Omelet with zucchini flowers and chile poblano

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Chile poblano is a large, dark green chile sometimes almost black-green in color and very pleasant in flavor. It grows in many parts of Mexico.

It is exported to the US were it is often found under the name Pasilla.

They are first grilled, skinned and then stuffed (being called chile Rellenos) or cut into strips and served in salads.

For Independence day in Mexico chile poblanos are commonly served in a traditional dish called “Chiles en Nogada”. This dish has the colors of the  mexican flag: green, white and red, (green chile, white walnut-based cream sauce and red pomegranate sauce).

A dry poblano chile is called chile Ancho.

For breakfast I like to mix poblano with chopped fresh zucchini flowers and use the mixture as omelet filling.

If you have a problem to find the fresh zucchini flowers or if they are out of season you can use canned ones, widely available in Mexican stores or on the internet.

Omelet

serves 4

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one chile poblano

4 zucchini flowers, fresh, or one small can

1/2 onion, finely chopped

salt

tortillas

12 eggs (3 eggs per person)

water

about 40g of butter

oil

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To remove the skin place the chile in an electic grill, on a charcoal grill, or broil in the oven until skin is blistered and lightly charred.

If you broil it, place baking sheet with pepper on top rack of the oven (2 cm/ 4 inches from the broiler). You can also bake them on 200C / 400F for about 14 minutes.

After grilling place them inside a plastic bag for about 10 minute. This will make the process of removing skin easier.

Gently remove the skin, stem and seeds.

Cut them into bite size strips.

If using fresh zucchini flowers, quickly wash and dry them.

If using canned flowers, first drain the liquid.

Heat one tablespoon of oil in a pan.

Add the chopped onion, lower the heat and continue cooking until onion becomes very soft.

Remove pan from heat and add chopped peppers and chopped zucchini flowers.

In a small bowl mix 3 eggs, add one tablespoon of water and season to taste.

Melt the butter in a flying pan on medium heat. When the butter begins to foam add the eggs and swirl the skillet to distribute mixture evenly.

Lower the heat and with the fork gently move the eggs from the sides of the pan towards the center so that raw egg can cook underneath.

Add some of the chopped peppers, zucchini flours and onion mixture in the center, then with the help of the fork fold the sides of the omelet.

Transfer to plate and serve with warm tortilla.

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Traditional boiled sausage and hand voting in Appenzell

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Every year on the last Sunday in April the canton of Appenzell has a very interesting event, voting-by-hand, locally called Landsgemeinde (open-air-assembly). Appenzell as well as Glarus are one of two places in Switzerland that still practice this old tradition. Hand voting was typical for rural areas and can be traced back to the Middle Ages.

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About 3000 eligible voters gather in the town square to decide on laws.

I didn’t know what to expect, it was incredible to see just how proud they seem to be able to participate. They are all dressed for the occasion, with many men carrying swords, which are handed within families from generation to generation.

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There are also food stands to satisfy hungry voters, selling cookies named chrempfli ( made from sugar, eggs and flour dough with hazelnut filling inside).

These cookies are imprinted in beautiful hand carved wooden cookie molds.

For meat lovers there are boiled Appenzell sausages, predominantly made of beef (siedwurst). You can choose one of these side dishes: cheese noodles and potato (chasmaggerone) or potato salad.

For my weekend lunch I prepared veal sausage with potato and vinaigrette.

Gentle boiling will also ensure the sausage is cooked all the way through.After boiling the sausage,  place it shortly on a grill to get an even nicer flavor and color.

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Boiled sausage with potato salad

Serves 4

  • 4 big (row) sausages, beef or veal
  • 450g potato, peeled and cut into bite size squares
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon white vine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole grain mustard
  • 1 tablespoon of fresh parsley, finally chopped

 

Put potatoes in a pot and cover them with cold water. Add 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat and cook until potatoes are soft.

Drain potatoes, put them in  large bowl and cool slightly.

Make dressing by mixing oil, vinegar, mustard and parsley in a small bowl. Gently toss potatoes with dressing.

Cover with cling film and cool in refrigerator.

You can make extra dressing to serve on a side.

Fill big pot halfway with water.

When water starts to boil add sausages. Lower the heat and simmer for about  10 minutes, until tender.

Drain.

Brush sausages with oil then grill until browned on both sides.

Serve sausage with cold potato salad sa well as some dressing on the side.

Traditional Swiss Christmas cookies

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This is the time of year when many stores in Switzerland are full of little seasonal cookies.

Cinnamon, almonds, hazelnut, anise and cloves are the most common ingredients.

I like the fact that the cookies are very small, so you don’t feel that much gilt having one with a cup of coffee or tea. The problem is that my favorite cookies are so tasty that I end up eating at least three or more each time.

This winter I decided to bake my own christmas cookies, and the home made ones are delicious even better than the ones you buy.

I made two types of cookies that are made without flour so they are also gluten-free, Brunsli  (chocolate and almonds), and Zimsterne (cinnamon and almonds).

The recipes are very simple, but rolling the dough requires a little bit of patience. If you use some tricks on how to keep the dough pliable the cookies are really fun to make. The refrigerator is a great help. Don’t get frustrated if at first they are mishaped, they are very tasty and ” a rustic  look” is just fine!

 

Brunsli

Makes about 40-50 depending the size of your cutter

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  • 2 egg whites (if eggs are too small you may need a little extra egg white)
  • 270g / 2 1/2 cups, finely ground almonds
  • 215g / 1 cup sugar
  • 120g chocolate, chopped
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 tablespoons Kirsch
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder, plus extra for rolling
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves, ground
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Ground chocolate with sugar in a food processor.

In a big bowl combine ground almonds, ground chocolate, sugar, pinch of salt, cocoa powder, cinnamon and cloves.

Add egg whites and Kirsch and with a wooden spoon mix well. With hand incorporate dough into ball.

Transfer dough on working surface sprinkled with a little bit of cocoa powder. If dough is to sticky, add a little more of cocoa powder, if is too dry add a bit of extra egg whites.

Divide it in two halves. Make flat disk and wrap into cling film.

Put into refrigerator for a minimum of 30 minutes to harden. That makes it less sticky.

Put dough in between two sheets of cling film, and then roll until 1 cm ( 1/2 in) thick. Use cutter to shape your cookies.

Put cookies on a tin, lined with a baking paper.

Let them sit overnight to dry. Leftover dough roll into ball, make a flat disk, put into refrigerator and repeat the process.

Preheat the oven to 150C /300F. Bake about 10-12min.

 

Zimsterne

makes about 40-50 depending the size of your cutter

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  • 3 egg whites
  •  210g / 4 cups almonds,finely ground
  • 335g /2 cups icing sugar, sifted
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon Kirsch

 

In a big bowl combine ground almonds and cinnamon.

Mix egg whites and icing sugar until stiff peack.

Put one third of mixture to almond mixture and mix with awooden spoon.

Hand shape it into a ball and transfer to a working surface lightly sprinkled with a sugar. If too sticky add more almonds or if too dry add a little more egg whites.

Make a flat disk and wrap into a cling film. Put into refrigerator for a minimum 30 minutes to harden.

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Put dough in between two sheets of cling film and roll until 1 cm (1/2in) thick. Use star cookie cutter to shape your cookies.

Dip each cookie into the egg white mixture you set aside.

When mixture gets thick dilute with little bit of water. This is technique that works the beast for me. You can also apply with a brush. It requires a bit of patience but as you repeat the process it becomes easier.

Put them on a cookie sheet lined with baking paper and let them dry overnight.

Preheat the oven to 150C /300F.  Bake cookies for 10-12 min., don’t let the icing become brown.

Poppy seed and nutmeg cake

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I have a weakness for any baked product that contains poppy seeds; probably because of the flavor and texture they add.

Poppy seeds are commonly used in baking in Central and Eastern Europe (strudel, cookies, breads or added to salad dressings). We are familiar with black poppy seeds, but there is also a white variety commonly used in India ( you can find them in Asian stores).

For this post I made a cake from Italy’s Alto Adige region. It is a rich, moist cake and combination of nuts and poppy seeds make it hard for me to stop with just one slice.

This cake is an example of the influence that Austrian cousine has had in this Northern part of Italy.

It is important to mention that before using poppy seeds in cakes they have to be crushed or ground, so they can release their flavor. I use a coffee grinder.

 

  • 180g butter, room temperature, plus extra for tin
  • 180g caster sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 5 eggs room temperature, separated
  • 140g hazelnut, ground
  • 140g poppy-seed
  • salt
  • icing sugar for decoration
  • flour for tin

 

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Preheat the oven to 180C / 350F.

Lightly butter then line the bottom of cake pan with baking paper. I used 18cm (7 in) tin with loose bottom. Then lightly coat entire inside surface with butter and sprinkle with flour.

In a coffee grinder grind the poppy seeds in batches until finely ground, but be careful not to turn it into paste.

Mix together ground poppy seeds and ground hazelnut.

Put the butter, 3/4 of measured sugar and a pinch of salt into a bowl. Beat together until pale and light.

Lightly beat the egg yolks and add them slowly to the butter mixture making sure they are incorporated after each addition.

Fold in poppy seeds and hazelnut mixture.

In a separate bowl beat the egg whites until stiff peaks. Add the remaining sugar and beat until stiff and glossy.

Fold small amount of egg whites into butter to loosen it then carefully fold the rest of egg whites.Pour the mixture into the tin.

Place the cake tin in the middle of the oven, and bake about  55 min. Take out of the oven and cool for 10 min. Take cake out of the tin and cool on a wire rack, then peel the baking paper.

Cake will deflate slightly when cooled. Invert the cake on the plate and sprinkle with some icing sugar for decoration.

Potato and spinach gnocchi with mushroom sauce

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This is a simple and delicious dish from northern part of Italy, Alto Adighe, Sudtirol. It is easy to make.

The best is to use fresh ingredients, but if you are short of time, or if you don’t have patience to clean all those fresh spinach leafs, using frozen spinach is just fine.

Alto Adige , very mountainous , and full of forests has a soil that is good for growing mushrooms, particularly Porcini mushrooms, which are often used in recipes. If you can’t find them fresh, use dry ones, or substitute them for bottom mushrooms like I did in this recipe.

The rich taste in this dish comes from the sauce.

gnocchi

  • 350g potatoes (2 potatoes), peeled
  • 300g fresh spinach(coarse stems discarded), or 180g frozen
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 110g flour

sauce

  • 180g mushrooms
  • 30g tablespoon of butter
  • 150ml chicken stock
  • 200ml double cream

Wash the spinach and drain well. Blanch for 30sec than refresh in cold water.

Drain and squeeze the water out and finely chop.

Cut the potatoes in half and place them in a saucepan. Cover them with cold water.

Bring water to boil, than lower the heat and simmer until potatoes are tender.

Drain the potatoes. Return them to pan and dry them on the low heat. Take them out and cool.

Press the potatoes through the riser into a big bowl.

Add the egg yolk and the spinach. Work with your hand until lightly incorporated; keep adding flour until the dough is slightly sticky.

Lightly flour a work surface. Divide dough in fourth.

Roll each part in a rope approximately 1.5cm / 1/2 in thick. Using a knife cut each piece into a 2.5cm /  1in size.

You can use a fork or a gnocchi board to get creative ridges.

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Bring a big pot of salted water to boil. Put the gnocchi in the water in batches. Cook until they rise to the surface about 5 min.

Drain them in a colander. Toss a little oil so they don’t stick.

To make a sauce, wipe the mushrooms with a wet cloth or wet kitchen paper. Chop them. Melt the butter over medium heat then add the mushrooms to it and cook until soft.

In a pot add double cream and chicken stock. Bring to boil then lower heat and simmer until sauce thickens.

Put the mushrooms into the sauce and serve over the gnocchi.

Wine soup with croutons

Alto Adige/Sudtirol is a beautiful part of Italy. Before WWI it belonged to Austria, so when you start exploring the area you may think you are in Austria not in Italy. The main language is German, except in government establishments. All signs are written in both languages.

Food also has a strong influence of Austrian, German, and central European cuisine; fantastic apple strudel, barley soup, rye bread, sauerkraut, ect.

I have to admit I am a big fan of that type of food. It may sound a bit heavy, but there is something about that simple, homey food especially in wintertime.

In my next couple of posts I will prepare some of the recipes from this region.

For this post I have chosen wine soup. This is a mountainous area, very rich in beautiful vineyards and great wine. For this recipe egg yolk is commonly used as a soup thickener, but I decided to use a little bit of cornstarch. Cornstarch is just another way to thicken the soup. When choosing the white wine try to choose a dry one of very good quality.

Wine soup

serves 4

  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 500ml beef stock / 2 cups
  • 100ml vino (Pinot blank, or other good quality dry white vino) /  1/2 cup
  • 100ml single cream / 1/2 cup
  • 1 tablespoon of cornstarch
  • water

Melt the butter in a saucepan, add the onion and on a low heat sweat the onion until very soft. Don’t allow the onion to brown.

Add the stock, vino and cream.

Bring it slowly to boil.

In a small bowl put the cornstarch and slowly add the cold water until you don’t get a thin paste.

Slowly, keep adding the cornstarch paste to the soup until soup thickens.

 

Croutons

 

  • 4 slices of white bread, 1cm (1/2 in) thick
  • 1 teaspoon of dry seasoning, like oregano, tarragon
  • 30g of batter

 

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F.

Cut the crust from the bread.

Mix the melted butter and herbs in a small bowl.

Brush the melted butter and herbs mixture on both sides of the bread.

Cook about 10 min. Turn over the bread slices. Cook for another 5 min.

Take the toasted slices of bread out of the oven and cool on a wire rack.

Cut the toasted bread into cubes.

Life close to Swiss farms

If you decide to spend some days in Switzerland during the spring or summer months a visit to a farm is a mast.

This is my favorite time of the year because all animals are out, eating and relaxing in beautifully manicured loans around their barns and green mountain fields.

Every week I take walks around the many farms close to were I live, in many places in Switzerland farmland can still be pretty close to urban areas.Walk paths very often go thru, or very close to the farms.

I enjoy hearing the sound coming from the bells around the necks of sheep and cows here. If you happen to be outside late at night you can hear little bells echoing around you.

After returning from a trip to a crowded city or after a stressful day it is quite peaceful to look at these beautiful animals eating and relaxing. To walk around them has a relaxing effect on me.

Many these farms have small stores were they sell their own products. In off-hours you can purchase products inside clean and well organized “vending machines”; considering that in Switzerland everything is closed on late Saturday and during all of Sunday, these machines can be very handy.

Now we are approaching the colder months and the animals will soon be spending their days inside. The sound of bells at night will soon disappear, a clear sign winter is not that far away.