celeriac remoulade

celery remoulade by the james kitchen
celeriac remoulade, a photo by the james kitchen on Flickr.

 

Maybe a little old-fashioned, dowdy or too root vegetable-y for some, celeriac remoulade is a wonderful salad and is easily relieved of the usual mayonnaise overload. I actually prefer this lighter version with yoghurt and just a little sour cream & mayo. You could even substitute these meagre 2 tablespoons if you are freaking out worried but you might need to rename this French classic. Celeriac (the celery root) has a savoury taste, it is milder than celery and even slightly sweet and the mayonnaise of the classic recipe complements its smooth- and sweetness. I like the contrast of the fresh and sharp mustard & yoghurt dressing which makes this salad a perfect side dish to almost anything though I particularly like it with game-birds.

We had this incarnation (forgive the pun) of celeriac remoulade with hot smoked duck breast & a rather fabulous lentil salad for a party in December and I thought the combination was a true winner though initially I was a little worried about the lack of glamour. Anyway, to glam up the colour scheme a little crimson was added by a bowl of Preisselbeersauce (a tart, earthy & fruity sauce made from Preisselbeeren = lingonberries, in Germany traditionally served with game and baked Camembert or in Sweden company to the famous Köttbullar) and there was really no need to worry, the fresh savouryness of the celeriac salad brought it all together.

Celeriac remoulade – Célérie rémoulade (just a little bit more légèr)
for six to eight

One medium celeriac (Sellerieknolle)
juice of 1 lemon
2 heaped tablespoons of coarse Dijon mustard
2 heaped tablespoons of regular Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons of homemade or organic mayonnaise (substitute crème fraîche if you want even more légèreté)
2 tablespoons sour cream
1½-2 cups of yoghurt (1.5% or 3%, whatever you have got)
salt & pepper
2 handfuls of flat leaf parsley, chopped

Peel the outer skin of the celeriac and cut the white bulb into fine (but not too thin)  matchsticks. I use a food processor or a japanese mandoline for this, if you like the precision workout hone your knife skills. Mix the shredded celeriac immediately with lemon juice to preserve the wonderful ivory colour. Make a dressing from the other ingredients but save a little parsley for decoration. Check the seasoning and leave to rest for an hour. Finally sprinkle with the remaining parsley before you serve it.

 

Auf deutsch:

Selleriesalat
für 6-8 Personen als Beilage

1 mittelgroße Sellerieknolle
Saft einer Zitrone
2 gehäufte EL Dijonsenf
2 gehäufte EL grober Dijonsenf
2 EL gute Mayonnaise, hausgemacht oder Bio (durch Crème fraîche oder Sauerrahm ersetzen wenn man auf Mayonnaise ganz verzichten möchte)
2 EL saure Sahne
1½ – 2 Tassen (ca. 500g) Joghurt (1,5% oder 3%)
Salz & Pfeffer
2 Handvoll glatte Petersilie, gehackt bzw. gewiegt

Vom Sellerie die äußere Haut abschälen und die Knolle in nicht zu dünne Stifte schneiden (entweder mit der Küchenmaschine oder einer japanischen Mandoline oder klassisch mit dem Messer). Sie sollten ungefähr so dick und lang sein wie Streichhölzer. Sofort mit Zitronensaft übergießen um die schöne weiße Farbe zu erhalten. Aus den anderen Zutaten ein Dressing herstellen, dabei etwas gehackte Petersilie zurückbehalten. Mit Salz und Pfeffer abschmecken und den Selleriesalat am besten eine Stunde durchziehen lassen. Vor dem Servieren mit Petersilie bestreuen.

 

Cornbread

corn bread by the james kitchen
cornbread, a photo by the james kitchen on Flickr.

 

In some parts of America, cornbread is the other half of chilli & chilli con carne. It is a loftier relative to firm baked polenta from the bread part of the family and ideally comes with a really nice crispy crust. A lot of times it is even more akin to cake than bread, which was way to sweet for me and I thought, what a shame, not my thing.

Then comes the day when your husband starts using your food blog as an online ordering menu and pokes you to have one of his favourites again & again dropping not so subtle hints “These meatballs are a great Friday (or insert respective day here) food, aren’t they?” You might want to retain a little bit of the autocratic reign you have had over dinner choices for a long time and determine there needs to be at least a new side dish, so what about cornbread? Not sweet but savoury and I have been dying to use these pretty moulds for a long time, see, I have a tiny kitchen stuff-shopping habit, only useful things, naturally, I do not fall for everything & I logged them back from the States & they needed to be used & aren’t they really nice? They do have the advantage to maximise the crispy crust and finally, we like cornbread. Psst, I have seen them in England & Germany, too (in US & Mexican online shops, Camping or Outdoor shops, Amazon). Moulds = Molds.

I experimented with two sources, settled for Liza Fain’s version but shortened an already short recipe which means that I added egg & buttermilk directly to the flours without premixing, extended the baking time & lowered the temperature to get an even bake and do not burn the small ears. If you are using a cast-iron skillet, you should follow Liza (The Homesick Texan) and up the temp to 230°C or 450° F.

Yehaaw!

 

Cornbread
makes 18 ears or 1 skillet, slightly adapted from the Homesick Texan’s cornbread

2 cups of cornmeal (Maismehl)
½ cup plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg
2 cups buttermilk
2 tablespoons oil, heated
butter to grease the moulds / molds

2 cast-iron cornbread moulds / molds (mine are Lodge, for 9 ears) or a cast-iron skillet (10 inches)

 

Preheat the oven to 200°C (400° F) or 180°C fan oven. Place the empty cast-iron moulds into the oven for a few minutes to heat them.

In a bowl, mix the flours with baking powder and salt. Add the egg and buttermilk, whisk, add the hot oil and whisk again to a thick batter. Take the moulds out of the oven, brush each indentation with a little butter and spoon in the batter. Bake for about 30-35 minutes until the crust is lightly browned and crisp, turning & switching them around halfway through the baking time.

 

perfect Bloody Mary

perfect Bloody Mary by the james kitchen
perfect Bloody Mary, a photo by the james kitchen on Flickr.

A perfect Bloody Mary for Burns Night, celebrating the birthday of the Scottish poet Robert Burns (the one who wrote the poem “Auld Lang Syne”) on January, the 25th with all the paraphernalia: speeches, toasts, bag pipes, Haggis & Whisky. No Haggis in sight here and I have not yet tried one, our plan was a nice cocktail and I thought about a nice Manhattan, well, how Scottish is American rye whiskey? Bloody Mary it is…

…Don’t you think I already had one too many, Bloody Mary, of course, refers to Queen Mary I. of England, executed by her sibling & fellow redhead Elizabeth I. of England and not the other Mary in the whole mix-up, Mary, Queen of Scots. Noohooo, my reference to Scotland is that we learned how to make the perfect Bloody Mary from a (now) quite famous recipe from the Canny Mans pub in Edinburgh shown on Rick Stein’s Food Heroes. Long winded explanation but they added dry sherry and a really generous helping of Worcestershiresauce (say: Wooster sauce) to the rest of the ingredients and this is it, the perfect Bloody Mary.

By the way, Michael Ruhlmann has a quite interesting Bloody Mary with Fish sauce, lime juice & horseradish in his (highly addictive) Friday Cocktail section. A subtle hint of fresh horseradish (frischer Meerrettich) adds a nice kick, I think, a little bit too much though always reminds me of a rather strange cocktail sauce for Dungeness crab eaten at Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco. But that’s just me. Tourist tip:  If you are already at Pier 39,  you must visit the whimsical & quirky Musée Mécanique on Pier 45 for a few hours of childhood away from the beaten path. Bring change.

Just in case you’ll need some lyrics, here’s the original Auld Lang Syne by Robert Burns:

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,

and never brought to mind?

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,

and auld lang syne*?

CHORUS:

For auld lang syne, my jo,

for auld lang syne,

we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,

for auld lang syne.

And surely ye’ll be your pint-stowp!

and surely I’ll be mine!

And we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,

for auld lang syne.

CHORUS

We twa hae run about the braes,

and pu’d the gowans fine;

But we’ve wander’d mony a weary fit,

sin auld lang syne.

CHORUS

We twa hae paidl’d i’ the burn,

frae morning sun till dine;

But seas between us braid hae roar’d

sin auld lang syne.

CHORUS

And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere!

and gie’s a hand o’ thine!

And we’ll tak a right gude-willy waught,

for auld lang syne.

CHORUS

(from wikipedia, where one can find todays version, too)

Bloody Mary
for two or make double the quantities in a pitcher and invite some friends

120ml proper tomato juice
40ml vodka (we had Absolut)
20ml dry sherry (I used Tio Pepe Palomino Fino)
a spritz of lemon juice and a twist of lemon peel
several generous dashes of Worcestershire sauce
red Tabasco
a good Celery salt
black pepper or cayenne pepper (as used in the Canny Man Pub)
a celery stalk (or more for your guests)

Place some ice cubes in a pitcher, add all the tomato juice, vodka, sherry and season with the other ingredients to your taste, garnish with lemon peel. Stir with the celery stalk and pour. Start singing now.

Bloody Mary (deutsch)
für zwei, oder am besten gleich die Quantitäten verdoppeln, Freunde einladen und in einer Karaffe servieren

120ml guter Tomatensaft
40ml Wodka (wir hatten Absolut)
20ml trockener Sherry (Tio Pepe Palomino Fino)
einen Spritzer Zitronensaft & eine Spirale Zitronenschale
mehrere ordentliche Schüsse Worcestershire Sauce
roter Tabasco
gutes Selleriesalz
schwarzer Pfeffer oder Cayenne (wie im Canny Man Pub)
eine Stange Bleichsellerie (oder mehr für die Gäste)

Einige Eiswürfel, den Tomatensaft, Wodka & Sherry in eine Karaffe geben und mit den anderen Zutaten abschmecken & mit Zitronenschale garnieren. Die lange Bleichselleriestange zum Umrühren benutzen und schon mal mit dem Singen anfangen.

Edamame salad

Edamame salad by the james kitchen
Edamame salad, a photo by the james kitchen on Flickr.

 

Living in California spoiled us utterly, Northern California & the Bay Area are a paradise where everything grows (except gooseberries – as I was told by Frankfurt taxi driver whose family farmed artichokes, of course, for generations around Salinas and Monterey and had tried in vain to get some decent gooseberries going) and you can still your homesickness by taking a drive through the Santa Cruz Mountains which in parts remind you of the alpine landscape, the lovely Napa Valleys vineyards & food (not enough money for the French Laundry but the gorgeous Bouchon bakery, picknick from Dean & Deluca & winetasting), Esther’s Germany Bakery for a dense, dark, seedy loaf and the German butcher on San Antonio Rd in Mountain View, where you could find leaf gelatine & Persil washing powder, Trader Joe’s with some surprise European finds and and and much more. As someone said to me, it takes about six months to feel at home and on the dot we truly did.

Wherever you live, lots of things become part of your life, your routine and your traditions. Now we are homesick for California and looking at this years Mavericks pictures does not help much. It has introduced us to many new things and I am happy to find some of them in Germany now – and we are (im)patiently waiting for others to become mainstream. Thanks to online shopping and the Frankfurt area being quite well equipped with fantastic farms, vineyards, grocers, butchers & specialty shops nearly everything is possible and one of my favourite CA food discoveries can be found in my local Asian grocer: Edamame beans. I buy them frozen in their pods and stockpile them in the freezer, they might run out, you’ll never know…

This is just a nice & simple side dish for lunch or supper, add anything from sashimi to tofu, Wiener Schnitzel, pork buns or soba noodles (my lunch the other day, coming soon) for a completely wholesome and colourful feel-good meal. You do not even have to do yoga.

 

Edamame salad
for 4 persons as a side

about one handful dried shiitake mushrooms
1 small bag of frozen edamame beans in their pods (great if you could get fresh; use less if you are using shelled ones, maybe 250g or  9 oz)
1 red (bell) pepper, cut into small dice
2-3 spring onions, cut into fine rings
5 tablespoons sweetcorn kernels (fresh & cooked or roasted when in season otherwise tinned or frozen)
shichimi togarashi
juice of 1 lime
toasted sesame oil
soy sauce
white or black sesame seeds, toasted in a dry pan
toasted nori, cut into mini confetti

Place the shiitake mushrooms and soak them in hot water for at least 20 minutes until soft, then drain and place in a salad bowl. Cook the edamame beans for 4 minutes if frozen (they are precooked and just need to defrost) and for about 5-6 minutes if you are using fresh. Drain & cool in ice water for a few minutes, then shell the beans and leave to cool if they are still a little bit warm. Add edamame, (bell) pepper dice, corn, spring onions to the salad bowl, season with shichimi togarashi and make a dressing from lime juice, soy sauce and toasted sesame oil. Sprinkle with nori and toasted sesame seeds.

 

 

Indian spiced chickpeas with mint & coriander yoghurt dressing

Do you know, when you are using this upbeat voice & add ‘we liked it so much last time’ to sell dinner, everyone is forewarned: “Hey, we are having this lovely aubergine, red pepper & pea curry for supper that we liked so much last time! And it comes with this new chickpea salad!” Well, we had to use up some vegetables and there was a great void in the creative department – all on holiday away from the lead-grey sky (and we really did like that curry last time, honest). Maybe we did not shower it with Michelin stars and “Greatest supper ever”-nominations but it was nice and after some tweaking it was still nice and boring.

What saved the day was the wild card, this little salad that was supposed to be a starter and thrown in at the last moment because I just stumbled over the recipe in Food & Wine and some of the ingredients where on the to-be-used list as well. This tangy, herby dressed salad perfectly balances intense and crunchy spices, lemony sourness and onion-y sharpness against the creamy chickpeas and its success should have not come unexpected since it was on a best-of staff-picks list. I have made a few adjustments: I used crème fraîche  and yoghurt (1.5%) instead of whole-milk yoghurt since that was in the fridge and simplified the spice-frying (tossed all into the oil at the same time instead of delaying some due to slap-dash reading). Those might very well be the reason for the creamyness and lovely crunch and I was quite happy about those particular traits.

Just for the record, yesterday’s vegetarian supper was Bombay potatoes with a fried egg on top (yummy, coming soon) and the wild card side dish fell through. What a shame, it looked so nice.

Indian spiced chickpeas with lemon, mint & coriander yoghurt dressing
serves 6 as a side dish, adapted from Jerry Traunfeld’s (Poppy, Seattle) recipe in Food & Wine

1 tin (800g/28oz; 450g/15oz drained) chickpeas, rinsed
2 tablespoons peanut oil
1 tablespoon mustard seeds (I used brown mustard seeds)
¾ teaspoon cumin seeds
¾ teaspoon fennel seeds
½ cup yoghurt
¼ cup crème fraîche (or use another ¼ cup whole-milk yoghurt)
1-2 tablespoons lemon juice, to taste
2 spring onions (scallions), thinly sliced
¼ cup (or more) chopped mint
¼ cup (or more) chopped coriander
¼ – ½ teaspoon Piment d’Espelette
salt & pepper

Pour the rinsed chickpeas into a bowl, they should be drained in a strainer to get rid of too much excess water but no need to worry about a few drops of water. Heat the peanut oil in a small skillet until it is warm and shimmers. You are supposed to add the mustard seeds first and cook them with a partially closed lid for about a minute until they stop popping, after which the cumin and fennel seeds are supposed to be added and fried for 30 seconds. Or, do as I did and add the whole lot to the shimmering oil with one swooshing motion and fry for about 1-2 minutes until fragrant. Pour the hot spice oil over the chickpeas and mix with the yoghurt, crème fraîche, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, spring onion, mint, coriander and season with Piment d’Espelette, salt & pepper. Stir and check the seasoning and add more lemon juice if needed and serve at room temperature.

Minestrone della nonna

Best in January (and February and March): warming & comforting, healthy & hearty, with a bite & soft, topped with guaranteed luck and wealth*. More stew than soup, made from a colourful mixture of pulses: green, brown & red lentils, borlotti, cannellini, kidney & soy beans, black-eyed peas, green split peas, orzo (barley) & pearl barley which is sold in Italian groceries (I used this one from Marabotto) and cooks to an interestingly textured thick soup of softer lentils & peas while the various beans and the occasional barley pearl retain a little bite. I am quite sure other shops might stock it, too. If not, they definitely should. Otherwise, I think this provides a great opportunity to use up all the rests in your larders & cupboards: the tiny rest in the box of puy lentils, just not enough split peas for a large pot but handy here, the few last beans in the bag & other odds and ends and I am quite sure that is how this dish came about. So, pick & mix and make your own mixture with greater quantities of the smaller pulses and only a few beans in between.

I have bought this box a while ago (pretty food things in a nice package, the promise of approval by an Italian Grandmother really works for me) and it has been patiently waiting for the right day: It cannot get any greyer or more miserable outside than it is right here at the moment, so this was a real winner a few days (I might have told anybody who showed a slight interest in conversation how good it was and how much I liked it. Sorry about that, but it is good, really, really good).

The added bonus: there is hardly any work involved and everything could be prepared in the morning to be cooked when you come home. The pulses need to be soaked for a few hours (4 hours maybe and they do that on their own), then I started with a soffritto of the usual soup vegetables instead of the recommended onion, sweated them lightly in olive oil, thrown in the soaked lentils & Co. and added about ¾ litre of homemade chicken stock. Vegetable stock would be good, too, the chicken stock was a last minute decision (operation “Empty-the-freezer”) instead of the advised water, which is why mine went in as a solid block, no time to defrost. Cover with a lid and let it cook for 1 hour. Ready. How hard was that? Anyway, I am quite sure no grandmother would scold you for using bought stock or a cube or water (I can’t guarantee for my own actions though).

* I’d like to believe that the luck-thing will definitely work if you eat it on any day in the New Year, just in case you have missed out on your lucky lentil dish on New Year’s Day (Italians eat a lentil dish on New Year’s Day to secure luck and wealth for the coming year, same goes for black-eyed peas at Rosh Hashana and in the American South – double ka-ching). Other folklore assures financial luck if you keep a lentil or a scale of the Christmas carp (carp is a traditional Christmas dish in European countries like Germany, Austria, Poland, the Czech Republic etc.) in your wallet, wait, while I add a Puy to the Euros.

Minestrone ‘della nonna’
this amount was good for 3 portions, double quantities for 6

250g (8.8 oz) Minestrone ‘della nonna’ or the same amount of any mixed pulses (see above for recommended mix & sizes)
2 carrots
1 leek
1-2 stems of celery
1 onion
olive oil
0.75 litre (25.4 fl.oz; 3 cups) good (homemade) chicken or vegetable stock
salt & pepper
parmigiano reggiano, coarsely grated

Soak the Minestrone mix in water for a few hours, I left them for 4 hours but I do not think more or less will do any harm. Chop the carrots, leek and celery stalks into pea-sized chunks, dice the onion for a soffritto. Heat a splash of olive oil in a cast-iron pot, add the chopped vegetables and fry them lightly until fragrant. Add the drained pulses and stock, stir and cover with a lid. Cook on low to medium heat for 1 hour, stirring from time to time. Season with salt & pepper if needed and serve in bowls topped with a sprinkling of coarsely grated Parmesan and if you like: a drizzle of olive oil. Grazie nonna, buon appetito!

Meyer lemon squares

Meyer lemon squares by the james kitchen
Meyer lemon squares, a photo by the james kitchen on Flickr.

 

This is a lovely cake for a Sunday coffee (we Germans love our Sonntagskaffee) or a grey day when there is a desperate need for a burst of sunshine.

For me Meyer lemons are synonymous with California and their perfume that fills the room when you rub the skin conjures up a lot of memories of our live there in the Santa Clara Valley. Before it became the Silicon Valley, the sheltered and sunny area between the San Francisco Bay and the Santa Cruz Mountains used to be covered by fruit orchards and in-between all the Apples & Co there are still small producing gardens, little fruit farms like one tiny apricot orchard in Mountain View that I just happen to come across when I was house hunting. Not long after our arrival I had bought a Meyer lemon and a Robertson orange tree for our terrace, both of them supplying us with amazing amounts of fruit and regular visits of the most amazing hummingbirds (although I think they came primarily for the Hibiscus but serviced all things in its vicinity).

Meyer lemons, a cross between a true lemon & a mandarin (or orange), were brought from China to America by Frank Nicholas Meyer at the turn of the 20th century and – after being rediscovered by the Californian cuisine and chefs – made quite a splash nearly a century later. Sadly they are not widely available in Germany – to be honest I have never seen one at even the most specialized grocers in the paradise that is the Frankfurt Kleinmarkthalle. Maybe soon, we’ll see some more of them but since our return we have come up with quite a good way to simulate the taste of a Meyer lemon to heal the longing by adding a bit of mandarin juice to lemon juice to tone down the sharp sourness and adding the necessary mandarin note. Luckily last year I found Meyer lemon tree in a plant nursery and this year, we are inundated by quite a crop – hurray!

As I said, Sunday coffee is a big thing in Germany, so is the British teatime and combining both in our house creates a fantastic hybrid when we have people over and serve cake, a tarte or a proper Torte & Kuchen bonanza and a spread of savoury sandwiches (egg & cress, cucumber are my favourites, making me feel sometimes even more British than my husband). Last year we added the whole lemon bars from the Deb Perelman’s cookbook to our coffee table and loved them immediately. They are like the love child of a Tarte au citron and the fabulous orange cake that used a whole boiled orange (now I mention it, I really should make that one again soon) and are just quintessentially lemony. This years Meyer lemon crop needs to be dealt with and therefore today’s version are Meyer lemon squares. If you use an ordinary (organic) lemon you might want to increase the sugar by 1/3 cup (65g) as Deb’s recipe suggests to balance the sourness, I did not really find it necessary. Add mandarin juice and close your eyes to bathe in the smell & taste of Bay Area sunshine.

A word about the American cup measurements: of course it is better to weigh things to get an accurate result every time. But I really would not worry about it too much, there are many more factors that determine the dough and different flours on different days with different weather & humidity need different amounts of liquid to form a dough. For example here: one cup of plain flour could amount to something from 125g to 170g or even more depending on how you scoop. So, I happily use cup measurements for some cakes and am giving you today’s weight-exchange rate. It is a bit as the petrol price – it changes nearly every minute.

 

Meyer lemon squares
makes 9-16 pieces, adapted from Deb Perelman’s Smitten Kitchen Cookbook who uses one regular lemon, more sugar and no vanilla extract

150g (1 cup) flour
65g (1/3 cup) sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ tablespoon vanilla extract (please use extract and no artificial vanilla aroma)
114g (1 stick) cold butter, cut into cubes
2 medium organic Meyer lemons or 1 organic lemon + juice of 1 mandarin
200g (1 cup) sugar (use another 65g or 1/3 cup of sugar if you prefer a sweeter cake)
114g (1stick) butter
4 eggs
2 tablespoons cornstarch (Maisstärke, Mondamin)
¼ teaspoon salt
powdered sugar (confectioners sugar, Puderzucker)
Preheat the oven to 175°C (350° F) or 150°C for a fan oven and line a 20cm x 20cm (8 x 8 inches) baking tin with baking parchment. Leave a little overhang on each side that will act as handles when you lift the cake out of the tin.
Blitz the flour, sugar, salt, vanilla essence and butter for the shortcrust pastry (german: Mürbeteig) in a food processor to a sandy crumble, decant it into the tin and press down lightly with your fingers for an even and firm base. Prick with a fork to prevent a rise and bake until lightly browned (for about 20 minutes).
While the pastry is baking make the lemon layer: Cut your Meyer lemons or lemon into thin half moon slices and remove any pips. If your regular lemon has quite thick white pith, then follow Deb’s advice and remove it completely from one half of your lemon to avoid exceeding bitterness. Purée the lemon slices with the sugar in the food processor, incorporate the butter, then add the eggs, cornstarch and salt and pulse to combine. Spread the lemon cream onto your base, return to the oven and bake for another 30-40 minutes until the lemon top is set and just lightly tanned. Leave in the tin to cool completely, then lift the cake out using your parchment handles. Cut into 9 medium or 16 smaller squares and dust with a little powdered sugar. Tuck in.