Monday, June 27, 2011

German Wurst Salad

In my quest to cook "real" German food, I decided to make Wurst Salat or Sausage Salad that I like to buy at the Fleischerei when I need a quick meal. Now the Germans are known for putting meat in their salads and this particular one is a little unusual as the only vegetables in this salad are pickles and onions and the meat is Ring Bologna. It all comes together with a vinaigrette made with a good German mustard. I know it may sound a bit strange, but if you haven't tried it - you should. It is actually really good! Emmentaler Cheese is often added in Bavaria and in Switzerland, but I didn't have any and I'm Lactose Intolerant anyway. Ring Bologna is quite good cooked with onions until they are caramelized and browned and served with lots of mustard, but it's finally hot here in Germany and I just didn't feel like cooking it that way. So, I made this meat salad and also a salad of cucumbers in yogurt with fresh dill and a little garlic to go with it. I served it all with some good German bread and butter. It made for a lovely light Mittag Essen or lunch. Hope you try this recipe and please let me know what you think!

Wurst Salad

1 Ring Bologna (about 1 pound) sliced into thin rings
1 small white or red onion, sliced very thin
1 cup of sliced dill pickles (I used about 6 small ones)
4 Tablespoons vegetable oil (I used safflower)
2 Tablespoons Apple Cider Vinegar
1 teaspoon German Mustard (I used Lowensenf - you can use Dijon instead)
1 teaspoon sugar
Optional: 1 cup of thinly sliced Emmentaler or Swiss Cheese

Toss all ingredients together and refrigerate for at least 1/2 hour or several hours to let the flavors meld. Serve with buttered bread.

Five Element Analysis
This salad doesn't contain a lot of ingredients so you already know that it has to be part of a meal that includes other dishes. The Ring Bologna is cured pork so it automatically belongs to the Water Element. The sour pickles add the Wood Element and so does the bread. The cheese (if you use it), the mustard and the onions contribute the Metal Element. There is only the hint of the Earth Element with the bit of sugar, so that element needs some support and the Fire Element needs to be added. The cucumber salad I made to got with this dish added more Earth (and Metal from the yogurt, dill and garlic) and I also served ice tea to bring in some Fire.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Sopa de Fideos

I have been surrounded by people lately who are sick with colds or the flu and I am determined to keep myself healthy so I don't catch anything from them. As I used to be a very sickly child, I make the foods that I used to eat while I was sick as a preventative measure. I figure - if they help you heal, they can certainly help you stay well! So, I make my usual Chinese Chicken Soup (see March post) and lots of hot lemonade with honey (a slice of lemon in hot water with a big spoonful of local honey - if you add Scotch you have a Hot Toddy!) And today, I remembered a great recipe that I got from one of our housekeepers when I was 10. She used to make me Sopa de Fideos when I was sick and it was wonderful. I haven't made it in a long time and it's really amazingly easy and so delicious. 

The combination of chicken broth, tomatoes, garlic, onion, chili powder, oregano and cilantro (although I didn't have any tonight) with thin little noodles are just the things to fight off all those nasty little viruses flying around. I do need to mention that this was the only thing she made well. I distinctly remember having to hide pieces of hot dog in my napkin until I excused myself to flush them down the toilet whenever she made hot dog tacos - the were disgusting - ugh! In any case, she didn't work for us very long because she was pregnant when we hired her and she reconciled with her husband when her baby was born. But, I do appreciate this recipe for a delicious and simple soup that she left behind. So thank you Maria!

Sopa de Fideos

4 ounces of Fideo noodles or vermicelli pasta broken into small pieces
2 Tablespoons Vegetable oil
½ cup tomato sauce (I used the juice leftover from a can of whole tomatoes) or 4 ripe tomatoes chopped
4 cups chicken broth (preferably homemade)
1 small onion chopped (I used a red onion)
2 small or 1 large garlic cloves minced
½ teaspoon dried Oregano
1 teaspoon Chili Powder (I like McCormick and Schmick’s)
Salt and Pepper to taste

Pinch of Cayenne Pepper
Chopped Cilantro for garnish
Zucchini chopped into small pieces

In a large frying pan, heat the oil and put in garlic and onions until the onion is soft. Add in Fideo noodles and cook until they begin to brown. Add in chicken broth and tomato sauce (or chopped tomatoes) and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and add in Oregano and Chili powder and zucchini if using. Simmer for 10 minutes and taste for seasoning. Add pepper and salt if necessary. If you like things hot, add in a bit of Cayenne Pepper and serve with a garnish of chopped cilantro.

Five Element Analysis

Soup by its very nature is part of the Water Element, but chicken broth and wheat noodles belong to the Wood Element so that element is covered too. The tomatoes, Chili Powder and Cayenne bring in the Fire Element. The onions, garlic, cilantro and Oregano contribute the Metal Element so only the Earth Element is missing. Adding some chopped zucchini to the soup would balance the soup as they are Earthy and so would serving beef as the main course or finishing with a sweet dessert.

Sunday, June 12, 2011


A lot of you probably already know how to make Ratatouille, but for those of you who don't - this recipe is for you and for my son, who requested it. And no, I don't make it anything like in the movie, where it is beautifully layered, but this version still tastes wonderful even though all the vegetables are cut into chunks. I first had Ratatouille in the South of France - in Nice to be exact and this dish still reminds me of the French Riviera. It is the perfect summer lunch with a crisp baguette slathered in fresh butter and a glass of wine. 

Ratatouille is a combination of eggplant, zucchini, red pepper, tomatoes, onions and garlic. If you want to be a purist, you can dunk the tomatoes in a boiling water bath for a few minutes and peel off the skins and take the seeds out. But this is a rustic dish and I don't mind the peels and seeds at all. This dish also has beautiful contrasting colors so you know that there is some inherent Five Element balance to it. The olive oil and fresh basil add just the right note of extra interest to the fragrance of the dish - be sure to use a good Extra Virgin olive oil as you will taste the difference! You can serve this dish hot or you can serve it cold. It goes very well with a piece of grilled chicken or a steak, but I like it all by itself and I have been known to spoon leftovers out of the bowl straight out of the fridge. It's that good and it's very simple to make. It's also very good as a topping for Bruschetta when you have a party. Here's the recipe I learned years ago from a French friend:


1 small eggplant, stem cut off, sliced into 3/4 inch slices and thencut into small chunks, sprinkled with salt
1 medium zucchini, stem cut off and cut into quarters and then small chunks
1 red pepper, seeded and stem removed and cut into small chunks
4 large Roma Tomatoes, stem end removed and cut into chunks or 5 - 6 whole canned tomatoes chopped
1 onion chopped
2 cloves of garlic minced
6 leaves of fresh Basil, or 1 teaspoon of dried Basil
1 spring of fresh Thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried Thyme
6 - 8 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper

Rinse eggplant and dry with paper towels. In a large frying pan, heat 3 Tablespoons of olive oil and add in garlic and onions. Cook until onions begin to get soft - about 2 - 3 minutes. Add in the eggplant chunks and cook until the eggplant starts getting soft - about 8 - 10 minutes. Then add in 3 more Tablespoons of olive oil and put in zucchini and red peppers. Cook for an additional 5 - 8 minutes until zucchini is cooked but still a bit firm. Then add in tomatoes, basil and thyme and a bit more olive oil if desired and simmer for about 10 minutes more. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Five Element Analysis

Eggplant is a Water Element vegetable, so that element is covered. Zucchini comes from the Earth Element and the Red Pepper and Tomatoes add the Fire Element. Olive Oil brings in the Wood Element and the onion, garlic, thyme and basil contribute the Metal Element. Guess what? This is a dish in balance all by itself - so you know it has to be good for you!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Strawberry Orange Cake

The strawberries available are wonderful right now. I like them on the small side and from the Farmer's Market because they are so much riper. But, I got too many so I needed to cook with them. I often make strawberry bread, but felt like something a little sweeter, so I made Strawberry Cake. I decided to add the zest of one orange to keep the sweetness from getting cloying and it turned out wonderfully. This is not a very sophisticated cake - it is homey and lumpy and bumpy, but it is so good! You could serve it with some whipped cream or ice cream, but I ate it right out of the oven when the strawberries where hot. Yum! It has a flavor a bit like Strawberry Shortcake only more comforting because the strawberries are cooked and the orange zest was just right to give it a little brightness. Hope you enjoy it too!

Strawberry Orange Cake

1 pound strawberries, washed, stemmed and cut in half
6 Tablespoons of butter at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
½ cup milk
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Zest of one small orange
2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
1 ½ cups  All Purpose Flour (or use Cup4Cup Gluten Free Flour)
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoons salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter the bottom of a 9 inch Springform pan.
Mix together flour baking powder and salt in a small bowl.
In a separate larger bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy (a mixer works best). Add egg, milk and vanilla extract until just combined. Add in dry mixture and mix until smooth.

Cut zest into very small pieces with a sharp knife and mix with 2 Tablespoons of sugar.
Pour into the prepared pan and smooth out top. Place strawberries halves with the cut side down on top of the cake. Sprinkle orange sugar all over the top of the cake.
Place in the oven and bake for 45 – 50 minutes or golden brown and firm and tester comes out with no cake batter on it. Cool slightly before cutting into eight pieces and removing the sides of the pan.

Serve with lightly sweetened whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

A quick note: I made this same cake with 4 cups of red currants from my neighbor's yard and it was delicious too! However, red currants are very tart so I added one more Tablespoon of sugar on the top.

Five Element Analysis

Strawberries belong to the Fire Element because they look like little hearts and are red so that element is covered. The Wood Element is represented by the flour and orange zest. The Earth Element is brought in by the sugar and the Metal Element has the milk, butter and vanilla extract. Adding whipped cream brings in even more Metal and the ice cream would too and also contribute more Earth. Finally, the egg adds just a bit of the Water Element so this cake would be great after a meal with a Water Element main course.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Turkish Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

I haven't had a chance to cook much lately as I have been traveling. I just returned from a great conference and the first thing I did was to go grocery shopping as I was craving fresh vegetables. But interestingly, the first thing I made involved canned tomatoes. I think it was because I got invited to teach in Italy and I ended up praising San Marzano tomatoes as my favorite kind. I was also informed that canned tomatoes actually were better for you as the phytochemicals in them that are so healthy are released when they are cooked. So, I made my favorite Turkish meatballs with Tomato Sauce that I serve over buttered rice, but they would be good over pasta too or as a sandwich filling for pita bread or a baguette. I used ground beef as that is what I had, but I usually make it with ground lamb. It can just as easily be made with a combination of the two, like in gyros. The side dish was some sauteed Swiss Chard with garlic. It was so good and as my new Italian friend said, "Italian tomatoes capture the sun in the can! The addition of Pomegranate Molasses and lemon gives the sauce a light sweet and sour flavor and the chopped mint and the cumin and allspice add a hint of mystery to the flavor that mesmerizes your taste buds. This dish has always been a big hit for a potluck and with my kids as well. Hope you enjoy it too!

Turkish Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

1 pound ground lamb or ground beef or a combination of both
2 slices of dry sandwich bread, crust removed and crumbled
1/2 medium onion, grated (reserve the rest for the sauce)
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint (can use dried mint but use 1 -2 Tablespoons)
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon allspice
2 Tablespoons olive oil

Mix bread and egg together in a small bowl to soften the bread. In a large bowl, combine the lamb, onion, mint, cumin, salt, pepper and allspice. Mix with your hands until well combined. Then add in the egg and bread and mix thoroughly again. Shape meat into walnut size balls, flattening slightly to make ovals. Put olive oil into a large frying pan and put in meatballs. Brown on one side and then the other, then remove from the pan and put on a plate. Reserve drippings for sauce.

Tomato Sauce

1 large can (28 oz) San Marzano whole tomatoes (crush with fingers in a bowl)
1/2 medium onion chopped fine
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1 Tablespoon pomegranate molasses (if unavailable, use balsamic vinegar)
2 Teaspoons sugar
1 Tablespoon olive oil
Salt and Pepper to taste

Reheat the drippings in the skillet and add 1 Tablespoon of olive oil. Add onion and garlic and saute until onion is soft. Add tomatoes, lemon juice, pomegranate molasses (or balsamic vinegar), sugar and allspice to the pan, mixing thoroughly. Taste for sweet sour balance adding more sugar if necessary. Bring to a boil, scraping the bottom of the pan. Return the meatballs to the pan and simmer over low heat fro 15 - 20 minutes. Take meatballs out and cook sauce for an additional five minutes or until thickened. Season with salt and pepper and return meatballs to pan. Remove from heat and put in a bowl. Serve with buttered rice

.Five Element Analysis

Beef belongs to the Earth Element so that is covered - if you use lamb, it belongs to the Fire Element. The tomatoes add the Fire Element. The lemon juice and the pomegranate molasses, as they are both sour, add the Wood Element as does the olive oil. The allspice, cumin, mint, garlic and onions all bring in the Metal Element as does the white rice. The egg adds just a bit of the Water Element but more is needed so perhaps start the meal with a little soup or a side dish or starter of eggplant.