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Beetsa

pizza with beets, arugula, pesto and goat cheese

I always did – and always will – love the rhythm of life in Spain. Getting up late, staying up even later, eating very late – no problem for me. So when my husband decided to go back to coaching soccer and I was faced with the fact that at least twice a week he would not be home for dinner before the time some folks already hit the sack, I was, let’s say, pleasantly motivated.

This meant that I would have to come up with late night meals for just the two of us, suppers that could be prepped ahead of time and finished off at the last minute. Dinners that taste wonderful, that make one feel welcomed, that remind one how good life is. What a wonderful little challenge to throw myself into!

golden and red beets Continue reading “Beetsa” »

What Heidi did to my World of Bread

Light, crunchy white breadThree times within a day and a half, last week, I heard people talk about Mütschli (blink, blink, Annette, Michelle und Franco). That is quite remarkable, considering this little bread does not really exist where I currently live, and before that sudden hail of mentions, I probably had not thought about it in several months. When the discussion came to Mütschli the third time, it just was too much. I was hungry, at that moment, and the description was mouthwateringly tempting. I knew what I would be baking on the weekend.

Switzerland – like Germany and Austria – not only is famous for the quality, but also the enormous variety of its breads. Mütschli (which is the Swiss name, the Germans and Austrians call them Semmeln or Brötchen) are small, portion sized, ball shaped loafs of a white bread that distinguishes itself from others through a very thin yet very, very crunchy crust and a light, fluffy, smooth inside. It counts as a staple in every Swiss bakery.

all purpose flour

As a child, when my mother would take me to town and, after all chores were done, to a bakery for a snack, I always chose the big competitor of the Mütschli: A Weggli, also a small bread – this one though with a soft crust and a sweet dough -, that I would enjoy together with a Branchli, one of those wonderful, small chocolate bars.

It was only after I had visited a cinéma for the very first time in my life, at age eight, that I started an emotional affair with Mütschli: The scene in Johanna Spyri’s “Heidi”, when the house keeper opens the cabinet and is bombarded by all the Mütschli the girl had saved for her grandmother back home, turned me into a consumer of the crunchy little breads. Ever since, when I stopped at the school’s bakery cart in recess (oh, what times these still were!), I picked a Mütschli, often the luxurious one, with bacon cubes in it. And for field trips, days on the ski slopes or summer picnics, I always would bring Mütschli, abundantly spread with a mixture of sharp mustard and my beloved liver spread. (But let’s save this for another time…)

Fluffy Mütschli inside

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First food memories #2

My Mom's version of Empanadas

Fleisch Chraepfli (Flaky dough pockets with a ground beef filling)

Not that I understand it now but it is a fact: I was a competitive swimmer during elementary and middle school until an illness urged me to quit. While I walked to the practice sessions directly from school during the week, my Dad would drive me there on late Saturday afternoons. It was a rigorous two hours workout and by the time I was done, had showered, dressed and stepped out of the impressive Kongresshaus (the building the pools were located in) I usually was starving.

I loved every meal my Mom set in front of me after those practices. But my absolute favorite became her savory turnovers. When I climbed up the stairs of the apartment complex we lived in, two steps at a time, and could smell the aroma of those Fleisch Chräpfli, the emptiness in my stomach turned into a knot for a moment. Sort of like when saliva builds up in the mouth just by staring at glorious food. A few seconds of pain and joyful anticipation at once, very intensively.

Our tiny kitchen felt warm and cozy, the half moon shaped and golden brown pastries looked inviting like little pillows. They were filled with a succulent mixture of ground beef, onions, garlic, parsley and spices. My mom mastered the art of keeping the filling moist and nicely spicy while the dough remained crispy and still light. The first bite was always the best: The fight against the heat and against time – remember, I was hungry – the slight resistance of the firm and flaky pate brisee, the satisfying mess underneath. And in the end there was this wonderful harmony for both the stomach and the soul. Life literally was good then already.

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