Asparagus was considered a beneficial herb among the Romans and later in the 12th century was given aphrodisiacal power by Indian sex gurus. It was cultivated by French monks circa 1469, and a century later in Germany.
Here in the United States we eat green asparagus, while in Germany white asparagus is popular. Although green asparagus is becoming more popular. In Germany, Spargelzeit (asparagus season) is from April to June. During that time in Germany, you will find an abundance of asparagus at the local farmer’s markets and on the menus in most restaurants. Traditionally, it is served with boiled potatoes and hollandaise sauce. You can have it with cooked or smoked ham, or Schnitzel (pork chops).
Asparagus is low in calories and rich in fiber and vitamins. It has chromium, a trace mineral that helps insulin-transporting glucose from the bloodstream into the cells. This is a big plus for the millions of people who are diagnosed with pre-diabetes or are diabetic. Click here for a recipe for asparagus frittata that I posted a couple of years ago..
I love asparagus. Once the season starts, I buy it all the time. My husband prefers steamed asparagus, but I prefer mine roasted with hazelnut oil and sprinkled with some sea salt. When I steam the asparagus, I break off the woody ends. When I roast the asparagus, I prefer the thicker stems. I break off the woody ends and peel the rest of the stalk using a vegetable peeler, leaving the tips intact. However I cook my asparagus, I like it al dente. Click here for a delicious Chinese noodle salad that is perfect for spring and summer parties.
I have been playing with the recipe for this asparagus soup for a few years. Last year, I made one using leeks that was good, but not as good as the one I am posting here. This is a very simple but deliciously creamy soup with the flavor of asparagus. It is cooked in no time and you will enjoy every spoonful. I usually serve it with some fresh bread and salad. It would also make a great first course for a fancy dinner.
Quickly, let me give you my recipe for avocado toast. Take a slice of your favorite bread (toasted or not) and spread a ripe avocado on it. Or just put slices of avocado on your bread. The choice is yours and anyone can do it. If you want to, add a fried egg and call it breakfast or lunch. Or add anything else you like. I see coffee shops and restaurants that sell these toasts for a lot of money. There is a way to elevate this simple toast into a culinary delight by adding finely chopped, preserved lemon rind. Anytime you bite into one of these crunchy little lemon cubes, your palate will experience an explosion of flavors from the floral notes of the released lemon oils to the salty fermented umami crunch.
Preserved lemons are more than just lemons, as they capture the glorious perfume of the lemon and excite your palate. They will enhance almost any dish. Sprinkle them on a salad, a chicken dish or anything else you can think of. Preserved lemons add a fermented quality that regular lemons don’t have with their tart, salty and slightly bitter taste.
Preserved lemons have been a staple in North African cuisine since the 11th century. It is a way to preserve lemons for use long after their season is over. Paula Wolfert introduced them to the American audience in 1970 with her award-winning cookbook Couscous and Other Good Food from Morocco. If you want a true Moroccan preserved lemon, add the spices.
Those who have followed me, know about my lemon trees and my ongoing love for lemons. My blog has many recipes using my Meyer lemons, which I treasure. For years, I have made preserved lemons with some of them, but I have never blogged about them. So, I thought it is time to do so. I have given many jars to my friends and wish I could share them with you too. My niece and her husband took a jar with them back to Germany. I have added whole cloves, dried bay leaves, cinnamon sticks, coriander seeds and black peppercorns. In my last batch, I used just kosher salt, and I think that’s what I prefer. Usually, I use the rind and peel only, removing the pulp and rinsing the peel thoroughly to remove most of the salt. Then, I cut them into into tiny cubes, the smaller the better. I read somewhere that the pulp is great in cocktails, but I haven’t tried that. Lately, I have been adding some preserved lemon when making my chicken stock.
Making preserved lemons at home is easy; it just takes time. Mine have lasted a year or longer in the fridge.
I am leaving for Germany in a few days and I am not sure that I will post again before Easter. Easter is one of my favorite time to visit my family and friends. The arrival of spring is a happy occasion after the long winter. Everybody is happy and ready to embrace the warmer weather and longer days. The restaurants and cafes move their tables outside, as every ray of sunshine is greeted with a smile and spring is celebrated with holidays and festivities.
This year is especially nice because the Easter holiday is later in April. I am going to be able to not only to celebrate Easter but also the first of May. In my village, this day is celebrated with a walk through the forest into the next village. Along the route, there are stands with drinks, some of them being little shots of Schnaps (a gin-like drink). The word Schnaps (according to wikipedia) refers to the fact that the drink is a consumed with a quick slug from a shot glass. In the evening, the celebration continues with a gathering around the May tree in the center of the village where Maibowle (May punch) is being served. This punch is wine steeped in an herb called sweet woodruff. I'll post more about my trip when I return, but in the meantime, I will add some photos from my trip on Facebook and Instagram. I can't wait to be with my German family again. Read about one of my previous trips and deviled eggs here.
In this nutty, chewy, not-too-sweet almond lemon cake, whole cooked lemons are being used. It is not your average lemon cake. Click here for the recipe.
Here is an easy-to-make pound cake that is infused with lemon juice. A great combination and perfect any time of the day. Click here for the recipe.
I wish you all a Happy Easter or Fröhliche Ostern as we say in German.
These crab cakes have a little spice with a kick and are a delicacy, especially when they are made with our local Dungeness crab. I usually buy one or two freshly cooked crabs and my husband cleans them meticulously, pulling out every little tidbit of crabmeat he can find. What a nice guy. Normally, we have crab with a salad and some fresh crusty bread. It is the perfect meal with a glass of Chardonnay. Life during crab season is good.
Then I came across an old page from my beloved Gourmet magazine that had a recipe for Louisiana-style crab cakes. Of course, I had to make it. Crab cakes are a real treat for me and I often order them in restaurants. There are many varieties, as each region has its own way of making crab cakes and using their own local crab. I am still dreaming of Maryland crab cakes made with Maryland blue crab. The secret to any good crab cake is using big lumps of crabmeat that retain its form through the cooking process. That way, you will bite into mostly crabmeat with some added flavor.
There are all kind of sauces that are served with crab cakes. I like a good tartar sauce or a remoulade. This time, I choose to make crab cakes for dinner with creamed leeks, so I didn't need any extra sauce. There is nothing wrong with a citrusy green salad and a crab cake. I can envision making mini-crab cakes, served on lettuce with a dollop of tartar sauce. What is your favorite way to eat crab cakes?
If you are looking for another special dish to prepare, try my crepes with salmon and fennel filling. In Italy, this dish is called Cannelloni Ripieni di Salmone and the crepes are called crespelle. This could be an elegant dish to celebrate the arrival of spring especially when served with fresh asparagus.
How about something sweet that is easy to make and tastes good? Try this Italian shortbread tart called Fregolotta. Pretend you are eating a slice in a little cafe somewhere in Italy.
This wonton soup is full of flavor, easy to make, and you end up with a light soup which is flavored with ginger, enriched with bok choy and tasty wontons. It has been my go to soup for years and I think of it as Chinese penicillin when I have a cold.. The term wonton comes from a Chinese phrase meaning swallowing clouds.
Lately I have been needing wonton soup in my house. On a cold and rainy evening this soup will warm your belly. It will do the same on a foggy summer night. I have been playing with the recipe for years . The secret is in the tasty light broth that you want to slurp with delight. Of course a homemade broth is tastier but there is nothing wrong with using commercial chicken broth.
Normally I have been making this soup with store-bought wontons that I keep in the freezer. It is an easy and light dinner that is ready in 20 minutes. But when I decided to post this recipe I had to make my own wontons. I found a recipe I liked at (click here for the video on how to make wontons). I modified the original recipe to make less wontons. I didn’t like the flavor of my wonton wrappers so I made mostly pork-shrimp balls. For all purposes you can make this soup with pork-shrimp balls only. Whatever you do, I hope you enjoy it as much as my family has.
In about a month I will be in Hamburg, a city in Northern Germany. I can’t wait, but in the meantime here is a recipe for Krabbensuppe, a delicate pureed vegetable soup , topped with bay shrimp. This soup is a staple in that region served with a tasty local little shrimp called Krabben. (click here for the recipe)
This was a particularly special trip to Maui because my niece and her husband from Germany came with us. It was a wonderful week long vacation. Hawaii has always been my favorite tropical destination. The warm trade winds greet you as soon a you exit the airplane.
Continue to read about my Maui trip on my Wanderlust blog . Click here!
After all this traveling, I am ready to cook some food at home. Since it is crab season here in Northern California, it’s time to make my cioppino. Click here for the recipe.
If you need a more substantial meal that is absolutely delicious try my Jägerschnitzel. I just made this breaded pork cutlet with a creamy mushroom sauce and I enjoyed every bite of it. It's the perfect meal for a rainy evening. Click here for the recipe.
For dessert, let’s have something with chocolate. It’s February after all.
This is a German chocolate walnut tart with a shortbread crust. It is a chocolate lover's delight. Click here for the recipe.
These chocolate walnut delight bars are great for a crowd. The office will love you for these tasty morsels. Click here for the recipe.
My husband and I love to visit the Napa Valley in January or February when it is not crowded, and the rolling hills are green and covered with yellow mustard flowers. The air is usually crisp in the morning and warm in the afternoon.
Did you know that the Napa Valley is the only Agricultural Preserve in the United States? With an abundance of different wineries and fabulous restaurants, the valley’s cute little towns lure visitors from all over the world. I feel so lucky that I live within a two-hour drive to this gorgeous spot on earth. .
My husband is the wine expert in the family, so he gets to pick the wineries we visit. Since we belong to the Foley Johnson Wine Club, we always visit their wineries. Click here for our 2018 visit to Napa and read more about their beautiful wineries. If you go, I recommend you pick a few you really like, as there are so many beautiful and often spectacular ones. I read that there are approximately 475 wineries in the Napa Valley, 95% of which are family owned.
This year, we visited the Culinary Institute of America Greystone in the Napa Valley. I have eaten there several times and have never been disappointed.
We only had a quick lunch at the cafeteria and it was delicious. All the food is prepared and served by CIA students under the direction of a CIA director. I had a wonderful Caesar salad with a moist chicken breast and my husband had a delicious small pizza that he shared with me. For dessert, the chocolate-caramel nut cookie with my espresso was divine. I bought some local products at their store. There are also tours of the Institute. The Gatehouse restaurant is part of the Institute and serves creative meals prepared by the students.
Just as my husband likes his wineries, I love to overnight at Indian Springs in Calistoga to swim in their amazing pool. The pool was built in 1910 and is completely fed by naturally hot geyser water that ranges from 92-101 degrees Fahrenheit. There are four geysers and the water comes from a 400-foot depth heated by the earth’s hot magma. I love to float in the pool for hours, especially at night or in the early morning. It’s an experience that I treasure.
The two days went by too fast, and before I knew it, I was back at home and dreaming of next year. As soon as I got home, I started to work on some new recipes. One of the recipes was from a famous chef and his new cookbook promoting a healthy diet, which was a Christmas gift from my son. I picked a recipe I thought I would like: fish marinated in miso and cooked in parchment paper with bok choy. It totally bombed—for which I take full responsibility. Once again, I realized that not every recipe works for me. In the meantime, I’ll stick with my foolproof Mediterranean recipe with fish and vegetables baked in parchment paper. Click here for the recipe.
There are some wonderful pears in the store right now, so here are a few pear recipes I have enjoyed over the years.
I baked this almond pear tart last week and everybody loved it. This is a variation of the traditional French-style Pear Frangipane Tart. It is easier to make than it looks.
Click here for the recipe.
This poached pears make a stunning presentation. It's a light dessert, perfect after a heavy winter meal.
Click here for the recipe.
A great bundt cake, full of spices and different flavors. The recipe is from Gale Grand, a pastry chef from Illinois.
Click here for the recipe.
I was looking through my Christmas baking folder for some inspiration (which I need desperately these days) and came upon a recipe from a 2002 Gourmet magazine issue. I had written “excellent” on the recipe. Last year, I made a a similar cookie recipe from Luisa Weiss’s Classic German Baking called Baseler Brunsli (click here for the recipeBaseler Brunsli). Both these cookies belong to the family of Lebkuchen. You can find many different recipes for Lebkuchen throughout the German-speaking countries. Lebkuchen is a blanket term for German gingerbread, and this particular recipe is a smoother and more cake-like version, with a hint of chocolate, hazelnut and almond too. I love them because they are not overly sweet, but my American family is not a big fan of this tasty treat. They will go for the sweeter shortbread, sugary kind of cookie. That’s why I bake a variety of different cookies, put them in my tins and have one I like in the afternoon with my tea.
I baked these cookies because they remind me of the German Elisenlebkuchen, a treat from the German town of Nürnberg. Traditionally, they are baked on wafers and covered with either chocolate or a powdered sugar icing. I didn’t add the wafers and the icing, which makes them less sweet and easier to bake. I also liked the combination of ground hazelnuts and almonds. Instead of chocolate, this recipe uses unsweetened cocoa powder. Like all Lebkuchen recipes, these cookies improve after being stored in a tin for a few days or weeks. They are soft and chewy, and should not be stored with other cookies.
This year will be a special Christmas because my niece and her husband are visiting from Germany. It doesn’t happen very often that I get to celebrate with my German family and it is always very special to me when they come to my home in California. So, I am baking and decorating as much as I can. Check out my post from 2016 with most of my family’s favorite cookie recipes. (click here)
If you feel like a savory treat for the holidays, try my country pâté. It’s a great party pleaser.(click here )
My dear readers, I wish you all a peaceful holiday filled with good food and surrounded by people you love. May the stars shine upon you and may your home be filled with warmth and good cheer.
Fröhliche Weihnachten and best wishes for the coming year!
Every year, I eagerly await the time when the persimmons ripen in our little town of Santa Cruz. They are a sure sign that fall has arrived. I don’t have a tree myself, but friends and locals are willing to share their bounty. Hachiya persimmons are the ones I get most of the time. They are teardrop-shaped and have to soften before you can use them. Fuyu persimmons are the flat-looking ones that are great sliced in salads and other dishes. Persimmon trees can grow up to 70 feet tall, and one of these wonderful trees grows in my girlfriend’s son’s garden.
I have been cooking and baking with persimmons for years. Read more about persimmons and the recipe for my persimmon bread on a previous post (click here).
Each year, I can't wait to make this chutney. The recipe comes from a twenty-year-old local newspaper clipping. The chutney is great with a variety of different foods. This year, I am going to make it part of my Christmas cheese board. It is also great with fish, on duck breasts, or with any food you can think of. In the photo above, I am serving it with my muffin quiches without a crust . These quiches make a healthy snack. (click here to get the recipe)
My chutney is rather mild and not overly sweet. The fresh ginger gives it a great flavor. Since I am hosting our book club next week, I am giving each member a jar of my chutney and persimmon bread as a gift.
At the end of October I spent five days in Singapore and had a wonderful time. If you are interested in my adventure you can read about it on my Wanderlust blog, click on this link.
How can it already be Thanksgiving again? Time flies by so fast, it's scary. During previous years, we often traveled. I remember the duck dinner in Prague and the beautiful week in Rome where we had pasta for Thanksgiving. This year we are going to our little cabin in the Sierra Mountains to celebrate with my sister-in-law and her family. It's going to be low-key and relaxing, especially since my brother-in-law will barbecue the turkey and my nephew is a great cook. For Christmas, I will have a full house since I will celebrate with my niece and nephew from Germany and my American family. I am always very happy when I get visitors from Germany because it's during the holidays when I miss them the most.
When it comes to Thanksgiving, each family has their treasured recipes that have been passed down from generation to generation. There is Aunt Mary's jello salad and the bean casserole from your grandmother. And let's not forget sweet potato pie. Tell me, what are some of the recipes you make each year? My family tradition is my red cabbage which is liked by everybody, so I will be making it again this year. Click here for the recipe.
Years ago, when I was a vegetarian, I would cook everything but the turkey. The centerpiece would be my stuffing served with mushroom gravy. I apologize for the poor quality of the photos, but they are all from previous Thanksgiving posts. I have been making this shiitake and chestnut stuffing as long as I can remember. Click here for the recipe.
If you are looking for a juicy small bird for Thanksgiving, check out my recipe for dry-brined turkey with silky gravy. I will be making this one for Christmas. Click here for the recipe.
For me, sauces and condiments are just as important as the bird. My cranberry ketchup is a wonderful addition for the holidays and I make it every year. Here is a link to the recipe.
For those of you who don't want to tackle a whole bird, I have a recipe for turkey parts. Here, I brine the parts overnight, which makes for juicy and tasty turkey. If you are interested, click here for the recipe.
Toasted, roasted, baked and done! I hope your Thanksgiving is lots of fun.
Oh, one thing, don't forget to give your compliments to the chef, and help with the dishes afterwards.
Wishing you all a relaxing Thanksgiving feast with good food, family and loved ones. May your home be filled with laughter and happiness.
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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