23 November 2008

Zuckerhut & Knollensellerie

In a previous blog, I wrote about my experience with Community Supported Agriculture in Virginia, and how it changed my culinary life by introducing all sorts of new vegetables like pak choy and beets. In Munich, I recently joined something similar to Community Supported Agriculture, only it’s on a much larger scale, and they deliver. Every Tuesday I receive a delivery including a box full of organic produce, but I’m also receiving milk, cheese, bread, eggs, and various other odds and ends though it like olive oil. I could even order organic beers and wines if I desired. The best part about it, is that I can receive the produce year round receiving deliveries once a week or less.

With my first order, this past Tuesday, I received two items in my produce box, I’ve never heard of before, not even in English. Zuckerhut, translates into sugar loaf, and it looks similar to a large head of romaine, but it’s more bitter. The second is Knollensellerie which translates to celeriat or celery root. Not to confuse, this isn’t actually the root of celery, the plant that grows out of this root doesn‘t even represent celery abstractly. The edible part of the plant looks like a very large knobby white root.

Once I had these vegetables translated, I started to search for recipes. None of my cookbooks, nor my favorite recipe websites had them, except for one French Onion soup recipe, of which I‘m not a big fan. Google was the most friendly to celeriat, and I found out that it’s the most common vegetable put in the compost bin. I also found that it makes a delicious soup when sautéed with garlic and onion and puréed with milk and cream. A Google search of Sugar Loaf turned up things like the ski resort and other non-produce related items. When I added the term “vegetable” to my search, I eventually discovered deep in the search results that Sugar Loaf is a type of chicoree, and should be used with balsamic vinegar or cream to make it less bitter. I never actually found a recipe for it, but did find that it‘s most commonly used in salads. Paul, the ever willing guinea pig, tried it in a salad with balsamic vinegar, but couldn’t take it. So I decided to experiment and substitute it for spinach in a potato, leek, spinach quiche.

Quiche is a really popular dish in German bakeries, so I was really surprised, when I couldn’t find ready made curst or a single pie tin the largest grocery store in Munich’s metropolitan area. After talking to my friends, I realized that to get a proper pie tin, I have to visit an import store, or import it myself. Last time I tried to make my own pie crust for apple pie, it turned out disastrous. However, Munich wasn’t giving me any other option. And, I’ve found with my new passion for cooking, I’m able to master things that I’ve failed miserably at before. Since I needed a deep dish pie tin anyways, I found a spring form cake tin, and a recipe for pie crust in one of my favorite cookbooks.

With the help of Paul, (my secret to success in the kitchen), everything was going along smoothly, except that I failed to thoroughly read the instructions on my crust recipe. The first obstacle came after Paul rolled out the dough, and we needed to refrigerate it, only once the crust was rolled out to it’s full size wouldn’t fit into our tiny European fridge. November weather saved us, and we put the pie crust out on the balcony to “refrigerate” while I finished preparing the filling. After the crust was properly refrigerated, Paul tried to press the crust into the cake tin, only, it was so cold from being outside, it didn’t conform to the tin very well. Paul ended up piecing it together like a quilt. After this, I was supposed to pre-bake the crust (sans filling) in the oven filled with baking beads. Baking beads. What the heck are BAKING BEADS? Needless to say, I didn’t have baking beads in my kitchen, so I decided to pre-bake the crust in the oven, sans baking beads. About 10 minutes into it, I realized that gravity was getting the best of my crust, and the sides were caving in. So I quickly pulled out the crust, and filled it with the filling, the only thing I have to hold up the sides. In about 10 minutes, I should find out if this worked.

Verdict: The quiche turned out to by quiet yummy, despite the debacle of the crust. Max loved the crust, and we loved the filling, so between the three of us, we devoured half the quiche in one seating.

06 November 2008

Dare I Open a Can of Worms?

So, the last few days, few weeks really, it's difficult to say that anything has been on my mind other than politics. So, knowing that some of my friends and family that read this probably won't agree with my opinions on politics, I'm going to keep it to a minimum. It's an understatement to say that I'm happy that Obama won the election.

However, to those of my friends and family that are very dismayed, and even afraid, I understand your pain. I felt the same way when Bush won in 2000. I'm going to ask you to do me a favor though, and give Obama a chance before you predict the future. If you believe in prayer, than I ask you to pray for him and his cabinet. He's inheriting some of the worst problems a President has ever inherited, and he's going to need guidance.