Its been a while since I posted and I do apologize. After breaking my ankle in Budapest, my spunk and motivation left me. During my recovery, I was entertained by your blogs and reading them helped me a great deal. Speaking of recovery, I am walking again and I am thankful for every tiny step I take. The last part of my recovery seems to be the hardest, as I am impatient by nature and eager to move on. But I can’t. I have to take it easy, because if I don’t, I am back in bed with my foot elevated, watching Netflix or YouTube. I also had some emotional issues to deal with, like a post-dramatic depression, upon realizing the danger I had been in and its possible consequences.
But it is a new year, a new decade, and with it comes new beginnings. I am ready to move on. I am starting to cook again and I am enjoying it. I had planned to make a goose for the holidays, but instead my dear friend and neighbor, Susanne, invited me for Christmas dinner. She made her famous Rouladen (stuffed rolled beef), a German tradition for the holidays. I was in culinary heaven.
I have wanted to make homemade potato dumplings for years, but have always opted for the pre-made packaged ones. The one time I tried, when I prepared a goose years ago, it turned into an inedible potato soup. So this year, it was a project I wanted to tackle, so I started to watch German YouTube videos and tried one recipe. I didn’t like them—honestly the pre-packed ones made by Pfanni were better. But I didn’t give up. My girlfriend, Monika, from Germany makes them every year with her goose for Christmas. She uses a recipe from an old German cookbook from Schlesien (or Silesia) that is now in southwestern Poland. Both she and her husband came from this region. I love the quote in the cookbook saying that a Sunday dinner without dumplings is like a sky without stars. They were served with every roast, cooked cabbage or any other vegetable. In the cookbook, they are described as an easy-to-make recipe, but there are tricks to follow to avoid the dumplings falling apart or being hard as a rock.
I made them twice now and both times they got the approval from my friend, Susanne. Each region in Europe has their own version of potato dumplings. The Bavarian ones are made with half-raw and half-cooked potatoes. Leftover dumplings are perfect sliced and then fried in butter, the ultimate German comfort food. When making the dumplings, you can stuff them with small croutons. I think they need some kind of sauce to be truly enjoyed—like a mushroom sauce or gravy from a roast. I don’t have any photos of our Christmas dinner, but a week later, I served my second batch of potato dumplings with some of my friend’s leftover beef brisket from Hanukkah.
When I see plums I always think of the Italian prune plum tree we had at our farm in Germany where these plums are called Zwetschgen. When the fruit ripened in mid September we would make Zwetschgenmus (plum jam) and everybody baked Zwetschgenkuchen on large trays. They dough was usually a yeast dough with different toppings for the plums. My favorite was a custard topping which is called Schmandkuchen. One day I would like to bake it in my village and get advice from all those old cooks and bakery friends. In the meantime I found this wonderful recipe on YouTube that is easy to make and all my American friends liked it. The shortbread dough is used for the crust and the streusel.
The Zwetsche , a European plum ( Prunus domestica) has many different names, in France it is called quetsche, here in the US they are called Italian Prune Plums and sometime Empress Plums. These plums are small and dense with purple skin, easy to pit (freestone pits) and have yellow flesh. There is something magical that happens to this egg shaped, somewhat bland tasting Italian plum when you bake it, it becomes a sweet gooey delight, in cakes, in jams, and dumplings. As was the case with my cake.
I am writing this while eating small slivers of this tasty treat. My doctor tells me to stay away from sweets and I do most of the time but there are times when these rules don’t apply. This cake brings back memories from my childhood in Germany, where Zwetschgenkuchen was a seasonal treat . My mother liked the simple version, adding plums with a little bit of sugar to a sheet yeast cake. Sometimes she splurged and put a custard on top of the cake. I remember stuffing myself and being told to share. My friend, aunt Frieda, that lived on the next farm made the best sheet cakes ever in a wooden pizza oven where she also baked her bread. I would sit on her wood box watching her cook. Oh, those childhood memories.
Some more of my recipes using plums. The plum jam is tart but full of flavor. It's baked in the oven so you don't have to sweat over a hot stove and there is no stirring. Click on the photos below for the recipe.
Here is the link to the YouTube video where I found this recipe. It's in German but Thomas speaks very slowly and it is fun to watch him make the tart. I think this would be a great project for young cooks.
Yum, yum, it’s soaked in rum! If you are looking for an easy way to preserve the taste of summer for a cold winter night, look no further. Make an old-fashioned rum pot with the tastiest strawberries, cherries, raspberries (or any other fruit), add sugar and rum, then let it sit for at least two months. You will end up with a boozy delicacy, which is perfect on pudding, ice cream, flan, cheesecake, almond cake and in drinks. You only need three ingredients and a non-corrosive container with a lid for this classic German condiment.
This German tradition of making a rum pot goes back to 18th century, when rum was imported from the Caribbean to the northern Hanseatic towns. Legend has it that some tropical fruit accidentally ended up in a rum barrel. Whether it’s true or not, it’s a good story. My story goes back to my gentle, caring and loving father who wasn’t a cook. How could he be when he worked from dawn to dusk on the farm seven days a week? But he managed somehow to make a rum pot, which he loved to pour over ice cream.
A traditional Rumtopf is done in a special crock pot ( see the photo below) . My father just used a regular crock pot, but a mason jar will do. The fruit is added when it is ripe—strawberries in June, followed by raspberries, apricots, blueberries, cherries, plums (or any other fruit) in July and August. Sugar and rum is added for each addition. The beauty of the Rumtopf is that you can use almost any fruit you have available as long as you top it with rum that is 54% or higher (108 proof). It will put hair on your chest, so be careful and eat responsibly.
I live in California and only harvest a handful of berries from my garden, but fresh delicious fruit is everywhere else, especially at the farmers markets. I am found of cherries and love to eat them. I ended up with a refrigerator full of fresh fruit and had to do something with it, so the idea of a Rumtopf was born. All I had to do was find was a bottle of rum that was more than 54% alcohol. I am thinking of starting another Rumtopf the traditional way, by adding fruit and sugar and topping it with rum. Layering my Rumptopf with different fruits as time goes by, which keeps the pot going indefinitely.
Before you click on the recipe, please understand that this is an experiment , I usually taste my recipes before I post them, so please keep in mind that this is not one of them. If it turns out (and I don’t see why not), I will fill some small mason jars with my Rumtopf and give them to my friends for Christmas. We’ll see!
Do you want a fruity drink tonight, try out my recipe for a light Strawberry Punch. Click on the photo for the recipe.
A personal note to followers of my blog:
For those of you who been wondering about me, life has had its challenges this year for my family. But we survived and I had to become stronger because of it. It’s been difficult, but the outcome is good for better days ahead. Thank you to all my friends and family for your support and love. I am respecting my husband’s request for privacy to not share more on the worldwide web.
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.
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.
Those of you who follow my blog know I love apricots. I love to bake with them, make dumplings with them, and my apricot jam is an all-time favorite among my friends and family. The year is 2018 and it has been apricot season for several weeks here in northern California. My friend at the farmer’s market sold me some delicious apricots. But not a whole crate like I used to get from a fruit stand in the Central Valley of California. But it was enough to have a week of apricot bliss.
My goal is to add a new apricot recipe to my blog every year. Originally, I had planed to make an Italian roasted apricot ice cream recipe I saw in a magazine called La Cucina Italiana. Unfortunately, I can't find the recipe. This is one of the reasons I have my blog, so that I always have access to my favorite recipes. I think of it as my own personal cookbook. I do like the apricot sorbet I am posting now. It’s easy to make and captures the flavor of apricots in a delicious way. Like most of my desserts, it is not too sweet, but the fruity tart flavor is a great substitute for the lack of sweetness. The apricots are roasted whole and the extra dried apricots contribute more flavor and sweetness.
Every year, I make apricot jam. It is a recipe from Alice Waters' beautiful book Chez Panisse Fruit. I tweaked the recipe for the jam, which I use when I bake, over ice cream, and perhaps a spoonful all by itself.
It is absolutely divine, click here for the recipe
With my surplus apricots, I made a delicious galette using my blueberry galette recipe. It uses almonds in the dough and for the bottom of the crust. This is an easy recipe that can be made with different fruits such as plums, peaches and more.
I happened to have some olalliebeeries that I added to my apricots.
Click here for the recipe.
My German apricot cake (Aprikosenkuchen} has always been well-liked and will be a real treat with the roasted apricot sorbet. The added marzipan in the cake really does the trick.
This is apricot bliss!
Click here for the recipe.
The apricot dumplings are my personal favorite because I happen to love dumplings. They are called Mariellenknödel in Austria and are considered a delicacy.
It is not just a dessert, it is a whole meal.
Click for the recipe here.
If you are looking for a light but very tasty meal, this apricot, shrimp and jicama salad is for you.
Click for the recipe here.
I made my apricot cobbler twice because it is my husband’s favorite.
Click here for the recipe.
If you want a meal that is ready in 20 minutes, this frittata is it. It’s a simple dish, yet full of flavor and somewhat elegant. Serve this with your favorite salad and you have a light, healthy meal for brunch, lunch or dinner. It makes a great leftover to take to work, as you don’t even have to heat it up. Frittata is arguably better at room temperature or cold. I just had the last piece for breakfast.
Think of a frittata as an Italian version of an an open-face omelette, a crustless quiche or scrambled eggs. Wikipedia tells me that frittata roughly translates to “fried”.
We have beautiful, fresh asparagus at our farmer’s market and I have been eating it roasted, steamed, and in salads. I also made a soup, but the recipe needs more work before I'll post it.
I love to talk about food wherever I am and am blown away by how many people tell me that they don’t cook. Maybe that’s why so many younger people have food allergies and digestive problems. I am not a scientist, so I don’t know, but it wouldn’t surprise me if there is a correlation between the two. Today's world is so hectic, and who knows, maybe I wouldn’t cook either if I had children, a full-time job, and a long commute every day. So for all you hard-working people out there, this is a recipe you can make.
Click here for a link to an older post for savory crustless muffins .
When I was in Germany I came across these interesting recipes that I would like to share with you. It’s a yogurt cream that you can also turn into a mousse by adding gelatin. As soon as I was back in my kitchen at home I started to experiment with these recipes and I am happy to say that I am now ready to post them. You can adjust this recipe to your taste by adding more sugar or lemon zest. It is made in minutes, just remember it is not supposed to be sweet. Surprisingly, my husband likes both recipes and he really has a sweet tooth. One night, my other testers preferred the cream. Of course, you can just make the compote and eat it with ice cream. Whatever you choose, I hope you enjoy this treat as much as I do.
The rhubarb compote is sweetened with apple juice and some sugar. Once the rhubarb is cooked the liquid is reduced to a syrup. This is a light and delicious spring dessert.
Rhubarb is a seasonal favorite both in Europe and North America. It is technically a vegetable, but is considered a fruit. Rhubarb stalks will show up in stores and the farmer’s markets from April to June. It comes in in different colors; the ones you find in a store are usually red, but it can also be pale green. It will taste the same despite the different colors. Rhubarb is extremely tart, and is normally cooked and often paired with strawberries or other fruit. Children in Scandinavia will dip the stalk in sugar and eat it raw. The leaves of rhubarb are poisonous, so don't eat them.
Here are some more rhubarb recipes from my previous posts click on the images for the recipes
This Rhubarb Strawberry Hazelnut Crisp is easy to make and I love it, especially with ice cream.
And last but not least let's not forget Robert's delicious Rhubarb-Strawberry Pie
I hope all of you are well my friends and get to sit around the dinner table for a meal to share wherever you are.
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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