Life's little trinkets

For some odd reason, I awoke today thinking about filo dough. I used to make these delicious sweet dessert cigars by brushing sheets of filo with butter, sprinkling with sugar and perhaps a dash of cinnamon, loosely rolling up and baking till golden and flaky. Mmm, so simple, so good and light, and the house perfumed with a lovely spicy caramel scent. Ah, those were the days -- the days when I ate anything and everything made with flour. The good ol' days....kinda. They weren't good to my intestines and skin, but my tastebuds sure went nutso ;)

I'm not aware of a gluten free filo dough, so I tried to think of something else that I might make to sweeten my day. I used to make a delicious flourless chocolate nut cake, long before I knew I needed to be gluten free. Lots of German, and other European, Kuchen and Torten are made substituting ground nuts for flour and this cake uses almonds and bread crumbs.

But, I'm tired today and making a cake today just seemed to require too much effort. So my mind switched gears to cookies: almond cookies, spicy cookies, chewy cookies. Argh, too many choices but my palate had something specific in mind and, after a bit of pulling mental files, settled on a cookie I'd actually only tried making once before: Brunsli, Swiss almond cookies. My mom had received a beautiful, 10-volume collection of recipes called Menü many moons ago. The photos were to die for and I'd spend hours curled up with a single volume, dreaming and salivating over the incredible culinary offerings which ranged from Aal blau (poached eel) to Zigeunerspieβe (gypsy kababs).

My sister and I tried out a lovely apple soup with buttery croutons one time and thought we were the most innovative chefs we knew.....all at the tender ages of 13 and 14. I made the sugar-sprinkled, yeasted Butterkuchen till I couldn't fit in my jeans anymore, as well as all kinds of Tyrolean and Bavarian rye breads, homemade whipped cream, and mixed drinks. Menü had it all.

My mom made sure we were exposed to all kinds of foods at an early age (herzlichsten Dank, Mutti!!!): sukiyaki, homemade sourdough breads, pilafs, imam bayildi, among others, were things she picked up from friends and acquaintances overseas and made for us on a regular basis, along with potato Knödel, delicious tortes, yogurts. I grew up eating food that I thought was totally normal every day stuff, till kids came over and commented on how "weird" our food was. Actually, we were just lightyears ahead with the "fusion cusisine" idea.

And then my uncle introduced me to all kinds of goodies like Vanillesteak, a wonderfully seasoned steak with spicy cognac sauce and topped with a small scoop of....vanilla ice cream. It was absolute perfection!! He kept caviar and Krimsekt in his fridge and made Rumtopf and his own Lebkuchen.

And my Oma, who made the best Zwiebelfleisch and Zwetschgendatschi (plum tart with buttercrust, not yeast dough), and the absolute best blueberry crepes, using fresh-picked tiny forest blueberries and palm oil. Between my uncle, my grandmother, and my mom, it seems that every gustatory delight was covered.

Wow, I have been eating the best food all my life!!! And I know that son A appreciates that I used to take the babyfood grinder with me wherever we went. Whatever we were eating, he got some too: Indian, Vietnamese, Ethiopian, Thai, German, Italian, Korean. Now he eats anything and everything. I remember bringing him lunch at school: spicy Korean octopus with sticky rice. All the other kids' eyes were popping out as he flashed the fiery red-sauced tentacles at them :) Can't you just hear a school cafeteria full of 4th grade boys and their reaction to octopus?!?!

For lunch today, we had spicy cabbage with peas and tomatoes, served with brown rice and yogurt, and some spicy tofu I picked up at my local Korean grocers (yummy -- need to figure out how to make it). The cabbage is based on a dish I read about in a Dallas paper probably 15 years ago. I believe it comes from a microwave Indian cookbook that was featured in the newspaper, the author(s) and book title which I unfortunately don't know and can't acknowledge.

The cabbage was so good, the house perfumed deliciously with spice, that the Brunsli making got pushed aside.....they'll surface another day. 2009 will be here for a while....enjoy each day :)

Spicy Cabbage with Peas and Tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon black pepper corns
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons ghee or coconut oil
2 teaspoons chili garlic paste
2 cups chopped tomatoes
1 cabbage, thinly sliced
1 cup green peas

Grind together the black pepper corns, cumin seeds, cardamom, cloves, and coriander. Mix in the smoked paprika, turmeric, and salt. Set aside.

In a large pot, heat the ghee or coconut oil over medium heat. Add the chili garlic paste and spices, stirring for a minute, then add the tomatoes. Cook this mixture for about 5 minutes.

Add the cabbage and green peas, stirring till coated with the tomatoes. Cover, lower heat a bit, and cook another 15 minutes or so.

This is wonderful with rice, mashed potatoes, in a wrap, alone, as part of a larger meal.....just plain delicious. Enjoy and if you know where the original recipe is, please let me know.




1 comment:

  1. Leave it to you to come up with a name like that...charivari! Hmm, that conjures up half a century-plus of memories, discombobulated ones no doubt, but as genuine, intricate, mysterious and shiny as the Silber Taler collection of Grossvater's prize possession. I love it and I love you!

    Keep it up, Bella, Johann L. would have so loved to read that!

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