cuisines of Austria and the Danube.

My grandmother often made pancakes, from very thin crêpes (a/k/a naleśniki or palačinke) to fluffy yeasty cakes topped with jam and powdered sugar. Somehow, she could make a batch without referring to any cookbooks. In my case, I had to read the instructions several times. The effort was worth it.

Here is my adaptation of the recipe for the pancakes and filling.

Step 1:  Find some time.  The batter and preparation of the the quark filling should be done ahead of time -- about 8 hours or the night before cooking and eating.

Step 2:  Pancake batter
1 cup warm milk
1/4 tsp. active dry yeast
1-1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 large egg yolk
2 Tbsp. melted butter, cooled
1 tsp. Cointreau orange liqueur
Pinch of salt

In a medium sized bowl, whisk the warm milk with the yeast. Add the egg yolk, melted butter, the liqueur, salt and flour, whisking after each addition. Cover the batter tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate about 8 hours or overnight.   

Just before cooking the pancakes, fold in a stiffly beaten meringue made by whipping 2 egg whites with 2 Tbsp. of sugar and 1/8 tsp. of cream of tartar.

Step 3:  Quark filling
1/2 cup quark cheese
2 Tbsp. Cointreau orange liqueur
1/3 cup powdered sugar
3 Tbsp. sour cream
Pinch of salt

Put the quark cheese in a cheesecloth-lined sieve, set it over a bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let it drain about 8 hours or overnight.

Put the drained quark in a bowl, add the other ingredients, and stir well.

Step 4:  Cooking and serving

Heat a large non-stick skilled over medium heat. Brush the pan with butter. Using a soup ladle, pour batter into the pan. Pour in 3 ladle-fulls at a time to cook 3 pancakes at a time.  Cook the pancakes until bubbles form all over the tops (about 3 minutes). Turn the pancakes over and cook for another 1 to 2 minutes. Both sides of the pancakes should be brown and just getting crisp. This approach yields 9 to 12 pancakes depending on the size of the ladle.

To serve, place one pancake on a plate and spread a few spoons of the quark filling on it. Put a second pancake on top and spread plum butter or jam on it (apricot jam is also a traditional option). Top off the plate with a few shakes of powdered sugar.

Then decorate with some whipped cream (mitt schlag ) since east of Paris almost all desserts have some whipped creme on the side.

Plum butter from Poland
Quark Cheese
aka tvorog (творог in Russian)

Monday, May 16, 2011

Cauliflower -- Central Asian Style

Fried Cauliflower, Russian Salad, Beet Salad 
While traveling in Central Asia we ate many familiar foods but prepared in ways that were new to us.  Bread rolls, similar to piroshki, were often filled with pumpkin purée or shredded cabbage or a mushroom-onion mixture. There was no shortage of vegetables and one of my favorites was fried cauliflower, which was served both warm and cold.
Breads filled with pumpkin, cabbage or mushroom stuffing

Meat, cabbage, and mushroom dumplings 
Some of the best meals we had were not in restaurants but in homes or on farms, where extended families supplement their income by preparing banquets for visiting groups.  Behind some rather off-putting, decrepit-looking, gray metal and cement walls, a family might have a surprisingly new and large house and serve a lovely multi-course meal.

Yesterday, while grocery shopping, I finally decided to overcome my fear of frying and buy a head of fresh cauliflower and reproduce the version I enjoyed so much on our trip.

First, I trimmed the leaves off of the cauliflower and immersed it whole in salted boiling water for about 10 minutes. Then I removed it from the pot and immersed it in a bowl of ice water. When it was cool to the touch, I cut the florets and discarded the stem.

Next I beat 1 large egg with 1/2 cup milk. I dipped the florets in this mixture and then (carefully!) put them in hot oil (I used canola oil and kept the temperature on medium-high).   
Using a long metal tong, I turned the florets to be sure that they browned evenly.  Then I put them on rack to drain.
Finally, I sprinkled on salt and pepper and served them warm.  I ate the leftovers cold.
P.S.  This dish can be a bit bland, so I also recommend kicking thing it up with some red pepper flakes.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Istanbul Food

The Spice Bazaar with the Blue Mosque in the background
Istanbul is one of the world's great cities with absolutely wonderful food be it in hotels, restaurants or on the street.

A room service breakfast at the Cirağan Palace ...
 Followed by pre dinner snacks ...
 And then there's ...
Appetizer with tomato and pepper paste

Roasted corn on the cob

Fresh eggs

Grilled ground lamb with grilled tomato and peppers

Never forget to make time for tea on the Cirağan Palace terrace, complete with finger sandwiches and

desserts (the best part).
For more, on feasting your eyes and tempting your taste buds, there is a beautiful post today over at Palacinka about "Istanbul Street Food."

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Memory of Samarqand

It has been about a year since we wandered the Silk Road ... I found a museum souvenir of Samarqand tucked into a book to prevent the thin paper from wrinkling.  But, this watercolor is too vibrant and unique to keep hidden away, so I had it framed.  

Not sure which version I prefer.  

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