Monday, April 13, 2009

Der Spreewald: Mehr als Gurken

We didn't get around to canoeing in the Spreewald last year, but Spring has overtaken Berlin in full force and we couldn't waste any time. As noted in the link above, the Spreewald is a forest-wetland preserve about an hour south of Berlin. Some of the current residents are descendants of the Sorbs/Wends, the Slavic tribes that originally settled the area and all the signs are in Deutsch and Wendish, houses are built in the traditional style, etc. I had heard that the Spreewald made for a nice day trip, but I had no idea how charming it was. The Spreewald is sort of Germany's take on Venice in that much of the area is made up of small channels, which are lined with adorable houses and hay stacks (I have a weak spot for nice haystacks) and the occasional restaurant. The Spreewald is also known for its pickles (which you can buy at most any grocery store in Germany) and let me just say that being able to canoe along on a perfect spring day and buy pickles right from our boat pretty much made the trip for me. The Spreewald is one of those places that has a lot of tourists, but is still quite charming. Most people tour the wetlands on a Kahn (punt) -- the cute boats pictured here -- which is powered by a sort-of Spreewaldish gondolero. One does feel somewhat virtuous paddling by them (and more entitled to the double-picnic day (breakfast and lunch), which we concluded with a typical Spreewald dinner of boiled potatoes, quark and linseed oil (better than it sounds) and some sort of local take on blood sausage with sauerkraut.

ps. Seven weeks to go and I've finally had a wedding nightmare. What does it say about me if I dreamed not that I lost my dress or that it rained or some other Perfect Day-ruining catastrophe, but that I forgot to make the chili for the rehearsal dinner. I realized the oversight the morning of so there was still plenty of time, but I was distressed that the flavors wouldn't have time to meld properly.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Die Deutsche Küche schlägt wieder zu!

It's not that I have anything against German cooking, it's just that I never get around to making it. Or I make something that is American to me (stew or roast chicken) but tastes German to mein Mann. But, this week I did a tasting for a potential new client that wants seasonal German food (why they think I am the person to make German food is beyond me, but...) and so I had no choice but to cook auf Deutsch. The potential client hails from the region of Hessen (you may be familiar with the Frankfurt airport). In my somewhat limited experience, Hesseners are all crazy for Grünesauce (Green Sauce), which is an herb sauce made from a blend of seven fresh herbs (don't even think of substituting something else or leaving one out!): borage, chervil, parsley, cress, chives, sorrel and salad burnet. The herbs are minced and combined with a bit of vinegar and mustard, a few hard-boiled egg yolks, and some minced onions, which are all mixed into something white (I used creme fraiche, but you can apparently also use mayonnaise, yogurt, sour cream, or quark). (Full disclosure: I'm fairly certain that this is one of those recipes for which there are as many versions are there are cooks - the herbs seem to be a set deal, but you can add minced pickle or capers, etc.) I've most commonly seen Grünesauce served with boiled potatoes or brisket (a more sophisticated version of that mayo-mustard mixture that my family always ate with our brisket), but I think you could serve it with most any meat or fish or veggie for that manner. But then again, I'm a heretical American and can never seem to think (or cook) inside the German box. With that spirit in mind, I decided to make deviled eggs with a Grünesauce filling. I trekked down to Frischeparadies (another one of these stores that is supposedly "the best" and where you can "find anything," which, in my experience mostly translates to fancy jarred sauces and overpriced mixed greens (though they do have (crazy expensive teeny jars of) vanilla extract), which is the only place I've been able to find all seven Grünesauce herbs. The herbs come in a very chic wrapping complete with a recipe for Grünesauce.
Alas, I couldn't take a picture of my finished eggs, but I can tell you that they were a big hit...which, in connection with a delicious (if I do say so myself) apple tart (such is seasonal cooking in Berlin at the beginning of April) and a few other delights, have resulted in a potential new client/job situation......details to come if it all works out...