Hofbräuhaus Pilgrimage (Yes, I AM a tourist – what tipped you off?)

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A full liter of dunkel bier and a half liter of weiss bier

Thus far on our European Food Tour, we’ve managed to avoid (most of) the touristy kitsch.  Indulge me just this once.  We were in Munich, we were hungry, and we did it… we followed the camera wielding masses into that most epic of bier halls, Hofbräuhaus.  Simply put, it’s too old and too big NOT to visit!  The history of Hofbräuhaus dates back to the 16th century, and is a long, fascinating story.  The current building – “only” 117 years old – can seat a whopping 1,300 hungry and thirsty guests.

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High, painted ceilings

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Bavarian style oompah band

For me, the most fascinating thing about Hofbräuhaus is how, despite the hordes of tourists, the old bier hall is clearly beloved by locals.  If you don’t believe me, check out the bier hall’s website.  An impressive number of tables are reserved for regular guests, many of whom own their own bier steins and store them in one of the 454 lockers available on site!  Possession of one of these lockers is considered a status symbol among regular guests.

Whether drinking from a fancy schmancy bier stein or a plain old glass mug, everyone can enjoy a hearty and delicious meal.  I’ll leave you with a few photos while I pack my bags.  Next stop:  Austria!

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Pork Knuckle

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Bread dumplings in a mushroom cream sauce

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Spaetzle (for Half-Pint!)

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Apple strudel

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Gift shop (Of course there’s a gift shop… just feel your way through the sea of blinding camera flashes, and you’ll find it eventually!)

 

An American Lost in a German Kitchen!

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German Kitchen Décor

I anticipated a few of our travel adventures before we stumbled upon them.  For example, I imagined that decoding foreign train schedules would take a bit of practice (I was right).  I imagined reading key words on restaurant menus and placing an order correctly would take a bit of luck (I was right).  But cooking in the kitchens of our rented guest apartments?  That, I imagined, would be a snap (I was very, very wrong).

I realized I was in for a bit of a challenge before I even set foot in a kitchen – I was still at the grocery store!  For better or worse, I grew up with the wack-a-doodle American system of measurements.  You know what I’m talking about… 16 ounces to a pound, 2 cups to a pint, 2 pints to a quart, 4 quarts to a gallon, etc..  It’s a ridiculous system, but it’s the system with which I am most familiar.  I understand the metric system and use it in other contexts, but it’s akin to a non-native language, and takes me an extra second to sort out in my head.

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Pretty dishes in our guest apartment

Here’s a scenario:  an item costs 6 Euro 49 per kilogram, and the shop keeper is asking if I would like to make a selection.  Hmm.  Would I?  Well, there are roughly 2.2 pounds per kilogram and $1.37 per Euro. Reasoning out that 6 Euro 49 per kilogram is about $4 per pound isn’t rocket science, but after thinking through the mental math for about 50 items, I was ready to just start chucking random items in my cart.  Then I learn that the price shown is “per 100 grams.”  I have no idea how much 100 grams of sausage (or cheese or whatever) looks like.  Sure, I’ll take 100 grams.  Oh.  I guess I’ll take another 100 grams.

Previously kitchen confident, I found myself fumbling through scenario after scenario:

  • Butter is not packaged in 1/2 cup sticks, but in 200 gram squares.  Internet conversions to the rescue!
  • Baking powder is not sold in a red cylindrical can, but in little envelopes. I found it… eventually.
  • Powdered sugar is not sold in loose bags, but in dense little boxes.  I found this also… eventually.
  • Something that looks like bacon and smells like bacon might actually be bacon, or it might be a fully cured, prosciutto-like product in disguise.  Not that I bought a package of not-bacon by mistake…
  • Flour is sold in densely packed 1 kilo packages – very densely packed.  I’m just guessing here, but it probably wouldn’t be wise to dump a bag of flour into a resealable container of approximately the same size.  I’m just guessing the flour might expand… a LOT… and make a mess that would amuse any pint-size travel companions for the rest of the day.  Good thing this didn’t happen to me.
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Spice Jars

After navigating the market, my adventures continued in the kitchen.  Oven gauges are set in Celsius rather than Fahrenheit.  Local recipes use units of mass rather than volume (a much more accurate, common sense approach, but unfamiliar nonetheless).  Ovens are generally smaller, which is more energy efficient, but also alters familiar baking times.  Stovetops are often electric and ceramic, requiring a gentler approach and a bit more patience than open gas flame.  Navigating these differences, I managed to serve slices of “rare” cake and saw through a roast that was, er, “well” done.

I also made a few dishes – heck, more than a few dishes – that were pretty darn good.  I will leave Germany with a few new cooking skills, a lot of great recipe ideas, and a healthy respect for the similarities AND the differences between German and American cooking cultures.

Next time on Crowded Earth Kitchen, I’ll share photos and stories from an iconic German dining establishment.  Then, we’re off to Austria!

The Amazing Spaetzle Dumpling Workout!

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Spaetzle Dumplings with Mushrooms and Bacon

I woke up to a rainy day in the hills of Bavaria, and decided to fill the day cooking a few of the comfort foods I associate with Germany.  Dumplings immediately came to mind.  Of all the varieties of German dumplings, and there are many, I particularly adore spaetzle.  These tiny, irregularly shaped dumplings are often served with a light gravy, or just butter with a dash of salt and pepper.  Today’s recipe includes mushrooms and bacon, and is pretty delicious if I may say so myself!  Before we get started, let’s do a few upper body warm-up stretches.

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Bottom half of an enormous Maypole, as seen from my kitchen window

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Top of the Maypole, photographed from a 4th floor window

At home, I have a little gadget for making spaetzel.  To use it, I simply scoop some dumpling dough into the white bowl on top, and slide the bowl back and forth over the hole-punched tray underneath.  Tiny drops of dough fall effortlessly into a pot of boiling water, and in just a few minutes, I have a delightful bowl of dumplings.  So easy!

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Spaetzle Maker Sitting on a Stockpot

Lacking  my spaetzle maker, I used a strainer and the back of a soup ladle to accomplish the same task.  It worked just fine, but the dough being quite elastic, it took quite a bit more effort than I anticipated!  Don’t let that scare you off, just think of this recipe as the happy end of The Amazing Spaetzle Dumpling Workout!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIngredients (makes 4 side dish servings)

2 eggs

1 1/2 cups flour

1/2 cup milk

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

8 slices bacon

8 ounces mushrooms, sliced bite size

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1) Fill a large pot halfway full of water.  Add a dash of salt and bring to a gentle boil.

2) Fry bacon in a separate pan.  Remove bacon when crisp and set aside to drain on a paper towel.  Add mushrooms to pan with bacon fat and allow to cook over low heat, stirring occasionally.

3) While bacon and mushrooms cook, mix together eggs, flour, milk, salt and pepper.  Allow to rest for about 2 minutes.

4) Add half the dumpling dough to a strainer with holes about the size of a pencil eraser (a bit larger is OK, but NOT smaller!).  Hold the strainer over the pot of boiling water with one hand, and use the other hand to rub the back of a soup ladle over the dough.  Keep doing this until all the dough drops through the holes in the strainer.  Your arms won’t fall off – it only feels that way!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA5) When the dough drops into the pot, it will sink first and eventually float to the top.  Dumplings are cooked through when they have floated on the top of the water for about 3 minutes.  Scoop them out with a slotted spoon, set them in your serving bowl, and repeat the process with the other half of your dough.

6) By the time your dumplings are cooked, your mushrooms will be ready.  Gently fold mushrooms and all pan drippings into the dumplings.  Serve a scoop of spaetzle and mushrooms over a few leaves of romaine lettuce.  Top with crumbled bacon, or serve bacon slices whole on the side.  Enjoy!

 

 

What in the World is American Sauce?

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Before arriving in Europe, my travel companions and I were aware of at least a few of the more common European perceptions of American dining habits.  In mealtime settings, we have been careful to keep our voices a bit more quiet than we might at home, and we have been careful to not occupy too much table space.  We have even been graced with a compliment or two about the good behavior of our pint size travel companions (offsetting that time one pint size darling threw a credit card clear across a restaurant into the dinner of a very surprised lady, but I digress…).  Although we try to abide by the old “When in Rome” adage, our American accents can be detected from outer space, and have led to a few interesting exchanges.

We’ve noticed, for example, that ketchup is offered with absolutely everything, and often with a knowing grin.  Often, the only ketchup bottle in sight is the one placed on our table.  I find it thoughtful, but curious.  Our most curious dining experience was on the heels of a much more somber visit to the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin.  Visiting the Holocaust Memorial and adjoining museum was a bit overwhelming.

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After spending a few hours reading and reflecting on these sights we went for a walk through the neighboring district, home to the US Embassy.  The high concentration of Americans working in this area has led, predictably, to a large number of restaurants with English menus and other American-friendly touches.  We stopped by a promising looking café for lunch… and stepped right into a parody.

The booth in which we were seated was huge – I mean, it was enormous!  The menu looked fabulous – on the first page, and the third page, and the tenth page.  Beverage cups were large, and filled to the top with ice.  Our waiter was very friendly and informal, stopped by our booth often, and delivered a giant bottle of (you guessed it) ketchup with our lightening fast meals.  The most terrible – er, I mean most popular – of American pop music played in the background.  We felt genuinely welcome, even as we found the microcosm of American dining quirks a bit unnerving.  We left an American-size gratuity at the end of our intriguing meal.

I didn’t give differences in dining preferences across cultures much thought after that meal, at least not until I browsed through a grocery store.  One of my pint size travel companions was the one who spotted the unfamiliar item.  Holding the item up in the air, he asked…

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“What in the World is American Sauce?”

Trio of German Treats

Perhaps I’ve enjoyed a bit too much coffee this morning, but seriously folks, I’m all over the map – the dessert map, that is – when it comes to deciding which food adventures to share with you today.  I’ve decided that I’m simply not going to decide.  Instead, I’m going to indulge my sweet tooth and share a trio of German desserts… a foodie mosaic!  I’ll let you decide what best captures your attention.  Post a comment about your favorite photo below, and I’ll work on recreating the dish for a future post!

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Thin layers of chocolate cake and chocolate mousse, all contained within a shell of chocolate genache. Yum!

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Fresh apple slices baked atop a light vanilla cake, finished with a smattering of crumb topping. Delish!

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A dense cheesecake layer is topped with a fluffy layer of cheesecake mousse in which tart glazed cherries are suspended. Yes, please!

August Book Giveaway! Don’t Miss Out!

lemon cakeThe Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, by Aimee Bender

Crowded Earth Kitchen is offering five – that’s right, FIVE – ways to win!

Contest Ends September 1st

*** CLICK HERE TO ENTER! ***

“My mouth – always so active, alert – could now generally identify forty of fifty states in the product or meat I ate. I had taken to tracking those more distant elements on my plate, and each night, at dinner, a U.S. map would float up in my mind as I chewed and I’d use it to follow the nuances in the parsley sprig, the orange wedge, and the baked potato to Florida, California, and Kansas, respectively. I could sometimes trace eggs to the county” (p. 95).

As a child, I loved reading The Chocolate Touch, by Patrick Skene Catling. To me, The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake is the grown-up, quirky distant cousin of a childhood favorite. Instead of a greedy little boy who learns it really is possible to have too much of a good thing when everything he touches turns to chocolate, Aimee Bender offers us Rose Edelstein, a precocious little girl with a most unusual and unfortunate gift. To Rose’s great dismay, she learns she can taste emotions cooked and baked into her food.

Rose’s peculiar and unshakeable ability might be tolerable if she weren’t surrounded by such an odd cast of characters. But that wouldn’t make for an interesting story, would it? Instead, Rose lives with a detached and clueless father, a melancholy and secretive mother, and an older brother who blends into the background most extraordinarily well. Rose finds grains of sanity in her friendship with Eliza, whose mother can be relied upon to cook happy tasting food, and her unlikely alliance with George, the surprisingly normal friend of her very strange brother.

In The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, Aimee Bender accomplishes the extraordinary… she gives her food characters the same depth and development as many fiction authors give their human characters. The textures, flavors, scents, kitchen environment, and baker of Rose’s favorite lemon cake are described in several pages of detail, and lemon cake is just one food of many to receive such grand attention to detail. Foodies and fiction aficionados alike will enjoy this eccentric tale.

Bockwurst and The Bach House

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Bockwurst is a popular German sausage made from finely ground veal and pork.  It’s relatively hefty size and natural casing means that bockwurst must be cooked slowly to retain its appearance and flavor.  As long as you keep that one detail in mind, preparing a meal of bockwurst, potatoes, and peppers is very, very simple (see instructions, below).  It was a perfect meal to cap a day spent exploring The Bach House and surrounding area.

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Sample of instruments played by Johann Sebastian Bach

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Listening pods for visitors

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Recreation of Bach’s facial features from a plaster cast of his exhumed skull (creepy but true)

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Exterior of The Bach House (left) with adjoining gift shop and café (right)

 

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Exterior statue of Johann Sebastian Bach

Classical music aficionados in large numbers trek into central Germany during the summer months to visit The Bach House.  This well reputed museum displays a comprehensive collection of Johann Sebastian Bach’s musical instruments, hand written compositions, and furnishings from his home.  Meandering from floor to floor and room to room, visitors are treated to the sounds of professional musicians performing Bach’s compositions on Bach’s own instruments – pretty cool.  Visitors may also settle into comfortable listening pods, pictured above, to listen to a wide variety of Bach pieces performed by a vast array of musicians.  While admittedly a bit macabre, visitors also have the, er, interesting opportunity to learn how Bach’s likeness was recreated by exhuming his body (seriously) and using his skull as a model.  [The cost of fame? Yikes.]

Whether you are touring The Bach House or simply popping in a CD, here’s a solid German meal to enjoy while you listen!

Bockwurst with Potatoes and Peppers

Ingredients (serves 4)

4 medium size potatoes

4 bockwurst

1 small onion, sliced

3 bell peppers (different colors if possible), sliced

1 tablespoon butter

black pepper to taste

 

picture1284Directions

Step 1) Wash potatoes and cut into bite size chunks.  Place in bottom of a nonstick pan.  Place bockwurst on top of potatoes.

Step 2) Cover bockwurst and potatoes with cold water.  Water should completely, but just barely, cover the bockwurst.

Step 3) Cover pot and heat on low until water is just about ready to boil.  Don’t turn the heat too high – it should take about 30 minutes for the water to approach boiling.  Be patient!

Step 4) Just before the water boils (for example, when the surface of the water appears to vibrate, or very teeny tiny bubbles begin to appear on the edges of the pot), layer the onion and peppers on top of the bockwurst.  Turn the heat OFF and LEAVE THE POT COVERED.  Do not lift the cover for 20 minutes!

Step 5) Important – check the internal temperature of one bockwurst with a meat thermometer.  The internal temperature should be at least 160 degrees F.  If the temperature has not reached 160 degrees F, turn the heat back to low and cover the pot for another few minutes.  Check the temperature again before serving.

Step 6) To serve, gently remove peppers, onions, and bockwurst from the pan.  Drain most of the liquid off of the potatoes; leave just a little bit of water with the potatoes in the pot.

Step 7) Add butter and pepper to the potatoes and coarsely mash.  Potatoes should be chunky; this is a rustic dish.

Step 8) Spread one scoop of potatoes on each serving plate and top with one bockwurst.  Arrange onion and pepper slices on top of bockwurst.  For added color, garnish with carrot shavings (optional).  Enjoy!

 

 

 

Eis in Eisenach, Germany

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEisenach is a bustling town of approximately 40,000 people in the Thuringia region of central Germany.  As the birthplace of composer Johann Sebastian Bach and nearest town to Wartburg Castle, Eisenach welcomes a significant number of tourists (mostly German) every year.  Watching tour busses navigate the narrow, perilously steep roads near the town center is nerve wracking indeed!

Visitors can easily walk through Eisenach for hours perusing outdoor markets (see above), taking in museums, visiting churches, and enjoying fountains.  During the summer months, Eisenach can get quite toasty warm.  Air conditioning is not a common amenity, leaving sightseers to find other ways of cooling off.  Thankfully, Eisenach cafes and restaurants take “Eis,” or ice cream, to whole new levels.

Crowded Earth Kitchen is sharing ideas instead of recipes for you today.  Once you take a look at the photos from our ice cream adventures below, I don’t think you’ll mind.  All you need are ice cream and toppings (fresh fruit is a must!) from your local market, and a little imagination. Have fun cooling off deliciously!

 

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Traditional Spaghetti Eis: Vanilla ice cream piped in the shape of spaghetti noodles, topped with strawberry slices and coconut shavings

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Chocolate Banana Spaghetti Eis

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Amaretto Eis: Vanilla Spaghetti Eis topped with amaretti cookies, chopped walnuts, coconut shavings, and a drizzle of amaretto liqueur (sigh…)

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Butterfly Eis for half-pint visitors

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Semi-creepy clown eis for half-pint visitors and eccentric adults!

 

Bier-Braised Pork Chops in Bischofroda, Germany

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Bischofroda is a small village of less than 700 residents nestled in the Southwestern hills of Thuringia, right in the heart of Germany.  While many Americans think of the Rhine River valley as “storybook Germany,” the Thuringia region seems even more special to me.  The hills vary from gentle and rolling to steep and spectacular, with a surprise around every turn in the road.  In high places, visitors can simply stand along the roadside and gaze down at village after red-roofed village adorning countless acres of farmland and forests.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABischofroda is the sort of place that encourages its occasional visitors to slow down and relax. We enjoyed meandering through the village, exploring the grounds of the local church, and stepping aside on narrow cobbled roads every now and then to allow locals on horseback and tractors to pass.  Returning to our guest house to enjoy a slow and simple dinner with a cold German bier was a great way to end the day.

German bier is so widely available, so inexpensive, and so varied, we may as well cook with it, too!  What follows is an easy peasy recipe for fork-tender pork chops, braised in German bier, of course.

picture1253Ingredients (Serves 4)

8 thin-cut boneless pork chops

2 carrots, sliced into coins

1 onion, coarsely chopped

1/4 cup ketchup*

1 pint of your choice of German bier

*Yes, we’re using plain old ketchup.  There’s no need to be precious about it – ketchup’s acidity helps to tenderize the pork, and the flavor blends well with bier.  If you prefer to be all fancy pants, here’s what you do instead…  first you’ll need to peel, seed, and finely chop two ripe, fleshy tomatoes.  Cook them down over low heat for approximately 30 minutes, stirring frequently.  Add one teaspoon of brown sugar and a pinch of salt.  Voila, ketchup.

Directions

Step 1) Sear pork chops in frying pan over medium-high heat, approximately 30 seconds on each side.  Sprinkle with coarse ground black pepper if desired.

Step 2) Push pork chops aside and place onions and carrots evenly around bottom of the frying pan.  Place seared pork chops on top of onions and carrots.  Drizzle ketchup over pork chops, and pour bier over everything.

Step 3) Place lid on frying pan and simmer on low for 30 minutes or until pork chops are fork tender.  Enjoy!

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New Book Giveaway! You’re Welcome. :)

lemon cakeThe Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, by Aimee Bender

Crowded Earth Kitchen is offering five – that’s right, FIVE – ways to win!

Contest Ends September 1st

*** CLICK HERE TO ENTER! ***

“My mouth – always so active, alert – could now generally identify forty of fifty states in the product or meat I ate. I had taken to tracking those more distant elements on my plate, and each night, at dinner, a U.S. map would float up in my mind as I chewed and I’d use it to follow the nuances in the parsley sprig, the orange wedge, and the baked potato to Florida, California, and Kansas, respectively. I could sometimes trace eggs to the county” (p. 95).

As a child, I loved reading The Chocolate Touch, by Patrick Skene Catling. To me, The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake is the grown-up, quirky distant cousin of a childhood favorite. Instead of a greedy little boy who learns it really is possible to have too much of a good thing when everything he touches turns to chocolate, Aimee Bender offers us Rose Edelstein, a precocious little girl with a most unusual and unfortunate gift. To Rose’s great dismay, she learns she can taste emotions cooked and baked into her food.

Rose’s peculiar and unshakeable ability might be tolerable if she weren’t surrounded by such an odd cast of characters. But that wouldn’t make for an interesting story, would it? Instead, Rose lives with a detached and clueless father, a melancholy and secretive mother, and an older brother who blends into the background most extraordinarily well. Rose finds grains of sanity in her friendship with Eliza, whose mother can be relied upon to cook happy tasting food, and her unlikely alliance with George, the surprisingly normal friend of her very strange brother.

In The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, Aimee Bender accomplishes the extraordinary… she gives her food characters the same depth and development as many fiction authors give their human characters. The textures, flavors, scents, kitchen environment, and baker of Rose’s favorite lemon cake are described in several pages of detail, and lemon cake is just one food of many to receive such grand attention to detail. Foodies and fiction aficionados alike will enjoy this eccentric tale.

Marzipan, Music, and Museums in Berlin

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Berlin boasts a wonderful combination of museums to capture your imagination and street musicians to make you smile along the way.  While walking from the train station to Museum Island, we passed this cheerful woman playing her accordion.  To me, accordion music is quintessentially European (When is the last time you heard a street musician playing an accordion in New York or Chicago?).  I love it, and I wasn’t the only member of my party who was enchanted.  Half Pint, my smallest travel companion, couldn’t help himself.  First he waved shyly, then his little feet started to tap, and before long he was full out dancing along to the accordion music.  The already cheerful musician threw her head back and laughed.  It was delightful.

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Where upbeat accordion music made me smile, the violin strains which followed stopped me – quite literally – right in my tracks.  As we walked across the bridge over the Spree River and onto Museum Island, we were beckoned with achingly beautiful music.  Half Pint turned an ear toward the music, took the ever-present thumb out of his mouth, and froze.  Apparently, I wasn’t the only one captivated by the sound.  When we came upon the violinist, we joined a small crowd and sat to listen for a while.  The music was so beautiful, I am convinced that the musician is a book character waiting to be written.  Perhaps he played first chair violin with the Berlin Philharmonic until a beautiful woman broke his heart.  Now he plays soulful music near the riverbank, where he first met her.  (While I made that up, of course, it wouldn’t surprise me!)

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The museums themselves were predictably engaging.  While I was particularly taken by the intimate scale of the Bode Museum (pictured above), my pint-size travel companions were more impressed by the special exhibit of Rembrandt’s animal sculptures on display at Alte Nationalgalerie Berlin.  We spent a good long while examining all manner and size of three-dimensional birds, dogs, and livestock.  Walking back to the train station after a long, full day, one of my travel companions declared, “I would like to make sculptures like that Rembrandt guy, but of different things, like musical instruments!”  This got me thinking…

picture1298On an earlier Aldi shopping trip, I took notice of how marzipan is quite inexpensive in Germany.  At my first opportunity, I picked up a little package and put my small sculptors to work!  Half Pint declared the marzipan “too sticky” and toddled away.  Almost Pint happily sculpted a rainbow, a bug, and a ukulele – all open to significant artistic interpretation.  Full Pint (who, if I must be honest, is approaching Quart Size) humored me with a marzipan electric guitar and amplifier, shown below.

While sculpting with marzipan was whimsical fun, it did serve to cement the Berlin music-and-museum experience in little minds.  Among our many European adventures, I hope this will be a day they remember.

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Turkish Kisir in Berlin

picture1012Home to approximately 200,000 people of Turkish descent, Berlin boasts the largest Turkish settlement outside of Turkey.  This makes it pretty darn easy to find excellent Turkish food here!  Enter Kisir, a zippy, spicy bulghur wheat salad which makes either a fine accompaniment to a hearty Turkish meat dish or an equally fine vegetarian meal all on its own.  People who are unfamiliar with Kisir may be familiar instead with its cousin, Tabbouleh.  If Tabbouleh (very common throughout Arab food cultures) took a vacation to Asia Minor and basked in a few hot peppers along the way, it would become Kisir.  Sound delicious?  It is!

Kisir is also wildly nutritious, and the reason why might surprise you.  Oh sure, a cup of dry bulghur wheat contains a full day’s worth of dietary fiber and a whopping 17 grams of protein.  The real surprise, however, lies in the herbs.  That’s right – the parsley, cilantro, and mint which are too often dismissed as garnish.  Did you know, for example, that one-half cup of parsley contains over 100% of the Recommended Daily Allowance for Vitamin C, and over 1000% of the RDA for Vitamin K?  Well, now you do!

picture1008Ingredients (makes 4 side dish servings)

1 cup bulghur wheat

1 cup boiling water

1 tablespoon spicy chili paste, such as Nam Prik Pao

1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and chopped

2 tomatoes, seeded and chopped

1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped

1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

1 cup curly parsley, chopped

Juice from one lemon

1/2 teaspoon salt

picture1009Directions

Step 1) Combine bulghur wheat, boiling water, and spicy chili paste in a pot with a tight fitting lid.  Cover and let sit for 15 minutes.

Step 2) While you wait, chop vegetables and herbs.  Also, squeeze juice from lemon into a small cup, being careful to remove seeds.

Step 3) After 15 minutes, remove lid from pot and fluff bulghur wheat with a fork.  Gently stir in all remaining ingredients.

Step 4) This dish may be enjoyed immediately at room temperature, or (my preference) may be refrigerated for several hours until it’s nice and cold.  Serve alone in small dishes, atop lettuce leaves, and/or with pita wedges.  I enjoy a dollop of cucumber yogurt with this dish; it may not be a strictly traditional accompaniment, but the cucumber yogurt helps to cut the heat from the chili paste.  Enjoy!

 

 

Last Day To Submit A Recipe And Win This Book!

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Pandora’s Lunchbox, by Melanie Warner

Win This Book!  Submit one or more recipes to The Global Recipe Project!  One entry will be randomly selected on July 31st to win a free copy of this great book!

Each recipe counts as one entry – enter as many times as you like! 

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

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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.

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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

picture1251Directions

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!

 

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!

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Seafood Schnitzel with Pommes

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Jaeger Schnitzel with Kartoffelsalat

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Hawaiian Schnitzel with Pommes

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