Monday, December 17, 2012

Caroling Sandwiches

"Caroling, Caroling Now We go..." sometimes in costume, sometimes with lanterns, often in tune and always with bellies warmed by the comforting glow of hearty soups and Caroling Sandwiches - so named not because they sing but because we always prepare them for this annual event.  I acquired this recipe for hot  ham and Swiss cheese sandwiches in soft buttery rolls (carolers always scorn my short-cut efforts when I use anything other than homemade) - from a friend who had lived in Israel for several years.  I don't know the origin of this recipe but I doubt it is Israeli due to the unkosher character of the ham cavorting with cheese, no less, but the piquante nutty velvet of the butter and mayo sauce in trio with smoky ham and melted Swiss cheese bursting at the seams, is as glorious as the music of any heavenly choir!

Caroling Sandwiches
12 soft ranch or potato rolls, split
12 slices deli ham
12 slices swiss cheese
1/2 cup soft butter
2 tab. finely minced green onion
1 tsp. worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. mustard
1/2 cup finely shredded parmesan cheese
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tab. poppy seeds

-Blend until smooth:  butter, onion, worcestershire sauce, mustard, cheese, mayo and seeds.

-Spread liberally on each roll half.  Place slice of ham and cheese in middle of each roll.  Place filled rolls on cookie sheet and cover loosely with foil.  Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes until cheese is melted.

Potato Refrigerator Rolls (A favorite for Caroling Sandwiches)
1 pkg. active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups warm mwater
2/3 cups sugar
2 tsp. salt
2/3 cup shortening
2 eggs
1 cup lukewarm mashed potatoes
7 - 7 1/2 cups flour

-Dissolve yeast in warm water.  Stir in sugar, salt, shortening, eggs, potatoes and 4 cups of the flour.  Beat until smooth.  Mix in enough remaining flour to make dough easy to handle.  

-Turn dough onto lightly floured surface.  Knead until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes.  Place in greased bowl, then turn greased side up. Cover bowl tightly.  Refrigerate at least 8 hours or until ready to  use.  (Dough can be kept up to 5 days in refrigerator.)  

-Punch down dough by kneading lightly. Shape dough as desired for rolls. Let rise  in warm place, covered with towel or plastic wrap for 1 1/2 hours before baking.  Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Bake 15 to 20 minutes.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Pistachio Butter Chicken Balls

We arrived in Amman, Jordan at 9:30 pm a few weeks ago. It had the right smell, a hint of cardamom somewhere underneath the predictably hypnotic scent of jasmine, the right juxtaposition of white limestone against red tile roofs, the right feel to the translucent air.  The traffic was appropriately jarring and the revived memories firing.  We were back in our home of 12 years and we were exhilarated and exhausted.  This trip tweaking decades-old memories, piqued our every sense as well.  Exhausted though we were, we could not ignore the sense of taste and hurried at that late dining hour to Fakr Al-Din's, an enchanting restaurant in an old Arab house in the 1st Circle section of Amman.  Proper, black-suited waiters with pleasant "Ahlan Wa Sahlans", led us to our table, garnished with an edible, whole veggie salad garden centerpiece, and the garlic sauce and sumac that rendered it sublime!

Chicken balls, a Fakr Al-Din's speciality - perhaps invention -  was a surprise years ago when we first applied fork to crunchy chicken shell.  The resulting eruption of melted butter from its core was a surprise but the velvety mild, pistachio mixture lolled milky on our tongues. One is a serving and only on occasion at that.  It had been eight years since we had sampled one but with my successful experimentation at its creation, it won't be that long again!

Pistachio Butter Chicken Balls
1 ½ pounds ground chicken breast
1 egg
1 cup ground pistachios
¾ cup room-temperature butter
2 tab. minced parsley
2 cups panko bread crumbs
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
½ tsp. ground nutmeg

-In food processor, grind shelled pistachio nuts until fine.  Measure out 2/3 cups of the ground pistachios and return to processor with butter then process for about 1 minute. Chill mixture for 30 minutes.  Form mixture into balls about the size of a small walnut.  Chill butter balls until ready to use.

-In food processor, combine chicken, egg, 1/3 cup ground pistachios, ¼ cup panko bread crumbs, parsley, salt, pepper and nutmeg.  Process until well blended.  Chill mixture for at least 1 hour.

-To form balls, take 1 1/2 tablespoons of filling. Working with damp hands, hold a butter ball in one hand and mold the chicken mixture evenly around the butter, sealing completely.  Roll chicken ball in hands to create a smooth ball. (You will need to re-dampen your hands every other ball.) 

-Roll chicken balls in panko crumbs, pressing crumbs firmly into the chicken layer to coat evenly and completely.  Freeze chicken balls several hours or overnight.  (Can be kept for up to a month in the freezer in a plastic bag or sealed plastic container.)

-Pour about 3 inches of vegetable oil into a small pot.  Heat over medium-high heat for several minutes until the surface of the oil is shimmering.  Add the frozen chicken balls and cook stirring frequently for 5 minutes until deep golden all over.  (Be sure the oil is not too hot.  The balls should take at least 5 minutes to cook to ensure the chicken is cooked through.  If you hear the oil start to splatter, butter is leaking out from the balls and you should remove that ball immediately.)  Allow  to cool 5 – 10 minutes then serve.

-Makes 12 – 14 Chicken Balls.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Lubia bi Zait

Green beans, sauteed onions and juicy tomatoes make beautiful music as solitary notes of garlic and lemon juice ply us to the table. Yes, it's all healthy and hearty, but it's the crunchy squares of fried pita bread nestled in tangy labneh garnishing the top that sets my fork to tapping. Lubia (green beans) bi Zait (in oil) is something of a green bean stew indigenous to the Levant (Lebanon, Jordan, Syria). Soumaya, our Lebanese friend, called this a common family dish and would also add browned ground beef to make a meal of it. (Labneh is a thickened yogurt product similar in thickness to sour cream but much more tart. Plain Greek yogurt will do the trick!)

Lubia bi Zeit

1 pound fresh green beans, trimmed of stems
3 large ripe tomatoes diced or 1 large can of crushed tomatoes
2 medium onions, slivered
4 cloves of garlic crushed
4 tbs olive oil
2 tbs lemon juice

salt and pepper to taste
3 loaves pita bread, cut in 1 inch squares
1/4 cup oil for frying

-Heat oil in a large saucepan, add onions and fry till soft and golden.  Add garlic and beans. Keep frying on low heat for 15 minutes, or till the beans start to soften. Add the tomatoes, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Cover and cook on low heat for 45 minutes. 

-Meanwhile, heat 1/4 cup oil in another skillet.  Add pita bread squares and fry turning frequently until they are browned and golden.  Set aside.

-Serve beans warm or at room temperature, topped with thicken yogurt (Greek style) and garnished with pita croutons.  Serves 6 - 8.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Warak Einab Bil Zait (Stuffed Grape Leaves)

Um Amer (mother of Amer) was renowned throughout her community for her tightly rolled, pinky-sized Warak Einab Bil Zait (stuffed grape leaves cooked in oil) and her crunchy, succulent Kibbeh (stuffed meatballs) and I was duly impressed. So much so that I asked her, through her interpreting daughter, if she would teach me how to make them. The date was set, my notebook and pen primed but alas, when I arrived, she handed me a platter of already made kibbeh - not to say that I didn't enjoy them, but Um Amer shortly after passed away and the secret of her technique went with her. To this day my kibbeh are still sub-par and I have determined, the creation of my favorite Arab savory must be part of the genetic code of those born in the Levant. However, the Warak (called dolma in Greek)-well mine may not be as pretty and dainty as the neatly stacked pile of a hundred or so that Um-Amer served but they are very acceptable.  Warak (grape leaves) are filled with a rice-ground lamb or beef mixture, seasoned with cinnamon and allspice and laced with pine nuts and parsley. The meat may be left out for a vegetarian version. They are either served hot, warm, or cold, the hot version usually cooked in a pot amongst layers of stewing lamb or beef, sliced tomatoes, sometimes stuffed eggplant and zucchini and potatoes - a one pot meal! The cold version is featured as an appetizer as part of the mezza (appetizer course). Olive oil and lemon are added to the cooking pot, then the rolls doused with this magic concoction again after cooking. The rolling of the grape leaf is the trickiest part but don't let this deter you.  Once you've tried your hand at it a time or two you'll feel incredibly domestic in the Mediterranean vein!  Grape leaves can be purchased in glass jars in most groceries in the Italian or international sections, or frozen in Middle Eastern groceries.  I prefer the frozen as they are generally more tender.  Better yet, pick your own leaves off your grape vines or as I did this summer, from the neighbor's nosey, wandering vines.  The smaller paler leaves produce a more tender result.

Warak Einab Bil Zait
60 grape leaves, fresh or preserved
6 ounces ground beef or lamb
1/2 cup medium-grain rice, soaked in salt water
1 large onion, minced
1/2 cup chopped parsley
5 leaves mint, finely minced (optional)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 large tomato, finely chopped
5 tab. olive oil
1/.2 tsp. allspice
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. pepper
2 tsp. salt
2 large sliced tomatoes
1/4 cup olive oil
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice

-Rinse grape leaves in cold water and blanch in boiling water for 3 minutes in 3 or 4 batches.  Remove and rinse with cold water and drain.  
-Gently fry onion in 1 tab. oil until soft.  Add ground meat and brown, breaking up finely.  Add 3 garlic cloves and saute 1 minute longer.  Stir in mint, drained rice, parsley, minced tomato, 2 tab. olive oil, salt, pepper allspice and cinnamon.  

-To shape:  Place a vine leaf, shiny side down on work surface.  Snip off stem if necessary.  Place about 1 tablespoon of filling near stem end, fold end and sides over filling and roll up firmly.  
(See pictures below) Line base of a large heavy pot with unfilled grape leaves.  Carefully place filled grape leaves on bottom of lined pan, seam side down, snuggly fitting them into a single layer - if they don't all fit, create a second layer on top of the first.  Cover filled leaves with a layer of sliced tomatoes.  

-Pour water in pot to just barely cover tomatoes.  Add 2 tab. lemon juice and 2 tab. olive oil.  Place a heatproof plate or pie plate over the tomatoes to hold contents in place as they cook.  Bring to a boil and cover the pot. Reduce to low simmer and cook the rolls about 40 minutes until the water is almost gone. 

-Remove from heat and allow to cool.  Remove the warak from the pot and place in large bowl.  Dress rolls with 1/3 cup olive oil, 1 large clove crushed garlic and 2 tab. fresh lemon juice.

-Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Kefta wa Batata (Meatballs and Potatoes)

It's just fun to say - Kefta wa Batata - and almost as easy to make.  Its rich, biting seasonings represent the spice trademark of Arab meat dishes - Cinnamon and Allspice.  This spice blend is what says "Mmmm..mmm Arab" to my mouth but wanting to keep everything in its appropriate place, we didn't appreciate its insidious conquest of western dishes in Arab countries.  We were outraged when hamburgers spiked with these spices were served to us as western fare, horrified when the first Pizza Hut just down the street added cinnamon sprinklings to pepperoni pizza. The Marriott Hotel was the only one to remain true to the hamburger in Amman in our early days!  Importation is all well and good and we could accept it when Arabs took their version of chili, seasoned with cinnamon and allspice from the Chili House restaurant in Amman to Cincinnati and dubed it as a new taste sensation, but when the Amman Fuddrucker's delicious meaty burgers evolved to something less so, with rice as a side dish instead of fries, we were ready to picket the establishment!  Corporate was not far behind us, and the franchise was whisked away back to the U.S. where the fresh beef tasted of it in all it's unseasoned purity. This particular dish though is happily in the Arab domain and features tender meatballs (kefta), stewed in a tomato sauce with potatoes (batata) and garnished with parsley and a spritz of lemon, and rightly so, cinnamon and allspice.

Kefta wa Batata
1 pound ground beef (or lamb)
1 medium onion, peeled and quartered
3/4 cup diced onion
2-3 tab. olive oil
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. allspice
1/3 cup minced fresh parsley
salt & pepper to taste
1 large tomato, diced
2 1/2 cups beef stock or
2 1/2 cups water and 2 beef bouillon cubes
1/3 cup tomato paste
1 tab. lemon juice
2 red potatoes, cut into 1 inch cubes

-Place ground beef (or lamb), medium onion, cinnamon, allspice,
salt and pepper in food processor.  Process mixture about 30 seconds until meat and onion are smooth.  Form mixture into 1 inch balls, about the size of walnuts.  

-Heat the oil in a medium saucepan.  Add chopped onions and meatballs.  Cook over medium-high heat, turning meatballs gently to brown on all sides.

-Add beef stock or water and boullion cubes to saucepan with tomato paste and potatoes.  Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat.  Reduce heat, cover and let mixture simmer over low heat until potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.  Remove lid and continue to simmer 10 minutes to allow sauce to reduce.

-Stir parsley and lemon juice into stew.  Serve warm over steamed white rice.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Stuffed Tomatoes

Are your tomato plants so fertile that your garden practically throws tomatoes at you as you pass by? Do the neighbors close their blinds when they see you coming, with produce basket in hand?  Do more BLT sandwiches elicit a groan from your family diners?  Do you have to tape the freezer door shut to hold all the containers of tomato sauce? If so, it must be harvest time for those possessed of green thumbs!  Around the world, the tomato reigns as a member of Garden Royalty, in fact 93% of garden-growing households grow tomatoes, and on average, Americans consume about 24 pounds of tomatoes each year. Following are two versions of stuffed tomatoes: the first is a broccoli-ham filling with rich cheddar and nutty Parmesan cheese accents.  I took a bit of artistic license with the second, an Arab version filled with hashwi, a spicy ground beef, onion and rice mixture, but I'm sure if an Arab cooked stuffed tomatoes, she would do it like this!

Stuffed Tomatoes
6 medium large tomatoes
1 1/2 cup chopped broccoli florets, cooked and drained
1 tab. oil
1/3 cup finely minced fresh onion
1 cup finely chopped ham
1/3 cup mayonnaise
2 tab. lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
dash of cayenne pepper
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs

-Cut off the stem end of each tomato and with a small paring knife and tablespoon, carefully scoop out the pulp and seeds from each tomato, leaving the outer flesh about 1/4 inch thick.  Sprinkle each tomato cavity liberally with salt and pepper and place on cookie sheet, cavity side down, over sink or large bowl and allow to drain for about 20 minutes.

-Meantime, heat oil in medium skillet.  Add onion and cook until soft, about 5 minutes.  In mixing bowl, combine broccoli, cooked onions, ham, mayonnaise, lemon juice salt and pepper to taste, cayenne pepper, cheddar cheese and 1/2 cup of the Parmesan cheese.  

-Rinse out tomato shells then fill with 1/6 of the broccoli/ham mixture.  Sprinkle tops with bread crumbs and remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese.  

-Place filled tomatoes in ovenproof dish, packed in tightly to keep tomatoes from toppling during baking.  Place in 350 degree preheated oven and bake for 20 minutes, or until topping is browned.  Allow to sit 10 minutes before serving.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Kousa Sahel (Stuffed Squash or Zucchini)

National "Leave a Zucchini on your Neighbor's Doorstep Day" was August 8th. Did you miss it, this opportunity to do something with the unseemly vigorous harvest of your garden?  Or did you ignore your squash until it grew to the size of your baby?

Even if you've managed to stay ahead of the squash production with zucchini bread and stir-frys, don't give them all away.  Hold on to the small, tender ones at least and do as the resourceful Arab cook does. The zucchini or "kousa" indigenous to the Middle East is a fairer variety, in color and texture. The favored size is small,  6-8 inches in length and about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. The squash are hollowed out with an implement that I call a zucchini corer (amazon: but a combination of apple corer and paring knife can effect an approximate result - a hollow tube with seeds removed and the soft pulp scraped out to leave a shell as thin as possible. (The zucchini pulp can star in frittatas or the fritter recipe included below).  Traditionally Kousa are cooked in a large pot among layers of sliced tomato (again, your garden provides!) stuffed eggplant, with chunks of beef or lamb to infuse the kousa with flavor. The technically correct name for this dish is "Kousa Mahshi".  This version, "Kousa Sahel", is richer with a silkiness provided by the frying of the onions and zucchini.  Don't forget the lemon juice in the sauce!  It perks up the whole with a vibrant fresh contrast to the creamy sweetness of the fried onions.

Kousa Sahel (stuffed squash):
12 small zucchini squash                   1 large onion, slivered
1 lb. ground lamb or beef                  oil for frying
¾ cups rice, pre-soaked in water        4 cups fresh tomato sauce or
1 tab. salt                                                  paste to make sauce
1 tsp. pepper                                      juice of 1 lemon
¾ cup chopped parsley                      1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. allspice

-Brown ground meat and season with salt, pepper, cinnamon and allspice. Drain well and set aside.
-Hollow out washed squash.  Mix drained rice with meat and parsley.  If the meat is fatty, you will not need more fat.  If not, add a tab. or two of corn oil to the mixture.  Add salt and pepper.
-Over a large bowl, stuff the squash with filling until it is loosely full to ¼ inch from the top. Lightly fry the squash in oil until the skins are browned and bubbly.
-Meanwhile, brown the onions in oil until brown.  Add the tomato sauce and lemon juice and boil for 10 minutes at a rolling boil.  Reduce the heat to simmer. Carefully lay the squash in the sauce and cook 20-30 minutes.  Cover and stir carefully from time to time.
-To serve, transfer the squash with a slotted spoon on to a platter.  Pour the thickened sauce over the squash and garnish with chopped parsley.


Monday, August 27, 2012

Mediterranean Tart

Not based on any actual Mediterranean dish, this American creation brings the sun-infused staples of the Mediterranean region together in a delightful, unique summer BBQ dish. The ham would be shunned in any Muslim Mediterranean country but Greeks, Italians and Spaniards partake with gusto, or sabor or whatever it is.  In Israel, farmers are only allowed to raise pigs on imported dirt (so as not to defile holy ground - isn't it nice that Palestinians and Jews are united on one front - their dietary restrictions on pork.)  Living in these pork-free zones, I devised the "pork products bag" for which I bought pork tenderloin, bacon and sausage while on visits to the states, froze them before my flight and packed them together in close quarters in a small carry-on bag.  After a 15 hour flight, the bag was still cold enough to arouse comment but yet escaped confiscation at customs inspections.  The chicken reigns as fowl supreme throughout the world and onions and tomatoes love that Mediterranean sun.  Olives thrive there and phyllo - a pastry delight - is an inspired creation of indigenous cooks.  Even Parmesan cheese by virtue of Italy's "giving the boot" to the heart of the Med, lends the dish authenticity and a nutty "mm-m-m-" accent!

Mediterranean Tart
3 tab. butter
1 medium onion, sliced
3/4 lb. fresh mushrooms
1/2 tsp. thyme
3 tab. flour
1 cup chicken stock
salt and pepper to taste
3/4 cups melted butter
2 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 cup cooked cubed chicken breast
1/4 cup cubed ham
1 cup chopped black olives
16 sheets of phyllo pastry
1/2 cup parmesan cheese

-Saute onions in butter until soft.  Add mushrooms and continue cooking until soft. Blend in flour and cook 2-3 minutes. Stir in chicken stock and tomatoes.  Cook until thickened, stirring frequently.  Remove from heat. Add remaining ingredients.  Return to heat and simmer 5 minutes longer.  Set aside until needed.

-Brush bottom and sides of 9 x 13 x 2 inch baking dish with butter.  Place a sheet of dough in bottom of pan and brush with butter.  Repeat 7 times more.  Spread meat/vegetable mixture on dough and evenly sprinkle top with Parmesan cheese.  Repeat process of laying sheet of phyllo and brushing with butter 8 more times.  Score tart into serving pieces, approximately 3 x 3 inch squares, with sharp, serrated knife. Sprinkle with water amd bake 1 hour at 300 degrees.

-Let sit for 10 minutes.  Cut through pieces again and serve.

Monday, August 6, 2012


Reminiscing of our apartment in Unterwittighausen (my husband made up a song to help us remember how to say it) brings with it two distinct culinaray memories.  The first, one I would just as soon forget, involves a lonely Christmas Eve spent with American neighbors and a bland, runny gruel they called dressing. The second, involves an 18-year old German neighbor eagar to practice her English.  Her mother had done better by her in the kitchen than that of my American neighbor teaching her a thing or two about flavor. How did she know I was one of the few Americans that was eagar to share international kitchen secrets - the locals always seemed to sniff me out!  Rouladen - our first foray, is a beef roulade, or rolled, filled meat.  The required ingredients, round steak, thinly sliced, bacon, onions, mustard and paprika were no problem but when it came to pickles, my mentor couldn't remember the word in English. 

After a series of hand gestures that sent me the puzzled yet intrigued student looking for a baseball bat, she searched through my fridge and pulled pickles out. The beef rolls slowly braised in wine and broth develop rich soothing flavors like the best beef stews, but the paprika and pop of the pickles and mustard declare a Germanic slant. Though I was taught to lay a raw piece of bacon on the pounded beef, I now cook my bacon first and crumble it atop each roulade - to avoid fatty encounters.  Braised to fork tenderness the rolls are served with egg noodles or for the really authentic version, with spaetzle - recipe and discussion at the bottom of the blog.

Beef  Rouladen
8 thinly sliced pieces round steak or beef sliced for stir-fry (pounded to about 8 inches by 4 inches each, 1/4 inch thick)
1/3 cup spicy brown mustard or grey poupon
1 cup slivered onions
1/2 pound bacon, diced, fried until crisp and drained
1 cup chopped dill or kosher pickles
paprika, salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup oil
flour for coating
2 cups beef consome
1 cup red wine
sprig of fresh thyme
1 cup halved button mushrooms, sauted in 2 tab. butter
1/3 cup cream

-Saute onion in 2 tab oil until soft and caramel color, stirring occasionally, over low heat - about 15 minutes.

-Lay each piece round steak on working surface and pound to 1/4 inch thinkness, about 8 inches by 4 inches.  Spread mustard on each slice. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste and generously with paprika.  Add 1 1/2 tab. chopped pickles and 1 1/2 tab. caramelized onions and 1 1/2 tab. bacon bits at one short end of each piece. 

-Roll meat tightly over the filling and secure with toothpicks or string.  Dip each roll into flour until well coated.

-Heat 1/4 cup oil in dutch oven.  Lay rolls into hot oil and fry, turning, until rolls are brown on all sides. 

-Add consomme and wine  and bring to a boil over high heat.  Cover pot and lower heat to low, or until broth is just simmering.  Stir in 1 sprig fresh thyme. Cook for 1 1/2 hours or until rolls are fork tender. 

-Carefully remove rolls from broth and set aside.  Turn broth to high and cook down until thickened and glossy.  Stir in cream at room temperature.  Add mushrooms.  Adjust seasonings.  Return rolls to broth and gently heat through.

-Serve over egg noodles or spaetlze.  Garnish with fresh pinch of thyme.  Serves 4 - 8

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Erdbeerkuchen (German Strawberry Cake)

The Frankfurt in a stroller....bright, light day when the air is at such a compatible temperature you don't even notice it and so fused with the aroma of spring, you forget to smell the animals. Popping with a cherry red freshness the strawberries pillowed midst sweetened cream and nestled on a bed of airy sponge cake would not allow refusal at the Zoo cafe!  This German version of strawberry shortcake features berries enrobed with velvety cream as nature must have intended - berries and cream - didn't someone in nursery rhymes feast upon it?  The tedious folding technique required for the sponge cake ensures the airy volume that creates the sponge, which is admittedly of a different nature than shortcake but creates a lighter dessert. A very specific cake pan is required to be truly authentic - similar to a flan pan, it has a fluted edge, with a depression in the center to hold the berries, although you can substitue a flan pan or even a pie plate and simply place the berries on top.  If interested, the obstorte pan can be purchased inexpensively at the following link:

Erdbeerkuchen is just one variation of the fresh fruit cake. (I was always fascinated by the construction of  German words in which it seems that words we would separate such as Strawberry Shortcake are simply joined together as in Erdbeerkuchen. Here is a long German word champion: Rindfleischetikettierungs which broken down is "beef meat labeling"!) The obstorte (cake) is filled with endless varieties of fruits and medleys.  I wonder how they would write an obstorte filled with raspberries, peaches, kiwi fruit and cherries - raspberrypeachkiwifruitcherrykuchen?

Erdbeerkuchen (German Strawberry Cake)
5 eggs
¾ cup sugar
¾ cup flour
¼ cup cornstarch
1 tsp. baking powder
Dash salt
Grated lemon peel
1 ½ tsp. vanilla 

-Beat egg whites till foamy.  Gradually add sugar and continue to beat until very stiff.  In separate bowl, beat yolks till thick and lemon colored.  Add vanilla and lemon peel to yolks.  Fold yolks into whites.  Fold dry ingredients into egg mixture.  Pour into well greased and floured obstorte pan (cover flat bottom of pan with waxed paper and then grease and flour edges.) Bake at 325 degrees for 15-20  minutes.  Cool slightly and turn out of pan.  Makes 2. 

Strawberry Filling:

3-4 cups whole strawberries
1 cup strawberry jam
1 cup strawberry juice
½ cup orange juice
½ cup sugar
2 tab. lemon juice
4 tab. cornstarch mixed with 2 tab. cold water 

-In medium sauce pan combine strawberry and orange juice with sugar.  Stir in cornstarch mixture and bring to boil over medium heat until thick and clear.  Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice.  Allow to cool about 10 minutes. 

To Assemble:
-Spread top of cool cake with jam and arrange strawberries completely covering the top.  Poor cooled glaze over the berries.  Chill and serve with whipped cream.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Gulasch Suppe (Goulash Soup)

Romantic Road from Giebelstadt to Rothenburg:
The meandering drive through the German countryside, lived up to its name, with wayside stops at the water-filled mote surrounding Bischoffsheim Castle and Weikersheim Castle.  Yes, it was charming, rustic and "uber" romantic to us newlyweds exploring, but I must admit to another love affair -  with gulasch soup and I was continuously on the lookout for the next obliging gasthaus.  Rothenburg, the medieval town which hosts a famous Albrecht Durer carved wooden altarpiece, charming hand-carved wooden Christmas ornaments that still dangle from our Christmas tree and yes, gasthauses.  I never met a gulasch suppe I didn't like.  It inherits its flavors from its bold and lusty Hungarian parent but after immigrating to Germany became thinner and lighter in texture. The paprika spiked broth stays true to its goulash roots with an underlying acidic kick provided by tomatoes and peppers.  A bit of beef reassures us that it comes by its heartiness honestly.  Serve with a crusty country bread (pumpernickel would be most authentic) and be careful with the paprika (easy if it is the hot version - most common brands sold in our markets are sweet paprika.)


Gulasch Suppe
1 large onion, chopped
2 tab. oil
2 lbs beef chuck, trimmed of fat and cut into 1 inch
3 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 tsp. caraway seed
1 1/2 tab. paprika
3/4 tsp. marjoram, dried
salt and pepper to taste
2 cups beef consomme
1 cup water
1 cup red wine
2 medium tomatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
1 large potato, peeled and diced
1 tab. vinegar
chopped parsley for garnish

-Saute onion and beef in oil in large soup pot, stirring 
occasionally, until beef is browned on all sides and 
onion is transparent.  Add garlic, caraway seed, 
salt and pepper, paprika, and marjoram.  

-Cover with beef consomme, water and wine.  Cover 
pot and simmer for 1 hour.

-Add tomato, peppers, potato and vinegar and cook an additional 45 minutes or until beef is very tender.  Taste
for seasoning.  Serve warm with parsley garnish.


Friday, July 6, 2012

Veitshochheim Summer Salad (a Trio of German Salads)

Veitshochheim Summer Salad:

A meal fit for a king, lounging about his summer residence, I dare you to say the name 3 times quickly with a mouth full of cabbage.  The name of this dish comes by way of a memory of a beautiful summer day and a boat ride down the Main River to the summer residence of the wealthy ruling Prince-Bishops of the 18th century, near Wurzburg in Northern Bavaria.Salads in our German days, were simple and light composed of fresh leaf lettuce, grated carrots and mild, smoky pimento dressed sparingly with vinegar and oil.  Kartoffelsalat, (potato salad) most often served with wurst (sausage) of various hues and sizes, was dressed with vinegar, mustard seed and speck (bacon). I personally appreciated more than just a speck of bacon in my serving!

The following version uses bratwurst instead of the bacon, as a tribute to the street food served in the market square of Wurzburg - Bratwurst mit brochen. I grilled the bratwurst and then roughly chopped it.  Serve bratwurst with caution - you can put an eye out with one of those things as I learned when turning around into one at the Christkindlmarkt in Nurnberg.The preparation of the four different salads certainly binds you to the kitchen fo rprep but once chopped and seasoned, you have a meal and little else need be done. The result is a German Salad Supper, a complete meal though meat lovers among you may appreciate some grilled bratwurst on the side, served with mustard in warm crusty rolls (brotchen). The tomato salad speaks with a vinegar twang tempered by the sweet nature of the balsamic vinegar. The cucumbers have a tart bite spiked with dill and the potato salad and cabbage slaw, as you would expect are of the vinegar persuasion but which make a surprisingly respectable showing. (Notice-no mayo here which is sacrilege in my kitchen but typical of southern Germany).  Besides creating a platter of popping colors and textures that shout summer and all things fresh, the salads combine on the palate to complement each other with bold fresh flavors and undercurrents of sweet and tangy accents.


Cabbage Slaw (Krautsalat):
1 cabbage, cored and shredded
3-4 green onions, thinly sliced
1/2 red pepper, diced
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup vinegar
1 1/2 tsp. celery seed
3/4 cup canola oil
1 1/2 tsp. salt
-Place cabbage, red pepper and green onion in 
large bowl.  

-In small saucepan, combine sugar and vinegar. 
Bring to a boil and stir until sugar dissolves.  Add
celery seed, salt and oil and heat for 2 minutes.
-Let dressing cool for 5 - 10 minutes.  Pour over
cabbage and toss.  Season with coarsly ground
-Serves 8 - 10

Potato Salad (Kartoffelsalat):
4 medium potatoes
1 onion, peeled and quartered
1 bratwurst, grilled and roughly chopped
       (or 4 slices bacon, fried crisp and crumbled)
1 tab. sugar
3/4 cup vinegar
1/2 cup chopped green onions
1 tab. mustard seed
1/4 cup oil
salt and pepper to taste
2 tab. chopped parsley
-Boil unpeeled potatoes in large pot of salted 
boiling water, with quartered onion, until potatoes
are tender when pierced with a fork.  Remove 
from heat and set aside until cool enough to handle. 
Peel potatoes and cut into 3/4 inch chunks.  Place 
in large bowl.
-Add green onions and bratwurst to potatoes.
-In medium saucepan, combine vinegar, sugar,
mustard seed, salt and pepper to taste.  Bring to 
a boil.  Remove from heat and slowly pour in 
oil.  Continue to cook over heat another 2 minutes.
Remove from heat and let sit 5 minutes.
-Pour dressing over warm potatoes, toss and
season with salt and pepper.  Stir in parsley.
-Serves 6 - 8

German Cucumber Salad (Gurkensalat):
2 English cucumbers, peeled and thinly sliced
    (you may leave the peel on if you prefer)
1/2 cup sour cream
1 1/2 tsp. lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. fresh dill, finely chopped
salt and pepper to taste
-Place cucumber slices into medium bowl.  Chill while 
making dressing.
-In separate bowl, mix sour cream, lemon juice, sugar and dill.  
Season with salt and pepper.
-Pour dressing over cucumber and mix.  Serve immediately.
-Serves 4 - 6

Tomato Salad (Tomatensalat):
4 large tomatoes
1 bunch green onions
1/2 small yellow onion, finely chopped
2 tab. balsamic vinegar
2 tab. orange juice
5 tab. olive oil
1 tsp. sugar
salt and pepper to taste
-Wash tomatoes and cut into wedges.  Cut green onions
diagonally into 1 inch pieces. 
-Mix chopped yellow onion, vinegar, orange juice and oil.  Season 
with salt, pepper and sugar.
-Place tomatoes and green onions into bowl and pour dressing 
over and toss.
-Serves 6

To Assemble German Salad Supper:
On a large open platter, mound potato salad in the center
(it is the star of the meal!) Place 3 large lettuce cups 
around the edges of the potato salad to act as containers 
for the other salads.  In one, mound the tomato salad, in 
another the cucumber salad and in the third, the cole slaw.  
Garnish with dill sprigs and strips of fresh red pepper.  
Chill for about 20 minutes before serving.

Monday, July 2, 2012

"Honor Choir" Schnitzel

German Kuche
We are now heading north to cooler, pork friendly climes!  Whenever traveling
to Germanic countries after living in the porkly austere Middle East, we ordered
anything with pork....with pork on the side.....and pork for garnish!  Lured into
their dark, smoky interiors by heady, hypnotic aromas of schnitzel, wurst (sausages)
and potatoes, German gasthauses (guest houses) in the villages around Wurzburg,
became our family restaurants during our first U.S. Army assignment overseas.
Every cobble-stoned village hosted at least 2 or 3 gasthauses among the exposed
beam buildings and we quickly learned which ones served the crispest, tenderest,
most succulent Schnitzel Cordon Bleu (pork pounded thin, filled with hearty ham
and pungent Swiss cheese, breaded and pan fried).  One of our favorites, in the
village of Geibelstadt, always assured us that our meal was receiving devoted care
from the sound of pounding heard from the kitchen.  No fast food here but worth the
wait, the rhythmic tenderizing seasoned the beer-drinking music to perfection!
Our 1-year-old daughter provided entertainment to the baby-adoring locals who
danced about the room with her to German beer drinking music. To this day,
she can't help but tap her toe to a robust "Oom-Pah-Pah"!

Honor Choir Schnitzel
The following schnitzel is a version I created inspired by one sampled in Austria,
while there on a choir trip with high school students.  There are schnitzels
und schnitzels - Jager (with mushrooms), Kase (with cheese), Weiner (Vienese style),
Rahm (with cream) - and then in Israel, frozen schnitzels of broccoli, corn and
cauliflower varieties.  But this one is from Vienna where we stopped someone on the
street to ask where locals eat - no dummies we - and that suggested restaurant, on a
back street near the town center, is one to which we returned on subsequent visits.
Smoothered with bacon, onion and mushrooms in a rich, lip-smacking gravy played
duet with a baseball sized dumpling.  I prepared spaetzle to serve as the accompanying
starch.  These light, nutty, miniature dumplings have always been a family favorite
requested on birthdays by our German-born daughter -something in the water?

Honor Choir Schnitzel:
4 pork chops or steaks, without the bone
1 onion, thinly slivered
1 cup button mushrooms, halved
1/2 pound bacon, large diced, fried till crisp and drained
flour for dredging
2 cups panko bread crumbs
salt and pepper to taste
2 eggs mixed with 1 cup milk
5 tab. butter
2 tab. flour
2 cups beef consomme or demi-glace, or rich beef stock
1/3 cup red wine
1/3 cup cream at room temperature

-Pat meat dry.  Place between 2 pieces of waxed paper and pound with meat pounder or the edge of a plate until meat is about 1/4 inch thick.  Season both sides with salt, pepper and paprika to taste.

-Place flour, egg/milk mixture and bread crumbs, separately into
3 open dishes. Dip meat in flour, then egg/milk mixture and finally in bread crumbs, coating well.  Chill in refrigerator until ready to fry (up to 4 hours).

-In large saute pan, melt 2 tab. butter.  Add onions and saute until soft, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add mushrooms and cook until mushrooms are soft.  Set aside.

-In medium saucepan, melt 3 tab. butter. Stir 2 tab. flour into melted butter with wire whip and cook over medium-high heat for about 2 minutes, until smooth and bubbly. Add consomme, and wine, mixing with whip and cook until thickened and bubbly. Remove from heat and pour cream onto the sauce. Let stand for 5 minutes and then mix until blended.
-Heat 1/2 inch vegetable oil in large saute pan, until a cube of bread dropped in the oil browns in 30 seconds.  Place breaded pork chops in oil and fry on each side for about 5 minutes, until golden.  Set to drain on paper towels.

-Stir onions, mushrooms and bacon into sauce.  Place schnitzels on serving platter and cover with sauce.  Garnish with chopped parsley.  Serve with spaetzle, potatoes, or rice. Serves 4 - 6

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Doights de Fatma (Stuffed filo "fingers")

Yes, they are long and thin, like fingers, but the name is more curious than descriptive and I still delight in saying it for the humorous effect. “Doights de Fatma” – fingers of Fatma (Some maintain she was the sister of the Propeht Mohammed, some say his aunt, some his daughter.) At any rate, they are “finger-lickin’ good”! 

Traditionally, in Tunisia, malsouka wrappers are used but we can approximate the requisite crunch with buttered filo sheets. Filled with seasoned ground beef, cubed potatoes and parsley they are rolled spring-roll style then fried to a golden crisp Upon each bite, they delightfully crunch into flaky bits; a crunch like that created by stepping on a dried autumn leaf or biting potato chips. The sensation just makes you want tobite again! A squirt of fresh lemon juice brightens the mild parsley and garlic components and velvetizes the milkiness of the potatoes. Anisa, a wealthy adventurous Tunisian hostess, shared a lighter chicken version, the filling similar to the tajin recipe. Gruyere cheese adds a nutty sophistication to the flavors and is accented with the addition of lemon juice as well.

Doights de Fatma:
2 tab. olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb. lean ground beef
2 medium potatoes, cooked, peeled and diced
1/2 cups minced parsley
salt and pepper to taste
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 dozen lumpia/malsouka wrappers or filo pastry sheets 
Oil for frying

-In large saute pan, heat 2 tab. olive oil over medium heat.  Add onion and saute for 5 minutes until onions are soft.  Add ground beef and garlic,and saute until meat is browned.  

-Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper 
and stir in potatoes, parsley and eggs.

-If using filo pastry, melt 1/2 cup butter. Place 2 sheets of filo on a dry working surface.  Brush with melted butter.  Place 1/3 cup beef mixture on the short end of pastry sheets and press filling to 3 inches in length. Roll one time, encasing filling.  Fold 1 inch of edges on each edge over filling then continue rolling tightly to create a spring roll shape.  Rolls should be about 1 - 1&1/2 inch in diameter.  Set aside, seam side down.

-If using lumpia/malsouka wrappers, place wrapper
at a time on dry work surface.  Place 1/3 cup filling 
along one edge of pastry.  Roll tightly as described 
above.  Brush edge of pastry with water and set 
doights aside.  Fry as described above. (You do not 
need to use butter with these wrappers.)

-Heat 2 inches of oil in frying pan until hot (a bread 
cube should brown within 30 seconds)and place 
doights seam side down in oil. Fry over medium-high heat, turning until rolls are golden on all sides.  Pull rolls from grease with tongs and allow extra oil to drip back into the pan.  Set on paper towels to drain and cool slightly.

-Serve warm with fresh lemon wedges. 

Anissa's Chicken Doights de Fatma
2 cups shredded cooked chicken  
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 eggs
1 cup shredded Swiss or Gruyere cheese
1 cup cubed cooked potato
1/2 cup chopped parsley
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup butter
2 dozen lumpia/malsouka wrappers of filo pastry

-Saute onion and garlic in 2 tab. oil until transparent.  Stir in chicken.  Beat egg and add to chicken mixture. Cook and scramble over medium heat until egg is lightly cooked.  Cool mixture.  Stir in salt and pepper, cheese potato and parsley.  

-If using filo pastry, melt 1/2 cup butter. Place 2 
sheets of filo on a dry working surface.  Brush with
melted butter.  Place 1/3 cup chicken mixture on the
short end of pastry sheets and press to about 3 inchein length.  Roll one time, encasing filling.  Fold 1 inch of edges on each side over filling then continue rolling tightly to create a spring roll shape.  Rolls should be about 1 - 1 1/2 inch in diameter.  Set aside, seam side down.

-Heat 2 inches of oil in frying pan until hot (a bread 
cube should brown within 30 seconds) and place 
doights seam side down in oil. Fry over medium-high heat, turning until rolls are golden on all sides.  Pull rolls from grease with tongs and allow extra oil to drip back into the pan.  Set on paper towels.

-Serve warm with fresh lemon wedges.