My Garden and German Cucumber Salad (Gurkensalad)

September 4, 2015 § 3 Comments

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Anyone who gardens knows what I mean when I say it’s my sanctuary. It’s the first place I go to when I get home from a trip and the last place I visit before I go in for the night. I go through the gate and everything else that’s been on my mind is left behind. Before I know it three hours have flown by.

It’s a special place, alive with birds, toads, bees, and I’m sure plant spirits and faeries turning sunlight, rain and dirt into flowers and vegetables magically overnight.

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I’ll be in the middle of weeding when I feel the sunflowers beckoning. I’ll stop to have a look at them and see that the finches and chickadees have been busy working on the huge heads. I love watching them flit around, going from one to another, like their own buffet table. I’ll leave about half for them and the rest I’ll dry and feed to the chickens.

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I’m not a very neat gardener I think you’d say. I know I should have pulled out that tomato seedling that sprouted up from last year, right in the path. But I didn’t and so now I have to step over it and soon won’t even be able to do that. There are poppies everywhere, and again, right in the path. I even saved an elderberry sprout that flew into the garden somehow (faerie probably) and it’s now a small tree near the back. Oh well!

And my garden this year is the best one ever. Each day I bring up a basket of tomatoes, zucchini, lettuce and cucumbers. So many cucumbers! I juice them, make pickles and salads and add them to water. I slice them in half and give the chickens a treat too.

One of my favorite salads is one my mother always made, Gurkensalad. She didn’t really have a recipe, but this is how I make it now.

4 cucumbers, peeled

1/2 small red onion, sliced thin

1 TBL red wine vinegar

1 cup sour cream

1 tsp sugar

salt and pepper

1 to 2 tsp caraway seeds (optional but really good)

paprika for garnish

After you peel the cucumbers, slice in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. I use a melon baller for this.

Using a mandolin, slice them. A food processor works or if you don’t have one, just slice as thinly as possible. Even if they break apart, it’s ok, you don’t want big chunks for this salad.

Put slices into a colander, salt them well. About 1 TBL salt will do it. Let sit about a half hour.

While they’re draining, in a separate bowl, mix the dressing by combing sour cream, vinegar, red onion, sugar, a dash of pepper. Set aside.

After at least a half hour, grab a large bowl, then take a handful of cucumbers at a time and squeeze as much water as you can out of them, then put them into the bowl. (Don’t rinse the cucumbers by the way)

Add the dressing and mix well. Taste for seasoning. You’ll need a little more salt. Add the caraway seeds, mix then dust with sweet paprika.

Chill for at least an hour before serving. This is a very refreshing salad that gets better the longer it sits. I’ll make a ton of it and grab a bowl as a snack. Enjoy!

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Carrot Parsnip Fritters and Outsmarting the Chipmunks

May 25, 2015 § 3 Comments

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So sorry that I’ve been absent for awhile. The weather has been absolutely beautiful these past weeks and I’ve spent every waking moment outside….getting the veggie garden prepped, pulling up a weed here and there, edging and mulching, and just walking around, breathing in Lily of the Valley, Lilac and Viburnum.

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I’ve done some major garden renovations this spring. I finally have some raised beds, and one of them has become my strawberry bed. The chipmunk population around here will be in for a surprise. I’m sure they’ve had their beady little eyes on the flowering strawberry plants, just waiting for the first red, ripe and juicy organic strawberry…. sorry critters.

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As you can see this is chipmunk proof!  I’m very excited, I think I have them beat!  There is nothing like growing your own strawberries, picking and popping them straight into your mouth….just like the chipmunks!

Now if I could do the same for my blueberry bushes.

On to the recipe….

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Fritters. Yes, so simple and easy, I wonder why I don’t make them more often. They can be a side dish, a part of a salad, breakfast or even dinner.

Fritters:

6 medium carrots 

3 medium size parsnips

1 clove garlic, minced

1 shallot, minced

3 eggs, beaten

3 TBL flour

1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper

olive oli for sautéing

Peel and grate the carrots and parsnips. You could do this in a food processor, but it’s so easy to do by hand. You won’t have to clean all that equipment. And it’s good for the biceps.

Add the shallot, garlic, flour, eggs, salt and pepper.

Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a large frying pan. Add a scoop of the carrot parsnip mixture and flatten.

Cook a few minutes over medium heat, turn and continue to cook until golden brown. Remove to a warm place, like your oven.

Serve with applesauce, or mix plain yogurt or sour cream with a little cumin, paprika or za’atar. Try adding some chopped parsley or cilantro, sprinkle with sesame seeds….

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Kitchen Sink Salad with Buttermilk Dressing

April 15, 2015 § Leave a comment

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We’ve had two days of sun and the temperature right now is 60 degrees. I’m thinking spring might be here?

In honor of that what else but make a big juicy salad for lunch. I wasn’t sure exactly what I felt like eating when I opened the refrigerator, so I looked in the drawers and shelves, scanning for possibilities. Here are some of the things I found and used:

Eggs (of course)

cottage cheese

lettuce and kale

red cabbage

parsley and pea shoots

1 cooked chicken thigh

2 last pieces of turkey bacon

leftover broccoli from last night

handful of cooked chickpeas

1/2 a cucumber

roasted salted pumpkin seeds

leftover cherry tomato salad with feta

 

I call this the Kitchen Sink salad. Everything in it but. Leftovers are great, meat or vegetables or both. Lettuce as the base, something crunchy, something salty, and of course eggs in some form always make it a meal. For my Kitchen Sink salad today I hard boiled the eggs, cooked the turkey bacon and chopped it up, added the cooked broccoli, chickpeas, cut up the cucumber and chicken. On went a  scoop of cottage cheese to make it nice and creamy, and a few tablespoons of the  pumpkin seeds after it was dressed.

I can’t waste food, saving even a few stalks of asparagus knowing I’ll use it somehow. So that cup of last night’s tomato salad with a few chunks of feta, perfect! All these things went into the bowl. I then made a big batch of buttermilk dressing.

Here’s the recipe, makes a lot.

2 tablespoons minced shallot
2 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 clove garlic, minced
2 teaspoons lemon juice or vinegar
1/2 cup mayonnaise
3 tablespoons yogurt or sour cream
1 cup buttermilk (shake well)
Salt and pepper

Put everything into a bowl and whisk well.

Pour over your kitchen sink (salad) and dig in!

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Make your own: Bread and Butter Pickles

August 24, 2013 § 4 Comments

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In case you haven’t noticed I am really into making my own foods. Every day i read about more toxins in the form of additives, stabilizers and preservatives that are in pretty much everything we buy. And it upsets me because I think most people are not aware of what they are actually eating, they feed it to their children and then don’t make the connection when they slowly become unhealthy. You are what you eat, plain and simple.

Foods like pickles are so easy, there are only a few ingredients and you just have to measure and boil the vinegar. Why eat all those chemical extras?

Making your own simple foods is something all our ancestors did. It’s not rocket science, it just takes a little bit of time. But if you don’t think the time is worth it, then what good is all that time if you’re not feeling well?

Sorry for the ranting, I’ll get right to it now!

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Easy Bread and Butter Pickles:

4 pickling cucumbers, (Kirby) sliced 1/2 in thick

2 large cloves garlic, sliced

1/4 cup red onion, sliced thin

1/4 cup sea salt (Kosher is fine too)

fresh dill, handful, chopped

1 cup white vinegar

1/4 cup sugar

2 tsp yellow mustard seed

2 tsp celery seed

1 tsp ground turmeric

Put the sliced cucumbers, garlic, onion and salt into a colander set into your sink. Toss well and let sit 15 minutes.

While it’s sitting, put the vinegar, sugar, mustard seeds, celery seeds and turmeric in a saucepan and bring to a boil.

After the 15 minutes, rinse and drain the cucumber mixture and put into large heatproof bowl. Add the chopped dill.

Pour the vinegar mixture over and stir well. Let it cool before putting it into jars.

Keep refrigerated. Will keep 2 to 3 weeks, if they last that long!

 

How easy is that?

 

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Easy Summertime Salads

August 4, 2013 § Leave a comment

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It’s summertime and the living is definitely easy. Flowers, birds, warm breezes, ripe peaches, corn on the cob, farmers markets, rum drinks. Cooking in summer, from burgers on the grill, fresh blueberry cake, to ripe berries, herbs and fresh greens, this is what eating healthy is all about.

Now there are always ruby red, ripe tomatoes on my counter. And the fridge is jam packed with all sorts of good stuff, like salads. I usually have 2 or 3 ready for lunch or just as a snack when i come in from the garden.

The key is to think ahead so that you’re basically using leftovers. Make a few extra corn on the cob for dinner then turn it into a cold salad for tomorrow’s lunch. Roast an extra sweet potato and add it to some kale, spinach or other dark leafy green with a few strawberries thrown in. Mix fruit with vegetables and add seeds, nuts or raisins. Super easy!

Here are a few suggestions for you:

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That extra corn you cooked last night, cut the kernels off the cob into a deep bowl. Add some cherry tomatoes, slivers of red onion, minced red pepper, lots of fresh basil and dress with olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt and lots of pepper. Squeeze with fresh lime.

Grate some carrots, dress with olive oil and lemon juice. Toss well, then add some blueberries, slivered almonds and a good pinch of cumin. Salt and pepper, then squeeze fresh orange juice over it all. Crunchy and easy!

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Thinly slice some green cabbage ( I used about half a head) and put in a bowl with a few tablespoons of good mayo. Add slivers of red onion and fennel, 1 green apple, (peeled and thinly sliced ) and drizzle olive oil to coat everything nicely. Toast some sunflower seeds and add, taste for seasoning. Lots of pepper is good!

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Good old egg salad: chop the eggs with a knife so the pieces are chunky. Add a few minced pickle slices, then dress with mayo, Dijon mustard, slivers of red onion, some chopped cilantro or dill. Taste for seasoning. Good by itself, on a bed of greens or on a piece of really good bread.

Beets and grapes: peel and grate beets (food processor is good unless you don’t mind stained fingers) Add a handful of red or green grapes, dress with olive oil and fresh orange juice. Top with feta or goat cheese, or even better, ricotta salata (see below) then salt and pepper to taste.

See how easy?

 

 

 
Ricotta salata is a hard, white version of ricotta that has a mildly salty, nutty and milky flavor. It can be shaved or grated over salads, pastas and vegetable dishes.

Asparagus, Ham and Potato Hash with Poached Eggs and More Asparagus Recipes

April 5, 2013 § 2 Comments

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I’ve been eating asparagus since Saturday night. That’s 5 days now. Maybe my body is telling me something?

Asparagus is full of vitamins and minerals like potassium, vitamin A and K and is good for the kidneys. Like dandelions, this vegetable is a good spring cleanser. But health benefits aside, I simply love the taste and texture, earthy and green, like the ground in spring.

I’ve steamed it, roasted it in the oven with olive oil and Parmesan, and made this hearty soup. The few spears I had left went into this asparagus tart that I made for lunch today.

Now I find myself thinking of different recipes and feel a pull to go out tomorrow and get another bunch!  Can one overdose on asparagus?

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Here are some ways to use this unique and healthy vegetable:

Egg salad and asparagus: Hard boil some eggs, then peel and roughly chop with a fork. Add some homemade mayonnaise, some chopped fresh dill and lightly steamed asparagus spears. Salt and pepper to taste. Great on a slice of toasted sourdough bread.

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Wild rice salad and asparagus: Steam some asparagus. Make some wild rice. When done but still warm, stir in some slivered almonds, the asparagus and some currants with a little butter. Taste for seasonings.

Raw Salad: Asparagus is delicious raw. Here’s my recipe for a nutty salad made with carrots, asparagus, pine nuts and Parmesan.

Of course you can add to a stir fry, make asparagus risotto, quiche, or eat the spears barely cooked dipped into a nice aioli.

And here’s my lunch for tomorrow: Asparagus, Ham and Potato Hash with a poached egg.

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This recipe makes enough for 2 people for a nice lunch or brunch.

2 small shallots, peeled and sliced

1/2 cup uncured ham, cut into smallish chunks

asparagus, about 1/2 pound

2 potatoes, cooked and cut up

butter

Parmesan

salt and pepper

poached eggs

Trim the asparagus spears ( hold on each end and bend til they break) then steam or boil in water until almost done, just a few minutes. Run under cold water to stop the cooking. Set aside.

In a small skillet, melt 3 to 4 tablespoons of unsalted butter and add the sliced shallots and ham. Saute until shallots are soft and lightly browned.

Meanwhile, poach 2 eggs a few minutes and they’ll be ready while you do this next step.

Add the cooked potato pieces, when warmed up add the asparagus, which you’ve cut into small pieces. Mix it all up together and taste for seasonings. Ham can be salty so taste before adding any salt.

Move all to your serving plates and top with the poached eggs, then grate some fresh Parmesan over all.

Enjoy!

German Potato Salad – Kartoffelsalat

August 29, 2012 § 6 Comments

I grew up eating the the most wonderful food. Everything was homemade. We had Sauerbraten on Sunday nights and there was always a special cake that would take my mother hours to make. (At least it seemed like hours at the time).

We were spoiled when it came to food. My family was served meals better than in the finest restaurants at the time. But being kids, we just wanted to eat what everybody else did. We were always complaining that we wanted a “regular” cake, like our friends ate. You know, the kind that comes out of a box!

My mother is 94 years old now but unfortunately unable to cook and bake anymore. She learned to cook from her mother and grandmother of course, and would make delicious meals with just a few simple ingredients. We would go to a restaurant and she would taste a dish and know exactly what was in it, then recreate it at home.

She never measured anything. She just knew the basics. She would try to teach us, my sister and I, but it didn’t really sink in at the time. It’s not something you can teach really. I think it comes from just doing. Cooking. Baking. A lot.

This potato salad was something she would make just because she had a few cooked potatoes left over from dinner the previous night. And you know the Germans, nothing must ever go to waste.

I too believe that with a few ingredients always on hand in your kitchen, you can make a delicious meal out of any leftovers. I find myself doing this all the time. It’s in my genes.

Ingredients:

Since I learned this from my mother, no measurements were ever given. I will try to approximate them for you.

4 to 5 small to medium potatoes ( I like Yukon Gold) about 1 lb

red onion about 1 to 2 TBL minced

about 3 TBL olive oil

about 3TBL vinegar, red or white wine is best

1 hard boiled egg

1 TBL minced gherkins or other sour pickle (not sweet)

a little bit of the pickle juice, optional

paprika

parsley. optional

salt and pepper

So the first step is to boil the potatoes in salted water. Don’t peel them. When tender, drain and let cool slightly. Now you peel. You want to peel them while they’re still quite warm so they will absorb the dressing.

Slice them into thin pieces, put in a bowl.  Slice the hard boiled egg into little pieces. (I just hold it in one hand and with a knife in the other hand, nick little pieces off and into the bowl). Add the oil, vinegar, onion, and minced gherkin. Keep tasting this as you go along. Gently toss.

Add salt and pepper to your taste. If you want, add a little pickle juice. Toss again. Sprinkle with paprika or minced parsley. The warm potatoes will really absorb the oil so you may need to add extra oil and vinegar.

This is best if you let it sit awhile before you eat it.

 

 

Here’s a picture of my mother and me in Austria.

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