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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Krautbraten: A German Cabbage and Bacon Casserole

February 6, 2014 § 4 Comments

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As a child I was lucky to have wholesome and healthy meals to grow up on. My german mother could take a few simple ingredients and create a delicious and satisfying dinner. We ate a lot of simple food, and my mother could get 3 or 4 meals out of a single chicken. Of course this was done out of necessity at the time, now we call it peasant food and restaurants everywhere get top dollar for it.

Meals made with cabbage, potatoes and bacon were no doubt a poor man’s meal if you will, something my mother learned from her mother growing up during the war. When there wasn’t much left in the larder but potatoes and cabbage, the creative German hausfrau could magically put together a delicious and healthy meal to feed her family.¬†This simple casserole is one of those.

There is an interesting addition of caraway seed in this which gives it a unique flavor. Don’t omit them even if you don’t like caraway seeds, trust me here. They lose their anise-like flavor when cooked this way. A few slices of bacon are laid on the bottom of the casserole, then topped with layers of cabbage and potatoes. There’s also some ground beef added but vegetarians could easily make this without it. Poured over the top is a little cream mixed with egg yolks. And it’s one of those meals that’s even better the next day.

Krautbraten:

Ingredients:

1 medium head green cabbage, core removed

enough slices of bacon to cover the bottom of a large casserole, usually about 5 or 6

5 or 6 potatoes, peeled and sliced into 1/2 inch pieces, I used Yukon Gold

2 pounds ground beef

2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper

1 tsp paprika

2 tsp caraway seeds

1 cup cream or half and half

3 egg yolks

3 TBL flour

1/2 tsp salt

1/8 tsp pepper

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Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Line a large casserole dish or pan with the bacon slices. Cover these with a few of the large cabbage leaves. Cut the remaining cabbage into thin strips.

Spread half the potatoes over the cabbage leaves.

Mix together the ground beef, salt, pepper, paprika and caraway seeds. You might want to use your hands for this, it will be stiff.

Now alternate layers of the meat mixture and sliced cabbage until it’s used up.

Cover this with the remaining potatoes.

In separate bowl combine cream, egg yolks, flour and salt and pepper, then pour this over the potatoes.

Cover and bake about 45 minutes until potatoes are soft.

Let rest about 10 minutes.

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Serve with a salad and maybe some applesauce.

Serves 4.

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