Friday, June 29, 2012

French Fridays with Dorie - Corn Pancakes: Why sometimes simple recipes need a bit of fancy treatment or why I do not want to bump into another Saint

Today´s recipe for the French Fridays with Dorie group are „Corn Pancakes“. I have prepared corn fritters before but these were my first Corn Pancakes.

Dorie´s recipe is rather uncomplicated and the list of ingredients is short. The only ingredients required are corn kernels, eggs, flour and salt – could not be easier. My first thought was to prepare some nice chicken alongside the corn cakes but after having read through the complete recipe and Dorie´s “Bonne Idée”, I decided to go Jean-Georges Vongerichten´s route and serve them as hors d´oeuvres.

Dorie writes that Monsieur Vongerichten sometimes serves the pancakes with smoked salmon, salmon roe, and/or crème fraîche – sounded good to me and besides I happen to adore Jean-Georges Vongerichten recipes. But I felt that I needed something even a bit more out of the ordinary and decided to prepare the corn cakes with a “tartare de saumon topped with lime crème fraîche and salmon roe”.

Why so fancy – well, the last two weeks were not really the greatest weeks of all times and I thought we all needed a bit of a treat and I needed to spend some time in the kitchen (I was being extra careful, you will see later why) and then have a bit of a fun photo session.

To prepare the tartare de saumon, I needed fresh as well as smoked salmon, and my trusted fish monger had wonderful organically grown salmon filets as well as smoked salmon and the salmon roe. What a beautiful color these three ingredients have – a real treat for the eye.

The rest of the ingredients for the tartare were also readily available and included lime, honey, chives, dill and cress.

So I prepared the salmon tartare, the lime crème fraîche and put them in the fridge and it was time for the corn pancakes. They were quickly made and smelled delicious. And I believe that I have found a new family favorite there. After they had cooled, I cut them so they would be nice and round and fit into the metal rings that I planned to use for the presentation. Once all three components were nice and cool, it was time for the assembly and decoration. That part was just plain fun and simply felt good, looking at the finished plate left me with a sense of relief that things will be so much better very soon.

Back to the recipe for this weeks FFwD group, the corn pancakes were terrific on their own or topped with delicious tartare de salmon and lime crème fraîche. We all loved to eat them and I liked the simplicity of this great recipe – another keeper for us, maybe with different toppings as a side dish next time, but definitely a must repeat.

We spent quite a bit of time at the hospital lately, one of the kids is suffering from a rather persistent lung infection that just does not want to seem to go away, so no school (no vacation here yet), staying home, running back and forth to the hospital looking after the rest of the gang, you get the idea, we all know those days and we know it will get better, eventually...But for some reason, I believe I had to top the whole stressful time a bit.

It started with the French Strawberry Cake (TwD) that I baked in the middle of the night, it turned out to be wonderful but I was so tired after I finished making the cake that I ran into a metal door frame and got the first black eye of my lifetime. A few days later when I tried to cut the nice green seaweed for David´s Seaweed Sablés (FFwD), I cut myself so bad, it would not stop bleeding for the longest time. I then continued to get bruises and burns every chance I could get and lastly, but certainly not leastly, I bumped into a Saint and hurt my arm so bad, it looks, lets just say, a bit colorful – a Saint, how can you bump into a Saint.

Well, the hospital is officially still run by an Order of Catholic Nuns, there are some Nuns working as nurses in the hospital. And there is a really nice chapel and then there are those Saints. Stone figures mounted on nice little stone pedestals along the walls of some of the corridors, nice looking but sometimes just “in the way”. The Saint that I bumped into is “Saint Martin”,  a Patron Saint for beggars, shepherds, merchants, wine makers, millers, innkeepers and many, many more. I usually really like Saint Martin and every year, primary school children honor his feast day with a lantern parade followed by sweet treats (our equivalent of  Halloween) but this time we had a rather painful meeting. So now my husband is lovingly hiding all kinds of dangerous items from me. Items, such as needles, that I could choose to have some more painful encounters with.

But not my kitchen knives, nobody is allowed to touch them, not even now.

To see how the other Doristas prepared these wonderful corn pancakes, please make sure to click here. I have a feeling that there will be a lot of different variations on the main theme this week.

Friday, June 22, 2012

French Fridays with Dorie - David' s Seaweed Sablés

Today" s recipe for the French Fridays with Dorie group are "David's Seaweed Sablés", a recipe that was given to Dorie by David Lebovitz.

Originally, David Lebovitz called them "Seaweed Cookies"  ("Petites Galettes au fleur de sel aux algues") using French seaweed fleur de sel ("bright green seaweed flecked salt"). I was intrigued by this kind of salt and tried to find some in a number of different stores that are known to carry somewhat unusual foods, but to no avail, no such seasalt to be found anywhere. I then went to shop for Japanese roasted seaweed and found two kinds, black or a beautiful algae-green. After a quick consultation with the friendly "Sushi-Ladies" who were busy preparing the fresh sushi for the Japanese sushi counter (and very happy to oblige), I bought the green nori.

The sablés were very easy to prepare with butter, powdered sugar, egg, flour, fleur de sel and, of course, finely chopped green nori ( no easy task to finely chop roasted seaweed though...). After the dough had chilled, it was easier to cut into rounds or squares. Ten minutes or so for baking and they were done.

They did receive mixed reviews I must say. Some of the chosen taste testers liked them and the others just not, well, it must be one of those things that you either love or not...I found them to be fun to make, somehow it is a nice feeling to try something new, a recipe with ingredients that you know but would never have thought of using in a certain way. But they are not going to be my favorite savoury nibble that I will serve my guests or family in the future. I think if I feel like serving savoury biscuits, I will stick to my tried and true cheese crackers with aged Gouda cheese. But nevertheless, the recipe is worth trying and it is certainly different and I am sure that a lot of people will really enjoy the way the Seaweed Sablés taste.

To see how the other adventurous Doristas prepared these savoury biscuits, please click here.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Tuesdays with Dorie - French Strawberry Cake

Todays recipe for the Tuesdays with Dorie group is French Strawberry Cake, the recipe was contributed by Flo Braker.

The  recipe calls for baking a génoise, a French sponge cake with no chemical leaveners, just air beaten into the eggs. The finished and cooled génoise gets cut into three layers and filled with mashed strawberries and whipped cream with a bit of sour cream or, as in my case, crème fraîche. Then some more strawberries for decoration, et voilà! Enjoy!

This is a delicious and delightful cake, perfect for serving with a cup of coffee or tea in the month of June - the sumptuous summer strawberries that are available at all the farmers markets right now are just perfect in this cake.

We found this cake to be surprisingly light, not dense at all. Adding mashed fruit and whipped cream between the layers of this French sponge cake makes for a very pretty presentation.

Our hosts for today's recipe are Sophia of Sophia's  Sweets and Allison of Sleep Love Think Dine - a big Thank You to both our gracious hosts!

To see how the other Doristas prepared the French Strawberry Cake, please click here.

Friday, June 15, 2012

French Fridays with Dorie - Lime Honey Beet Salad

Today's recipe for the French Fridays with Dorie group is "Lime Honey Beet Salad". A simple recipe with few, albeit somewhat exotic, ingredients - well, limes, honey, chives and dill are not that exotic but in connection with beets, they are.

With the summer holidays approaching (though we still have four weeks to go), the bi-annual school festival was held at the school of one of my sons. The students, parents and teachers had organized all kinds of activities including the usual bake sale, visit to the school's zoo, mystery dungeon, etc. The school is one of only a small number of boys' schools left in this country and the school owns a few beehives and sells the honey twice a year at the summer and winter school festivals.

I bought a few glasses of the honey produced from the spring - and  early summer yield and added two tablespoons of that wonderful honey to the Lime Honey Beet Salad. I love the idea that the school produces its own wonderful honey and I do try to use it as often as I can.

We enjoyed the beet salad, but I guess we are not the most impartial of taste testers because we eat a lot of beets in this country and we just love them in classical as well as more exotic dishes. The only minor adjustment I made to the recipe was adding walnut oil instead of olive oil because we like the taste of the walnuts together with the earthy taste of the red beets. I would have loved to use beets of different colors, but I have never ever seen yellow beets being grown around here.

To see how the other Doristas prepared the Lime Honey Beet Salad, please click here.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

A Bookshop made in Heaven - "Boekhandel Polare Maastricht" formerly "Boekhandel Selexyz Dominicanen”

A one-day trip to the Netherlands is always a nice change of pace from the routine of our everyday life. For us, that often means a one and a half hours drive by car to the beautiful city of Maastricht (Mestreech).

Maastricht  is located in the Province of Limburg, of which it is the capital. It is situated close to the German and Belgian borders and is widely considered as the oldest city in the Netherlands. Its Latin name refers to the fact that the Romans built a bridge over the Maas river in the first century AD to the settlement they called “Mosae Trajectum”.

Today, the city of Maastricht is located on both sides of the Maas river and is widely known for its picturesque squares, romantic streets and historical buildings. It is a city of linguistic diversity and the official language of instruction at Maastricht University is mostly English, therefore attracting many international students from around the world. The city is very popular with tourists for shopping as well as for recreation and one should not forget that it is known, by way of the Maastricht Treaty, as the birthplace of the European Union, European citizenship, and the single European currency, the Euro.

One of the many places that is a “must see” when touring Maastricht is the “Boekhandel Selexyz Dominicanen” (now known as "Boekhandel Polare Maastricht") a Dominican church that dates back to the 13th century.

The building was a Dominican church until the city of Maastricht was invaded by Napoleon in 1794 and the Dominicans were forced to leave the country. Since that time, the building was being used for various purposes such as a warehouse, as an archive and, in the end, as a giant parking lot for bicycles.

But thanks to extensive renovations led by the Dutch architects Merkx & Girod (, the former church has been turned into “what could possibly be the most beautiful bookshop of all times” (The Guardian, January 11, 2008).

The “Boekhandel Selexyz Dominicanen” opened its doors in December 2007. After the renovations, it retains its character and its charm as an old church, just take a look at the beautifully renovated 14th century ceiling fresco.

The renovations are highlighted by a huge, three-storey black steel construction. The highest shelves are reachable by lift or by a set of stairs within the steel construction. The view from the top of the steel construction along the nave of the church is simply breathtaking.

At the back of the church, customers can sit down for a cup of coffee at the “Coffeelovers” coffee bar ( “Coffeelovers” is a small chain of coffee bars serving high quality coffees but also teas from the Maastricht-based coffee roasting company “Maison Blanche Dael” ( This coffee roasting and tea packaging company was founded in 1878 and, to this day, is a purveyor to the Royal Dutch Household. While enjoying your fabulous coffee or tea, you can also munch on a variety of savory or sweet snacks.

The coffee shop is located in the former sanctuary. And the bookstore also installed a cross-shaped reading table where customers can sit and flip through the magazines and newspapers kept in the slats of the table.

The "Boekhandel Selexyz Dominicanen" belonged to the popular Selexyz bookshop chain (now Polare) and carries a wide selection of newspapers, magazines and books (many of them in English) – as you can see from the cookbooks on display there, Jamie Oliver and Yotam Ottolenghi are also very popular with all those talented Dutch cooks and bakers.

From the above photos, I hope you can see why this 800-year-old former Dominican church is truly a “bookshop made in heaven”. It was also featured on the cover of a book (“Kaufhaus der Worte: 222 Buchläden, die man kennen sollte” – “222 Bookshops that you should get to know”,  by Richard Deiss) and as part of of the following book “Die schönsten Buchhandlungen Europas” – “The most beautiful Bookshops in Europe”, by Rainer Moritz, Reto Guntli and Agi Simoes. Both books are available at


Now "Boekhandel Polare Maastricht," formerly known as "Boekhandel Selexyz Dominicanen"
Dominikanerkerkstraat 1
6211 CZ Maastricht


Friday, June 8, 2012

Brownie Strawberry Skewers with Chocolate Sauce

This is one fun recipe for kids and adults alike, no olive oil in this cake batter but lots of good chocolate. And with the addition of sweet strawberries, this is one treat that everyone seems to enjoy. It is quite simple to prepare, you start off by baking your favorite brownie recipe, then you hull some strawberries - how many you will need, depends on the number of skewers you want to prepare and on the size of the fruit, of course. The rule of thumb would be three medium sized strawberries per skewer.

While I am quite aware that everybody has her/his favorite recipe for brownies,  following is the recipe that I use for these skewers. Just bake the brownie batter for an extra minute or two. The brownies will hold their shape better when you thread them onto the skewers.

Fat Witch Brownies
(Adapted from "Fat Witch Brownies: Brownies, Blondies, and Bars from New York's Legendary Fat Witch Bakery" by P. Helding & B. Levin,  pages 26-27)

Ingredients for the Brownies

1 3/4 sticks unsalted butter
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp bittersweet chocolate chopped (I use 70 % Lindt Excellence)
1 1/4 cups superfine sugar
4 large eggs, room temp (use organic or free range whenever possible)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract or one package pure vanilla sugar
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp AP flour
a pinch of fine sea salt

You will also need:
A 9` x 9` square baking pan
Fresh strawberries (you could also use different fruit)
Your favorite chocolate sauce

1. Grease and flour your baking pan. I always line my baking pans with unbleached parchment paper.
2. Melt the butter and the chocolate in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring frequently. Set aside to cool.
3. Cream the sugar, the eggs and the vanilla together.
4. Then add the cooled chocolate mixture to the egg mixture and mix until blended.
5. Sift together the flour and the salt and then stir into the chocolate mixture. With a spatula, mix the batter gently until it is well combined and no trace of the dry ingredients remains.
6. Spread batter evenly in the prepared baking pan and bake for about 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean and the brownies are firm enough that they can hold their shape well after they have cooled.
7. Remove the brownies from the oven and cool on a rack for at least one hour.
8. Cut the brownies according to how big or small you want your pieces for the skewers.

Then all that is left to do is to wash and hull your strawberries and prepare your favorite chocolate sauce. Once that is done, you thread three strawberries and two pieces of brownie onto each skewer. You can serve as many or as few  skewers as you want. Plate them, drizzle the chocolate sauce over and serve with the remaining chocolate sauce on the side – and, for the adults, do not for forget to ask your favorite barista to prepare an espresso macchiato for you (favorite brand of espresso coffee for me is “Ionia”, hands down).


French Fridays with Dorie - Olive Oil Ice Cream

Today's recipe for the French Fridays with Dorie group is Olive Oil Ice Cream. At first, that might sound a little bit strange but then again, it does not, because olive oil has become a rather prominent ingredient in a lot of different dessert recipes.

Once you have read through Dorie's recipe for the Olive Oil Ice Cream, you realize that it is a clear and easy recipe, much like preparing vanilla ice cream and since the ingredient list is rather short, the most important step is getting a good quality olive oil with a mild flavor, no peppery taste wanted in that ice cream. I went with my tried and true organic cold pressed olive oil, although I think I drove the clerk to the brink of exasperation because I would not stop bugging him about finding an olive oil that would be even better suited to ice cream making.

To make the ice cream, you simply prepare a basic custard with milk, cream, eggs, sugar and a pinch of fleur de sel and only than do you add the well chosen olive oil and the vanilla (instead of the vanilla extract, I used the seeds from a vanilla pod). Cool the custard, then transfer to the fridge, then to the ice cream maker, than finally in the freezer overnight.

Dorie suggests a whole number of things that you can serve with the ice cream. Apparently, trendy chefs in Paris serve the olive oil ice cream with a drizzle of olive oil and a few flakes of fleur de sel. When I read this, I decided to serve a bit of olive oil and fleur de sel on the side - for those adventurous enough to try this combo.

And I decided to bake some Chocolate Olive Oil Cookies using the same olive oil as I used in the ice cream. I have baked my share of cakes and cookies with olive oil in lieu  of butter. Using olive oil is a familiar feature of Mediterranean baking. Using olive oil in baking has actually been done for centuries. Olive oil gives cakes and cookies a light texture and using a mild extra-virgin olive oil when baking gives the baked goods a subtle flavor.

Recipe for Chocolate Olive Oil Cookies
(adapted from "The Olive Harvest Cookbook: Olive Oil Lore and Recipes from McEvoy Ranch" by G. Gass and Jacqueline Mallorca, p. 153)

Ingredients for the Cookies

3.5 ounces bittersweet chocolate (I used Lindt 70% Excellence)
1 2/3 cups AP flour
1 cup superfine sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
one pinch of fine sea salt
1 tsp cinnamon (from Ceylon, if possible)
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tbsp cognac

Sanding sugar, for rolling

1. Melt the chocolate in the microwave in 30 second intervals.  Set aside and let cool until lukewarm.
2. Sift together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.
3. In a small bowl mix together the olive oil, vanilla and the Cognac.
4.  Add this to the dry mixture.  Add the melted chocolate and stir until the mixture comes together into a uniform mass.
5. Using your hands, roll the dough into ball about 3/4 to 1 inch in diameter. Roll and cover completely in sugar, and place them 2 inches apart on the parchment lined baking sheets.
6. Use your palm to very gently flatten the cookies a bit. Bake the cookies about 12 minutes. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack and let cool completely.

The Olive Oil Ice Cream was a huge success at our house. The kids were curious to get a taste of the ice cream and they loved the way it tasted but no additional olive oil or fleur de sel as a topping for them, just the ice cream and the cookies. The ice cream had a very pretty color (influenced, no doubt, by the kind of egg yolks and olive oil that you use) and it tasted wonderfully rich and creamy, with a hint of vanilla (may be a bit more so because I used vanilla seeds)  a bit of fruity taste from the olive oil, a little bit of saltiness.

I believe that I have found a new favorite ice cream. The only thing that I liked even more than the taste, is the fact of being able to replace some of the cream with olive oil – I just love that idea. With only a few ingredients, the ice cream will taste its best when it is made with a really good oil, one that you really like. And the cookies harmonized very well with the ice cream, they are not overly sweet with a crumbly texture, a bit like shortbread with the added crunch from the sanding sugar. A nice addition to the ice cream and I love the fact that I get to use the same wonderful olive oil for both these treats.

To see how the other adventurous Doristas prepared the Olive Oil Ice Cream, please click here.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Tuesdays with Dorie - Oasis Naan

Today's recipe for the Baking with Dorie group is Oasis Naan.

The recipe for this round-shaped, leavened, oven-baked flatbread of Persian origin was contributed by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid.

Naan can either complement a main dish or it can also be eaten plain, with ghee ( clarified butter that originated in South Asia) or regular butter. Naan can also be prepared with different flavors such as garlic, spices or herbs. It can also be stuffed with different vegetables or with meat.

The basic dough for the Oasis Naan in Dorie´s book is the same basic dough as for the Persian Naan (the recipes for both these flatbreads are from the same contributing bakers). The only ingredients required for the dough are tepid water, yeast, flour and salt. After about a two hour rest, the dough for the Oasis Naan gets formed into rounds, the centers have to be flattened, docked well and vigorously, and then sprinkled with coarse salt, chopped scallions, and a pinch of cumin or caraway seeds. This is where I strayed from the recipe in Dorie's book, instead of scallions I used chopped fresh chives from the garden and I skipped the spices - my taste testers do not like these spices all that much.

This is an easy and interesting bread to prepare. The texture of the Naan was flaky and crispy on the outside but the bread itself was soft and fluffy inside and although I prepared it without the spices and subbed the chives for the scallions, it still was delicious.

Our hosts for today's recipe are Maggie of Always Add More Butter and Phyl of Of Cabbages and King Cakes - a big Thank You to both our gravious hosts!

To see how the other Doristas prepared the Oasis Naan, please click here.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Elderflower Fritters - A Tribute to my Grandmother

I have been wanting to write about my grandmother for quite some time now. She and my grandfather used to live about three hundred kilometers from where I lived back then and where I live now with my family. My grandparents used to live in a rural community, we live in the city but would love to live in the country. They owned a red brick house with a great big vegetable garden and in addition to all the vegetables and fruits that my grandmother had planted and always faithfully tended to, there was a huge elderberry shrub  growing in one of the corners of her wonderful garden. Although we have neither really found the time nor   had the patience to plant a vegetable garden, thankfully, there is a large elderberry shrub growing in our garden.

My two sisters and I usually spent three weeks during the summer at my grandparents` house. Sometimes we would even stay for a week or two in fall or around Easter time. I have nothing but fond memories of all the times that we stayed at that house. My grandmother grew up with twelve sisters and brothers. She, on the other hand, had two children, my father and my aunt. My grandmother was incredibly hard working, even as a very young girl.

When my great-grandparents considered her "to be old enough", they sent her off to the Netherlands, to another family with lots of children, so that, according to my great-grandmother, her daughter would “learn how to cook and how to ran a proper household” - I believe she could have learned a lot at home as well, but sending her away for a few years probably meant much more than just that...

By the time my grandmother was allowed to return home, she had become a wonderful cook, having dutifully studied the recipes in those vintage cookbooks that were the only resources available back then.

She baked her own breads and rolls and lots of waffles – I do not remember her baking cakes, though. She  made juice and then filled her homemade juice (such as elderberry juice) into glass bottles. She canned huge amounts of green beans, red beets and other vegetables from her garden.

She picked the sweet cheeries from her cherry tree and canned them too. Then she would line all those bottles and jars up on these old but sturdy looking wooden shelves in the cool basement – canning time was a huge event at her house, steam everywhere and at the end of a long day or two spent doing nothing but juicing and canning, my hard working grandmother always emerged from the steam, relieved and proud. To this day, I cannot walk past those canning jars in a store (or in my basement) without thinking of her.

When I think of her, I cannot believe that I do not have one, not even a single one of her original recipes. No one seems to have taken any notes. I guess, no one was interested back then.

A few years ago we decided to take our children to the very house that my grandparents used to own. I had not seen it in a long long time – the garden was still there, the trees and the elderberry shrug too, although it is not a shrug anymore but rather a tree. The present owner runs a music store from the house, the house looked different but it also still looked the same.

During our trip we talked a lot about how absolutely happy and safe I always felt when I was around my grandparents. When I was pregnant with my first child, I was convinced that it was going to be a girl, a girl that would be named after my grandmother, her great-grandmother. It turned out that I had to be a bit more patient than I had thought and that I had to wait a few years more before I was able to pass on that very name, Klara. Our daughter Klara turned eleven in May.

So in honor of my grandmother Klara, I am posting a recipe for Elderflower Fritters – while I do not own the original recipe she used, I found an old recipe. I am sure she would have liked it, my food memories tell me that my Elderflower Fritters taste like or very similar to the ones grandma Klara used to prepare once a year. I made this recipe yesterday and everyone liked the fritters quite a bit. Writing about my grandma and trying to find a recipe that would do her cooking skills justice gave me the chance to take a trip down memory lane, again. I am endlessly grateful for all those memories...

Some of the photos were taken by my at the Open-Air Museum in Lindlar, Germany
Cookbook: Henriette Davidis, "Praktisches Kochbuch" - "Practical Guide to Cooking" (1906 and 1924 editions - part of my vintage cookbook collection)
Canning glass: "Weck" (

Elderflower Fritters
(Recipe in Memory of Oma Klara)

(serves about four persons)
125g AP (plain) flour
½ tsp baking powder
1 pinch fine sea salt
1 egg (L),  preferably free range or organic
250 ml sparkling mineral water, room temperature
4-8 heads elderflowers (or as many or as few as you want)
Oil for frying (I used sunflower oil)
Confectioners´s sugar for dusting (you could also use cinnamon sugar)


Whisk the flour, baking powder, salt, egg and mineral water together until smooth and set aside for 30 minutes (at room temperature).
Heat the oil in a deep fat fryer to 180° C (
Using a pair of kitchen scissors, snip the elderflowers into individual florets, or leave the florets whole, leaving on as much stem as possible. Clean off any dirt or tiny critters.
Dip the florets into the batter and drop into the hot oil. Cook for 1-2 minutes, until golden brown. Remove and drain on kitchen paper.
Dust with confectioners´ sugar and enjoy while still warm.

Serve with just the dusting of sugar or serve alongside fruit or compote (like the strawberry/rhubarb compote I prepared and filled into a large Weck jar without having to use a rubber ring since we ate it right away).