Category Archives: VACATION FOODS


IMG_7725 (1)While on vacation in August 2018 we covered over 22,000 airmiles through South Asia.  Visited some places we had previously seen and visiting some new countries.  Being on vacation with family is my most favorite thing to do and I include on our trips lots of new TRAVEL FOOD to taste.  To write about.  To recreate in my home kitchen.  Makes a trip continue to go on long after you’ve unpacked and paid the credit card bills you racked up.  This post is going to take you to Nepal, that remote country between India and China and the home to the Himalayas.  I’m no trekker, hiker, or Mt.Everest climber.  Sorry. My adventure sometimes borders “on the edge” but generally I stay within my comfort zone.  Smarter.  This way I can safely get back home again and blog for you!! LOL.  So, Nepal.  So remote.  So rough.  So beautiful.  We stayed in 2 places, first in NAGARKOT which is up on a ridge, about 7200 ft. and commands views of the Kathmandu Valley which rise up to the majestic Himalayas.  Our time of year is not optimal as it’s the rainy season but with kids in school we have to “vacation” in the Summer months when school is out.  August is rainy, it’s Monsoon season. And who knew even though the travel sites and literature told us, that it would be so oppressively hot and humid???  Reasons why you travel.  To find out things for yourself.  We stayed at the CLUB HIMALAYA because they command an amazing view of the Himalayas when it’s clear.  August?  Not so clear.  The clouds hang low, the fog is thick.  But on day 2 the clouds briefly lifted the moisture curtain and blue skies broke through.  The low clouds moved up just enough for us to get a pretty clear view of the entire range including Mt. Everest.  SUCCESS.  The waiters at the hotel informed us it was the first decent view in almost a month.  A rare occurance.  Within 1/2 hour the cloud and fog again shielded the range from our view.  But we saw it.  We really saw it.  And will never forget it.  That same day we were served these delicious potatoes.  A little about my limited knowledge of Nepalese food.  We found that there are dishes that are from Nepal but there seem to be more that are borrowed from India, especially Northern India’s cuisines.  Exciting!!! This dish is a potato and CUMIN SEED dish.  I love whole cumin seed.  I toast it and grind it or use it whole in various treats from my kitchen  But here my eyes were opened to how delicious they are with plain ol’potatoes.  It is said that the unskilled bachelor in the kitchen  finds this a common and easy dish to make.  So there’s some legend and lore here too.  Nice. Food with color and flavor.  Travel helps to open one’s mind in so many ways and bringing new dishes home keeps that vacation feeling alive.  Let’s go to Nepal now and make some ALOO JEERA, ok, maybe we don’t have to travel that far.  Let’s go into our kitchens and make this tasty dish!!









SALT (now here’s a great dish to use some ground Pink Himalayan salt in !!)


To start, heat the oil in a heavy wide pan.  Add the cumin seeds and when they start to give off a wonderful aroma (oh it’s fantastic) then add the green chiles and the ginger, and 1/2 the cilantro.   Fry this together for about 1 minutes then add the potatoes, season with the turmeric, red chile powder, and salt.  Mix well.  Place on high heat and get a nice color on the potatoes and cover.  Reduce to low and cook this for 5 minutes.  Stir a few times while this is cooking.  Your Aloo Jeera should be done now.  Transfer to a serving bowl or platter and garnish with the rest of the Cilantro.  The dish can be served with Roti, or Paratha, types of Indian breads.  A grilled flat Greek Pita or Flour tortilla can sub for the Indian breads if needed.  In India and Nepal this is a Vegetarian dish.  I’m not vegetarian and enjoy it with a few fried eggs and the breads.  Easy and delicious.  Thinking of the smiling faces of Nepal and the rough and beautiful landscape.  Cooking globally gives you these experiences in your own home.  HAPPY COOKING!! Namaste!



1907996_284906375011003_4427021404753604595_nIn the city of Louisville, Kentucky on the first Saturday of May each year the horserace known as the KENTUCKY DERBY is held.  It’s pretty much become a national event but no where is it more celebrated than in Louisville.  I remember going there 3 days after the event a few years ago to visit clients and remember all the decorations and banners that were still up for the “RUN FOR THE ROSES”.  In true A FOOD OBSESSION style I came home with a few new food ideas and some local cookbooks.  I also made my way over to the BROWN HOTEL to have the American classic sandwich, the HOT BROWN, named for it’s location of birth.  A Hot Brown is a broiled open faced sliced Turkey breast sandwich on thick white bread with Mornay Sauce, Parmigiano, Tomato and Bacon.  It’s amazing.  That trip introduced me to another Louisville cuisine creation, the DEBRY PIE.  Let’s get something out of the way first.  Unless you buy one from Kern’s Kitchen, the business which invented it in 1950 by Walter and Leaudra Kern at their Melrose Inn , Prospect , Kentucky, you cannot call it DERBY PIE.  In 1968 they smartly trademarked the name and while there’s no crime in creating a pie that is similar, you can NEVER call it DERBY PIE. So there you go.  Instead call it anything you like, but since it’s part of Kentucky Derby food culture  I will call it KENTUCKY DERBY WALNUT AND CHOCOLATE PIE.  Whew. Now I’m safe.  The Kern’s have sued over 25 times to protect there trademarked name so remember, you don’t want to be the next victim.  LOL.  The pie is sort of a mashup of a southern Pecan pie with chocolate and a Toll House Pie, sort of.  The recipe I use came from the Washington Post:

  • One 8- or 9-inch unbaked pie shell
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 cup walnuts, coarsely ground
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Fresh whipped cream for garnish(optional)
  • 2 tablespoons Kentucky Bourbon


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Have an 8 or 9-inch pie plate at hand.

Place the unbaked pie shell in the plate. Sprinkle the bottom of the pie shell evenly with chocolate chips.

Whisk together the eggs, 1 cup of sugar and flour in a mixing bowl. Gradually mix in the butter, then add the nuts and vanilla extract and bourbon. Carefully pour mixture over the chocolate chips, in a circular motion so it does not disturb the chips. Bake for 1 hour, until the filling is set.

Should be served warmed up…top with the Whipped Cream, over even better, which a good Vanilla Ice Cream….a drizzle of hot chocolate sauce, maybe whipped cream too, up to you.  It’s delicious..and it’s fantastic all on it’s own, it’s rich.  HAPPY KENTUCKY DERBY DAY!!!


156142_2992380330921_1304531591_32200242_158577316_n  One of the best parts of traveling for pleasure or business is the introduction to new and different regional foods. Sometimes that dish might be a transplant that follows a formula from it’s point of origin but then makes use of local products and produce.  It’s a fantastic part of the travel experience.  My recent vacation (July 2015) was a Train and Drive Roadtrip through Central Europe ending with a 3 day stay in Istanbul, Turkey.  A bit of an updated version of the old GRAND tours d’Europe, only this one came with casual clothes and WiFi. It’s taken me all of these past 7 months since vacation to find the right time or words to start sharing the trip with you, especially through the food.  And since it’s mid-winter time talking about Summer vacations is a sunny spot on a cold day.  So what do we have to talk about today?  We are talking about this Pasta dish I had at a premier autogrill spot along the highway from Vienna to Salzburg.  The Landzeit chain is dotted along Austria’s Autobahns.  We stopped on our way into Salzburg for a bite at the Landzeit in Strengberg.  I can’t report on the town, but I can tell you that for someone who loves food this was paradise.  Spotless, fresh, amazing selection and care in it’s preparation, this is very good dining.  This would be a great concept to see on our U.S. highways which are anything but food savvy.  Can you recall the last CRACKER BARREL or ARBY’S where you saw a pile of CHANTERELLES????  Don’t go crazy.  I can answer for you, and the answer is no.  European food culture, on average, is what Americans consider “foodie” or “gourmet” for lack of better terms.  I love chanterelles and love to cook with them when they are available in our markets, generally farm or gourmet markets.  A wild mushroom they are a bit pricey and very delicious.  Imagine my excited when this appeared in front of me at the Landzeit Strengberg:162885_1500720160349_5853202_n No need for further commentary because THAT picture says it all.  Farm fresh local abundance.  Austria LOVES it’s EIERSCHWAMMERL…the days we spent in Austria there were piles of them everywhere and they turned up in so many of the dishes, especially in Salzburg.  At the Thursday morning “SCHRANNE SALZBURGER” which  I literally FELL into while walking that morning around the hotel area before the family woke up, I was greeting with the most amazing local farmer’s market I’ve ever been to.  I’ll be talking more about this in future blogposts.  The produce. The meat and sausages. The Poultry. The baked goods.  Special in everyway AND there were the ever present Chanterelles.  I sampled some that came from the LUNGAU section just to the south of Salzburg.  I could only dream of loading my suitcases up with this pile and taking it back to the Jersey Shore with me.0041 Amazing display of local Chanterelles from Lungau (LUNGAUER EIRSCHWAMMERL). Things always taste BETTER to me or are more exciting when I call them in their native language.  Delicious.  Italian food is global.  Everyone loves pasta made in various Italian styles and Austria is no different.  This dish we will make is a pasta dish using Cream, Parmigiano, Green Onions, wine, and Chanterelles.  The Pasta choice will be up to you as the CRESTE DI GALLO, Cockscomb shaped pasta are not readily available even in Italian-centric neighborhood, but they certainly work wonderfully with the sauce.  The restaurant we were at was making them fresh infront of us.  165994_3211681293308_1441686714_n (1)  Another item I wished I could have filled my suitcases with, but, not possible.  You can use any of the cut tubed pastas for this, ZITI, PENNE, MOSTACCIOLE, PENNE RIGATE, SHELLS. There’s just an added level of enjoyment when the creamy sauce gets trapped in the pasta.  Add Campanelle (Gigli) to this list.  They work well too.  LET’S COOK!!

SERVES: 4-6                              TIME: 1 HOUR

1 LB  IMPORTED ITALIAN PASTA (Penne, Ziti, Creste di Gallo, Campanelle, Cavatappi, Shells) cooked al dente according to package .  DeCecco, DelVerde, Cocco, are all good choices. They hold up well to the sauce.

1 1/2 LBS CHANTERELLES (OR OTHER WILD MUSHROOM)  well cleaned and patted dry.  Wild mushrooms can hold onto dirt and sand so take care with cleaning them. Then chop them and reserve.




3/4 CUP HEAVY CREAM, ORGANIC IS BEST,and must be full fat





In a large heavy skillet/frying pan heat the butter.  Add the mushrooms and 1/2 the green onions, season with salt and let this saute’ for at least 10 minutes. Shake the pan a few times to allow the mushrooms to cook evenly.  Now add the wine and stir the mushrooms. This will pull up any caramelized bits on the bottom and add flavor to the sauce. Bring to a boil.  Then reduce to a siimmer.  Now add the heavy cream and paprika and blend.  Keep this on a simmer , do not let this boil. Boiling will cause possible curdling and separation. It should take about 20 minutes to thicken and reduce.  Organic cream is suggested not because it just sounds good but because it’s somewhat richer and that helps it be more like the rich European creams.  Add the drained Al Dente Pasta to the pan and continue to cook for 1 minute. Remove from the heat.   Stir in the 1/8 cup of Parmigiano-Reggiano. Now taste for seasoning and add the salt and pepper to taste. Add 1/2 the remaining Green Onion.  Blend. Serve. Each serving should get additional grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and a garnish of Green Onion.  Why green onion (scallion) ?  Because it showed up in most of the dishses we had in Austria. Rather than move into a more Italian aromatic like onion or garlic this kind of makes it unique and rather Austrian.  The VonTrapp Family would be proud.

Now you are eating like you’re driving thru Austria in the Salzburger region.  Isn’t travel delicious???

HAPPY COOKING!!001 Thanks for traveling to the land of EDELWEISS with me today and bringing it into your kitchen!!











vacation2014 280  What fun blogging is for me, the telling of a story, the teaching a dish, or sharing an experience, I love it all.  Less than a month ago I was on our family Summer vacation which took my wife and I and our 2 teen daughters  from home here at the Jersey Shore to London, Abu Dhabi and Dubai, the Seychelles, and all over South Africa.  Ambitious for sure, but in 17 days we did it all and now I can share some of those food/travel experiences via my blog.  I hope you enjoy the stories as I will be posting them on here along with my regular posts which come from my own kitchen.vacation2014 282vacation2014 289


We were in Abu Dhabi and Dubai for a few days and we were smack in the middle of Ramadan which means there were some restrictions on eating.  I inquired as to what a popular Ramadan dish would be when eating was permitted and SHORBET ADAS came up a few times, although Yellow Lentil or just Lentil Soup was what I was told.  Talking about it  on Facebook a friend of mine who hails from the United Arab Emirates told me the lentil soup is SHORBET ADAS.  Now if you are anything like me when you find something like that out in the food world it’s pretty exciting.  At first I thought, it’s 115 degrees F. outside , why on Earth would I order a hot soup, this is Winter food, but…i had to think like a local and say, it’s always hot here so food temperature is really not an issue.  I’m a big fan of all the Middle Eastern flavors with cumin, cloves, onions, herbs, name it I love all foods made in these cuisines from Israel to Armenia, from Morocco to Egypt, from Turkey to Dubai..the Middle East and it’s bordering cuisines are all joined by similar flavors.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere’s A FOOD OBSESSION enjoying a day on the Persian Gulf in AbuDhabi.  A delicious Lamb Kofte lunch poolside awaited me. That’s going to be another blog post.  Kofte, those grilled meat “kebabs”,”meatballs” are another favorite food of mine.

We loved our days in the UAE and I’m happy to share this soup with you.  LET’S COOK!!

FOR: 4-6                  TIME: ABOUT 1 HOUR OR LESS

1 cup YELLOW LENTILS, RINSED  (you can use orange or red as well)

1 chopped CARROT

1 diced ONION

1 tsp. SALT


1 tsp. CUMIN

1/2 tsp. ground CINNAMON

1/2 tsp. TURMERIC


LEMON wedges

In a heavy saucepan heat the olive oil and saute’ the onions, and carrot adding a pinch of salt and let them get soft, give it around 8 minutes or so.  Now add the lentils and let them “toast” a bit in the hot oil, season with cumin, cinnamon and the turmeric.  After 5 minutes add the water or stock.  Mix, Bring to a rolling boil then reduce to a simmer and let the lentils cook for about 35 minutes or until they have completely softened.  When soft remove from the heat and using an Immersion blender puree the soup gently (or carefully pour into a blender or processor and do the same, careful, it’s hot!).  Check the soup for seasoning.  Serve hot with LEMON WEDGES and each bowl gets a lemon wedge squeezed into it before serving…NOT AN OPTION..otherwise this is just another Lentil soup.  Clearly, the serving of the lemon with it is what completely got my foodcentric level of excitement up.  It’s part of the recipe, not simply a garnish.  Now, squeeze that lemon and enjoy the soup with some croutons or pita bread.





0002  Lemony bright, creamy and buttery without being heavy this recipe idea I am happily bringing home to you from my recent trip to South Africa.  These are my favorite souvenirs, the food idea ones that allow me to via my kitchen table transport us back to a place where we really enjoyed ourselves relaxing.  I love my home but it’s much work and it’s not a vacation.  Two weeks ago I was introduced to this sauce during our travels and in South Africa it is served along with Piri-Piri (an African/Portuguese chile sauce) and Garlic Butter Sauce with all of their grilled and steamed seafood dishes.  A plate of shellfish or fish was always accompanied by 3 small pitchers or ramekins of these sauces.165994_3211681293308_1441686714_n (1) That awesome platter was local mussels, Prince Prawns from Mozambique (right up the coast from South Africa) and Patagonian Calamari (WOW, thicker than our Atlantic and Mediterranean types but as soft as butter, amazing), a scoop of rice with peppers and onions and the three sauces.  This meal was had at the TWO OCEANS RESTAURANT where we had spectacular views of the tip of Africa (Cape of Good Hope) where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans converge.  Top lifetime dining experiences, even if the food sucked it would have been amazing but the food rocked our world and so it was just the best, as was the whole trip.  Wild baboons completed the whole experience as they romped outside of the restaurant and around our parked cars.  It was on this wonderful vacation that my oldest daughter decided the seafood looked just too good (maybe it was the surroundings that helped influence her) and she asked to try the mussels in the LEMON BUTTER SAUCE.  One taste and she was hooked.  Seriously, HOW COULD YOU NOT BE???  Yes a simple butter, lemon and cream sauce is addictive enough that less than a week after getting home A FOOD OBSESSION (me) had to try the recipe out in our home kitchen (the AFO KITCHEN).

Online I found a recipe from the OCEAN BASKET, which I’ll say is the South African equivalent of the U.S. chain Red Lobster with a very big difference, the seafood was AMAZING at the Ocean Basket.  These were not farm raised preservative shot-up shrimp, these were fresh then probably frozen prawns, split with their heads and shells still attached for grilling.  Superior seafood.   Anyhow it’s very hard to contain my excitement for this trip and most of the food I ate/encountered so this will be the first of many home experiments I will share with you based on the trip.

Here’s the sauce:

Prep Time: Cook Time: Serves:
0 15minutes 4

This rich, creamy lemon sauce is delicious served with fish. You can also add other spices to it for extra flavour such as garlic or mixed fish spice.


125ml (1/2 cup) thickened cream
20g butter (if you are using unsalted butter, add salt to taste)
1 1/2 tablespoons (30ml) fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley

Step 1

Heat cream to just below boiling point, do not boil

Step 2

Add butter, lemon juice and parsley and stir until butter is melted and mixture is smooth.

Step 3

If the sauce is a little thin, simmer, stirring constantly, until it reaches the desired consistency.

Step 4

If the sauce is too thick and/or separated, add a little water (one teaspoon at a time) and stir or whisk vigorously until sauce is fixed. Serve immediately.