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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
My folders, my cookbooks, and my drawers are full of recipes that are dear to me. They help me find and create dishes for my family and friends. They are the backbone of my cooking — my memory. My blog is an attempt to somewhat organize and compile my favorite recipes.
Food is nourishment, it sustains our body and gives us energy. Many of us have made decisions about which foods are best for us. I always love any kind of mushrooms—chanterelles are my favorite, but I think shiitake mushrooms are healthier for me.
Years ago, I saved this recipe for broiling shiitake mushrooms which was printed in our local newspaper. I have made them many times because I love the meaty, chewy flavor of the broiled mushrooms. They are great to use on salads, especially with arugula. Put the grilled mushrooms on a bed of arugula or mixed greens and use the warm juice as a dressing and you have a delicious salad! When I don't use the mushrooms right away, I keep them in the refrigerator as a healthy snack. Once you make these, trust me, they will be a staple of your diet, if you like mushrooms.
I have a drawer in my kitchen with my favorite recipes. I also have folders with recipes and I have shelves full of cook books and let's not forget my magazines. In years past I would invite people and then start looking for recipes I could prepare. The covers of Gourmet and Bon Appetit were always intriguing. I mix and match and have fun.
But let's get back to my drawer. Those recipes are special, they are my favorites. Some of the pages are full of stains , some of them are handwritten , some of them are torn out of magazines or newspapers, and I have made them over and over. One of them is a recipe for Lemon Cesar Salad that my friend Linda Ristow send me years ago. It is a vegetarian version of a Caesar salad. My family and friends have enjoyed this salad over and over.
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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