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.