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Snackable

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Ahhhhh. Look at that. Perfect weather in my opinion. A sunny beautiful day, great for a run, about a perfect 18 C degrees outside (about 70 F or 72 F).

And you have guests coming over. New ones you’ve never met. And you are expected to provide dinner. And it is already 3 or 4 in the afternoon and you don’t have a menu. I know, first world problems. Anyway, I had a plan. And that was enough.

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I headed straight to the Viktualienmarkt here in Munich and bought amazing cheeses, some Italian sausages and ham, a selection of breads, beautifully fragrant muscat grapes, and a wild herb salad and headed home quickly. We were going to do a fancy “Brotzeit” and that was going to be good enough. No cooking.

Well, but just one thing. Fire roasted walnuts.

I was tempted by these at the market:

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But those huge walnuts have just come off the tree and are a lot of work because you have to first shell them and then peel off their bitter skins. Too much work.

Barbara Tropp has a simple but simply amazing recipe for walnuts in her cookbook “The Modern Art of Chinese Cooking” for a “light bite” or whatever she calls them. Basically a snack. I make them all the time because they are no fuss and easy and they always draw oos and aahs. If you just buy a bag of good quality shelled walnuts, this recipe comes together with very little active cooking time – maybe 10 minutes. They take about an hour and a half to prepare, but 80 minutes is just time while you wait for the walnuts to soak and then to bake.

Process?

Soak your walnuts in boiling water for 30 minutes. This releases the bitterness from the nuts. If you taste the water you have soaked them in, you will immediately taste the leached out bitterness. Spread them out after 30 minutes on a baking sheet. Put them in a pre-heated oven (about 110 degrees C, 225 degrees F) for 30 minutes. You are drying them out. If after 30 minutes, they are not dry in their centers, let them go for another 10 minutes or until you feel most of the water is gone from the nut meats. Then heat a couple tablespoons (for about two cups of nuts) of peanut oil in a pan on medium.

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Toss the nuts in, follow with about two tablespoons of sugar, constantly stirring the nuts. You want the sugar to caramelize and not burn. When you see the sugar is liquid, toss in about a teaspoon of salt and a couple pinches of cayenne pepper. Stir another minute and then remove from heat.

Put in a bowl to cool.

I served them with the cheese and fruit platter. You can store them in a tupperware container for quite a while.

And they work just as well with pecans. A mix of the two nuts is great.

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You’ll be surprised when you taste them. You are used to the slightly bitter flavor that walnuts have, but in these, it’s virtually gone. They are buttery and delicious. And your guests will keep reaching for them…:-)

Which happened.

 

 
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Posted by on October 18, 2016 in Chinese, Cooking at home, Famous Chefs

 

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Purslane Fatayer

A pile of fatayer - for today and to freeze

A pile of fatayer – for today and to freeze

I came across Fatayer for the first time over a year ago when I bought a good cookbook on my sister’s recommendation. I can’t find a translation for the word, but it seems to be some sort of word for pocket or purse in Lebanese/Syrian. I am guessing this because fatayer can be stuffed with a whole variety of things – veggies, root vegetables (I had a pumpkin fatayer receipe, I think, a year ago…) and meat. What else could the word mean?

One of the bloggers I read regularly posted a photo and recipe for “Fatayer bel-bakleh” a few days back and I was especially intrigued by them because they are made with Purslane. I had no idea what purslane was (in German it is “Portulak” but that doesn’t help me at all either), but I recognized the photo she posted of the greens that I buy routinely from the Viktualienmarkt (farmer’s market here). I have been buying them for years especially in the summer and early fall in the mix they sell me called “Wildkräutersalat” (wild greens salad). It’s a succulent plant, quite sour, with a nice crunch to it that is very tasty in a salad with bitters and more standard leaves.

I can wholeheartedly recommend the recipe for the pastries, which I baked this morning. If you go with the recipe posted (link here), 1) I don’t think it would be terrible to buy the dough rather than make it yourself, although I was in the mood to cook this morning, so I didn’t mind the three hours of work – yes, it takes that long. 2) regardless of whether or not the dough is homemade, you really do need to roll it as thin as she says or else the pastries come out too doughy, 3) you can also mix in some lamb in some of them – I did after browning some with a chili and onion and garlic in a pan – it goes together really well with the greens. But what was really nice was that the veggie version was just as good as the meat version. 4) It is tough to make the edges of the pastries stick together, at least it was for me – so fork them closed, that tended to work pretty well.  5) lastly…the amount in the recipe is fairly huge…and also there is more filling than there is dough – a lot more. So cut it down or you will have 40 or 50 fatayer on your hands to eat. I gave a bunch away to neighbors this afternoon and have frozen most of the leftovers for now…

Dinner tonight was a healthy mix of things: melissa clark’s kale salad, a favorite, a tomato chutney that I stirred up a few minutes before eating, and of course the fatayer.

Dinner: Fatayer, sweet tomato chutney, kale salad

Dinner: Fatayer, sweet tomato chutney, kale salad

 

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