Thursday, January 30, 2014

Bringing back canapés

I've always liked canapés. And I don't mean the dainty ones, I mean the rustic ones my mother used to serve at practically every occasion. She bought the freshest, softest French bread, spread slices with sweet butter and draped all kinds of savories on top, each with a tiny bit of garnishing. She always made piles of canapés, some with our butcher's delectable cold cuts and some with cheese. I didn't like cheese as a kid, but I happily gobbled up paper-thin fragrant black forest ham with a sliver of bread and butter pickle; mild salami with a sprig of parsley; and salmon butter with a slice of hard-boiled egg.

Even when I was still little, she often let me help her, and I eagerly mixed minced salmon with butter or made my favorite decoration, a look-alike magic mushroom. We were told that the real mushroom is poisonous, but now I know that, more likely, it is hallucinogenic, which might explain why it is considered a lucky charm in Germany. I carefully sliced off the bottom of a hard-boiled egg which then became the mushroom stem, topped it with a hollowed out tomato half and decorated the tomato cap with little dice of the egg I'd cut off to make the dots for the mushroom.

Canapé in French as well as in German also means sofa, and I read somewhere that the analogy comes from the edibles sitting on top of a piece of bread just like people sit on a sofa.

I, for one, have tired of serving cheese and crackers when I invite people over for wine and appetizers. Especially when most European friends smirk at it, thinking cheese can only be served at the end of a meal. Bored with the same old, same old hummus, or chips and salsa, I think I will bring the canapé back. Besides, they taste great with wine or beer.

Salmon Butter Canapé
enough for 6 large slices of a crusty French baguette





3 tablespoons softened, unsalted butter
3 tablespoons finely minced smoked salmon
lemon zest of 1/2 lemon
1 scallion or 1 teaspoon chives, finely chopped
salt if desired





In a small bowl, blend together butter and salmon with a fork until well combined. Stir in lemon zest and scallions or chives, mix well. Adjust seasoning if desired. Spread on French baguette. Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Midnight Soup

When my kooky older sister went to med school, she brought home many anecdotes and some interesting fellow students. My favorite recollection is still the one about her so-called dissecting skirt. When she took anatomy, she insisted on wearing the same skirt for months, because she claimed that it had taken on the strong whiff of the lab where they dissected cadavers. And she wasn't having any more of it when it came to her other precious clothes. Besides probing body parts, she threw a good party here and there, and her new friends sat around until the wee hours of the morning talking, drinking and eating.

When she was in a generous mood, she invited me to hang out with them, and I did once in a while but actually mostly because of the soup she always made. She called it midnight soup, but it really was just a doctored (ha!) up oxtail soup from a package. Even so, I liked the concept, it made me feel included and very grown up.

A midnight soup, or as we Germans call it “Mitternachtssuppe”, is traditionally served, as the name suggests, either very late at night or very early in the morning after lots of carousing, reviving everyone with a hearty, rich steaming bowl of soup.

My version of midnight soup has small cubes of lean meat and copious amounts of diced sweet onions. The meat gets browned on all sides and sizzles happily in a big pot. I season it with two kinds of paprika: sweet and half-sharp Hungarian which gives the soup a wonderful vibrant reddish-brown color and a deep, satisfying flavor. I also add earthy, peppery caraway seeds. It cooks for a long time in a tasty beef stock until the meat is very tender and the onions have transformed into a delicious velvety broth. The whole house smells intriguingly spicy-sweet for hours and most of the time, I can't wait until midnight.

Midnight Soup
Serves 4
1 lbs lean beef for stewing (preferable grass-fed)
2 onions, about 12 oz
1 clove garlic
2 tb canola oil, divided
1 tb tomato paste
1-2 tsp half spicy Hungarian paprika (depending on spiciness)
2 tb sweet Hungarian paprika
1/4 tsp ground caraway seeds (or 1/4 tsp whole seeds, finely chopped)
1/2 tsp dried marjoram leaves
1 Turkish bay leaf
800 ml beef broth (packaged or canned is fine)
1 red pepper
salt, pepper to taste


Step 1

Wash meat and dry with paper towels. Cut into small pieces, if already cubed for stewing, cut into 4 smaller pieces. Chop onions and garlic.

Step 2
Heat 1 tb oil in a big pot and brown meat on high heat on all sides for about 5 min. Remove meat and any liquid, set aside. Add 2nd tb of oil and sauté onions and garlic until soft, about 5 – 7 min. Add the tomato paste and cook for an additional 2 min to deepen flavor. Return meat with liquid to pot, sprinkle with paprika and add broth. Season with salt, pepper, caraway seeds, marjoram and bay leaf, let simmer for 1 1/2 hours or until meat is fork-tender.

Step 3
Meanwhile, wash red pepper and cut into cubes. Add to soup with 1/2 to 3/4 cup of water and simmer an additional 20 min or until desired doneness. Remove bay leaf and adjust seasoning. Serve with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkling of Gremolata (bright, finely chopped parsley mixed with freshly minced garlic and lemon zest).

This soup goes really well with a crusty baguette or sturdy German bread.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Day 22

Too much?

Friday, December 20, 2013

Day 20

Another letter to Santa

Dear Santa,
How are you doing? Are your reindeer doing O.K.? Hope you like your gingerbread men for Christmas this year. Do you get any presents from any of the kids. How is Mrs. Clause. Hope your reindeer like the Carrots that we give them. I want a ramote control GMC truck.

Love,
Spencer

list25.com

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Day 19

It's going to be a snowy ride

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Day 17


This always warms me right up

A Hot Toddy


For one serving, I put 1 tsp of Turbinado or raw sugar and 3 tbs of bourbon in a mug. Then I add two cloves, half a cinnamon stick and about 6 oz just-off-the-boil water. I stir in a slice of lemon and add ½ tsp lemon juice (a Meyer lemon works well here) to balance the sweetness.

Inspired by Nigel Slater

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