Thursday, March 28, 2013

Cozy Eats: Semmelknoedel

Sooooo. I may have been a tad optimistic about Spring's arrival in my last post.

We've had quite a bit of snow lately.

As in lots.

For me March is when Spring really works its magic. In Northern California everything is blossoming, the air is fragrant, the sun shines brighter and everyone trades their coats and boots for knee-skimming dresses and strappy sandals. As you can imagine it's been an adjustment :)

So while my friends and family back home have been enjoying the glorious spring weather I've still been in hibernation mode. Hearty winter dishes are certainly in play here and that's why I turned to Semmelknoedel.

 Semmelknoedel waiting for their steam bath!

You may have heard of Knoedel, a traditional dumpling made from potatoes that you can probably find at any German pub...erm..well anywhere. It was my first taste of "German" cuisine- you could call it my gateway food if you like- and I loved them.

My boyfriend, and every other German I've ever met, use a boxed variety. They're tasty, easy and fast. What's not to like? I however, in my normal capacity, wanted a bit more. I didn't just want to open a box, pop the little knoedels into boiling water and 10 minutes later have dinner on the table. I wanted to make them from scratch.

Also though the traditional Knoedel is made with potato, I had more of a hankering for Semmelknoedel: it's the same idea but instead of using potato you use day old bread. Good idea right? I think they have more flavor and a better texture than their potato siblings. What surprised me though was how easy they are to make. There's no reason to buy the boxed version! These are so much better. Trust me.

recipe adapted from Original GU Rezept

6 day old whole grain rolls
1 cup milk (use any milk of your choice except non-fat)
1/2 c parsley, chopped
1 yellow onion, minced
1 T butter, melted
1 t nutmeg, freshly grated if possible
3 eggs
1 t lemon zest
salt and pepper to taste

Makes about 15 Semmelknoedel

1. Roughly chop the rolls into small cubes. Place in a medium sized bowl and pour the milk over the bread. Allow to sit for 15-30 minutes, just until all the milk is absorbed and the bread has softened.
2. Melt the butter in a small pan over medium-high heat. Once the butter has melted add the onions and sauté until they have softened completely but have not yet started to brown. Remove from heat.
3.  Bring a pot of water to a simmer. While this is happening add the eggs, parsley, onion, nutmeg, lemon zest and salt and pepper to the bread mixture. Using your hands gently mix everything together. Don't over mix just gently, massage if you will, the bread so that all the ingredients form one mass.
4. With clean hands form little balls (about the size of a golf ball) and set aside. Using a spoon add the Semmelknoedel to the simmering water in two batches. Cook for 20 minutes turning the Semmelknoedel every few minutes.
5. Eat alone with lots of cracked pepper and a pat of butter or as a side to any main course. If you're feeling like a German feast serve with a beef stew- like goulash- (pictured above) and red cabbage.
Guten Appetit!

Friday, March 8, 2013

A Weekend in the Sun: Venice

If you couldn't tell from my last post I (and the rest of Germany) have been suffering from the winter blues. Heralded as the darkest winter in forty odd years, the past few months have been dark.

Sunshine hours hover around 0 and that kind of grey-ness can really start to wear on you!

Last weekend though I had the privilege of being whisked off to a sunnier place.


Simply put, Venice is beautiful. I thought that perhaps the droves of tourists might diminish that beauty somewhat but I was pleasantly surprised. All you have to do is step off the beaten path to discover the other side the Venice. The Venetian side.

St. Mark's Square is an attraction that's not to be missed. Be prepared for all those tourists though. And the 6 euro espresso shot.

We had the most fun when we were wandering away from the heart of the city and tourist hot spots.
And found the best food.

We spent Friday evening in a great little cafe eating the best offerings from the sea. I had the pasta seppia which was deliciously briny and satisfyingly decadent. Squid ink is tossed with al dente spaghetti and fresh squid. It's simple but really fantastic! Don't let the color scare you, it's worth having black teeth for the rest of the evening...

Public transportation in Venice is just as unique as the rest of the city. Water buses come regularly and provide a convenient and relatively fast trip through the canals. Ironically it took me until after being in Venice for a day for me to realize that there are no cars in Venice! If you're lucky enough to count yourself as a Venetian than you probably have your own boat :)

We spent Saturday afternoon on the island of Burano. Smaller and less famous perhaps than it's glass-making neighbor Murano, Burano is a colorful little community with great little cafes and a renowned reputation for handmade lace.

Back on the main island we spent the evening in the Dorsoduro district. Home to many of the students and young people of Venice the Dorsoduro district offers cheaper prices and and a less touristy atmosphere. You find yourself the only tourist in the room, something that I find refreshing and a wee bit scary at times.

The Aperol spritz is the drink of Venice, and certainly the Dorsoduro district, where you can get one to go for 2.50 euro. Sitting in the sun on the piazza drinking cocktails and munching salty potato chips was the closest  I've been to paradise in a long time.

There was also pizza.

I generally try to avoid mid-bite photographs but for this pizza I couldn't be bothered.
It was that good.

We got our "family" pizza to go (feeling slightly conspicuous as there were just the two of us) and did as true Italians do,  we sat in the piazza and wolfed down that pizza. It was huge so in the end Tim had to pick up the slack and finish it off. I don't think he minded much.

So all in all Venice was my tonic. When we arrived back in Germany the sun was shining and I could finally hear a little whisper of spring in the air. I feel like everyone's perked up a bit and the heavy darkness of winter had passed. Until I can go back to Italy I'm filling my apartment with fresh flowers and am dreaming of cocktails in the sun.

Stay tuned for some real German cooking next week. It's going to get meaty.