Spargelsalat – white asparagus salad

Spargelsalat - asparagus salad

White asparagus is a big thing in Germany (and France and other European countries, if we’re counting). Every year, we are awaiting impatiently the beginning of the season, so much so, that there are progress-reports on the radio detailing the weather & growing situation, the expected quality & crop. It is the Wall Street report on asparagus and it gives you a little insight how much we love those delicate white spears and why we get a little crazy about it, especially after the season ended nearly a year ago (mid-June).

If you ask a German, German asparagus is the best, of course. Same rules apply to the growing regions: Spargel from abc is far better than from xyz (I am not using real names, someone might take a contract out, just saying). Growing up in Germany, white asparagus is not only a regional specialty but celebrated everywhere and eaten from a young age on. I can’t imagine anyone who does not like white asparagus with boiled new potatoes, air-dried German ham (our family preferred ham from Northern Germany rather than the smoky Black Forest ham, cut into tiny cubes) and melted butter – or with Sauce Hollandaise on Sundays. Come to Germany in asparagus season and you’ll find this classic dish on the menu everywhere.

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Eggs with Frankfurter Grüne Sauce – eggs with green sauce

eggs

Happy Easter!

Hopefully you have found many Easter nests and Easter eggs and are enjoying the fantastic weather. Even knocked out with the flu, it looks glorious. After you have eaten all the chocolate, fondant, cream & other eggs, here is an eggscelent dish to cope with the surplus of hard-boiled variety after Easter or to have a nice vegetarian dish up your sleeve to detox after all the eggstravaganza of four feasting holidays. Enough, this herby sauce is an eggstraordinary great condiment for cold cuts of meat or smoked fish (trout, mackerel), too.

Eier im Kräuterbett

Every Hessian market stall in spring is packed with wonderful billowing parcels of herbs for Grie Soß, green sauce. As soon as you point to one, a white paper scroll brimming with green garden herbs is carefully unrolled before your eyes and today’s mixture explained. For this green sauce is a local speciality, it is a seasonal dish since the herbs have to be grown here (nearly an appellation contrôllée & no far flung air-travellers allowed) and therefore composition of greenery changes as the season progresses. The market woman recants the different herbs and either for theatrical purposes or in case you are not so familiar with some of the rarely seen herbs points to them and explains some more, gives recipe tips and so on. You see, this green sauce and the herb mixture is a matter of pride and at least 7 of the following herbs have to be present: curly parsley, chives, chervil, cress, salad-burnet, borage, sorrel, dill, tarragon, lemon balm.

Traditionally, eggs with Frankfurter Grüne Sauce are eaten predominantly on Maundy Thursday (Gründonnerstag). According to local folklore it was Goethe’s favourite dish and why not: a simple dish of new potatoes, eggs and the intensely green, fresh & herby sauce is a spring delight. Some recipes are rather more strict on the ingredients & herb selection, others include finely chopped hard-boiled eggs in the sauce but that’s too many eggstra eggs for me. And before some are up in arms: the picture shows a green sauce with more quark in it – eggscident.

Frankfurter Green sauce

Though is a classic dish throughout the whole season and can be found in various forms on every Straußwirtschaft menu, casual little taverns or pubs at a vineyard, preferably outside, where homemade cold cuts, small plates & little morsels, salads & hearty fare is sold, just perfect for a stop on your Sunday stroll and naturally, it provides a good base for some extensive – where you expecting a different word? – Riesling tasting. My favourite is ham in aspic, topped with a dollop of a runnier green sauce and fresh rye bread. Oh, why don’t we go now?

 


 

Frankfurter Grüne Sauce (green sauce)

200g or 7 oz fresh herbs (choose 7 of the following: curly parsley, chives, chervil, cress, salad-burnet, borage, sorrel, dill, tarragon, lemon balm)
a tub of sour cream
white vinegar
sunflower oil
a few tablespoons of quark or optional: mayonnaise
salt & pepper
hard-boiled eggs
boiled new potatoes in their skin

Chop your herbs very fine and tip them into a large bowl. Add sour cream until you have a green puree and thin the sauce with a little vinegar (start with a tablespoon) and some oil (2-3 tablespoons). Most times this sauce is rather thin though I like to add a few spoons of quark for a stiffer version to serve with eggs & potatoes (some people prefer the unctuousness of mayonnaise). Traditionalists even add finely minced hard-boiled eggs to it – too much if you eat it with eggs, I think. Serve with just about hard-boiled eggs & new potatoes. Riesling, anyone? Bon appetit.


Frankfurter Grüne Sauce

200g frische Kräuter, mindestens 7 der folgenden: krause Petersilie, Schnittlauch, Kerbel, Kresse, Pimpinelle, Borretsch, Sauerampfer, Dill, Estragon, Zitronenmelisse
Saure Sahne (ein Becher, ca. 250g, eventuell auch etwas mehr)
weißer Essig
Sonnenblumenöl
ein paar EL Quark, Schmand oder Mayonnaise (nach Geschmack)
hart gekochte Eier
neue Kartoffeln mit Schale gekocht

Die Kräuter sehr fein wiegen und in eine große Schüssel geben. Saure Sahne unterrühren und das grüne Püree mit etwas Essig (zunächst 1 EL, eventuell mehr) und mehr Öl (2-3 EL, eventuell mehr) mischen. Je nach Geschmack und gewünschter Konsistenz mehr oder weniger Essig & Öl hinzugeben, für eine dickere Sauce zu Kartoffeln gebe ich noch etwas Quark oder einen Löffel Mayonnaise hinzu. Mit Salz & Pfeffer abschmecken und zu den harten Eiern und warmen Kartoffeln servieren. Vielleicht ein Glas Rieslíng dazu?

Béarnaise or chervilled eggs

Chervil & béarnaise eggs

My red hen egg-platter (rescued a few weeks ago from a charity shop, don’t you think that was a great find?) cries out for devilled eggs, although here in Germany filled eggs are known as Russian eggs but contrary to their American equivalents (‘deviled eggs’) which are cherished everywhere, they still snooze in their glass coffin, ahem, reputation of old-fashioned twee-ness or dusty cocktail party fare.

Time for a resurrection: I love chervil-filled (or chervilled eggs), the grassy & aniseed taste catapulting us into spring and I have included two pure chervil halves on my platter (why choose, if you can have both?). They are mingling on the plate – it is party food after all – with Béarnaise eggs, whose bellies are stuffed with a chervil, tarragon & lemon cream and allude to the famous sauce Béarnaise. I am absolutely potty about this classic since I encountered it as a child, dining with my father on white asparagus and steak. To me, nothing beats that taste & memories included and I make, regrettably not so frequently as I would like, both versions: the proper and the super quick one which I shall post soon-ish when I allow myself to eat another ton of butter.

So, even if you are not a premium member of the Béarnaise-Sauce-Appreciation-Society, the elegant, grassy & fresh anise flavours grace any egg and these chervilled ones will be a great sight on that Easter brunch table. I don’t know about you, but I am keeping my fingers crossed for an outdoors picnic! If you do not happen to have a red hen dish in your cupboard, they nestle spectacularly in a bed of herbs.

Update: Try the Chervil & tarragon filling as a dip for crudités: crisp radishes, carrots, sugar snap peas, celery, cucumber, broccoli & cauliflower florets etc. Hmhmm.

 


Chervilled or Béarnaise eggs

It is hard to give precise measurements here, since personal preference and taste plays a big part in this recipe. I prefer handful measures, it is very personal and people seem to automatically take the right amount without thinking too much about it. I like a lot of herbs and try to aim at a minimum amount of mayo & quark added here, to get a rather stiff filler and prefer a 50-50 mixture of mayo & quark, added spoon by spoon to see when it is enough and not too much. Add more or less herbs, go full mayonnaise or mix as I do with a stiff quark or alternatively Cream cheese or firm Greek yoghurt – nothing to thin or liquid.

 

6 eggs
a handful of chervil, chopped
½ handful of tarragon, chopped (leave out, add more chervil if you don’t like tarragon)
2-3 tablespoons mayonnaise
2-3 tablespoons quark
salt & white pepper
lemon juice or tarragon vinegar
chervil leaves or trout caviar for decoration

(Don’t boil) your eggs: place them in a small pot or saucepan, cover with cold water and bring to a soft simmer. As soon as you see bubbles appear, take them of the heat, cover with a lid and do not touch for 11 minutes (10 minutes has the yolk slightly soft in the centre). Interrupt the cooking (otherwise there will be that greenish ring around the yolk) by dousing them with cold water. Peel and, when cool, halve them. Carefully remove the egg yolks and strain them through a mesh sieve. Mix them with your chopped herbs, add mayonnaise and quark only in small doses to achieve a stiff cream with the minimum amount added to it, that is not too soft and you can pipe (and will hold its shape for the party). Season the filling with salt & white pepper and just a hint of lemon juice or even tarragon vinegar. Pipe it into the white halves (best if they are already on their serving plate) by using either a small piping bag, a freezer bag with a corner cut of or just take a teaspoon. Decorate with small chervil leaves, tiny amounts of bright trout caviar or what comes to mind.

 


Kerbel- oder Béarnaise-Eier (Russische Eier)

Es ist schwer, hier genau Mengenangaben zu geben, da persönliche Vorlieben und Geschmack eine große Rolle spielen. Daher bevorzuge ich die Handvoll als Maßeinheit, da man beinahe automatisch eine dem eigenen Geschmack entsprechende Menge greift ohne viel darüber nachzudenken. Ich bevorzuge viele Kräuter im Verhältnis zu Eigelb und wenig Mayonnaise & Quark, die ich nach und nach und ungefähr in einer Mischung von 50/50 hinzufüge. Lieber weniger als mehr, da sonst die Füllung zu flüssig wird und keine Party durchhält. Man kann natürlich auch mehr Mayo nehmen oder den Quark durch Frischkäse oder dicken griechischen Joghurt ersetzen.

 

6 Eier
eine Handvoll Kerbel, fein gehackt
eine ½ Handvoll Estragon, fein gewiegt (weglassen und durch mehr Kerbel ersetzen, wenn man keinen Estragon mag)
2-3 EL Mayonnaise
2-3 EL Quark
Salz & weißer Pfeffer
Zitronensaft oder Estragonessig
einige Blättchen Kerbel oder feiner Forellenkaviar

Die Eier (nicht) kochen: man lege die Eier in einen kleinen Topf oder Kasserolle, bedeckt sie mit kaltem Wasser und bringt das Ganze zu einem leichten Simmern. Sobald das Wasser simmert und Bläschen aufsteigen, nimmt man die Eier vom Feuer, legt den Deckel auf und lässt den Topf unberührt für 11 Minuten stehen (nach 10 Minuten sind die Eier perfekt zum Essen, das Eigelb hat aber noch eine weiche Stelle, deshalb lieber 1 Reserveminute für große Eier). Dann schreckt man die Eier mit kaltem Wasser ab und pellt sie, wenn sie kalt genug sind. In zwei Hälften teilen und die hartgekochten Eigelbe durch ein Sieb streichen und mit den fein gewiegten Kräutern sowie wenig Mayonnaise & Quark mischen und mit Zitronensaft, Salz & weißem Pfeffer würzen. Die Creme sollte nicht zu dünn werden, damit sie entweder mit einem kleinen Spritzbeutel oder einem Gefrierbeutel (füllen, dann eine Ecke abschneiden) in die leeren Eiweiß spritzen. Am besten macht man dies, wenn sich die Eierhälften schon auf der vorgesehenen Servierplatte befinden. Mit einem Kerbelblättchen oder ein wenig Forellenkaviar dekorieren und sich am Anblick und Geschmack erfreuen.

 

Braised tuna – Tonno alla marinara

 

Braised tuna - Tonno alla marinara

So, here am I trying to cope with the loss of the flickr ‘sharing-to-wordpress’-button. I am so not a super tech-savvy person (not at all), I fiddle around and mangle the stuff until my posts sort of look right & pretty and now I am a little lost & upset. I only found out a few days ago and thought, you know, they just might leave it there but not do any maintenance and forget about it. No, apparently not: the feature is annihilated, chopped, no mercy for the amateur-cook-blog-fiddlers, the improvisers amongst us. Tish-tosh, enough of the moaning: I wanted to change the appearance a little anyway, so I am taking the gauntlet & work (read: fiddle or hack) on that.

Here is another challenge: braising. I had to brush up on my cooking terminology and basically everything that is either previously browned or not (good, if you do not want to kill the fish twice) and than slowly cooked or simmered (often braising and simmering are used synonymously) in liquid. Braising works for wonders for fresh tuna which stays succulent and moist instead of being rendered into a bone-dry brick when pan-fried or grilled. At least that is my experience. I prefer my fish briefly seared on the outside and raw or just a little translucent on the inside, my husband doesn’t. To find a middle way, turned my slice – more often than not – into the said sad & saw-dusty brick which apparently some people (yes, you, darling) prefer. Braising tuna this way pleases the both of us, is heavenly easy to prepare and absolutely foolproof: you’ll end up with succulent fish, a fragrant liquor that is a joy to mop up with lots of torn bread and the feeling of having just eaten quite a healthy meal.

Update (after dinner): we have just had the tuna again and I have to say, ultimately (& optically) I prefer the oven method since it concentrates the flavours much more and adds a nicer colour to the fish. The braising pan method returns a lovely concentrated sauce though the fish stays pale (see here). In the end, it depends on your visual preferences and if you want to heat up the oven.

German version below, deutsches Rezept unten

 

Braised tuna – Tonno alla marinara
serves 4, adapted & reworked from Reinhardt Hess & Sabine Sälzer: Die echte italienische Küche: Ingredients, weights, cooking method changed

4 slices of tuna (2cm or a little under 1 inch thick, 100-150g or 3.5-5oz per person)
1-2 garlic cloves, pressed or grated (use less if you fear the smell)
salt & pepper
600g (21oz) small cocktail or grape tomatoes (in deepest winter: 2 small tins of cocktail tomatoes)
60g (2oz) pitted black or green olives
1 small red onion
2 tablespoons small capers (in brine)
fresh basil, chopped (about a handful) + more to garnish
fresh mint, chopped (1 tablespoon) + more to garnish
olive oil
salt & pepper
¼ l (1 cup) white wine

Preheat the oven to 175°C / 350°F.
Dry the tuna slices by patting them with a paper towel, rub with garlic puree and season with salt & pepper. Halve or quarter the tomatoes (I think there is no need to skin them), chop the olives and finely dice the onion. Toss in a bowl together with the capers & the chopped herbs. Prepare an ovenproof dish or a braising pan with a little olive oil (1 tablespoon) add the tuna slices, top with the tomato-olive-caper-herb mixture, season with a little salt & a lot of black pepper and pour over the white wine. Let the fish braise gently for about 20-30 minutes depending on the thickness of your slices. Sprinkle the fish with more fresh basil & mint, serve with the liquor and a crusty Italian country loaf.

Alternative cooking method: Prepare the tuna as above in a braising pan (I used a Le Creuset cast iron braiser), cover with a lid and braise for about 20-25 minutes over medium heat depending on the thickness of your slices. Garnish with more chopped herbs & serve with basmati rice or rustic Italian bread.

 

Thunfisch – tonno alla marinara
für 4 Personen, adaptiert von Reinhard Hess & Sabine Sälzer: Die echte italienische Küche. Verhältnisse, Mengen, Zutaten, Zubereitung geändert

4 Scheiben frischer Thunfisch (ca. 2-3cm dick, ca. 100-150g pro Scheibe)
1-2 Knoblauchzehen, gepresst oder gerieben (weniger, wenn man Angst vor dem Geruch hat)
Salz & Pfeffer
600g kleine Strauchtomaten (oder im tiefsten Winter 2 kleine Dosen Cocktailtomaten)
60g schwarze oder grüne Oliven ohne Stein
1 kleine rote Zwiebel
2 EL Kapern (in Lake)
frisches Basilikum, gehackt (ca. eine Handvoll) + mehr zum Garnieren
frische Minze, gehackt (ca. 1 EL) + mehr zum Garnieren
Olivenöl
Salz & Pfeffer
¼ l Weißwein

Den Backofen auf 175°C vorheizen. Thunfisch mit einem Küchentuch trocken tupfen, mit Knoblauchpüree einreiben und mit Salz & Pfeffer würzen. Die Tomaten je nach Größe halbieren oder vierteln (ich finde das Häuten immer ein wenig zu viel Aufwand), Oliven klein hacken und die Zwiebel fein würfeln. Zusammen mit den Kapern & den gehackten Kräutern vermischen und beiseite stellen. 1-2 EL Olivenöl in eine ofenfeste Form oder eine flache Pfanne gießen, die Thunfischscheiben hineingeben und mit der Tomaten-Oliven-Kapern-Zwiebel-Kräutermischung bedecken. Wein angießen und nochmals salzen & kräftig pfeffern. Für ca. 20-30 Minuten backen, anschließend mit mehr frischem Basilikum & Minze bestreut servieren, dazu frisches rustikales italienisches Landbrot mit einer ordentlichen Kruste reichen.

Alternative Methode: Den Thunfisch wie oben beschrieben in einer niedrigen gußeisernen Pfanne mit Deckel vorbereiten und auf mittlerer Hitze für ca. 20-25 Minuten garen. Der Fisch bleibt saftig, nimmt aber keine Farbe an, die Sauce wird konzentriert. Den Fisch mit mehr frischen Kräutern bestreuen und mit rustikalem italienischem Brot oder Basmatireis servieren.