I guess because of my German heritage I forever gravitate to German cuisine and food history. Although my mother’s cooking was a mix of German and Canadian, I can definitely see how she correlated the two quite well.
When most people think of pizza, Italy comes to mind. That’s why I’d like to talk about Flammkuchen, a crisp, smoky bacon German pizza. The name translates to ‘flame cake’ and comes from south Germany and the Alsace region of France. Originally it was used by bakers to test the temperature of their ovens. A bit of dough was rolled flat, topped with ‘sour cream’ and baked in their wood fired bread ovens for a few minutes. The oven’s temperature was told in the nearly blistered crispiness of the flammkuchen. When it came out just right the oven was ready to bake bread.
The classic version of German pizza is characterized by its thin, crisp, blistered crust. The dough is spread with soured cream (creme fraiche) then topped with partially cooked bacon, caramelized onions and spices.
Other savory variations include Gruyere or Munster cheese and mushrooms while sweet versions may include apples, cinnamon and a sweet liqueur.
For those of you who enjoy a thin, crispy crust pizza, this one’s for you!
In a large bowl, mix together flour, salt, water & oil. Mix until dough begins to form; turn dough out onto lightly floured surface & knead until soft & smooth about 3-5 minutes. Place dough back in bowl; cover & set aside. In a small bowl, mix together yogurt & nutmeg; set aside.
In a large skillet, heat oil. Add onion & sprinkle with salt. Cook & stir about 15 minutes or until moisture is evaporated & onion is soft. Reduce heat; sprinkle with vinegar. Cook & stir until golden. Stir in brown sugar; cook & stir until caramel brown in color. Remove from skillet & set aside.
In skillet, saute bacon until it is half way to crisp, 2-4 minutes. Remove bacon to drain on paper towel. Break or cut bacon into small pieces.
Preheat oven to 400 F. On lightly floured surface, roll out dough to about a 11 x 16-inch rectangle. Generously sprinkle a large baking sheet with cornmeal & place dough on it. Spread yogurt mixture over crust, leaving a small border. Distribute onions & bacon evenly over yogurt. Top all with a dusting of black pepper.
Lemon chicken is the name of several dishes found in cuisines around the world which include chicken and lemon.
In Canada, we usually either use breading or batter to coat the chicken before cooking it and serving it in a sweet lemon flavored sauce. A completely unrelated dish from Italy, also called lemon chicken is where a whole chicken is roasted with white wine, fresh lemon juice, fresh thyme and vegetables. In France, lemon chicken generally includes Dijon mustard in the sauce and is accompanied by roasted potatoes. I would presume the German version would be a chicken schnitzel with fresh lemon.
Having an inherited love of ‘sweet things’, lemon chicken has always appealed to me. I prefer to make a tempura batter to dip the chicken strips in and then fry them on a griddle. I’m not big on anything deep fried so this is as close as it gets for me. Some years ago I came across a recipe on a kraftfoods.com site for a very unique and easy ‘lemon sauce’ for chicken. It might not appeal to everyone but we enjoy it every so often.
Prepare vegetables & saute in 1/2 cup chicken broth until tender-crisp. Drain broth & reserve for later.
In a bowl, whisk together all batter ingredients. Slice chicken breast into thin strips & place in batter; mix well. Heat griddle to 325 F. Add a small amount of oil; remove chicken strips from batter & place on griddle. Fry on each side until cooked & golden. Lay on paper towel to blot off oil.
In a small saucepan, combine jelly powder & cornstarch. Add 1 cup chicken broth, dressing, garlic & ginger; stir until jelly powder is dissolved. Simmer over medium heat until sauce is thickened, stirring frequently. Add reserved broth from vegetables.
Combine vegetables chicken & lemon sauce. Serve over hot cooked rice, if desired.
A popular and versatile dish, risotto is served extensively in the kitchens and restaurants of the world. The history of risotto is naturally tied to the history of rice in Italy. Rice was first introduced to Italy and Spain by the Arabs during the middle ages. The humidity of the Mediterranean was perfect for growing shorter-grained rices.
A hearty rice dish, risotto is rich with the flavors of the stock used in its making, as well as saffron, and any of the hundreds of ingredients that pair so perfectly with it.
The key components of this simple but elegant dish are: rice, stock (usually chicken), onions, butter, wine, parmesan and saffron. It can be served by itself or as an accompaniment to other dishes. The starchy component of the dry grain mixed with the stock creates a thick, creamy sauce.
Brion is a ‘wing’ man. He LOVES chicken wings and rice so it seems quite fitting to make a CHICKEN WING RISOTTO.
In a large skillet, heat butter & oil; add wings, cook until golden brown on both sides; Remove from skillet to paper towels & drain skillet.
In skillet, melt extra butter; add onion & garlic; cook until tender. Add pepper, shallots, zucchini, celery & saffron, cook another minute. Add wine, rice, water, chicken bouillon cube & chicken wings, bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat & simmer for 20-25 minutes or until all the liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat, stir in parsley.
Saffron is extremely expensive to buy in our part of the country. A good trade off would be turmeric or just use the spices that appeal to you.
Savored for centuries, crepes are popular not only throughout France but worldwide. Crepe making has evolved from being cooked on large cast- iron hot plates heated over a wood fire in a fireplace to pans or griddles that are gas or electrically heated.
Around the 12th century, buckwheat was introduced to Brittany, France from the east. Buckwheat could thrive on the desolate, rocky Breton moors and was high in fiber, protein and essential amino acids. At that point, all crepes were being made from buckwheat flour. White flour crepes appeared only at the turn of the 20th century when white flour became affordable.
Almost every country in the world has its own name and adaptation of crepes including Italian crespelle, Hungarian palacsintas, Jewish blintzes, Scandinavian plattars, Russian blini and Greek kreps.
Although crepes are simple in concept, by creating fillings that are complex in flavors, takes this entree to a whole new level.
On July 25/2016, I posted a blog featuring both sweet and savory crepes you might enjoy to read. For something different today, I made ‘crepe stacks’ which have a savory filling of my own ‘design’. Hope you find time to make some.
In a large container with a cover, beat eggs well on medium speed. Gradually add dry ingredients alternately with milk & oil. Beat until smooth. Refrigerate at least 1 hour before cooking.
In a saucepan, melt margarine; add flour while stirring for a couple of minutes. Gradually whisk in milk, chicken broth & spices. Add cheese; cook, stirring until cheese is melted. Set aside to cool slightly then place in food processor. Process until smooth & fluffy.
In a bowl, combine water & seasonings. Add ground pork & mix well. In a skillet, saute mushroom slices in margarine; remove from skillet & set aside. Scramble fry pork until no longer pink. Spoon onto paper towels to drain. Add to Gouda sauce.
Place one crepe on each dinner plate. Top with slices of sauteed mushrooms & some pork/Gouda sauce. Repeat 3 more times on each plate. Garnish if you prefer. It may be necessary to reheat for a couple of minutes in the microwave before serving.
The aroma of Easter bread baking certainly brings back precious childhood memories. What I recall about my mother’s Easter bread, was that it was a dense, mildly sweet & a very egg rich bread. It was always baked in round ‘cans’ and the taste was unforgettable.
Nearly every country around the world has a traditional Easter bread. Each one is different in some way, a mix of symbolism and satisfying taste. They represent a continuity of traditions from centuries past, including much earlier pre-Christian times. Often these rich, yeasted breads are made in symbolic shapes and are elaborately decorated.
Germany and Austria make several shapes such as : Osterzopf – Easter braid, Osterkranz – Easter wreath or crown, Osternester – Easter nests, Eierimnest – Easter egg nest, Striezel – stacked braided bread.
That being said, I couldn’t resist doing a little ‘version’ of my own. I started with my favorite sweet yeast bread, added some anise flavor and a cream cheese filling. So now you have German osterkranz, Italian panettone and Romanian pasca all in one beautiful EUROPEAN EASTER BREAD.
In a large bowl, whisk yeast & sugar into lukewarm water; let stand about 10 minutes. With an electric mixer, beat together 3/4 cup sugar, eggs, oil, anise extract, lemon zest, lemon extract, salt & anise seed. Combine egg mixture, melted butter & milk with yeast mixture.
Add 4 CUPS flour, 1 cup at a time to wet mixture. Stir well after each addition. Turn dough out onto a floured surface & knead until smooth & elastic, about 5-6 minutes, adding remaining 1/2 cup flour if necessary.
Coat a large bowl with oil. Place dough in bowl & turn to coat. Cover with plastic wrap & set in a warm place to rise until it doubles in bulk. Meanwhile, cut a piece of parchment paper big enough to cover the bottom & go up the sides of a 10" spring form pan. When dough has risen enough, cut into four pieces.
On the parchment paper, press one piece of the dough into a circle measuring about 10" in diameter. Sprinkle with 1/3 of the mixed peel, leaving a gap at the edge. Press out second piece of the dough on a lightly floured piece of wax paper, place it on top of the first layer & sprinkle with another 1/3 of mixed peel. Repeat with the third & fourth pieces of dough but do not sprinkle mixed peel on the final layer.
Place a glass tumbler on top of the center of the dough circles. Cut dough into 16 segments, starting a the edge of the glass. Lift & twist them away from each other through 180 degrees. Lift & twist through 90 degrees so that the ends are vertical. Press the edges together firmly. Repeat this process with all pairs of segments. Leave glass sitting on top at the center of the circle to form an indentation for the cheese filling. Cover with plastic wrap & set in a warm place to rise for about 1/2 an hour.
Preheat oven to to 325 F. In a bowl, place cream cheese, eggs, sugar & vanilla; mix well. When bread has risen, remove glass & fill indentation with cheese mixture. Bake for about 40-45 minutes. Allow to cool. Brush with honey/water glaze. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.
Eostre is an obscure Germanic and Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring and dawn, and it is thought to be the namesake of the Christian holiday Easter. Because food has always had a close association with Easter, special dishes were cooked in her honor. Most important of these was a small spiced, sweet bun from which our ‘hot cross bun’ derives. These little spiced buns are a rather old English tradition, which are still traditionally eaten on Good Friday. They are marked on top with a cross which is of ancient origin connected with religious offerings of bread.
Hot Cross ‘Scones’ are an easy take on the seasonal classic bun. They are the best of both worlds; hot cross yeasted buns and a tender spicy scone. Scones work for me in the way that most of the time I have the ingredients on hand and they only take about twenty minutes or so to make.
As always, I enjoy the idea of variation in just about everything. I had three scone recipes in mind for today’s blog. One recipe is a hot cross scone made by changing out the regular flour for ‘Kamut’ flour. This flour is made from an ancient grain originally grown by the pharaohs of Egypt. It contains more protein, minerals and other nutrients than modern wheat.
The other two recipes are Spiced Orange & Fresh Apple Hot Cross Scones, bothmade with a sour cream batter. Hopefully they will become part of your Easter recipe collection.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda & salt. Add butter; using a pastry blender, blend until mixture forms fine crumbs. Stir in spices, dried fruit & orange zest.
In a small bowl, combine sour cream, eggs, & vanilla; whisk until well blended. Add to flour mixture; stir until a soft dough forms.
Scoop onto lined baking sheet. Bake 15-20 minutes until golden. Remove from oven, combine water & honey glaze. Warm very slightly in microwave; brush over tops of scones. When scones have cooled, decorate with icing crosses.
To make Kamut Scones use 1 3/4 cup kamut flour & 3/4 cup white flour instead of all white flour.
To make Apple Scones add 1/4 of a large apple, peeled & cut in 1/4" dice. to basic recipe.
The key components needed when preparing a baked pasta meal lies in selecting a good durum wheat pasta, tossed through a rich, creamy sauce with the addition of proper seasonings and the right cheeses.
Baked spaghetti is more accommodating to busy schedules than stove top pastas. Part of the charm of a baked pasta dish is being able to assemble it completely and refrigerate until time to bake. The results will be good but not great. You are better off making the components ahead of time — saute the vegetables, cook (meat) sauce, combine the cheeses, boil the pasta and then combine everything just before baking.
Oven baked pasta has a long history with many variations. Ingredients will vary depending on regional traditions and approaches. A few things that always work for me are; choosing a good durum or egg pasta, cook it al dente, season each element of the dish, be generous with the sauce but go easy on the cheese and if you choose to use a crumb topping, make your own and keep it coarse.
Today’s BAKED SPAGHETTI with MEAT SAUCE recipe is a very simple one I used many years ago in the restaurant industry. It was put out by the Campbell’s soup company and worked well in the commercial setting. It can be changed up with beef, pork or chicken, all with good results.
When it comes to stuffed pastas, the only limitation is your own imagination. Sometimes it could be inspired by the seasons, maybe what you grew in your garden. Other times, its what you have on hand. Some of the best baked pastas evolve from a little adventure and risk taking.
The filling you choose, gives body and character. The sauce should bring the plate alive and complement the filling, not overpower or mask what is held within the pasta ‘walls’. Generally, there are three types of sauce used when making this entree; either a light tomato sauce, Bechamel or cream sauce or a broth sauce.
I have always favored using ‘Conchiglioni‘ pasta, the name derives from the Italian word meaning ‘seashells’. Their shape, size and consistency are the perfect vessel for bold, rich fillings and flavorful sauces. Baked pastas, or ‘pastas al forno’ as they are called in Italy, date back to the Renaissance when they were being served at the banquets of nobles.
Anyone following my food blogs has long since figured out I have a huge love for ‘stuffing things’. Although this meal may seem a bit ordinary, the recipe is one I developed many years ago and still enjoy using it. You can also find it featured in my eBook on Amazon, ‘Living Large on a Lean Food Budget’.
Today, March 24th, is the birthday of my brother, Tony.
Cook pasta shells in boiling, salted water with a small amount of oil added, for 15 minutes. Drain, rinse under cold water.
In a small saucepan, melt margarine & remove from heat. Stir in water & sauce mix. Bring to a boil over medium heat & simmer 3 minutes.
In a large bowl, combine salmon, mushrooms, broccoli, onions & half of dill sauce.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Fill pasta shells with salmon mixture. All the filling should fit into 18 shells as they are nicely 'overstuffed'. In a small bowl, mix together remaining dill sauce, reserved salmon juice & mushroom soup. Spread some sauce over bottom of a 9 x 13-inch baking pan. Lay filled shells single file in pan. Pour remaining sauce over all & top with grated cheddar cheese.
Cover with foil & bake about 45-50 minutes.
This meal is easily portioned and frozen for an easy quick fix for supper later.
If you prefer, you could use fresh baked salmon instead of canned.
Its only March, so BBQ season is till a few months away. Some would claim that good ‘barbecued’ food can only come from the grill, not the oven. But what about during our winter months or times when you just don’t feel like firing up the grill or you’re out of propane? Let’s face it, nothing can replace a good outdoor barbecue, but..
The key to oven BBQ chicken is to start with bone-in pieces. Chicken leg quarters are fairly fatty in comparison to chicken breast so it takes a lot to dry a chicken leg out. Which brings me to a recipe I clipped from a newspaper back in 1970 for OVEN BARBECUED CHICKEN. The ingredient list is rather lengthy but all pretty common place items. Brion likes this meal served with roasted potatoes.
In the month of March our family celebrates three birthdays. Today, March 21st would have been my Dad’s. He passed away at the age of 92, 12 years ago. Our Dad was a man of discipline; love was closely associated with duty and commitment for him. He was confident in who he was and didn’t demonstrate any need to conform to what we might have wanted him to do. Everything he undertook was driven by his commitment to honor and provide for the family that he loved.
IT IS WITH MUCH LOVE OUR FAMILY IS HONORING THIS DAY IN THE MEMORY OF OUR WONDERFUL DAD
Preheat oven to 375 F. Have available a large baking dish that will hold chicken in a single layer. Combine flour, 1 tsp salt, paprika & 1/4 tsp pepper in a heavy plastic bag. Place chicken in bag & shake to coat evenly. In a heavy, large skillet, heat margarine & oil.
Add chicken & brown slowly on all sides; place in baking dish. Add onion & garlic to pan; cook gently for 3 minutes. Add all remaining ingredients, cover & simmer 10 minutes.
Pour this mixture over chicken, cover the pan & bake 15 minutes. Turn chicken legs, cover again & bake about 15 minutes more. Remove cover & continue baking until legs are tender, basting often with sauce, about 20 minutes.
Although St. Patrick’s Day started out as a religious feast holiday celebrating the life of St. Patrick, it has become kind of a mixture of non-religious celebrations steeped in Irish culture, folklore and superstition.
Many St. Patrick’s Day traditions revolve around luck. Ironically, the Irish have been a very unlucky people as history tells. For instance, the rainbow you often see depicted in the St. Patrick’s Day themes, has seven easily distinguishable colors. Both the rainbow and the number seven are symbols of luck.
It is considered lucky to find a four leaf clover or ‘Shamrock’. It has been estimated that there are about 10,000 three leaf clovers to every four leaf clover. According to legend, each of the four leaves represents something: hope, faith, love and luck, respectively.
In the 19th century green became the symbol of Ireland ( also called ‘The Emerald Isle’). The wearing of green on St. Patrick’s Day is considered lucky. Pinching those not doing so began in Ireland many years ago.
The legendary ‘Blarney Stone’, which is set in a wall of a castle in the Irish village of Blarney, is said to have magical powers. Whoever kisses the stone will have powers of persuasion.
Of course, we can’t forget some of the lucky charms associated with all this folklore. If you hang a horseshoe over your doorway, make sure it has the open end up or your luck will pour out. The saying ‘see a penny pick it up and all day you will have good luck’. If you are lucky enough to see a falling star or a ‘shooting’ star, you get to make a secret wish.
With all the serious and concerning things happening in our world today, I thought it would keep things lighter just to acknowledge our Irish friends with some ‘fun facts’ on their St. Patrick’s Day holiday.
For the food tribute of the day, I chose to do IRISH CREAM CHEESECAKES. How can you not love these little treasures!
In a small bowl, combine flour, sugar & cocoa; cut in margarine. Add water & mix only until combined. Shape into 1-inch balls; press onto the bottom & up sides of lightly greased miniature muffin pans (1 3/4-inch diameter size).
Cream Cheese Filling
Preheat oven to 325 F. In a small bowl, beat cream cheese until smooth on medium speed. Add sugar, Baileys Irish Cream, & vanilla & egg; blend well. Fill chocolate cups. Bake 15-18 minutes.
If desired top with whip cream.