Autumn Seasonal Collection

It’s heeeere! The spooky season, the pumpkin period, the harvest hullabaloo! I love me some fall, if only because it means that summer is as far away as possible. We’re still getting the last of the tomatoes and corn, but also starting to see mushrooms and Brussels sprouts. It’s mostly warm enough for the grill, but I can also stand to run the oven in the house. Truly the best of all possible worlds.

Chili
Chili is a great fall food. There are endless variations and it can help clear out a crisper. It’s easy to make for a crowd and supports all kinds of fixins. This is less a recipe and more a template; tweak in whatever flavor direction you like. Bonus: this is a one-pot meal!

Ingredients

2 T olive or vegetable oil
1 onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 large chipotle pepper, finely chopped*
1 lb/500 g ground beef
1 T chili powder*
1 T ground cumin
1/2 t smoked paprika
1/2 t cayenne pepper
1 t salt
2 t cocoa powder
1 large pinch red pepper flakes
1 T molasses
1 c/220 mL chicken broth
1 can (15 oz/400 g) stewed tomatoes
2 cans (15 oz/ 400g) kidney beans
1 c/220 mL amber beer
1 c/220 mL tomato sauce
1 t Worcestershire sauce
hot sauce (optional)
shredded cheddar cheese (optional)
sour cream or Greek yogurt (optional)
Saltines or oyster crackers (optional)
tortilla chips (optional)

In a large Dutch oven, heat oil to medium and sauté the onion, garlic, pepper and chipotle until tender. Add the ground beef and cook until mostly done, then drain fat. Combine chili powder, cumin, paprika, cayenne, salt, cocoa and red pepper flakes and stir into meat until just fragrant. Add molasses, broth and tomatoes and break up tomatoes with spoon, then add beans. Allow to simmer for 10-15 minutes, the stir in beer, tomato sauce and Worcestershire. Simmer on low heat, stirring occasionally for at least 45 minutes or until thickened. Serve with any combination of hot sauce, cheese, sour cream, crackers or tortilla chips.

Notes: If you can’t find chipotles, any hot green chili will work. I only use 1 chipotle because you can never tell how spicy it’s going to be. Also, chili powder is a US spice blend that consists of ‘chili pepper, salt, spices, garlic and silicon dioxide (to make free flowing)’. Is this ingredient list infuriatingly vague? Of course. What type of chili pepper? Which spices? But nothing else tastes like it. It’s far less fiery than cayenne, the only ‘chili powder’ I can find in groceries here. And when I asked in the Asian grocery if they had mild chili powder, their only reply was ‘why?’ Which I can respect.

Medovnik
Medovnik is an Eastern European specialty, a lovely layer cake with honey and condensed milk. It’s super fussy and you have to approach it in stages; I made it over the course of 2 days. I wasn’t terribly impressed by the components, but the finished product melds into something far more than the sum of its parts. This cake so rewards your patience that it improves the longer it sits. Its natural allies are milk, tea or coffee, so be prepared. Use the link above to see the original at Czech in the Kitchen, the recipe below is what I did.

Ingredients

Caramel Cream
1 14 oz/397 g can sweetened condensed milk, cooked into dulce de leche and cooled to room temperature
1 c/200 g unsalted butter, room temperature
2.5 oz70 g walnuts or pecans, roughly chopped
1/4 t salt
Cake Wafers
2 3/4 c/450 g all-purpose flour
1 1/2 t baking soda
1 t cocoa powder
1/2 t cinnamon
1/2 t salt
3/4 c/180 g unsalted butter
1 1/3 c/180 g powdered sugar
1 egg
6 T honey
4 T cream
Secret Sauce
1/4 c/50 mL rum
3/4 c/150 mL water

Tools

Double boiler/bain marie
Mesh strainer or sifter
Hand or stand mixer
Large and medium mixing bowls
Spatula
Scale
Baking parchment
8 in/20 cm round dish or pan
Rolling pin
2 or more cookie sheets
Cooling rack
Pastry brush

Step 0 – make dulce de leche: Simmer a sealed can of sweetened condensed milk in water for 3 hours, making sure the can is always fully submerged and topping the pot up with hot water when it gets low. That’s seriously the whole thing. If you let the water get too low, there is a danger that the can will explode, so, y’know…don’t. Peel off the label before boiling it and if you have an adhesive remover like Goo Gone, try to get the label glue off as much as possible. When it’s done, let the cans come all the way down to room temperature, or you risk a hot caramel explosion. It’s smart to do this the day before you want to assemble the cake. It’s even smarter to boil multiple cans at a time.

Step 1 – make cake wafers: These are either the cookiest cakes or the cakiest cookies. The texture is difficult to explain, but really satisfying. First, assemble the dry ingredients, sifting together flour, baking soda, cocoa, cinnamon and salt in a bowl and setting it aside. Next, set up your double boiler and put in the butter, powdered sugar, egg, honey and cream. Heat it to medium low and mix with a hand mixer for 5 minutes. Now fold the wet ingredients into the dry. When fully combined (no dry spots!), cover with plastic wrap and let sit for 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350° F/175° C. Take a sheet of parchment and trace the circumference of your 8-inch/20-centimeter round pan onto your parchment. Now, roll about 160 grams of dough into the traced round on your parchment, using extra flour for dusting as needed. When you’re happy with your round, scoot the parchment on to a baking sheet and bake for 7-9 minutes. While one is baking, you can prepare the next and set up a sweet little assembly line, even re-using the parchments. Let the finished wafers cool completely on the rack. When the dough was gone, I had a total of 6 wafers.

Important: you want your dough to have a dense enough texture to roll into rounds without sticking. Mine was too sticky, I think because I used 405 flour (rough equivalent to cake flour). I suggest all-purpose or 550 for that reason. That said, if your dough is on the sticky side, extra flour for dusting your surface and pin can help immensely.

Step 2 – make caramel cream: In a medium mixing bowl, use a hand mixer to whip together 1 can dulce de leche, butter, chopped nuts and salt until smooth and uniform.

Step 3 – secret sauce and assembly: combine rum and water in a small bowl. Place first wafer on your work surface (cake plate, cookie sheet, whatever works) and lightly brush top with secret sauce. Next, spread a layer of caramel cream on the wafer, but not too thick. Lightly brush both sides of the next wafer with secret sauce, stack it on the first and spread on caramel cream. Continue this process until you get to the top wafer. After brushing it with secret sauce and placing it on the stack, top it with the rest of the caramel cream, allowing it to run down the sides. Put a few more nuts on top if you like. I also dusted the top with a little extra fine salt.

Step 4 – WAIT: The cake needs to stand for at least 4 hours before serving, ideally in the fridge (the cream will firm up better).

Penne Boscaiola

Soaking the dried porcini in wine is a brilliant step! I was only able to find shiitake and brown cremini mushrooms for my fresh mushroom mixture; I can only image how earthy the flavor is with more variety.

Loose American-Style Italian Sausage

After getting over the shock that what I thought of as Italian sausage is a regional thing, I set about coming up with a homemade version. It’s great to crumble up as a pizza topping or add to a hearty meat sauce for pasta.

This recipe really only works as loose; for stuffing, you need a different recipe. If you want to do the whole casing rigamarole, contact me directly, I’ll walk you through it. It requires a fair amount of equipment and and time. This loose version just requires a bowl and a spoon.

Red Wine & Porcini Risotto

I have an unintentional wine-and-mushrooms theme happening here and I’m not sorry about it. They’re delicious together.

Blasted Broccoli & Polenta

Broccoli is such a champ; it’s widely available and fairly inexpensive, it’s a healthy way to bulk up a recipe and it tastes great in a variety of applications. Throw the polenta together while the broccoli roasts and dinner is done.

Dijon Braised Brussels Sprouts

You need a classy side dish? These sprouts are here for you and believe in your journey. I’ve also made these and thrown them on a pile of noodles. NO REGRETS.

Vegetarian and Vegan Collection

I had a brief (a year, give or take) vegetarian period in high school, spurred on by attending a Paul McCartney concert. I was very bad at vegetarianism; I wasn’t cooking for myself, so I was basically just being a pain to my family, most certainly non-vegetarians. Then when I realized that I missed barbecue, that phase ended.

Nowadays, we cut back on meat for environmental and health reasons. Having a stockpile of vegetarian recipes also makes it easier to bring potluck offerings that can accommodate lots of different diets and come home with an empty dish (THE BEST FEELING). I generally don’t bother with meat substitutions; I like a vegetarian dish to stand on its own, not as a pale imitation of something else.

Pesto Calabrese
This might be the most exciting use of ricotta cheese I’ve ever come across. It’s creamy and spicy and works as a pasta sauce or a sandwich spread. Or just off a spoon. I had a few of these knocking around, but went with this Saveur version as my jumping-off point. It’s really simple, but the vegetables require some time and care for the best result.

Ingredients

1 small eggplant, peeled and cut into 1/2 in/1.5 cm cubes
2 t salt
3-4 T olive oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled and end cut off
1 red bell pepper, cored and finely diced
1 small yellow onion, finely diced
2 Roma tomatoes, cored, seeded and finely diced
1 c/250 g ricotta cheese
2 T Parmesan cheese, shredded
2-3 robust sprigs of basil
1/2 t lemon juice
pinch red pepper flakes (optional, use more if you want more heat)
salt and pepper to taste

Tools

Medium skillet
Colander
Paper towels
Food processor

Place eggplant cubes in colander and toss with salt. Set aside for 20 minutes, then blot and gently squeeze cubes with paper towels to get most of the salt off.

Heat oil in skillet to medium high and add garlic cloves. Fry garlic until lightly golden brown on all sides (whole cloves will appear blistered), then set aside. Add onion and bell pepper to skillet and cook, stirring often, for about 10 minutes or until just beginning to caramelize. Add eggplant to skillet and cook until tender and just starting to brown on edges, about 8 minutes. Add tomatoes and cook until soft and beginning to break down, 5-7 minutes. Remove skillet veggies to bowl to cool and set aside. Give them a taste to see how much salt the eggplant absorbed.

When cool enough to touch, put garlic, veggies, cheeses, basil, lemon juice and red pepper flakes into food processor and blend until smooth. Adjust seasoning; you’ll almost certainly need to add salt.

Note: if you’re using this as a pasta sauce, scoop out some pasta water (1/2 c max) right before you drain it. Added a tablespoon at a time, the starchy water can loosen a too-thick sauce and help bind it to the noodles.

Dal & Jeera Rice
I adore Indian food and struggled for a long time to get the flavors right in my home attempts. It would turn out fine and edible, but often tasted like something was missing. This led to lots of research and a wildly stocked spice cabinet, but I finally got it together. The secrets were patience and asafoetida. This recipe from Steamy Kitchen helped, as it’s pretty foolproof. I altered the spices substantially to suit my tastes, but I follow her process. I’ve included my Jeera Rice recipe, tailored for rice cooker use. It’s a bit more work than plain steamed rice, but I think it enhances the meal quite a bit.

Ingredients

Lentils
1 1/2 c dry lentils (I used brown, the original suggests black caviar lentils)
2 T butter, divided
1 T vegetable oil
pinch asafoetida or hing powder (use sparingly, it’s very strong)
1 medium onion, chopped fine
3 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, finely diced or cut into matchsticks
2 hot green chilies, chopped (optional – remove seeds for less heat)
1 t curry powder
1/2 t cayenne pepper
1/2 t ground cumin
1/2 t ground coriander
1/2 t ground fenugreek
1/2 t ground fennel
1/2 smoked paprika (hot or sweet, whatever you like)
1/2 t ground turmeric
1/2 t salt
fresh ground black pepper to taste
1 small can tomato sauce (6 oz. or 200 g)
1 c vegetable broth
Rice
2 T oil or butter
1 t cumin seeds
2 c rice
1/2 t salt

Tools

Medium soup pot or saucepan
Large mesh strainer
Medium skillet
Stick blender (optional, a potato masher will do)
Your favorite rice pot or a rice cooker

In a deep pot, cover lentils with water by 2 inches/5 centimeters, bring to a boil and reduce to simmer for 10 minutes. While lentils are cooking, heat 1 T butter in a small skillet to medium and cook gently until milk solids start to brown and smell nutty. Add oil to skillet, add hing and fry, stirring for one minute. Add onion to skillet and cook, stirring frequently, until translucent. Now add garlic, ginger and chilies and cook until fragrant and tender. If skillet looks dry, add a bit more oil, then add curry powder, cayenne pepper, cumin, coriander, fenugreek, fennel, smoked paprika, turmeric, salt and pepper to onion mixture and stir until well distributed and very fragrant. Cook for one more minute, then remove from heat and set aside.

Drain lentils and return to pot. Add cooked onion mixture, tomato sauce, vegetable broth and 1 T butter. Bring lentils to a simmer and cook over low heat until thick and creamy, adding broth as needed. To improve texture, mash lentils occasionally with the back of a spatula while cooking. When lentils are completely tender, remove from heat and process with stick blender or potato masher. If desired, stir in a tablespoon or two of cream and adjust seasoning. Serve with naan or rice, accompanied by plain yogurt and chopped cilantro.

For the rice, heat your oil or butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add cumin seeds and stir around until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add rice and stir until well coated with oil, then allow rice to cook until toasty smelling. Put rice in your pot or rice cooker, add salt and water and cook.

Vegetable Broth

There are a lot of recipes out there that might not feature meat, but use meat as a flavoring element; my own rampant use of chicken broth is a good example. This makes vegetarianizing dishes like those much easier.

Chickpea Soup

What an excellent thing to make with your huge batch of vegetable broth! I’ve both blended it up to a creamy, thick base and left it whole beans and vegetable chunks – it’s great either way.

Refried Beans

You don’t NEED an Instant Pot for these. However, thinking about beans and being able to eat them the same day is a luxury that’s hard to overstate.

Panzanella

Got stale bread and and more tomatoes than you know what to do with? This one’s for you!

Di San Xian

Potatoes in Chinese food was news to me, but my goodness was this a fantastic use for them! The link above is a video, if you want the written version of the recipe, see this Reddit post. That said, I think the video is actually more straightforward and this channel warrants deep exploration.

Summer Seasonal Collection

Sorry for how late this one is. I’ve already pontificated on how summer is Not For Me. So the dread of writing up this collection (which is an assignment I GAVE MYSELF) kept me kicking the can down the road. That said, I dug deep for stuff I can really only do this time of year and came up with what I think is a pretty nice, varied set of goodies. It also put into perspective just how hoardy I’ve gotten about recipes. I had 5 different ratatouilles in my e-mails, y’all.

Ratatouille
More than the sum of its parts. Ratatouille is exceedingly simple, and this is a less fussy, more rustic version, but it requires patience. Since this is Alice Waters’ version, I tinkered minimally with it (but still did a little). Cooking the vegetables slowly helps achieve a silky final texture. I ate it straight with garlic bread and a bit of goat cheese, so this can be an entirely vegetarian meal (vegan if you nix the cheese and are careful about the wine). If you’re not a squash and eggplant fan, maybe skip to the next recipe.

Ingredients

1 large or 2 small eggplants, cut into 1/2 in/1.25 cm dice
1 t salt
4 T olive oil
2 medium onions, cut into 1/2 in/1.25 cm dice
4-6 garlic cloves, crushed and roughly chopped
2-3 basil sprigs, tied with twine
1 3-finger pinch red pepper flakes
1 T dry white wine
2 yellow bell peppers, cut into 1/2 in/1.25 cm dice
3 medium summer squash, cut into 1/2 in/1.25 cm dice
3 ripe Roma or San Marzano tomatoes, cut into 1/2 in/1.25 cm dice
Salt to taste
Fresh torn basil
Olive oil for serving (optional)
Balsamico crema for serving (optional)

Tools

Large colander
Paper towels
Medium heat-safe bowl
Large soup pot or Dutch oven

Toss eggplant cubes with a teaspoon or so of salt and set in colander to drain while you chop the rest of the vegetables, about 20 minutes. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in soup pot over medium heat. Pat eggplant with paper towels to remove moisture and salt, then cook, stirring frequently, until golden. Remove to heat-safe bowl and set aside.

Add 2 more T oil to pot, then add onions and cook until translucent, about 7 minutes. Add garlic, basil and red pepper flakes and cook for 2-3 minutes. If fond starts building up on bottom of pot, deglaze with wine. Stir in peppers and cook for a few minutes, until just starting to get tender. Add squash, cook for a few minutes, then add tomatoes.

Cook for 10 minutes, until tomatoes really start to break down, then stir eggplant back in. Cook for another 10-15 minutes or until all vegetables are tender. Remove basil, pressing to extract juices, and salt to taste. Serve with fresh basil, olive oil and Balsamico crema.

Esquites
Esquites is a Mexican-style corn salad, an off-the-cob interpretation of Elotes. Sweet corn isn’t really a thing in Germany. It’s available, but not outrageously sweet and juicy, like in the US. It’s also not widely consumed, as (anecdotally) lots of people still regard corn as animal feed and, therefore, unappealing as people food. So when it shows up, we jump on it to scratch our Mexican food itch. This is one of those things that gets better after sitting, so try to make it a day before you eat it.

Ingredients

2 T vegetable oil
4 ears fresh corn, shucked and kernels removed
salt to taste
2 T mayonnaise
2 oz/50 g cotija or feta cheese
3 green onions, finely sliced
fresh cilantro leaves, chopped (we like a lot)
1 jalapeño pepper, finely diced
1 medium clove garlic, minced
Juice of 1 lime
pinch mild chili powder
pinch ground cumin
salt to taste

Tools

Large deep bowl
Small bowl
Large skillet

How to remove kernels from a corn cob: take your large deep bowl and set your small bowl in it, inverted. Using the small bowl as a pedestal, balance the cob on its end and slice the kernels off downward with a sharp knife. The kernels will fall off into the large bowl. Congratulations on not having a kitchen littered with corn kernels!

Heat skillet over medium high and add oil. Add corn kernels carefully (they’ll pop and splatter a bit), stir until well coated with oil and distributed, then cook undisturbed for a couple of minutes. When kernels have browned and blistered a bit, stir well and salt, then cook for another 5-10 minutes. When kernels are well browned, remove to a large bowl and allow to cool. Once cool, stir in the rest of the ingredients and refrigerate overnight (or as along as you can keep your hands off of it).

Homemade Hamburger/Hot Dog Buns

If you’re a baker, this is a fun (and delicious) project.

Grilled Mushrooms

We’ve been experimenting with grilled vegetables this summer and it’s really been fun. These make a nice base for a grilled vegetable sandwich.

Chicken Sausage

We make sausage and that is a very labor and equipment intensive process. But if you want a real challenge, I highly suggest this recipe. Poultry sausage is not a thing here, so it’s a really unique dish to offer. We’ll be using it as a jumping off point for other chicken sausages, as that thigh-breast-skin combo really works to make for a flavorful result.

Pavlova

This was surprisingly forgiving and will support any fruit you like. If you have some egg whites hanging around, give it a shot!

Kartoffelsalat

My mom makes a ‘German’ potato salad. It’s not really the same as Kartoffelsalat here, but it is really, really good.

45 Minutes or Less Collection

Summer is most definitely not for me. As you may have have gathered from previous posts, my culinary inclinations favor cooler weather (Spargel obsession notwithstanding). So much so that when it’s oppressively hot, I lose my appetite and passion for food almost entirely. It’s sad when meal prep becomes more an irritant than an outlet for creativity. So here’s a small collection of unfussy recipes you can bung together in under an hour. I know people usually tout 30 minutes or less as the benchmark for quick cooking, but I’m a slow cook. Wear your sunscreen and stay hydrated!

Bruschetta

You can crisp the toasts in the oven while you prepare the toppings. You can make the tomato business a few hours beforehand and throw it in the fridge for when hot food is unthinkable. There’s a lot of room for improvisation here. The marinated tomatoes are also great on salads, the mushrooms could be developed into a killer pasta sauce, the toasts could be applied to nearly anything dippy (oooh, now I have to go make Spinach Artichoke dip, brb).

Ingredients

Toasts
loaf of bread
olive oil
Tomato topping
6 tomatoes, seedy goo removed and diced (San Marzanos are perfect, Romas work)
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
oregano, 1/2 t dried or 1 t minced fresh
salt
pepper
olive oil
fresh basil leaves
Mushroom topping
olive oil
1 shallot, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 lb/500 g mushrooms, sliced
thyme, 1/2 t dried or 1 t fresh
salt
pepper
2 T dry sherry
Optional
Parmesan cheese, grated or shaved
Balsamico crema

Tools

Baking sheet
Pastry brush
Medium mixing bowl
Skillet

Basic Toasts: Preheat oven to 300°F/150°C. Grab a loaf of bread that you can slice into medium slices, maximum 1 cm thick (I like ciabatta or a fat baguette). Slice it up then spread the slices in a single layer on a baking sheet. Using a pastry brush or similar, paint the slice with a bit of olive oil, just lightly coating the face-up surface. Bake toasts oiled side up for 15-25 minutes or until crisped. Don’t have a pastry brush? Pour a little olive oil into a wide, flat, high-sided plate and dip one side of the bread in. It doesn’t need to be soaked through.

Marinated Tomato Topping: Mix tomatoes, garlic, oregano, salt, pepper and olive oil thoroughly. Heap on toasts, garnishing with fresh basil, balsamico crema and cheese.

Sautéed Mushroom Topping: Heat skillet to medium and add oil. Add shallot and garlic and cook until tender and fragrant. Turn heat to medium high and add mushrooms. Cook, stirring frequently, until mushrooms have released their liquid and are beginning to brown. Add thyme, salt, pepper and sherry and stir until sherry is cooked off. Heap on toasts and garnish with cheese.

Homemade Pancakes

Breakfast for dinner FTW! Or breakfast for breakfast. Or lunch. If you want to brush up on basics, I highly recommend a deep dive into Mark Bittman’s recipes and videos. He doesn’t make things overly fussy.

Grilled Asparagus

Again with the green Spargel! Well yeah, I need to eat enough that I don’t crave it before next May. This preparation is really simple but the result is deliciously complex. The green and smoky flavors pair deliciously with a creamy foil, like a half batch of the Creamy Parmesan Pasta Sauce.

Creamy Parmesan Pasta Sauce

Alfredo sauce’s creaminess comes from emulsifying pasta water, butter and cheese. My sauce is cream based, so I won’t call it Alfredo sauce. Ideally, I call it dinner. It’s brilliant with the grilled asparagus. In other seasons, I like to add roasted Brussels sprouts or broccoli. The link directs to our blog as Williams Sonoma doesn’t have their GDPR game right.

Tabbouleh

The batch size fills a large mixing bowl. If you can let it chill overnight, the flavor develops nicely. Some grilled chicken wouldn’t go amiss as an accompaniment.

Kimchi Noodle Stir Fry

Since successfully making fish-sauce-free kimchi, I’ve been having a good time finding ways to consume it. I didn’t bother with the tofu in this recipe, but I really liked the result from squeezing the kimchi juice. I added it with the other sauces in step 2 (click link!) and was wowed.

Chicken Salad with Curry-Lime Dressing

This is almost certainly evolved from Coronation Chicken. It is kind of a staple during the summer for us, served on croissants, a soft whole wheat roll or just crackers. You can poach chicken for it, but breaking down a rotisserie chicken makes this happen as fast as you can chop. Use the meat for this and freeze the carcass for future broth making.

Casserole Collection

When I read a recipe for a casserole in cool food blogs or hip food magazines, the dish is often referred to as “a throwback” or “retro.” This makes me irate. Delicious and comforting are the culinary equivalent of timeless chic and no one can tell me otherwise. Sure, if you grew up with these in the midcentury Midwest, they may have been cream soup explosions or can-opening extravaganzas. But if you learn to make from-scratch cream soup substitutes or opt for fresh vegetables instead of their canned counterparts, you can add skills to your culinary toolbox while turning out some real treats. Also, casseroles usually yield leftovers, so future you will thank present you.

Jambalaya
This one is a one-pot wonder. It’s also fairly flexible. I first had jambalaya at a Cajun restaurant in Detroit and have tried to recreate it ever since. I like it with just sausage, but you can throw in chicken and/or shrimp if you like. And because I’m a fiend for any permutation of beans and rice, I add highly unorthodox kidney beans. I used to make it fully on the stove top, which was fine, but there was always the issue of part-burnt/part-gummy rice. This stove-to-oven version (learned from Serious Eats) avoids that problem and the texture is more generally pleasing. I usually cheat with this and use store-bought Cajun seasoning mix from the US, but I assembled my own seasoning mix from this recipe for this batch, made entirely with spices I can buy here in Germany.

My method differs from the one in the linked recipe above, in that I add the rice before the liquid. When I make rice outside of a rice cooker, I always use the pilaf technique to keep it from cooking into a burnt disaster on the bottom. If you’re better at cooking rice than I am (and most people are), feel free to follow the instructions linked above.

Ingredients

2 14.5 oz/400g cans whole stewed tomatoes
2 links Andouille sausage, sliced (Kielbasa works, too!)
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
3 sticks celery, chopped
1-2 jalapeños or other hot green chilies, chopped (leave the seeds and membranes for extra heat)
1 small (about 2 T) can tomato paste
3 T Cajun seasoning
olive oil
2 c/500 g rice
1 1/2 c/180 mL chicken broth
1 bay leaf
1 T Tabasco or your pepper sauce of choice (I’m a Cholula fan)
1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed (optional)

Tools

Large mesh strainer
Large bowl with minimum 4-cup capacity
Lidded Dutch oven or other stove-to-oven pot

Using a mesh strainer set over a bowl, drain the canned tomatoes. Crush them with your hands to break them up and squish out all of the juices inside (careful, they’ll squirt!). Set aside crushed tomatoes and add chicken broth to the juices to bring the total amount of liquid to 3 cups.

Preheat your oven to 325° F/160° C and heat a lidded, oven-safe Dutch oven to medium high on the stove top. Brown your sausage slices well in the Dutch oven and remove to bowl. If your sausage lets off a lot of grease, drain all but 1 1/2 tablespoons (If your sausage doesn’t let off much grease and your pot looks dry, use olive oil). Turn heat to medium and add your onion, garlic, bell pepper, celery and chilies and cook, stirring frequently, until very tender, about 10 minutes.

Add tomato paste and crushed tomato and cook, stirring frequently, until wetness cooks off and tomatoes just start to smell caramelized. Add spices, stir to distribute and cook for 2-3 minutes until fragrant. If bottom of pot looks dry, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil. It will almost certainly start to show a browned, cooked on layer; this is fine and it will come up when you add the liquid. Next add rice and stir until well distributed and coated with oil. Cook for 3-5 minutes, until rice grains begin to appear translucent on ends. Add chicken broth and tomato juices and stir well, scraping the browned crust from the bottom of the pot. Add cooked sausage, bay leaf, pepper sauce and beans, stir and taste, adjusting seasoning as needed. Bring to a simmer, cover and transfer to oven. Bake for 35-40 minutes.

Baked French Onion Pasta
This one has been knocking around my recipe hoard for at least 3 years, but I’m glad I finally got to it. I’ll chow down on caramelized onions any day, but caramelized onions with brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce and red wine is a revelation, dare I say a game changer? Alas, my game; she is changed. The original is richer than mine, so to see that version, click the link. I’m detailing below what I did.

Ingredients

1 T butter
3 T olive oil
2 medium onions, cut into strips
1 T brown sugar
1 T Worcestershire sauce
1 c/225 mL red wine
8 oz/225 g mushrooms, sliced
salt & pepper to taste
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 c/750mL chicken or vegetable broth
3/4 c/180 mL water
1 lb/500 g short pasta
2 bay leaves
1/2 t dried thyme (generous)
2/3 c/170 mL cream
pinch cayenne pepper
6 oz/160 g gruyère, shredded

Tools

Dutch oven or other stove-to-oven pot

Preheat oven to 350° F/175° C. Heat butter and oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onions and brown sugar and cook, stirring occasionally, until all onions are soft and translucent, about 10-15 minutes. Add Worcestershire and wine in several additions (I did 4), letting liquid cook off between additions.

Add a bit more oil if bottom of pan looks dry and stir in mushrooms. Cook until mushrooms let out most of their liquid, add salt and pepper (taste to check) and garlic. When garlic is fragrant, pour in chicken broth and water, turn heat up to medium high and bring to a boil. Add pasta, bay leaves and thyme to boiling liquid and cook, stirring often, for about 5 minutes (or half cook time indicated on pasta package).

Remove pot from heat and stir in cream and cayenne pepper. Give liquid a taste and add more salt or pepper if necessary (cream often dulls salt, so you will probably need a bit more). Stir in gruyère until just distributed and bake uncovered in oven for 25-30 minutes.

Vegetable Paella
Bonus recipe, you guys! A big thank you to the Paella Club in Barcelona for getting our paella game right and tight! If you’re visiting Barcelona, I highly recommend booking a class, it was extremely fun and we learned a lot. What follows is how I’ve adapted their recipe to our kitchen and available ingredients.

Ingredients

olive oil
1/4 lb/115 g carrots, finely chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
1/4 lb/115 g mushrooms, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 sachets ground saffron
1/2 t hot smoked paprika
1 c/225 mL tomato purée (I use whole canned tomatoes puréed in a food processor)
1 lb/500 g Bomba or Arborio rice
4 c/1 L vegetable broth
salt to taste
black truffle oil (optional)

Tools

12-in/30 cm cast iron pan or other ovenproof skillet

Preheat oven to 400°F/200° C. Heat pan on stovetop to medium high and add enough oil to fully cover the bottom. When oil shimmers, add carrots and cook, stirring frequently. You’re going to do this for a while, until the carrots have cooked way down and almost appear shriveled and dehydrated and have a faint aroma of burnt toast. This can take as long as 30 minutes, so be patient. Once your carrots reach the desired stage, remove them to a bowl and set aside. Now add the onion and cook until translucent and beginning to caramelize. Add carrots back in along with mushrooms and cook until mushrooms have let off all of their liquid and are beginning to brown. Add garlic, saffron and paprika and cook until just fragrant, 2-3 minutes.

Add tomato purée and stir well, cooking until about half of the liquid has cooked off and mixture is nice and thick. If the bottom of your pan is looking dry, add a tablespoon or so of olive oil. Add the rice, stirring well and coating with vegetable sauce for 3-5 minutes. Add broth and turn heat to high, stirring occasionally. Once boiling, stop stirring and turn heat to medium high to cook for 4 minutes. After 4 minutes, transfer skillet to oven and cook for 15-20 minutes. Remove from oven, drizzle with truffle oil and let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Morbiflette

This can be a side or a main. If you want the whole backstory on how this got reverse engineered, go to the blog and get the low-down.

Cabbage Roll Casserole

It sounds very humble, but this is my favorite casserole. A whole head of cabbage easily makes one dish to cook right away and one to give away.

Ribollita

This one is hard to categorize. Technically, it’s a soup, but since it’s all in one pot (more Dutch oven action) and goes from stove-top to oven, I’m inclined to call it a casserole. Whatever you call it, it’s extraordinarily delicious.

Spring Seasonal Collection

“April, April – der macht, was er will” is an old farmers’ saying around these parts. Roughly translated, it means April does what April wants. Which is generally fine by the locals, because of two things. The first is another maxim: “Es gibt kein schlechtes Wetter, nur falsche Kleidung!” (There is no bad weather, just the wrong clothing!) And second: the only unacceptable spring is a spring without asparagus.

German food culture is pretty resolutely seasonal. That’s been loosening up more in the last couple of years, but there are some things you just don’t bother with out of season. Asparagus, Bärlauch (aka ramps, ramson or wood garlic) and rhubarb are really only available in spring. Some things like spring onions and spinach are always around, but you can tell by their snappy texture and extra sweetness that this is when they really shine. So put on your Übergangsjacke, throw a café blanket over your lap and get those spring treats while supplies last.

Orzo-Asparagus Salad
The focus of Spargel-Liebe is white asparagus. I vastly prefer the green; white functions mostly as a hollandaise-and-ham vehicle. Green asparagus is available, but at far lower volume than the white. Which makes sense, since I appear to be the only one who wants it. Fine, more for me.

This is a pretty basic pasta salad preparation, with a few tweaks for my palate. I got the original recipe from a food blog called From Away which has now evolved into Mealhack. I blanch the asparagus with the pasta for the last minute or so and started dressing the pasta warm after reading this list of tips. You can change up the proportions of vegetable to starch to suit your own tastes. And if you can, make it a day before you plan to eat it. The flavors improve with time.

Ingredients

1 T olive oil
2 shallots, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 lb/250 g orzo
1 lb/500 g green asparagus, trimmed and cut into bite-pieces
2/3 lb/300 g marinated artichoke hearts
10-15 oil packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained and cut into strips
juice and zest of one lemon
1/4 c/55 mL sherry vinegar
1/2 t salt
1/2 t pepper
1/3 c/75 mL olive oil

Tools

Small skillet
Large pot
Small deep bowl
Colander

In a small skillet, heat a bit of olive oil to medium. Add shallot and garlic and cook until tender and fragrant. Remove shallot and garlic to a small deep bowl. Add lemon zest and juice, vinegar, salt and pepper to bowl. While whisking, drizzle in rest of olive oil. Set aside.

Cook orzo in salted water for 1 minute less than package directs. Add asparagus to orzo for last 2 minutes of cook time maximum! You want the asparagus to be bright green and still a little crispy when you drain the pasta. Drain the orzo and asparagus well and immediately pour into a large salad bowl. Toss orzo with about 2/3 of the dressing. Add artichokes and tomatoes, toss with the rest of the dressing and adjust seasonings if necessary. Cover the bowl with a towel and let cool. Once the salad is room temperature, cover with plastic and chill in fridge for at least 3 hours, preferrably overnight.

Spinach Beet Salad w/Mustard Jar Vinaigrette
I feel like I’m totally cheating with this one, but the spinach has been looking great and the baby stuff is excellent raw, so salad it is. The base for this is really just spinach, a jar of pickled beets and feta cheese. I like the addition of something crunchy when we make a meal out of it, so a couple handfuls of toasted walnuts or some croutons don’t go amiss. And the dressing is something I picked up years ago, popularized by Dorie Greenspan and endlessly riffed on by the foodblogosphere. It’s a nice back-pocket option for when you want something a little sassier than Mrs. Knorr.

Ingredients

1/2 lb/250 g fresh baby spinach, rinsed and spun dry
1 jar pickled beets
1/2 c/100 g feta cheese, crumbled
toasted walnuts (optional)
croutons (optional)
grilled sliced chicken (optional)
1-2 t mustard
1/2 clove garlic, lightly crushed
salt and pepper to taste
3 T sherry vinegar
6 T olive oil
pinch of sugar or a few drops of honey (optional)
herbes des Provence, ground (optional)

Tools

All the bowls
Measuring spoons
A jar (if you don’t have an almost-empty mustard jar)

I like to keep the salad components separate and assemble it into my bowl. So pile your rinsed spinach into a big bowl, another small bowl for your feta crumbles, something else for your crunchy components and so on. I don’t even bother draining the beets, rather I just fish a few out with my fork, but you can pour the beets into a small sieve.

For the dressing, if you’re lucky enough to have an almost empty jar of mustard: congratulations! You won’t waste a bit of it. Otherwise, use a clean, sealable jar. The jar should have 1-2 teaspoons of mustard remaining in it; I usually use a honey dijon, but whatever you like will work here. Add the gently smushed clove of garlic, and salt and pepper to the jar, then pour in the vinegar. Whisk the mixture together with a fork, just to make sure it’s mostly combined, then pour in the oil. Now screw the lid on and shake it like it owes you money. Taste it for seasoning adjustment (a sweet element is nice here) and watch out for that garlic when you pour.

Once you’ve got all your fixins prepped, throw a couple handfuls of spinach into a bowl. Top with the beets, cheese and assorted goodies. Drizzle the whole mess with dressing and enjoy.

Toasted Walnuts: Grab a small cookie sheet or an oven safe skillet. Preheat your oven to 350°F/175°C. Scatter a couple handfuls of walnut pieces on your dry pan (there should be space between them). Roast the nuts for about 10 minutes; you should start to smell them for the last few minutes and they’ll darken a little. Don’t go much over 10 minutes, they’re likely to burn.

Croutons: This is a little more involved, but once you know how, you’ll never throw out stale bread again. Take half a loaf of whatever decent bread is around and cut it into bite-size cubes (I like baguette or ciabatta for this). Spread the cubes on a cookie sheet in a single layer. Put in a barely warm oven (210°F/100°C) and let toast for about an hour. The cubes will shrink as they dry, but you don’t want them to brown. After an hour, grab a bread cube and try it; when it’s crunchy all the way through, they’re done. Put the cubes in a large bowl, drizzle and toss with olive oil. Now heat a large skillet to medium and cut one small garlic clove into 3-4 slices. Pour enough olive oil to cover skillet surface and add garlic, heating until the garlic starts to sizzle. Now, add your bread cubes to the skillet, tossing until well coated in oil. Sprinkle croutons with a couple pinches of salt and a few generous cranks of fresh ground pepper. I like to add herbes des Provence as well, but you do you. After seasoning, stir the cubes around; they should be starting to brown nicely. Brown them on a couple more sides, then remove to a bowl to cool. Pick out the garlic slices; they infused the oil and we respect them for their sacrifice, but they’re probably unpleasantly bitter. In an airtight package, the croutons will keep for a few days. They’re great with soups, too.

Grilled Marinated Chicken: I found this marinade at The Whole Cook. It worked beautifully, even on notoriously finicky pounded chicken breasts. I halved the recipe (it’s for 6 whole breasts), assembled the marinade in a Ziploc bag, dropped the chicken in, squished it around and forgot about it in the fridge for a couple of hours. Then we fired up the grill to high and my Pitmaster grilled it for about 3 minutes on each side. Remove chicken to a cutting board to rest for a few minutes, then slice. The vinegar flavor is pronounced, just FYI, so use one you like.

Bärlauch Risotto

I’ve tried lots of ramp recipes, but the mania about this ingredient didn’t really make sense to me until I found this one. The prep method for the ramps really brought out a fun intensity of flavor.

Ham-Pea Pasta

This Nigella recipe calls for frozen peas, but if you want to grab some lovely fresh ones and (ugh) shell ’em, it will only be more delicious. The only thing I’d change is to add tons of freshly ground black pepper.

Onion Jam

Grilling season is well-and-truly here, so how are you going to add interest to the meat parade? This is excellent on a cheeseburger. I need to try it again with red onions, but it’s low effort with humble ingredients for a really impressive result. And if you’re a canner, this might make a fun gift.

Pork & Peanut Dragon Noodles

Back to Budget Bytes for this beauty. I made a few adjustments (mainly using two whole bunches of robust spring onions and cooking them and some garlic and ginger with the meat), but the base recipe is very solid.

Strawberry Shortcakes

I know I’m jumping the gun, but I already did my rhubarb thing last month and I’m not repeating recipes for the life of this project (gotta have a framework, right?). I got some EU strawberries that I smelled from an aisle away, so I say they count. Are the local ones coming in next month better? Natüüüüürlich. This recipe succeeds brilliantly as a transportable treat, so think about this when you get tasked with dessert for a grill party.

All Sweets Collection

Germany has abundant respect for Kaffee und Kuchen (coffee and cake). Any café worth its beans will offer at least 2 or 3 examples of cakecraft to accompany your caffeine hit. And through this ritual, I’ve discovered a few favorites like Opéra cake or Prinzregenten-Torte. Delicious treats that I will gladly consume, but which have also broadened my horizons regarding what’s possible as a home cook.

The sweets I usually prepare are fairly straightforward, but the results make them seem more complex. With cakes, I tend to cheat and use baking soda, baking powder and vanilla extract from the US. In my experience, the soda and powder tend to yield a better end product. The vanilla is just due to laziness: I can get a twin-pack of big bottles from Costco and not have to worry about having enough. Vanilla here is fine, I just resent the small quantities.

Chocolate Mousse
This is from a now-defunct blog called Thursday Night Smackdown. The author is no longer adding to it, but it’s still available to browse. I love her voice and this recipe (yes, in janky haiku) is particularly great. What follows is my variation, as I adore chocolate and orange together, but the method follows the original. Halve it for a sample batch.

Ingredients

9 oz/250 g good dark chocolate chopped
6 T/80 g unsalted butter
6 eggs, separated
4 T sugar
2 t vanilla (I try to use homemade for this)
3 T Grand Marnier
1 c/225 mL + 1/2 c/112 mL whipping cream
zest of 1 orange

Tools

Double boiler/Bain Marie*
Small bowl for egg yolks
Large deep bowls for egg whites, mousse and cream
Balloon whisk
Hand mixer with whisk attachment
Large spatula

Melt chocolate in a double boiler. Whisk the butter into the melted chocolate one tablespoon at a time, then whisk in the egg yolks one at a time. Whisk in the vanilla and booze. Set the chocolate mixture aside.

Beat the egg whites; as they reach soft peaks, pour in the sugar and continue beating to stiff peaks.

Whisk a third of the beaten whites into the chocolate mixture to lighten it, then fold in the rest. Beat 1 cup of the cream and orange zest to stiff peaks, fold it into the chocolate in two batches.

Pour the mousse into your serving dish of choice – I like double old-fashioned glasses for individual servings. Whip the rest of the cream and top the mousse. Chill for at least two hours, if you can. Eat within 36.

*If you don’t have a double boiler, use a small pot with about 2 c/500 mL of water in the bottom and a metal bowl that perches on the pot without touching the water. Just simmer the water and voilà! Instant double boiler! When melting chocolate in the microwave, be prepared to baby it and stir often. It’s SO easy to burn it!

Cheesecake
I don’t order cheesecake here anymore. It’s always too lemony and most likely has ricotta in it, causing an unpleasant-to-me squeaky sensation on the teeth. I like it dense and creamy, so this recipe is the result of a great deal of trial and error. You got your own workarounds? PLEASE holler at ya girl.

Ingredients

25-30 Leibniz wholegrain (vollkorn) cookies, crushed
6 T/80 g butter, melted
17 oz/500 g cream cheese
14 oz/400 g quark cheese
3/4 c/160 g sugar
1 1/2 t vanilla extract (or scrape a whole bean)
3 eggs
pinch salt

Tools

Stand mixer or hand mixer
Medium bowl for cookie crust
Springform pan, 24-26 cm.
Backpapier/parchment for bottom of springform (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°F/170°C.

Mix the crushed cookies and melted butter together in a bowl, until all the crumbs are evenly moistened and are starting to clump. Press the crumbs into the bottom of a 24-26 cm. springform pan until they make an even layer.

In a large mixer bowl, combine all the filling ingredients and beat until smooth and light. Pour into the springform and bake for 40 minutes or until the center is somewhat jiggly, but no longer liquidy. I prefer to bake mine a little longer, until the top is no longer shiny – but this will probably cause your cake to crack. Allow cake to cool to room temperature, then chill for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight. I like to top mine with cherries, but whatever fruit is around will work as a topping.

Apple Pie

I put the filling into the crust with a slotted spoon and drizzle some of the juice that gooshes out over the top. That way I can control the liquid and keep the bottom from getting soggy. If you struggle with crusts, experiment with butter vs. shortening vs. a combo.

Swiss Buttercream Frosting

I’m ludicrously excited about this frosting. It’s much fussier than basic American Buttercream, but it tastes so. much. BETTER. If you’re making something where the frosting needs to do some of the heavy lifting (basic yellow cake, a filled cupcake), this recipe is your new best friend.

Plum Cake

This lovely, simple cake is wonderful if you want to do something special with seasonal fruits and don’t feel like taking on A Project. I especially like that I can do it with just a bowl, a whisk and a spatula.

Peanut Butter Honey Ice Cream

Peanut butter isn’t terribly popular in Germany, but it’s gaining. There’s finally one widely available in grocery stores that tastes almost right (Lucky Joe brand). And if you enjoy the flavor of honey, a dark one, like a chestnut, will be as prominent as the peanut butter. If you want the PB to shine through more, go with a lighter colored, milder honey.

Rhubarb Compote

The above link is a video rather than a written recipe, but it’s very short and once you watch it, you can write down what you actually end up doing. I like to start with less sugar and add more if the rhubarb is particularly tart. A few drops of vanilla or a pinch of cinnamon won’t go amiss, either. The compote is great on ice cream or in a crêpe with crème fraîche and freezes like a champ.

Let me know what works and what doesn’t. And if you discover anything cool, share it!

From Scratch Collection

I find German cuisine an under-the-radar treasure. As long as we live here, I will probably never bother to make my own bread, potato salad or Schnitzel, as I can walk out the door in any direction and find excellent versions of all of them. But generally, we’re not huge fans of German takes on other cuisines. I think we moved here juuust before a major influx of international culinary trends came on the scene. We started seeing interesting stuff appear, but the flavor profiles were tailored to German palates, not ours. So when we decided to create food with the flavors we craved, we examined the building blocks of those cuisines. Jarred salsa was both bland and weirdly sweet. Chicken broth powder tasted mostly like salt that saw a picture of a chicken once. And the rich tapestry of German sausage culture didn’t have anything like Jimmy Dean.

Lucky for us, a little creative googling usually turned up versions of whatever we sought to reverse engineer. These have become staples for us. I tried to only include recipes for which I don’t have to import anything. Additionally, this post contains more of my own recipes than originally planned. More dispatches from the wide world of food blogs next month!

Salsa
We’re lucky enough to have family who flees the Michigan winter for the Pacific coast of Mexico, so we visit them there every couple of years. Since we’re also Mexican food fanatics, and Germany’s Mexican food scene is pretty bleak, cobbling together a Mexican repertoire was a must, and a good, basic table salsa is foundational. I immersed myself in Rick Bayless’ cookbooks, took pointers from a cooking class we participated in on our last trip and used the technique from Budget Bytes to produce this salsa.

The recipe is more difficult to explain than to do. Our cooking instructor said that raw salsas are lazy salsas, so this one’s cooked. It probably takes about the same amount of time, since you’re not chopping things finely, instead letting your food processing tool of choice do that job. You should look for the ripest tomatoes possible, but because they’re roasted and the sugars and juices concentrated, you can get away with lackluster specimens.

Ingredients
10-12 ripe tomatoes, halved lengthwise and cored (San Marzano ideally, Roma works well)
1 small white onion, peeled and halved
1-2 hot green chilies, halved lengthwise (ideally Jalapeño or Serrano, remove seeds and membranes if you don’t want it spicy)
1-2 cloves garlic, quartered
3-4 T fresh cilantro leaves
juice of 2 limes
salt
cumin

Tools
Rimmed baking sheets
Blender, immersion blender or food processor

Heat oven to 400°F/200°C. Arrange tomato halves cut side up on one baking sheet and sprinkle with salt. Roast for 30-40 minutes, or until tomatoes look collapsed and blackened in spots. Set aside to cool a little and place onion and chilies* on a smaller baking sheet. Roast for 20-30 minutes; the chilies will blacken quickly and probably need to be removed well before the onion, so check the progress from time to time. Once onion is tender and blackened in spots, remove from oven and set aside to cool. Set up your blender or food processor and add tomatoes (with skins – that’s where the smoky flavor is), onion, chilies, garlic, cilantro and lime juice. Start with a couple of 3-finger pinches of salt and about a 1/4 teaspoon of ground cumin. Process at medium speed until uniform, then taste and adjust flavors. It’s a good idea to keep a couple of extra limes on hand, just in case it needs more acid, or a pinch of sugar if your tomatoes aren’t adequately sweet. If you plan on eating the salsa with salted tortilla chips, be sure to try it with the chips, to balance the salt against them. Ideally, refrigerate salsa for at least a couple of hours.

*Jalapeño and Serrano chilies are fleshy and benefit from a bit of roasting. That said, they can be hard to find in Germany. My standard green chili is the small variety I get from the Asian market and it burns to a crisp in the oven. If you’re using a thin-skinned chili like this, don’t bother roasting, just chop it into a few pieces and add it raw.

Chicken Broth
In the US, decently stocked grocery stores generally sell good quality, low sodium chicken broth. In Germany, it’s mostly a choice between salty-ass Knorr and Maggi powders or gelatinous concentrates. This annoys me, as chicken broth is often the backbone of my culinary activities. Making soup? You need chicken broth. Risotto? Get the chicken broth. Casserole? Better add some chicken broth. It should taste like something other than salt.

You can make as much as your pots and fridge can accommodate; I like to make a lot in one go. A single 8-liter pot usually yields 3-4 liters of broth, which I freeze in different size containers and use over the course of months. This is less a precise recipe and more a method for a decent broth. I keep mine very neutral in order to broaden application, but you should definitely experiment with flavors you love. I like using the skin and bones from rotisserie chicken, separating the meat to use in other applications. Several recipes out there call for roasting the bones and vegetables a bit before putting it all in the pot for a more complex flavor.

Ingredients
1 chicken carcass, skin and bones, meat picked clean
1 large onion, halved, root end discarded
1 clove garlic, lightly crushed with side of knife
2 carrots, peeled and cut into 3 pieces each
3 stalks celery, cut into 3 pieces each
1 small bunch fresh parsley
5-6 sprigs fresh thyme
2 T salt
8 whole peppercorns
1 t Brathähnchengewürz (German roasted chicken seasoning, optional)

Tools
Large deep pot
Mixing bowls, optimally one with a spout
Slotted spoon
Colander that fits in one of the bowls
Large mesh strainer that fits in the other
Cheesecloth (clean kitchen towel will do)
Freezer containers

Put all ingredients in a large pot. Fill pot with cold water and stir (mine has liter markings on the inside, I fill to the 8 liter mark, about 1 inch/2.5 cm shy of the top). Heat on high and bring to a boil, then turn heat down to bare simmer and reduce for 2 hours (I reduce to the 5 liter mark). Set aside to cool for at least a couple more hours.

Set up one bowl with the colander nested in it. Using slotted spoon, remove solids from the pot and allow to drain in colander, occasionally pressing on contents. Set up other bowl (preferrably with the spout) with mesh strainer and line strainer with cheesecloth. Now pour some broth slowly through cheesecloth-lined strainer, filtering broth. Filter as many times as you like (I only do it once) and fill freezer containers. On last batch of broth to filter, remember to pour in what drained from solids. Keeps for a week in fridge or in perpetuity in freezer.

Hot Fudge
This is a great basic hot fudge topping, with or without the mint. DO NOT skip the the salt!

Basic Pizza Sauce
Basic as in straightforward, not as in “YA BASIC!”

Pan Pizza Dough
If you love pan pizza, this one’s for you.

American Breakfast Sausage
A must for biscuits and gravy.

Paneer
You need to try this because 1) it’s really fun and interesting to observe the cheese process, 2) you end up with whey you can use in a soup or for baking bread and 3) now you have to make wonderful Indian food to use the paneer!

Please let me know if you try any of these. How did it turn out? Did you sub anything cool? Need help troubleshooting? I’d love to hear about your experiences.

Southeast Asian Collection

My whole personal brand is Enthusiastic Amateur. I am not from Southeast Asia, I have never lived in Southeast Asia and I don’t have a good handle on what ‘authentic’ Southeast Asian food is (1990s American midwestern Chinese probably wasn’t the ne plus ultra). But after a little travel in the region I realized that they were painting with a much more varied culinary palette than I thought. We sampled various Asian eateries in the U.S., but when we moved to Germany, the restaurant offerings seemed to be far more muted in flavor than what we were used to. Between meeting some folks from China, South Korea, Malaysia and Singapore in the immigrant communities here, getting to talk food with them and doing a great deal of research, we managed to come up with a few dishes that satisfy our far eastern cravings.

I’ve found Southeast Asian cuisine to be a real skill-builder. Don’t be intimidated by long ingredient lists. And always read ALL THE WAY through the recipe or I guarantee you will forget something important; getting an idea of when things get added will help you consolidate effort. You’ll learn time management and mise en place. You’ll familiarize yourself with subtle and varied flavor combinations. You’ll have a cache of gluten- and dairy-free options that aren’t boring. Let’s head east!

Supplies/Pantry
For deep flavors, these condiments really up your game.

There are a couple of things I have not been able to obtain from my local Asian market. When that happens, I ask myself: what flavor element is the missing ingredient supposed to bring in? Is it salty or tangy or sweet or umami? If you can answer that, you can sub successfully. At least until you break down and order it from Amazon 🙂

Spicy Peanut Chicken
This started as a take on General Tso’s Chicken, but morphed into this oddball creation. It’s extremely flexible: sub vegetable broth for chicken, use pork instead, or eliminate meat altogether and turn to tofu or just double the broccoli. Tinker with the sauce until you get the flavor profile you most enjoy. And it’s especially great if you’re a spicy fan, but you can adjust the spice level to your liking. This makes A LOT but halves wonderfully.

Sauce
3 T cornstarch
1/4 c/60 g peanut butter (I like creamy for extra velvety texture)
1 T Hoisin sauce
2 T sugar
2 c/500 mL chicken broth
1 c Shao Xing wine
1 t dark soy sauce
1/4 c/60 mL light soy sauce
2-4 T rice vinegar (depends on how tangy you like it)

Stir-fry
jasmine rice
1 lb/500 g broccoli, cut into florets
sesame oil
vegetable oil
1 lb/500 g chicken breasts or thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces
ground white pepper
ground ginger
12-15 green onions, sliced thin
5 cloves garlic, minced
ginger, julienned, as much as you like
2-3 hot red chilies, minced (optional)

Tools
Large deep skillet
Medium pot
Steamer insert (optional)
Rice cooker (if you are incapable of making rice on the stovetop like me)
Every bowl you own
Fork
Whisk

First assemble the sauce: this is a little obsessive, but yields a great texture and keeps the cornstarch from getting clumpy. You need a medium mixing bowl, deep enough to whisk the sauce when all ingredients are added. Add the cornstarch, peanut butter, Hoisin and sugar and beat it together with a fork until uniform. Switch to the whisk and add the chicken broth a few tablespoons at a time, fully mixing between additions. As you go along, you’ll be able to add more each time. Whisk in wine, dark and light soy and vinegar and set aside.

You do you regarding rice (amount and cooking method) and blanch or steam broccoli until your favorite texture is achieved. Heat enough vegetable and sesame oil to cook chicken in deep skillet to medium high. Sprinkle a little white pepper and ginger over chicken pieces and toss lightly. Cook chicken to just browned on all sides (but don’t cook through) and remove to bowl, set aside. Add a little more vegetable oil and add green onions, garlic, ginger and chilies. Cook until onions are tender, stirring frequently. Turn heat to medium, give sauce mixture one more whisk and pour into skillet, stirring carefully and constantly. The hotter the pan, the faster the sauce will thicken! When sauce simmers, reduce heat to bare simmer and add chicken and juices back in. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5-10 minutes. Test a piece of chicken for doneness. When serving, layer rice, broccoli and sauce.

Sichuan Dry-Fried Green Beans
Green beans in Germany have been a bit of a challenge for me. They’re snappier and firmer than I like. I found this preparation which seemed very quick (no boiling!) but yielded a pleasing texture. The blog author is a Chinese woman living in the U.S. and has a wonderfully thorough but accessible style of recipe writing. These beans are excellent as a side or as a main over steamed rice, with or without the meat. I sub in black bean garlic sauce for the Sichuan pickled mustard greens (Sui Mi Ya Cai) because I haven’t been able to find it in the Asian markets near me. It’s a pretty major ingredient swap, but the end result doesn’t taste like it’s missing anything. The link leads to the original, below is what I do.

Sauce
1/4 c/60 mL Shao Xing wine
1 T light soy sauce
1 T dark soy sauce
1 t sugar

Stir-fry
sesame oil
1 lb/500 g green beans, rinsed, trimmed and dried
1 t Sichuan peppercorns
3 dried red chilies
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 in/2 cm ginger, minced
1/2 lb/250 g ground beef and pork (Hackfleisch gemischt)
2 T black bean garlic sauce

Tools
Skillet or wok (a flat skillet is better, you can cook more beans faster with less crowding)
Small tongs

Pour all the sauce ingredients into a small bowl, stir until the sugar dissolves and set aside. Heat a little oil in a deep skillet or wok over high heat; you want enough to coat the beans but not pool up. Add a couple handfuls of the beans to the skillet and stir them well, making sure they’re not crowded. Cook, stirring frequently, until dark brown blisters appear on all sides, then remove to a bowl. This usually requires 2 batches, adding oil as needed. I like to use tongs to make sure every bean gets blistered and removed at the optimal time.

Set beans aside, reduce heat to medium high and add 1 tablespoon of sesame oil. When oil shimmers, add peppercorns to skillet and cook for a few minutes until dark brown and fragrant. Remove peppercorns and add dried chilies, garlic and ginger to oil. Cook for 1-2 minutes, until fragrant, then add in ground pork and beef. Break up meat and stir often until just beginning to brown, then stir in black bean garlic sauce, distributing completely. Next add green beans back to skillet and pour in your prepared sauce. Cook, stirring frequently, until beans and meat are well coated but no liquid is pooling in skillet. Serve as a side or over steamed rice.

Dumplings
All cultures have a dumpling and Chinese dumplings are an absolute delight. Delightful to contemplate, delightful to make and deeply delightful to eat. There’s a learning curve to the folding, but the internet is here to teach you how. And the more you do it the better you get!

Fried Rice
Got leftover steamed rice? You’re halfway there. This recipe is a mere suggestion, throw in whatever you like.

Dan Dan Noodles
Another one from the Omnivore’s Cookbook. This recipe is great, but that peanut butter sauce is VERY versatile.

Kimchi
This one seemed like it was much harder to explain than to actually do. And don’t get too wigged out by the insistence on sterilization and constant handwashing. If you’re not a garbage person, just follow the instructions and you’ll be fine.

Kaya
This coconut egg jam we first tried in Singapore became my husband’s obsession the moment he tried it. Because it doesn’t have many ingredients, you gotta get those pandan leaves!

Winter 2018: Holiday Staples and New Twists on Midwestern Classics

I really love winter. It makes me kind of unpopular, because everyone else I know seems to hate it. This is baffling to me, because winter is when cooking goes buckwild. Everything is creamy and hearty and roasty and caramelized. Running the oven all day is not frowned upon, rather encouraged!

During the holidays, everyone’s specialty comes out to play. Mom’s mashed potatoes, Mary’s peanut brittle, Grandma’s beef tenderloin. My family is Catholic and HUGE, so we had absolute heaps of various Christmas foods. The stuff we found typical wasn’t necessarily standard holiday fare here, so we had to make it from scratch.

Pumpkin Purée
This is a fall staple for us. In the US, you’d usually buy a can of pumpkin, make your pie and call it day. I didn’t because I didn’t really care for wet, sad pie, but Cliff was aching for the stuff, so a friend and I bought some pumpkins to try and unlock their secrets.

Turns out their secrets aren’t very well kept. This is ludicrously easy and after researching how to make it, I figured out why I never particularly liked it: there’s no reason it has to be so wet. I started with this recipe from Everyday Annie, but then adapted it to a straight bake w/no added water for steaming. If you can’t abide browned edges, you might want to follow Annie’s instructions. Below is what I do.

Yield:
About 5 cups/1.25 liters purée

Ingredients:
2 Hokkaido pumpkins

Tools:
Baking sheet
Food processor, blender or potato masher
Freezer containers

Note: Handling pumpkins with rubber gloves is a good idea. The flesh leaves a weird, tight residue on your hands that take several washes to get off. Ewww.

Preheat oven to 350° F/175° C.

Rinse the pumpkins; they can be a little dirty and the skin will be delicate after roasting. Slice pumpkins in half (latitudinally or longitudinally, whatever makes you happy), scoop out the seeds and strings, then cut each half into quarters. You should end up with eight triangles per pumpkin.

Place as many pieces as possible on the baking sheet, skin-side down. Roast (using convection if possible) for 40-60 minutes. They’re done when pieces are easily pierced with a fork. Set pumpkin aside to cool.

When cool, scrape the flesh into a big bowl. The skin is edible and it’s ok if a little gets in there, but your purée will be smoother if there’s no skin. Once you’ve got all of the flesh separated, time to purée!

  • If you’re mashing by hand, you might want to add a tablespoon or so of water. Mash to your heart’s content.
  • If you’re using a FoPro or blender, you’ll NEED a little water to keep the device from seizing. Keep a cup of water nearby and be prepared to add it by tablespoons as needed. Work in batches and process until smooth.

Once you’ve achieved your desired texture, that’s it. Pack the pumpkin into containers. If you’re refrigerating it, use within 3 days; pumpkin molds at the speed of sound. I recommend freezing, it thaws beautifully.

So what does one DO with all of this lovingly prepared orange glop? Well, I suggest a classic Pumpkin PiePumpkin Bread or Pumpkin Risotto.

Tuna Noodle Casserole
During the holidays, I like to make things that hang around for a couple of days, allowing me to do other stuff. This is a Midwestern staple and (usually) a can-opening extravaganza. This version is much scratchier, but not a ton more work. You can make the sauce ahead of time, then boil noodles and assemble within 20 minutes. The original recipe came from Chowhound, an excellent resource for cooking tips, techniques and ideas. I made a few adjustments for my own preferences.

Sauce
1 T olive oil
1 T unsalted butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 celery stalks, small dice
1 medium onion, small dice
1 small hot green chili, minced
2 t Old Bay Seasoning (here’s how to make your own)
3 T flour
1 t salt
1/2 t ground black pepper
3 c/750 mL milk
3 T sour cream
1 T wholegrain mustard (if Dijon’s your jam, use that)

Filling
1 lb/500 g package egg noodles (the thicker and rougher, the better; I like schwäbische Landnudeln)
2 cans tuna, drained and flaked (oil or water pack, doesn’t really matter)
1 c/225 g shredded cheddar cheese

Topping (optional)
2-3 T grated Parmesan cheese
1 T dried parsley
3-4 T french fried onions (Röstzwiebeln)

Heat oven to 350° F/175° C.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, add oil and melt butter. When butter foams, add garlic, celery, onion and chili. Cook, stirring frequently, until tender. Combine seasoning, flour, salt and pepper, sprinkle over vegetable mixture and stir until vegetables are well coated. Keep stirring and cook until flour turns golden and starts smelling toasty. Whisk milk into saucepan in a slow stream, stopping to whisk out lumps as necessary. Bring sauce to a simmer (it should thicken), remove from heat and whisk in sour cream and mustard. Adjust seasonings as necessary and set aside to cool a little.

Cook noodles in salted water for half of package time and drain well, allowing noodles to cool somewhat. Add noodles, tuna and cheddar to large casserole dish (butter it if you want, but I don’t think this needs it). Pour in sauce and stir well, making sure tuna and cheddar are well distributed. If you’re doing the topping, combine the Parmesan, parsley and crunchy onions and sprinkle them over the top. Bake uncovered for 25-30 minutes.

Note: Oh, you fancy? If you don’t want sauce streaks baked on the sides of the casserole dish, use the pot you cooked the noodles in to combine the filling and sauce, then pour it all into the dish. Just make sure the pot has cooled enough to not melt the cheddar, which can cause an unpleasant oiliness.

Go check out Chowhound’s recipes for other classed-up comfort food or browse the Community boards for chat and questions about food.

Here are a few other unusual-in-Germany holiday recipes I’ve found and loved:

Brown Butter Cranberry Shortbread Bars: use a light hand with the sugar in the filling, you don’t want to lose all of the tartness.

Date Cake with Toffee Sauce: don’t deviate from the recipe, it’s divine.

Foolproof Roasted Potatoes: yeah, they call them hash browns, but I know what words mean and these aren’t those. Precision of language aside, make these potatoes with any flavor combo you want.

Homemade Green Bean Casserole: this is tons of work, but I’ve used the sauce as a cream of mushroom soup by tinkering with the proportions and the leftover shallot oil in anything and everything.

Sun-Dried Tomato, Leek and Brie Breakfast Strata: this is a lighter take on the bacon and sausage-laden versions my family always had for Christmas brunch. It’s great to make ahead, stash in the fridge and chuck in the oven when you have guests.

Have fun poking around on these sites and seeing where else they take you. Guten Appetit, schöne Feiertage und einen guten Rutsch, y’all!