Friday, November 21, 2008

Flat Bread Pizza

In general, I'm a fan of thin-crusted pizza. Sure, I can enjoy just about any type of slice from time to time. Yet, I always come back to the crispy crust sprinkled with just enough ingredients to cover the dough without weighing it down. One of my favorite places in New York, Gruppo on Avenue B between 11th and 12th Streets, does this to great effect.
These days, since Gruppo isn't around the corner I have to improvise. The other day I came up with a very good, store bought alternative. At one of the Halal shops near my house they sell large flat breads. These I toast for a few minutes in a hot over alone, then coat with sauces, herbs, and cheese. The result was a crisp, thin crust that beets the pants off a store bought pizza shell.

1 flat bread
2 tablespoons pizza sauce
2 tablespoons grated Gouda
5 slices fresh mozzarella
1 tablespoon chopped basil

Preheat over to 425 degrees. Place flat bread on a baking sheet and place in the over for three minutes. Remove from oven and top with sauce, Gouda, mozzarella, and basil. Return to over and cook until the cheese has melted, about three minutes.

Serves one.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Thanksgiving Prep

Since I will have visitors that entire week before Thanksgiving, I've decided to become one of those cooks who have a much as possible done ahead of time. This isn't natural for me, but with some effort, I think I may be able to pull off a great dinner without logging the whole week in the kitchen. Here's my menu and game plan.


  • Fruit, cheese, crackers, baguette, nuts; everything here will be purchased and simply needs to be arranged

  • Turkey - needs to be cooked on Thursday; I had ordered a fresh bird, so no defrosting will be required
  • Gravy - today's New York times had an article about making gravy ahead of time; I don't plan on using the recipe posted, which required two hours to roast turkey parts and six hours to simmer the stock, but I like the idea of making a basic gravy ahead of time with a quick turkey stock, freezing it, then warming it on Thursday while whisking in the juices from the roasted bird
  • Mashed potatoes - will be made on Thursday, hopefully one of the few things to be cooked at the last minute
  • Sweet potatoes - I am going to make a sweet potato tart; the crust is a basic pizza crust, which I'll make ahead of time and freeze; the sweet potato filling can also be made in advance and frozen; on Thursday everything needs to be assembled and baked; baking takes only a few minutes, so I'll bake it at the last minute while the turkey is resting
  • Stuffing - I am making chestnut stuffing, which will be baked outside of the bird; this will be assembled the night before and baked in the morning; I'll reheat it with the pizza
  • Green beans - the beans can be trimmed the night before and simple steamed on Thursday; I'll toss them with a lemon vinaigrette and fried shallot
  • Cranberry sauce - can be made any night next week and stored in the fridge
  • Creamed onion - can be made on the stove top on Thursday
  • Apple pie - I made the dough over the weekend and plan to bake the pies tonight; I'll freeze the pies and warm them just before serving
  • Pumpkin spice cake - I roasted the pumpkin on Sunday and baked the layers yesterday; on Thursday all I have to do is ice it
  • Congo bars - I still haven't decided what to do about these yet; I am hoping pecans will magically appear

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Spiced Oatmeal Cookies With Chocolate and Raisins

Lately I can't bake enough. Yesterday's excuse was that I could bring some cookies as a thank-you for inviting us to dinner. Since we just made standard chocolate chip cookies last week, I didn't want to make them again. But still, I wanted to continue working my way through the huge bag of chips my in-laws brought. The supply was large enough to last months, but I want to use it up before heading back to the states.
So, the cookie du jour was oatmeal raisin with chocolate chips. To make things a little more exciting, I added a bit a cinnamon, nutmeg, and orange zest. The resulting cookie was chewy and a little spicy, with the orange adding a refreshing twist.

8 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 1/2 cup oats
Zest of one orange
2 cups raisins
2 cups chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, beat butter until creamy. Add sugar, brown sugar, salt, and vanilla and mix until thoroughly combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat until combined.

In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Add half of the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and mix until incorporated. Add the remaining half of the flour and mix until incorporated.

Add oats, raisins, and chocolate chips. Fold ingredients into the batter until evenly distributed through out the batter.

Using two standard kitchen spoons, drop cookies onto baking sheet. Cook for 10 minutes. Remove from pad to a cooking rack before storing in an air tight container.

Make 4 and 1/2 dozen.

Monday, November 17, 2008

At Terra Vino, Germany Offers Great Italian

Germans -- like Americans -- love Italian food. From simple pizza shops to fancy restaurants, the selection of establishments is vast. One local place that really shines is Terro Vino in Bad Godesberg. To read a full review, visit today's post on Uberall.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Dandelion Greens With Caramelized Onion and Chickpeas

There are over 3.3 million Muslim people living in Germany. In my region, one of the largest Islamic enclaves can be found in Bad Godesburg. Since moving here I have appreciated their presence in my community. Woman clocked in black burkas and men sitting in teashops smoking hookah pipes is now a regular part of my day. As a fringe benefit, there are a bunch of Halal stores very close to my house.

Halal means permissible in Arabic. Similar to Kosher, it is used to define what foods are acceptable for Muslims to eat under Islamic law. For me, the halal markets are great source for groceries that are not very common in regular German supermarkets, such as chickpeas and bulgur. Also, filling in the void where New York's Korean markets once stood, I find that Bad Godesburg's Halal shops have the most diverse vegetable selection to be found.

Yesterday's find: dandelion greens. One of the most intense bitter green, last night I paired them with caramelized onions and chickpeas. The sweetness of the onions and earthiness of the chickpeas along with a hearty pinch of sea salt and a few red pepper flakes turned out a side dish that I hope to make again and again.

1 small onion
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 cloves garlic
1 8 ounce can chickpeas
1 bunch dandelion greens (about 4 cup chopped greens)
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper
1/4 cup water

Cut peeled onion in half from root to tip. Then, also cutting from root to tip, thinly slice the onion. Preheat a large frying pan. When hot, add oil and onion and reduce heat to low. Allow the onion to cook, tossing occasionally, until they are golden brown, about 20 minutes. Mince garlic and add to the pan. Cook for another two to three minutes. Drain and rinse chickpeas and add to the pan. Turn heat up to high and cook for a few minutes then add greens. Toss greens with the chickpeas and onions and allow to cook for a few minutes until they have reduced in volume by about a quarter. Add red pepper flakes and season with salt and pepper. Add water and reduce heat to medium low. Cook until the greens have reduced to half their original volume, about five to ten minutes. Serve hot.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Good Eats

Yesterday I told readers on Überall that Kevin and I will be moving back to the states the first week in December. The prospect of leaving Germany has forced me to start thinking about what food I'll miss:

  • Sausages -- I can't believe I've been in German for over a year and I am still able to find at least one new sausage every week for the "Wurst of the Week" feature on Überall
  • Quark -- I know I've told you that you can made it yourself, but it's so much easier to simply pick it up at the grocery store
  • The organic biscuits from DM's Bio line -- they organic and dark chocolate...what else can I say
  • Apfelschole -- Kevin and I both have come to love this carbonated apple juice
  • Mustard in a tube -- It's both funny and easy
  • Pork products -- I really think they are just a little more delicious here

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Polenta Two Ways

Tuesday nights I go to yoga. Class starts at is at 8:15. That means either have to eat really early or really late. I generally like to eat early, since I'm hungry these days. Monday night's dinner left me with enough leftovers so that I could pull together a delicious dinner in no time flat.

On Monday I put the leftover polenta into a flat Tupperware, and yesterday I cut it into squares and lightly coated them with a little flour. I then pan fried the squares in olive oil and topped them with the leftover pork shoulder, which I shredded and reheated with the rest of the sauce.

Here's my recipe for both soft polenta and fried polenta.

1 cup polenta (ground corn meal)
1 teaspoon salt
1 1⁄2 quarts chicken or vegetable stock
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon cream (optional
1⁄4 cup chopped herbs (optional)
1⁄4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Bring the chicken stock to a boil, and then reduce heat to a simmer. Preheating a medium-sized, heavy bottom pot over high heat. Add the polenta into the hot pan and to toast until it smells slightly nutty. Reduce the heat on the pot and whisk in enough chicken stock to cover the polenta. Continue to whisk until the mixture just begins to form slow, thick bubbles. Add in more chicken stock, one ladle at a time, whisking the mixture often.

The polenta is cooked when the mixture’s graininess is transformed into a creamy texture, about 35 to 40 minutes.

When the polenta has reached the correct consistency, remove it from the heat and stir in butter, cream, cheese, and herbs. Add salt and pepper and needed.

After you have removed the portions that will be eaten immediately, pour the remaining polenta into a flat Tupperware and store in the refrigerator for up to three days.

For fried polenta, cut into slices or squares and remove from the Tupperware. Heat a frying pan over medium high heat. Lightly coat polenta squares in corm meal or flour seasoned with salt and pepper. Add two tablespoons of oil to the pan. Add the polenta cakes to the pan and cook for two to three minuets, until golden brown. Using a spatula, flip the polenta cakes (turn always from you to avoid being splattered by the hot oil). Cook on the second size until golden brown, another two to three minutes. Remove from the pan and place on a paper towel lined plate. Serve hot.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Braised Pork Shoulder

Yesterday I had an overwhelming desire to make a braised meat dish for dinner. I don't know what brought on the craving: being pregnant, not having a full time job, living in one of Europe's meat-based regions, or the changing seasons. But by 3:30 in the afternoon my house smelled delicious and I felt like June Cleaver.

Yet, by 4:30 P.M. I decided that I didn't want to totally loose myself in nostalgia. I opted to serve my braised pork shoulder over soft polenta instead of the predictable potatoes and roasted up some Brussel sprouts to serve as a side dish. Together the combination was warm and satisfying, with a nice balance of sweet and savory.

2 tablespoons four, seasoned with salt and pepper
1 2-pound pork shoulder
2 tablespoon olive oil
2 small onions
4 cloves garlic
1 carrot
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 cup Sherry
½ cup apple juice
2 cups chicken stock
2 bay leaves

Preheat the over to 325 degrees.

Coat the outside of the pork shoulder with seasoned flour. Over high heat, add one tablespoon of olive oil to a heavy-bottomed pot. Add pork shoulder and cook until brown on all sides, about three to four minutes per side.

Remove pork from pot and set aside on a plate. Dice onions, mince garlic, and chop carrots into rounds. Add one tablespoon of olive oil and heat over a medium high heat. Add onions and cook until translucent, about two minutes. Add garlic and carrots and cook for two to three minuets. Add tomato paste and cook for another two to three minutes. Pour in Sherry, reduce heat, and scrape the brown bits from the bottom of the pot. Add apple juice and chicken stock and return pork shoulder to the pot. Add bay leaves. Cover and bring contents of the pot to a boil.

Place the covered pot in the oven and cook for two and a half to three hours. When the meat is just about falling apart, take pot out of the oven. Remove pork should and set aside. Puree the braising liquid with an emersion blender. Place on the stove top over low heat and allow liquid to reduce for 15 minutes, until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

Serve pork and thickened sauce over polenta, potatoes, or egg noodles.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Even though the average German eats over 18 pounds of chocolate per year (American's consume only 11 and a half pounds per year) I haven't been able to find a chocolate chips here. That's why when Kevin's parents came to visit last month I asked them to bring some chocolate chips. I am now in possession of the world's largest bag of Nestle Toll House Morsels.
Not that I'm complaining. I love to make chocolate chip cookies to share with European friends. They are 100 percent American.
This weekend, however, a real apron caper occurred in my kitchen. Kevin donned an apron and decided to make a batch of cookies himself. (His first ever!) I watched the entire process, but didn't help a bit.

I'm please to report that Kevin's first foray into the world of backing was extremely successful. Following Nestlé’s recipe to a t, the cookies were perfect!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Czech Food

Not one of the world's most famous cuisines, traditional Czech food consists of a lot of braised beef and pork dishes.
One of the most interesting -- and delicious -- things that we ate was a dish called "pork stump." We're still not sure what part of the pig the "stump" is.
Another popular menu item was goulash, which I had twice during our visit. Often the meal was served with some sort of dumpling, bread, red cabbage, and sauerkraut. (That's right cabbage and sauerkraut.)
Another standout meal was something that translated as "Czech Pie." We were expecting something like a potpie, with pastry filled with a stew. Instead we received a pizza made with potato flour dough.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Baked Eggs

In New York, one of my favorite brunch places is Casimir on Avenue B between 6th and 7th Streets. I almost always order the same thing: baked eggs. Served in an individual oblong casserole dish, three eggs are cracked over a mixture of stewed tomatoes, onions, and green peppers. The eggs are topped with a few cubs of feta and a sprinkling of capers, and then placed in the oven to cook.
Lately I've been making my own take on this baked egg dish. Last week, I served the eggs on a bed of garlicky spinach, red peppers, and caramelized onion. Since I don't have individual casserole dishes, I bake my eggs in an ovenproof frying pan. The presentation might not be the same, but my version does eliminate extra dishes.

1 and 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion
1/2 red bell pepper
2 cloves garlic
1 bunch spinach
6 eggs
2 tablespoons capers
1/4 cup grated Gouda
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Prepare to caramelize the onion, by cutting it in half, then slicing it from root to tip. Add 1 tablespoon olive to frying pan. Place onion in pan and cook over low heat until onion turn light brown, about 20 minutes.

Finely dice red pepper and mince garlic. Add 1/2 tablespoon olive oil to pan along with the pepper and garlic. Allow to cook over medium-high heat for another few minutes. Add spinach and toss with other ingredients. Cook until completely wilted, about 2 minutes.

Crack eggs over the vegetable mixture. Leave yolks whole if you like your eggs a little runny; crack yolks if you want them to cook through. Sprinkle the capers and cheese over top of the eggs and season with salt and pepper.

Place the pan into the oven and cook until the cheese is melted and golden brown, about 5 to 7 minutes depending on how you like your eggs cooked.

Serve with pita or flat bread.