Paris and Apricot Bliss
Let me know if you have a favorite restaurant or place in Paris. I would love to hear from you. Cross your fingers and hope that hubby and I are over our colds before we leave.
Paris and Apricot Bliss
Why the title? Because next week if everything goes well my hubby and I will be in Paris. We will have our sentimental Paris moments sitting on a bench in the Tuileries Gardens. Which flowers are blooming at the end of June? We will discover our favorite places on foot, browse outdoor markets, observe the life from an outdoor café and poke our noses into doorways to find some hidden courtyards and gardens. We will visit some museums and I hope to discover new little restaurants, cafés, bakeries or anything that has to do with food. We will do what we had planned to do last year in April. But circumstances changed. Read my story here.
Now to the apricots! Originally I had planned to post some new recipes but they needed more work before I can throw them into cyber space. But most of all it is Apricot season. I love apricots and I especially love apricot jam. I made my apricot jam this year with different apricots and it turned out fantastic. I love the flavor, sweet and tangy ! I think adding the apricot pits puts it over the top. I've been eating it by the spoon. I was looking for Blenheim apricots but they are just getting ready and they are only available for a few weeks.
This delicious German apricot coffee cake was one of my first posts. I made it again last week and it was well liked. The cake is easy to make, it is light and fluffy .The apricots give it a nice fruity flavor and it looks great when you cut it into pieces. This cake will dazzle at any picnic or pot luck. Adding a little piece of marzipan where the pit was just adds additional flavor. You can substitute plums for apricots.
Last but not least is my fruit tart . A marzipan cream is added to the tart before you add the fruit. This tart is yummy. Again, you can substitute other fruit for the apricots. I added some raspberries I had left over. Instead of inviting your friends for dinner invite them for tea or Kaffeeklatsch as we call it in Germany. Kaffeeklatsch means to have coffee, something sweet to nibble on and Klatsch , gossiping ....
Let me know if you have a favorite restaurant or place in Paris. I would love to hear from you. Cross your fingers and hope that hubby and I are over our colds before we leave.
Lasagne with Butternut Squash and Hazelnuts
This vegetarian lasagna is a dish with an incredible combination of flavors.
When I first came to this country many years ago, I left a family, a home, a scholarship, and many friends behind in Germany. There were times when I just wanted to go home and I knew it I could because of my grandfather. My grandfather was a wonderful man who I loved dearly. Two world wars had taken his only son, his wife and several of his brothers. His gentle soul poured all the love he had into me when I was born. We all lived together in one large farmhouse. As a baby, he carried me when he thought I was not comfortable. As I grew up, he took me everywhere, holding my hand. I have a picture of the two of us all dressed up going to a garden show. There is this giant of a man in riding boots and little me holding his hand and smiling. He never learned to drive a car, but he took his horse and carriage to the neighboring town to deliver eggs to his customers. I came along whenever I could. These were old-fashioned grocery stores and some private customers.
I remember getting the best dill pickles or candy from his customers. He was an extremely proud man: when he said something, it meant something. Many evenings I went to a woman who sold beer and beverages in our village and got him one bottle of beer. Yes, kids in Germany were allowed to carry alcohol. That same woman also had a machine to seal cans of cooked meat and vegetables. The only time he got mad at me was when he saw me in a very short mini-dress. He didn’t like that at all. I can just imagine how sad he was when I immigrated to the United States. He went to a travel agent and asked her how much a return ticket from the States to Germany would cost. He gave me enough money to return to Germany if I had to. He gave me some other money too, but this amount he said I should always keep in case I wanted to come home. And my grandfather did not have a lot of money. So, I kept that money for a long time, and when I was really homesick, I knew I could go home whenever I wanted to.
Recently, I had a wonderful visit from my niece and her boyfriend and both of them got to choose their favorite food. My niece chose butternut squash lasagna and her boyfriend picked meatloaf. We had such a good time together, and I hated to see them go. We remembered stories from my mother, how she encouraged my niece, who was her granddaughter. I made this lasagna several times for parties (and my vegetarian friends) and it always gets rave reviews. The recipe is from an old issue of Gourmet Magazine.
Robert's Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie
The perfect treat for a Sunday afternoon or anytime
Several of my friends make great pies and I love to eat them, but I rarely make them myself. Don't ask me why...maybe I will get inspired someday and start baking them. In the meantime, my friend Robert made this delicious rhubarb strawberry pie and he was kind enough to post it on my blog. Thank you, Robert, it was fun watching you make the pie while I took the photos. Robert is not a newcomer to my blog. He and I made tomato sauce with tomatoes from his beautiful garden last summer.
But before Robert tells us how he makes his pie, I would like to share a great day I had in Berkeley with my girlfriend. We went to Berkeley for a book reading of Nancy Vienneau 's new cookbook Third Thursday Community Potluck Cookbook. It is a book that assembles seasonal recipes from a group of people who come together to share their love of food. It's a great idea and sounds like a lot of fun. I love the book and will make some recipes from it. Nancy has a great blog called good food matters. Go visit her website.
Before we went to the book reading, my girlfriend and I had a glorious dinner at Alice Water's café, Chez Panisse. It is an experience one should not miss when in the Berkeley area. Her food is clean, prepared with finesse, yet not pretentious. I had a piece of halibut cooked to perfection in a sorrel broth with fresh spring veggies. My girlfriend had the mushroom lasagna made with morel mushrooms. We also found a great bakery that had the best croissants I have had in a long time, and the bread was also outstanding. FOURNÉE is run by hard working people making fantastic products. All in all we had a great time. It's nice to run away for a day.
by Robert Lee Kilpatrick
Pie-making in America goes all the way back to colonial times when the English and Dutch settlers brought recipes to the New World. Each Thanksgiving, we are reminded of feasts held in New England by the native tribes and the Pilgrims, with pumpkin pie high on everybody’s list of treats – then and now. A common phrase is, “as American as apple pie.” I can testify from personal experience that it’s very easy to eat your way across America if you eat pie. My family came to St Simon’s Island in Georgia in 1720, so we have been baking pies for a very long time. One of my favorites is the combination of strawberries and rhubarb. This pie is easy to prepare and ideal for a beginner.
There are two main components to all pies: crust and filling. This is true weather the pie contains fruit, or is savory (meat or fish-based). I always begin by preparing the crust because it requires about an hour in the refrigerator to cool once the dough is made. During this time, I prepare the filling.
Pie Tips: here are a few useful tips that will make the experience of pie-making fun and easy. Firstly, always check to be sure that you have all the ingredients called for in a recipe, and multiply quantities depending on the number of pies you plan to make. A last minute dash to the market can really foul up timing. Secondly, put all ingredients within easy reach while cooking. Thirdly, review and understand the recipe before you start; be aware of what you are doing and what times and temperatures are needed. Lastly, don’t be afraid to experiment. Recipes are there for a reason: they are a record of what has worked for others, over time. But you may like to try something new, once you have mastered the basic recipe. For example, you can paint the top of a pie crust with milk, or egg white (sprinkling sugar or not), or leave it plain. It all depends on what you prefer.
Pappardelle with Fava Bean Leaf Pesto , Fava Beans, Salmon and Shiitake Mushrooms
When I did my weekly shopping at the farmer's market, I came upon a treasure I had never used before—fava leaves. I adore and love fava beans, but I don't like hulling and peeling them. A real pain in the tush. Preparing fava beans is a lot of work, but you do end up with a wonderful spring treat. Fava beans (also known as broad beans) are the king of all beans. Their flavor is smoother, sweeter and richer than most other beans.
When I spotted some fava bean leaves in a bag, my cooking antenna went up. "What do you do with them?" I asked. " Pesto" was the answer. That bag of leaves went in my basket faster than a dog chasing a cat.
A chance to produce the taste of fava beans without all the work . Here I had lived all my life without knowing that you could make pasta out of fava bean leaves! I made the pesto and it was delicious.
The dark green, shiny pesto had a tinge of bitterness with a nutty flavor similar to arugula. I played with it all week. I had it on all my sandwiches and on my leftover veggies, and potatoes.
I used some of the pesto to make my pasta dish using Mike's pasta. An ode to Mike and his delicious fresh-made pasta that is light, smooth and to me, the perfect pasta. It is made in Santa Cruz and delivered fresh to several local grocery stores. I fell in love with Mike's pasta many years ago when there was little fresh pasta available. Many a night when I came home from work thinking of making dinner, I would stop and get some of his tasty raviolis. I would cook them and add some tomato sauce or some garlic and butter. Within 20 minutes a mushroom, sweet potato, cheese, or tofu ravioli would smoothly slide down my throat delighting my senses. My family and I would enjoy a great meal. What more can you ask for? I use his fettuccine pasta for my seafood pasta. Mike's pasta has kept the same quality over the years. Nobody talked him into adding stuff, so his pasta would have a longer shelf life. He didn't go public or franchise his business, no sireee, he just kept making perfect fresh pasta. Thank you, Mike, from the bottom of my heart for the many good meals. Disclaimer: I don't know Mike and I'm not getting paid or anything . But I might go visit him one of these days.
I took my last ½ cup of fava bean pesto to the cabin. We needed to remove potential fire material around the cabin. But it snowed and there was no work to be done outside. Instead we lit a cozy fire and enjoyed the winter scenery. I had brought up some pappardelle from Mike, some fava beans and shiitake mushrooms from the Farmer's Market. I had splurged and bought some local wild king salmon that was caught in our bay. This is such a treat but it is becoming very expensive. I prepared a wonderful spring meal in a winter wonderland. We opened a bottle of crisp white burgundy, which was a perfect complement to the meal.
A tasty vegan salad that will please a crowd and is great for any party or picnic.
Chinese Noodle Salad with Asparagus
I have made this salad for many years and on many occasions but never for 50 people. The recipe comes from one of my old well-loved cook books, The Greens Cookbook by Deborah Madison and Ed Brown. Deborah Madison was Greens' founding chef. Ed Brown is well known for his Tassajara Bread Book and so many other inspiring books on the Zen of cooking. I adore his books. If you are in San Fransisco, this well-loved vegetarian restaurant in Ford Mason has been an icon of gourmet vegetarian food for many years. It is a real San Francisco experience.
At this time last year, I was in Marrakech for a week with a group of wonderful people including a very dear friend of mine. We had a great time exploring the sights and Moroccan culture. Since I was with a group of Germans and Swiss, everybody assumed that I also was German. Who am I? German, American, or am I the sum of both? Here in the States, people ask me where I am from. I look at them and say Santa Cruz, especially when I am at home in Santa Cruz. You see, after all these years, I still have a slight accent. When I am in Germany, people can't figure out where I'm from. I don't have an accent when I speak German, but I am different in the way I behave and dress. I don't fit the mold. I don't belong anymore. These are subtle things. I love my German family and friends and I know that I am one of them, but my home is in Santa Cruz and that's where I am fortunate enough to live. I do miss going back to my mother and my childhood home. My mom is gone now and there isn't a day when I don't miss her—and the home and the love she gave me. My brother and his family are still at the farm, but I'm not ready to go back quite yet because it will not be the same.
Life continues, it goes on and it is beautiful. I have so many things to be thankful for. I am thankful for my dear friends, Diane and George, and their beautiful serene mountain retreat. It is a dream, even when it rains on the day of a big party. We were celebrating a birthday and a soon-to-be-married beautiful granddaughter. It was the only rain we had in months here in California, so nobody was complaining. An old spinnaker sail was hoisted over the picnic tables and it kept out most of the precious rain drops. There was a big, beautiful, smoked ham from the Corralitos Meat Market local butcher, and much more delicious food.
I volunteered to make my Chinese noodle salad for 50 people. My big turkey fryer was the only container large enough to transport this humongous salad.
It was a lot of work, a labor of love.
If you are looking for a refreshing drink for a lunch or party, try my strawberry punch or Erdbeerbowle as we call it in Germany. This is a wonderful way to drink your fruit.
Why Do We Cook?
Why do we cook? We have to eat of course, but we don’t necessarily have to cook to do so. Today, we have many options including eating out at restaurants or bringing prepared food home. One of the questions I often ask people is, “Do you cook?” Many times, the answer is,”not really!” I ask that question because I love to talk about food and cooking. It’s almost an obsession. I ask questions, I snoop around cooking blogs, I go directly to the food section in magazines and so on. I relish food with my senses by smelling it and enjoying the different flavors. I know I’ve come across something special when the flavors explode in my mouth and create a sensation of pure pleasure. That is what happened several weeks ago at my little cabin in the woods.
My sister-in-law and her family came over for dinner. My husband grilled a beautiful rack of lamb and some small white creamer potatoes on the side. He does this to perfection and everybody loves it. He slices the rack into paired ribs and generously coats them with pepper and garlic salt. He puts them on a gas grill on medium heat and pays attention so they do not burn. He serves them medium rare. Sometimes, depending on the ribs, he trims the excess fat. He precooks his potatoes in the microwave for about 2-3 minutes depending on the number of potatoes. The potatoes go in a bowl with olive oil and garlic salt. You want to have a good coating of olive oil on all the potatoes. Then he puts them on the upper grill and cooks them with the meat until they are soft. He coats the potatoes during the grilling with leftover olive oil. He sits outdoors next to his barbecue, enjoying a scotch, watching his food cook as I busy myself in the kitchen.
On this particular night, I roasted some fresh asparagus coated with walnut oil sprinkled with sea salt in a preheated oven at 375˙degrees for about 8 minutes. The cabin is at a 6000-foot elevation, so the cooking time increases. I made my citrus vinaigrette for my green salad and pulled out my sauces and condiments that everybody loves with the lamb. Mint jelly is a must, however, my mountain fridge had some wonderful treasures—like the cranberry ketchup I made for our Christmas dinner and never used, and my green sauce that I made a couple of days before to go with salmon cakes. This green sauce had more garlic than normal and was mostly yogurt with some chives. We had a great dinner, and the wine and conversation was flowing. Everybody seemed to enjoy the food. I covered my little creamy potatoes and pieces of lamb with the different sauces—and it was divine. Some of the little lentils from my lentil salad were swimming in the sauce–and oh what flavor! Every bite brought more joy.
Earlier that day, I made a lentil salad to go along with the feast. I have made lentil salad many times and it never turns out the same. There is a wonderful recipe from Regina Schrambling on the Wednesdaychef blog that I sometimes make. It uses leeks, hazelnuts and duck confit. Most of the time, I just make a simple vinaigrette that I pour over the warm lentils for a delicious salad that I can eat for days to come. This time, I cooked some carrots with my lentils and added some celery and to the finished salad. When I eat the salad by itself I like to add either goat or feta cheese.
Lemon Almond Cake
It will be Easter in a couple of days. To me, Easter is my favorite holiday. It means that spring is just around the corner, as the days get longer with so many signs of new beginnings. And it means that the days of darkness are in the past.
It is also the time when I usually travel to Germany. I always looked forward to seeing my German family and celebrate Easter with them. My little village has traditions that get repeated every year. One of my favorite ones is the bonfire on the night of Easter Sunday. It is an old pagan ritual meant to chase away winter and its evil spirits and welcome spring. Today, it is mainly a social gathering to drink beer and eat sausages and apples. The belief is that the apples ensure good health for the coming year, but what about the sausage and the beer?
There is also a tradition of having a big Easter dinner on Sunday or Monday. Easter lamb, chicken or eggs are typical meals. My family always has a brunch after the kids finished their Easter egg hunt. Many houses and town squares are decorated nicely with bunnies and eggs. This year I’m not going to Germany. I will stay at home here in Santa Cruz and go to an annual Easter party on the mountain with my girlfriend and her family. We will also celebrate an upcoming marriage and a birthday. There will always be new beginnings.
This cake has a distinct lemony taste because whole lemons are being used. The almonds add crunch and one can taste a hint of candied ginger, a delight for the senses.
Years ago, a genius cook made up this recipe using whole lemons and Sunset magazine printed it. It is a nutty, chewy, not-too-sweet cake with the flavor of whole lemons including the rind. If you want sweet lemon bars, you picked the wrong recipe. This cake is not sweet and does not taste like a regular lemon desert. Since this recipe uses the whole lemon, you get a very lemony somewhat bitter flavor. To mellow out the flavor, the lemons are cooked and then used in the recipe. I have made this cake many times and most of my family and friends like it, but not everybody likes the distinct bitter lemon flavor. So you wonder, “Why is she posting it?” The answer is because I love the flavor and texture of this cake, so it has a worthy place in my cooking repertoire.
The cake lasts for several days and tastes even better the next day. The almonds add a crunchy, chewy quality to the cake that I love. How will you know if you like it or not? If you like orange or lemon marmalade, you will probably like this desert.
If you want another choice for a lemon dessert, try my lemon bread. It is a more traditional recipe since it uses only the juice of the lemon. I would be very interested what you think about my choices. By the way, my niece, who was visiting me from Germany requested lemon bars, the sweeter the better. I made most of her favorite food while she was here, like butternut squash lasagne with hazelnuts, which I will post soon.
Roasting potatoes and vegetables intensifies their flavor. They compliment many meals. By using different potatoes and veggies, everybody gets to eat their favorite.
When we first started making this dish in our family, we called it "Mediterranean Potatoes.” We would roast potatoes with garlic, olive oil, and herbs—and that was it. Did you notice I used "we" instead of “I” because my husband usually makes them. After awhile, I chimed in by adding a sweet potato (because I like sweet potatoes) and before I knew it, my husband added some more garlic and onions. So, I added some parsnip because I love roasted parsnip. And that is where our roasted veggie recipe stands now. who knows what will happen to it in the future. The thing about this recipe is that you can really roast anything you like. Every family member gets to pick their favorite vegetable. After all, we live in a democracy and we need to eat our daily choice of healthy and wholesome food—and this is great way to do so. Enjoy, as we have for years.
Most of the time, I cut the veggies into bite-sized pieces, but sometimes I have cut the veggies to make them look like french fries. This takes a little bit more effort, but the kids of all ages like it. It’s a great way to get your family to eat their veggies.
I usually make enough to have plenty of leftovers to eat the following days. It's a great little snack and can be added to almost everything you eat. Add an egg and you have a meal.
Mixed Green Salad with Honey Citrus Dressing
This is a light salad loaded with healthy and tasty ingredients.
The dressing gives the salad a fresh citrus flavor.
I realize that I have posted a recipe for only one salad. I don't know why, because I eat them all the time. Years ago, I would go to the farmers' market and buy a variety of lettuce from my favorite vendor at the market. They were a sweet hard-working couple who grew many varieties of lettuce. Once home, I would fill my sink with water and wash, spin dry, rolling the lettuce leaves in a towel, then keep them in the crisper of my fridge for the rest of the week. And then one day, some marketer came up with the idea of selling lettuce already washed and ready to eat. And before you knew it, everybody was doing it. Nowadays, I pick my mixed lettuce from a basket at the farmers' market, although I still buy individual heads of lettuce from time to time. Among the lettuce family, arugula is my favorite . When I'm in Europe, I like eating Rapunzel (or lambs' lettuce).
The salad I'm posting today is one I make all the time. The dressing is my favorite and I keep it in my fridge most of the time. The base of my salad is a mix of different kinds of green lettuce (use whatever you like). I like to go heavy on the arugula. I add a handful of dried cranberries or blueberries depending on the season. Nuts are another another tasty and healthy addition. I roast the walnuts or pecans for 8-10 minutes at 350 degrees. Sometimes I use pistachios (which I don’t roast). I often crumble goat cheese (because it is my favorite), but have also added feta or blue cheese. I always add some fresh fruit. Right now, pears are in season, and apples are fine. And I have used fresh strawberries . This simple salad goes well with almost any meal. Try this salad with Ruth Ann's Pork Chops, a delicious recipe I posted last year.
Chunky Pear Nut Cake
A moist and delicious cake, easy to make and flavored with spices and juicy pears.
These days, I wander around grocery stores like I used to wander around clothing stores. In Santa Cruz, we are fortunate to have several grocery stores that carry a wide variety of healthy food. I have my favorite stores and several weekly farmers' markets to choose from. We have some great bakeries and delicatessens too. I feel spoiled when I look at all the choices I have. I like to know where food is coming from—not enriched or altered with unnecessary chemicals and additives. I trust some stores more than others. One of the reasons I don't bake as much as I used to is that it is just so tempting to get something very tasty from one of my favorite places. But there are times when I need to have something homemade on my kitchen counter, like this moist and easy-to-make pear cake.
The credit for this well-loved cake goes to Gale Gand, a nationally acclaimed pastry chef from Illinois. I found her recipe in an old magazine years ago and have been making it whenever pears are in season. However, this cake is easily made with any other fruit and whatever nuts you have in the pantry. I roast my nuts, and prefer using pecans instead of walnuts. The spices in the recipe add a distinct flavor and are well balanced. I also reduced the amount of sugar by one third. I use canola oil, but any vegetable oil will do. The cake is flavorful, moist and tastes even better the next day.
One of my first blog posts were crepes filled with goat cheese and mushrooms. I make them for my niece when she comes to visit me from Germany.
Thank you for taking the time to read my blog. It means a lot to me and I love to hear from you .
Comments in English and German are welcome!