The world traveler's recipe blog

photo by Rick: Kathy in Kyoto, 2001

Go to Most Recent Update: Eat Your Flowers in GUATEMALA!

10/17/04 KYOTO, JAPAN

When we were in Kyoto, Japan we were served a side dish that has become an important part of our lives. We have this at least once a day, at breakfast, and many guests that visit acquire a taste for it and make it at home after they visit us.


Onto a plate, shred or slice thin: raw cabbage. (You can use two different kinds or colors of cabbage if you like. Another variation is to add thinly sliced cucumber.) Season with toasted sesame oil, and sprinkle soy sauce on top, to taste. We also sprinkle toasted sunflower or sesame seeds and/or toasted almonds, or roasted salted peanuts on top. Serve with eggs, or as a side dish to any meal. At dinner it is also a good substitute for pasta or rice served with a saucy curry or your favorite fish or meat dish on top. This seems like a simple dish, but its crunchy fresh taste adds something special to any meal.


It was in Kyoto last summer (2004)that we were served Soba tea. Made from roasted buckwheat, its rich fragrance took Rick back to:

10/18/04 GARY, INDIANA

where he was born and lived as a child. His mom, Belle (Lifschultz) Wilson of Jewish-Latvian heritage, made a delicious dish called Kasha.

Rick and Kathy have worked together to recreate her recipe. Rick remembers fondly his Mom stirring a beaten egg
into dry buckwheat groats in a pan
and the wonderful scent of onions (try two large ones) being cooked golden.
It is very important to start with *roasted* buckwheat groats.
Do the onions in another pan, with olive oil, stirring constantly for five to ten minutes,
until the onions are truly golden and even a little more.
This takes patience and courage, but it is one of the keys to a happy life, and the key to good Kasha!
Added the onions to the buckwheat before serving.
They almost disappear, except for adding a that wonderful wonderful distinctive taste.
Serve it with a light gravy with whatever meat you make.


>10/19/04 MALTA

> We have never traveled to Malta, but Kathy's mother's parents, Michael and Josephine Abela, were both Maltese. Kathy has developed several recipes with the advice of her Maltese mom, Mary (Abela) Endress.
See our recipes for
Maltese Minestra
Stuffed Eggplant
Maltese Bread (Hobz)
Chicken Fricassee

10/20/04 CHICAGO

When Kathy went to Chicago for the first time (Rick's family had moved there) he told her the streets were paved with popcorn!
We got off the plane, and the airport was full of popcorn vendors, so it must be true.
But everyone knows Rick makes the world's BEST popcorn

and here is his secret recipe for

"Pasadena Popcorn"

First, he says, you go into the kitchen and announce, authoritatively, "STAND BACK!"
Ascertain that you have a functioning microwave oven.
Then you get out the big ceramic popcorn bowl and put it on the counter.
You must have FRESH dry popcorn kernels. (Organic preferred.) You take a scant 1/2 cup of of kernels and place them in a brown paper (lunch) bag.
Then twist and/or crimp the top of the bag.
(Be careful, this is where the art is involved, he says.)
If the bag is not closed well, and comes open, popcorn will spill out during the popping process.)
Lay the bag on its side on a rotating microwave tray.

"Nuke for 2 minutes, 10 seconds.
Timing may vary
Our friend Lisa vouches for 2 minutes, 11 seconds."

Remove bag from oven. Caution: bag will be very hot.
Scoop out popcorn into bowl while shaking bag slightly to let unpoppped kernels settle.
(Caution: unpopped kernels are very hot!)
Meanwhile put 3 tablespoons of "Earth Balance Buttery Spread" or substitute in a pyrex measuring cup or coffee mug.
Melt in microwave for about 25 seconds on high.
(Caution: buttery spread will be very hot!)
Sprinkle/pour buttery spread over the popcorn.
Quickly shake 17 times to spread it quickly.
Swirl a mist of fine popcorn salt onto the popcorn.
Be careful not to oversalt.
Shake 78 times to distribute the salt.
There is an art to shaking, so that some kernels do not jump out and escape.
Serve to waiting wife and company, if present.
Caution: if company is present you may need to make another batch.
(If the bag is not broken you can reuse the bag, but if it has broken, use a new one.)
Optional: you can sprinkle TOASTED sesame oil over popcorn instead of "buttery spread".

Every weekend we drive from Pasadena to
and one of our favorite breakfasts to share with friends (and have alone sitting by our balcony waterfall, looking at the mountains and listening to zoo animals shreek) is:

Elegant Brie-Sesame Omlette
We have developed and perfected our favorite omelette over the last couple of years. We used to have fluffy, more ordinary looking omelettes, untill finally we prefer this crepe-like, sesame encrusted dish, which features only one egg per person.
(You may think this is not a good point, but it is this that gives the omelette its elegant "crepeness." Our friends are always amazed that there is only one egg per person.
After these directions we will list several variations, including a rice-cheese alternative.

Use a very good, flat crepe or frying pan.
Pour in some olive or sesame oil and cover the bottom of the pan with toasted sesame seeds. Start heating the pan. Mix one egg per person with a little water or milk and beat well.
Pour into pan, over the sesame seeds evenly, and do not disturb.
While the eggs start to solidify, sprinkle your favorite herb, such as dill, and salt, and pepper if desired.
We sometimes sprinkle with chopped olive.
Cut thin slices of brie cheese and lay evenly on one side of circle of egg. The amount is according to taste, but don't put too little, as this is the main taste and charm of the dish.
Turn heat to low and cover, checking to see when cheese is melted.
With spatula, flip empty half over the cheese half. Top will he crusted with sesame.
Put a few decorative very thin slices of brie on top (don't hide all the sesame)
Cover and cook low until topping melts.
Serve in wedges on plate with a cooked vegetable like brocolli or asparagas,
or with Kyoto Cabbage

12/01/04 PASADENA, CA

>In Pasadena we have our best kitchen, and our home near Caltech, where Rick is on the faculty. Kathy learned to make this cake for Thanksgiving, 2003, because Rick likes cheesecake more than pie. It is hard to make regualar cheesecake at any time now, because this is so good.


This cheesecake is so good that everyone who tastes it will want you to make it for their birthday! Rick suggested writing on the cake with licorice pastilles for Sara's 15th birthday. Then a couple of weeks later, Kathy wrote "Happy Professor" on HIS cake. You can put them on just before serving, and they are quite distinct. You can pick them off, and eat them later. But for an interesting taste, that blends in a lovely way... they soften after being on the cake in the refrigerator and seem like part "of the act".

See Our favorite Pumpkin Cheesecake recipe


is where our friends Qing and Susan live. We love to visit with them, and Susan is always our inspiration when we apply ourselves to recreating, in our own style, a Chinese dish we love. Qing is professor of Mathematics at the University of Delaware, and his wife Susan is a great cook, and loves especially the cuisine of her childhood home in Sichuan province in China, where this dish originated.


Mapo, in Chinese, means "pock-marked old lady." It refers to a famous Sichuan chef's wife, who created this dish in the 19th century in the provincial capital, Chengdu.

This is our version (an improvisation on the traditional, which we like) so far:

Cook two yellow ONIONS till golden,
and add spicy-hot PORK SAUSAGE
Add about two tablesoons of your favovorite CHILI SAUCE
Mix some SOY SAUCE and CORNSTARCH together, and add to make it saucy
Add some broth or water to make it the consistency you like. Add more CRUSHED RED PEPPER
Add SALTED BLACK BEANS from an Asian market (two to four tablespoons).
(If we had Sichuan pepper we would add that.) Cook for a while and add cubes of TOFU.
The proportion ofsausage to tofu should be one to two or three; we used about a half pound of sausage and a pound of tofu for this recipe.

*For a vegetarian (vegan) alternative, substitude "Gimme Lean" soy sausage for pork, and add a little extra chili sauce. This version is so good you can hardly tell the difference!

Go to MaPo tofu weekend with Sean in Pasadena

1/17/05 TEHRAN, IRAN

In the summer of 2003 we spent ten days in Iran. We were the guests of The Institute for Theoretical Physics and Mathematics, in Tehran, Iran. We were served wonderful meals, and the best bread in the world was delivered fresh to our guest house every morning at 6 a.m. One day when it was raining hard in Southern California a few weeks ago, I wanted to cook something special, and not go out shopping. I had a half a can of tomato paste, some flour, some mushrooms, olives, pepperoni, some cheese. What did they do in Iran when we came home late from the museums and there was no time to go out to a restaurant? They had pizza delivered. I would guess they made the crust in ovens similar to those they made the great bread in! Well here's a picture of what they served us in Tehran. (The pizza I made looked a lot like it!)

Here's how to make the crust: (this makes two pizzas. You can save half to make another tomorrow!) Use ONE PACKET OF DRY YEAST, mix with a cup of warm water, ONE TSP OF SUGAR and ONE TSP OF SALT. THEN ADD about TWO TBS of OLIVE OIL Add 2 cups of flour.
We have decided to avoid wheat, as Rick seems allergic to it.
We have made the BEST CRUST with:
1/2 oat flour
1/3 brown rice flour
1/3 potato starch!
Form it into a ball, then cut off half, or 1/3 of the dough (we like a thin crust, oil a baking sheet, and press it, with some olive oil on your fingers, into a flat circle. (It looked like a pizza is amazing.) This crust holds together and is delicious!

TOPPINGS are up to you. I spread some tomato paste on the could make a sauce, but it works fine to do this, and sprinkled oregano, olive oil, onion slices, pepperoni, grated cheeses, some rice cheese... we like this because it is creamy but mozzarella would do, sliced mushrooms, crushed red pepper, salt, and put it in a preheated oven at 425 degrees for about 15 minute...maybe less. Result, a thin crust, the way we like it, as good as any pizza we ever tasted! The crust reminded us a little of our favorite Iranian bread, Sangak! You can now see Rick's film of our pizza cooking! Go to Pizza in the Oven


are cities Rick has visited in years past, and Kathy hopes to come along someday. Our friends from both cities recently visited us in Pasadena a week apart, and we served them all Kathy's new invention (Maybe because it sounds like teacakes?)

They really are this stunning green!

But we didn't have them for tea (although it is not a bad idea...we will have to try it)!
We served them as appetizers, and they delicious, unusual, and are simple to make.
Cook lightly, one package of petite frozen peas.
Put in blender with a little water and about 1/4 cup of potato starch until smooth.
Brown 3 salted chopped onions until golden.
Add to above mixture, drop in appetizer size spoonfuls on olive oiled pan.
Cook till lightly browned on both sides and serve buttered. (We use Earth Balance buttery spread.) Everyone has loved these!


San Francisco is one of our favorite places to visit, and we drive there as often as we can to visit good friends and visit the "Paris of the U.S". Our great friend Harry Bower lives there, and he is our culinary muse.

Frittatas and photos by Harry Bower, our inspiration

He has "converted" us to frittatas. We are not sure why anyone would make an omelet after knowing about this. It is all made in the same pan, so someone half awake can make one easily. What we do is:
Put anything you like, leftovers are good, chopped up in a pan (I use non-stick) and a little oil or whatever you like. In the first frittata pictures harry used leftover spagetti!
Try chopped onions, garlic, leftover potato or rice, vegetable, spinach, etc. then beat two eggs or three with a little water, salt and any seasoning you like. Pour this over the mixture in the pan. Grate a little cheese on top, or sprinkle with anything, turn the heat down and cover. After a few minutes it will solidify, and when it looks done, you can serve it in "wedges" like a pizza. You can play with this recipe, and make it so many ways, and it's all in one pan! A wonderful breakfast, lunch or dinner, as elegant, complex or simple as you like. Looks pretty too! Thanks, Harry. Note: If you don't put cheese on top, you can flip it, to cook on both sides, as Harry did above. He made a large one, in a large pan with 8 eggs. Then you can serve a dinner party or have leftovers for a day or two.

2/9/06 KNOXVILLE, TENNESSE is where poet Nikki Giovanni was born, in 1943. She came to Caltech today to talk and read her poetry to a large audience of appreciative listeners, including the poets of Pasadena. It was for this occasion that Kathy made these two "Poets Soups" for the a lively group of local poets who gathered at our home before and after her reading:

1. Spicy Poets Soup

Chop at least 2 onions and mince 2 cloves of garlic and cook slowly in some olive oil. Add lots of thinly chopped cabbage, and continue cooking till the onions start to brown. Add one can of pureed pumpkin, and mix in. Add a can of small black beans. Add two large baked chopped yams, (you could substitute raw if you cook long enough, or steamed, or even white potatoes, and some cauliflower. (Any vegetables you have can be added at this point.) Add water, or vegetable broth and season with some Indian curry powder, soy sauce, or crushed red pepper, oregano, and/or any favorite seasonings.

2. Plain Poets Soup

Steam or boil as many zucchini as fit in your pot, about 2 cups of water. Put in blender or mash when cooked, with water. Add olive oil and salt and stir. Some oregano is good, or any herb, plain is a good contrast to the other soup.

Serve in tiny bowls, seperately, and refill often, or serve in a larger bowl, yin-yang style. Both of these soups are basically improvisations, so you can alter, improve and edit to your own poetic taste!

Eat your flowers in: GUATEMALA!

in a "Squash Blossom Omelette"

One of my favorite yoga teachers comes from Guatemala. We call him "smiling elf man" because he transmits a smiling energy, and is a small, dynamic person who works magic with his encouraging cheerful classes. After you are done you feel like a golden squash blossom!

He loves to go to the South Pasadena Farmers market on Thursdays, and we met him there once buying squash blossoms. My friend asked--what do you do with them? "Make a Squash Blossom Omelette" he said! I have made it twice now, and improvised the recipe to taste. You can serve this for breakfast or lunch, or as a side dish with dinner.

Buy or grow *squash blossoms*. These are the big golden flowers you'll find on pumpkin or winter squash vines. Pick them or buy them fresh.

Chop and fry a *red onion* in a frying or omelette pan.

While it is browning, chop the stems and firm bottom of the flowers. (I use about ten flowers.) Stir together and add salt, thyme, and a little red pepper. The herbs are optional. Add your own favorites, but don't you don't want to overpower the delicate blossom taste.

After a few minutes, and the onions are how you like them, chop the tender blossoms and add to the mix.

Swirl * 3 eggs * (for 2 people) with a little water and salt and pour over the onions and flowers. Sprinkle a little handful of toasted sunflower seeds on top. (This is optional. I tried this and we loved it.) Cook till firm and serve.

For our favorite world recipe site see The Foreign Foods Project

Go back to Kathy&Rick Home Page