Thursday, December 8, 2016

Hearty Leftover Leek Tart - (Recipe Included)


You know the feeling. You open the fridge and you go "ugh". A little bit of this, some of that and not a lot of what you actually wanted. In my case there were four sticks of leek, some already chopped onions and celery (leftovers from Thanksgiving), mushrooms & bacon that were close to their expiration date, a jar with sour cream. There was also some Parmesan and some Feta cheese volunteering to be used. Didn't really feel like making a gratin. Instead I opted for a leftover leek tart. Glad I did, it turned out to be "soul food," not only filling my tummy, but also - I spare you that rhyme, that's just too corny.

Dough
I took 3 cups of flour, a tablespoon of baking powder and a good pinch of salt. I added about 1/3 cup of milk, another 1/3 cup of sunflower oil and about half the jar (8oz) of sour cream and kneaded the whole mixture into a smooth, nice ball of dough. Play around, if the ball is to dry and flaky add some more milk and/or oil, maybe another spoon of sour cream. Spread some flour on your work space, some on your rolling pin and then start rolling that dough into a baking sheet size square, between 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick.

I took some of the bacon fat and greased the baking sheet, before I laid the stretched out dough on there. Tidy up and even out the rim a bit. I took the shredded Parmesan and sprinkled, well layered it even all over the dough.

Filling
First I chopped the bacon slices into smaller pieces and sauteed it in a big wok, (frying pan works too, just be more careful with your cooking temperatures). I added the onions and celery and then the mushrooms and kept the whole mixture cooking on medium heat. (You may want to get rid of the excessive bacon fat, I don't, it mixed well with the other ingredients and enhances the taste, I also added about two tablespoons of cream.)

In a bowl I whisked up four eggs, the rest of the sour cream and added the small crumbled Feta cheese. Some salt, some pepper, a little bit of nutmeg. I then folded the whole mixture from the wok into the bowl and let stand while I prepared the leek.

One important thing with leek is that it needs to be thoroughly cleaned. Remove (if you have) some wilted or "hard" outer "leaves" from the sticks, half the stick lengthwise and chop into half rings, maybe a 1/2 an inch thick. Put the chopped leek into a colander or a big sieve, rinse and toss, till all the dirt washes out. Take the same wok (no need to clean it) and melt several table spoons of butter. Braise the leek for several minutes. The wok has the advantage that you can move the leek from the hot bottom to the side to not overcook it. Normally you would add a cup or two of bouillon to the leek to let it simmer and finish cooking, but remember we want to make a tart, so too much fluid will not work. I added about half a cup of an (instant) bouillon / cream mix. dissolving the bouillon in the cream. When the leek got tender I mixed it with the other ingredients in my bowl.

Baking
With a ladle I evenly filled up my tart, put it in the preheated oven and let it bake at 390° F for about half an hour, till all the ingredients set and the top starts to get golden brown. Put on a wire rack and let cool to an eatable temperature. BTW, the tart also tastes good cold (if you don't want to reheat it) the next couple of days.

Sources: Refrigerator


Sunday, November 27, 2016

Zibelemärit - Annual Onion Market Day In Bern, Switzerland



It's not like the Bernese only have one market day a year, actually their farmer's market takes place twice a week on Tuesday and Saturday mornings, but the Zibelemärit (Bernese German for onion market) is a special market and you guessed it, its main product is the onion. It always takes place on the fourth Monday in November and actually draws people from all over Switzerland and even from abroad by the busload or by special trains to the capital, Bern. 

Growing up in Bern, I thought I want to share this with y'all - not really "Where In The Hell Is Carlton" subject - but maybe you may get inspired for a trip overseas.

There are two diverging stories behind it, history says that the first market was held in the mid 19th century when the first railroads started to arrive in Bern and farmers from around the "Seeland" (the mostly agricultural area around the three lakes of Murten, Biel and Neuenburg) converged to Bern to sell their recent harvest. Legend says, and that's the part my grandpa instilled into me, that Bern had a fire in 1405. To thank the people from Fribourg who came and helped tidying the place up again, they were granted the right to sell their fresh produce. But a fall market isn't mentioned in the books till 1439, according to myswitzerland.com.

Whatever the "real" reason, as kids growing up, the Zibelemärit was one of the "cool" days of the year. Not only did school finish early, but we all would participate in the "Gstungg" (melee). The main artery through town, Spitalgasse and Marktgasse were closed to traffic and we youngsters would walk them up and down, throwing confetti into other people's faces. So watch out, don't open your mouth to say hello to somebody you may meet, some naughty kids may fill it with a well placed shot of confetti.
On the near Schützenmatt, the carnival with its rides and midway games stopped for the yearly visit. Growing older, we often went a day or two earlier than Monday to check out the thrilling joyrides, as on Zibelemärit day, most often there were too many people and the rides were much shorter. Often people would wear "leis" of sugar candy onions around their necks.

Growing even older and not being interested in the "Gstungg" or the carnival anymore, we would help a family friend, sell their braided onion strands and wreaths and make some extra pocket money.  Their market stall was under the watchful eye of the Swiss Parliament building which you can see towering above the market on the top photo. As you see in the video by filmaffen below, onions are also made into dolls and other decorative tchotchkes. And onions are sold, in every shape and form, according to myswitzerland, there are now over 10 metric tons of onions that change hands. Some years later the "Chachelimärit" (Chacheli meaning a pottery cup or small bowl) became part of it and expanded not only the goods being offered, but also expanding the market even further throughout downtown. The expansion also brought a ton of more tourists into town. So to see the "true" market with less people we would often go there between 4 and 6 am in the morning.



But the market is not all about buying stuff, it's also about meeting friends and indulge in food and spirits. Specialty foods being offered by almost all restaurants that day, include onion and cheese tarts, onion soup with a slice of Züpfe (braided bread) and to make swallowing much easier, a lot of white wine. If it's really cold and it well can be, "Cafe Fertig" (coffee with schnaps) or Glühwein (wassail) will warm you up to stand the chill. According to the weather forecast it should be in the mid thirties F (2-4 C) on Zibelemärit day.



Sources: Images (myswitzerland.com also for some info), youtube (filmaffen)

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Swiss Wheat Bread - Easy And Tasty (Recipe incl)


This is a tasty Swiss bread with a great crust, that also should work for other countries' bread lovers. Even though the original recipe asked for fresh or so called cake yeast, I tried this bread with instant yeast, as I can't find any fresh yeast in any of the stores.


Ingredients:

4 1/4 cup Wheat Flour (General Purpose Flour works, but the better the flour, the better the bread)
1 1/2 tbsp Salt
10 grams yeast - (1 3/7 packs)

1 1/5 tbsp honey
1 1/5 cup of tepid water

1 tbsp Oil

Dough
Measure the flour and salt and pour in a big bowl into a heap. Mix the yeast, the lukewarm water and the honey, make a big crater in the middle of the flour and pour the mixture into the crater. Mix well with some of the flour, while you still have some flour on the side of the bowl.
Cover with a warm, wet towel and let stand for 15 minutes.

Add the oil and mix everything with the rest of the flower. Best if you have a food processor use your kneading tool, till everything is firmly mixed and nothing sticks to the sides of the bowl anymore. But before you toss this recipe or run to Sears to get you the latest Kitchen Aid you can also knead with your hands. IMHO, there is some Zen in kneading flour into a dough, which is going to bread that you gonna eat. Cover again with the wet towel and let stand for another 10 minutes.

Knead the dough one more time and then take the dough and roll it into a thick roll, between 1 and 2 feet long and roll the dough up into a form of a snail house.

But the bread on a greased (parchment paper works too) cooking sheet and let stand for another 20 minutes uncovered, as it will still raise.

Baking
Preheat the oven to 485 degrees and bake your bread for 10 minutes at that temperature, then turn the temperature down to 360 degrees and finish the baking process with another 40 minutes. Let the bread cool out on an rack.

If you don't eat bread on a daily basis, use it for your Sunday brunch or to dunk pieces into a soup during a cold winter night.

En Guete.







Saturday, October 1, 2016

Bernese Apple Pie In America (Recipe Included)

Born and raised in Europe, baking in the US can be quite an undertaking.

Growing up with the metric system and convert my old recipes from grams into ounces, from Celsius into Fahrenheit is one thing and can be achieved quite easily, sometimes even in the head without pen and paper or even a calculator.

But there is way more to that, as Americans when it comes to baking often only use volume measurements and we use simple units of weight.

Example: 150 grams of "regular" sugar is 5.3 ounces or 5 3/10 ounces (weight to weight) - but the required amount in volume in cups will vary with whatever ingredient you will measure. The volume of 150 grams of regular sugar and 150 grams of powdered sugar do not fill the same cup (of tea.)

That's where the internet can come in handy and a regular "apple pie a la mode de la grand-mere" (Grandma's apple pie) becomes a high tech researched google R&D project.

Back to our sugar problem - a recipe (not mine below) asks for 150 grams of regular sugar and that equals 2/3 of a US cup. It also asks for powdered sugar and just to show the difference, I choose the same amount - 150 grams of powdered sugar is still 5 3/10 ounces - weight remains weight - but the volume of powdered sugar is much bigger. So with the help of the converter at the Traditional Oven website - we'll find that 150 grams of powdered sugar equal 1.2 or 1 1/5 US cups (almost twice the size).

So after all the hard math here comes the hand on part, if you would like to surprise your friends with this easy made, but very tasty apple pie (see pic on top). All measurements are non-metric adapted for the US. So let's have a blast (or better just some fun) in the kitchen.

for the dough:
2 eggs
3/8 cup sugar
1 1/5 cup flour
1/2 tsp Baking Powder                                
8 1/2 tbsp melted Butter


for the filling:
~ 2 lbs Apples (or other fruit)
3 tbsp Lemon Juice
7 1/2 tbsp Butter
2/5 cup Powdered Sugar
1 tbsp Vanilla Pudding Powder              
3 eggs
1 lemon - grated zest

Let's start with the dough - mix the eggs and the sugar and stir till creamy. Add flour, baking powder and the melted butter and mix well. Take a spring form pan (9"), butter the bottom and the sides and add the dough. Spread evenly and with the help of a spoon form a ring, coming up the sides, about 1 1/2 inches in height. Keep the dough cool (fridge), preheat oven to 360.

Tip: if you have a problem forming the ring on the side, let the dough cool in the freezer for a couple a minutes and then try to drag it up the pan wall.

For the filling: you roughly need a little less than 2  lbs of tart cooking apples. Peel them if you want to, else just core them and slice them about 1/2 inch thick. And then cut the slices into about thumb nail size pieces. Put all the apples in a bowl and pour the juice of a lemon (or two) over the apples, depending on how tart or sweet you want to have your final pie. The lemon juice also keeps the apples from "browning" immediately.
Take the really soft butter, the powdered sugar and Vanilla Pudding powder - mix and stir till creamy.
Separate the eggs in yolks and whites, add the lemon zest to egg yolk and add to the mix, beat the egg white till stiff and fold in. Carefully fold in the apple pieces.
Pour the whole mixture on top of the dough and spread evenly.

Bake for about 50 minutes (original recipe). I found that ovens here sometimes need a tad longer than that, check with knitting needle to see if the inside of your pie is done. If your pie browns to fast on top, cover with tin foil.

Let the whole pie cool out in the spring form pan, then take out, Dust the top with some powdered sugar - I never do. Serve by itself or with whipped cream or even add some Vanilla ice cream to it.

E Guete! 


P.S. Over the years I also played around with some other fruits - and created plum, peach and pear varieties. I also added a shot of Bourbon to the apples and peaches before, or even doubled the Vanilla Pudding powder amount, to add a bit more of Vanilla flavor to it. The recipe is so easy, that you can creatively change and experiment with some stuff.

Sources: http://www.traditionaloven.com

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Mafia? No - Handshakes & Hellos


Sinatra and the rat pack on the jukebox. Jack Ruby ate here the night before John F. Kennedy was shot. It's dark and it's rumored to be a MOB hangout of old. Great-great granddaughter Amber appeared as a Playboy centerfold. 

Yes, you are at Campisi's Egyptian Restaurant in Dallas.

Everything about this place demands a little story to be told, and therefore should actually be on everybody's travel itinerary if you visit Dallas. So you can experience the mystery there is or only might be.

An Italian restaurant named after another country, what does Egyptian have to do with Italy, besides the fact that Cleo and Cesar had a fling and a common son.

When grandfather Joe Campisi moved his already existing, 4 year old  Italian restaurant and pizzeria, the first in Texas, from a location on McKinney to Mockingbird, most of the money was spent buying and renovating the place. The building used to be the home of the Egyptian Lounge. There was only enough money left, to get rid of the "lounge" part of the name and change it to restaurant on the already existing sign.

For years there were rumors, that the Campisi were part of organized crime, especially the Dallas Mafia. The assassin's assassin, Jack Ruby ate at Campisi's the night before John F. Kennedy got shot. To no surprise, the fact that Joe Campisi visited Ruby in jail, did not hush the hearsay per se. But this little encounter substantiates every conspiracy theorists daydreams, even if there may be no reasoning behind it. That this dark candle-lit place only accepted cash and checks for a long time way into the '80s kept the tittle-tattle going too. Even though at one point, everybody entering the establishment was photographed by the FBI, it didn't hurt the business too much. "Au contraire," people starting showing up, trying to catch a glimpse of a famous mafiosi and trying to rub elbows. Regular customers as Bob Hope or Tom Landry helped spread the news as well.

By now, the restaurant cashes in on the supposed MOB connection, it quadrupled in size and beginning in the '90's started to expand into satellite branches. David Campisi, grandson of patriarch Joe, now rules over 11 stores, all but one (Lubbock) in the DFW area. Asked by the Dallas Morning News during a recent interview about the expansion plans and the Mafia connections David was quoted:

"My grandfather, he always used to say when your last name ends in a vowel people look at you a little bit different. We have a great story behind us. Some things true, some not.”

The Dallas Mafia was never considered to be a big deal; the metroplex didn't start to explode in size till after World War II. Compared to New York and Chicago, Dallas seemed more like a quaint town on the banks of the Trinity. Yes there were the Piranio, Civello and the Campisi families. But most of the crime was related to Lester Ben "Benny" Binion, who in his early days pretty much controlled the gambling in Big D. He later became the owner of the Horseshoe in Las Vegas, had to serve five years in Leavenworth for tax evasion and started the now famous "World Series of Poker." He also ran some bootlegging operations during the prohibition, but with law enforcement more or less ignoring the state and national amendments he had pretty free range. A writer for Collier's magazine actually summarized the efforts as "Dripping Dry Dallas" after he was able to buy drinks across the street from the famous Adolphus hotel.


Playboy model Amber Campisi                               @ambercampisi
"L'occhio del padrone ingrassa il cavallo." - as long as you as the boss, keep your eyes focused they will fatten the horse. This old Italian mantra describes part of the success of the Campisi famiglia in Dallas. Combined with their own credo of "Handshakes and Hellos" they were able to build a brand, that they are now successfully expanding into other locations, even outside of the DFW area.

And while we're talking about the Campisi, we can't forget that Corky's daughter Amber Campisi participated in Playboy's Ultimate Playmate Search.for their 50th anniversary edition.

"My customers at the restaurant told me I should try out,” she said. “I was done with school, and I thought, why not? I was one of the first girls in line.?

She was featured in that special edition and two years later, was awarded the centerfold as Miss February 2005.

With a degree in communications from SMU, she owns her own business as a Plexus energy and weightloss drinks distributor and naturally also helps in the family business as one of the managers.

The food is no mystery - it's "onesto italiano." 

Actually it is "delizioso," the sausages and peppers as an appetizer are spicy, but not hot. The salsa di pomodori is not overwhelming, it's smooth and accompanies the sausage perfectly. The Veal Parmigiana and the Center Cut Pork Chop, chosen because it was served with sauteed Spinach, were both cooked to perfection and very "gustosi". I normally have to add a little bit a salt, which I had to do with the pasta, that came with our dishes. The Tiramisu and the Sicilian Cream Cake came home with us and we loved every bite of the two desserts the next day. I gotta be back at Campisi's Egyptian Restaurant for Pizza. Si mangiano in famiglia. Alla prossima.

Food: 🍴🍴🍴🍴🍴/🍴🍴🍴🍴🍴 (4/5)
Sources: www.campisis.us/, Dallas Morning News, @ambercampisi, Playboy

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Old Fashioned Easter Eggs

My Swiss grandma told me how to paint, well color is the better word, Easter Eggs. After some searching in the back-40 I found the little grasses and flower petals I wanted to use to “enhance” my eggs.


With some elbow grease these little nature fragments easily adapt to the egg. When I asked my girlfriend if I could have an old pair of pantyhose I got quite the stare. Explaining her, that I now have to wrap the grasses and eggs into an old piece of women’s garment and tie it up, trash bag twists work perfectly to hold the pantyhose in place, her eyes softened a bit. I was off the hook.



Now I had to come up with some sort of natural magic potion to dye the eggs. A mixture of balsamic vinegar, red and yellow onion shells, coffee grounds and a bit of turmeric did the trick and gave me the subtle sand-like color I was looking for. Every egg will look differently, not in color, but in shape and texture.



So the raw, but decorated eggs were boiled for about 10 minutes in the tincture, cooled down and then freed from the pantyhose pieces. (Some may wanna wear gloves doing this, as the color-dye will stick around your fingernails for a couple a days.) They will look awesome in any Easter basket.



The whole thing is a bit labor intensive but if you involve your kids this will leave a memory and maybe in 40 years they will be posting a similar post about Old Fashioned Easter eggs.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Koffee Kup in Hico, Texas

Koffee Kup Family Restaurant in Hico
Driving by the "Koffee Kup Family Restaurant" several times, I was intrigued to try their food. especially after reading two old Texas Monthly columns about "The 40 Best Small-Town Cafes" (2008) and "The 50 Greatest Hamburgers In Texas" (2009) which both included the Koffee Kup.

The following is my Yelp Review:
"Yes this is typical "home made" food you may find around Texas in small little towns, as in the "Country Kitchen" in Lampasas, the "Blue Bonnet Cafe" in Marble Falls, "Maxine's Cafe" in Bastrop or at "Ham & Eggs" in Lewisville.

That said, I don't expect a place like this to cook me a gourmet meal, just honest, good-tasting fare, I will enjoy and will come back to enjoy over and over again. And es I will be back at the Koffee Kup.

The burgers, a Bleu Cheese and a Jalapeno Cream Cheese Burger were tast and cooked to perfection, mine being cooked exactly medium-rare as I ordered it.  The steak fries were excellent and the onion rings from out of this world. Yes some of it needed a bit more spices, but this is my personal taste and I can easily adjust that. Less salt and pepper is somewhat the norm in every diner.

If there is some space left in your tummy after the succulent burgers, try one of their 16 different pies - they will make your heart sing and will make you remember your grandma's cooking. I can only tell you to try the Banana Blueberry and the Black Forest pies.

The service was friendly and she actually had some funny banter to go with. We will be back!"

This is the closest restaurant from our new place, so I will update you on other menu choices when we go there.

Food: 🍴🍴🍴/🍴🍴🍴🍴🍴 (3/5)