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Swiss Kiss #11 – Omeletten

cheese omelette

They are not pancakes and they are not crêpes and they are not omelets. They are something in between all those. They are very Swiss. And they are called Omeletten.

omeletten stack

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Swiss Kiss #10 – Läbchueche (Ginger Bread)

Gingerbread, traditional Christmas pastryKids usually don’t have a developed sense for time. And because they live in the moment, they are not very interested in time either (except when it’s “time” to go to bed – then they become extremely uninterested). There’s phases though throughout the year, when even kids become alert of specific days. Birthdays, for instance, seem to tickle an instinct slumbering within them. Suddenly they are bright awake and can tell exactly how many days or how many night sleeps their big day is away. Christmas tends to have the same effect.

And for me, as a child, Chlouser (Santa Day) did, too. It was the day when we went to the little fair in town, straight from school, when my mother baked Grittibänze (bread people) for supper and we even were allowed to have chocolate with it. – And there was Läbchueche! Even though the bakeries started to offer them earlier every year, in my family we never touched them before Chlouser. They rang in the Holiday season, and – as every thing restricted or limited – tasted already good just because we had had to wait for them.

verzierter lebkuchen mit zuckerguss

Each region of Switzerland prepares its own version of Läbchueche, and they even go by different names. While I grew up with the very light, yet sticky Bäremutz of the Bern area (the bear in the name and in form of a sugary decoration referring to the name of the Swiss capital, Bern), others were used to slabs – or more elaborate shapes as hearts, flowers or animals – containing nuts, honey, almonds, chocolate and more.

It took me half a century, and a move across the big pond, until I learned about what I now call Barbara’s Läbchueche. I met this wonderful Swiss lady and market goer through cheese – who would have guessed – and immediately was impressed by her energy, wit and, especially, her baking skills. The first time we met she brought me the Läbchueche from Obwalden, a region deep in central Switzerland, where once her home had been. The squares were undecorated and unpretentious, and their texture and flavors down right addicting. Moist, fluffy, springy, chocolatey and spicy all at once, long lasting on the palate yet not too heavy in the belly. Barbara’s Läbchueche are easy and quick to prepare and become even tastier after a few days. What else would one wish for during the busy Holiday season?

gingerbread, wrapped as gift

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Swiss Kiss #8 – Erst August Weggen

August first rolls with flags

To Swiss, August 1 marks what July 4 does to Americans: It is our national Independence Day. And while there are fire works, pick nicks – or barbecues, how Americans prefer to call them -, tons of sausages, potato salads, ice cream, fruit pies and such on both sides of the ocean, my very favorite part about August 1 are Erst August Weggen: Little, light breads with a cross shaped on the top – representing the Swiss flag -, that from the middle of July and until the big day abundantly fill the bakery shelves across the country.

Weggen, or Weggli, depending on the region, are made year round and stand as one of the staples in Swiss bakeries. The day in, day out, regular version is a portion sized, a bit flattened dome with a cut in the center. The crust is egg basted, very fine and very soft, the inside is feather light, smooth, with a hint of a unique, flattering, addictive, slightly sweet flavor. Which comes from the addition of a tiny bit of malt. (Ta-daa, there goes the secret!)

The special birthday edition is prepared with the exact same ingredients and in the exact same technique as the common Weggli, but in honor of Helvetia has the cross shaped on its top. – Which shows how versatile of a bread the Weggen is: It can be shaped into knots, pretzels, pigeons (traditional in some areas around Easter), little porcupines, people, snakes… you name it. Even though there is this slight, slight hint of sweetness in the flavor profile, Weggli adapts both to sweet and savory companions. Served with butter and jam or honey, this mini bread is a luxury way of the traditional Swiss breakfast (slices of bread, buttered and topped with a sweet spread). When then some cheeses, charcuterie and pickles are added, it easily can make for a delicious Brunch or light supper.

So, go and prepare a batch of dough, shape some Weggen or find your favorite form, and enjoy by eating it with what ever suits your taste buds best. – Meanwhile, I will celebrate with plain, still warm, simply traditional Erst August Weggen. Happy 723. birthday, beautiful Switzerland!

egg yolk and milk for swiss holiday bread

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No Frill – Don’t Kill – Dill Waffles

dill and fennel waffle, with dill and fennel dip

I do not care for dill. Sorry. I just don’t. I have tried, without success. So I stand by it and take it as a fact (for now): Dill is not my herb. Period.

But dill it was, a compact bushel of it, that I recently found myself left with for that one supper. Filigree and fragrant, and way too beautiful to be ignored. The back and forth between my fascination (positive) and anticipation (negative) slowly but surely got me going. And after a few rounds of contemplating, all I had on my mind was to create a dish that featured dill in a way that (even) I could appreciate it. Hmm.

I approached the challenge by eliminating, at first. So pickles of any sorts were a no go. Same with fish. No smoked salmon, nor fresh white fish fillets allowed. While trying to figure out how to highlight the character of dill, slowly but surely I decided to rather undermine – pardon: out balance – it. And fennel immediately peeked around the corner. Grinning.

dill

Although dill bursts with warm, sweet aromas and flavors, the herb also bears – hidden far behind and left for the finish – some cool, anise like hints. Which match the big, heavy profile of the fennel: The bulb appears cool, cooling, licorice/anise like and, yes, almost medical on both the nose and palate. Ha. I would let the fennel eat up and incorporate the dill, without interfering with it.

Waffles were the next idea that just popped up, without me even putting any effort into it. Not pasta or grains, not a soup or salad, not protein. Waffles, to be enjoyed either as a light little meal on their own, as a snack, or an accompaniment to just about anything. The simple dip I quickly whipped up with the surplus of dill and fennel greens leads to almost limitless creations: All of a sudden the dip turns into a spread and the waffles are used like bread. Sandwich, any one? Eggs Dilledict? Savory French Toast? Dilly finger food? Yes, please!

To not kill the dill – but carefully incorporate it into a complex, yet uncomplicated dish – totally paid off. The waffles were crunchy on the outside and still moist and soft on the inside, with the fennel strips adding a lovely crunch. The flavors were exactly what one would expect: Sweet and smooth at first, more and more cool and deep towards the end. The fennel turned to be out an excellent big brother of the dill. Good stuff.

Dill and fennel, the ingredients for the waffles

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Meyer Lemon Squares (or: A tale of Love, Love and Hate, and Flirt)

 

meyer lemon tart

The beauty of being the mother of a son who works at a farm, is that he regularly brings home what ever there is too much of. This means we always have vegetables, fruits, sprouts and herbs that are very fresh and in season. Food that makes sense, tastes excellent and is healthy.

The down side of being such a mother is, that of what there is too much of, there usually is way too much. So at times, these foods turn into little dictators who easily can throw off a person’s half week’s schedule. Like when one is presented with 12 pounds (12 pounds!) of gorgeous Habanero peppers at once. Of course they can be hung up to dry and left alone. But seriously, who needs the flakes of the dried equivalent of a dozen pounds of hot Habaneros? So in vinegar and oil they go, jelly they become, and pickled they get. Which is rather time consuming. (And the fumes these potent tiny peppers release do not make time go by faster, let me tell you.)

Things also can get rough when a two digit amount of boxes packed with feather light chervil all of a sudden land on one’s kitchen counter. Don’t get me wrong: I love chervil dearly. And, as you might know by now, my life is – happily – centered around foods and the kitchen. Still a mountain of a very demanding little herb that – just like a spoiled child – wants one’s full attention, can be overwhelming. Let’s put it this way: The line between love and a love-hate affair is a very thin one.

cut meyer lemons

There is one thing though that does grow in abundance in the mild Florida winters, without ever growing annoying on me: Meyer lemon. I simply can’t enough of the smell, taste and look of this cross between a lemon and – depending on the source – an orange or a mandarine. The first sniff, each time I pick up one of the dark and deep yellow fruits, makes me long for a bath in its juice. And the first taste always makes me want to drink up that bath. Or reduce it into a perfume… The Meyer lemon is less tart and more sweet than the common lemon. It has a floral hint both on the nose and palate. It’s skin is thinner, the shape rounder and the size a bit larger than a lemon. Which, to use the words of a mother, makes it a very well behaved and easier to love lemon.

abundance of meyer lemons

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