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Category Archives: Holiday Foods

Waffle Latkes

Happy Hannukah! 🙂

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Time to make the donuts!. Uh…Waffles! Uh…Latkes.

Oh well. Want a bit of a cheat/shortcut?

I just read about this – mix up your potato pancake mix (I used 1 large potato, a two-inch chunk of zuccini, a 1-inch slice of celery root, 1 egg, salt, pepper, a few pinches of rosemary and about 5 chives snipped. Shred all the veggies, squeeze them out as much as you can and then mix with the rest), butter up your waffle iron, and when it’s nice and hot, simply put a few spoonfuls of your mix on the iron and let it waffle just like you would normal batter. It takes a bit longer, perhaps, but not by much – until your fresh potato latke is done.

Put on your favorite topping and voila – instant Hannukah. Makes 2 large pancakes.

Although it would probably be better if one of your favorite toppings wasn’t procuitto…just saying…;-)

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The Good Wife

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Do not be alarmed. I did not eat them all. But it’s hard to wander around the central squares in German cities these days without being accosted by the smell of roasting meat, mulled wine, candied nuts. It’s enough to drive you mad. I gave in finally during a business trip on Thursday in Nürnburg. We waited for the train and the Christmas market was just outside the station. Needless to say, we needed to sample a few of the famous Nürnburger sausages. With sauerkraut. Alas, without the spicy warm wine. I was so tired from the travel this week that had I taken a sip, I would have been out cold on the spot.

Well, in case you hadn’t noticed – and it would be awfully hard to not notice – Christmas time is upon us here in Germany. There is no escaping it. Last weekend I in fact *did* drink my first mulled wine, and this weekend finds me…baking cookies.

A good (German) wife must certainly have some cookies lying around during the holiday season. And my ridiculous travel/work schedule in the last two weeks hasn’t allowed for anything beyond me begging the cleaning lady to bring some of her “Plätzen” (cookies) to us so we could munch a few of them in the in-beween-work moments. In fact, I need her recipe. They were delicious.

Not one to settle for some simple “Vanilla Kipferl” (sugar cookie crescents), I sought out the weird and wonderful for baking this weekend. Two kinds. Results: weird, not sure about the wonderful.

What did we end up with? For starters, I decided to go weird with a gluten-free thumbprint cookie. I like buckwheat, I like thumbprint cookies, I had some delicious plum mousse to fill them with from a colleague…what could go wrong? Nothing went wrong, per se. But damn it. BUCKWHEAT? No. Never again.

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Don’t get me wrong – all the right stuff there – nice crunchy nutty texture, rich buttery crumble, the various jams fit well, but the overcharged flavor of buckwheat flour doesn’t do it for me. I like buckwheat meanwhile, as a whole grain risotto – delicious with lemons, greens, cheese. I love savory buckwheat crepes with a glass of cider. But buckwheat cookies? Nope, never again.

Ok, so cookie number two you ask? Have a look here:

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A perfect and surprising flavor combination – chilis and chocolate – yuuuuum. And I was gifted one of those chilies after expressing strong interest in them. Let me warn you – not for the spicy averse. They were edible, but not enjoyable. But I still love chocolate chili, so these spiced chocolate cookies looked like a match for me.

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Much better. A relief after the disappointment of the buckwheat bonanza. I did swap out regular flour for the oat and rice flour, I admit it – I wanted a slightly more “normal” ingredient list. And that worked without a hitch. These are chocolaty, although not over the top, soft and rich and slightly chewy because of the raisins, and they have a slow but strong burn entering after a few seconds from the chipotle chili powder I dosed them with. A worthwhile cookie.

Wishing you all a very lovely second Advent Sunday.

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Posted by on December 7, 2014 in Christmas markets, Holiday Foods

 

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Pumpkin Sage Dessert

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Unexpectedly, I was in Cologne on November 11. The city goes a bit mad on this day, and I got to observe a little of it in the morning as I walked to the office. Lions and tigers and bears, and whatever else, costumed in celebration of the carnival to come in early spring next year. Inside our office there was no evidence of craziness, (or maybe there was, but it wasn’t carnival related).

I got home later that week…and maybe all the costumes reminded me of Halloween and pumpkins…who knows. Anyway, the bright little orange kombochas all over Munich started singing my name.

This dessert creation was the result.

I can’t really call it ice cream…because it’s a kulfi, which always has the requisite ice crystals, at least a very mild smattering of them, scattered through the otherwise very creamy frozen dessert. I had a craving for some vegetarian Indian dishes and ended up with a fusion mix for the meal. The traditional Paneer butter masala – indian cheese in a thick aromatic and delicious curry gravy, some unusual but very good carrot pancakes – made with a beaten egg, a handful of chickpea flour, shredded carrots and chopped coriander, and finally some flash fried spanish pimento peppers with just a bit of salt and pepper. But to finish off, I wanted to try something a bit nontraditional Indian, and had come across this blog recipe for pumpkin sage kulfi.

Beautiful photos over there and an easy straightforward recipe. But…he made his kulfi with almond milk and I admit I wasn’t willing to do that – I like almond milk, but I also like cow milk ice cream. Maybe next time. He also used canned pumpkin puree, which is hard to find here. Germans do love their pumpkins, you find them at every fresh produce stand around the city, big ones and small ones, and you can even simply take a slice home instead of buying something so huge you can’t possibly eat it all without turning orange.

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So I quickly chopped up my pumpkin and threw it in the pressure cooker for five minutes on high (perhaps two cups of pumpkin when chopped up.) Meanwhile I warmed my milk (4 cups) with two tablespoons of chopped sage leaves, and skimmed them out after 5 minutes of cooking, added the sugar (3/4 a cup of brown sugar – but to which I added probably ANOTHER 1/2 cup later because the mixture was so very non-sweet, surprisingly.) I let this cook for a bit. After the pumpkin was done, I pureed it, and added a good cup or so of it to the milk mixture along with 1 1/2 teaspoons of cornstarch.  And that is it. Let it cook until it thickens a bit and then take it off the heat and pour it into cups. I use old yogurt cups.

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Nice serving sizes, not too much.

The kulfi itself was nice, but a bit one dimensional. So I made a little ginger syrup to pour over the top (1/2 cup of chopped ginger, a cup of water, cup of sugar – heat on the stove for about 20 minutes until it reduces down by half. Pour into a jar and use as needed. Keeps forever. And finally, to give it all an herby note I candied some sage leaves, which sounds complicated but which takes just a few minutes:

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Brush each leaf (or dip, which is what I did) with egg white and then dip them into sugar. Let dry for a few hours until they harden. Also will keep for several months without a problem.

So the dessert concoction in the end was a nice complex combo: The creamy caramelly pumpkin kulfi infused with sage, the spicy sweet note of ginger syrup and the herby candied sage leaves over the top. Worth a try, although a bit fidly/takes some time. Most of the work can be processed simultaneously, and much of it is simply waiting around. But lovely presentation in the end.

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Two and a half weeks later…

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The big reveal. Wrapped up in the cheesecloth was something quite simple – duck breasts. I never thought much of curing meat myself – always assuming it was somehow a tedious and long process. But now I know better.

A few weeks back I came across a recipe that showed how easy it is to cure a duck breast and then hang it to dry for a few weeks and simply forget about it. So…my couple weeks are up and I went down to the cellar and collected the first packet, opened it up, brushed off most of the spices it had been rolled in, and cut off a slice. Delicious. Both the flavor of the fresh thyme and the duck come through prominently and though I haven’t tried it on a salad or a sandwich yet, I can easily imagine it being extremely tasty.

Definitely will be a repeat performance – with other spices, meats, etc.

 

 
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Posted by on October 7, 2014 in Cooking at home, Curing, Holiday Foods

 

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When it rains in Spain

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I will be the first to admit that the vacation in Spain did not go as planned.

Although, the rain, when it appeared very infrequently, was rather a lovely break from the hot sun, and only once a small inconvenience that can hardly even be called that as the night was over and no one gave a hot damn anymore about if my hair frizzed in the humidity. If they ever did. ;-).

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I guess I could run through the long list of disasters that befell us all, although our stolen luggage was certainly the biggest unexpected blow.

So…for the record and posterity, I will allow the stolen luggage story and all the aftermath of that to simply exist as a “big and very expensive lesson learned,” not unlike the Prague wine story of 2002, thankfully a full dozen years in the past now and continuing to live on through the power of story telling. The upside is that I have a bunch of new clothes, desired or not. Hmm. Anyone ever told you never to leave suitcases locked in a car in a parking lot at a Spanish beach – even for just a quick lunch – take this advice and drag the suitcases into the restaurant, regardless of how ridiculous you might think you look. Your insurance DOES NOT cover much.

But moving on to more important reminiscing.

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The house (thank you, Mom and Dad!) we stayed at was gorgeous, and so wonderfully cool during the day when we were there.

And the horse in the front yard, whatever its name was, provided some great comic relief, as he galloped to greet us every time we got back to the house. Or at least the smell of him did, if he didn’t himself.

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And as we always do, we figured out how to deal with a kitchen that could plate up dinner for 50 if you needed it to, but which sorely needed a coffee maker and some fly screens on the window. But hey, we all learned how to be pretty inventive with a single espresso maker and pots of boiling water. 😉

We did manage to cook one Spanish recipe while we were there (thank you, Amy, for bringing the cookbook).

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And I really enjoyed cooking the few nights we did. Spanish recipes or not. California bay leaves, direct from California, made the stews we made heavenly. (Again, thank you Mom and Dad.)

Going out was also largely successful, and I think my favorite meal was the mid-day beach lunch of razor clams, spinach salad, and of course, Paella.

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I was not sorry that I decided against tasting the original ice cream flavors one Gelati store offered up. (Tomato, salt and olive oil ice cream? Hm, no thanks. I’ll stick with cucumber.)

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A tasty finish, even if my sisters were not overly impressed, was the octopus we ordered on the last night. Damn it, maybe wasabi isn’t a Spanish ingredient, but we just don’t get octopus like that in Germany, so I’ll remain happy. 😉

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Of course all the eating had to be balanced with exercise (one of the first purchases I insisted on when we started to buy the contents of our stolen luggage was running shoes…which ultimately made me really happy.) Today’s run back on the banks of the cool and shady Isar proved to me that it makes sense to challenge myself more on occasion. Five days of running gentle slopes up and down the Spanish country roads in 33 degrees made today’s jog feel like flying. Hoping the feeling lasts a few more days. (Ok, I know it looks flat, but trust me, there were plenty of non-flat stretches.)

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Best of all, of course, was getting to hang out with my family and see how much all three of my nephews have grown, and how crazy they all are. 😉 (Or at least look…in my sunglasses.)

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I wish we’d had a little more time to explore a few towns like Girona. Walking the narrow brick streets was fun, and I look forward to doing it again at some point, after I’ve slept in my own bed for a month at least.

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And that is all. So good night.

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Scent of Cardamom

It’s been awhile – sorry about that. It’s not that I haven’t been cooking, it’s just that I have been cooking, working, running (literally), sleeping, commuting between cities, and haven’t had much time for blogging. And when I had time I was usually too tired.

But some delicious food has crossed my path many times in the last month – quite a few new restaurants as well, not all my food.

I made a cake recently that is worthy of a mention and a word of warning. Actually two words of warning. But first, understand that the absolutely STUPID winter we’ve been having here in Munich obviously forced me to make cake. It’s drizzly and cold and grey out almost every single freaking day. But this cake is a slice of sunshine, I swear it. I read Shayma’s blog pretty regularly and somehow her recipe for Cardamom tea cake called out to me. I scrolled past it a couple times, but then it stuck. My finger wouldn’t move further and before I could think about it much I was in the kitchen with iPad in hand, ready to bake.

Here is warning number 1. Sometimes it is better not to improvise the first time around. Very important. More specifically, I could smell the cardamom in my head reading that recipe. And then a stray thought moved in along with it…”ummm….what about apples? what about if I chopped up some apples very small and mixed them into the batter?” Sort of a pound cake…with apples…and cardamom. And don’t get me wrong – there are definitely delicious recipes out there with cardamom and apples, it is just that this was not it.

But I did it anyway.

Apple Pound Cake with Cardamom

Apple Pound Cake with Cardamom

Yeah, I know it looks ok. Good even perhaps. But if you take a second glance you’ll see that the edges are a bit burned and the inside looks dense and gummy. And that is really sort of what it was. No one refuses cake, though, at least a first time, so over the course of a couple days it was eaten.

I was really intrigued, though, and I knew that the original recipe would be vastly better if I would bother to follow it. Which I did a few days later. I don’t have a picture of the cake as a whole, which is where,

Warning number 2 comes in:

2) Do not bake this cake when you are on a diet. I’m not, but just saying…if I were. 😉 Because it is amazing. Simple and delicious. The scent of the cardamom is haunting. And if you are not careful you will slice yourself a piece. And then another. And maybe just a third sliver. At the end of it (don’t worry, couple days later), we were arguing over how evenly to cut the last chunk of it. Halves? But who ate more of it over the course of its lifetime? Who ran further today? Who cleaned the cat litter religiously this week? Yes, that good.

It looks a bit homely perhaps in this photo, but one of my favorite ways to eat it would be lightly toasted in the morning with a cup of coffee. Sweet black milky tea would have been lovely too. Maybe next time.

Cardamom tea cake

Cardamom tea cake

Recipe? Yup, here. And you can pretty much cook anything on her blog – all the recipes are delicious.

 
 

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Mexi-xmas

IMG_6960Mexican Christmas? Well, not really. But I was put in charge of dinner on Monday night, the 23rd, and really really wanted to try out pozole. The taqueria I really like here in Munich keeps serving it, but somehow I keep missing it whenever I am there to grab lunch. They are either out of it already or haven’t made it on that day. And apparently, pozole is quite a traditional dish to serve on Christmas in Mexico. So the pozole was at least appropriately timed if not culturally fitting.

Pozole is made with meat (generally pork, although I used chicken) and a special form of corn – in english, called “hominy.”  According to wikipedia: “To make hominy, field corn (maize) grain is dried, then treated by soaking and cooking the mature (hard) grain in a dilute solution of slaked lime (calcium hydroxide) or wood ash, a process termed nixtamalization.” It helps soften the corn, more or less removing the outer layer of the kernel. You can buy it either canned (forget this in Germany, or at least in Munich), or dried – so it needs to be reconstituted with water over night and then cooked for a very very very long time.

soaking the corn

soaking the corn

There is a fairly wide variety of recipes out there for pozole. Some people make it green and sour – with tomatillos and green chilis and such. Others go for a red version – rich with red chilies. I ended up with my own version. I used this recipe as a guide, but went off-road fairly quickly. 😉

First step is to make chicken soup – which I did with dark meat only. Rather than using flat Italian parsley in the soup I put in cilantro/coriander to imbue a Mexican flavor from the get-go.

Make chicken soup

Make chicken soup

The recipe called for a variety of chilis, but I had no chance of getting them all here. I’d bought some canned poblanos from a local mexican grocery, which was at least a good start. Although what I wasn’t able to do was char the skin of the peppers and roast them. So…compromises compromises…

Canned poblanos

Canned poblanos

To make the pozole itself, I blended a mixture of chilis, garlic, onions to form a sort of paste/base flavor. This gets gently sauteed in oil for a few minutes, and then I added tomato puree and the chopped up poblanos.

Getting the pozole started

Getting the pozole started

After a few stirs, the corn went in next.

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And finally the chicken stock.

Simmer for about an hour, letting the flavors meld and the corn soften further. Then add in the chicken (which you have removed from the bones) and let the whole stew cook for a bit longer.

Meanwhile you can chop up all the toppings for pozole – not a few. Cabbage is traditional, as is chopped up and fried tortillas, lime, cilantro, onions, creme fraiche (well, it should have been a Mexican version, but close enough).

Toppings for pozole

Toppings for pozole

I baked some tortillas to make them into “tostadas” as well – a nice crispy alternative to bread or rice. Topped with black beans, some salsa and guacomole and a sprinkle of cheese, they rounded out the meal.

Tostadas with toppings

Tostadas with toppings

Not the flavors of Germany, but a nice spicy zing the day before the more traditional German Christmas fare.

Definitely a recipe to make again (and if you want a more exact recipe, just message me, I’ll try to come up with the amounts I used for everything) – but next time the corn needs to be cooked even longer. Now off to the taqueria again today. Maybe they’ll have pozole for me to try and compare mine with.

 

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