There is nothing better than a ripe apricot—picked fresh from the tree and eaten right away. Dripping with juice, tasting intensely sweet with a tinge of acidity, eating an apricot is a truly sensual experience..
However, most of us will not experience this because today’s apricots are picked firm and then brought to the market. Most varieties grown today have little flavor, are usually pale, odorless and tart. If you want the old-fashioned apricots, look for Blenheims. This apricot got its name from the Duke of Marlborough’s garden at Blenheim Palace in England. Apricots were probably cultivated in China thousands of years ago. The Spaniards brought apricots to the New World and planted them in the mission gardens of California. If you are lucky, you can find Blenheims in the costal valleys of California
This year, I bought a crate (28 pounds) of apricots from one of the road stands in the central valley here in California. They were not Blenheims, but had been picked riper than the commercial kind. I don't know what kind of apricot I bought. They were okay, but I had bought a crate of apricots at the same farm stand the previous year and they were better. I put the apricots in a single layer in my cool downstairs bedroom and immersed myself into cooking them. Most of them became apricot jam. The jam turned out fabulously this year—smooth and velvety with a little crunch from the apricot kernels and texture from the skin. It was just the way we like it—sweet and tart at the same time. I would not omit the pits, as they really add a lot of flavor. For this years recipe, I used 10 pounds of apricots, 6 pounds of organic sugar, 16 cracked and roasted pits and 6 TBS of lemon juice. I was thinking about adding a vanilla bean or a cinnamon stick (or maybe some ginger), but in the end I did no such thing. I like my jam without any other flavors. The fruit itself is enough.
My husband likes my cobbler, and I baked two while I still had apricots. I like my cobbler because I use very little sugar, but it tastes delicious. I made the same cobbler for the 4th of July using peaches, blackberries and a few leftover blueberries.
I am very found of my German apricot cake with marzipan. It’s easy to make and a real treat for an afternoon tea. Or great for a picnic on a warm summer day.
My all-time favorite treat during apricot season are apricot dumplings. In Austria, they are considered a meal unto themselves. To make these, you need quark, a German soft cheese. Whole Foods and Shopper's Corner in Santa Cruz now carries quark.
While looking through back issues of my beloved Gourmet magazine from the month of June, I found a shrimp, jicama and apricot salad recipe. My husband loved this salad because it is crunchy, fresh and light. For me, the salad was a little bland, yet it was refreshing and elegant in its presentation. It is a perfect salad if you are counting your calories. I can imagine a salad like this being served decades ago in a fancy private club or hotel. Even though this is not my favorite salad, I decided to post it anyway.
Has it really been two months since I went to Germany in April? I went to visit my family and celebrate Easter with them. After celebrating a wonderful Easter holiday, I left my village and took the train to Lüneburg where my niece and her husband live. After Lüneburg, my niece and I spent a long weekend in Berlin. Read more about it on my Wanderlust blog.
Back in Santa Cruz, I have been cooking up a storm and entertaining four visitors from Germany. We all had a wonderful time. I love playing tour guide because I live in such a beautiful area with so many things to see and do. My niece, her husband, and her in-laws are like family to me. Their favorite meal was steak, which my husband barbecued with baked potatoes and salad. For their welcome meal, I made a turkey dinner. Yes, I served turkey in May and it was delicious. I didn't do the whole bird, just the breast and legs which I had bought at Whole Foods. I made the stuffing, mashed potatoes, and cranberry sauce from cranberries in my freezer. I will post my new turkey recipe at the appropriate time in November. It was a delicious meal and greatly appreciated by all. I made the turkey enchiladas from my blog with the leftovers.
After my visitors left, I bought a crate (about 28 pounds) of apricots and immersed myself in making jam, cobblers, apricot dumplings and an apricot cake. You can find all these recipes on my blog. I had planned to post a new apricot salad recipe, but it needs some work before I can do it. In the meantime, I cooked my fish in parchment paper and it was delicious. Instead of green beans, I used shaved zucchini and added some spring onions. It makes a perfect light summer dinner. For the fish, I used northern wild rockfish which was fresh and reasonably priced.
This is a German strawberry cake that is easy to make and brings out the fruity flavor of strawberries.
On my last trip to Germany I was invited to a birthday celebration of my mother's friend and neighbor, Helga. Our families have been friends as long as I can remember. As a child I used to visit them all the time, sitting in their kitchen and watching the women prepare food. I felt like part of their family. It was a peaceful household where I would go when when I wanted to be somewhere else. Helga was a good friend to my mother and visited her regularly and brought her food. My mom would always tell me on the phone that Helga had brought her some herring salad (one of my mom’s favorites), soup or whatever she’d cooked that day. I am so grateful for the kindness and caring she gave my mother. Helga’s husband, Willie, was my father’s friend and both of them farmed together. My father, a gentle and kind soul, mentored young Willie, who always liked to tease young girls like me. On warm summer nights, with the windows open, he and his friend would lull me to sleep by playing their violins, which made up for the teasing during the day.
Let’s get back to the birthday party and the afternoon coffee and cake. In rural Germany a birthday party usually starts around four in the afternoon with Kaffee and Kuchen (coffee and cake). Later in the evening, a hot meal is served. Sometimes, a savory hot meal is served for lunch and then followed by coffee and cake. For Helga’s birthday, all her friends had baked a fancy cake for her occasion. Of course I had to sample each of them and they were all delicious. I managed to get some of the recipes and hope to post them in the future when I have more time—and strawberries are not in season.
For this post, I chose a common German cake that can be bought in almost any German supermarket, already baked (like a piecrust in this country). I don't care much for the commercial variety, preferring to bake my own. These cakes are called Tortenboden or Obstkuchenboden (try to pronounce that!) which translated means “the bottom for a cake” like you would use for a strawberry shortcake. This cake has fluted edges and the bottom is indented to create an edge. I used a Chef Tell dessert pan by Nordic Ware. I often use it to make flan. Any cake pan will do, and it will taste just as good. Once you bake this shortcake, you can be creative and use any fresh fruit you want. I remember way back when my aunt made it with kiwis and it was delicious. In my recipe I decided to use vanilla pudding for the bottom. Creme anglaise would be fantastic but I wanted to keep it simple and easy to make. Personally, I think it is just as good with a layer of strawberry jam. My husband preferred the one with the custard. In Germany, the cake is covered with a glaze that you can buy. Here in the US, you can buy Dr. Oetker’s glaze for fresh fruit tarts at Cost Plus or Walmart. It comes in small individual packages. I made my own glaze by using some sweetened strawberry/rhubarb juice that I cooked and thickened with pectin. Even though the glaze is traditionally used, I think you can do without it. What makes this cake even tastier is a dollop of Schlag (whipped cream). I sprinkled a handful of slivered almonds over my cake and added some blueberries for color.
My German visitors enjoyed my baked shrimp with quinoa and peas. Its a great dish for warmer days.
Strawberries are in season right now. Here are some recipes from my blog. Click on the photo to see the recipe.
This was a wonderful trip and I appreciate how fortunate I am to be able to do this. It was a solo journey so I could spent time with my German family and friends. After an 10-hour uneventful flight (which is always good), I took the train to Göttingen and was picked up by my girlfriend. I was happy to see her and my family when we arrived at the village. There were many hugs and kisses. At that moment, I realized how much I miss them all, especially the children. They are growing up very fast. Despite the 9-hour time difference, I managed to stay up for awhile. The next day I went to Göttingen for the afternoon (click here to read about Göttingen). Whenever I visit Göttingen, I have to go to Crown and Lanz, an old-fashioned German cafe for some cake. Everyone was getting into celebrating Easter, even the town fountain.
Easter is a three-day holiday in Germany. Good Friday is a holiday and the Monday after Easter is also a holiday. My nephew, his wife and her twin sister invited the family for Easter Sunday brunch that lasted all day. Maren, my nephew’s wife’s twin sister baked this amazing Easter cake. It took her long time to produce this masterpiece, but it was worth the effort.
Both of the sisters had created a super delicious buffet with home-baked bread and many different vegetarian salads and dishes. They were doing this while watching their five children. Everybody had a great time and after the feast, we all went for a long walk to see the Easter fire before it was lit. This day alone was worth my trip. Thank you, Maren, and Jessica, for putting on this wonderful Easter brunch.
Easter Monday was quiet. My brother took us to a local restaurant for lunch or Mittagessen as we call it in Germany. We were served a nice meal. If you want to enjoy an authentic German meal and you happen to drive on the Autobahn A7 north, take the Nörten Hardenberg exit and eat at the Rodenberg restaurant. You will not regret it.
If you want a fancier dinner, stop at the old castle Hardenberg outside town. This is a beautiful spot to take a walk and watch people training their horses to jump. My dad and I used to come here when I was a child. Here you will find an elegant Relais & Châteaux hotel with two restaurants and a wellness spa. Or you can play golf nearby. This little town, Nörten Hardenberg, is three miles from my village and I enjoy coming here.
Wanting to contribute something to the Easter brunch, I made deviled eggs. They were simple but good. The eggs had been laid by my brother’s hens that week and they were extremely fresh and delicious with a dark yolk. No recipe was needed: I added some mayonnaise, mustard, a dash of curry powder, and pickled juice to the egg yolks. They were creamy and eaten right away. Once home, I made another batch that was not as creamy, but also very good.
Despite jet lag, I managed to have a small dinner party for three of my friends. I made a blueberry galette, stuffed mushrooms and my husband barbecued his rack of lamb. This meal helped me to get back into the groove, because I would have loved to have stayed longer in Germany.
Farro is an ancient wheat grain that has been eaten for thousands of years around the world. It is supposed to be the oldest grain, from which all other grains are derived. It almost became extinct, but is making a comeback as a healthy grain with a high protein content. And it is loaded with fiber and B vitamins, and is also low in gluten. Farro (Triticum turgidum dioccum) has a nutty flavor and a chewy texture. It is used in soups, salads, and other dishes. You can pretty much turn any pasta salad into a farro salad. The chewiness of the grain and its nutty earthiness always satisfies me and makes a great snack when I’m really hungry.
My farro salad is a great dish for a large party. I made it twice and it was well liked. It goes well with different proteins like fish or chicken. It also makes great lunches. It is tasty and filling just by itself. Most of the photos are done in my friend Deb’s house. Check out her beautiful blog Eastofedencooking. We made this salad at her house and had it with shrimp and her delicious cabbage salad. The recipe I am using for my farro salad comes from Food and Wine magazine.
What can I say, I have been cooking my heart out. Whenever life becomes somewhat challenging, I go for a walk or cook in the kitchen. I preoccupy myself with different recipes and just cook and cook. I like that! I also enjoy reading different blogs and stories, which leaves me with a sense of connection with the writers. Thank you all for being there in this virtual world of blogging. Maybe this has become our new community.
Here are some recipes from different blogs that I have made lately. The Romesco sauce from my blogging friend, Mary Ann, was a big hit in my household. One other recipe that I have made numerous times is scallops with bacon, corn and polenta from another friend, Karen at Back Road Journal. I tried to post a recipe for a no-bake German cake, some of you may have seen the photo on my Instagram and Facebook accounts. Unfortunately, this cake bombed. I liked the concept of the cake but it needs a lot of work. Something got lost in the translation or maybe it was just a bad recipe I got from a German calendar. I am going to do a field study when I am in Germany, which means I have to go to different bakeries to try to find a better recipe. That’s my kind of work! If the weather is good, I get to sit outside with a piece of cake and a cappuccino watching people. I cant wait!
I am leaving for Germany in a few days to celebrate Easter in my village. It is so much fun going to the Easter fire and meeting everybody from the village while drinking beer and eating sausages— so quintessentially German. Read more about it here and how to make a lemon cake for Easter.
This salad reminds me of a Waldorf salad because of the apples and walnuts. And the Parmesan dressing reminds me of a Caesar salad. But the ginger-flavored shrimp is what turns this salad into an entire meal. All you need is some rustic country bread and a glass of chardonnay.
I may make this for my next book club meeting. Speaking of my book club, we have read some interesting books lately which I would have never chosen on my own. We even saw a fun play called “The Book Club” by Karen Zacarias. One the books that got rejected in our bookclub was The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George. I just started to read it and I love it. This book is a bestseller in Germany.
Celeriac, also known as celery root, turnip root, or knob celery is a variety of celery cultivated for its edible root. It has a strong flavor like a cross between celery and parsley. The BBC describes the celery root as an unsung hero with a subtle, celery-like flavor, with nutty overtones. I like that description. Don't throw the green leaves away because they give any stock a wonderful flavor and freeze nicely. Celeriac, a common vegetable in Germany, is often sold as part of a soup stock bundle. You usually get a couple of carrots, a leek, some parsley and part of a celery root with the green leaves tied together. All you have to do is throw it in with some chicken (and the bones) and you end up with some great chicken stock. My mom always cooked the whole celeriac with the peel in boiling water until it was soft.
How many of you my dear readers have walked by this gnarly root in the supermarket hardly looking at it? And if you did, did your ask yourself, what can I do with this funny looking thing? There are many recipes to choose from: a gratin, a purée, a soup or just adding it as a vegetable to different dishes like mashed potatoes. In France, it is often used as a remoulade. I love my celeriac in salads, not raw but blanched for no more than a minute in boiling water. I remember eating a celeriac root salad for Sunday dinner in Germany. It was made with a sour cream dressing. My recipe comes from a German magazine, although I changed it a bit.
I made this salad for the first time over a year ago and invited my friend Deb from
East of Eden Cooking. She made most the photos for this post. Thank you, Deb!
Celeriac is supposed to have some healing properties. It might help you with arthritis, rheumatism and with stomach or digestive problems. A cup of celeriac has only 60 calories and provides a perfect non-starch substitute for potatoes. And it can be prepared similarly.
Here is a recipe for a delicious and easy to make shrimp soup with celeriac from the town of Hamburg in Germany. Click here for the soup recipe.
Usually I test my recipes several times before I post them. This recipe was such a big hit during Oscar night that I am going to post the first iteration. There are many versions of this sauce that are delicious but for once I am going to stop adjusting and just post as it is. The sauce has a strong tomato taste seasoned with Italian herbs. If you like these flavors this sauce is for you.
My husband and I have a new friend we adore. Her name is Tara and her home is in Berlin with her mother. This school year she is living with her American father and his family here in Santa Cruz. What is amazing about her is that she is truly bi-cultural. She loves German comfort food like dumplings, red cabbage with duck, and beef- or cabbage rolls. This is similar to food that her German grandmother prepares for her. I enjoy being her substitute grandmother and cooking her favorite meals. Early in the year she was a little homesick but now she enjoys life in Santa Cruz. After making meatloaf, stuffed cabbage, and several other German dishes it was time to change the menu, hence the tomato sauce.
Every Sunday I walk to our little farmer’s market around the corner and get whatever looks good. I haven't made a lot of pasta lately but when I went to the market this week I decided to splurge and make pasta with tomato sauce. I bought ground pork from a young farmer who raises pigs on a nearby farm. The meat was outstanding and I will get it again. I decided to get fresh pasta shells for my sauce and some crusty bread. Instead of a salad we had artichokes from the market. The sauce was easy to make while watching all the beautiful people on the red carpet. Tara had never seen the Oscars before and also enjoyed watching them while finishing her homework assignment.
As you probably all know, California has had a lot of rain over the last two months. But today the sun is shining and our neighbor’s fruitless plum tree is in full bloom. The beach is littered with everything that has washed ashore. It is time to collect some driftwood.
It rained and rained and rained some more. The trees fell to the ground and the wind was furious. I was lucky because I had electricity, so I cooked and cooked and cooked. I cooked a whole duck. I made a winter “farro" salad and tried a new recipe for hummus. I am working on these recipes, and will post them later. Cooking distracted me from the scarier and darker moments of the tempestuous weather. I was fortunate to be able to stay in my home and not having to evacuate like so many others.
Life is all about change and loss. What prompted me to write this was a sentence I read this morning from my blogging friend, Jo, at https://coastalcrone.com about being brave enough to change. At this stage in life, I have to contemplate changes I do not look forward to but have to face. And will have to deal with sooner or later. I usually push most of them aside. I prefer the joyful, well-lived life. Don’t we all.
But during those dark hours of rain and storm, I grieved for the loss of my oldest friends from Germany. She died last summer in a horrible car accident. She would be there forever, or so I thought. Gabriele has always been very special to me. She was like a sister. We met in boarding school when she was fourteen and I was fifteen. She fled East Germany with her parents and siblings and later worked her way to becoming a principal and advocate for special needs children.
During one of my visits, we went to a Turkish home and she told the reluctant father that his severely handicapped daughter had to attend school in Germany—by law. I was sure we would get in trouble. Another time, she saved my life when we hitchhiked as young girls in Germany. I remember so many stories full of laughter and tears, as well disagreements and hurt feelings. Why am I posting this? I am not so sure. I have mixed feelings.
What I want to say is: Be kind and gentle with the world and especially your friends. When we said goodbye last May in Germany, she hugged me and cried. Little did I know it was the last time I would ever see her.
“Perhaps they are not stars in the sky, but rather openings where loved ones shine down to let us know they are happy.
In honor of my friend, Gabriele, I would like give you the link to one of her favorite recipes: seafood pasta.
Rouladen or Rinderrouladen is a quintessential German meat dish made with bacon, onions and pickles wrapped in thinly sliced beef. The gravy is an absolute requirement to round out this dish. It is usually served with boiled potatoes, potato dumplings, or Spätzle (depending on the region). I like red cabbage with my Rouladen, but you can serve it with any vegetable you like. The dish was once considered a recipe for common folk, but today it is enjoyed by many people as a festive dish or a special Sunday meal. Imagine braised meat flavored with mustard, pickles, prosciutto, enhanced by a rich gravy. If you like that, than Rouladen is the dish for you.
My love affair with Rouladen began here in the United States when Susanne, my friend and neighbor and an excellent cook, started making it for me. This dish is the best cure when I get homesick for Germany. It’s like soul food imbedded into my DNA. It’s not fancy or delicate, but homey and nourishing. I can’t wait to sit at Susanne’s inviting table and start eating.
There are many recipes for Rinderroulden (beef roll-ups), but I enjoy Susanne’s the best. She uses thinly sliced prosciutto that she buys at Trader Joe’s (instead of bacon) as well as cornichons (gherkin pickles). The butcher slices a piece of London broil into 1/8 inch thin slices. I find that this dish develops more flavor when made a day ahead.
My recipe for red cabbage ( here is the link for the recipe) goes well with Rouladen. Susanne serves boiled potatoes that she flavors with melted butter and parsley. Thank you Susanne, for being my friend and taking care of me for so many years.
For dessert I recommend something light and lemony like my lemon mouse, lemon pudding cake, or my lemon and buttermilk sorbet. Click on the photo for the recipe.
If you like duck, try this recipe. It is easy to cook and anyone can do it. Duck confit is on the top of my list of favorite foods. I have made different dishes using duck confit over the years. My claim-to-fame recipe is Duck Quesadillas. Making duck confit is fun, however it is time-consuming and you need a lot of duck or goose fat. In the past, I have bought pre-made duck confit and there is nothing wrong with that. I freeze it, knowing I always have something very tasty in my house. I make a pasta dish with cabbage and duck confit that is delicious. My girlfriend, Marie, has promised me another dish that her French grandmother used to make. Duck confit or confit de carnard is a centuries-old process of preservation that consists of salt-curing a piece of meat and then cooking it in its own fat. You will find it in the rich cuisine of southwestern France. I had some duck confit while visiting France that was to die for, crisp skin with tender meat.
Every year, I prepare a birthday dinner for my friend, George. My best one was cooking a goose years ago. It was delicious and I will have to make it again and post the recipe. This year, I remembered a recipe from Sara Moulton that was in my fowl folder. I had been wanting to make it for years, but had forgotten about the recipe. (I have been known to get sidetracked easily.) This recipe is an easy alternative to preparing duck confit without using goose or duck fat. You cook it in a Reynolds Oven Bag. “Why not?”, I thought it was worth a try. Sara Moulton is a great cook and I always enjoy watching her on TV. Click here for her website and the original recipe. She used a whole duck. I decided to only use duck legs. (I like my duck breasts cooked differently.)
I served my duck legs with my red cabbage and roasted parsnips, sweet potatoes and fingerling potatoes. I made a gravy too, although that is not necessary
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!
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