Recipes from Marche, Italy

For this entry, I made two recipes. Neither of them were especially good, but I don't blame the people who posted the original recipes or any of the traditions they came from, I blame myself and my propensity for Googling things that might kill me.

Recipes from Marche, Italy: Brodetto

A seafood stew with mussels and clams, minus the Vibrio.

Recipes from Marche, Italy: Filone Casereccio

An Italian bread that will come out much better than mine did if you use fresh brewer's yeast and steam.

Recipes from Malta

This is actually the third time I’ve cooked a meal from Malta. The first time, I cooked the meal and then just did not write the blog post. Years went by.

Recipes from Malta: Imqarrun

Imquarrum (also called Imqarrun il-forn) is descended from a dish served in Sicily, but the Maltese have adopted it as a traditional staple. The key to making this dish is to be patient.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Recipes from the Glorioso Islands (but not really)

Ah, yes. It's another archipelago of uninhabited islands that are only ever visited by people who don't answer their email. Sigh.

I confess, I didn't really put my heart and soul into this one. I did do enough research to track down the names of people who have been to the Glorioso Islands, but none of them answered my messages. So I kind of just went, eff it (excuse me). This meal, therefore, is a filler. I'll tell you how I came up with it after I tell you a little bit about the place in question.

The Glorioso Islands are a tiny little group of mostly rocks in the northern Mozambique channel, about 100 miles northwest of Madagascar. There are two actual islands: Grande Glorieuse and Île du Lys, and eight hunks of rock, one of which is known by the quite telling name "Wreck Rock." Together, the total land space of the Glorioso Islands is about 3 square miles, though their exclusive economic zone is much larger than that: 18,670 square miles. That explains why Madagascar would like everyone to think that it has sovereignty over Glorioso, though the rest of the world recognizes France as the sole proprietor of the islands and all that space around them.

Once upon a time, Grande Glorieuse was actually settled. By one guy, as far as I can tell, who had a coconut and maize plantation there.  Today there are some nature reserves and a meteorogical station, some French troops and an airstrip. And that's about it.

So yes, I just made up this menu based on those few scant facts. Glorioso is a French territory, so I chose a French seafood dish based on my stab-in-the-dark assumption that the guy who once lived there probably ate seafood because, you know, island. Next I chose a sort of cornbread dish, also French, based on the maize part of the equation, and I finished with a French recipe for coconut macaroons in honor of the coconut trees that still grow there. And that is how Glorioso shall stand until someone comes along and says, "Hey, I ate there and here's a recipe."

Actually, it was a tasty meal, so I don't regret. Here is the menu:


This version was on the French Food page. As you can see, I didn't really go out of my way to find a strictly French recipe source for this, either. But I don't really have reason to believe that this version isn't authentic.

For the stew:
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 1/2 cup olive oil, divided
  • 4 tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 large bouquet garni (mine was parsley, bay and thyme)
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 1/2 pound potatoes, cubed
  • 12 pounds assorted fresh fish, cleaned and prepared
  • Salt, to taste
  • Ground black pepper, to taste
  • Baguette, sliced and toasted
For the Sauce Rouille:
(Modified from
  • 1 red chili, seeded and finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
And on the side:

  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup butter, for frying
And for dessert:

Rochers à la noix de coco (Coconut Macaroons)
  • 3 cups dried, unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3 large egg whites
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla or almond extract (optional)
  • 2 ounces dark semi-sweet chocolate (optional)  - Oh, please like chocolate could ever be optional
Starting with the millas:

Add the salt to the water and bring to a boil. A quarter cup at a time, add the cornmeal to the boiling water, stirring continuously.

Now turn the heat down to low and babysit the pot for about 15 minutes, stirring the cornmeal so that it doesn't stick to the bottom.

Now line a 10 x 15 inch pan with cheesecloth pour the cornmeal into it. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for an hour or until the batter sets.

Cut the batter up into strips about 1-inch by 4-inches. Melt the butter in a frying pan over a medium flame. Fry the strips on both sides until they turn a golden brown. Serve hot.

Now for the bouillabaisse. Heat 1/4 cup of the oil in a large stockpot over a medium flame. Fry the onions until translucent, then add the tomatoes, bouqet garni, garlic and potatoes.

Season with salt and pepper to taste, then put the fish on top of the veggies and drizzle with olive oil. Let sit for 10 minutes.

Add enough water to cover the ingredients. Bring to a boil and let cook for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the sauce rouille. Crush the garlic with the chili peppers, then mix with the mayo. Add salt and pepper to taste, the stir in the tomato paste and red wine vinegar.

Toast the baguette slices and put them in the bottom of your soup bowls. Ladle the stew over the bread and serve with the sauce rouille on the side.

Finally the macaroons. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a mixing bowl, stir the coconut together with the sugar and salt, then add the egg whites and vanilla extract. Keep stirring until well-incorporated.

Shape the coconut mixture into balls that are a little smaller than golf balls and place on the baking sheet. Pinch the tops so they are cone-shaped (that's the French way).

Bake for 12 minutes and let cool.

Now melt the chocolate and dip the tops of each macaroon into the melted chocolate. Let harden and serve.

So yes, I really enjoyed this meal … all of it, actually, and I hate macaroons. The bouillabaisse was really good all by itself but the sauce rouille really made the dish. I don't normally think of spicy food when I think of French food, so this was unexpectedly delicious. As for the millas, I don't know if this would really be the sort of thing you would eat with a bouillabaisse  (probably not), but I thought it went really well. It was really basic but the crispy texture was very pleasant and it had a nice buttery flavor, too.

Finally, the macaroons. I generally hate macaroons, because I just don't like coconut in sweet foods. Something about that flaky, chewy texture. But these macaroons were definitely an exception. They were very sweet and sticky and for some reason I didn't mind that texture at all. Maybe because there was also chocolate.

So there you go, my fake meal from Glorioso. At least it tasted good.

Next week: Goa, India

For printable versions of this week's recipes:

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Recipes from Gibraltar

Remember those "Rock of Gibraltar" commercials from the 80s? No? Oh that's right, you're not as old as I am.

Prudential Insurance had this series of "Rock of Gibraltar" commercials back then, the implication being that Big Rock=Strength. Or something. I guess that was supposed to make Prudential seem more trustworthy. Anyway, that was the sum total of my knowledge about Gibraltar until almost exactly this moment, give or take the week that's passed since I cooked my Gibraltarian meal. I thought Gibraltar was just a big rock, and that this was going to be another one of those Uninhabited Non-Country entries.

See what sorts of things I've learned doing this blog? Gibraltar is not in fact just that giant rock that Prudential turned into their logo, though that rock is Gibraltar's primary landmark.

Europa Point, Gibraltar. Photo by Flickr user cenz.
Located on the Iberian Peninsula at the entrance to the Mediterranean sea, Gibraltar is just 2.6 square miles. There is one city populated by about 30,000 people, located at the foot of that famous rock that I remember from those commercials. Technically, Gibraltar is a British Overseas Territory, though of course neighboring Spain likes to lay claim to it because countries always love to squabble over territories. Gibraltar does have its own constitution and for the most part governs its own affairs, though the UK still controls its defense and foreign relations.

Now normally countries and territories of such diminutive size are tough to find recipes for. But this time I lucked out and discovered a fabulous blog full of Gibraltarian recipes, though I did need a little help from Wikipedia in sorting out the traditional meals from the sort of on-this-site-because-I-like-them types of recipes. Though it was overall a wonderful source, there were very few introductions to any of the recipes so I had to cross reference dishes that I already knew were Gibraltarian in origin. Here's the menu I decided on:

Dionne's Rollitos
(from Mama Lottie's Gibraltarian Cooking)
  • 1 lb thinly sliced beef
  • 1 boiled egg, diced
  • 12 small green olives, diced
  • 2 slices york ham, diced (substitute prosciutto)
  • 1 tbsp parsley, minced
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
  • 4 cloves garlic, divided
  • 1 small red bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • White cooking wine
  • Olive oil
  • Almonds (optional)
Note: no measurements were provided for this recipe, so the measurements given above are my guesstimate.

(also from Mama Lottie's Gibraltarian Cooking)
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 1/2 cups chickpea flour
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
And on the side:

Stuffed Leeks
(also from Mama Lottie's Gibraltarian Cooking)
  • 2 slices smoked bacon, chopped
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 3 large leeks
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 1/4 cup shredded cheese (I used cheddar)
  • about 2 tbsp flour
  • 1 large potato
Most of the measurements in this recipe are also my guess. Of those measurements that were included, I kind of changed the proportions a little, too (the original recipe called for only one leek) since I wasn't sure how to make it work with the numbers given.

OK, so I wasn't able to completely verify this recipe as being Gibraltarian in origin, but it looked pretty danged tasty so I put it on the menu.

This is a very simple meal (yay!) Here's how it's done:

To make the calentita, first mix your chickpea flour with the water and salt and pepper. You will get a really thin batter (don't worry, that's what you want). Let sit for at least two hours, though three is better and overnight is preferable.

Preheat your oven to about 435 degrees. Now pour the olive oil into the bottom of a shallow oven pan. You want the oil covering the entire surface of the pan by about a millimeter. Put the pan into your oven and let the oil heat (but don't let it start smoking). When the oil is hot, pour in the batter.

Reduce the heat to 390 degrees and let bake for one hour or until the top turns a lovely brown-gold color.

Meanwhile, make your rolitos.

Mix the boiled egg with the olives and ham.

In a separate bowl, mix two of the garlic cloves with the salt, minced parsley and breadcrumbs.

Now heat a little oil in a frying pan and saute the onions, peppers and the remaining garlic over low heat.

While the vegetables are cooking, slice your meat up into strips about two or three inches wide. Make little balls out of the egg/olive/ham mixture, then dip into the beaten egg and roll in the breadcrumb mixture. Note: this gets pretty messy as the egg balls don't hold together very well. But persevere—it will be worth it.

Put each ball on one end of a meat strip and then roll up the strip and secure with toothpicks.

When all the rolls are done, place them in the pan with the vegetables (known as "refrito" in Gibraltar) and add a little white wine and the almonds, if using.

Let simmer until the meat is cooked to your liking.

And now for the leeks:

Cut the potatoes up into wedges, brush with olive oil and bake them at 390 degrees until they are soft all the way through.

Meanwhile, cut your leeks up into cylinders about two inches in length. Carefully push out the center layers of the leeks, leaving the outer two layers intact.

Chop up the center bits of your leeks and saute them with the onions, bacon and butter until soft (note: you'll probably have more leek than you can use). Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Mash the potato wedges and add them to the pan with the milk and cheese. Add enough flour to make a sticky paste.

Now stuff your leek tubes with the filling you just made. Cook at 350 degrees for five or 10 minutes, or until the filling starts to turn a little golden on top.

What we thought: I loved this meal. My kids did too, with a few exceptions. Most of them were scared off by the rollito filling. Most of them were also scared off by the outside part of the leeks, but not the filling. The grown-ups ate and liked all of it.

I thought the rollitos were very good and unusual, though I'm afraid I ended up overcooking mine a little. But with the vegetables these little meat rolls were very tasty and a nice balance of protein and veggie. I also loved the leeks, which were very reminiscent of one of my favorite soups (leek and potato), only much more suitable to the summer weather. Even Hailey liked these, though of  course she would never eat the actual leek itself. I didn't tell her that the leeks were also in the filling, which she devoured.

As for the calentita, the chickpea flour gave it a really unusual flavor and I loved the crispy texture. Dylan was probably the calentita's biggest fan: Martin even put some of the leftovers in his lunch to take to school the next day.

The best thing about this meal was that it was very unusual in style and definitely unique compared to other things I've eaten. I enjoy meals like this one because they really give me a taste of those far-away places and a reminder about why I do this every week.

Next week: The Glorioso Islands

For printable versions of this week's recipes:

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Recipes from Ghana

My poor kids. "Blog night" was once almost synonymous with "dessert." But now, Martin and I (well, mostly Martin) are trying to improve our eating habits (I bet you couldn't tell that based on last week's cholesterol-fest), and that means we've been avoiding desserts. So my kids get all the scary, often unidentifiable blog food without any reward. Poor babies.

In continuing with that particular tradition, this week we are in Ghana, an African nation that is roughly the size of the UK. Ghana is on the western coast of Africa and is bordered by Burkina Faso, the Ivory Coast and Togo.

If you're going to visit Africa, Ghana is a good place to put on your list. It's been politically stable since 2001, is democratic, reasonably well-off and ranks very well in terms of human development. This is the sort of place you go on a safari—the northern half of Ghana has those famous savannas and wildlife such as elephants, lions, hippos and hyenas. In the southern half, Ghana has great mineral and fossil fuel resources—petroleum, gold, diamonds, and perhaps most importantly, chocolate. Or, rather cocoa beans, which as you know are used to make chocolate.

Jungle Bridges, Tarkwa, Western Ghana. Photo Credit: BillBl

Ghana has more natural beauty than it probably knows what to do with: savannas, forests, waterfalls, caves, rivers, beaches, mountains and nature reserves. Its manmade beauty includes castles, ports, forts and harbors. I think I already want to go there.

And guess what, the food is pretty good too. Yeah, I think I definitely want to go there. Ghanaian food is quite diverse, ranging from seafood dishes to soups and stews, cornmeal-based breads and spicy condiments. During my research I found a ton of different recipes to choose from, but this time got wise and let my ever-suffering husband help me narrow down my menu. Here's what we came up with:

(from African Seer)
  • 3 lb chicken, cut into pieces (I used a 3-legged chicken, otherwise known as a grill-pack)
  • 1/2 onion
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp peanut oil
  • 1 cup onion, finely chopped
  • 1 cup tomatoes, chopped
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened peanut butter
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp ginger, grated
  • 2 hot chili peppers, crushed,
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen okra
  • 1 medium eggplant, peeled and cubed
  • 1/2 cup whole peanuts
And on the side:

Watchi (Black Eyed Peas and Rice)
(from Ghana Nation)
  • 1 cup dried black-eyed peas, soaked overnight
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 4 to 5 inch piece kombu (optional)
  • 3 cups cooked brown rice
  • Salt and freshly-ground black pepper to taste
For the sauce:
  • 1 tbsp canola oil
  • 1 heaping tbsp whole wheat flour
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 1 cup tomato paste
  • 1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
Now, if I was going to do a dessert I would have done this one: Coconut Halva. Just in the interests of full disclosure. But I have to say it was actually nice to have a two-recipe menu this week.

Here goes, starting with the watchi:

Soak the peas overnight. Or, if you forget, you can put them in a pot and cover with water, then bring to a boil. Let boil for two to three minutes, then remove from heat. Cover and let stand for an hour or two.

Now drain the beans and put them in a pot with enough fresh water to cover. The water level should be two or three inches above the peas. Add the bay leaf and kombu (I could have sworn I had some kombu, but I couldn't find it so I had to leave it out). Bring to a boil, then reduce heat. Cover the pot so the lid is slightly ajar and let simmer for one hour, or until the peas are tender. Keep checking and add more water if you need to. There should be very little water remaining when the peas are done.

Now throw out the bay leaf and kombu (if you were lucky enough to find yours), and add the cooked rice. Stir, adding salt and pepper to taste.

Meanwhile, make the sauce. Heat the oil in a large skillet and add flour to make a roux. Stirring constantly, cook the roux for two minutes or until it starts to brown. Now add the onion.

When the onion has browned, stir in the tomato paste and nutmeg.

Add a little water until you get a sauce, but don't let it get too soupy. Serve the peas and rice topped with the sauce.

Now for the chicken:

Put about two cups of water in a pot with the chicken pieces. Add the ginger and the half-onion (you don't need to chop it). 

In a separate pot, heat the oil and add the tomato paste. Cook over low heat for five minutes, then add the rest of the onion (this time chopped) and the tomatoes. Cook until the onions are translucent.

Now take the chicken pieces out of the other pot (they won't be cooked through yet) and put them in the pot with the onion mixture, along with about half the broth. Add the peanut butter, salt and hot chilies.

Let simmer for five minutes or so, then add the eggplant and okra. Keep on cooking until the chicken is done and the vegetables are tender. You can add broth as necessary to keep a stew-like consistency.

Serve with peanuts sprinkled on top.

OK before I tell you what we thought, I just want to add a quick note about okra. Okra is yucky. If you've ever eaten okra, you know where I'm coming from: cooked okra tends to be slimy. Why? Because there's actual slime in it. No kidding: it's called "mucilage" and it's the same stuff that comes out of aloe leaves.

So knowing that okra has something in it with the very unappetizing name "mucilage" did not make it easier for me to stomach the idea of eating it. So I figured there had to be some technique for reducing all that slime, and I was right. There are several techniques, actually, but here's the one I chose:

Put some oil in a pan and fry the sliced okra in it for a couple of minutes. Then add the juice of one lemon. The acidity in the lemon helps cut back on the slime. Did it work? Yes! But I still found the whole "mucilage" thing gross even though my okra was nice and slime-free.

Here's what we thought:

I really liked the stew, though it was quite reminiscent of other African peanut stews I've had in the past. And I was actually impressed by how good the okra was once the texture had been improved, although I still couldn't get the word "mucilage" out of my head.

The peas and rice were good too. The tomato sauce was really rich (a whole can of tomato paste explains that) so it was hard to taste much else. But the two dishes made for a nice meal, and not too unhealthy either! That's always a plus.

Anyway next week we're not going to have dessert either, but don't worry, I haven't sworn off it completely. When I find a really great, can't resist dessert recipe, you know I won't be able to stop myself from making it.

Next week: Gibraltar

For printable versions of this week's recipes:

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Recipes from Germany

After a decade of living in the San Francisco Bay Area, it was a bit of a shock to move here to Gold Country. I mean, it was great because we got out of the traffic, away from the obnoxiously high home prices, and into the (mostly) clean air. But the trade-off is that we are no longer living in a culturally-diverse place. Oh no, around here the two dominant cultures are Hippies and Cowboys. Oops, I hope I didn't just offend someone.

Anyway if I was still living in the Bay Area, I'd have a lot more opportunity to obtain recipes from people who have actually lived in the countries I write about. So I have to say that I was absolutely giddy about doing Germany, because one of the few people I know here in town (besides my husband) who wasn't born and raised in the US is my kids' German swim teacher.

Ina has been teaching my kids to swim since they were babies, in fact I kind of wish she was my nanny because my kids probably respect her more than they do me. Anyway Ina was kind enough to lend me her German cookbook, provide menu suggestions and share her awesome sauerkraut recipe with me. So besides being grateful that she's turned my kids into swimmers (currently their very favorite activity in the world) I am also grateful that she made this week's blog entry an awesome one.

Oberbaumbrücke, Berlin. Photo Credit: Mathias Liebing.

So in the tradition of Travel by Stove I have to start out by talking a little bit about Germany, which seems silly because most people know at least something about Germany—it's one of the major European nations. In fact Germany is the word's fourth-largest economy, a global leader in a number of technological and industrial sectors, and also the second-largest exporter of goods. Germans in general live very well—their country has a comprehensive social security system and a universal health care system that is the oldest in the world. Also, they have that one highway where there's no speed limit.

German food is good. If you don't believe me, ask the people who give out Michelin stars—with nine German restaurants receiving three stars (Michelin's highest designation) and 15 more with two stars, Germany is second only to France in the number of restaurants recognized in this way. So yeah, I had to get Germany right. Thank goodness for Ina. Here's the menu she gave me:

Bratwurst in Bier
(The recipe itself came from a German language recipe site called Kochbar)
  • 4-6 bratwurst sausages
  • 1 bottle malt beer
  • 4 tbsp gingerbread sauce (recipe follows)
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 tbsp margarine
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Sugar
  • Lemon juice
Yes, there is some weirdness in that recipe. More on that later.

Next, the gingerbread sauce, otherwise known as Lebkuchensoße:
(This recipe also came from Kochbar)
  • 3/4 cup chicken stock
  • 2 1/2 oz gingerbread
  • 1 oz walnuts, crushed
  • 2 tbsp lime juice
  • 2 chopped onions
  • Salt
  • Black pepper
  • Parsley
And on the side:

Kartoffelpuffer (Potato Pancakes)
(This one came from Ina's cookbook, entitled The New German Cookbook by Jean Anderson and Hedy Wurz)
  • 1 3/4 lbs baking potatoes, peeled and coarsely shredded
  • 1 medium yellow onion, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 5 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup corn oil
The German way to eat potato pancakes is with applesauce, so I also made this:

(I think this recipe is also from Kochbar, but I seem to have lost the source.)
  • 2 lbs apples (I used Granny Smith)
  • 1/2 cup apple juice
  • Cinnamon
  • Vanilla sugar
And finally, the crown jewel of this meal:

Ina's Sauerkraut
  • 1 large jar sauerkraut
  • 1 cube beef broth
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • Dry white wine
  • 1 apple, shredded (peel on)
  • 1/2 tsp caraway seed (optional)
  • 5 slices bacon, cut into small pieces
I made the gingerbread sauce first, so let's start there.

Now, as near as I can tell there are about 150 billion different ways to make gingerbread sauce, and they are all really, really different. This is one of the few I found that you don't make alongside some other dish (and hence from the juices of whatever you are cooking), so it's the one I went with. I had good results, but I don't really know if it was exactly correct. Anyway it's not difficult, and here's how:

Soak the gingerbread in the chicken stock for a few minutes, then add the walnuts and onions. Stir until the gingerbread breaks apart and you get a paste.

Heat a small amount of oil over a hot stove and saute the gingerbread paste until the onions become translucent. Add the lime, herbs and seasonings. That's it!

 Ew, not a very appetizing photo. Sorry.

Now for the brats:

Prick the sausages first so they don't burst, then brown them on both sides.

Turn the heat down to low, then add the margarine and the milk. Stir to combine, then pour in the beer and the gingerbread sauce.

 Add the salt, pepper, sugar and lemon juice and then bring to a simmer. Keep simmering until the sausages are cooked through.

Now if you're like me, you looked at this recipe and thought, "Hmm, if the milk doesn't curdle from the heat, it's going to curdle when I put the lemon juice in there." 'Cause you know, that's basically the recipe for paneer. But I did it anyway, because that's what the recipe said, and the milk curdled. It looked pretty awful so I banked on not really needing to have those curds in there and I strained the broth. My brats tasted awesome so I don't feel like it was the wrong move, but I still thought it was a bit strange.

Anyway next the applesauce, which is another simple, straightforward recipe:
Peel and core the apples. Roughly chop them and then put them in a large pot with the juice. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes or until soft.

Mash them with a potato masher and season to your liking with cinnamon and vanilla sugar. (By the way you can make vanilla sugar pretty easily by scraping the insides of one vanilla bean into about two cups of sugar, then mixing thoroughly).

Now the sauerkraut. Are you tired yet?

In a large pot, lightly brown the bacon, then add the onions and apple. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, covered, for about 5 minutes.

Add the sauerkraut and enough white wine to cover. Bring to a boil, then add the beef cube and the caraway seed. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 45 minutes to an hour. Adjust seasonings and wine to your liking. If you want your sauerkraut to be a little drier, take the lid off in the last few minutes of cooking, stirring frequently.

OK finally the potato pancakes. You definitely want to do these last, since the fresher they are the nicer they will taste. Here goes:

Put the potatoes in a large mixing bowl with the onion, flour and salt. Mix with your hands until well incorporated.

Heat the oil in a heavy skillet. To test readiness, drop a little bit of potato into the oil--if bubbles form, the oil is ready. Scoop up the potato mixture in 1/4 cup portions and drop onto the skillet. Flatten with your spatula to about 1/4 inch thickness.

Cook the pancakes for about 2 1/2 to 3 minutes on both sides, or until nicely brown and crisp in texture. Keep warm between layers of paper towels until ready to serve. Serve with the applesauce.

So we made a little party of this meal and invited some German-food-loving friends over. It got rave reviews, even from Martin who warned me in advance that he doesn't like bratwurst and then took one bite of the bratwurst and declared that it was delicious. My kids devoured those sausages like piranhas. In fact I should have made all 14 of the ones I had (maybe even more), and instead I unwisely opted for a round dozen.

Now I haven't had a ton of experience with sauerkraut but this was by far the best I've ever had. The bacon gave it some subtle smokiness and the wine just made it taste, you know, freaking yummy.

And the pancakes—I was really afraid I was making too many of them but there was not a pancake remaining by the time the meal was over. Topped with the applesauce they were really delicious. Like really, really delicious. My kids ate them in spite of the onions, which is really saying something.

Now yes, this was not a very diet-friendly meal. Oh no. I think I gained a pound just cooking it. But I would do this whole meal again, maybe in celebration of losing a bunch of weight or something (haha). This is definitely worthy of another evening-with-friends or just a nice once-in-a-while meal.

It's great when I find a gem, but even better when the whole meal is a gem!

Next week: Ghana

For printable versions of this week's recipes:

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