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We had a wonderful time at Golden Earthworm Organic Farm during their Harvest Festival recently, an annual event they host for their 2,000 CSA (community supported agriculture) members. One of the main points of becoming a member of a CSA – in addition to supporting a local farm and getting fresh, seasonal produce – is having a personal connection with the farmers who grow your food. Events such as this one offer a chance to walk in the fields and see exactly where your vegetables are grown. And, a chance to chat with the farmers – to ask them questions, give them feedback and just have a few laughs. We had been invited by Matthew Kurek and Maggie Wood, who run the farm along with James Russo, to come give a cooking demo of some of our recipes. After receiving a long list from the farm of which vegetables would be available, we decided to make two dishes: Kohlrabi en roux (kohlrabi in white sauce) and Krautsalat (or cabbage slaw).


© 2012 Jaime Jimenez 

We arrived at the farm on a warm, windy Sunday afternoon and found a big, green pile of freshly harvested vegetables waiting for us. And a bunch of CSA members who were ready to chat, watch us cook and eat! We got busy prepping the kohlrabi – removing the stalks and leaves, then peeling and slicing the bulbs.

© 2012 Jaime Jimenez 

After chopping some parsley to add to the dish, we cooked the kohlrabi until tender, then made a roux, a white sauce made with butter and flour and vegetable broth. Kohlrabi often appears in stores, at markets and in CSA boxes without its stalks and leaves, but these had their leaves intact so we decided to use them in the dish. After tossing the cooked kohlrabi with the chopped parsley, we combined them with the roux, and served it up on little fluted paper plates.

© 2012 Jaime Jimenez 

The day was so busy and fun – and went by so quickly – we unfortunately didn’t get any photos of the plated food (The photo below of the finished dish is actually from a few weeks ago, when I made it at home). Luckily, we ran into photographer Jaime Jimenez, a fellow member of my CSA in Queens, Farm Spotwho was visiting the farm with his family and who offered to shoot some photos for us. Thanks, Jaime!

Kohlrabi seems to be a vegetable that people regularly refer to as being one of the most difficult to cook with – or rather, the one people are most confused about because they are unfamiliar with it. So we were especially delighted to see that everyone loved this recipe. Everyone – from little children to grandmothers – polished off their sample. Most asked for seconds, some asked for thirds. It’s that good.

Kohlrabi en Roux  serves 4-6 as a side dish

Kohlrabi is in the cabbage family and has a subtle, somewhat sweet flavor, similar to Brussels sprouts. Ideally, the kohlrabi will be tender. It is best to use medium-sized bulbs, rather than very large or very small ones. The outside skin must be peeled, either before or after cooking. Here we use the bulbs and the green leaves and discard the stems (though they may be reserved for another use, such as making a stock). This recipe is cooked in the German style with a light roux, or white sauce. We use a light vegetable broth for the liquid, rather than milk or cream, in order to allow the lovely, delicate taste of the kohlrabi to shine through.

2 cups vegetable broth (or 1½ teaspoons vegetable bouillon paste, such as “Better Than Bouillon”, and 2 cups water)

1 bunch (3 or 4 medium) kohlrabi

1½ tablespoons unsalted butter

1 tablespoons all-purpose flour (gluten-free flour may be substituted)

salt + white pepper to taste

2 tablespoons parsley, chopped fine

1) Making the Broth: If using bouillon paste, boil the 2 cups water in a medium-sized saucepan. Remove from heat and add the bouillon, stirring to dissolve. If using vegetable broth, skip to step #2.

2) Preparing the kohlrabi: Wash the kohlrabi. Trim off the stems from the tops of the bulbs and cut off the green leaves. Discard the stems (or save them for a future soup stock), and chop the leaves into ¼” slices. Set aside. Peel the kohlrabi bulbs, removing all the hard outer part. Slice the bulbs into ¼” slices.

3) Cooking the kohlrabi:  Bring the broth to a boil. Add the sliced kohlrabi bulbs and leaves, lower heat, cover and simmer about 15 minutes, or until tender when pierced with a fork. Remove from heat and drain, reserving the liquid.

4) Making the white sauce: In a second pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Lower heat and add the flour, whisking to blend. When the mixture is smooth, slowly add the broth, stirring all the while to keep the sauce smooth. Keep adding liquid until you have reached the desired consistency.  Add salt and white pepper to taste, and the parsley and mix. Finally, add the drained vegetables. Serve immediately (or keep warm on a very low flame until ready to serve).

We are pleased to announce that we will be doing a tasting of some of our recipes of German-Jewish food that will be paired with a tasting of German wines! This event will take place at the lovely neighborhood wine shop Table Wine in Jackson Heights (Queens), New York City. Very easy to reach by subway (or by car) if you are in the NYC area.

GERMAN-JEWISH FOOD & GERMAN WINE TASTING

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 20TH, 2012

4-7PM

 at

TABLE WINE

79-14 37th Avenue (between 79th + 80th Streets)

Jackson Heights, NY 11372

(718) 478-9463

Click here for subway directions and a map of the neighborhood. If you are in the area please stop by to taste what we’ve cooked up, peruse the marvelous selection of wines and spirits in the shop and say hello. We’d love to meet you!

L’Shana Tova.

What do we remember about the German-Jewish Rosh Hashanah meal? I don’t remember anything about apple with honey in my household when I was growing up. Or potato kugel. I do remember soup with matzoh balls, and roasted meat of one kind or another, and cole slaw and nudel kugel.

Nudel kugel can be called noodle pudding, because that’s what it really is, and in talking to my cousin Ann today we decided that our grandmother may have called it nudel auflauf. I say may have because, if truth be told, our memories have been diluted by divergences and cross-cultural influences, all of which get incorporated over the decades into our cooking habits and even our language. In my case I have added numerous Jewish holiday dishes from my Ukrainian mother–in-law and from the more widespread ‘American’ Jewish repertoire – which gets me back to the kugel/auflauf. My ‘American’ version includes dairy foods such as sour cream, cottage cheese and lots of eggs. But Ann and I remembered the more spartan and delicious auflauf of our Oma Emma, and it had only a few eggs, some white raisins and perhaps thinly sliced apples and a touch of sugar. Yes it had a modicum of sweetness, but was more interested in being a tender accompaniment to the roasted meat than being a sweet and rich centerpiece.

Let’s move on to dessert. Memory does not fail us when it comes to plum cake.  The most ubiquitous of German cakes or tarts is as Jewish as it is German. Everyone in Europe has always been so enthralled with the small purple summer fruits when they come in season. And here on the East Coast of the United States we also await the short season for Italian plums. I usually bake at least one plum cake every September, maybe two.  I use the short dough known in German as muerberteig, whereas some bakers prefer to make their plum cake on a yeast dough base, the hefenteig. The latter is often made in an elongated rectangular shape. Ours is always round, in an 8 or 9 inch pan. Plum cake is sweet and sour and fruity and ours has a light jelly glaze added on top. It is a harvest food, but also a bright way to inaugurate a New Year.

We are rushing to put the finishing touches on tonight’s holiday dinner and don’t have time to post the recipe – but we will post it soon! In the meantime, here is a wonderful piece posted today by Jess on Sweet Amandine about a gorgeous plum cake made with a hefenteig dough. The recipe is adapted from the brand new book My Berlin Kitchen by Luisa Weiss of The Wednesday Chef

Sonya and I are wishing you a sweet and happy New Year!

            [Raspberry patch in my backyard, 2012]

Stephen Rossmer (my father, Sonya’s grandfather) yearned for various things from his Bamberg homeland, which he left as a refugee at the age of 33. The yearning was driven by the loss of his parents who were killed in April, 1942 outside of Lublin, Poland where they had been transported by the Nazis. The garden of their home in Bamberg, shared by two generations of Rossmers who lived in the same building, held special meaning for him. In the mid-1950’s he bought a house in Englewood, New Jersey with a small garden. The house even had timber-framing (fachwerk) with dark brown wood and light buff colored stucco forming irregular triangles. This form of construction was reminiscent of the historic houses in Bamberg.

[Red currants growing in a Munich backyard, 2011]

The square, suburban sized backyard, surrounded by a white picket fence, had nice plantings of rhododendron, magnolia and dogwood trees, and between the “rhodies” were several tall pine trees. I was excited to have this small patch of earth and I began learning about gardening, planting small annuals at the edges of the manicured borders. Before long, my father decided he wanted to grow currants and gooseberries. These two berry variants are common in Germany, and he was thrilled to be able to grow his own. Fresh currants, and especially gooseberries, were very uncommonly sold in the produce stores in the New York area. After a year or two, small crops of jewel-like berries were visible under the kitchen window against the brick back wall of the house. They were easy to pick and good to eat. I recall the berries getting sugared, but not too heavily. They were sweet enough and rather pithy. That is, each had a vigorous and unique tang. Sometimes the currants were served with raspberries, a very common mingling. Before long, my father found out that his berry bushes were illegal. It must have been quite a blow. He did not know that these plants, both gooseberry and currant, but most especially black currant, can carry a blister rust (cronartium pibicola) that is fatal to White Pine trees.

[Left, berries for sale at farmers’ market in Berlin, 2011; Right, red currants, 2011]

In fact, that is why these berries were so scarce in the States. Once he found out about the problem, my father dug up and got rid of his delightful crop plants. He never looked back. Being a good American meant more to him than even these wonderful berries. Today, there are hybridized disease-resistant ribes nigrum, or black currant varieties, and red currants and gooseberries are permitted in most parts of New Jersey. This ‘berry-love’ was not lost on me. In fact, along one side of the house in Englewood, there were a few somewhat straggly raspberry bushes, acquired by my parents from their (German-Jewish) dentist’s property in rural New Jersey. These bushes were tenacious and productive. I moved my first transplants in the 60’s to upstate New York, where I was then living. They have travelled with me as I have moved to Brookline, Richmond, and Medford – all in Massachusetts – in the years since. In Richmond, they grew into a sizable rural raspberry patch and one summer the delectable berries were sold to several restaurants and bakeries in the Berkshires. In my current garden in Medford, this summer – after a non-winter produced a very early, super-abundant crop — I made my usual 8 jars of jam and had enough berries left to make raspberry sauce, eat fresh berries for a couple of weeks, and still have a pint in the freezer. Ancestral berry love continues strong.

— Gaby

The morning coffee was made in this coffee pot at my grandparents’ house. It is a coffee pot/maker, with four different components, all white porcelain. A cylindrical filter sits on top of the pot, into which the coffee (coarsely ground) is added. On top of that, sits another piece –  a shallow cup with a few small holes punched around the perimeter into which the hot water is poured. The small holes allow the water to drip slowly over the coffee grounds. When the coffee is finished being brewed, the filter and water disperser are removed and replaced with a top that has a little acorn-shaped knob. The coffee is then ready to be served from the pot.

IMG_1420_opt (1)IMG_1414_optIMG_1413_optIMG_1418_opt

My grandparents had several of these pots, in varying sizes. I’m not sure when they got them (wedding presents, perhaps?), but they brought them when they emigrated to this country in 1939 so they’re probably from the mid-30s. They brought a lot of things – aka stuff – with them, household items and clothes and more, all packed into crates for the ocean voyage. It’s odd to think of people bringing large amounts of their personal belongings (including huge pieces of furniture) when they are fleeing from a place with their lives in danger. But that is what happened. And now, in our family at least, we still have a lot of these things. The kitchen things – cookware and dishes and the like – are for the most part such beautiful, well-made and functional objects that my mother and I each use many of these items in our respective kitchens on a daily basis. This coffee pot is but one example. (My mother has one of the smaller ones).

Surprisingly, I just discovered that the company who made these pots, Walküre Porzellan, is still in business and continues to make this exact same model, the Karlsbader, today.

Raspberries have a special place in the food traditions of central Europe. One of the most common uses for them is in syrup form. Today, one can readily buy tall bottles of raspberry syrup, as well as currant and other fruit syrups that mostly come from Balkan countries such as Slovenia or Croatia. When I was growing up in Washington Heights, the immigrant German-Jewish community had its own provider of this glorious sweet, which in our house was mixed with water to make a fresh and divine soft drink. Mrs. Bauer’s raspberry syrup came in a rather short bottle and it was considerably more concentrated than what appears today. One generous teaspoon of the thick, deep red syrup would flavor a whole glass of water or seltzer and emit a heavenly aroma of raspberry. It was a staple of my childhood diet, a yummy accompaniment to any meal. Of course, raspberry syrup can also be added to iced tea or lemonade. Or, to a glass of white wine to make a Kir (or sparkling wine for a Kir Royale) – or any other cocktail, for that matter. In Berlin, it is often added to Berliner Weisse, a regionally brewed wheat beer.

Now that Mrs. Bauer’s is long gone and I have found nothing as good on the market to replace it (and since I have a massive raspberry crop this year after the warm winter), I am making my own syrup. In addition to using it to flavor drinks, it can also be drizzled over any number of foods – pancakes, waffles, yoghurt, pudding or ice cream.

If you are lucky enough to have access to a supply of fresh raspberries you can pick yourself, all the better.  Here is the recipe:

Raspberry Syrup (Himbeersaft)

1 cup water

1 cup sugar

2 cups raspberries

1) Combine the water and the sugar in a heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring until sugar has dissolved. Lower heat and simmer for another 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

2) Meanwhile, put the raspberries in a heavy-bottomed pot. Cook over low heat until soft, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cool slightly and pour into sieve that has been set over a bowl. With the back of a tablespoon or a wooden spoon, press the berries to extract all the juice. Let it sit for another 15 minutes and press again. You should have about 1 cup of juice.

3) Add the raspberry juice to the syrup.

4) Return the raspberry syrup to the stove, bring to a boil and cook for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until syrup thickens and becomes more concentrated. Cool.

5) Store in a sealed jar in the refrigerator, or freeze.

I received a lovely bunch of fresh summer savory in my CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) box recently. In German it goes by the name Bohnenkraut, which literally means “bean herb”. It is traditionally paired with all kinds of beans, both fresh and dried. After setting the little bouquet of green herbs in a small juice glass filled with water for a day or so (the better to admire the tiny white flowers), I made a simple batch of green beans with Bohnenkraut. The bold flavor of this herb (somewhat similar to thyme) was a marvelous pairing with the beans, it literally was a “summer savory”.

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