I absolutely love mushrooms in the fall. This is a quick and easy dish with a heavenly sauce that goes really well with a bread dumpling kind of Knödel, such as a Serviettenknödel. But if making the sauce and a Knödel sounds too involved, you could just have a Kanten with your Ragout. A Kanten is the heal of a crusty bread, also called Riebele or Knäusle where I am from. Growing up in Germany you learn that the Kanten is especially good for you, which might explain why just about every region in Germany has a different name for it! Ränftel, Reifle, Scherzel, Knüstchen, Knäuschen... I'll spare you the rest. And I have no idea what makes it supposedly so good for you.
If you wouldn’t dare making Semmelknödel because you worry about having them disintegrate while cooking, this is the perfect recipe for you. It’s a Knödel cooked in a dish towel which will make sure that nothing falls apart. This type of Knödel was considered quite fancy in the 18th century, served as a side at weddings to the upper class. It still is - my grandma used to make it on the 2nd Christmas day accompanying her famous pig-goose. Her name was Hilde, but I have always called her Oma Ludwigsburg.
November 11th is Martinstag in Germany. St. Martin von Tours (316 - 297 CE) was a modest Roman Soldier who, on a bitterly cold night, saved a homeless man from freezing to death by giving him half of his cloak. Martin found the poor man right outside the city gates of Amiens. He wanted to help but had nothing to give. So he stopped his horse, drew his sword and cut his cloak in half. This is a story known to all children in Germany and it is celebrated by carrying lanterns through the night and singing songs, often lead by a St. Martin on a horse and a theatrical play of the story at the town square at the end of the procession.
Martin was eventually granted to resign from the Roman Army and was made Bishop of Tours. Legend says that he did not want to become Bishop, as he thought he was not worthy, and hid in a pen of geese. But the geese betrayed him with their chatter and gave away his hiding place - hence the tradition of eating a goose on St. Martin’s day.
Zwiebelkuchen is an onion tart that is perfect for fall. It is moist, with a mild onion flavor, custardy textured filling and a buttery crust. It is typically served at wine festivals in the southern regions of Germany.
I used to help harvest grapes in the vineyards around Beilstein. I remember walking down the steep rows of the vineyard in the early morning fog and crisp fall air, cutting the grapes off the vines but also picking up the ones that had fallen unless they were spoiled. It was cold! And we were happy to hurry back up the hill and slap our bodies with our arms to warm up. A beautiful memory.
In return, my family was given some “Federweiser” which is a fermented, freshly pressed grape juice from white grapes. It’s most commonly called “Neuer Wein” in Germany and it has about 4% alcohol content but can have as much as 10%. It has a natural fizz and a refreshing taste. It can’t be stored for long, as it rapidly ferments. As a kid, I got to have a little sip on the first day... when it was just grape juice with a fizz and maybe a little buzz too. It goes perfectly with Zwiebelkuchen and I wish I could find a way to get it here in America.
Save the date! Saturday Nov. 8th, 5pm-8pm. Chef Traci from Seductive Specialty Foods and I are partnering once more to host a lively class on traditional and hearty German comfort food to get you ready for Fall and Winter!
This is a hands-on cooking class which incorporates a quick shopping trip through Pike Place Market sourcing our ingredients, and then returning to the Atrium Kitchen in Pike Place Market for our class and dinner. Forget the rain! Sign up here! or here!
I love fall. We had an amazing summer here in Seattle and now I am happy to start cooking my favorite autumn and winter recipes again. This soup is definitely at the top of the list in our family. Easy to make and delicious.
Chef Traci Post and I are very excited about the upcoming class at the Pike Place Market on October 11th. There are a couple of spaces left, so join us. For starters we will be featuring a typical German Brotzeit. Complete with a sampling of regional beers. Then we will get a little bit more fancy with Rouladen, red cabbage and mashed potatoes. And finally we will be making my Aunt Helga’s Apfelstrudel. It will be a really fun class. The class will be held in the Atrium Kitchen at the Pike Place Market from 4pm-7pm. So sign up and come hungry.
Here’s something to warm you up as we are heading into the cold season. My family loves this soup! Yes, I write a german food blog and yes I make a lot of German food at home but to be honest, I sometimes get a little self conscious about it, especially when my children invite their friends over for dinner and announce that I have got to make Sauerkraut. Because their friends would love to try it. Sauerkraut? I know my kids love it, but it might be kind of an acquired taste, so I am not sure if other kids love it and I would rather make a lasagna instead. Well, this soup is approved by our 12 year old neighbor Abby that happened to have dinner with us on cabbage soup night. And she loved it! Best soup ever!
I am a huge fan of tomatoes. Even as a child, all I needed was a big ripe tomato with a little salt sprinkled on top, a slice of buttered bread and maybe an egg. Dinner! Sounds a little sparse, I know, but I have only recently switched to serving hot meals in the evening instead of for lunch. Bread, cold-cuts and cheese with pickles, quick pickled beets and salads. Typical German dinner.
I love tomato salad. Simple. With oil and vinegar, salt and pepper and some chives. Or a little more fancy with a Picada of almonds, capers and rustic bread. Serve with your Sunday roast (without the Picada) or for lunch, dinner, Brotzeit, or whenever with the Picada. I grow a lot of tomatoes and now is the time to serve them up as one last celebration of summer.
Exciting news! I am collaborating with Chef Traci Post, a local Chef and founder of Seductive Foods, on October 11th in a cooking class featuring traditional German comfort food and techniques. The class will be held in the Atrium Kitchen at the Pike Place Market from 4pm-7pm. It’s Oktoberfest! So sign up and come hungry.
Germany loves dumplings. Lot’s of different dumplings. There are dumplings made from potato, stale bread, semolina flour and polenta. Filled and plain. Sweet and salty. There are hundreds of dumpling recipes. I recently was gifted a wonderful book called “Omas Küchen” that is filled with old fashioned Schwäbisch recipes which are presented by several Omas. It also tells a little story about each of their lives and especially, in some cases, the weekly family menu. It’s funny (even to me) but quite common, that a family will eat certain things on certain days of the week. The roast on Sunday. Leftovers on Monday. Stew on Tuesday. A sweet dish on Wednesday. Vegetables on Thursday and so on. It’s a tradition that sounds very rigid but there is a certain comfort in the order. And I guess this helps with meal planning. Well, I'm not that organized...
Fruit filled dumplings are intended as a main meal. That’s how I grew up and that's how we eat them in our family, but they can obviously be a dessert. There are 3 different doughs that can be used to make the dumplings. Potato, Quark/Semolina or yeast. And the dumplings can be filled with different fruit, such as plums and very commonly apricots (they are called Marillenknödel if they are filled with apricots). I have also used blackberries or a dollop of jam.
Powidl is a plum butter or very thick plum jam that is very often used as a filling in desserts in the Austrian kitchen. I love Austrian Germknödel, a sweet thick yeast dumpling filled with Powidl and topped with a poppyseed sugar.
To make Powidl, it is best to use very ripe, sweet Italian plums as there is no sugar added in this traditional recipe. A lot of old recipes do not even add any spices at all. It is easy to make but requires time and a lot of stirring - well worth it. And when plums are in season and you are lucky to have a big tree in your garden but feel like you can't handle the abundance, this is an easy way to make good use of a lot of fruit.
My kids love Winer Schnitzel! A true summer food in my opinion, as it is time to go to the “Biergarten” and on road trips and to restaurants serving “gut bürgerliche Küche” - a term which describes a restaurant serving home style traditional German food - most preferred by my parents. Kids always order Schnitzel with Pommes (fries) without ever checking the menu. It’s served with a salad and a lemon slice which will have to do for vegetables. Or serve it with potato salad - add some cucumbers to that and you are all set.
I always use pork for my Wiener Schnitzel instead of veal. So the correct and proper name for this dish (by law) should actually be “Schnitzel Wiener Art” because a true “Wiener Schnitzel” is always made of veal. Wiener Schnitzel is an Austrian invention dating back to the 18th century. The earliest written documentation of a Wiener Schnitzel dates back to 1768. There is even documentation dating to 1719 about the Austrian practice of breading and frying vegetables and meat.
There are some entertaining stories about the Italian origin of the Wiener Schnitzel which appear to be completely invented in the 1860s when relationships between Italy and Austria were rather tense. The author, Felice Cùnsolo, embellished anecdotes that claimed that the Wiener Schnitzel was a copy of the Milanese “cotoletta alla milanese”. He published an invented legend claiming that the field marshal Joseph Radetzky von Radetz brought the recipe from Italy to Vienna in 1857, in his book “Guida gastronomica d’Italia”. This story was very convincing and deceived many cookbook authors.
Deutschland ist Weltmeister! And it’s time to raise a glass. Have a beer! It’s been 24 years since Germany won the World Cup and now we finally earned our 4th star. If you are German, there is no way that you are not a soccer fan, at least during the World Cup. Every game that Germany wins is celebrated all through the night. People just get into their cars and drive around honking for hours, singing and dancing on the streets.
But, if you don’t like beer or could care less about the World Cup, have a Hugo. A wonderful drink that is just the right thing on a warm summer night whether you have something to celebrate or not.
Here’s to a delicious, typical German summer treat. We love our afternoon coffee break and we love our Italian ice cream cafés on hot summer days. And we love Eiskaffee.
I have honestly always assumed that Eiskaffee was an Italian invention of modern times. Turns out that the first written documentation of an iced coffee dates to 1848 where L. F. Jungius, the royal cook for the Prussian King describes iced coffee as a very fashionable, new drink in his gastronomical encyclopedia. This was more like the “caffè freddo” or “café con hielo”, iced coffee served on ice cubes, as is common in Italy and Spain (and America).
German Eiskaffee is served over vanilla ice cream and topped with whipped cream. Mary Hahn provided a recipe in her illustrated cookbook dated 1912. It’s a simple treat to make at home bringing back memories of afternoon hours spent at the beautiful market place in Ludwigsburg with family and friends.
Kirschenmichel is a classic bread pudding with cherries that is popular in the south of Germany. It is one of those old recipes that makes sure that nothing ever goes to waste - like stale bread - something I never even have around. I have to plan ahead and let bread go stale if I want to make this pudding, which is quite silly but completely worth it, after all. My grandma used to make Kirschenmichel and Ofenschlupfer, a bread pudding with apples and a sweet name as Ofenschlupfer means “oven” and sliding or crawling. I always thought of it as crawled into the oven as one would into bed. A very comfortable thought and a sweet treat for lunch. Kirschenmichel means “cherry Michael” and I have no idea why.
One of the greatest foods I have discovered since living in America is granola... and chocolate chip cookies and my husband’s killer hamburgers and Caesar salad and fish tacos and... granola. I try to eat wholesome, balanced and healthy foods, and most often my breakfast consists of German Müsli with whole milk and fruit. And I have been happy with that until I learned how to make granola from Nina Laden while assisting at the Farm to Table Cooking School. It started with adding just a little granola to my Müsli then slowly the ratio changed - Somehow the granola is kicking out the Müsli... And I find myself making granola once a week!
My Aunt Helga is another spectacular cook and baker in my family. She has a captivating laugh and she makes the very best Apfelstrudel! She lives in a modern apartment with an incredible view of the green countryside and all the little towns and villages and the Neckar. I have always loved visiting with her. Having coffee and cake on the rooftop terrace in the summer and then wandering about, carefully studying the furnishings, art and antique collections and observing the latest of my uncle’s paintings. I loved the blue and white “Zwiebelmuster” porcelain and my funny cousin Alex.
Strudel is a delicacy from Wien that appears to have originated in the Arabian regions. There are countless variations! The oldest Apfelstrudel recipe is found in a hand written cookbook from 1696. It is a truly lovely dessert! The emperor Franz Joseph even declared that a day without Strudel is like a sky without stars. My aunt Helga patiently taught me how to make her Apfelstrudel. The secret is in the right flour and resting the dough long enough to make it really stretchy.
Every time I roast the bread cubes for these dumplings I fondly remember an event from my childhood. My beloved cousin Kerstin had a doll sized working kitchen in her bedroom. With a real stove and small pots and pans. (I had a doll kitchen as well, but mine was in the corner of our regular kitchen - how average!) It was a family party of some sort and us kids had already eaten our cake and played every game we could think of. We wanted to do something fun and entirely new! I don’t recall who came up with the idea but we proceeded to roast bread in butter in Kerstin’s doll sized frying pans on her doll sized stove in her bedroom. Unsupervised. It was delicious and great fun! I love this memory. It makes me laugh!
There are very many different types of Knödel in Germany. Made from bread, semolina flour, yeast dough or quark. Containing bacon or spinach or filled with sweet fruit and drizzled in vanilla sauce. These Kartoffelknödel are easy to make and delicious accompanying meat dishes with lots of sauce, for example Sauerbraten.
Sauerbraten is a very popular, traditional German dish with a deliciously tangy sauce. A lot of German regions claim to have invented Sauerbraten but the most popular and acknowledged version is from the Rheinland. All recipes share the marinating of the meat in wine and vinegar but the difference is in the finish and the sauce. With or without raisins. With or without mushrooms. With or without sour cream. With or without gingerbread.
Marinating meat in wine to preserve and tenderize it is a practice as old as Julius Caesar and there are sources that believe Sauerbraten was invented in the 9th century. Sauerbraten is traditionally made from beef, or in the old days even from horse meat. I omitted the raisins in my version, as is often done, even though the raisins are what make Rheinischer Sauerbraten actually typical rheinisch.