Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Broiled Figs With Goat Cheese

I've always liked a Fig Newton and enjoyed the occasional fresh fig, purchased on a whim when I'd see them in season at the farmers market. Then, while living in New York I worked with a woman who had a fig tree in her yard. She didn't much care for the fruit and, every fall, would bring me sacks of them. It was during this time of wonderful glutton that I really came to love them.
One of my favorite ways to prepare a fig:

  • Slice an X into the top two-thirds of the fruit while leaving the bottom section connected.
  • Pinch the bottom a bit to expose the flesh
  • Sprinkle it with a touch of salt, balsamic vinegar, and a teaspoon of crumbled of goat cheese.
  • Pop the figs under the broiler for a couple of minutes to allow the cheese to get warm and just slightly browned.
The preparation makes a wonderful appetizer or side dish with a pan-search pork chop and sautéed greens.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Pumpkin Risotto

Those amazing little pumpkins* that I wrote about last week continue to catch my eye. They are the perfect size for cooking up one dish, easy to handle, and roast to fork tender in less then 30 minutes when I have the convection oven turned on. Having eaten my fill of quick breads in the last couple of weeks, though, this time I decided to try something new.

I roasted a chicken for dinner last week, so I had a fresh batch of chicken stock on hand. Therefore, a pot of pumpkin risotto seemed like a natural choice.

1 2 -pound pumpkin
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion
4 cloves garlic
1 cup aborio rice
1 quart chicken stock
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon cream
1/4 cup fresh grated Parmasian
Salt and pepper

Preheat over to 375 degrees. Cut pumpkin or squash in half, remove seeds, and rub with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Place flesh-side on a baking sheet and roast until the flesh can be easily pierce with a fork, about 45 minutes. (30 minutes if you have a convection oven.) Remove from oven. When it is cool enough to handle, remove the skin and place flesh in a bowl.** Mash pumpkin flesh with 1 tablespoon of stock.

Heat stock in a medium-sized sauce pan. Leave simmering.

Finely chop onion and mince garlic. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to a wide, pan with shallow sides. Over medium-high heat, cook onion and garlic for three to five minutes, until translucent. Add rice and cook for two or three minutes, until the rice smells slightly toasted.

Reduce heat to low and add two ladles of stock to the rice. Stirring frequently until most of the liquid has adsorbed. Continue to add stock, one or two ladles full at a time, and stirring frequently until the rice has cooked to al dente, about 35 minutes.

Add mashed pumpkin to the rice mixture and stir until fully incorporated. Add butter, cream, and Parmesans. Season with salt and pepper. Risotto is best served immediately.

*I know I told you there were really squash, but they don't look like squash, so I'm sticking with pumpkin. And for that matter, a tomato is a vegetable in my book.
** The pumpkin or squash can be cooked up to three days in advance.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Banana Bread

I almost always have bananas in the house. And even though Kevin will eat them way past the point of ripeness that I can stand, it's not that unusual for two or three to turn brown and bruised beyond the standards of acceptable snack.

Instead of getting frustrated by this waste, I relish it. It means that I have to make a batch of banana bread. And since my in-laws arrive with the world's biggest bag of chocolate chips (72 ounces to be exact) I added them to my last batch along with some toasted walnuts.

The loaf was consumed within a couple of days, with Kevin and I having heavy slices for breakfast as well as dessert.

1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup raw sugar
2 large eggs
3 medium-sized bananas, mashed (approximately 1 1/2 cups)
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup toasted walnuts, roughly chopped

Preheat over to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9x3x5 inch loaf pan.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

In a large bowl, blend butter and sugar together until completely combine. Mix in eggs. Mix in banana and vinegar.

Pour half of the flour mixture into the wet ingredients. Stir until thoroughly incorporated. Add the remaining flour and stir until thoroughly incorporated. Add chocolate chips and walnuts. Mix to combine.

Pour batter into loaf pan. Bake until the top splits and a toothpick inserted into the center of comes out clean.

Allow the loaf to cool slightly before removing from the pan.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Crepes Stuufed With Poached Pears

On our last night in Paris we had crepes. I finished my meal with a sweet crepe filled with poached pears and topped with chocolate, almonds, and vanilla ice cream. The combination was amazing, and I've thought about it often since returning home.
Over the weekend a pile of pears purchased at the farm's market finally wore me down. I had to try to recreate this treat at home. The results were easier that I expected. With the help of a jar of organic dark chocolate spread, I was able to recreate a dessert that could give the Parisian version a run for its berets.

To assemble, take one hot crepe. Place half of a poached pear (recipe below), thinly sliced, inside the crepe. Fold in half. Drizzle with chocolate sauce and top with chopped almonds and a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Poached Pears
6 pears
1 quart apple juice
1 stick of cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt

Peel pears and cut in half. Remove seeds and core. Place pears in a medium saucepan. Pour apple juice over pears to cover. Add cinnamon, vanilla, and salt. Bring the liquid to a boil, and then reduce heat to a simmer. Cook pears until they are easily pierced with a fork, between 20 and 35 minutes depending on the ripeness of the fruit.

You can store the pears in the poaching liquid for up to three days.

Poaching liquid can also be reduced to a sauce and served with the pears.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Pumpkin Bread

Even though Halloween isn't a big deal in Germany -- last year I saw only a few trick or treaters -- there is still plenty of festive harvest time flair. There are corn mazes built at local farms, colored leaves and gourds adorn front doors and store windows, and the farmer’s market and local stores are overflowing with many different types of pumpkins and squash.
One that keeps catching my eye is a smallish, bright orange variety known as an ambercup. Not really a pumpkin, but a type of squash, the squash glossary on What's Cooking America, praises the ambercup fir its dry sweet tastes and extra long shelf life.

I wouldn't know anything about how long it lasts though. Whenever these little guys make it into my house they don't sit around very long. A few weeks ago I made a very yummy pumpkin soup. Most recently I used one to make a delicious batch of pumpkin bread. One average-sized, roasted ambercup yielded eight ounces of flesh, exactly what I needed for the following recipe.

2-pound pumpkin or winter squash
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat over to 375 degrees. Cut pumpkin or squash in half, remove seeds, and rub with oil. Place flesh-side on a baking sheet and roast until the flesh can be easily pierce with a fork, about 45 minutes. Remove from oven. When it is cool enough to handle, remove the skin and place flesh in a bowl.*

Reduce the oven's heat to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9x5x3-inch loaf pan.

In a large bowl, blend together oil, sugar, and eggs. Once thoroughly combine, mix in the roasted pumpkin. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, baking flour, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, stirring to combine.

Pour batter into the loaf pan and bake until a toothpick comes out clean, approximately 1 hour. Allow to cool slightly before removing from the pan.

* The pumpkin or squash can be cooked up to three days in advance.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Potato Leek Soup

Today on Überall I blogged about the German's love for potatoes. According to my source, The American Journal of Potato Research, they eat between 396 and 440 pounds of potatoes annually. Since launching The Apron Caper last May, I've demonstrated my own German roots writing about potatoes more than any other single ingredient.

I have recipes for baked fries, two kinds of potato salad (German and American), and potato pancakes. In keeping with this theme, I thought it was a good day to share another one of my favorite recipes spotlighting the spud: potato leek soup.

3 leeks
1 pound russet potatoes*
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1⁄2 quarts chicken stock
1 tablespoon butter (optional)
Salt and pepper

Thinly slice the leeks. Heat a medium-sized pot with a heavy bottom, over a medium-high heat. Pour the olive oil to the pot and then add the leeks and sauté until soft, about three minutes.

Peel the potatoes and dice into half-inch pieces. Add the potatoes to the leeks and pour in chicken stock, which should cover the potatoes by about an inch. Bing to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer uncovers for about 20 minutes, until the potatoes are cooked through. Season with salt and pepper.

Remove from heat and allow to cool for a few minutes. Pour the contents of the pot into a blender, and puree until smooth. If desired, blend in butter, which will enhance the richness and mouth-feel. Reheat and serve.

* Russet potatoes, also known as baking potatoes, work best for this soup.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Normany: More Then Calvados

Note: This post is an excerpt from my post, "A Day in Normandy" on Uberall.

Normandy is a major apple-producing region, and is known for its apple brandy, Calvados.
It’s available from farmers throughout the region: you just need to know what to look for. Small signs on the main road announce where to turn for local products. However, this is a mission that, especially for the non-French speaking traveler, must be taken on with a sense of adventure. Sometimes, when you find your way to the farm, there is no one home. Other times, you simply can't find the farm at all.

But when you do find a farm store, you are almost always rewarded for your efforts. We were.

Greeted by one of the owners of the orchard, we were invited into the farm's tasting room. Here we were given samples of four bottles of Calvados, each produced on site and aged for different lengths of time. Side by side tasters were able to discern differences as the liquor developed. We were also invited to taste the farm's cider and Pommeau.

Some claim that Pommeau is Normandy's best-kept secret. It is unfermented apple juice, fortified with Calvados (apple brandy) and aged in a barrel. It is kind of like an apple wine, with hints of pear and vanilla that is served in place of more common dessert wine, such as port.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


Every time our friends Tina and Albert invite us to dinner, I am impressed with what comes out of their kitchen. They consistently show us wonderful examples of what German food is like at home, and take extra care to show us traditional foods. Last Saturday they pulled out all the stops, impressing my in-laws to no end.

Leberknödelsuppe, which I wrote about yesterday, was followed by an outstanding dish, rouladen. More elegant a beef stew, but equally satisfying, this dish is made of thinly sliced beef. Each piece of meat is smeared with mustard on both sides, and a piece of bacon is placed on top of each piece of beef with onions, carrots, and parsley. The beef is rolled and secured with toothpick.
The rolls are browned in oil, and then placed in a Dutch oven. Over the rolls, a mixture of vegetable broth and red wine. The whole thing then goes into the oven to braise for a few hours. The liquid reduces to wonderful, rich, beefy gravy and the meat is so tender you can cut it with the side of a spoon. Inside, the slowly stewed vegetables are still delicious and flavorful.
Tina served her rouladen a stuffing roll that she called knödel. The bread cubes are mixed with onion, bacon, parsley, egg, and milk. The mixture is formed into a log, wrapped in foil, and then steamed. When sliced, the stuffing is equally as elegant at the rouladen and forms a wonderful base to soak up all of the delicious gravy.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


What is Leberknödelsuppe? Translated directly from German to English, it's "liver dumpling soup." From a culinary perspective, it is basically a meatball made of finely ground liver served in a clear beef broth. It is popular in Bavaria and Austria, though you can find the dumplings at butchers throughout all of Germany.
Even if you're not an offal lover, you should give this soup a try. In general, I don't like liver. Not fried with onions and bacon, not chopped chicken livers, not even fois gras. But this soup is actually delicious.

I don't know if it's the fact that the soup makes you forget that your eating liver, or if the beef broth covers the natural liver taste, but you'd hardly know what the dumplings are made of liver. In fact, on two recent occasions people that I was eating with -- self-proclaimed liver haters -- not only tasted, but also enjoyed an entire bowl full.

Last Saturday they hosted Kevin's parent and Kevin and myself for a traditional German meal, which started with their wonderful Leberknödelsuppe. What a treat!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Federweißer and Zwiebelkucken

Want to learn more about these Rhine-region delicacies? Check out my post, "Moselle, Rhine, and Ahr: WIne Festivals," on Uberall.

Monday, October 13, 2008


Last week my mother-in-law cooked up a batch of her famous stuffed cabbage rolls. Inspired by the gigantic cabbages available at our local farm stand, she took over kitchen duties on afternoon to whip up a batch of her families traditional Polish meal.

The halupkies were delicious. Each steamed cabbage leaf we rolled with a stuffing of ground beef, onions, and rice. The rolls were then placed on a bed of sauerkraut and slowly braised in a liquid consisting of tomato sauce and the leftover liquid from steaming the leaves.

The results were delicious. We ate them served over mashed potatoes, and then two days later finished the leftovers (which actually had gotten better) with a hearty brown bread.

1 cup brown rice
1 head cabbage
1 pound ground beef or ground turkey
1 egg
1 onion
1 12-ounce can sauerkraut
1 12-ounce can of pureed tomatoes
Salt and pepper

Cook one cup of brown rice according to package instructions. Let cool to the touch.

Cut out the core of the cabbage head and then place the whole head of cabbage in a pot with one inch of water. Cover and bring water to boil. Allow the cabbage to steam until the leavers are tender, about 20 minutes depending on the size of the head. Remove the cabbage from the pot and allow to cool. Reserve liquid.

Dice onion. Mix the ground beef or turkey with the cooked rice, onion, and salt and pepper.

When the cabbage is cool enough to handle, remove the leaves. Skim the thick vein from bottom each leaf. Place a quarter of a cup of the beef and rice mixture on the inside cup part of each leaf, on the remaining portion of the vein. Fold the top over the filling, fold the sides in, and then roll from top to bottom, creating a package.

Drain and rinse the can of sauerkraut. Place half on the bottom of a large pot along with half of the can of pureed tomatoes. Place half of the stuff cabbage leaves in the pot. Cover with the rest of the sauerkraut and tomatoes. Place the remaining cabbage rolls on top of the sauerkraut. Pour the reserved cabbage-steaming liquid over top of the leave. Use three of four leftover cabbage leaves to cover the contents of the pot.

Cover pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and allow to simmer for one hour, until the meat has cooked through.

Serve with mashed potatoes or brown bread.

Friday, October 10, 2008

An Awful Lot of Offal

Kidney, hearts, and brains, oh my. It seemed like every market and butcher shop in Paris offered a bounty of offal in their perfectly pristine display cases. Offal is generally defined as all organs, and may also include an animal's head, feet, and tongue. Really the only part of the animal not on the offal list are the muscles and bones.

After my recent trip to Paris I really wish that I were a more adventurous eater. I loved to watch well-healed ladies discussing with the butcher the exact organ that they were selecting for their Friday night feasts. But, I just can't get over the fact that you are eating lungs, stomachs, and intestines. Sure, sweetbreads sound delicious, but remember that they are actually a thymus, a hormone-producing organ located in the chest. I know a lot of people who enjoy liver and onions, but I'm not one of them.

My husband, one the other hand, may be becoming an offal convert. In Austria he had not one, but two helpings of braised tongue. I recently had a bite of his foie gras. But rich creamy meat spread on toast just kind of grosses me out.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Even Paris Can't Keep Me Out of the Kitchen

With so many amazing outdoor markets, gourmet food shops, and grocery stores I was very happy that in Paris I stayed in an apartment with a kitchen rather then in a standard hotel room. Before arriving I imagined eating breakfast up there -- baguettes and chocolate croissants of course -- but in the end it didn't work out that way. Once I was up and out in the morning it was easier to get something at one of our local bakeries.

Instead, what happened was, after a few long days of seeing the sights, I was happy to return to the apartment and fix dinner there instead. Sometimes, even with the best restaurants in the world at our doorstep, you are simply too tired to appreciate them. (Besides, if you saw the lunches I was eating I hardly feel like I was depriving myself of anything.)

Both nights that I ate in the apartment I made a wonderful composed salad simply dressed with olive oil and salt. Bread, cheese, and sausages purchased in our travels accompanied the meal. It took no time to prepare, and was a great way to take in the city, without having to get out of the house.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Why Is French Food So Darn Good?

Brassarie, pastisserie, creperie, boulangerie, rôtisserie, bistro, and cafe: We visited them all. My elastic-waist-band jeans are starting to feel a bit tight. I wish I could attribute all of my weight gain to the growing baby bump, but I think the chocolate corissants had something to do with it as well.

So much was consumed during my week-long festival of food that it may take me more then one post to cover it all. Today I'll give some of the highlights.

  • La Rôtisserie du Beaujolais (19, quai de la Tournelle, tel: 01 43 54 17 47), which is open on Sunday, was suggested by David Lebovitz on his blog. While he recommends the rotisserie items – I had the chicken, which was perfect – the real stand out of the meal was my father-in-laws coq au vin.
  • We had crepes twice, but I could have eaten them again and again. Both times the savory crepes were made of buckwheat, which are actually called galettes. The buckwheat has a lovely nutty flavor that accentuates the cheese and the meat. And of course, I had to try a sweet crepe as well. Poached pears, chocolate sauce, almonds, and vanilla ice cream. Yum, yum, yum! (The addresses for these creperies will be posted shortly.)
  • In addition to the dessert crepe described above, I had a few other amazing endings to my meals. The pistachio napoleon-type thing at La Rôtisserie du Beaujolais, a chocolate molten cake with pistachio ice cream at the beach in Normandy, the pear Berthillon ice cream served at Ma Bourgogne (19, place des Vosges): They all tasted so good.