Friday, December 14, 2012

Tonight the lights were out

It's been a busy day and in the morning I saw the alarming news that there had been a shooting at an elementary school in Connecticut. It said it was over and the gunmen dead. I thought, lucky. I was busy with work chasing a deadline, and only had time to check the news again by 5pm when the devastating headline had changed to that the shooting had 27 victims, mostly small children. I thought of all the children of my friends and neighbors, and of the toddlers and babies of the blogs I read daily and I felt devastated, tearing up. How can this happen? How can this happen in this country? There was just this unfathomable mass shooting at a movie theater.

I listened to the reports on NPR, and drove through a similar small quaint, rural New England town where everyone knows each other and kids are safe. A town where everyone believes that something like this can never happen.

I drove through my neighborhood, the streets leading up to my house, and realized that many of my neighbors had not turned on their christmas lights tonight.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Carrot Soup

Finally, a recipe again. Since things are busy at work, this very simple carrot soup with the pumped up volume is just the right thing to make, eat and blog about. The key to the soup is that the carrots are cooked in fresh pressed carrot juice -- not broth or water. It makes the carrot flavor so pronounced it does not need much else beside a few sprinkles of dried thyme, a tad of butter and a pinch of dried ground ginger.

The Carrot Soup
(makes 4 servings)

  • 1 pound organic carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks
  • 1/2 red onion, small diced
  • 1/2 TB butter
  • 3 cups fresh pressed carrot juice
  • 1/2 ts dried thyme
  • 1/4 ts dried ginger
  • salt to taste (or 1/2 ts Rapunzel organic vegetable bouillon) 
  • optional: 1/4 cup baked butternut squash or any other baked squash
In a large, heavy pot, melt the butter and sauté the onion until slightly brown. Add the raw carrots, and sauté for about 1 min. Add the carrot juice, the thyme and ginger, and bring to a simmer. Close with a lid, and simmer on low gently for about 20-30 min until the carrots are very tender.
Puree with an immersion blender in the pot, or take the soup off the stove, and cool. Once cooled, pour into blender and puree. Reheat before serving and garnish with baked squash, goat cheese crumbles or a dash of creme fraiche and chopped hazelnuts. Bon appetite! 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Spiced red cabbage with cloves, red currant jelly and red wine

The holidays are over (for now) and things are getting back to normal – until we are gearing up for the next holidays, which are not too far off. This was a dish I brought to this year’s thanksgiving holiday dinner; it is a bit of different, interesting and still fabulous side dish that compliments any holiday dinner. It is a traditional German holiday feast or Sunday roast side --- sauteed spiced red cabbage, based on my mom’s recipe here.


Spiced red cabbage with cloves, red wine, and red currant jam
(makes a large pot, about sides for 10 people)
  • 1 medium sized head of red cabbage (ca. 2-3 pounds)
  • 1 red onion, diced finely
  • 1 TB butter or ghee (my mom’s recipe actual calls for bacon fat)
  • 1 medium sized tart apple, finely diced (not peeled but core removed)
  • 1/2 TB whole cloves (or 1/2 ts ground cloves, whole one are better)
  • 1/2 TB juniper berries
  • 1/2 cup of red wine (e.g. cabernet sauvignon or a good table blend)
  • 1/4 cup of apple juice (if not using red wine, use more 1/2 cup of apple juice)
  • salt, pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1-2 TB red current jam or black currant jelly(e.g. Bonne Maman or Schwartau)
  • 1/2 TB beef broth concentrate, diluted in 2-3 TB of water
  • optional: 1-2 TB  aged good balsamic vinegar

Prep: quarter the red cabbage head, remove the core, and slice the quarters really thinly with a sharp knife (or use a mandoline) – the finer shredded, the better.


In a large cast iron pot, dutch oven or heavy pot with a tight-fitting lid, melt the butter or clarified butter and add the diced onion, and saute until slightly browned. Now, add the shredded cabbage, the cloves, juniper berries, the bay leaf, and the diced apple to the pot, and mix all ingredients well.


Add the red wine and the apple juice, and close with the tight fitting lid (there is no other liquid and make sure the steam from the gabbage does not evaporate but helps steam the cabbage). Turn heat on medium-low, and cook for ca. 20-25 min depending on how ‘crunchy’ or ‘well-done’ you like the cabbage to be cooked. Nevertheless, stir once in a while to make sure it does not burn on the bottom. If it gets too dry, add more apple juice.


Once the cabbage is tender, turn the heat to low, and add the red or black currant jelly or both, remove the bay leaf, add more salt and pepper to taste, and a half TB of beef broth concentrate (or bouillon) dissolved in some hot water. Mix well, and add a glug of balsamic vinegar to round out the flavor. Enjoy!


Thursday, November 22, 2012

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Beef Bourguignon

It is US Thanksgiving holiday week, work is winding down (I wish) and it is time to focus on cooking, turkeys, side dishes, buy good wine, and invite friends and family and/or be invited. To warm up, I cooked a beef bourguignon with some grass-fed local organic beef from the farmers market. While I am waiting for Guiliana and Bill to have their baby, I am writing this up.

Beef Bourguignon (makes ca 4 not too large servings):

  • 4 oz smoked bacon, diced
  • 1-2 TB olive oil
  • 1 – 1 1/2 pounds chuck beef cut into 1-inch cubes
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 pound carrots, cut into larger cubes
  • 1 large red onion, sliced
  • 1 cloves of garlic, microplaned 
  • 1/4 cup cognac
  • 1/2 bottle good dry red wine such as Cote du Rhone or Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 2 cups of beef broth
  • 1 TB tomato paste
  • 1 ts fresh thyme leaves (1/2 ts dried)
  • 1 bay leaf, fresh or dry
  • 1/2 pound fresh whole pearl onions
  • 1 TB butter
  • 1/2 ts thyme, 1 bay leaf, salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup beef broth
  • 1/2 pound fresh mushrooms stems discarded, caps thickly sliced
  • 1/2 TB butter
  • 1.5 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Add the diced bacon to a large Dutch oven and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the bacon is releases the fat and is lightly browned. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon to a large plate. Add the olive oil to the pan.


Dry the beef cubes with paper towels and then sprinkle them with salt and pepper. In batches in single layers, sear the beef in the hot oil for 3 to 5 minutes, turning to brown on all sides. Remove the seared cubes to the plate with the bacon and continue searing until all the beef is browned. Set aside. Add more olive oil if the pan gets too dry.


Again, add more olive oil if the pan is too dry at this point, and add the carrots, and onions to the dutch oven, 1 ts of salt and 2 teaspoons of pepper and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are lightly browned and the carrots caramelized. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the cognac, stand back, and ignite with a match to burn off the alcohol (or just cook off). Add the braised meat and bacon back into the pot with all the juices.

Now, pour the 1/2 bottle of wine plus enough beef broth to almost cover the meat. Add the tomato paste and thyme and stir in. Bring to a simmer, cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid and place it in the oven for about 3-4 hours until the meat and vegetables are very tender when pierced with a fork (*).


Meanwhile, prepare the pearl onions. Peel them, and heat 1 TB butter in a pan. Add the pearl onion and brown from all sides for 10 min, gently roll over for even browning. Add salt, pepper and a bay leaf as well as the thyme. After browning, add 1/2 cup of broth, cover, and simmer for 45-60min until tender and most of the liquid is evaporated. Discard the bay leaf.


Saute the mushrooms in 2 tablespoons of butter for 10 minutes until lightly browned. Remove the dutch oven from the oven and add the sauteed pearl onions and the mushroom. Also, sprinkle 1/2 TB of flour and stir into the beef stew. Heat, stir and see that the stew starts to thicken. Optionally, add a 1/2 TB butter. Serve with crusty bread, or boiled potatoes.


(*) I used a very low-fat beef, and even after 4h in the oven it was still not tender. So, I placed the stew in a pressure cooker, the wonder weapon to get any meat tender, and cooked under pressure for another 30min. It was not perfect, but tender enough. If you are short on time, you can also cook the entire stew in the pressure cooker for about 45min.


Thursday, November 15, 2012

This is the time of the year to check for fashionable cold weather boots (is there such a thing?) and be vulnerable to new dutch ovens for stews, chillis and holiday dishes, and the gettogethers with friends and family. It is not that I don't have a le creuset dutch oven collection already, but I could not resist this one any longer. I had seen it for 2-3 seasons on the Sur La Table catalog and this year it had bewitched me heart and soul: the Le Creuset Marseille round dutch oven. Sur la table also has a really good price -- $149 instead of $285. 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Streuselkuchen (German crumb cake)

It was my late great aunt Jenny’s 100th birthday yesterday, and in her honor and to remember her I baked one of her most famous cakes (famous across generations in our family) – the streuselkuchen. When it was baked, everyone came to her house ‘zum Kaffee trinken’ (come over for a cup of coffee). It is a German custom, much like the British make time for tea and pastries in the afternoon, Germans make time for coffee and cake. Typically, since only the stay at home moms have time to do this, it is a way to meet up with girlfriends, let your kids play together, and hang out, knit, gossip, solve the life’s latest problems, and spend a few hours. On the weekends or for birthdays everyone came. This cake was a staple in my family when we all still lived close together, and it is fabulous not only because it tastes fantastic but also because it only gets better after a few days, less crumbly, more dense and the best thing to bite into when having the hot coffee. 

No one could make this cake like my great aunt. It is involved, you have to have patience, nurture it, and it richly rewards you. Just like my great aunt was, one of the best cooks and bakers and gardeners I’ve ever known. Aunt Jenny, this is for you!


Streuselkuchen (German Crumb Cake)

This recipe is for a 10-12 inch square or round spring form.

Special equipment: standmixer with dough hook (can also be kneaded manually).

Base layer:
  • 2 cups (250 g) all-purpose flour
  • 3 TB warm milk
  • 1 ts fast rising yeast
  • 40  g sugar (divided, 1 ts for yeast + milk)
  • 1 TB bakers milk powder (optional, but helps the yeast to rise)
  • 5 TB (40 g) unsalted sweet cream butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 egg (reserve other half for the crumbs)
  • pinch of salt
Mix the yeast, 1 ts of sugar and the lukewarm milk in a small bowl, and wait until yeast starts to get bubbly (ca. 15min). 

In the bowl of a standmixer with the dough hook attachment, add the flour, 3 ts sugar and the bakers milk powder, and mix all three ingredients. Make a well in the flour, and pour the milk yeast mixture in it. Turn on the standmixer, and on slow mix the dry ingredients with the yeast mixture (do not yet add: butter, egg or salt since it interferes with the yeast). Once the yeast is well incorporated and distributed in the flour mix, add the butter, 1/2 egg and salt. Knead the dough on medium speed until it comes together as a ball (it will be crumbly for quite a while, ca. 10 min). If it does not come together after 15min of kneading, add 1 TB of warm milk.  Once the dough forms a ball around the hook, continue kneading for another 15min on medium speed. 


Now, remove dough from bowl of standmixer, and place in a metal, glass or ceramic bowl, and let rise for ca. 30min at a warm place. Time to make the crumbs!

Streusel (crumbs):
  • 2 cups (250 g) all-purpose flour
  • 125 g sugar
  • 125 g unsalted sweet cream butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 egg (reserve other half for the crumbs)
  • 1/2 ts bitter almond extract
  • 1 pouch Dr. Oetker Vanille sugar (or 1/2 ts liquid vanilla extract)
  • pinch of salt
In the bowl of a standmixer with the dough hook attachment, add the flour, sugar, and the butter, cut into small cubes. Start the mixer on low speed, until the flour/sugar and the butter start to incorporate. Add all the other ingredients, and let the mixer run for about 10-15 minutes until uniform-sized crumbs are form. At the beginning, the butter will be large lumps, and the flour has only tiny crumbs, but over time the butter distributes over the flour more evenly, all crumbs are about equal in size. When it doubt, just let it run a little longer. Patience!

Stop the mixer, when the crumbs are at equal size.


Preheat the oven to 50-80F (warm). Spray a spring form with baking spray, and distribute the base dough into the pan.


Take a fork, and gently poke the dough all over the pan. Once done, brush lightly with some warm milk.


Now, distribute all the streusel on the cake evenly.


Place in the oven at 50F for about 45min for the yeast-based base layer to rise to about 0.5-1 inch thickness. After that, remove cake from oven, and preheat to 425F, and bake the cake for ca. 20-25min.

Before serving, sprinkle wit granulated sugar.



Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Let's fly away and visit the Borough Market in London

Now, that all the exciting US stuff is over, we can focus on the fun again, such as travel. Every visit to London should include a visit to the Borough Market, a market that has 'farmers' from all over Europe to sell cheeses, meats, breads, flowers and more. It is open during the week for restaurants, but on Friday and Saturday it is open for the public at large. Talk about sampling! Conveniently it starts with stands to get your breakfast oysters and a glass of champagne and then the weekend can start with samples from France, Italy and of course, England. Don't miss it!

Borough Market is a produce and fresh fish and meat market for whole salers. On the weekend, it is open to the public at large.

A great place to have breakfast, oysters, or a glass of prosecco before produce shopping.

It's best to come around 9am when the market is still empty, private, and relaxed.

Food ranges from organic fruit to spanish ham and provence lavender.

Samples are available at most stands, and they alone a worth wandering the market.

The cheese is Switzerland, Netherlands, Italy and naturally some British goat cheese and Stilton.


Sunday, October 28, 2012

Vegan Roasted Butternut Squash Pasta Alfredo

It is not just the primetime week for carved pumpkins, but also the time to get fresh and inexpensive butternut squash. A few days ago I had made a big pot of roasted butternut squash soup, but after 3 helpings I was kind of tired of more leftovers. So, I reinvented the rest into a brandnew meal: a vegan butternut squash alfredo sauce. It is so tasty even none-vegans will be delighted. Savory, rich, creamy with a slight hint of sweetness with maple syrup and the aroma of sage. 

Note: Instead of the 1 1/2 cups of butternut squash soup you can also use simply roasted butternut squash.


Vegan Roasted Butternut Squash Pasta Alfredo
(Makes 2 larger servings)
Alfredo sauce:
  • Base:
  • 1 1/2 cup roasted butternut squash soup (or fresh roasted butternut squash)
  • 3/4 cup hot water
  • 1/3 cup soaked cashew nuts
  • 1 TB nutritional yeast
  • 1 1/2 TB mellow white miso, sodium reduced

  • Rest of Alfredo sauce:
  • 1 ts olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, quartered and thinly sliced using a mandoline
  • 2 cloves garlic, microplaned
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 teaspoon fresh sage, thinly sliced
  • 1/3 ts of grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 TB maple syrup
  • Several dashes fresh black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 4 oz penne pasta, cooked al dente
  • for garnish: fresh sage, pepittas or sunflower seeds, dried thyme

Pour all the ingredients for the sauce base into a food processor (best: Vitamix for extra smooth texture) and puree. In a pan, heat the olive oil, add the onions and saute until slightly brown. Add the garlic, and saute for about another 1 min. Add the white wine, and reduce for ca. 1 min. Now add the base butternut squash base cream, and gently stir in. Add the sage, nutmeg, and maple syrup, and simmer on medium-low for a few minutes until slightly reduced. Add salt and paper to taste.

Add in the cooked pasta, and stir until the pasta is coated, and heat through for about 1 min. Serve with fresh sage, roasted squash seeds (caramelized!) and some dry thyme. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

It is the time of soups again, and the time for ripe, inexpensive winter squash. Butternut squash is one of my favorite squash variety to make soup with (kuri the other). I have a handful of different recipes, one with coconut milk, another with a dash of cinnamon, or with sweet potato, but this basic recipe is still my most favorite: roasted squash with carrots, celery and a hot pepper for some spice kick. I left on the skin when I added the roasted squash to the soup, and it thickened the soup beautifully.


Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
  • 1/2 TB olive oil
  • 1 shallot, peeled and diced
  • 1 hot red chili, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, microplaned
  • 1 small butternut squash (ca 1-1 1/2 pounds), cut in half
  • 2 small carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 stalks of celery, wiped clean and diced
  • 3-4 cups vegetable broth
  • Salt and pepper
  • optional: orange peel of 1/2 orange
  • crème fraiche, to serve
Preheat the oven to 375F. Half the butternut squash, and scoop out the seeds (preserve and clean or compost). Sprinkle with some salt and pepper, place on a baking sheet, and roast for ca. 30 min at 375F. 
In a large pot, heat 1/2 TB of olive oil. Once hot, add the diced shallot and the chopped red chili, stir and cook until softened (ca. 2-3 min). Add the diced carrots, the celery and the garlic and continue to cook for another 3-5 minute. Cut the soft and baked butternut squash into 2 inch pieces and add to the pot (if it is an organic squash you can leave on the squash skin; it will thicken the soup. If it is not organic, only use the flesh). Add the broth, and cook the soup for about 20 min until all vegetables are softened. Season with salt and pepper and fresh orange peel (optional). Using an immersion blender, and purée the hot soup. Serve with creme fraiche, or in my case with goat cheese crumbles, walnuts and cranberries.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Marbled bundt cake

It was cold, dark, rainy and a Saturday afternoon. ….. time to bake a delicious, simple cake.

Marbled Bundt Cake
  • 3 cups all0purp0se flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/2 cups granulated sugar, divided into a 1/2 cup and a 2 cup portion
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 TB espresso powder
  • 1/2 cup bittersweet mini chocolate chips
  • 3 tablespoons milk, at room temperature
  • 2 sticks of unsalted butter (cold from the fridge warm for 20 sec in microwave)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 5 large organic free-range eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
Preheat the oven to 350 (F). Spray the baking pan with baking spray, and set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together 3 cups flour, the baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
In a separate medium bowl, combine 1/2 cup sugar, cocoa powder, espresso powder and 2 TB milk. Whisk until mixture is smooth. Set aside.

Place the 2 sticks of melted butter and 2 cups sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat on medium-high until the mixture is blended, about 1 minute. Add in vanilla extract and continue beating until combined. Add the 5 eggs, one at a time, beating each egg until it has been incorporated. Now, turn mixer down to its lowest speed and add the flour mixture (from the first step) in three additions, alternating with the whole milk in two additions and mixing just until blended.

Add 2 cups of batter (from the fourth step) to the cocoa mixture and stir until blended.
Using a spatula, pour enough vanilla batter into the pan to fill the bottom. Now the chocolate batter on top of the vanilla mixture and distributed well. Finish with the vanilla layer. Use a chop stick and draw it once through the cake better to get the marbling.

Bake for 55 - 60 minutes in the preheated oven, or until a cake tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool cake in the pan on a cooling rack for 15 minutes, before turning out to cool completely.


Thursday, October 18, 2012

Home-grown radicchio

Every year I do a certain amount of ‘experimental gardening’, i.e. trying to grow something that I have never grown before, sometimes with the surprise factor of how these plants really grown and mature, seeing the entire process. There have been eggplants, soy beans, broccoli and this year I picked up a small container of radicchio plants at the farmers market in late spring. I planted the little seedlings in a pot and for most of the summer they grew into lettuce like green leaves, so I wrote it off as a failed experiment. Only by September did the plants develop dense little centers in dark red that resemble the radicchio I know from the store. This one (below) is the first one that makes it into my almost completely home-grown lunch salad with some concord grapes grown on the back of my garage.

home_grown_radiccio home_grown_radicc_salad

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Pop pumpkins

Here are a few more pop colored pumpkin ideas..... who does not like pink pumpkins? :-)


Source and instructions

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Small marbled bundt cake

What better to do on a rainy, cold October evening than to warm and sweeten it up with a small marbled bundt cake!


Small marbled bundt cake (for small, 6 cup bundt cake pan)

  • 10 T. (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 c. sugar (135 grams)
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 free-range organic eggs
  • 1 2/3 c. (185 grams) all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 ts baking soda
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 c. cocoa powder 

Preheat oven to 350F.

Cream butter, sugar and salt together for several minutes until light and fluffy (best in a standmixer). Add vanilla extract and one egg at a time. Mix well, and add in second egg.

Sift flour with baking powder and baking soda. Add flour in two parts, alternating with half of the buttermilk each time. Divide batter equally into two bowls.Sift cocoa over the batter in one bowl and mix well. Add 1 tablespoon of milk to cocoa batter to thin.

Spray the bundt form with a baking spray. Place half of the “white” batter in the form or pan. Add all of the dark/chocolate batter on top and distributed around the form with a spatula. Finish with the remaining white batter. Place a spatula vertically in the batter and draw it around the form once to swirl. Smooth the top.

Place the cake in the oven and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out cleanly. Remove from oven, cool slightly and then turn out on a cake rack to cool further.

Home-made chocolate glaze:

  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 2 TB unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup confectioners sugar
  • 2 tablespoons warm milk
  • 1 ts rum extract
  • 1 ts vanilla

Pour the chocolate chips in a glass bowl or a ceramic bowl, and set it over a pot with boiling water on the stove (the bowl should not touch the water). Stir continuously until the chocolate chips start to melt. Add in the butter, and melt it with the chocolate chips. Once it is all a creamy, lump-free consistency, add in the milk, the rum and vanilla extract. Once incorporated, take the bowl off the pot, and continue to stir while adding in the confectioners sugar. Keep stirring. Brush the cake with the chocolate glaze. The glaze will thicken when cooled, and it is great to have a 1/4 of an inch thick glaze on the cake. (Leftover chocolate glaze is great on graham crackers… )
Let cool and dry for about 4-5h before serving. The cake actually tastes better with time; at the beginning it is dry and light and slightly crumbly, and after a week it becomes moist with an intense nutty flavor. It should be stored cool and airtight. 



marbled_cake_sm_3 marbled_cake_sm_4