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Pandora’s Lunchbox, by Melanie Warner

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As teenagers and college students are prone to saying around bites of junk food, “Just, Wow!” Based upon the author’s diverse writing background, including two years as a staff reporter for The New York Times, I was hopeful that Pandora’s Lunchbox would be well written and engaging. As a chemist and an educator myself, I was hopeful that this book would find and walk the line between depth of accurate food science detail and clarity of presentation for a wide audience. Melanie Warner delivered on both counts. And delivered, and delivered some more!

Pandora’s Lunchbox is as smartly written as it is impossible to set down. From her personal food “experiments” (Did this used to be a chicken nugget? Is that facial mask or avocado dip?) to her broadly painted historical overview to the interview vignettes which highlight her journalistic expertise, Melanie Warner illustrates the landscape of modern day processed food in stark detail. Ms. Warner begins by explaining what a processed food is not (“pasteurized milk…. frozen peas, canned beans… frozen ground beef shaped into hamburgers”) before succinctly clarifying what we are really talking about: “A processed food is something that could not be made, with the same ingredients, in a home kitchen. Your home kitchen” (p. xvi).

Prior to reading this book, I thought I had a pretty solid grasp on the “no-no’s” of processed food. Little did I know! Pandora’s Lunchbox had me rethinking the origins (and wisdom) of my daily multivitamin, the journey of ingredients in my children’s “healthy” breakfast cereal, and even my store bought loaf of whole grain bread. As I progressed from chapter to chapter, I was both humbled by how little I knew and inspired to do better for my own health and the health of my family.

Pandora’s Lunchbox confronts the business realities of the food industry, where processing and preservatives allow longer shelf lives and lower costs, corporate shareholders demand high profits over high nutrition, and consumers respond to slick marketing and artificial flavors. Melanie Warner ends her well written book with 216 referenced endnotes, placing well organized facts gently and firmly in the hands of her readers. Read Pandora’s Lunchbox, and you will – to your benefit – never experience a trip to the supermarket quite the same way again.

Cabanossi and Kohlrabi in Oberkrämer, Germany


Oberkrämer is a sleepy community of just over 10,000 residents in Brandenburg, approximately 25 miles Northwest of Berlin.  It has the feel of an American suburb, with an independently owned, hexagon-shaped doner kebap stand instead of a drive-thru fast food franchise, and the logically well connected mass transportation access one expects to find near Germany’s capital city.


Like most communities within commutable distance from a major metropolis, Oberkrämer offers several affordable markets for convenient grocery shopping.  I have to smile at how the produce section of each of these markets prominently features kohlrabi, a largely overlooked vegetable in the US.  Germany grows more kohlrabi – and consumes more kohlrabi – than any other country in the world.  My very German grandfather loves kohlrabi, and connecting with my German heritage is the reason I find myself here, so there you have it – we’re cooking up kohlrabi for dinner… but with what?

picture1250Cabanossi sausage!  If you haven’t tried Cabanossi sausage before, you’re in for a treat.  A mild, smoked sausage readily available throughout Germany as well as parts of the US, Cabanossi is seasoned with paprika and cured (like salami).  Cabanossi is considered more versatile than salami, in that it is commonly enjoyed both hot (baked, roasted, or grilled) and cold (on charcuterie plates and in sandwiches).  Today, we’re baking Cabanossi along with kohlrabi, potatoes, and a few mushrooms (optional) for a hearty, one dish dinner.

Ingredients (makes 4 main dish servings)

4 Cabanossi sausages (150 grams each)

3 large potatoes

1 large kohlrabi, leafy green top still attached

12 mushrooms

2 tablespoons butter

salt and pepper


Step 1)  Grease a large baking dish liberally with 2 tablespoons of butter.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Step 2) Wash potatoes and cut into bite size chunks.  Arrange potato pieces in a single layer on the bottom of the baking dish, skin side down.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Place in 400 degree oven for 15 minutes to par-bake (mostly, but not entirely, cook through).

Step 3) While potatoes are baking, cut leafy green top off of the kohlrabi bulb.  Discard stems, and cut greens into 1 inch strips.  Set aside.  Peel kohlrabi bulb (the bottom) with a potato peeler, and cut the peeled bulb into bite size chunks.  Set aside.

Step 4) Cut mushrooms into quarters.  Set aside.  Cut each Cabanossi sausage into three pieces.  Set aside.

Step 5) Remove potatoes from oven.  Arrange quartered mushrooms around the edges of the baking dish, and top mushrooms with kohlrabi greens.  Arrange kohlrabi chunks in the center of the dish, and top everything with sausage.

Step 6) Place dish back in oven for another 15 minutes.  Remove from oven and serve while hot.  Guten appetit!


Galician-Inspired Trout in Poland

picture1210Poland’s many lakes and freshwater rivers offer robust trout fishing, a fact which is easily deduced by even a glance at Polish cuisine.  Today we are featuring a simple trout preparation inspired by PSTRĄG PO GALICYJSKU, a classic Galician style trout found in the kitchens of Jewish cooks throughout Southern Poland and Austria.

Traditional PSTRĄG PO GALICYJSKU is fried, where the recipe below is baked.  The emphasis on incorporating strong flavors of garlic and horseradish has been retained.  You will not be disappointed!

Ingredients (serves 4)

4 fresh trout fillets (brown trout or rainbow trout, both are delicious)

1 tablespoon garlic paste

salt and pepper

4 lemon slices

4 teaspoons prepared horseradish (or freshly grated horseradish, if you can find it)


Step 1) Rub trout fillets with garlic paste, then sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Step 2) Place trout fillets on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and bake in a 400 degree oven for 15 minutes.

Step 3) Serve each trout fillet with a slice of lemon and a dollop of horseradish.

All Things Schnitzel in Landkirchen, Germany

When asked to name a German food, schnitzel is the first thing to pop into the minds of many people.  Schnitzel is simply a boneless cut of meat which has been pounded thin with a meat mallet for tenderizing, breaded, and fried.  Pork schnitzel is quite common throughout Germany, although any meat may be used (I enjoy the less common chicken schnitzel, myself).  In German restaurants, it is sometimes possible to hear a faint “thump, thump” from the kitchen, which is schnitzel being prepared for the next round of diners!

Landkirchen is a small town in Fehmarn, Germany and is popular with tourists.  Most of the tourists themselves are from other parts of Germany, which bodes well for food offerings.  Schnitzel abounds – plain schnitzel and schnitzel with toppings, schnitzel with potato salad and schnitzel with pommes, schnitzel on paper plates and schnitzel all fancied up.  Crowded Earth Kitchen sampled the schnitzels throughout Landkirchen by dining where the tables were most full, and where diners were visiting with staff (a hopeful sign that the diners were either locals or returning guests).  We were not disappointed.  Here are a few photos for you – pick your favorite in the poll below, and Crowded Earth Kitchen will work to recreate the recipe for you!


Seafood Schnitzel with Pommes


Jaeger Schnitzel with Kartoffelsalat


Hawaiian Schnitzel with Pommes

Which recipe would you like to see Crowded Earth Kitchen recreate?

Sauerkirschkuchen in Petersdorf, Germany (Or, “What can I bake from what I can find at Aldi?”)


Petersdorf is one of the larger towns on Fehmarn island, large being a relative term (the entire island is home to approximately 12,000 people).  During my stay on Fehmarn, the Aldi store in Petersdorf is where I did most of my shopping – Aldi prices are quite low, and while Aldi stores aren’t exactly aesthetically pleasing, they still offer a more pleasant shopping experience that The Store With A W That Shall Not Be Named.  Say what you will about Aldi, the fact that the company has managed to keep the behemoth W out of Germany is worthy of respect.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAShopping at Aldi takes some getting used to.  Aldi is able to offer very low prices because their business model dictates that an average Aldi store stock only about 1,500 different items.  That may sound like a lot, but it’s less than five percent – and in some cases less than one percent – of the inventory at many American supermarkets.

I didn’t take much notice of the limited inventory at Aldi until I tried to bake.  I could find granulated white sugar, but not confectioner’s sugar (a challenge when making frosting).  I could find baking powder, but not cream of tartar (a challenge when making meringues).  I also could not find molasses, and I tend to bake with a lot of molasses.

So, I changed my tack.  I went on a baking scavenger hunt, searching for interesting ingredients and thinking of ways to use them.  Voila!  I stumbled upon a big jar of sauerkirschen, or sour cherries.  The best part was, the jar was priced at less than half of what I knew these lovely little fruits would cost back home.  So, today we are making sauerkirchkuchen, a very simple cherry cake.  Enjoy!

picture1225 Ingredients (makes an 8″ square cake)

1 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 cup sugar

3 tablespoons butter

1 egg

1/2 cup milk

2 cups sour cherries (pitted, drained if jarred)


Step 1) Grease an 8″ square cake pan or a glass pie dish; set aside.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Step 2) Combine flour, salt, baking powder, and sugar.  Cut butter into dry mixture using a pastry cutter or two forks.  Continue cutting butter into mixture until all butter pieces are smaller than peas.

Step 3) Add egg and milk to flour and butter mixture; combine with a fork.  Batter should be thick, like biscuit dough.

Step 4) Spread batter into bottom of pan.  Top with cherries.  If desired, drizzle tops of cherries with 1-2 tablespoons of cherry juice and/or 1 teaspoon of white sugar.

Step 5) Bake in 350 degree oven for 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the dough (pick a spot not covered by a cherry) comes out clean.  Check after 35 minutes.

Let cool slightly before enjoying.  This makes a wonderful breakfast kuchen served with coffee, or a wonderful dessert served with ice cream!


Red Currant Sorbet in Dänschendorf, Germany



Dänschendorf is a picturesque little farming community on Fehmarn, a German island in the Baltic Sea.  A bridge connects Fehmarn to mainland Germany, making the island easily accessible for vacationers seeking sun and sand during the summer months.  Visitors flock to the beaches, which are entirely natural except for one “tourist beach” on one corner of the island, where fine grained sand is trucked in (bah, that’s no fun).  On many beaches, visitors can rent mini-cabanas for the afternoon or for the entire season.  They’re a novelty, pretty comfortable, and offer the advantage of protecting sunbathers from fierce winds that blow from the West and sometimes feel like they might carry you right across the sea, East to Lithuania!  Fehmarn is also an easy afternoon cruise away from both Denmark and Sweden, thanks to an active (and inexpensive, if traveling on foot) ferry line.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Considering the island’s northern latitude, it is not surprising that the German food in the region is flavored with a Scandinavian influence.  I was pleased, but not surprised, to find fresh red currants at a small Dänschendorf market.

Red currants or Johannisbeeren are small, round berries, translucent red in color and fragile due to their very thin skins.  Pop one in your mouth and you’ll find these berries are startlingly tart, almost like cranberries.  I find the taste refreshing, but my travel companions were not as impressed.  They are, however, quite impressed by the Eis (ice cream) stands dotting the island, so I knew just what to do with these happy little berries.picture1232

Red Currant Sorbet is super easy to make – a perfect treat for vacationers and travelers to prepare in a rented apartment, because it requires few ingredients and very little equipment.  If you can’t find fresh red currants in your area, try this recipe with raspberries and cut the sugar in half.

picture1233Ingredients (makes 4 large or 6 small servings)

4 cups fresh red currants

2/3 cup sugar

1/4 cup water

1/4 cup dry (trocken) red table wine

1/4 teaspoon fresh lemon zest, optional


Step 1) Puree red currants, sugar, water, and wine all together until smooth.

Step 2) Pour mixture into a shallow glass pan, and place in freezer.

Step 3) Every thirty minutes, stir the mixture gently.

Step 4) Sorbet will be ready to scoop and serve after 2 – 3 hours, depending upon your freezer temperature.  Enjoy!



Smørrebrød in Rødbyhavn, Denmark


Smørrebrød with Shrimp, Salmon, and Egg

When is a sandwich not just a sandwich?  When that sandwich is a beautifully arranged smørrebrød, the national dish of Denmark.  Smørrebrød are open faced sandwiches with very few rules – perfect for cooks who love to be creative in the kitchen without being overly fussy.  Crowded Earth Kitchen is featuring smørrebrød from Rødbyhavn, a Danish harbor town in an agricultural area just across the Baltic Sea from Germany.


Rødbyhavn Coastline

Considering Denmark’s saltwater coastlines and storied fishing history, it should come as no surprise that many versions of smørrebrød prominently feature seafood.  Salmon, herring, shrimp, crayfish (called kreb), and lobster are all enjoyed on these little sandwiches, along with roasted pork, beef, and chicken for variety.

All you need to make smørrebrød at home are a few ingredients and a bit of creativity.  Freshness is key here – Danish cuisine favors high quality, minimally processed ingredients enjoyed in delicious combinations without a lot of fussy preparation.  Try making your own smørrebrød from your favorite combinations of the following:

Small, thin slices of your favorite bread 

  • Rye bread is common in Denmark, but really, anything goes.

Freshly prepared condiments for moisture and flavor 

  • Mayonnaise, remoulade, and mild mustard are common, but nothing is preventing you from adding a bit more heat and bite if that’s your thing!

Thin slices and small bites of protein 

  • Beyond seafood, red meats, poultry, cheese, and egg, don’t be afraid to try less common ingredients such as tofu and slivered almonds.

Garnish, garnish, garnish! 

  • Please don’t neglect this final detail, or you miss the whole point of smørrebrød.  It’s supposed to be pretty and show that you put some thought and effort into your food!  Herbs (especially dill) are common, as are dollops of crème and specks of caviar.  Really, the sky’s the limit.  I’m thinking yellow lemon zest, black poppy seeds, purple pansy blossoms, red pepper slivers, and thin green chives.  What do you envision?  Give it a try!

Danish Lobster Tails




Cherry Liqueur (Kirsebælikør) in Denmark


Cherries are quite popular in Denmark, and my family is happy to enjoy them right out of the market basket.  Variations on Kirsebælikør, or cherry liqueur, are also quite popular.  I must admit that spending the afternoon on a ferry in the Baltic Sea exploring Denmark’s Viking heritage with my own horde of pint size, toy sword-wielding Viking enthusiasts, any combination of cherries and vodka sounds pretty darn good.  Go ahead, judge.  How many times did you get hit with a plastic sword today?



2 1/2 cups good quality vodka

1 cup good quality brandy

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 1/2 pounds fresh cherries, washed and stems removed


Step 1) Combine vodka, brandy, and sugar in a large bowl.  Stir gently until sugar is dissolved.

Step 2) Score cherries with a sharp knife and place in sterilized quart jars (two should be sufficient).

Step 3) Cover cherries with sugar/alcohol mixture.  Cover jars with tight fitting lids and store in a cool place away from sunlight.  Every few days, tip jars upside down back and forth a few times to mix ingredients.

Step 4) Liqueur will taste pretty fabulous after only a day or two, but for maximum flavor, try to let this sit for 2 or 3 months.  If only one of the quarts lasts that long, well, who am I to judge?  😉

Step 5) Strain liqueur from cherries, and serve liqueur in small cordial glasses.  Use the cherries for something else – a cake, perhaps?  Hmm… I feel another recipe brewing.  Stay tuned!


Ferry Port in Denmark

Lunch in Old Town Cologne

There was absolutely no cooking at Crowded Earth Kitchen today.  Sorry, folks!  No, the stove sat lonely and neglected while we explored Old Town Cologne.  Quaint cobblestone streets and a view of the cathedral are accompanied by predictable price inflation in many restaurants, but menus posted along the walkways make it easy to determine which establishments fit within your travel budget.  We found a lovely corner café with prices that were a bit of a splurge, but not ridiculously so.

While most patrons chose to sit outside at little sidewalk tables vaguely reminiscent of Paris, I was drawn to the heavy woodwork I spied with a quick glance inside.  We settled into a tall corner booth complete with little pillows – a whimsical touch!

My pint size travel companions each ordered a speckpfannkuchen from the “light” menu.   Apparently, “light” is a relative term!  These egg-rich, butter-laden pancakes were filled with smoked bacon and easily overwhelmed a standard sized dinner plate.  My pint size companions barely made a dent in their speckpfannkuchen before they were contentedly full and ready to continue exploring the city.


At risk of betraying my German-American heritage, I will nervously confess that I was all carbed out by lunchtime… one can only indulge in so many bäckerei treats before one needs a break from everything made with flour!  I ordered a champignon salat, and it was delicious.


Where I may have failed to order something from the “Top 10 foods to try in Germany,” two of my travel companions pulled through with currywurst.   They described this quintessential German sausage as tasting like a mild bratwurst, soft in texture, with a sweet curry sauce accompaniment.  Served with pommes frites, this was a picture perfect lunch.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Crowded Earth Kitchen will cook something for you tomorrow, I promise.  Right now, we have a city to explore!

Himmel un Ääd and the Cologne Cathedral


Himmel un Ääd, also written as Himmel und Erde in some parts of Germany, translates as “heaven and earth.”  This simple comfort food consists of apples (heaven) paired with potatoes and onions (earth), all topped with a savory meat.  The most common meat pairing is black pudding or blood sausage, but as someone who eats very little meat, well, I’m not quite there yet.  I chose bacon instead.picture1162

I’m having a bit of fun with the name of this dish, and am pairing the recipe with a few photos of the magnificent Cologne Cathedral (Kölner Dom).  I can’t honestly say that Cologne is one of my favorite German cities so far – it’s not the cleanest city I’ve seen, and current subway construction near the city center makes Cologne painfully difficult for visitors to navigate by car.  That said, parts of the city have a certain laid back, international flavor vaguely reminiscent of New York, with the almost indescribably beautiful backdrop of a massive, eight hundred year old Gothic cathedral.


Himmel un Ääd Ingredients (Makes 1 large platter, perfect for a Sunday buffet table!)

3 pounds yellow potatoes, scrubbed and quartered

1 pound thick sliced bacon

2 pounds sweet onions, sliced thin

3 pounds crisp apples, washed and sliced thick

1 tablespoon sugar

salt and pepper


Step 1) Place quartered potatoes in a large pot.  Cover with water and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are soft, 10 – 15 minutes.  Remove from heat and set aside.

Step 2) While potatoes are cooking, fry bacon slices in a large pan.  When bacon is crisp, remove from pan (don’t wash the pan!) and set aside on paper towel to drain.

picture1159Step 3) Add sliced onion and sugar to pan with the bacon fat.  Sautee onion in bacon fat over medium heat until onions are soft and lightly caramelized.   Using a slotted spoon, remove onions from pan (do not wash pan!) and set aside.

Step 4) Add sliced apples to pan and fry over low-medium heat.  If pan is sticky, add a tablespoon of butter.

Step 5) While apples cook, drain potatoes and mash.  Himmel un Ääd “purists” leave the mashed potatoes as is.  I like to add about 2 tablespoons of butter, 1/4 cup of milk, and  a bit of salt and pepper.  You decide.

Step 6)  Assemble your Himmel un Ääd platter.  Arrange mashed potatoes in a half-circle on one side of the platter, and arrange the fried apples in a half-circle on the other side of the platter.  Arrange the caramelized onions in a small circle in the center of the platter (overlapping the potatoes and apples), and finally arrange your bacon strips over the top of everything else.  Voila!  Enjoy!


Fast Food, Dutch Style!


Exploring Europe poses a delightful dilemma… to cook, or to sightsee?  Today, we’re turning off the stove and looking instead at a few fun foods available in Dutch markets.  My favorite find, and a favorite of my pint-sized travel companions, are stroopwafels, shown above.  Stroopwafel translates as “syrup waffle,” and is really a cookie.  A dense caramel filling is sandwiched between two round cookies which taste like waffled ice cream cones.  Here’s the fun part:  stroopwafels are designed to settle right on top of your mug of morning coffee or tea, so that the steam from your hot beverage can soften the caramel center.  Brilliant.  As much as I enjoy a morning scone or biscotti, I have to confess, my morning coffee has a new best friend.

Another fun find for busy mornings are pre-made pannenkoeken, Holland’s answer to the French crepe and the American flapjack.  Yes, yes, I know, making a pancake is not exactly rocket science.  The thing is, these premade cakes are really good!  I warmed them in a microwave oven (gasp!) for a few seconds, gave them some love with a tablespoon or two of nutella, dressed them up with banana slices, and Voila!  I enjoyed a lovely breakfast in the same amount of time it would take to prepare a bowl of corn flakes.



When traveling abroad, remember that exploring foreign food markets can be a whole lot of fun!  Perusing grocery stores is a practical, economical way to explore other food cultures.  Enjoy!


Windmill Cookies in Aarlanderveen, Holland


Aarlanderveen, Holland is a breathtakingly beautiful village of approximately 500 residents and their four windmills.  These windmills are integral to the culture of the area, serving the dual purpose of milling grain into flour while pumping water out of the polders, or land areas which are below sea level.




To celebrate the beauty of Aarlanderveen we are making Speculaas, or Dutch windmill cookies.  These cookies are traditionally made using wooden cookie molds, but a windmill-shaped cookie cutter will suffice.

The secret to authentic windmill cookie flavor lies in the Speculaaskruiden, or Dutch “mixed spice.”  You can order jars of Speculaaskruiden online, but it’s more fun to mix your own.  A recipe for this delightfully aromatic spice blend follows the cookie recipe, below.

picture1182Speculaas Cookie Ingredients (makes about 36 windmill cookies)

1 cup real butter

1 1/2 cups brown sugar

1 egg

2 1/2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons Speculaaskruiden spice mix (see recipe, below)

1/2 cup sliced almonds


Step 1) Cream together butter and brown sugar.  Add egg and mix well.

Step 2) Add flour, baking powder, salt, and Speculaaskruiden.  Mix by hand; dough will be stiff.

Step 3) Add half of the sliced almonds, reserving the other half as a garnish.

Step 4) Chill dough for at least one hour before rolling 1/4 inch thick on a floured surface.  Cut dough into windmill shapes, and carefully transfer to cookie sheets lined with parchment paper.

Step 5) Garnish the unbaked cookies with sliced almonds, as shown above.

Step 6) Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 12 minutes.  Cool on a wire rack.  Enjoy!

picture1180 Speculaaskruiden Spice Mix (makes enough for three batches of cookies)

Stir together (if using powdered spices) or grind together in a coffee grinder (if using whole spices):

4 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon cloves

1 teaspoon mace

1/2 teaspoon ginger

1/2 teaspoon cardamom

1/2 teaspoon star anise

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon allspice

Store spice mix in a tightly sealed container and store away from heat and light.  Open container and smell whenever you need a smile.  🙂

Cauliflower Gouda Soup in Gouda, Netherlands


Visiting the Netherlands without tasting Gouda cheese would be like visiting Italy and skipping the pasta, or touring Germany without sampling the beer.  It can be done, sure, but why?






The town of Gouda, home to the world famous cheese, hosts a delightful open air market on Thursday mornings all summer long.  Visitors can sample a wide variety of Dutch treats while perusing the handiwork of local crafters and artists.  Flowers, ceramics, and a lovely variety of fresh produce are available, most at very reasonable prices.


Locals are very welcoming of tourists, and questions about local products are answered very patiently.  One word of advice:  If you don’t want to look like a complete Netherlands neophyte (cough, cough), remember that locals pronounce both the town and the cheese as “HOW-da,” rather than “GOO-da.”

I could be happy all day long simply sneaking bites from a wedge of this lovely cheese, but alas, I am determined to cook with a respectable number of vegetables during my time abroad.  To that end, I’ve created this very simple soup for you to try.  Enjoy!

picture1094Ingredients (serves 4, with leftovers)

1 large yam, peeled and diced

1 large head of cauliflower, cut into small pieces

6 cups of vegetable broth or chicken stock

1 teaspoon prepared mustard

2 cups grated Gouda cheese

picture10721 cup milk or light cream

Diced chives or crumbled bacon to garnish (optional)


Step 1) Bring yam, cauliflower, and broth or stock to a boil in a large pot.  Reduce heat and simmer, covered, until vegetables are soft (about 10 minutes).  Let cool, uncovered, until lukewarm.  Puree with an immersion blender.

Step 2) Add mustard, grated Gouda cheese, milk or light cream, and stir well.

picture1075Step 3) Ladle soup into bowls and top with a few strips of grated cheese, a sprinkle of chives, and/or a few bacon crumbles (optional).

This soup is delicious with a thick slice of Tijerbrood!

Dutch Tiger Bread (Tijerbrood)


After 24 hours of sleepless travel with pint-sized companions, Crowded Earth Kitchen arrived in Amsterdam.  Finding a meal was a tricky venture, because hungry as I was, this was not the time for anything exotic.  Planes, trains, automobiles, and multiple time zone changes shall not be paired with spicy food or sushi, thank you very much.  A simple cheese sandwich on tiger bread was a perfect snack.

Dutch tiger bread, also called Dutch crunch bread, is a unique bread worth sampling in the Netherlands.  It’s basically a white bread topped with a signature crunchy, crackly “tiger” coating.  Sesame oil imparts a distinctive flavor to the crust; I find it delicious, but feel free to substitute olive oil if you prefer a more neutral flavor.

The secret to the crackled top is rice flour – not in the loaf of bread itself, but as an ingredient in a  coating baked onto the top of the loaf.  This is a fun bread to make with children, and makes a pretty fabulous sandwich.  Enjoy!

Ingredients (makes 2 loaves)

For the bread loaves:

2 cups lukewarm (not boiling) water

1/2 cup white sugar

1 1/2 tablespoons yeast

1/4 cup dry milk

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1/4 cup canola oil

6 cups white flour

For the crunch coating:

1 tablespoon yeast

1/2 cup lukewarm (not boiling) water

1 tablespoon sugar

2 teaspoons olive oil

1 teaspoon sesame oil

1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup rice flour (not glutinous or sweet flour)


Step 1)  Combine 1/2 cup sugar and 2 cups lukewarm water in a large mixing bowl.  Stir in 1 1/2 tablespoons yeast, and allow to sit for a minute or two until the surface of the water appears a bit creamy.

picture331Step 2) Add dry milk, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and canola oil to the yeast mixture.  Stir in white flour, one cup at a time, and transfer dough to a floured tabletop.

Step 3) Knead dough for a few minutes until a smooth ball forms.  Add a bit more flour as needed, to prevent sticking.  Transfer dough to a large bowl which has been greased with canola oil.

picture334Step 4) Cover bowl with a damp cloth and allow dough to rise until it doubles in size.  This will take about an hour in a warm location, such as an oven that has been warmed to 100 degrees and then turned off.

Step 5) Punch the bowl of risen dough a few times to release air bubbles (this is
fun!).   Knead on a floured tabletop for a few minutes.  Divide dough in half, and shape into loaves.

picture1066Step 6) Transfer loaves onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Let rise for one hour.  After 45 minutes (15 minutes before the hour is up), prepare crunch coating as follows:

Step 7) Combine 1/2 cup lukewarm water and 1 tablespoon sugar in a small bowl.  Stir to dissolve sugar.  Add yeast.  Let sit for 2 minutes until yeast starts to foam.  Add olive oil, sesame oil, salt, and rice flour.  Stir until well combined, then let rest for 15 minutes.

picture1071Step 8) After loaves have risen for an hour and crunch coating (a “paste” at this point) has rested for 15 minutes, gently smear the coating onto the top and sides of the loaves.   Let loaves rest again for another 15 minutes.
Step 9) Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.  Cool on a wire rack.  Enjoy your tiger bread!






Strawberry Soup (Anraith Sútha Talún) in Dublin, Ireland


Full disclosure:  I was only in Ireland on a layover between flights.  The food options for travelers passing through Dublin International Airport were, well, not worth featuring here.  As I surveyed the lackluster (and expensive!) options for a quick bite, I found myself longing for Irish strawberries.  Yes, strawberries.  Everyone knows that Irish food culture has a storied history with potatoes, but fewer folks realize that strawberries are also an important crop on the Emerald Isle.  In fact, strawberries account for over 90% of the commercial berry crop in Ireland, generating around 10 million euros ($14 million US dollars) annually.  That’s no small potatoes.

This recipe for a simple, chilled strawberry soup was found in one of my Great Grandmother’s recipe boxes.  Intrigued, I gave it a try.  After all, strawberries sure are plentiful this time of year!  Considering the healthy dose of nutritious berries and calcium rich yogurt in this recipe, I can forgive the sugar.  Serve strawberry soup as a light, summertime dessert, or as an afternoon snack with a mini muffin and a cup of tea.

picture1099Ingredients (makes 6 small bowls)

1 pound fresh, organically grown strawberries

1 1/2 tablespoons tapioca

1 cup orange juice

1/8 teaspoon allspice

1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 cup sugar (a bit less would be fine)

1 tablespoon grated, organic lemon peel

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 cup plain, unsweetened yogurt


Step 1) Remove green tops from strawberries.  Cut berries into quarters.

picture1103Step 2) Bring strawberries, tapioca, and orange juice to a boil over medium heat in a saucepan.  Remove from heat.

Step 3) Add allspice, cinnamon, sugar, lemon peel, and lemon juice.  Refrigerate 2 hours or longer, until well chilled.

Step 4) Remove a few tablespoons of liquid (not the berries themselves), and whisk into yogurt to thin and blend.  Then, pour thinned yogurt into chilled berry mixture.  Stir and serve in small bowls or tea cups, garnished with a dollop of yogurt and a bit of lemon peel.  Enjoy!