Thursday, June 30, 2011

I Love Summer -Muccotash

One of the best things about Summer is the abundance of fresh vegetables, especially here in the Garden State. This is a variation on Succotash. Most Succotash recipes call for Lima Beans, but I hate Lima beans (goes back to my childhood, when my mother tried to convince us to eat the nasty legume by referring to them as "footballs", as in "Eat your footballs".) Needless to say, this recipe has no beans, but plenty of flavor!

1. Olive oil
2. Chopped Onion
3. Okra - chopped
4. Fresh corn - kernels sliced from 2-3 ears
5. Chopped fresh Roma tomatoes
6. Sliced green zucchini
7. Seasonings (salt, pepper, cumin, etc)

Saute onion a bit in olive oil. When onions start to get soft add the okra (not only does the okra add flavor, but it makes the sauce nice and thick). Saute on med-low heat for 5-10 minutes. Add corn kernels and saute for another 5 minutes. Add tomatoes and occasionally stir as the vegetables cook for at least 20 minutes.

Season with salt, pepper, etc to taste.

At this point you can add the zucchini (you don't want to over-cook the zucchini). One option is to cook on low heat for 15-30 minutes. Another option is to put it in the refrigerator at this point and let the flavors combine and reheat the next day.

I love summer!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Cane Garden Bay Tuna Puttanesca

It has been over a year since my last post, but that is not due to a lack of traveling! Most of my travels have been limited to repetitive trips to work locations across the mid-Atlantic and New England. Never the less I have been out and about having fun whenever possible. Recently Lizzy and I, along with our great friends Mark and Laura spent a week sailing the British Virgin Islands.

I have hundreds of pictures and seven days of stories, which I may or may not find time to write about.

I'll start with our favorite recipe from this trip. This was a collaboration on the part of Laura and myself. Try it, I'm sure you'll like it!

Cane Garden Bay Tuna Puttanesca

  • 4 lb Fresh Tuna, filleted and skinned
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Tomatoes (Fresh and/or canned)
  • Red Wine
  • An assortment of seasonings (Cumin, Rosemary, Thyme, salt, pepper, hot sauce)
  • Olives
  • Anchovies (can)
  • Pasta
  • Vegetables (for roasting)

1. Sail to a spakling Caribbean Harbor (Cane Garden Bay on Tortola works just fine) and anchor or pick up a mooring late in the afternoon.
2. Head to the beach and watch the local fisherman pulling tuna from their nets in the harbor while enjoying the special cocktail
3. Buy a 4 lb fresh tuna from the sister of the fisherman
4. Sweet talk the sister into cleaning the tuna
5. Enjoy the sunset from the beach with another cocktail
6. Return to the boat, take an open air shower off the stern
7. Saute the onion in olive oil
8. Add tomatoes and garlic and simmer. Add red wine, seasonings and olives. Simmer until flavors are well blended.
9. Cook pasta and roast vegetables (to serve as a side.)
10. Add tuna (cut into large bite-sized pieces) and anchovies. Cook until fish is just cooked. Add a dash more red wine.
11. Serve over pasta.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Tobago Cays - The Perfect Caribbean Anchorage

Tobago Cays is a special place. A horseshoe shaped reef separates the Atlantic ocean from the Caribbean sea and provides a magical anchorage. Lizzy and I, along with our friends Mark and Laura, have been lucky enough to travel to Tobago Cays twice, first in January, 2006 and last February.

The reef is almost two miles wide at its opening. There are four deserted islands inside the reef, and one island on the Atlantic side of the reef. We entered the reef by motoring between Petit Rameau and Petit Bateau and finding a spot to anchor or tie to a mooring buoy by the Turtle nesting ground along Baradel. Between 2006 and last year, the Tobago Cays Marine Park (TCMP) increased the number of mooring buoys. Being only an occasional sailor, I always sleep better when tied to a buoy, without the fear of the anchor slipping. This is especially true at the Cays. While the reef protects you from the surf, there is nothing stopping the wind as it blows across the Atlantic.

Snorkeling is one of the main attractions at the Cays. Depending on how hard the wind is blowing, diving at the reef can range from fair to spectacular. But what is really fun is swimming with the turtles. Many Sea Turtles nest within the reef and are at ease with the snorkelers. If you are patient and still, a turtle may even swim up to you.

The Cays are the quintessential Caribbean destination where your cares seem far away and where relaxation comes most naturally.

The Tobago Cays are also famous for its “Boat Boys” who travel each in their brightly painted speed boats from Union Island or Mayreau. Walter, in his boat Free Spirit 2, is available early in the morning to sell you fresh bread, baked by his wife Lola, for your breakfast.

Sydney has been working in the Cays for over 20 years. If you take a few minutes to get to know him a little, you’ll quickly learn that Sydney’s world is much broader than the horseshoe reef. This is certainly a combination of his everyday interactions with scores of people from all corners of the earth and from taking time to travel during the slower seasons. During the depth of the recession, Sydney offered a surprising perspective. “America needs to pull back and take care of its own back yard, even if it means that other places go down; or else there will be severe consequences.” Sydney is also happy to discuss his family. He has 12 children, two are in Germany; two are in Maryland; and the rest are in the Caribbean His oldest daughter is studying at the University of Cologne. He is quick to point out that this means that he has lots of responsibilities as he proceeds to show you his inventory of creative and well made tee shirts.

Romeo stopped by later in the day offering to sell us lobster. We asked if he had any fish, but Romeo told us that it is too rough for the fisherman to go out. He said he’d rather not be out with the wind blowing so hard, but that he “has bills to pay and customers to serve.” We asked to see the lobster which was a beautiful four-pounder. When I protested that he shouldn’t be selling lobsters with roe (eggs), he told me that I should eat the roe since it will give me stamina. Lizzy asked Romeo if his girlfriend was named Juliet, Romeo responded without missing a beat (obviously not the first time he had been asked this question) that his girlfriend was named Julia. (A few days later I ran into Romeo and Julia on Union Island. Sure enough, Julia was even more beautiful than the heartbreaker from Verona.)

I did buy Romeo’s lobster and created an original Tobago Cays recipe which I have dubbed Lobster Romeo. We had a wonderful dinner under the stars while sharing a bottle of champagne.

One of the great things about cruising is meeting other cruisers. We met an especially colorful group when we were exploring Petit Bateau one afternoon. I don’t remember any of their names, but the captain had been sailing around the Caribbean for the last several years. His son and one of his son’s friends had been along for the ride for the last year or so, and his wife would occasionally join them, while on vacation from her job in Florida. They had a bottle of rum (we had a cooler of beer and some snacks). The young man thought it would be a good idea to have Pina Coladas, so he shimmied up the tree to grab a bunch of coconuts. The captain used a machete to slice off the tops of the coconuts and added a healthy ration of rum for each of us. We shared the impromptu cocktails, told stories, laughed at jokes as the sun set on another perfect day in the Caribbean.

Thursday, December 24, 2009


Off of work for the holiday week - thought I'd be able to get some time out on the road. The weather didn't cooperate; last Saturday the Snow came and has stayed all week. I got out on Saturday when the snow was just starting to come down and had a quick ride along the Canal path. There wasn't anyone else out, but I did startle a rather large wild Turkey.

The snow fell all day and night on Saturday, and we awoke to over a foot on the ground - so much for road biking.

I got a call from Chris this morning (Christmas Eve) wanting to know if I wanted a go at snowbiking. We met at Mercer County Park and slogged through the drifts towards the trail. Much of it was virgin snow that collected in the spokes and made the brakes useless. At times it was nearly impossible to get going, and we were forced to dismount and walk through the deepest spots. In other spots the snow was only a few inches deep and you could get some speed going. At one point we stopped to catch our breaths and Chris asked how I was doing. I said all was just fine and that my only goal was to keep my feet dry.

There are a number of streams in the park, and someone has improved the bridges over the past year. During the Summer and Fall, we don't hesitate to ride right across the bridges, but today, both Chris and I thought it was more prudent to walk our bikes across. Well so much for being prudent, first I watched Chris slip on the bridge, drop his bike and tumble into the stream up to his chest in the icy water.

Chris is a real trooper and didn't hesitate to get back on his bike and continue down the trail. As we headed back, coming across one of the bridges, I also slipped and went into the muddy stream. Fortunately Chris didn't have his camera.

As Chris pointed out, we weren't just snowbiking today. Rather we had a snow triathalon, complete with riding, walking and swimming.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Time to Get Back On the Bike

Came across this bike in Miami last week. It's owner had leaned the bike against her Banyan Tree. A Banyan tree expands by dropping "prop" roots to support its broad limbs. Over time the roots merge with the trunk. It only took a few weeks for the roots to start to reach through the frame. After a month or two it would have required a saw to extract the bike. Now, far all intents, it is impossible to separate the bike from the tree. The only part of the bike that extends out of the tree is the front wheel and part of the handlebar. Within a year or so, the bike will not be visible.

If you want to be philosophical for a moment, there are a number of meanings you could take from this photo. (Feel free to add yours as a comment.) I'll just take it as a reminder to get back on the bike!
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Sunday, March 29, 2009

Leaving St. Vincent - 19Feb2009

I had been looking forward to this vacation since the Fall. Lizzy and I were returning to the Caribbean to spend a long week cruising the Grenadines with our great friends, Mark and Laura. We had done three similar cruises with Mark and Laura, and each, while different, had been near perfect escapes to life in a tropical paradise. This year, with the economic mess, craziness at work, and a colder than normal winter, I was especially looking forward to the trip. (Although, at one point in the Fall, as the market crashed through another low, I called Mark and asked if he still wanted to make the trip. Without missing a beat, Mark responded "Absolutely. If the economy gets much worse, we'll just go down and not come back!")

We had booked a one-way bare-boat charter with TMM out of St. Vincent to Grenada. There are two key advantages to a one-way charter. First, you can visit more Islands since you don't have the return leg. Additionally, this allows sailing almost exclusively with favorable winds due to the prevailing direction of the Trades. This turned out to be especially advantageous during our time in the Grenadines, since the weather was unusually breezy with gusts well above 30 knots.

Getting to St. Vincent is a bit of trip in itself, since there are no direct flights. While Mark & Laura began the trip in VA and we started in NJ, we met in the San Juan, PR airport in time to catch the LIAT ("Leave Island Any Time) island hopper. The flight itself was uneventful, but Lizzy and my luggage didn't make it to St. Vincent. But what the heck, we were in the Caribbean. In the morning, along with provisioning, we picked up bathing suits, tee shirts and flip flops at the local stores. The good people at TMM assured us that, when LIAT found our luggage, they would take care of collecting it and putting it on a ferry to catch up with us (which it eventually did two days later.)

We were anxious to put to sea, and in the afternoon, we left Blue Lagoon, raised the sails and began the exhilarating sail to Bequia. Almost immediately, with the salt spray in my face, the wind in my hair and the We Two's wheel in my hands, the craziness of the last several months was left miles behind.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Carriacou Boat Building

We woke on Ash Wednesday to a peaceful sunrise on Tyrell Bay. There was no external evidence of the previous night's revelry. A short, au naturel swim off the back of the boat cleared out the remnants of fat Tuesday. Hard to feel the need to repent in such surroundings!

As we enjoyed a cup of coffee, we were visited by a local merchant. "Hello, my name is Simon, I am mentioned in the cruising guide and sell the wine". We selected a couple of bottles. Simon clearly had been out fishing early and we bought some snapper for dinner. Simon has a good reputation among cruisers and we asked if he'd be willing to give us a tour of the Island. Simon met us at the yacht haul-out dock with his small car. Once we had squeezed into the car, I mentioned to Simon that the guide books refer to him as Simon the smuggler. He took offense at this characterization, but he didn't let his offense stand in the way of giving us a great tour of this beautiful island. We were particularly interested in visiting the local boat builders in Windward.

The Windward shipyard is just off the beach hidden behind the mangroves.  It was quiet the day we visited.  Simon introduced us to Charles McLauren, who took a few minutes to explain a little about the two boats they were building.   One was a 30 ft boat that would be used by a local fisherman.  The other was a 44 ft sloop that was being built to race in the classic regattas.

The keels are made of Greenheart trees imported from Guyana.  The remainder of the ship is constructed from Cypress.   Charles explained that shipwrights take forms into the forest and find trees that match the shapes they need.  Charles guaranteed that these boats, if maintained, will last over 100 years.
It seems like the kids are let out of school at mid-day in most of the Caribbean.  As we left the shipyard, we spotted two kids who were have a great time playing in the gentle surf.
As we headed back to Tyrell Bay, Simon stopped to show us the weather beaten side Atlantic coast.  Carriacou is a beautiful island with friendly inhabitants.  I look forward to a longer visit.

From Here to Carriacou

Before I go on to describe more of our recent Grenadine's cruise, I'll digress about the links in space and time that brought us to Sandy Island. Back in the Fall of '79, Lizzy (back row, far left) and I were students at Duke living in Wilson House. Lizzy and I had met a few months earlier and were still getting to know each other. Wilson House was a wonderful enclave of kids with widely diverse interests. Recently Lizzy and Lynne Wolfe (sitting directly behind me) reconnected on Facebook. Lynne is now a mountaineering guide and editor of The Avalanche Review. (When I heard this, I felt oh, so corporate - but I guess I am pretty corporate!). Lynne learned we were heading to the Grenadines and suggested that we look up Tom, her husband's uncle. It turns out Tom is a long-time Bequia resident and publisher of the The Caribbean Compass. Lynne introduced us to Tom via email and Tom responded that he was "happy to meet with anyone who was willing to buy his drinks." Unfortunately Tom was under the weather when we were in Bequia. I let Tom know, via email, that we had never been south of Tobago Cays and asked if there was any place special that we shouldn't miss. Tom responded right away that we should head to Carriacou and spend a day at Sandy Island. Thank you Tom!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Carnival in Carriacou

During our short cruise from St. Vincent to Grenada, we had successfully lost track of time. We innocently sailed into the Hillsborough harbor and dropped an anchor just before noon. We knew we needed to dinghy over to the Customs' dock and check into the the nation of Grenada (Carriacou is part of Grenada). What we didn't know was that we had arrived in Carriacou just in time for Carnival (Mardi Gras).

The check-in process is a bit cumbersome. First a stop at Customs, then Immigration, and finally with the Harbor Master. They were all in good moods and seemed anxious to move the process along so that everyone could get back to the festivities at hand.

Carnival in Carriacou is an all day affair. Early in the day is the Shakespeare Mas. Revelers take turns reciting the various parts of Shakespeare's Julius Caeser. If one misses a line, then he is playfully beaten. We tried to find out the background behind this part of the festival, and especially about the emphasis on Julius Caeser. We were simply (and proudly) told that "it is part of our culture."

Knowing that the festivities would be going on through the night, we headed back to the We Two and motored the two miles or so over to Sandy Island.

Sandy Island is a small strip of perfect beach with coral reefs on either end. We dropped anchor in about 10 feet of crystal clear water just in time for a light lunch.

We spent the afternoon relaxing and taking turns snorkeling over to Sandy Island to explore the island and the reefs. The waters were complete with beautiful corals, stunning fish and even a pair of green turtles. The beach was complete with a nude sunbather (French of course, but friendly, even if she was chain-smoking!)

As the afternoon started to wane, we accepted that we needed to pull anchor and head over to Tyrell Bay. Tyrell Bay is a well-protected harbor popular with both cruisers and working fisherman. In fact, there is a "Hurricane Hole" -- a lagoon surrounded by mangroves -- that is used by hundreds of boats during large storms.

Up to this point, we had managed to overnight on a mooring, and had even tied up to the end of the dock in Union Island. While the wind had settled down, it was still gusting well above 20 knots. I was nervous about the anchor holding, especially with the number of beautiful boats close by that we would collide with in the middle of the night if our anchor started to slip. It took us three times, but finally the captain was happy that we had securely anchored far enough from other boats to sleep through the night. But first we had plans for the evening.

We got cleaned up and loaded into the dinghy. After puttering around Tyrell Bay, we ended up at the main ferry dock. This was fortuitous, since just as we were securing the dinghy, a Dollar Bus pulled up onto the dock and asked if we wanted to ride to Hillsborough. (At some point, I'll do a posting about the Dollar Buses, but for now let's just say it was only a few lively minutes before we were deposited just back outside of Carriacou's main town.) Carnival was in full swing.

Everyone at Carnival seemed to be enjoying themselves (although some of the younger revelers looked pain exhausted even though it was still early in the evening.) This women was really enjoying being costumed and getting lots of attention. As is evident in the photo, the audience was also getting a kick out of her .

What you don't get from the picture is the sense of the lively and loud Caribbean music.

After enjoying the festivities for a while, we walked through town to the Green Roof Inn. The Green Roof Inn is a small guesthouse and restaurant a mile or so North of Hillsborough. Except for the faint pounding of the amplified music wafting across the harbor, it could have been in a different world.

We had a wonderful meal on the veranda overlooking the harbor. At one point, just before they were ready to serve our entree, the electricity in the restaurant cut out. We could tell that power was fine in the rest of the Island since we could still see the lights on in Hillsborough and hear the deep bass of the Carnival bands rumble across the water. The friendly staff at the Green Roof Inn never missed a beat. They brought out a few extra candles and served an exquisite meal.

After such a luxurious meal, we were not ready to crowd into a Dollar Bus, and asked the restaurant to call us a cab. We were happy when we got back to Tyrell Bay and found that We Two's anchor was still holding!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Sunday's Sourlands Winter Hills Ride

Got out on the road.

(Update from Last Sunday's Ride)

The roads were messy, but everyone had a great time. Did about 36 miles. Of course, stopped for some picture taking. It turned out to be a beautiful day...