Thursday, April 30, 2009

Green Garlic and Clams

Originally posted on bitten, Mark Bittman's New York Times web site, the dish is one of my favorites because it's on the table in 10 minutes.

Green Garlic and Clams

(David Latt makes a simple dish that can be amplified with any number of ingredients. –MB)

At the Wednesday Santa Monica Farmers’ Market — two blocks from the Pacific Ocean — we’re finding one of the treasures of spring: green garlic, thick as a leek and two feet long.

With fresh green garlic, everything is edible except for the outermost skin. The farmer I buy them from swears that even the roots are edible. With some trepidation I nibble on a root strand and am pleasantly surprised that it has heat and an intense garlic flavor.

Next to the stand with the green garlic is Carlsbad Aqua Farm where we buy our fresh mussels, oysters, clams, and scallops. The idea was obvious to me: green garlic and clams.

I have made it several times over the last couple of weeks, and the combination is always ready in ten minutes and infinitely flexible. Served with broth and sautéed garlic-parsley toast it’s the perfect appetizer. Add pasta or cooked rice and the dish becomes a complete meal. Stir in roasted tomatoes and you’ve got the beginnings of an excellent cioppino.

Green Garlic and Butter Clams

Yield 4 servings

Time 10 minutes

  • 1 green garlic, washed, outer skin around the bulb removed, thinly sliced, bulb and greens
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
  • 1 tablespoon sweet butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 4 pounds butter clams, washed
  • Sauté the garlic and parsley in the butter until lightly browned. Season with black pepper, add water and clams. Cover and cook 5 minutes over high heat. Transfer the clams that have opened to a serving bowl. Continue cooking any clams that haven’t opened for another 2-3 minutes. Discard any clams that haven’t opened.
  • When you pour the broth over the clams, do so slowly so any sediment is left behind to be discarded. Serve with fresh bread.
  • --Substitute white wine for the water
  • --Along with the green garlic, sauté 2 thinly sliced shallots.
  • --Tear apart 2 roasted tomatoes, remove the skins, add the pulp to the broth.
  • --Add 2 cups cooked pasta to the broth.
  • --Add 2 cups cooked rice to the broth.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Cioppino with Roasted Tomatoes and Garlic-Parsley Toasts

Cioppino is said to have originated among fishermen who made their dinners out of the fish and shellfish they couldn't sell in the morning. Although it has evolved into a pricey item on upscale menus, at heart cioppino is comfort food.

Traditionally cioppino features fresh crab, reflecting the origin of the dish in San Francisco where Dungeness crabs are plentiful. When crab isn't available or affordable, shrimp works just as well. Clams and mussels are essential to the dish, as are cubes of fish fillets. Flounder sole, tilapia, salmon, or halibut all work well.

Find a reliable supplier of seafood. To ensure we're getting the freshest ingredients, we buy our clams and mussels from Carlsbad Aqua Farm at the Santa Monica Farmers' Market (Wednesday and Sunday) and our flounder sole from Tropical Seafood at the Pacific Palisades Farmers' Market (Sunday).

are as important to making cioppino as is good quality seafood. If the tomatoes are roasted, the soup has a beautiful sweetness edged with the tomato's natural acidity.

One of the helpful aspects of this dish is that many of the elements can be prepared ahead and frozen for later use. I pick up overly ripe tomatoes at the Santa Monica Farmers' Market when they're discounted. I'll buy several pounds, roast them, freezing some whole in an air tight container and turning the rest into tomato sauce, which I also freeze.

The clams and mussels can be cooked, taken out of their shells, and frozen. If the meat is submerged in the broth, there's no danger of freezer burn. The fish fillets can be cut into 1/2" squares, tossed in olive oil, and frozen in a Ziploc bag. That way all the essential parts of the cioppino are waiting in the freezer whenever you want a taste treat.

Cioppino with Roasted Tomatoes

While serving cioppino with shellfish in the shell is more picturesque, my vote is to take the clams, mussels, and crab out of their shells so eating the dish is easier.

Yield: 4 servings
Time: 30 minutes plus 45-60 minutes for the tomatoes


6 large ripe tomatoes, washed
8 cloves garlic, skins removed, finely chopped
1/2 cup Italian parsley, washed, finely chopped, leaves and stems
1/2 pound mushrooms--shiitake or brown--washed, thinly sliced
1 pound Dungeness crab legs, cooked, washed, cut into 1" pieces or 1 pound shrimp, shelled, deveined, cut into 1" pieces
2 pounds butter or little neck clams, washed
2 pounds mussels, washed, beards removed
1 pound fish fillet--sole, salmon, tilapia, or halibut--washed, cut into 1/2" cubes
Olive oil
Black pepper


Roasting the Tomatoes

Remove the remnants of the stem at the top of the tomato and discard. Put the tomatoes on a Silpat or aluminum foil sheet on a baking tray, drizzle with olive oil, season with sea salt and pepper, and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 45-60 minutes.

Transfer the tomatoes to a large bowl, reserving all the liquid on the bottom of the baking tray. When cooled to the touch, remove the skins and discard. With your fingers, tear the tomatoes into small pieces. Set aside.

Parsley-Garlic Toasts

To make the parsley-garlic toasts, heat 1/4 cup olive oil, seasoned with half the garlic and parsley. Make two slices for each person. Saute the bread on each side until lightly browned.


In a large stock pot, drizzle olive oil on the bottom, heat on a low flame, saute the remaining garlic and parsley until softened. Add 1/4 cup water, the clams and mussels, turn the flame to high, cover, and cook for 5 minutes.

Remove all the clams and mussels that have opened. If any are still closed, put the cover back on and continue cooking another 5 minutes. Any clams and mussels that still haven't opened at that point should be discarded.

Slowly pour the broth into a large bowl. Discard any grit remaining in the stock pot. Return the pot to the stove, drizzle more olive oil, and saute the mushrooms over a low flame until lightly browned. Add the broth and roasted tomato pulp and sauce. Simmer 15 minutes.

Add the fish fillets, stir well, and cook 5 minutes. Add the crab or shrimp and cook for 2 minutes. Finally, add the mussels and clams, stirring them into the broth, being careful not to break apart the fish fillets. Simmer for 2-3 minutes.

Place 1 slice of garlic-parsley toast on the bottom of each bowl, add the cioppino, then place the 2nd slice on top.


Instead of garlic cloves in the cioppino saute, use 1 whole green garlic, outer skin of the bulb and root end removed, white and green parts thinly sliced

Add 1 cup cubes of cooked, peeled potato, preferably Yukon Gold or fingerlings, unpeeled and quartered

Add kernels from 1 grilled corn on the cob

Substitute cilantro for the parsley

Saute thin rounds of Italian sausage or chorizo, add to the broth

Use 1/4 cup white instead of water

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Rosemary Fried Chicken

What a beautiful day! Perfect for taking a walk at the beach, shopping at our local farmers' market, cooking, and eating outside.

We've cleaned off the deck. Arranged tables outside for lunch. Prepared a carrot salad and a couscous with grilled vegetables, made kosher pickles and a pasta with braised beef and watercress, soaked chicken and onion rings in buttermilk for fried chicken, and baked a custard with chocolate.

Today will be a good day.

For me the fried chicken with onion rings is the centerpiece of the meal. I have strong childhood memories of my mom making fried chicken when we went to Will Rogers State Beach in Santa Monica. Nothing Colonel Sanders ever made came close.

Rosemary Fried Chicken

Yield: 4 servings
Time: 45 minutes to prepare, marinate the chicken overnight in buttermilk


1 whole chicken, washed, cut apart, wing tips and bones reserved to make chicken stock
1 quart buttermilk
4 cups flour
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
1/4 teaspoon sugar (optional)
1/4 cup finely chopped yellow onion (optional)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 quarts safflower or canola oil


When you cut up the chicken, separate the two parts of the wing and cut the breast meat off the bone. Keep or discard the skin as you wish. The breasts can be left whole but will cook more evenly when cut into strips or tenders.

Toss the chicken pieces with olive oil and season with sea salt and pepper. Put the pieces in a container, add the buttermilk, 1 tablespoon of the rosemary, stir, cover, and refrigerate overnight.

Using a wok or deep frying pan, heat the cooking oil to 325 - 350 degrees or until a piece of parsley browns immediately when dropped in the oil. Before you begin cooking, prepare your counter. Have a slotted spoon or an Asian style strainer ready. Lay two paper towels on top of a piece of brown grocery bag paper on a large plate.

Reserve 1 teaspoon of the rosemary to use just before serving.

In a brown paper bag mix together the flour, sea salt, pepper, rosemary, cayenne (optional), sugar (optional), and onions (optional). Remove one piece of chicken at a time. Shake off the excess buttermilk, drop it into the paper bag with the seasoned flour, close the top of the bag, and shake. Repeat with all the pieces, assembling them on a plate or cutting board.

Cook the chicken in batches. Gently drop each piece into the hot oil, making sure it doesn't don't touch the other pieces so each one cooks evenly.

Turn over when browned on one side. Remove when golden brown and drain on the paper towels. The pieces will cook quickly: chicken tenders (breast) 2-3 minutes; wings 7-8 minutes; thighs & legs 10-12 minutes.

Just before serving, lightly dust the chicken pieces with 1 teaspoon of rosemary, sea salt and pepper.

If you are making deep fried vegetables like onion rings or broccoli florets, they cook even more quickly: thick rings cook in 30 seconds, thin rings in 5-6 seconds; broccoli in 30 seconds. Soak the vegetables in the seasoned buttermilk for a few minutes, then process like the chicken pieces.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Off Season Bargains in the Sonoma Wine Country

Spring is the perfect time for an off-season weekend in California's Sonoma Valley. Premium rates don't begin until just before the Memorial Day weekend.

Off-season extends from the end of harvest in November through mid-May. In December, January, and February there can be a bit of rain, which is good for the grapes. Even for visitors, the inclement weather adds to the valley's charms, especially with so many restaurants serving comfort food and great wines.

During March and April, day time temperatures hover in the mid 60's to low 70's, with the nights still in fireplace-cozy mid-40s. Only a few buds appear on the vines, but brilliantly colored wild flowers are already in full bloom.

Fields of bright yellow mustard plants spread as far as the eye can see. Tall green grasses wet from the coastal air surround mile after mile of still dormant, grape vines. The lifeless looking vines mask the vitality that will burst forth as the day time temperatures climb into the 70's.

To attract visitors, you'll find many hotels have lowered their room rates during the off-season. The Sonoma County Tourism Bureau's web site is a good guide to lodging, restaurants, and recreational opportunities. Calling around you'll discover who has discounted their rates.

Recently we enjoyed a long weekend with family and friends in Glen Ellen. We much prefer to stay in a rental home rather than a hotel. We have more privacy that way and because we can make our own meals, we save money in the long run.

With four couples we rented a house offered by Beautiful Places. The off-season rate for our weekend stay at Villa Andrea was discounted 20%. At some of their properties, stay three days and the fourth day is free.

Besides saving money, you'll also have a more relaxing time. Right now, you'll have Sonoma, Petaluma, Glen Ellen, Santa Rosa, Kenwood, Healdsburg, and Sebastopol and all their wineries pretty much to yourself.

With only light traffic on the main roads, there are no lines in the tasting rooms at popular wineries like the Benziger Family Winery, B.R. Cohn, Loxton Cellars and Tin Barn Vineyards. Fewer visitors means a wine maker like Bob Benziger has time to talk about the wines and even lead some of the tram rides through the vineyard himself.

Summer in Sonoma is glorious. But after this trip we discovered the pleasures of an off-season visit. We had better access to the wine makers. We had more leisure time because we weren't stuck in traffic jams and we were happy about spending less.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

What to Do With All Those Easter Eggs? Make Egg Salad and Custard

With Easter only a few days away, who isn't thinking about eggs? When I was a kid I loved dyeing and decorating eggs. But instead of using hard boiled eggs, I thought it was infinitely cooler to de-egg my Easter eggs.

I remember using one of my mother's sewing needles to punch holes on either end of the uncooked egg. Putting my mouth against the egg, I'd huff-and-puff and blow until the raw egg dropped into a bowl.

Admittedly that was a lot of extra work and there were risks. Making the holes and blowing into the egg could crack the shell. Worse, all that huffing-and-puffing sometimes led to hyper-ventilating, so my mother kept an eye on me, just in case I got dizzy and fell off the chair.

In my child's mind, that extra effort was worth it because the feather-weight shells, brightly dyed and covered with decals, were so much more artful than the heavy hard boiled eggs.

So the raw eggs wouldn't go to waste, my mom made omelets or used them for baking. Ultimately I stopped making the feather-weight eggs. They were just too much trouble. When I reverted to using hard boiled eggs, she'd turn those into egg salad.

Egg Salad with Crispy Bacon

The egg salad will taste better if you use the freshest eggs available. We're lucky to live near the Santa Monica and Pacific Palisades Farmers' Markets where Lily's Eggs sells their eggs. The yolks are bright orange, the whites clear and silky, the flavor naturally sweet.

Yield: 4 servings
Time: 40 minutes.


4 eggs, farmers' market fresh
1 tablespoon Italian parsley finely chopped
1 tablespoon capers, finely chopped
1 large shallot, peeled, finely chopped
1 slice of bacon, crisp, finely chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons mayonnaise
Sea salt and pepper
Olive oil


In a saucepan cover the eggs with water and gently boil for 30 minutes. That may be longer than you're used to but cooking the eggs at a lower temperature makes the yolks moist and flaky.

Let the eggs cool, then peel and chop them by hand with a chef's knife. Mix together the eggs, parsley, capers, shallot, bacon, and mayonnaise. Season with sea salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with bread, crackers, or hearts of romaine.

The Easiest Custard You'll Ever Make

Yield: 4-6 servings
Time: 90 minutes


2 eggs
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup
1 teaspoon vanilla (optional)
1 teaspoon sweet butter


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Beat together the eggs and 1/2 cup white sugar. Add the cream and (optional) vanilla and stir well.

Butter a large 8" round oven-proof baking dish or 6 porcelain ramekins. Pour in the custard. Prepare a water bath by pouring 1" of water to a large roasting pan.

Put the custard into the water bath and bake for 45 minutes (the ramekins) or 75 minutes (the baking dish). Every 15 minutes rotate the baking dish and ramekins so they cook evenly. If the custard is browning too quickly, lay a piece of tin foil over the top.

The custard is done when it doesn't jiggle when moved.

Serve at room temperature with whipped cream, ice cream, or fresh berries.


Add 1/4 cup golden raisins, roughly chopped

Add 1/4 cup dry roasted almonds, walnuts, pistachios, or hazelnuts, roughly chopped

Add 1/4 cup high quality chocolate, roughly chopped

Add 1/4 cup espresso, reduced to 1 tablespoon

Add both the nuts and chocolate

Add the nuts, chocolate, and reduced espresso

Doha, Qatar

I highly recommend traveling to places you think you know because you've read about them or seen them in movies. The experience is eye-opening. You'll learn almost as much about yourself as you will about the destination. This is the last post from my Seattle to Doha trip, written for Peter Greenberg's travel site.

Off the Brochure Guide: Doha, Qatar

Plane ShadowDavid Latt traveled from Seattle to Qatar on the delivery flight of a new 777-200LR that would join Qatar Airways’ fleet.

In his final installment of the Qatar Chronicles, he reports on his findings both on and off the brochure in the capital city of Doha.


Qatar occupies an elongated peninsula on the eastern edge of Saudi Arabia. Jutting into the Persian Gulf, the landscape is dominated by flat, sandy expanses.

A self-described moderate Muslim country, religion and politics are as tightly interwoven in Qatar as anywhere else in the Middle East. There may not be Saudi-style religious police patrolling the streets, but this is not relaxed Dubai or Cairo.

Visitors to Qatar are told to enjoy their pleasures “modestly.” Women are asked to cover their arms in public. Drinking alcohol is forbidden except in licensed venues. Even the Qatar Tourism and Exhibitions Authority alerts visitors that public displays of affection between men and women are discouraged.

Most of the 1.2 million inhabitants of Qatar live in and around Doha. Only a few decades ago, Doha was a small fishing and pearl-diving village. Historically, there weren’t compelling reasons to travel to Doha: It was not at the nexus of trade routes; no ancient archaeological sites declared Doha as an important city in the ancient world; cruise ships rarely stop in Doha, the capital and main port, preferring instead to call at Bahrain and Dubai.

But the discovery of oil and immense natural gas reserves changed Qatar’s future. In a few decades energy development has made Qatar one of the richest per capita countries in the world.

The transformation of Doha from a sleepy, backwater village into a dynamic modern urban center was the vision of one man, the Emir of Qatar, Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani. He assumed the leadership of the country in 1995 when he deposed his father as Emir.

Doha SkylineFrom the beginning of his reign, Sheik Hamad had big plans for his country. Rejecting narrow parochial interests, he used Qatar’s vast wealth to make Doha an important center for Middle Eastern life.

Today, the business of Doha is business: New medical buildings, universities, condominium developments, business complexes, shopping centers, sporting arenas, hotels, and spas rise up before your eyes. Driving through town it’s easy to fool yourself into believing that literally every single building is under construction.

Sheik Hamad is also a master of balancing the interests of the Arab world on one hand and an alignment with the Western democracies—particularly the U.S.—on the other.

In 1996 he created Al Jazeera, a global television network devoted to putting an Arab perspective on the news. In 1997 he gave women the right to vote. In 2006, Qatar hosted the Asian Games, and in 2008 he donated the land for a Catholic church. He supports Palestinian causes, at the same time he allowed the U.S. to establish a large military base outside of Doha. After Hurricane Katrina, he donated $100 million to New Orleans.

And last, but certainly not least, the Sheik has also been the driving force behind upgrading Qatar Airways into a premium airline, expanding its routes to the major cities in the Middle East, Asia, Europe, and the U.S., with non-stop flights to New York, Washington D.C., and now, Houston.


Qatar Plane landedSeveral airlines fly to Doha, but Qatar Airways is generally the most accessible. Doha is its hub, so there are frequent flights to most parts of the world, including the U.S. From personal experience I can say that the planes are new and very comfortable, especially in business class. The food is first-rate. The flight crews are friendly and solicitous, qualities that are to be prized.

Once you get there, traveling around Doha isn’t easy. There are only a few taxis and renting a car isn’t advisable. Although the actual roads in Doha are good, there is so much construction, detours make a simple trip incredibly complicated. If possible, share the cost of a driver with friends. Check with your hotel’s concierge for recommendations.


Unfortunately for most visitors, Doha is an expensive city. Many expatriates come to work in Qatar hoping to save a good deal of their salaries, only to discover that they can barely pay for housing and eat out occasionally. Gasoline and natural gas are very inexpensive but that doesn't off-set the cost of other necessities.

The major hotel chains are represented in Doha: Marriott, Four Seasons, InterContinental, Movenpick, Ramada, Starwood, Ritz-Carlton, Sheraton, and Sofitel. Room rates are comparable with those in London, Paris, and New York.

Most visitors to Doha eat in the hotels where the food can be very good but, again, very expensive. A delicious group dinner at Il Teatro at the Four Seasons cost a small fortune.

Stuffed DatesBesides dates and hammour—a delicious white fish that we ate as often as it was on the menu—very little food is produced locally. With poor soil and scorching heat in the summer, Qatari agriculture is a contradiction in terms. Top soil imported from Iran, Syria, and Jordan has improved the situation so that Qatar is now able to produce about 20 percent of its leafy vegetables.

For Arabic food in an upscale setting, the Al Liwan in Sharq Village & Spa operated by the Ritz-Carlton, serves a Lebanese buffet in an airy dinning room next to the pool. With the only sushi bar in town, Asia Live in the Doha Marriott features Japanese and Chinese dishes. The Doha Marriott also serves Indian seafood at Taj Rasoi.

For less expensive Indian food, catering to the many expats from the subcontinent, Bukhara in the Khalifa Tennis & Squash complex has a full menu including tandoori chicken. Za Moda at the InterContinental has a wood-fueled oven and turns out a pizza that would make any Italian proud.

For the most part, hotel restaurants are the only places in town to have alcoholic drinks. Many hotels like the Movenpick Towers are dry, so if you want a glass of wine or a cocktail, you have to go across the street to the Four Seasons.

Omara Sweets & RestaurantAn advantage to being in a Muslim country is the wide availability of fresh fruit juices. At the Al Liwan, for example, we were offered freshly made watermelon, mango (delicious!), pineapple, papaya, melon, mint-lemonade (another favorite), apple, orange, and grapefruit juice.

Although much of the affordable food in Doha is limited to McDonald’s and Burger King, you can find reasonably priced grilled meats and Arabic mezze—falafel, hummus, olives, pickles, yogurt, mutabbal or babaghanoush, labneh, etc. Head to restaurants in the Souq Waqif such as Al Bandar and Al Tawash, the Lebanese restaurant Assaha on Hamad Al Kibir Street or Turkey Central Restaurant in the old downtown area.

Though not easily accessible, good eats can also be found in a block-long stretch of storefront restaurants on the access road that runs parallel to Sheik Khalifa Street, just behind Al Jazeera. Besides McDonald’s there were also candy stores, bakeries, and rotisserie chicken shops.

At Al Omara Sweets & Restaurant, I had the best falafel I’ve ever eaten. Made fresh, the falafel was crunchy outside, studded with sesame seeds, and soft as a pillow inside.

Spas in a desert climate seem especially soothing. As you would expect, the best spas are at the luxury hotels. The Ritz-Carlton has spas at both of their hotels, as do the Marriott and the Four Seasons. A massage costs roughly what it does in the U.S.

I had a massage at the Six Senses Spa at the Sharq Village & Spa. You begin to relax in the waiting room which is shaded from the harsh sun outside. You are further soothed by the pool of water in the center of the room. After the massage therapist confirms what kind of treatment you'd like, you're led into the changing rooms. Supported by aromatic oils and heated towels, the massage itself was refreshing and therapeutic. After the treatment you are invited to spend as much time as you'd like in a quiet room where the chaise lounges face an inner courtyard with another pool of water. A cup of hot mint tea, a bottle of ice cold water and a tray of dry roasted nuts and dates stuffed with candied orange slices complete the atmosphere of pampered indulgence. Only the airplanes taking off from Doha International Airport across the street remind you that the real world is close nearby.


In many cities of the world, visiting a church, mosque, or temple gives visitors a view into the culture, art, and history of a people. In Doha, mosques are only for Muslims but the new Museum of Islamic Art offers a historical look into the heart of Islamic culture from the 7th to the 19th century. Designed by the world famous architect I.M. Pei, the exquisite building sits on its own island perched on the edge of the Gulf.

Inside, well-mounted exhibits fill three of its five floors. Using a collection of manuscripts, household objects, jewelry, and tapestries, the exhibits tell the story of Islam’s spread through the Middle East, Europe, and Asia.


Fancy Shopping DohaIf you like high-priced designer names, Doha is a shopper’s paradise. In the desert climate, air conditioned malls provide not only great shopping but welcome relief from the heat. The best products offered by upscale designers from around the world are available at the Royal Plaza, City Center Doha, Landmark, The Mall, the newer Villaggio Mall, and the soon to-be-opened shopping complexes on The Pearl, a large development built on an island of reclaimed land.

The local shopping areas are called souqs which are frequently organized around what they sell. The Gold Souq is off Grand Hamad Street. Souq Al-Jabor on Al Ahmed Street focuses on leather goods.

Souq Waqif, the large souq, has a mix of tourist curios, Arabian swords and knives, native dress, beads, spices, perfume, clothing, falcons, out-door coffee shops, and restaurants. The location has been a market for hundreds of years. A reconstruction project begun in 2004 by the Emir, Sheik Hamad, the souq authentically recreates the look of the site when it was the market where Bedouins, pearl divers, and local artisans sold their goods. Building a new complex to look traditional could have a Disney-touch, but the Emir was determined to use native materials and traditional designs. As a result, locals and tourists have embraced the new Souq Waqif and pack its narrow alleyways at night.

Unfortunately in Qatar, where there is little native industry, most trinkets and curios aren’t produced locally. You’ll see goods from Middle Eastern countries such as Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and Morroco, or from India and China. Even the famous pearl divers are long gone, and today pearls come from Japan and China.


Souq WakifUnlike Dubai which has a Vegas-like atmosphere, life in Qatar is more subdued. Most Qataris and the expats who work in Doha do their entertaining at home, while locals tend to frequent hotel clubs and bars where alcohol is available.

The Ritz-Carlton’s Admiral’s Club has a terrace that benefits from a cooling sea breeze. Also at the Ritz-Carlton, Habanos is a cigar bar where you can enjoy sitting in plush leather chairs, sampling a good selection of fine liquor.

If you want to watch sports on TV while drinking a few beers, try Aussie Legends in the Rydges Plaza Doha or Garveys in the European Family Club on Al Aziziyi Street. The Four Seasons’ Library Bar & Cigar Lounge has a good wine list and an excellent selection of cocktails.

Be forewarned, the prices at the Four Seasons are downright scary. You’ll need to be oil-rich just to have a couple of perfect Manhattans and a snack.


In the summer months, the temperatures push past 120 degrees and the humidity keeps pace, so Doha isn’t a city to visit in June, July, August, or September unless business demands it. In the fall and winter months, the temperatures are moderate and, at times, downright chilly.

Doha CornicheWalking along the Corniche, the seafront promenade, is one of the great pleasures of Doha. The view is terrific although in some spots the traffic and construction noise detract from the effect. There aren’t public beaches for sunbathing. The Ritz-Carlton’s Sharq Village & Spa has a small man-made beach for guests but it faces the port and doesn’t have the best view. In a few years the Emir plans to relocate the port facility to better exploit the natural beauty of the bay.

If you want to get a view of the city from the water, tours are offered on the Arabian wooden sailing boats, dhows.

Being inside one new building after another, it’s possible to forget that you’re in the Middle East. A trip outside the city helps remind you where you are.

When expats working in Doha want to take a break from their jobs and the noise of 24-hour a day construction, they head south of the city to the sand dunes and the Inland Sea where they can take camel rides, have dune buggy tours of the desert, and enjoy barbecues on the beach.

For our trip to the dunes, we hired a guide from Gulf Adventures who gave us a tour of the dunes that included his driving straight down a steep dune as fast as he could. At first scary, we loved them so much, we’d egg him on to find another big dune and dive bomb to the bottom.

Camel RideHe encouraged us to take a camel ride. (I had my picture taken so I could show my sons that I’m not really as square as they think.) Enjoying a glass of sweetened mint tea, we finished the tour sitting under a tent next to a sand dune swapping stories.


To make Doha a destination in the Arab world, the Emir made sports a priority. The staging of the Asian Games in December, 2006 at the Aspire Zone announced to the world that Doha was a world-class sporting venue.

And if you are a horse racing fan, you already knew that.

The Arabian horses bred and trained in Qatar are renowned in the Arab world. Sheikh Hamad din Ali Al Thani’s equestrian complex Al Shaqab showcases the talents of purebred Arabian horses as do the Thursday races at the Racing & Equestrian Club (October to May).

Although not as elegant, go to Al Sheehaniya Camel Race Course to see the very popular camel races.

Given the heat of the Gulf, maintaining grass is a difficult and expensive proposition. Even the small patches of grass that decorate traffic islands require a thorough soaking three to four times a day during the summer. So it is amazing that Doha actually has a golf course, the 18-hole Doha Golf Club. Just as improbably, there is also one ice skating rink at Winter Wonderland at the City Centre Mall.


If you have business in Qatar, this is an exciting time. The city changes every day with new and dynamic projects. Because the Emir took a less frenetic approach to development, it looks as if Qatar will weather the global economic slowdown more gracefully than other places such as Dubai.

To get the full benefit of what Doha offers the traveler, it might be best to wait awhile. Within the next several years the major construction projects will be completed.

The new international airport will have opened. The port will have been relocated, giving the new luxury hotels and office high-rises unobstructed views of the Gulf. In that time the transportation system will have expanded and more restaurants will have opened. New museums like the National Museum of Qatar, designed by Jean Nouvel, will be open. Robert De Niro will have launched the Tribeca Film Festival in Doha.

When all that has been done, Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani may have achieved his vision of Qatar as a cultural center for the Arabic world and as a bridge between east and west.

Headed to the Middle East? Check out these articles:

Friday, April 3, 2009

One Chicken Makes Matzo Ball Soup, Garlic-Parsley Chicken Breasts, and Chicken Ragout

Making Passover dinner takes a bit of planning, but it doesn't have to be a chore. If you're cooking for a big group, hand out assignments so you don't do all the work. If your kitchen is large enough, invite people over to help. Cooking the dinner with friends and family can be as much a part of a celebration as the meal itself.

Everyone wants to save money these days. But keeping an eye on food costs shouldn't mean cutting corners on quality and flavor. Avoid buying packaged or frozen meals and you'll be way ahead of the game. Besides saving money, you'll be eating healthier food.

On Passover, I practice what I preach by using one chicken to make three dishes. My Jewish mother would be very proud.

For me it's not Passover without matzo ball soup. But soup is only as good as the stock. Canned and packaged chicken broth are very high in salt content and, in my opinion, have an unpleasant flavor. It's much better to make your own.

The broth can be made days ahead, kept in the refrigerator or even frozen. Also, when you buy the chicken, buy a whole one, preferably a free range or organic chicken, and cut it up yourself. Whole chickens cost under $2.00/pound, while chicken parts range from $3.50-$8.00/pound.

Cutting up a Chicken

If you haven't done it before, cutting apart a whole chicken is easier than you think. Having a sharp boning or chef's knife is essential.

To remove the wings, thighs, and legs, slice through the meat and separate at the joints. Cut the wings apart, reserving the tips for the stock. To debone the breasts, glide the knife along the side of the breast bone. As you cut, pull back the breast meat, continuing to slide the knife against the ribs.

For health reasons, I remove the skin and fat from the breasts, legs and thighs. Add the skin and fat to the stock. If you're going to debone the legs and thighs, add those bones to the stock as well.

Drizzle olive oil on the breasts, legs, thighs, and wings. Put them into an air tight container and refrigerate. If you want to freeze them, put the pieces into a Ziploc style plastic bag, squeeze out the air, seal, and freeze.

Here's another tip about freezing the chicken. When you put the pieces into the plastic bag, make sure they don't touch one another. That way, if you need only one piece, say a breast, you can leave the other pieces frozen until you need them.

Chicken Stock

When my mother and grandmother made chicken stock, they added onions, celery, and carrots to the water. I don't because I want the stock to taste of chicken. If I want other flavors, I add them later.

Yield: 2 quarts

Time: 60 minutes


Skin, wing tips, carcass, and bones from one 4 1/2 pound chicken
4 quarts water


Put the wing tips, skin, carcass, and bones into a large pot with the water, bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 60 minutes. Skim off and discard the foam. The volume will reduce by half.

Strain the stock. Pick off any meat from the carcass and reserve for later use in a salad or a chicken-vegetable soup. Discard the bones and skin.

Refrigerate overnight to easily remove the fat solids. If you're rushed for time and need the stock right away, float a slice of bread on top of the stock to absorb the fat.

The stock can be kept in the refrigerator in an air tight container for a day or two or in the freezer for months.

Matzo Ball Soup

Yield: 6-8 servings

Time: 30 minutes

For the matzo balls, we use a mix, but if you want to make them from scratch, Mark Bittman has a very good recipe.


1 box matzo ball mix (no soup), Manischewitz, Rokeach, or Streit's
Other ingredients per the directions on the packaged mix
2 quarts chicken stock


Prepare the matzo balls per the directions on the box. Make them large or small as you like. Remember that the size of the matzo ball will double as it cooks in the salted water. 1 box of mix will make 24 small matzo balls or 12 large ones.

Put the chicken stock into a large pot. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the matzo balls from the salted water to the stock. Heat over a medium flame. Because the matzo balls are delicate, don't let the stock boil.

Garlic-Parsley Chicken Breasts

On any other day but Passover, serve the sliced chicken on top of buttered pasta.

Yield: 4-6 servings

Time: 30 minutes


2 chicken breast halves, boned, skinned, washed, and dried
1/2 cup Italian parsley, washed, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled, finely chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
Pinch of pepper
1 tablespoon sweet butter


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Melt the butter in the saute pan. Dredge the chicken breasts in olive oil seasoned with sea salt and black pepper

Put the breasts in the heated pan, top with parsley and garlic, drizzle with olive oil, and bake for 30 minutes.

Slice the breasts and plate. Use a rubber spatula to remove the drippings, garlic, and parsley and spoon onto the slices before serving.

Mushroom-Vegetable Chicken Ragout

Yield: 4-6 servings

Time: 60 minutes


2 chicken legs, skin removed, deboned, roughly chopped
2 chicken thighs, skin removed, deboned, roughly chopped
2 chicken wings, tips removed, cut apart at the joint
4 garlic cloves, skins removed, finely chopped
4 shallots or 1 medium yellow onion, peeled, roughly chopped
2 carrots, washed, peeled, cut into thick rounds
1 bunch parsley, washed, stems removed, finely chopped
1 large Yukon Gold potato, washed, cut into chunks
4 shiitake or brown mushrooms, washed, thinly sliced


Heat the olive oil in a large sauce pan, season with sea salt and pepper, saute the chicken until lightly browned. Remove from the pan, drain on paper towels, set aside.

Saute the garlic, shallots, mushrooms, carrots, parsley, and potatoes until lightly browned. Return the chicken to the pan. Add 3 cups of water. Simmer for 45 minutes until the meat is tender. There should be 1 cup of broth.

Taste and adjust the seasoning. Continue simmering another 10 minutes.

Serve with steamed spinach or broccoli.


Instead of using potatoes, serve over rice

Add spinach leaves

Add cut up celery