September 29, 2009

Summer, Fall, Baking

It's already fall again. I am not so sure what happened to the summer... I didn't really notice it much this year. While I enjoyed my three week vacation in May, I am thinking of taking an actual summer vacation next year. I did go away for a weekend in July: Visiting friends in Switzerland where I was on the top of a two-and-a-half-thousand meter high mountain for the first time in my life. It was pretty impressive. Here's a picture. If it were extended to the left and the weather had been better, you'd be able to see Lake Constance.




Earlier in the summer I tried Sweet Amandine's Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe. So glad I important the "good" brown sugar from the States a couple of years ago.





They tasted like actual American chocolate chip cookies. Hooray!

And, yes, it's fall again. What do you bake in the fall? Plum cake. Here's my very German version of it:



For the dough, mix the following:

150g low fat Quark
6 tablespoons milk
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
75 g sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla sugar
a pinch of salt
300g flour
1 tablespoon baking powder (or 1 teaspoon baking soda)

Spread the dough on a cookie sheet, top with plums. Bake at 200°C/380°F (or so) for about half an hour.

Juni 30, 2009

Garden Brunch

Last Sunday, I invited all of my friends to join me in my garden for brunch. Around 20 people came, and we had a great day from noon to, I think, nine at night. We had great amounts of delicious food, made lattes from more than six liters of milk, drank more than 9 bottles of prosecco and wine (at least five of the twenty did not drink...) and at least a crate of beer. The only thing we did not succeed in was the attempt not to annoy the neighbors. But garden brunch only takes place once a summer.

My friends ate all the good food I made before I could take pictures of any of the dishes. But here's a list of what I made:
* Antipasti from zucchini, eggplant, yellow and red peppers and carrots.
* Meatballs from two pounds of ground beef (I added parsley to the meat - really good idea!)
* Chard quiche
* Strawberry cake

Then there were also lots of more antipasti that I bought in the grocery store (two kinds of olives, artichokes, dried tomatoes, caper buds, feta cheese), salami, olive ciabatta, baguette, four kinds of cheeese, rhubarb pie, two kinds of tiramisu, strawberries, vanilla dip, mini-muffins, goat cheese and grape tart, and cheese tartletts. You see, most of my friends are also good at cooking, and - more imporant - willing to bring delicious food to brunches! :)

Since I didn't take any pictures this time, I will post the photo of the strawberry cake that I made last year. This year's looked almost exactly the same.


Juni 01, 2009

last day of vacation

1. I was hungry way before dinner time today (due to not eating lunch, I guess...) and I made a delicious dip. Mixed ca. 3 tablespoons of cream cheese with the juice of half a small lemon, a teaspoon of olive oil, salt, a pressed garlic clove (Only use a small one! I did not and I will smell terrible all week...) and a couple of capers. I ate it with my favorite bread ("Hamburger Kräftiges") from my favorite organic bakery.



2. Eventually, I did cook dinner. White asparagus. The white variety is much more popular in Germany than the green variety, and local white asparagus is only sold for a very limited time in May and June. The last day for local asparagus is traditionally Johanni - June 24, the day that St. John was baptised. Usually, a pound per person is estimated. In my case, this were about 9 beautiful white asparagus which I peeled with a knife (remember that with white asparagus you have to actually peel the whole piece, not just the bottom). I threw them boiling water to which I added some salt, some sugar and the juice of half a lemon. There were done after about 20 min. I served them with boiled potatoes, sauce Hollandaise (which came from a package) and Katenschinken. This is a northern German variety of smoked ham. It is traditionally smoked in cold beech wood smoke which gives the ham a very mild flavor. I prefer it cut in very fine slices. Others like it up to half a centimeter thick.
While I usually perfer very dry wine, I like it a tiny bit sweeter when I eat asparagus some times. My favorite wine with this dish is Pinot Blanc but I didn't have any in the house today. Instead, I drank a (relatively) dry Kerner from the Palatinate.



3. My dear friend H. spent a week in and around Manchester during which she visited Chatsworth House which was Mr. Darcy's Pemberley in the 2005 Pride and Prejudice movie. She brought me a coffee mug with the portrait of Mr. Darcy! (However, this is not the Mr. Darcy from the 2005 movie but from the 1995 BBC Mini Series that starred Colin Firth - even better, if you ask me!)



4. During my vacation I read two great books: The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim and Die Frau im Mond (Mal di Pietre) by Milena Agus. Unfortunately, the latter has not yet been translated into English. It is available in Italian, German and Spanish.
The Enchanted April is about four London women in the 1920s who spent a month in a villa in Italy. Each of them arrives with her own little secrets and problems, and as if through an enchantment, these problems solve themselves by the end of the story. Read it to find out how. It's also very worth reading for the beautiful nature descriptions, especially of the flowers and plants that grow in the garden of the villa. You can almost smell them when you read the book.
Die Frau im Mond is the story of a woman from Sardinia who is married to a much older man because nobody else wants her. However, she is really in love with someone else. The story is told by her granddaughter. I can't really tell more or I'll spoil too much. Read it!

Mai 30, 2009

Back from Mass. - Pasta with Tomatoes and Shrimp

I am back from my vacation in Massachusetts where I have discovered a tiny love for seafood. I don't eat fish but I have eaten lots of shrimp and - after I found out what they are - some scallops. So back home I decided to fight my jet lag with a good dinner.

I slowly fried very ripe cherry tomatoes in olive oil and later added balsamic vinegar and salt. In another pan I fried shrimp with garlic in olive oil. Cut up some green olives, added them and some capers (not the hard tiny ones, but the ones that are medium sized, see picture) to the tomatoes. Seasoned with lemon pepper, more salt and lemon juice. Tossed with spaghetti and added the shrimp. On the plate, drizzled a tiny bit more olive oil over the pasta and topped with parmesan.

Looks like this:

Mai 18, 2009

Dezember 06, 2008

Zimtsterne

It's St. Nicholas day, I am finally able to make time for some Christmas baking! Today: Zimtsterne (Zimt - cinnamon; Sterne - stars).





500g sweet almonds, ground
450g confectioner's sugar (plus about 50g for rolling out dough)
3 egg whites
1 tablespoon kirsch
3 teaspoons cinnamon


Beat the egg whites until stiff, add kirsch. Set aside about 2 tablespoons of the mix.
Add sugar and continue beating.
Mix ground almonds and cinnamon and add to the egg mix.

The dough should be fairly dry. Roll out, using plenty of confectioner's sugar to avoid that the dough sticks to the surface. Rolled out dough should be about 3/4 cm (1/4 inch?) thick.

Cut out stars and place them on a parchment paper covered cookie sheet.

Add some confectioner's sugar to the egg and kirsch mix. Spread sugar mix thinly on the cookies.

Bake for about 12 min at 175°C/ 350°C until cookies are dry. They should still be very soft in the middle when you take them out or they will be too hard once they are cold.