Thursday, September 30, 2010

Day 65! Finally, Germany(Berlin)(EU)-Deutsch Frikadellen (meatballs), Spätzle und rotkole

I've got to admit that although I absolutely enjoy German food, it's a little on the heavy side for me. Tonight's meal was very good, but between the meatballs, gravy, spaetzle and red cabbage, I'm full in a weighted-down-kind-of-way. That said, it's also a humid 85F here tonight--downright tropical - so cranking out a wintry meal does seem a tad counterintuitive...

But, this project is not bound by weather conditions or personal taste - it's mission-driven - so, while these dishes may not have been my all-time favorites, I've certainly learned some things about the beautiful country of Germany and it's cuisine I didn't know before. Therefore, it's all good.

For starters, I was given a copy of an original recipe for Rotkole (red cabbage) from my wonderful friend, business partner and frankly, one of the most interesting and eclectic people I know, Karen. Her grandmother, Mathilda Ramrath,  was born in Germany in the early 1900's. Like so many immigrants, she came to this country in search of a better life.

When the stock market crashed in the 1930's, Mathilda returned to Germany with her son, and left him to be raised by relatives where he would be properly cared for. She came back to the U.S and worked alongside her husband in a gas station, returning briefly to Germany in the late 1940's, but eventually came back to the U.S. with her son to live a long life, surrounded by friends and family. I am honored and pleased to be in possession of her recipe - in her original handwriting - which, by the way, I liked far better than the meatballs and spaetzle!

Located in Central Europe and stretching from the Alps across the Northern plains to the North and Baltic Seas, Germany is known for many things. Among them,  famous musicians, the Holocaust, world renound German engineering, the German shepherd (my favorite) and many other societal contributions. Needless to say, Germany's history is both remarkable and complex.

Most people equate German food with meat and potatoes, and while this is true, the focus on sweet and sour in many dishes is uniquely German. Moreover, cuisine varies widely from one province to another, with influences from Italy, Turkey and increasingly, Asian cultures. As in the U.S. pizza and cheeseburgers are popular fastfood staples.

Bacon, lean ground beef, bread, onion, anchovies and an egg make the meatballs

Your hands are your best tools - combine as you would meatloaf

Shape into 2" meatballs and cook in broth for 20 minutes

Gravy made of butter, flour, capers, lemon juice, mustard and an egg yolk

Cook cabbage with vinegar, sugar, cloves and a chopped onion
Make the spaetzle: eggs, flour, milk, baking powder and salt

Mix dough - add a little milk if too thick at first
Force dough through colander with a rubber spatula - spaetzle drops into water and cooks 
German Meatballs, spaetzle and lemon-caper gravy
Rotkole - lovely to look at and very good to eat
These recipes are fairly long and detailed, so I am opting not to write them out...However both the spaetzle and the meatballs can be found at the following link:

Here's Mathilda's Rotkole Recipe

Red Cabbage - Rotkole

1/2 inch water in pan
Bring to a boil and add cabbage and one medium sized onion - chopped
1 tsp. salt
1/ cup vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1/ tsp ground cloves
2 Tbsp. bacon fat (I used butter)
flour to thicken

That's it - that's all the direction you'll get because that's the way Mathilda wrote it!

Final Assessment:  Very good hearty fare, better perhaps, cooked on a cool fall night! The Rotkole was rockin'

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Day 64! Greece - Kotopoylo Yemisto (Roast Stuffed Chicken), Salata Therini (Greek Summer Salad), Melitzanosalta (Aubergine Salad), Up Next - Spiraling back to Germany

I love Greek food. The ingredients are so clean and simple, yet in combination, they yield some of the most beautiful, flavorful dishes I've ever had. It doesn't hurt that I could eat olives, lemons, garlic, olive oil, egg plant (aubergine), red onions and feta cheese for every meal - substituted only by an occasional pastry infused with nuts and honey.

Located in Southern Europe on the Southern end of the Balkan Peninsula, Greece is surrounded by the Mediterranean ocean. Greek cuisine, which dates back some 4,000 years,  has much in common with food from Italy, the Balkans and Turkey. Amazingly, the first Greek cookbook was written by Archestratos in 320 B.C. and contained nearly all of the same staples: olive oil, olives, lemons, grains and cheeses enjoyed today.

Sautéed pine nuts for stuffing
I ran these recipes past my beautiful friend Myrto, a real-life Greek Goddess,  who gave me the thumbs up for authenticity. Although I'm sure they don't come close to replicating dishes made by her family, I hope I'll get a few props for attempting to decipher the Greek cookbook she lent me!

Kotopoylo Yemisto - Roast Stuffed Chicken

Season and stuff chicken with pinenuts, currents and rice
Cover with cheese cloth and baste with melted butter

Roast, removing cheese cloth for last 15 minutes to brown skin
Melitzanosalata - Aubergine (Eggplant) Salad and Salata Therini - Greek Summer Salad

Baby egg plant, yellow and red tomatoes for Arcadian Farm 

Salata Therini - Greek Summer Salad

Melitzanosalata - Roasted eggplant salad
A delicious and beautiful Greek meal...and...

Glykisma Amigthalou - Almond Torte to finish things off!
The Recipes - From an excellent web resource:

Roast Stuffed Chicken - Kotopolylo Yemisto

1 5-7 pound chicken
2 tsp. salt
3/4 cup butter
4 tbsp. pine nuts
1 cup rice
2 cups water
4 tbsp. currants
1/2 tsp. pepper

Prepare chicken for roasting. Rub neck and body cavities lightly with salt. Chop giblets into small pieces. In 1/4 cup hot butter in saucepan, saute pinenuts until they turn golden. Remove pine nuts and saute giblets in same butter. Add rice; saute 3 mintues. Add pine nuts, water, currants, salt and pepper. Cover and cook slowly over medium heat for about 10 minutes, or until the water is absorbed. Fill chicken about 2/3 full with the stuffing and skewer the opening.

Place chicken breast side up. Cover top and sides with cheese cloth and brush with melted butter. Roast in 350F oven for about 2 hours. Remove cheese cloth towards the end of the cooking period.

Greek Summer Salad - Salata Therini

3 Tomatoes, cut in wedges
1 Cucumber, sliced
1 Red onion, sliced
1 Green pepper, cut in rings
6 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
1/3 lb. Feta Cheese
2 Dozen black olives
Parley for garnish

Place the tomatoes, cucumber, onion and peppers in a large salad bowl.
Shake together the olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Pour the dressing over the salad. Add the Feta cheese, cut in cubes and the olives.

Aubergine (Eggplant) Salad - Melitzanosalata

3-4 long type aubergine
1 small red onion, grated
1-2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 large tomato, peeled and chopped
3/4 cup olive oil
1 Tbsp. wine vinegar
Salt, pepper to taste
Black olives
Green peppers

Wash the aubergines, place on a baking sheet and bake in 375F oven for about 1 hour until soft. Allow skin to turn black so as to give a smoke flavor. Skin aubergines wile still hot and chop into small pieces. Continue, chopping while slowly adding the onion, garlic, tomatoes, oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Put in a salad bowl, and garnish with olives and green pepper.

Final Assessment: This was one of my favorite meals - full of flavor, beautiful to look at and healthy. A+

Monday, September 27, 2010

Day 63 - Ghana (Africa) - Avocado with Groundnut Dressing, Cous-Cous Salad and Traditional Fried Fish - up Next, Germany

Back to cooking around the world, after cooking on Martha's Vineyard for my brother's wedding this weekend.

And, before I get into the Ghanaian meal I made tonight, I just gotta post a couple of pictures of the wedding cake I made for him - A beautiful lemon pound cake with lemon curd and butter cream filling - 10 layers, 5 tiers and a lot of help from my trusted and wonderful family friend, Joy and my step Dad and structural engineer, Michael. Love you both!

Now, onto the beautiful country of Ghana and the meal...Ghana is officially known as The Republic of Ghana, the name meaning "The Warrior King".

Located in Western Africa, and formally known as the Gold Coast, Ghana's trade flourished under Portuguese and British Rule. Ghana won it's independence from the UK in 1957. A fact many may not know is that Ghana is the second largest producer of cocoa and is home to La Volta, the world's largest artificial lake.

Avocados, ground peanuts, cinnamon, chili, paprika, chives and lime juice

Cous Cous, black beans, corn, tomatoes, lemon juice and cilantro

Mash ginger and red chili peppers in mortar and pestle to make paste

Cut slits in Talapia and stuff with ginger and peppers paste - Kit the cat is diggin' this meal

The meal - finished off with sweet plantains

Avocados with Groundnut Dressing

  • 2 Avocados - ripe but firm
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp. shelled groundnuts or peanuts
  • 1/2 tsp. paprika
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • Chili powder to taste
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Fresh chives, to garnish

  1. Peel the avocados; cut out the pit and cut into cubes
  2. Sprinkle with lemon juice and set aside
  3. Grind the peanuts roughly with a rolling pin for a few seconds
  4. Mix the peanuts and spices well
  5. Sprinkle over the avocados with chives
  6. Refrigerate until ready to serve

Cous-Cous Salad

  • 1 16 -oz box of Cous-Cous
  • 1 Can of black beans
  • 1 Can of whole kernel corn (I used frozen)
  • 1-2 Tomatoes, diced
  • 1 Tbsp. cilantro
  • 1/4 Cup lime juice

Cook cous-cous as directed. Transfer to a large bowl, add remaining ingredients and mix together. Adjust seasoning according to taste.

Traditional Fried Fish

  • 4 fillets of talapia, salmon or snapper
  • 3 Tbsp. peeled and mashed fresh ginger
  • 2 Fresh red chilies, mashed into a pulp
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • oil for frying

  1. Cut 2 gashes in each fillet and and stuff some of the filling into the slits.
  2. Rub any remaining paste on the fish
  3. Heat oil and fry fish on both sides until golden brown
  4. Remove from the oil and drain

Final Assessment: This was a great meal. Light and full of heat and flavor. I added the plantains as a final touch just because they looked good at the market today.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Day 62! Republic of Georgia (EU) - Khachapuri - Georgian Cheese Bread - Up Next,

Yeast and flour to make the dough
 Sometimes when I least expect it, family life crosses - no, crashes - over into my cooking/blogging world. Most parents probably  recognize that  'I'm dealing with a @!$*#% teenager' look on my face . Yeah, you know the kid - the one who swings from being obnoxious and oppositional to snuggling up next to me on the couch. That one.
Notice the sharp knife waving...

In this case, it's a damn good thing he had a camera in his hand to document forensic evidence, otherwise I might have lunged over the butcher block. But, since I've kicked him out of the house for the next few hours, I can tell you, my wonderful and kind readers, all about the Republic of Georgia and the excellent Kahachapuri (Georgian Cheese Bread), I made today.

The Republic of Georgia is an ancient country whose history dates back to the 3rd. century B.C. Located at the crossroads of Eastern Europe and Western Asia, Georgia is about twice the size of Switzerland.  Here's a great link the covers Georgia's lengthy and rich history nicely:

Georgia's cuisine is complex and influenced by both Middle Eastern and European traditions, but also varies from one region to another. Vineyards and wineries abound, as do mineral and industrial enterprises. I found this traditional recipe, submitted by a woman whose new son-in-law was Georgian, but grew up in Israel,  and so learned to make Khachapuri for him

Flour, proofed yeast, a pinch of salt and an egg make the dough

Knead for 5 minutes - I did it by hand on my butcher block

Combination of mozzarella, feta and muenster cheese - that's what I'm talking about!

Pat out the dough to a 7" circle

Make a ball out of the cheese mixture (it's like working with playdough!)

Make a little purse or packet with the dough, cheese in the middle

Punch the center down and then pat out it out to an 11" circle (the cheese is in the middle)

Brush with butter and bake at 500 F for 10-12 minutes - game over!

Khachapuri - Georgian Cheese Bread

  • 2 1/4 tsp. active dry yeast
  • 7 Tbsp. warm water (105-115F)
  • 1 2/3 cups unbleached all purpose flour, divided
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 large egg, slightly beaten
  • 1/4 lb. Havarti cheese coarsely grated, (or muenster)
  • 1/4 lb. salted mozzarella, coarsely grated
  • 3-4 Tbsp. creamy feta cheese, crumbled

Equipment: floured pizza pan (at least 12 inches) or large floured baking sheet

1. Sprinkle yeast over warm water; stir in 1 Tbsp. flour. Let stand until creamy (about 5 minutes).
2. Stir together salt and remaining flour in large bowl; then stir in egg and yeast mixture to form a dough.
3. Turn out dough onto well-floured surface. Knead till smooth and elastic (about 5 minutes) Form into a ball; dust with flour. Let dough rest in a plastic covered bowl, punching down with a wet fist every hour, for at least 2 hours, up to 3 hours.
4. Preheat oven to 500F with rack in the middle.
5. Turn out dough onto floured pizza pan, turning to coat, then flatten with fingers into a 7-inch disk.
6. Toss cheeses together and press into a compact 3-inch ball with your hands. Place ball into middle of dough, gather dough up around cheese, squeezing extra dough into a topknot. Press down on topknot with damp fist to press cheese out from center. Continue to flatten dough and distribute cheese evenly, pressing outward from center, until dough is an 11-inch disk.
7. Cut a 6-inch "X" through top of dough to expose cheese. Bake until pale golden, 10-12 minutes. Brush surface of dough with butter and bake until golden and cooked through, about 4-5 minutes longer.
8. Cool slightly. Serve cut into wedges.

Final Assessment: Ahhhhhhhhhh, Georgian comfort food! There's nothing like real dough - don't cheat and buy the store bought frozen stuff. We ate it as a snack, but it would be great with a salad as well.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Day 61! Gambia (Africa) - Chicken and Beef Benachin - Up Next, Georgia (EU)

World's best Garlic
Squash of all colors
If you're taking the time to read this (many thanks), you're doing so because, like me,  you feel passionate about food, and curious about the world around you. As you follow my culinary adventure around the globe, I hope you'll have fun and learn a few cool things along the way. And, if you feel so inspired, I'd love to hear from you with ideas about how I might enhance or improve this project.

A few facts about Gambia you may not know: Located in west central Africa, Gambia is the smallest country in the continent and is bordered on three sides by Senegal.

Gambian cuisine is influenced the by native, Arabic, Portuguese and Senegalese cultures. It's main staple is Fufu - a mashed, boiled dish of starchy vegetables like cassava.

Gambia didn't gain independence from the British until 1970. Although the Mandinka tribe is the largest, many other ethnic groups live together in relative harmony, each preserving their individual customs and traditions. Muslims account for 90% of the population, but holidays that honor both Muslim and Christian traditions are equally respected and celebrated. Go figure.

Tonight made I Chicken and Beef Benachin, a traditional Gambian stew that incorporates aromatic ginger, garlic, hot chillies, fresh tomatoes, cabbage, peppers, egg plant and pumpkin.

To gather all these ingredients, I needed only walk down to the end of my street to my local Mudville Farmer's Market. Featured here are Bobby Blair's spectacular Dahlia's and a beautiful offering of end of summer/fall vegetable's and herbs from Hopestill Farm.
Note that it's PESTO time! Rock on Hopestill Farm!

Glossy red and green peppers

Tomatoes, garlic, ginger, hot chili peppers, onions and green peppers - awesomeness

The recipe called for pumpkin, but I decided to try a Bon Bon Buttercup squash
 Sweet as sugar and beautiful too

My ever expanding spice rack, and my favorite Le Creuset pot - the only pot I really need

Tahadahhhh - Chicken and Beef Benachin

The Recipe

Chicken and Beef Benachin ("Benachin" literally means "one pot")

1/2 chicken - cut up into serving pieces - I used skinless thighs
1 lb. beef, trimmed and cubed - I used skirt steak
2 onions, chopped
2 slices ginger, chopped
1 tbsp. fresh hot chillies
2 large ripe tomatoes, chopped
4 tbsp. tomato paste
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tbsp. vinegar
2 bay leaves
oil for frying
1/2 small cabbage, cut into chunks
2 large green bell peppers, sliced
1 large egg plant, cubed
1 small pumpkin or squash, cubed
1 litter water
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine chicken and beef and season liberally with salt, pepper, garlic and vinegar. Cover and marinate for 30 minutes.
Add oil to large pot and fry chicken until golden on both sides, then remove and set aside. Add beef to the oil and fry until well browned. Add the onions and fry for 6 minutes, or until the onion is golden brown. Add the tomato, tomato puree and chili paste. Stir in the water then bring the mixture to a boil before reducing to a simmer and adding all the remaining vegetables.
Cook covered for 15 minutes, then add meat and bay leaves. Season to taste, then cover and cook for about 25 minutes until vegetables are tender.

Serve with white or brown rice.

Final Assessment: This was a wonderful one-pot dish. The house smelled terrific and the blend of spices, seasonings and vegetables was beautiful. My family said it was comfort food.  Loved it.