French Cherry Clafoutis

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It’s now been six years since our magical European Food Tour concluded. Faced with the COVID-19 pandemic and travel bans of 2020, my soul aches to return to those enchanting, cobblestone meandering days. We’ll get there. For now, we can revisit favorite food memories, such as this delightful (and simple!) cherry dessert.

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The cherry clafoutis shown above was enjoyed in a little café in Lichtenberg.  It was truly delicious, and I’ve mimicked the taste and textures pretty closely, with two exceptions.  First, I used pitted cherries.  I understand that whole cherries are traditional, but really, spitting cherry pits onto a china plate takes something away from the whole dining experience, don’t you agree?  Second, I added walnuts to the crust.  Why? Because cherry pits – supposedly – add a nutty flavor to the dish.  I subtracted the pits, added some walnuts, and Voila! – flavor without, well, pits.

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Ingredients (Serves 8 – 10)

For the crust:

1 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 cup ground walnuts

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup cold butter

2 tablespoons cherry brandy

1 egg

For the filling:

2 cups sweet cherries, pitted and set in a strainer to drain

8 ounces Neufchâtel cheese, softened (or substitute cream cheese)

2 eggs

1/3 cup sugar

1 tablespoon cherry brandy

Directions

Step 1) Combine whole wheat flour, walnuts, and sugar.  Cut in butter with a pastry cutter or two forks, until mixture resembles little peas.  Add egg and cherry brandy.  Mix – use your hands! – until well combined.

Step 2) Press dough into a tart pan (a pie dish would work fine, too).  Place a piece of aluminum foil over the dough and sprinkle with dried beans.  This will keep air bubbles from forming and “puffing up” your dough.

Step 3) Bake dough (foil, beans, and all) in a preheated 400 degree oven for 20 minutes.  Reduce heat to 375 degrees and bake an additional 10 minutes.  Remove from oven, remove beans and foil, and let cool for 10 minutes.

WIN_20140929_181944Step 4) While crust cools, use an electric mixer to combine softened Neufchâtel cheese, eggs, sugar, and brandy.

Step 5) Arrange thawed, drained cherries on crust.  Cover with cheese filling.

Step 6) Bake for 25 minutes at 350 degrees.  Serve warm or cold.  Personally, I prefer this dish cold.  Try to share with 7 – 9 other people, but if you eat the whole darn thing by yourself, I won’t judge.  😉

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Cookies from Latvia

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Biezpiena Cepumi

Happy Holidays, friends! Here at Crowded Earth Kitchen we’ve been traveling, homeschooling, and collecting amazing recipes from around the world to share with you. Today’s gem is Biezpiena Cepumi, beautiful Latvian cookies that are delicious with coffee on cold winter days. These treats aren’t overly sweet; if you like lemon cookies or windmill cookies, give these a try. Biezpiena Cepumi are nut-free and egg-free, as well.

Ingredients (Makes 36 cookies)

1 cup plus Continue reading

Korean Bibimbap

Bibimbap

Korean Bibimbap is a surefire crowd pleaser. The combination of white rice, vegetables, marinated beef, chili pepper paste, and egg is hearty, delicious, and can be tailored to the palate of each of your dinner companions. Love all the veggies and knock-your-socks-off spice? Great! Prefer your food mild and hold the greens? That’s fine, too! Let everyone prepare their own bowl, and everyone will be happy. Let’s get started!

Ingredients (Serves 6)* Continue reading

Best Street Food in South Korea! Yachae Hotteok (야채호떡)

1024182022~2 (2)The golden rule of street food for foreign visitors to any country is simply “Follow The Crowd.” If locals are lining up, you can be confident that you’ve stumbled upon something delicious. Walking the outer perimeter of Namdaemun Market, we knew we were in for a treat when we happened upon this line:

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Standing at the back of the line, our context clues were rather limited. A large red sign clearly advertised a price of 1000 Won, the USD equivalent of 88 cents. Savory, fried aromas wafted toward us as folks walked by happily holding folded golden brown circles of what looked like… fried dough?

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The circles looked like large fritters, or perhaps large servings of Native American fry bread. After being carefully lifted from sizzling oil, they were brushed with what appeared to be a sweet soy glaze flavored with apples, lemons, dates, and onion. Watching people enjoy their snacks, it became apparent that the fried treats were stuffed with some sort of filling. I saw vegetables and… were those noodles?

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Why yes! But… bread stuffed with noodles? It didn’t sound all that wonderful to my American palate. Wow, was I happy to be wrong, wrong, wrong. This treat, which I later learned is called “Yachae Hotteok” (and translates approximately as “vegetable pancake”) is – hands down – the best food I sampled in Seoul, South Korea.

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Clear, chewy, flavorful noodles were tucked inside the warm shell along with thin strips of carrot, green onion, and other fresh vegetables. No wonder the locals were smiling. These treats were fantastic!

If you’d like to try your hand at preparing Yachae Hotteok at home, I’ve found a few great links for you. Maangchi, a famous Korean cook, has a recipe that looks very approachable. The Smart Local offers another variety which looks fun.

The world is small – have big fun!

 

 

Namdaemun Market

1024181930~2 (2)A short walk from Seoul Station lies Namdaemun, the Great South Gate of Seoul, South Korea. Originally constructed in 1398, Namdaemun was one of eight majestic gates in the Fortress Wall of Seoul which surrounded the city during the Joseon Dynasty. Namdaemun was reconstructed in 1447, and significantly refurbished in 2008 after a devastating fire.

The Great South Gate is interesting. For this food traveler, however, the real intrigue lies just beyond the gate. Walk just a bit further, and you’ll arrive at the marvel that is Namdaemun Market. This center of sensory overload has been Continue reading

Hello, South Korea!

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Beautiful Incheon Airport

I’ll be candid with you, Crowded Earth Kitchen friends – I’m simply giddy about exploring Seoul, South Korea. Approximately ten million people call Seoul home, putting the bustling metropolis of Seoul on par with giants such as New York City. Who knew?

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Chivalry is alive and well on Seoul trains, which can get quite crowded!

It takes 14 hours to fly from Chicago to Seoul, which makes a person pretty darn happy to have their feet back on solid ground!

 While train station snacks may lack for nutrition, they’re interesting and very low cost!

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While Seoul is peaceful now, there are plenty of reminders of the region’s complicated past. The fairly new statue above, situated just outside of Seoul Station, is in the likeness of anti-colonial activist Kang Woo-Kyu. In 1919, when Korea was under Japanese colonial rule, Kang Woo-Kyu threw a grenade from this very spot in an attempt to assassinate the Japanese Governor-General Makoto Saito. This act of defiance is celebrated annually with the laying of wreaths, and serves as a reminder of the fragility of peace.

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As an American abroad, I certainly never expect to encounter English signage. I did, however, find this sign a bit funny. Notice how “Information” is written in English, yet the actual information is not.  🙂

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The ginko trees in Seoul are spectacular. These trees are so much larger than ginkos I’ve seen in the US, and their color is so beautiful.

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Plastic food displays are popular in Seoul as they are in Tokyo. I’m eager to sample the cuisine! Next time on Crowded Earth Kitchen, we’ll begin exploring Seoul’s amazing outdoor markets and food stalls.

The world is small. Have big fun!

Yakiniku (Japanese BBQ)

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Garlic Beef

Tonight after a stroll through the charming Edo district, we hopped on a train for the excitement of Akihabara’s Electric Town. World famous for all things anime, Akihabara’s Electric Town also boasts a pretty great restaurant scene… those amped up gamers need to eat sometimes, too! We went searching for Yakiniku, do-it-yourself Japanese BBQ. After a few dead ends and a brief scavenger hunt leading to a small elevator and a narrow, 8th floor hallway with chairs for waiting, we found Continue reading

Tokyo Dining: Never Enough Noodles!

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Noodles in broth with thin sliced green onion and a poached egg

Seriously, friends. If you like noodles, you’ll love Tokyo. In addition to the ramen and tsukemen dishes previously featured here on Crowded Earth Kitchen, there exists a seemingly endless variety of noodle bowls. Hooray!

We’re Continue reading

Tsukemen (Japanese Dipping Noodles)

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Who says you can’t play with your food? Tsukemen is not only delicious for adventurous diners, it’s a guaranteed kid pleaser and appropriate for serving to finicky friends. If you enjoy sampling dishes from around the world but are also cooking for reluctant diners, Tsukemen is a must-try.

Tsumemen is basically Continue reading

Japanese-Inspired Banana Spongecake

Japanese desserts tend to be a bit lighter and less sugary than Western desserts. Also, bananas and banana-flavored treats are very popular in Japan. This banana spongecake is inspired by desserts we enjoyed throughout Tokyo. Enjoy!

Ingredients (Serves 8)

1 very ripe banana

2 eggs Continue reading

National Museum of Nature and Science, Tokyo Japan

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A visit to the Ueno cultural district in Tokyo, Japan would not be complete without a few hours devoted to exploring the National Museum of Nature and Science. Check out a sampling of the museum’s treasures below:

(Shown above: Yayoi Period human bones)

(Shown above: Crustaceans, Bivalves, and a cross-section of an ancient tree)

Admission is quite a value at 600 yen (approximately $5.30), which is significantly less than the cost of admission at many comparable museums around the world. The museum is open six days a week (closed on Mondays) year ’round. Be sure to check the website before visiting, in case of closure due to a Japanese holiday.

(Shown above:
A sampling of the museum’s impressive collection of telescopes and microscopes)

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Beautiful terrestrial and celestial globes made, unbelievably, from paper mache

The world is small. Have big fun!