Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Flammkuchen & A Perfect Sunday Afternoon

     We had a perfect Sunday.  The sky was a brilliant blue and the temperature was warm but not hot.  The day begged us to be lazy but not too lazy.  At Saturday's farmers' market, we splurged and purchased a wonderful, creamy schafskäse mit krauter to enjoy with the last of our bagels.  (While we love the bread here, once in a while, it is great to have a bagel - even if it is a Lender's Bagel...beggars can't be choosy!)  Schafskäse is a sheep's milk cheese and in this case, it was whipped with garlic and herbs.  I slathered copious amounts onto one side of my toasted bagel, topped it with sliced tomato and cucumber and placed the remaining side on top!  Oh my, that was wonderful start to the day!

     We try to visit a new town every month and aim for no more than an hour in the car.  The last couple of months have landed us in various small towns on the day of their local winefest.  Imagine that?   In our neck of Germany, they drink more wine than beer.  We try to arrive in time to have lunch and sample a glass or two of the local wine.  These festivals, although centered around wine, are all very unique and different.  One festival featured food booths scattered around a nice courtyard, where you could feast on mushroom ravioli, stir fry or even steaks and have a glass of wine selected specifically to compliment your dish of choice.  Today's festival was in the town of Gruenstadt, just on the edge of the Deutsche Weinstrasse.  Dear Daughter immediately comments about the small size of this fest and I have to admit...it was tiny.  A parking lot was transformed into a small carnival for the little ones and on the other end, long picnic (or fest tables) surrounded a central bandstand with one long tent in the back (the wine tent) and two smaller tents finishing the rectangle on either side featuring either Italian (two types of pasta and one type of pizza) or local fare.

     Lunch time works well for these "field trips" because even at the ripe age of 10 years old, my daughter always demands food at the specific moment that we open the car doors and step outside.  Through trial and error, we have learned that if we can incorporate lunch into the afternoon's activities, she seems a bit more amenable to hanging out with her parents instead of playing at home with friends.  Lucky for us, she heads for the tent serving regional specialities and chooses one of my favorites, Flammkuchen.

     Flammkuchen is a speciality of this area of Germany and its origins are either German or French.  In French, it is called Tarte Flambé and is popular in the Alsace.  Its french translation literally means "baked in flames."  Ages ago, bakers would place a thin pieces of  dough into the hot ovens to see if the ovens were at peak temperatures for bread baking.  If the oven was too hot, the dough literally  went up in flames, hence its German name, "Flaming Cake."  If the oven was at a peak bread baking temperature, then the dough would  cook in 90 seconds and come out charred around the edges.   Today, dough is rolled out very thinly so that when it is cooked, it forms a cracker-crisp crust (say that three times fast!). In its most classic form, it is topped with creme fraiche, lightly sautéed onions, lardons (or speck/bacon) and grated Gruyere cheese.  It is light and sinfully decadent at the same time.

    So in the brilliant sunshine, we enjoy what small bites of Flammkuchen that Dear Daughter is willing to part with and sample the local Riesling.  On the bandstand, a 20-member accordion band is playing ABBA selections. I have never seen an accordion band before and honestly, it wasn't that bad.  Later, we are serenaded by the typical oompah band and the afternoon continued to have a sort of lazy, relaxing quality.

    Lunch finished, we head back to the car and make the short drive home.  Dear Daughter gets the remainder of the afternoon to play outside with friends while her parents sit on the patio, enjoying the sun, reading and conversing.  A totally awesome end to the weekend...

Classic Flammkuchen

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

It is the little things...

Wow, my first blog posting.  I have to admit, I was a bit disjointed this morning.  We arrived back to Germany from a whirlwind two week trip to the States and while I doubt that I have jet lag three days later - things just seem a bit, well...mildly irritating.  (I won't mention that I have been sleeping until 8:45 each morning, much to my husband's chagrin...as he leaves at 6:15 to the sounds of my snoring.)  So what is the cause of all of this irritation?  Well, a number of things...

I arrived home to see my beautiful tomato plants withering away.  It wasn't from extreme temperatures. I think it is because I am just not destined to grow tomatoes.  I have tried for years with no success.  But each Spring I dream about having my own tomatoes and I forget the pain of the previous growing season.  Already this year, I am on my second round of tomato plants as the first round died in a freak frost in early May (seriously, frost in May???).  The second round was thriving and when I left, I had dozens of precious tomatoes on the vine. I arrive home to dead fruit and plants.  I think it was some sort of fungus.  I will know better for next year.

My car has been at the repair shop since July 4th and who knows when I will get it back.  I was involved in a car accident just before we left for the States.  I know what you are thinking...and it wasn't my fault...and I have the accident report to prove it!  At any rate, they have to order the parts from the US and it will takes weeks until the car will be ready.  We leave next week for France and I need a car!  I keep calling the insurance guy and while I am impressed with my understanding of German, I am not getting any further in getting a rental car.  Herr Horrhammer keeps telling me that he will resolve the situation and call me back in 10 minutes.  That never occurs and I end up calling him each morning, "Herr Horrhammer.  Das ist Frau Lord."  "Ja, Ja," he always replies...and then we do the dance again.

Finally, I had a job interview yesterday...entry level, GS HR job.  8 1/2 hours a day, five days a week and it would get me into the system.   I think I can handle an entry level job, don't you?  It didn't sound like a bad job even though the interviewer did admit that I was totally over-qualified.  I had to laugh at the questions..."Give me an example of a time when you gave superior customer service.  Give me an occasion when you had to deal with a customer who was really mad and upset and used foul language. What is your experience with computer software programs?"  "Really?"  I wanted to scream, "Have you even looked at my resume?"

Finally, this morning, I decide to finally launch this blog.  It is something that I have been wanting to do ever since we moved here in late December.  So, today is the day.  After trying WordPress and getting totally frustrated, I moved over to Google Blogger and continued to be frustrated.  If anyone can design a good blogsite for me, please...have at it.  As any of my former colleagues know (and my family can confirm), I am what you can refer to as "Electronically Challenged."

Ok, but enough of the gloom...HEY, IT IS MY FIRST BLOG!  Who cares about the tomatoes...I also came home to a ton of carrots.

So, after two evenings of having Honey Carrots for dinner, I decided that we needed something else.  Last week, I made Chocolate Zucchini bread after my brother-in-law supplied the largest zucchini I had ever seen. It went over well...so why not try Carrot Cake.  After a quick check on the Internet for a recipe, I found a simple, classic version on BettyCrocker.com.  Yes, I could have gone for a more exotic, updated cake, but why?  Sometimes, the classics just hit the spot.   My mood was lifting already.

The recipe calls for three cups of shredded carrots.  On the IPAD, I click on I Heart Radio and select my favorite country music station out of Washington, DC.  I go into my cooking zone and begin to feel more centered.  I hear the DJ, Boxer, indicate that it is going to feel like 105 outside in DC today.  My mood continues to improve.  While I have shorts on here in my German home, I am also wearing a sweatshirt.  Sorry guys!

The cake comes together easily and as it cooks, I make a quick lunch for my daughter, whom I have not seen for three hours.  She is deep into the summer vacation mode; sleeping until 9:30, eating a quick breakfast and out the door to play with friends shortly thereafter.  I did manage to get her to do six math problems prior to her mad dash.  (What can I say...I am a slave driver.)

The phone rings.  It is the insurance company.  "And when do you need your rental car, Mrs. Lord?"  "Do you know the horsepower of your car because we want to make sure that you get something comparable."  Shortly thereafter, the cake comes out of the oven and the rental car company calls.  "Mrs. Lord, we will bring you the car on Saturday morning."  They are bringing me the car?  The day is definitely looking up.

I am not sure if I will get around to a frosting for this classic carrot cake.  Based on the grin on daughter's face, it may be just fine the way it is.  (Her friends agree as well.)

Perhaps I should have made something that didn't incorporate the use of an oven for my inaugural posting.  But I am  not in the US where the temps are soaring.  The temps are cool here and I have a bumper crop of carrots.  So, if you need to wait a few months to bake...keep this easy recipe in mind.