Krautsalat

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dressed coleslaw

Summer picnics in the States are replete with the interpretations of dishes brought from Europe by our Immigrant Ancestors™. Potato salads and coleslaw abound. We have three very basic kinds of potato salad; yellow potato salad, standard with egg, standard without egg, and one kind of coleslaw. In America, German potato salad is dressed with a vinegar & mustard base and served warm. And coleslaw is a single note salad drenched in a cream dressing. A little research revealed a good many varieties of coleslaw in German Cuisine. One recipe can be found here. It almost presents like kimchi with the addition of carrots and peppers.

This slaw is green cabbage, red pepper, vidalia onion and the dressing. It is prepared with the method used in the link above. Core the cabbage and remove the harder large parts of the bracts near the base. These are bitter and not very tender at all. You can always freeze the bits to use in making vegetable stock later. I chose to feed the wild rabbits. Once cabbage is sliced, sprinkle with a teaspoon of salt as in the method in the link.

My dressing is as follows

  • 1/3 C rice vinegar
  • 1-2 tablespoons celery seed
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground mustard
  • 2 tablespoons sugar

Mix the dressing ingredients in a small bowl and whisk together. Let sit for about 20 minutes while you prep the rest of the salad.

Drain the water that has wept from the cabbage.

Cut the red pepper and onion into thin slices, add to the cabbage. Pour dressing over the salad and toss. Let sit over night in the refrigerator.

I sampled this in two hour intervals. It most definitely needs to sit in the fridge! The salt treatment lets the flavors get into the cabbage. Because the dressing was not cooked first, which would have made more of a refrigerator pickle consistency, it needs over night for the flavors to really get together well. It is even better the second day.

American palates be warned… this is not the coleslaw you buy in the store. It is not the coleslaw that your grandparents made. We are used to the creamy, runny slaw. Try this recipe at least once. It is a healthy alternative to traditional coleslaw, will keep better at a picnic and won’t sit heavy in your stomach.

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Lamm Salat

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Lamb strips, frisee, halved cherry tomatoes, sweet onions, feta cheese and onion balsamic vinaigrette.

Making dinner for four on short notice is not easy. And by short notice I mean there was only 45 minutes warning. Lamb steak for one turned into lamb salad for four rather quickly. Fresh lettuce and veggies had already been purchased for a standard dinner salad so really all that needed to be done was the steak. And to find the Germanic twist.

It is Spring everywhere it should be except in the Northern United States and Lecker has been rolling out the Spring salad issues like crazy. Inspired by Lecker, the German twist in this recipe is the dressing for the salad made with a German condiment, onion jam.

Not as common as mustard and curry ketchup, onion jam seems to be one of those things that came to England from their immigrant ancestors. As will happen, everyone has their variations. In Northern Michigan that variation comes in the form of a balsamic oinion jam from Fustini’s 

Once the lamb has been seasoned and broiled and left to rest, it is time to prepare the dressing. Take two tablespoons of jam and melt it down then add the olive oil and a splash of fig vinegar to create a vinegrette.

Slice the lamb into thin strips and lay on top of the salad then drizzle some dressing over your favorite ingredients.

German Style Board Games

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All aboard!

The 1950s began the Cold War Years. In the Post WWII era board games took on a new character of cooperation, eliminating the violence and Winner Take All mentality of American styled games like Monopoly. The Depression Era fantasies of quick riches and the games of chance gave way to society building games that evened the playing odds of winning. A global trend in games came in the 1990s, reviving game night. My own personal experience with German Style board games began with the Ravensburger brand of games.

One of the things that I appreciated the most with these games is the quality of the materials, the package-feel. The visuals are stunning as well. Moreover, the game mechanics are simple enough to learn quickly but keep things interesting with the interaction of players. 1995’s Settlers of Cataan has taken the world by storm. It is the gateway game to others of its genre.

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERAEnter Ticket to Ride. Designed by Alan R. Moon, an Englishman based in the States, for Days of Wonder. Tabletop, a Youtube production by Wil Wheaton demonstrates game play in this face paced and riveting episode. I’ve been dying to get this game ever since. And for Easter weekend I did.  We played at a friend’s house. It was a lot of fun; everything that one expects from these kinds of games.

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Game of the Year 2004, Germany

Your cross-country quest involves claiming routes between specific destinations as well as trying to claim the longest chain of rail cars. The mechanics are simple; collect sets of cards in numbers which correspond with the length of a route, block your opponents to prevent them from making long routes and try not to gain too much attention when you do it. There are a few different strategies for success. The one that you chose actually depends on the character of those you play with. Some people will be distracted by table talk or manipulated facial expressions.Others will be very methodical in their progress across the board and forget that there is anyone else on the board. Due to the nature of the game, team play is actually possible. When one player gets a clear lead the others can stymie the leader’s advance with coordinated efforts to block routes.

A game of Ticket to Ride goes pretty quickly, usually about a half an hour to 45 minutes. Because things change with each player’s turn there is little chance to be bored or distracted. As players have more experience with the game, play is quicker and the margins for winning shorten. The tension among experienced players creates a dynamic game. I am looking forward to the next game night.

COUNTDOWN!

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daily newal

Matthias Reim’s new album comes out in April. The closer it gets the more excited I am for it. The songs are available to sample on the website. I don’t know how he manages to blend so many styles together so seamlessly, but he does and it is amazing. I am told that this album is more autobiographical than the others. I’ve always thought they were anyway. But we won’t get into the music theory and creative process in this post. I will say that it is purposefully autobiographical and call it good.

One of the things that excites me about the new album is the iconography. The text and symbols are beautiful and reflect the nature of the album… Phoenix. Of course I am the weird font geek and you all could have figured that out on your own. But when you go to the website to listen to the music look at the album’s design. It is just gorgeous. The font and flourishes totally convey the strength in this new album.

So far, my favorites are Erlöse mich (release me),Träume (dream), and das Lied (the song). I have a few weeks before the album comes out so we will see if those choices hold up upon hearing the entire song. We will also see if this is going to be an album that helps heal some hurt. The impetus that started me listening to Matthias left some scars that simple “muscling through” won’t heal. “Move on” does’t seem to be the answer. The further I get from the source of both my greatest joy and greatest sorrow the less platitudes help. And the more I realize that Time does not heal on its own. Time has to fix a lot of things and we have to help it along when we can. So I am hoping that as awesome as the samples are, and that my choices of favorites which speaks more intimately to the situation than I can go into here, mean that Time has chosen an optimist like Matthias for a helper.

I know I have. And I have not yet been disappointed by his unintentional assistance or his company along the road. When I get to the end of my sorrows I hope that some of Matthias’ good nature will have been passed along to me. I kinda miss the old me.

Something to Nosh on

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crackers and cheese

Creamy, light on the blue cheese flavor and just a bit on the salty side, this cow’s milk cheese comes from the Southern German region of Allgau. French and Italian influences combine to create Cambozola.

Camembert and Gorgonzola  had a baby in the Käser’s kettle and this delightful cheese is the result. For all practical intents and purposes this is a blue cheese brie. As I said the blue is mild. The cheese is a triple cream delight so it has all of the spreadable goodness of a brie and pairs well with fruits. It is, I find, one of those rare cheeses that is well served with a seafood entree.

A collection of leftovers served for a second breakfast or a light evening repast is elevated with a schmear of Cambozola on a hearty entertainment cracker. We ate this with apple slices, leftover curry chicken salad and the remains of the baked salmon, served cold. What a delightful picnic!

Frisch gemacht!

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Spring banner

Winter time has been short this year. There are many signs that Spring is soon to arrive and unleash a bounty of color and flavor after the taste buds have been dulled by cold and thick, heavy comfort foods. As you can see from the banner, fresh herbs are on my mind. But where to find the time to prepare fresh food let alone cook?.

So tonight there is Eintopf, slow cooker meal, in the machine. The ingredients may not be quintessentially German, but the marinade most certainly is. Fresh Italian flat leaf parsley, majoram,  and blackberry wine is the key to this flavor combination. Using the whole stem and leaf assembly from the bunch at the store, I tore apart the leaf and stem and dropped them into a gallon sized zipper seal bag. Then I added two fresh gloves of garlic, slightly crushed, one half coarse chopped yellow onion, about two tablespoons of dried marjoram and a couple of teaspoons of coriander to the parsley in the bag. Zip it shut, then grind the pieces together between your fingers. I don’t have a mortar and pestle so smashing everything together in the bag was the only way to break down the oils in the fresh leaves to release the flavors. I poured one half bottle of Blackberry wine into the bag, placed the lamb shoulder in the bag and then very carefully squeezed the air out so that the meat was encapsulated in the wine and herb mixture.

In essence this is pre-cooking your meat. German cuisine employs chemical interaction to help break down the muscle tissue of meats, mostly wild meat, to make cooking and later digestion easier and quicker. Acids like wines, vinegar or a citrus juice react to the proteins in the muscle and cause the tissue to begin to break down. The other flavors that have been added find their way deeper into the muscle tissue and deepen the flavors. Wild meats, as we discussed in the Hassenpfeffer post, need 24-48 hours to marinade in some kind of acidic solution. Domestic meats from the grocery store such as the New Zeeland lamb that I picked up, should not need more than one hour to marinade. Another note about marinating meats: your meat should be at room temperature. This advice comes from the science nerd and chef Alton Brown.

The reason that a roast must come to room temperature is to avoid rapid shrinking which occurs when cold meat meets hot pans. Before any meat goes into a crock pot or a roasting pan it is seared on a hot, almost smoking pan, to seal in the juices and prevent foods from drying out. When you drop cold fish onto a hot pan you get that weird white goop that looks liked cooked egg whites. It is the protein coming out too fast and coagulating. If you drop cold red meat onto a searing hot pan your force the protein out too fast and then get a foam later when you make the broth or gravy from the marinade juices. Room temperature meats on hot pans prevents this unsightly and nasty tasting accident from occurring.

Your veggies go into the bottom of the slow cooker, lay the seared lamb shoulder on top and set the temp then leave it. Don’t lift the lid. Don’t poke at it. Just let it be for about 4 hours. And whatever you do, don’t pour in all the marinade juices! Slow cooking and braising do not need a lot of extra juice. As the fresh veggies cook they release water. As the meat roast cooks it releases more of the juices that make the broth. The lid of the slow cooker captures the steam released and deposits it back into the pot. The best thing to do with the marinade liquid is to cook it down for gravy or a light broth.

A popular side dish is red wine and shallots. I think that a couple of bulbs of shallots or pearl onions par boiled in the marinade liquid would be wonderful with this dish. I just drank the broth on a cold winter night to warm my insides while waiting the four hours for dinner to cook.

In a few weeks my cravings for fresh things will outweigh the complacency of Winter comfort foods and no matter how cold it is I will want leafy greens for salads, fresh herbs on everything and fresh fruits to boost my mood. For now though, with gusty winds tearing through the tall pines, I will dream of greener fare.

More Great Sites for German Foods

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I found this site  today through my favorite Pinner, Elli Pirelli. The photos are amazing. The recipes look simple. I definitely have food envy now.

I don’t want to turn this blog into a aggregator, but these recipes and photos are too amazing no to share. The direct blog link is here. I am thinking of adding a special page to function as a hub for my information sources, like a visual bibliography. My blogging 101 class has my brain spinning.

Quintessential Flavors in Cookies

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tall chalk board linzer

~Holiday goodies

Cookies appear in abundance during holidays. For some reason they always seem to be the more intense recipes to perform. The Linzer is a jam filled sandwich cookie whose simple beauty masks its complicated beginnings.

Linzer cookies hail from Austria where Linz is the third largest city in that country. They are the diminutive form of the torte that first became popular in the 1600s. These delectable treats have traveled throughout all of Europe and settled in the U.S with our immigrant ancestors.

Black Currant jelly, jam, or preserve is the traditional filling for the cookies. In the States raspberry is the most common filling in commercial packages. Honestly though, use your favorite flavors. The buttery almond dough compliments any flavor.

 

The original recipe comes from Meine Gute Landküche and uses traditional jams and jellies for the filling. I didn’t have whole grain flour for the original recipe and have had to tweak it. The recipe is in Euro measurements. There is no conversion as I was gifted a German metric measure and ALDI offered digital kitchen scales at the start of the Holiday season. The recipe below is the one that I used to compensate for the lack of ingredients.

Ingredients

  • 125 grams Butter
  • 50 grams Sugar
  • 1 medium egg
  • 200 grams all purpose flour
  • 50 grams finely ground Hazelnuts
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • a pinch of ground glove
  • a pinch of cinnamon
  • 100 gram jelly
  • 100 gram powdered sugar

linzer button

Beat butter and sugar till fluffy. Stir in egg.

Mix flour, nuts, baking powder, and spices together. Gradually add to the butter mixture until a smooth dough forms. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat over to 355°.

Roll dough out 4 milimeters thick. Cut out shapes with the cutter. Place on baking paper lined tray. Use the smaller punch to cut centers of one half of the large cookies. Bake on middle rack for 10 minutes.

Cook tray on the baking rack for a few minutes then remove individual cookies to the tray to finish cooling.

Gently heat your choice of jelly or jam until it becomes spreadable. When the cookies have cooled spoon the jelly or jam onto the complete circles. Sprinkle powdered sugar onto the cutout tops and lay on top of the jellied round. Allow the jelly to reset to glue the cookies together.

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My choices for jam were Holunderflüten (above) and Strawberry Rhubarb (right). The Holunderblüten jelly softened fast and needed to reset a little before I could put it on the cookies. The jams cooperated nicely.

The recipe makes only 24 full cookies.

Quintessential Flavors: Holunderblüten (Elderflower)

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~Direct from Germany

With the advent of mega marts and big box grocery stores selling everyday foods in bulk and a diminished personal home garden experience in America, our palates have shrunk compared to that of our parents and Grandparents. In other words, unless the Food Network makes an ingredient popular we all get the same kinds of vegetables and fruits from the store. The most exotic we might see is cara cara (blood) oranges, jicama, and some bok choy.  The variety is a bit better in a health food or whole foods store. And it is definitely better at a farm market. Still, nothing compared to the variety of produce that my own parents had.

Growing up, one of the things that my mother always reminisced about was the Elderberry wine or cordial one of her mysterious ancestors, a great aunt of mine, made. My mother grew up in Dearborn, a bedroom community outside of Detroit. A large German enclave settled there and kept many traditions alive. I don’t think of Detroit as a hotbed of organic gardening but I guess if you want to eat you plant fruit trees instead of lilac bushes. And that is what many of her relation did. Enter the Elderberry.

When ever Seed Catalog Season rolled around (right after Holiday Goodies Catalog season) my mom would day dream out loud about planting Elderberry trees. My dad was of course skeptical as the red and black current (Johanisbeer) experiment went no where fast. We had a mulberry tree when I was very little and if Elderberries were like Mulberries I was on board. There are not and we did not get any trees. As I am researching German foods and I am finding so many interesting, if bizarre, flavors I am feeling quite bold in my experiments. Enter the Elderflower.

Having fallen in love with Waldmeister (sweet woodruff), I figured the flavor from the Elderflower should be compatible with my taste buds. My pen pal sent me a jar of Elderflower, Holunderblüten, jelly. It was not love at first taste. Straight out of the jar it is astringent and resinous like bitter honey. The sweet is almost sickening, like large amounts of honey. The color is a pristine pale apple jelly color. Not one to let things go to waste and cognizant of the fact that somethings need other ingredients for accompaniment, I set to work. Before you run you have to walk. In other words, before you get too carried away use it for its intended purpose first. And that was the key! Elderflower jelly needs the fat from the butter and the body from the toasted bread to offset its less than desirable traits. Also, the American palate really needs to warm up to some of the stranger flavors out there. And this isn’t even all that strange!

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°breakfast toast

Once you get used to the flavor, it has a zingy tang that brightens up toast for breakfast. The flavor is light unlike honey. I am wondering how I might like it on oatmeal. I hate oatmeal but I need to eat more of it. Of course I could be asking for a whole bunch of trouble with that combination.

Elderflower is taking a hold in America in the alcoholic beverage industry in a liqueur for mixers and cocktails. I do hope that the Foodies here will help to revive the flavor and its usage so that it is no longer relegated to an antique American culture.

 

Luncheon Treats: Gefüllte Eier

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~deviled eggs

Gefüllte Eier, filled eggs, are called Deviled Eggs in the United States. They are a staple of holiday, funeral, and picnic luncheons in the States. Due to the symbolism associated with fertility, they are most prolific in the Spring with Easter buffets.

The traditional American Deviled egg is made with Mayonnaise, plain yellow mustard, a splash of white vinegar and is sprinkled with a garnish of paprika. Pretty standard WWII rations stuff. Pretty boring too.

I found many German styled variations online and settled on one for which a. I had all the ingredients and b. would be a soft introduction to the American palate. German flavors are sharp, strongly aromatic, and burst on the tongue that is not always a welcome change to mouths accustomed to bland foods.

This variations is Bavarian Sweet Mustard (imported), Horseradish, Salad Dressing (sweet mayonnaise), capers, caper juice and garlic powder with a finely chapped fresh parsley garnish. When I made the platter I made both the Traditional American style and my take on the German Style. Both were a hit.

Measurements?

Well, I have been making deviled eggs since I was 5 (about 40 years). It is one of those recipes for which measuring is not necessary anymore as it is all relative to the amount of yolk retrieved from the halved eggs and the flavors one prefers. The process determines amounts in this case.

  • Start with your egg yolks. In a medium sized bowl, use a fork to slightly mash the yolks.
  • Add mayonnaise or salad dressing one tablespoon at a time until you have a dry kind of thick paste.
  • Add by the teaspoon the Sweet Bavarian Mustard, most likely a ration of 1 Tablespoon mayonnaise/salad dressing to 1 teaspoon mustard.
  • Then add horseradish a very little bit at a time.
  • Use only enough caper juice to loosen the mixture so that it is easy to spoon into the open halves of the egg whites.
  • Take a small taste and adjust the flavors accordingly. Keep in mind that the fresher the horseradish the less you will have to use.

Spoon into the egg whites, garnish with one caper and a slight sprinkle of parsley. Plate and serve.

We love deviled eggs! The connotation of funeral buffet food notwithstanding, our house doesn’t get sick of eating them. The chef gets tired of making them.