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 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.
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.
This creamy, cloud-like mousse is a traditional German dessert called Zitronenspeise (lemon dish). It is the perfect ending to a heavy meal and a melt-in-your-mouth heavenly dessert.
Traditionally, it is made with cream, eggs and lemon juice. After several trials, I made a lighter version using yogurt and less cream and sugar. There are several ways to serve this lemon dessert, either in individual serving bowls or in one large bowl. I like to serve it spooned onto a plate with a raspberry sauce and some added seasonal fruits. Since it is now October, I baked some plums with honey added. But any seasonal fruit is fine. Of course, this dessert is great just be itself without anything extra.
At the end of July my friend Debra who writes a blog called “East of Eden” and I attended the 2016 International Food Bloggers Conference (IFBC) in Sacramento, CA. We enjoyed a wonderful weekend filled with excursions to local farms, some great break-out sessions, and a spectacular outdoor dinner. One evening, vendors from local restaurants, food suppliers and businesses introduced us to their products, one of them being pasteurized eggs from “Davidson’s Safest Choice Eggs.” Read how the eggs are being pasteurized here, which includes a cute video. Now that I found these eggs, I don't have to worry using raw eggs when I serve this dessert to my friends and family.
I am entering my recipe in a contest that Davidson’s Safest Choice Eggs has offered to bloggers who participated in either the IFBC conference, Eat Write Blog or Blog Brulee to develop a recipe using their eggs. Because I received a discount to attend the IFBC , I agreed to write three posts about the conference. For the record, all my opinions expressed are my own
It's fall and I should be posting my pear tart recipe. Instead, I bought three beautiful baskets of delicious strawberries from my friend Ronald at the local farmer's market. They are so good that we ate half of them while listening to music during our weekly get-together at the market. Each Sunday when I am in town, I meet with some friends over lunch with at the market. It has become a lovely and relaxing Sunday ritual that I really enjoy.
The strawberries from Ronald are sweet with an earthy flavor. They are good just by themselves, but I thought I fancy them up a little with vanilla sauce. It is a simple and straightforward recipe, yet so delicious – and a healthy ending to any meal. My husband decided to grill a steak since the temperature reached over 90 degrees here on the Pacific coast. After a foggy and cold summer, this was a welcome respite.
Vanilla sauce brings back memories from my childhood days. Almost every Sunday, we would have pudding for our Sunday lunch (which was dinner served at noon). We ate bread and spreads in the evening and called it Abenbrot, which literally means “the bread for the evening.” Our favorite pudding was Götterspeise (translates as “the meal of the gods”) known as Jello here in the US. Jello is also called Wackelpudding, meaning that the pudding will wobble when touched or moved. Another favorite dessert of mine is rote Grütze (red fruit Jello). My mom always would serve these puddings with vanilla sauce. I apologize for boring you with all of of this, but trust me, I have not thought of them for years. Maybe that’s why I like blogging, because it brings back so many memories. My sweet dad loved these puddings. He has been gone for so long, but I believe that chocolate pudding with vanilla sauce was his favorite. He was such a sweet and kind man.
Back to the sauce! It is light, healthy, easy to make with a velvety texture and creamy flavor. It will elevate any fresh fruit– strawberries, raspberries or simple puddings–to another level. You can make it in no time and be creative by serving a cookie on the side, some ice cream or whatever tickles your fancy. This time, I just sliced the strawberries and added some of the sauce. Enjoy!
Just in case you are longing for some apple or pear cakes, here is my well loved apple strudel cake, as well as a delicious chunky pear nut cake flavored with spices and juicy pears. Click on the picture to get the recipe.
Perfect for Picnics & Parties
This potato salad is one of my favorite recipes—I created every bite of it myself. So, if you don't like it, you have only me to blame. I have used this recipe for decades, and it’s perfect for picnics, large parties or any small gathering. There is no mayonnaise, so it won't go bad if left out on the table for awhile. When I have a large summer party, I usually make this salad (or my Chinese noodle salad), both go well with salmon, chicken or any other protein. It makes a stunning presentation.
This salad has several components. I use small white potatoes that I steam, and then add some steamed green beens and radishes. Pickled onions or pickled carrots are delicious as well. You can let your imagination and taste buds run wild. Shortly before serving, I arrange everything on a large bed of mixed lettuce. Many moons ago, when I was snooping around kitchens in Germany, a farm woman told me to slowly heat up the vinaigrette—and that's what I've been doing ever since.
If you make this, I hope you enjoy it as much as my friends and family have.
This delicious light and fruity cake is easy to make. It makes a great snack or breakfast. One could call it a coffee cake. You will find it in every German bakery or household using a variety of different fruits. I’ve used blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, peaches, and plums. However, my favorite for this cake are gooseberries mixed with red currants. I love the tartness of these fruits from the northern hemisphere. Unfortunately, they do not grow here in northern California. I have tried to grow them many times, but without success, as they need frost in the winter. .
It all started when my blogging friend, Suzanne, from apuginthekitchen had bought some gooseberries and red currants at the farmer’s market and asked if anybody knew what to do with them. Instant childhood memories came to mind of stuffing myself with gooseberries fresh from the bushes as they ripened. I remember spitting out the tough skin while enjoying the soft creamy inside filled with seeds. My mom used to can them so that in the cold winter we could eat them as compote with vanilla sauce for our Sunday lunch. Sunday lunches were warm meals (more elaborate than weekday meals) and there was always dessert. My family would also bake large sheet cakes or Blechkuchen as they are known in Germany. These cakes could be as simple as a yeast cake dotted with butter and sprinkled with sugar, which is called Zuckerkuchen (sugar cake). Or the cake could have fruit with custard added as a topping. Another favorite sheet cake of mine is Schmandkuchen (sour cream cake), a yeast cake topped with a rich custard and raisins. Today, whenever I’m in Germany these simple cakes are some of my favorites.
Let’s get back to my sheet cake. I cut the recipe in half, which still makes enough for 9 generous pieces. I used a mixture of blueberries, blackberries and raspberries. I am going to try plums next time. If I use plums, I will add some cinnamon too. With the second cake, I substituted spelt flour for the regular flour and ¼ cup coconut sugar for the regular sugar. This version of my cake was dense and lacked the lightness of the other cake. I think my cake tasters were polite when they said they liked it. I prefer the regular recipe served with whipped cream or ice cream.
If you like butter you will like this buttery almond sheet cake I posted earlier.
An ode to dumplings and apricots, a special treat
These dumplings are delicious leftovers from the old Austrian-Hungarian Empire, Bohemia and Moravia (today’s Czech Republic). In Austria, apricots are called Marillen, hence the name. The savory curd dough is stuffed with an apricot, cooked and then rolled in breadcrumbs that are roasted in butter. They can be a stand-alone meal or a dessert.
I make apricot dumplings once or twice every year when apricots are in season. They are a culinary dumpling delight. Think of a Chinese (or any other dumpling) filled with shrimp or meat and now take away the savory stuffing and add apricots instead. What you will get is a taste like no other dish, a sensation of flavors that makes you want more and more. I’ve been wanting to post this recipe for a couple of years. This year, I made them for dessert after a light meal. I kept some dough for the following day so that I could take some photos. I was in heaven, eating them all day long. Marillen Knödel (apricot dumplings) are said to be the favorite dessert of the Austrian composer, Gustav Mahler. I enjoy his music and I enjoy the dumplings.
There are different kinds of dough. I watched some Austrian “youtube” videos about all the various kinds. Boy, do I have a difficult time understanding the Austrian-German dialect. I decided to use a recipe from Delicious Days and the Wednesday Chef. To make these dumplings, you have to have quark, a German soft cheese made from soured milk. Wikipedia explains it quite well. For Santa Cruz locals, you can find quark at Shopper’s Corner. Sometimes I buy mine in Oakdale, a Central Valley town in California. This is a town you will drive through if you go to Yosemite, a great spot to stop for a break for kids and dogs and picnics. They have the best aged cumin gouda cheese ever—and they have quark. They sell their cheeses at quite a few northern California farmer’s markets.Check their website here.
Quark freezes well. Almost every morning, I have toast with quark and jam. Years ago, I bought a yogurt maker that also makes quark . My machine is a Salton Quark Maker . It turns buttermilk into quark. For this recipe, you have to drain the quark in a fine sieve to turn it into Austrian Tropfen, a firmer version of quark.
Enough of quark and back to the dumplings. I recommend you make these if you like to experiment with cooking. They are so different from the food I usually eat. Dumplings can be tricky, but with a little bit of practice, you will be richly rewarded
We finished reading The Goldfinch for our book club. All of us agreed that the writing was superb and the story was interesting. Art was woven throughout the story. Everybody in the bookclub liked some part of the book. My friend, Virginia, says that the book is a great escape from awkward and boring situations, spiced heavily with decadence, but quite philosophical in the end. My girlfriend, Marie, had recommended it, which is no surprise since she is an accomplished watercolor artist herself. Here is her website. We chose two books for our next read, one of them being Elizabeth Huxley’s The Flame Trees of Thika and Zero K by Don DeLillo. This will give me something to read on my upcoming flight to Germany. I am also reading the last of the four books of the Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante.
Cecilia from The Kitchen Garden, a blog I have been following for years, asked us to post photos of where we work.
Most of my work is done in my kitchen where I do the cooking.
My little desk in my kitchen with some of my recipes and cookbooks
My dining- kitchen table, where I sometimes take photos.
My computer is right around the corner from my kitchen.
I saw the first strawberries at the farmer's market yesterday and some rhubarb in the store. This German Strawberry Rhubarb Meringue cake will make you happy. It is a light cake that brings out the flavors of the strawberries and rhubarb. Enjoy!
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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