I was fortunate enough to spend two wonderful days in the Napa Valley during misty January weather. I have always loved visiting this region which is about two and one half hours drive from Santa Cruz. There are many memories over the last thirty years like coming up here with different girlfriends or with my husband. It has always been fun. The devastating fires raged through some of the region and my heart goes out to all the people that lost their loved ones, their homes and their belongings
The valley is beautiful with its covered hills, crisscrossed by vines and small towns. Here you find the kind of pastoral beauty rarely seen outside Tuscany.
My driver (husband) decided to drive over the Golden Gate Bridge to get us to the town of Napa where we stayed the first night.
Napa has a great food culture with some great stores. Our hotel, the Westin Versa, was within walking distance to the 40,000 square-foot Oxbow Public Market. It is a foodies paradise. I bought a bottle of Brandy Cordial and some bitters from a Napa Valley distillery. I would have had some oysters or ice-cream but already had a delicious sandwich from the "Fatted Calf Charcuterie" which was out of this world. I tasted some lard with truffles, it was truffle week in Napa. I never saw so may sausages as I did in this store. Next door is the "Model Bakery" which supposedly has exceptional oversize muffins. Unfortunately I missed them because I had one of those -have to have oatmeal mornings- the following morning.
That evening we had a special dinner at "La Toque" a Michelin starred restaurant which is Chef Ken Frank's landmark restaurant. The restaurant pairs wine with food. We chose the "Core Menu" where you can make a selection from a list of different dishes. If you are in the mood to splurge this is the right place for you. The food is inventive and delicious and the service is flawless.
While in Napa we visited three wineries . All I learned about wine I learned from my husband. He is a very knowledgeable wine lover. He belongs to a wine club which gives us access to some of the smaller wineries in the Napa Valley. Our first stop was the Foley Johnson Winery. My favorite wine was the 2014 Estate Meritage.
We also visited a very small winery called Altvs where I bought my husband a special bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon .
The last winery was Kuleto Estate. The wine was great but I fell in love with the setting and the place. It is gorgeous and on a sunny day I will come back to this magical place even though you have to go up a steep and winding road . They have tours of the property on the weekends.
We all have special places in our lives and for me one of those places is the pool at "Indian Springs" in Calistoga. This pool is filled with water from a geyser on the property, the stuff you buy in the store. Except this is an oversized pool filled with 103 degree hot mineral water. It is heaven. Years ago Indian Springs used to be a funky place with small cabins but they have beautified it and added a restaurant where I had a delicious breakfast with homebaked bagels and home cured lox . It was delicious . I will always come back here and float in the pool as long as I am able .
I should have put this on my Wanderlust blog but I can't send an email from that page so it is on my food blog. I had Kohlrabi with crab at La Toque . Kohlrabi is an everyday vegetable in Germany, My mother grew it on her garden and loved to cook it all the time. She was a farm woman and her food was simple but good . Here is a recipe I posted years ago when I visited her and we cooked together.
If you feel like a fancy dinner here is a recipe for crepes filled with fennel and salmon in a white sauce.
I hope all of you have recovered from the holidays and are ready to tackle a New Year. 2018, can you believe it? I am speechless when I look at the number. I never thought I would reach this number but here I am, doing what I have always done. My body is telling me to slow down as the days go by faster and the years disappear. When I get engulfed by fear of the future I try to find my happy place and one of those happy places is my kitchen where I put on my apron on and start cooking.
I don’t like to spend hours in the kitchen and be a slave but I love to play around and come up with something tasty. My Ahi tacos with tropical fruit and avocado salsa always reminds me of the Hawaiian Islands and I hope they bring you all some sunshine during the dark days of January.
The dish comes together quickly but needs to be prepared ahead of time. Everything needs to be cut and ready to go because it would be sacrilegious to overcook the Ahi. I usually get Ahi at Costco and I have never been disappointed. The first thing I prepare is the seasoning, then I make the salsa. I serve these tacos with some cut tomatoes, thinly sliced cabbage and black olives on the side. Nobody would object to some extra sour cream or créme fraîche .
I just returned from a wonderful trip to Germany, where I visited friends and family. I enjoyed every minute and would love to have stayed longer. I took six train rides, criss-crossing Germany. First I went to my family farm for a week. While on the farm I visited some nearby towns.
My girlfriend and I had this fabulous waffle with fresh fruit, ice-cream and fruit sauce in our favorite Italian Ice caffee in Northeim. Our village is also near Göttingen, an old university town with the greatest Konditorei (bakery) ever. Cron und Lanz has been baking delicacies since 1876. You get the best cookie ever when you order coffee or tea, as well other treats. I could not get enough this time and found a reason to get something from them every day.
After the village, I went to Lüneburg to visit my niece and her husband. While there, I went to the Christmas markets and a remarkable brewery museum. It was in an historical Sud house of an old brewery that started in 1485. Lüneburg is the cutest postcard-perfect German town.
Then my niece and I spent a wonderful weekend in Berlin. Since she is often in Berlin on business, she took me to all her favorite places. My young friend, Tara, also lives in Berlin and they had a great time together.
I took a long train ride (about 6 hours ) to Augsburg to visit an old friend from my boarding school days. We had coffee and cake in a Hundertwasser house chocolaterie, in the style of a famous Austrian artist. Traveling alone and visiting friends made me feel young and adventurous again.
But I am back home in California now, trying to get ready for the holidays. It takes me a good week to adjust. Part of me is still in Germany and the other part is ready to be home here in Santa Cruz. These last days before Christmas will be busy for me. Even with a cold, I managed to bake my favorite cookies and make some persimmon bread.
I made my chocolate walnut pie using pecans instead. It’s a great dessert that can be made days ahead of time. I will serve it as dessert when I make my cioppino dinner.
One of my favorite treats is my fruit and chocolate bark. This year, I used whole hazelnuts and yellow raisins mixed with some dried cranberries. I bought a very expensive bark like this not long ago. I used roasted hazelnuts from Trader Joe’s. It was a cinch to make.
Another favorite cookie of mine is the Austrian Kipferl, a crescent-shaped pastry, which is an ancestor of the French croissant. I rolled them in my homemade vanilla sugar.
A friend’s son gave me boxes of persimmons from his gorgeous tree. I made my persimmon bread and persimmon chutney, which took some trial and error. I will post the recipe in 2018
Did I say 2018? The passage of time amazes me and seems to go by faster the older we get. I like this quote from Heather Babcock, “ Time doesn’t really march on. It tends to tip-toe. There is no parade. No stomping of boots that it is passing. One day, you turn around and it’s gone.“
And with that, I wish all of you holidays that are peaceful and tranquil, filled with love, warmth and good food. A special thanks to all the people (I am amazed at how many of you there are) who are taking the time to visit my little blog.
Fröhliche Weihnachten and may your New Year be filled with hope and happiness.
If you click on the highlighted words you will get to the blog posts and recipes.
This turkey recipe caters to the cook who doesn’t want the whole bird but only parts of it. If all you want is a breast and some thighs and legs, this recipe is for you. I am writing this post for people who don’t have the time for an elaborate dinner but still want to have a tasty feast with about four hours of prep and cooking time. It does require a little planning.
I came across this recipe last May when I wanted to make a traditional American feast for my German relatives who came to visit. Whole Foods whole turkeys were very expensive, but they had turkey parts on sale. I always either dry rub or brine turkey meat for tenderness and flavor. In this recipe from epicurious.com the turkey parts are brined overnight in a salt and spice mixture. Put the parts in a sturdy large resealable zip lock plastic bag and add the ingredients. Voila, the next day you dry the turkey parts and roast them for about one and a half to two hours. Now it is up to you to make the side dishes of your choice or have Aunt Mary bring her jelly salad .
Of course for me it is not turkey day until I have cranberry sauce, chestnut stuffing, and a lot of gravy.
My husband and I spent a weekend in our little cabin in the Sierra Nevada. I love to cook in my tiny kitchen so I decided to make him and his oldest friend an early Thanksgiving dinner because I am leaving for Germany on Sunday. On Thanksgiving I probably will be eating duck instead of turkey. I was pressed for time and used a bread mix for the stuffing and bought peeled and roasted chestnuts. By not having to roast and peel chestnuts my stuffing was easier to make.
Even though I often use prepackaged broth for my turkey gravy and stuffing I prefer to make my own. This can be done weeks ahead and frozen. In my humble opinion a homemade broth will make or break the gravy or stuffing. When I do a whole turkey I use the stomach and gizzard from the turkey for the gravy. This time I bought turkey wings. I always freeze all my leftover green veggies like the white leek ends, the tops of green onions, mushroom stems, and other greens to use in my stock. It’s great for any stock. I made the sauce while the turkey was cooking and added the pan juices later.
Of course you can check out my whole turkey recipe which I have been making for years. If you have time try my cranberry ketchup, it is great on leftover turkey sandwiches. Oh, and don’t forget to freeze some extra packages of cranberries so you can have a feast in May.
I wish you all a relaxing and peaceful Thanksgiving with a lot of good food and company.
These are your quintessential German meatballs, carefully simmered and served with a tangy white sauce with capers and lemon juice. The sauce is full of flavor, the texture is velvety smooth and the meatballs will melt in your mouth. It is a well-loved dish you will find all over Germany.
My recipe comes from my niece’s husband’s mother, Kerstin, who lives near Berlin and is an excellent cook. I admire her cooking style, simple yet expertly refined through her constant tasting and slowly adding spices. No recipe is needed. I once asked her son to describe her cooking and the answer was Hausmannskost (home cooking).
Kerstin cooked the meatballs when she and her husband visited me in Santa Cruz. I loved watching her slowly perfect the flavor. I tried to take notes, but more than once had to cross out and rewrite. The second and third time I cooked them for my German girlfriends, I got rave reviews—and not one morsel was left.
This dish is named for the Prussian city of Königsberg which is now Kalinigrad in Northern Poland. If you go on the web, you will find many variations for the recipe. Originally, the meatballs were made with veal and either herring or anchovies were added. This dish is traditionally served with boiled potatoes and cooked beets tossed in vinegar. To develop the flavors, cook the meatballs the day before. It is a humble dish and easy to make.
This soup is a treat for the cooler days. It makes for a light dinner or a first course for a dinner party. It appeals to the diner in you. In Paris it is a quintessential bistro staple.
Whenever I am in Paris I have to have French onion soup. It’s usually my first meal. I am jet-legged and just want a light, comforting, tasty, and very French meal. The restaurant has to be right around the corner from my lodging. I am so happy just to be in Paris after a long flight. If the sun is shining, I like sitting at a small table in an outdoor cafe enjoying my surroundings.
That was the case this last time when I visited Paris in late August. (Click here to read more about Paris.) Everything was just the way I like it, except the onion soup. It was horrible—the broth had no depth, it tasted like dishwater with vinegar added. This prompted me to try my hand at making my own onion soup. Why not? Years ago, I made Julia Child's recipe from her book Mastering The Art of French Cooking. Unfortunately, I have no memory of it. I do remember making my own broth by roasting beef bones. This time I choose to use organic beef broth from Trader’s Joe’s. The soup was excellent but I think it would be even better with homemade stock. For vegetarians, you can substitute vegetable stock. If you choose to make it this way, add some juniper berries and one star anise for additional flavor.
Whatever broth you use, make sure the onions are cooked slowly and caramelized. This is how you get the rich intense flavor, making this soup a savory delight. My main taster (my one and only) loved the soup. His only request was to add more cheese and maybe cut the toast into bite-sized pieces. I will give him more cheese, but the toast stays in one piece or cut in half.
Time has been flying by. We have had some beautiful fall weather here in Santa Cruz. The fires around us have been polluting the air making it hard to breath. My heart goes out to all the people that experienced pain and suffering.
I have been cooking simple meals like baked salmon with broccoli and my German green sauce. I made my quinoa salad and baked shrimp with feta for my monthly book club. I also baked my banana bread and I made my lentil salad for my girlfriend’s Open Studio. Cooking always improves my life.
Last year my girlfriend Deb and I attended the International Food Blogger Conference (IFBC) in Sacramento and had a wonderful time. We learned a lot and saw a lot. That's why we decided to attend agin this year. Sacramento is not just the capital of California but it calls itself the "farm-to- fork " capital of the world. California is the land of plenty-the largest agricultural producer in the country. There is a bounty of the juiciest fruit, freshest vegetables and many artisanal, farm-based products. You can find anything from fresh goat cheese to olive oil. This year a pre-conference excursion will go to the Cobram Estate & Olive Oil Commission of California.
Last year we went on an excursion to visit an endive farm and learned how endives are grown indoors. It takes a lot of skill and knowledge to do this successfully.
When I got home I sautéed endives with herbs and butter and they turned out delicious.
We also visited a pear farm where we had a delicious picnic lunch under a very old oak tree.
I made a french pear tart with my pears when I got home. Read about it on my blogpost and get the recipe here
A local friend of Deb took us to Estelle's patisserie in Sacramento where I was introduced to the Croixnut, a mixture of a doughnut and croissant. It was divine. I brought some home for my husband. He thought they were dangerous.
We enjoyed the Saturday evening dinner with our fellow bloggers.
The City of Sacramento and all of California was changed by the coming of the railroads. If you are interested visit the California State Railroad Museum. The museum features 21 restored locomotives and railroad cars, dating back from 1862. My girlfriend and I are taking Amtrak from San Jose to Sacramento. This will be my first train ride in California.
Near our conference center is State Capitol Park. Last year I spent some time at the Vietnam Memorial. This year I might take a walk to McKinley Park Rose Garden that is nearby.
It is time to pack my suitcase and get ready for this year's conference. I am looking forward to learning new things and meeting new people. For those of you who are not attending the conference and feel like baking I can recommend my German Apple Strudel Cake to welcome in October.
I can never get enough of different sauces and spreads. I like them thin or thick, and I like them as leftovers used with a salad, a sandwich, or a piece of meat or fish. For me, the right sauce makes the meal. When I visited the Burgundy in France (click here to read about my trip), I had the most incredibly thick eggplant sauce next to a piece of fish with the most delicate flavor I have ever tasted. The great chef had added some African spice, and I have no idea what it was. However, I remember tasting something similar in Morocco. Well, my sauces are nothing like that. They are straightforward, easy to make, delicious and can be used in many ways.
I got the idea for the romesco sauce from my blogger friend, Mary Ann, who writes the thebeachhousekitchen blog. She made her romesco sauce as an appetizer with cruditées. I have made this recipe many times and usually eat it as a sandwich spread or with a salad. It is a healthy substitute for richer foods like mayonnaise or butter. For the salmon, I used a recipe from myrecipe.com. This recipe uses canned tomatoes instead tomato paste and cumin as a spice rather than smoked paprika. I don't purée this sauce as much as Mary Ann’s sauce, leaving it coarser for the salmon. Both sauces are delicious.
The inspiration for the sorrel sauce came from the blog, Back Road Journal, and Bon Appetit. I added more sorrel because I have an endless supply of it in my tiny wild garden. Sorrel is a tart, slightly sour herb, oxalis, another common name for this herb means "sour". I think it has a distinct lemony flavor and I find its tartness refreshing. I prefer to purée the sauce in a mixer until smooth. I love the taste of this rich and tangy sauce. It compliments a piece of salmon and other fish. I could eat it on steamed veggies or a chicken breast. It would also taste great with shrimp, chicken or salmon skewers.
Here is a link to to Mary Ann’s romesco sauce and Karen’s sorrel sauce. Both sauces can be made a day ahead. I had leftovers and ate them for several days.
Read about my four-day trip to New York City on my Wanderlust blog. This trip was a spur-of-the-moment decision and I am so happy I went.
I thought it would be nice to combine these two posts together. Ruth Reichl is the cook behind my turnover recipe. I have admired her recipes and books for many years, as I still treasure my old Gourmet magazines for which she was the editor-in-chief. But she also lived in California in her twenties and thirties.
She wrote a touching story about leaving New York on the Fourth of July for her first experience teaching cooking in the Pacific Northwest for the June issue of Sunset magazine. Even though I never made turnovers before, I was smitten by the story and had to try them.
I didn't change anything in the recipe, and enjoyed every bite reminiscing about the years back when we were all young. The photo of Ruth Reichl and her husband in the magazine capture the spirit of the times.
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.
Thank you for taking the time to read my blog. It means a lot to me and I would love to hear from you .
Comments in English and German are welcome!
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