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Portugese Patterns

portuguese tiles

ceramic tile

Portugal has been one of those few European countries to which for some reason both my husband and myself never had been to. We had often been very close by, in Spain, we had seen pictures, heard recounts and read articles though. According to them, every pore and place of this history laden little country sounded fantastic, and a few weeks back we finally decided to go see for ourselves and travel to Portugal.

What a great decision this was! Even though our expectations were high, we did not get disappointed in any way. The cities are charmful and pictuesque, full of art and beauty stories, the villages and landscapes ever changing, rural and genuine. There’s colors and gardens and architectural styles, orchards and green spaces and traditions. The people act calm, friendly and helpful towards strangers, and seem like a happy and serene bunch between themselves.

pulpo

vineyards in the duoro

And the food, oh the glorious food, is an entire story on its own. Portugese food is down to earth and does, what food first and foremost used to be and (at least there, how refreshing to witness) still is intended to do: It nourishes. Both the body and the soul, and abundantly so. There is little Froufrou in Portugese food, and much honesty. Animals and plants are used in their entiety. So one will get served pig ears instead of just the loin, turnip greens instead of just turnip, or tiny, whole fishes, eyes, fins and all. Continue reading “Portugese Patterns” »

Chuchi Schwitzer Dütsch (Swiss German Kitchen Vocabulary)

chichi, kitchen

If you are interested in a) all things kitchen, b) languages, c) Switzerland and / or d) traveling in general, chances are that you have heard the word “Chuchichäschtli”, the Swiss German term for “kitchen cabinet”.

Don’t worry if you are not able to pronounce it – yet. There’s countless other words you can practice with. They might be a bit shorter, a bit less twisted, maybe (maybe!) a bit less glutteral, but fun nevertheless.

Please note that the following collection whether is complete nor should be your single source. It simply is a list of  kitchen and food related terms common in the region and dialect I grew up in and with (and, to the delight of my kids, still am speaking after having lived abroad 20 years). It is a collection of words in “bärndütsch”, the language spoken in the Seeland region of Bern.

Have fun, enjoy, practice – and hopefully go use some of the words in pretty and tasty Switzerland at one point!

tempting pizza

aamächelig: inviting.

abchüele: to cool down.

abschmöcke: to season to taste.

Änischräbeli: A traditional Christmas cookie. Rock hard, bone white, shaped into little crescents, heavy in anise flavor.

swiss style mac & cheese

Äuplermaggrone: The Helvetic take on Mac & Cheese. Consisting of left over boiled potatoes, hollow pasta, well melting cheese and cream.

blodere: to boil.

Bluemchööli: Cauliflower.

chacheli

Chacheli: Bowl

chätsche: to chew.

Chegele: Chestnut.

kastanie, edible chestnut

chnätte: to knead.

Chnöfpli: Literally translated: Little buttons. A hand made pasta, for which the dough is cut into random pieces straight into the boiling water. Delicious with saucy meats or tomato sugo.

chöcherle: to lightly cook.

Chochhäntsche (or: Pfanneblätz): Oven glove.

Chrosle: Gooseberry.

chrüsch: crunchy, crusty.

crunchy texture

Chuechebläch: Baking sheet.

Chüeuschranktür: Fridge door.

Drü-Chünigs-Chueche: The Swiss contribution to the vast collection of Epiphamy pastries is a ring consisting of several small, sweet bread buns. The buns are decorated with coarse sugar crystals and in one of them hides, well, the king.

Düüri Bohne: Dehydrated grean beans. Even after soaking and cooking them, they remain wrinkled and concentrated in flavor.

Swiss version of Empanada, meat filled hand pies

Fleischchräpfli: The Swiss version of Empanadas. Handpies filled with ground beef.

Fotzuschnitte: Slices of bread drenched in milk, then egg mixture, and baked in a skillet. Often dusted with cinnamon sugar and served with apple compote. Comparable to French Toast.

füürheiss: hot as fire.

hot as fire

Ghüderchessu: Trash bin.

Griesspfluute: Sweet version of Grits. The Swiss sweeten theirs with sugar and serve it with a plum (or other fruit) compote.

gruusig: disgusting, gross.

Guguhupf: Bundt cake, yeast based.

Härdöpfutätschli: Fritters made of left over mashed potatoes, pan baked.

Hörnli und Ghackets: A simple, traditional peasant dish. Elbow Macaroni with ground beef and its juice.

Hundeli: Literally: Little dog. Cervelats with their ends cut crosswise, about 2 inches deep. When cooked, the ends will separate and make the sausage look like a dog (in case you have enough imagination.)

iifüue: to fill.

Iigmachts: Preserves (sweet or savory).

preserved cheese

lääi: luke warm.

Löcherbecki: Colander.

Meertrübelischlee: Red currant jelly.

Metzgete: The “slaughtery”. It describes a party held at a restaurant or farmhouse in the fall, when all harvests are done and some animals just have been slaughtered. Classically served are ham, bacon, blood and liver sausages, roesti and apple sauce.

Miuchcaffe: Old time “latte”. Combination of (about) half hot coffee and half steamed milk.

Miuchchanne: Milk vat (made of metal).

milk vats

Panierti Plätzli: Thin, breaded pork cutlets. A cheaper version of the Wiener Schnitzel.

panierti platzli

Pfanneribu: Sponge

pfluderig: mushy.

rüehre: to stir.

rüschte: to peel.

schnätzle: to chop.

schprützig: prickly.

Schüttubächer: Mixing jar.

süüferli blöderle: to carefully boil.

sauerkraut

Suurchabis: Sauerkraut (or: Fermented white cabbage).

Täfeli: Candy.

Teigtrööler: Rolling pin.

tünke: to dunk.

verbrösmele: to crumb up.

vermodere: to rot.

Wurscht-Chäs-Salat: A classic, rustic salad prepared of Cervelat slices and cubes of hard cheese (often Appenzeller). There can be onions, pickles, tomatoes, etc. added. Summer fare.

zääi: tough.

Zapfezieier: Cork screw.

Zigerschtöckli: A truly one of a kind cheese produced in one single dairy. It is made of whey, a secret mix of dried and powdered herbs, aged eight months and shaped into a little cylinder (to which the term “schtöckli” refers). Ziger comes in a light green hue, is mighty sharp and usually grated on or into foods.

Zuegge: Spout

spout, zuegge

Liebesbrief an Za’atar

tierfreitag

(This post is a contribution to tierfreitag, a website and ever growing collection of articles by the Austrian food journalist and author Katharina Seiser. The German name of her site, tierfreitag, has two meanings: “Animal Friday”, but also “the day on which animals are off” (the duty to serve us as food, that is). Seiser invites people to – on Fridays – either post (in German language, please) animal free recipes (with no substitutes!) or descriptions of farms and concepts that treat animals in a respectful and above average way.- For your convenience, this article was posted in in Englisch earlier today. So just scroll down to read it in English. Thanks for your support and interest. And thank you for tierfreitag, Katharina. It is a great source of information and inspiration.)

 

za'atar herb for same named dip

Za’atar, liebster Za’atar, warum habe ich Dich nicht früher kennen gelernt?

Ich habe mir diese Frage vor ein paar Wochen gestellt, als ich Za’atar, wie so oft, begegnete und meine warmen Gefühle ganz plötzlich wieder aufflammten. Zum ersten mal getroffen hatten wir uns vor etwas mehr als vier Jahren, als mein Sohn einen dicken Bund des Krautes nach Hause brachte. Seine sanft-grüne Erscheinung, die samtige Oberfläche, der exotische Geruch sowie sein ungewöhnlich süsser, ein ganz klein wenig betäubender Geschmack übermannten mich auf der Stelle. Ich war verliebt, Hals über Kopf.

Seither hat sich unsere Beziehung als ruhige und stabile erwiesen. Wir tun nicht alles und jedes zusammen, teilen jedoch viele gemeinsame Interessen, und respektieren gegenseitig, dass jeder von uns Zeit und Raum für sich braucht. Und immer mal wieder zwischendurch, schmeissen wir eine zünftige Party. Za’atar hat über die Jahre für grossartige Fleisch-Marinaden gesorgt, überraschende Suppen kreiert, fantastische Fisch-Gerichte und zahllose unvergessliche Aha-Momente provoziert. Ja, wir leben heiter und zufrieden miteinander.

all ingredients for za'atar condiment

Oder taten das, genauer genommen, bis ich Za’atar’s andere Seite kennen lernte. Himmel! Ich verliebte mich erneut, als ob es nicht bereits geschehen wäre. Und dieses Mal sogar noch heftiger! Za’atar, warum konntest Du Dich mir nicht von Anfang an in Deiner Gesamtheit offenbaren? Wir könnten mittlerweile so viel mehr wertvolle Erinnerungen miteinander teilen. Du bietest so viel mehr als das Kraut, das ich in Dir lediglich zu sehen pflegte. – Nun, ich weiss jetzt mehr. Und werde Dich deshalb in all Deiner Komplexität und Schönheit geniessen. Viel bewusster als bisher, zweifellos.

Za’atar ist nicht nur der Name eines Krautes – das zur Oregano Familie gehört, interessanterweise in Arabisch jedoch Thymian bedeutet -, es ist auch die Bezeichnung einer Gewürzmischung, welche im Nahen und Mittleren Osten verbreitet ist. Za atar setzt sich grundsätzlich aus Sesam-Samen, Sumach-Pulver, Oregano und Salz zusammen. Natürlich existieren schier zahllose regionale Varianten, in denen auch mal gemahlener Kreuz-Kümmel, Thymian, Marjoram,  Koriander, Baumnüsse oder Zimt-Pulver vorkommen können. Za’atar wird üblicherweise als Dip genossen: Serviert mit einer Schale Olivenöl und geschnittenem Brot, das erst im Öl getunkt und mit dem hernach die trockene Mischung aufgenommen wird. Za’atar kann aber auch über Hummus und andere Aufstriche, Suppen, Salate, Yoghurt oder Labneh gestreut werden. Oder auf einen dünnen, salzigen Teig, um eine Art Foccacia oder hauchdünne, würzige Plätzchen zu backen. Die eigenartige Mischung kann unzähligen Gerichten eine zusätzliche Dimension von Konsistenz, Ausschauen, Geruch und Geschmack verleihen. Spielen erwünscht!

za'atar and pita bread and oil

Da ich den richtigen Za’atar eben erst entdeckt habe, halte ich mich (jedenfalls für den Moment) and eine simple Version: Ich röste Sesam-Samen, verwende Sumach – ein Pulver, das aus der tief roten Beere des Sumach-Baumes (verwandt mit dem Cashew-Nuss-Baum) gewonnen wird, und gleichzeitig sauer, erdig und sehr fruchtig schmeckt -, und ein grobes Meer-Salz. Und natürlich ersetze ich den Oregano mit Za’atar (dem Kraut). Ich meine, der ist mein bester Freund uns stiller Liebhaber, seit Jahren nun, und tummelt sich dauernd in meiner Küche rum. Er gehört ganz schlicht in mein Za’atar. Und nun, da ich ihn in seiner vollen Pracht kenne, endlich, werde ich auch mutiger werden und mehr Neues mit ihm ausprobieren.

Ja, mein geliebter Za’atar, ich bin glücklich Dir mitzteilen, dass ich die Selbst-Vorwürfe aufgegeben habe. Es bringt nichts, nach hinten zu schauen und böse zu sein, dass wir uns nicht eher getroffen haben. Ich liebe Dich, innigst, und das ist alles, was zählt. Geniessen wir einander, jetzt und immer!

za'atar, ready to be dipped

Continue reading “Liebesbrief an Za’atar” »

One Happy Couple

Edamame dip and Sesame crisps

Summers are hot and humid, where I live, and always too long. They are the season we complain about. It is too hot to be outside, too hot to move, too hot to do anything, too hot even for most plants to grow. So naturally, many of those summer days also are too hot to even think about hot food. Which translates into endless meals of grilled, chilled and then marinated vegetables, fish or light meats, cooled down pasta dishes, salads in abundance, frittatas, savory and sweet tarts at room temperature, cold soups, vibrant salsas and decadently tasty dips. (Oh, and did I mention refreshing cocktails, crisp whites and dry rosés?)

After having served and enjoyed guacamole, tzatziki, a chunky, pepper and peach based salsa and hummus, all in one week, I was in the mood for – still not hot food, no, but – a new version of a chilled and chilling side dish. While contemplating ingredients I had not worked with recently, Edamame came to mind. And, almost at the same moment, the Rice and Sesame Crackers I wanted to try in a long time. So that would be it: A smooth, soothing and speedy Edamame dip, accompanied by some crunchy, chewy crackers.

Dried Soy Beans

The couple turned out to be a match from heaven. The intensely contrasting flavors and textures of both components are fantastic and fun. The dip can also be used as a spread on sandwiches or burritos, or as a filling for deviled eggs (oh, I want some right now!). – With the help of a food processor, it is prepared within a few minutes. The crackers require a bit more time, but don’t fret, they are so worth it. During the majority of the time they take, only the dough is working – sorry: cooling -, and you don’t have to do anything. The most difficult thing about this little treat, really, is to not start eating the dip while the crackers are not ready yet. Once you have had them together, this should be manageable. Because this is one happy couple!

dip on cracker

Continue reading “One Happy Couple” »

Have a Crush!

herb pesto without basilNo basil? No worries! You still can prepare and enjoy pesto. The classic and ubiquitous recipe from Genova, a busy port town on the Ligurian coast of Italy, calls for basil (plus olive oil, garlic, pine nuts and finely grated, aged cheese) in its cold sauce. But pesto – meaning “crushed” or “pounded” in Italian – can be made of any fresh herbs, really.

So when I received more mixed herbs from a farmer friend recently that fit into my fridge, no kidding, I decided to preserve them in the form of pesto (which I prefer so much more than dried herbs). I took out my food processor, gave it a long and grateful look, cut the garlic chive, vietnamese coriander, parsley and lemon thyme into about two inch long pieces, peeled plenty of garlic and grated a good amount of Paglierina, a wonderfully well balanced sheep milk cheese from Italy. And into the groove we went, my food processor and me: I poured some oil, added some greens, garlic and cheese, and in barely any time the mighty machine worked it down into a smooth, luscious paste. More oil, more solids. Out of the bowl the pesto went with the help of a spatula, into  a very large pan, so that there was space for the next batch. On and on, until those pounds of herbs all were turned into thick, concentrated sauce – and ready for a long, long life around many happy eaters.

triple cream brie cheese sandwich with pesto

jars full of herb pesto

Don’t stop thinking outside the box once the ingredients of your pesto are chosen. Do the same when it comes to its application. Of course pestos are great on pasta. But they can do so much more! They perk up any kind of sandwich. They make for big eyes and surprised “aahhh’s” as the base layer of savory tarts. They hide in the middle of a horizontally cut wheel of Brie and, once discovered, turn out to be the star of the show. Pestos can be added to salad dressings. They bring zing to tomato based pasta sauces. Or to pizza. A little dollop of pesto does not only make a polenta look better, but also taste richer. Same with boiled, baked or fried potatoes. Fish adores pesto. Soup, anyone? It too, loves your pesto. Oh, and if you dress your favorite nuts in some pesto and then bake them shortly, your guests will love you – and your drinks will taste so much better.

So, yes. Have a crush! It is so delightful. Even the unorthodox way.

pasta al pesto