A sunday afternoon stroll through the old town of Stein am Rhein

Sunday, they stole 1hr of my beauty sleep last night! I feel crackered, only after a strong coffee I feel a bit better. Time to get some fresh air, it is a beautiful sunny day!
After a drive along almost unknown paths (highway is faster, ok, but then you miss villages like Niederwil, Oberwil, Neunforn, Stammheim etc.) we got to Stein am Rhein. Of course, we were not the only ones with that brilliant idea. But we found a parking spot right at the entrance of the old town. Stein has lots of nice restaurants, coffee shops and a variety of very special vintage shops for garden and house. And the nice thingis that all shops are open on sundays too! A rare fact in Switzerland:-)

The town has a well-preserved medieval centre, retaining the ancient street plan. The medieval part of the town is now a pedestrian zone and many of the medieval buildings are painted with beautiful frescoes. Here are some pictures I took. And if you should get hungry, there are a lot of nice restaurants specializing in fish plates along the river Rhine.

 

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Quick and isi dinner…comfort food!

Arrgghhh! It is snowing outside and ice cold! After two weeks of spring we are back to winter…I need comfort food! Here is my Sunday quick and isi dinner:

1 pack of dough for quiches, round or square
500 g fresh spinach which I had blanched yesterday, drained and kept in the fridge. You can also use frozen one, but defrost it before using it. No Creamy spinach, eh, just normal one!
100 g Gruyères cheese, grated
50 g cooked ham cut in tiny little cubes…ok, I bought them cut like that 😉
1 egg
1 dl milk
2 dl cream
Yes, you can also use just milk or just cream. You remember? I am clearing up my fridge today, so I use what is left.
Salt, pepper, chili powder, aniseed, nutmeg, oregano, thym

Unfold the dough and put it on a baking plate with a high enough rim. I used two plates of the size of my iPad Air. With a fork, make hundreds of little holes in the bottom of the dough..hundreds, if not more!
Preheat the oven to 180c, I know it is boring, always the same temperature!

Chop the spinach and drain the water if any more comes out. Mix the spinach with approx 50 g of the Gruyères and the ham cubes. Add the spices and herbs to your liking. The aniseed however is a must, it gives the pie the special flavour.
Crack the egg into a shaker, ideally without the shell, add the milk, the cream, some more spices. Careful, if the ham is salty, do not use any more salt.
Shake well. Fill the baking plates with spinach-cheese-ham mix and pour the egg-cream/milk mix on it. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on the pies. Bake for about 40mins.
Let it cool a few minutes before you eat it, but it definitely should be enjoyed while it is still hot.
Comfort food helps on a day like this!
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Amalf-isi Lemon & Almond Cake

One more, then I stop baking for a while. Next week will be busy and the week after I will finally be in Greece again…for work, but still looking very much forward to it, I will do a weekend “add-on”, stay tuned for my next travel report:-)
Ok, back to baking! Remember? I was at the Farmer’s Market and bought those fantastic lemons from Amalfi, so now they needed to be used, else ….
This is a recipe which could also be called: throw into the dough whatever you have left over from former baking/cooking
Me I used
120g sugar, white raw
3 eggs
100g butter
100g grind almonds
2 lemons, zest of 1, juice of 1 for the dough, juice of the 2nd for syrup
Vanilla sugar
125g blanc battu (nature yogurt, cream cheese works too)
1 teaspoon baking powder
170 g flour
2 tablespoons of sweet condensed milk (optional, I just had to finish that one too)
20g powder sugar

Pre-heat the oven to 180c.
Blend the sugar and eggs until creamy, add the soft butter in small pieces, stir until smooth, add lemon zest, juice of 1 lemon, condensed milk, blanc battu, stir again until smooth, add almonds, stir again, add flour, baking powder, vanilla sugar, stir again until smooth. The dough remains moist and fluffy, that’s okay, don’t worry!
Prepare a cake pan of aporox 28cm long, if you use those silicon-wonders, no need to butter it, if you are traditional like me, use baking paper to avoid the cake sticking to the pan.
Pour the dough into the cake pan, shake it softly so that the dough is evenly distributed. With a sharp knife, make a cut lengthwise in the middle of the dough, that will make it look very nice:-)

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Bake in oven for 55-60 minutes, use a toothpick to test if the cake is done..it will be, as soon as no more dough sticks to the toothpick.

Mix the lemon juice with the powder sugar and bring it to boil in a small pan, it should end up being a syrup. Then, remove the cake from the oven, let it cool a few minutes. With a toothpick or knife, make holes in the cake and drizzle the syrup into the holes and over the entire cake.
Let it dry in the pan for a few minutes, then remove the cake from the pan and let it cool.
Eat it today or tomorrow or in a few days, this cake remains fresh for quite a while.

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Cantucci-si alle mandorle e pistacchio

Cathy has asked me for my fav Cantucci recipe. I am far from baking the perfect ones, but then, when is a Cantucci a Cantucci and perfect? Try these and let me know how you lked them:
250 g white flour (type 00)
125 g sugar, me: white raw sugar, yes, that exists
2 eggs
50 g butter, taken out of fridge ahead of time*
4 g of dry yeast
A pinch of salt, a pinch of vanilla sugar or sugar that you mixed with lavender in a bowl and stored for a while, but only use the sugar, no lavender
90 g almonds, unpeeled
60 g pistacchios unsalted

Heat the oven to 180c. Roast the nuts for 3-4 minutes, let them cool completely. I use them entirely, you can chop them if you want, but not too much.
Now, you have two possibilities to make the dough, “a mano” or with the “wondermachine” called Kenwood Chef. Or whatever food processor you have at home;-)
Ok, let’s do it with my Chef…first mix eggs with sugar until creamy, add the butter which you have cut in cubes, continue to stir at low speed. Add salt, vanilla sugar. Mix yeast with flour and add to the egg-sugar cream in 3-4 portions. Not all at once, always stir until almost smooth, then add more flour. The dough remains very moist, now add the nuts and blend everything together, add a little bit of flour if it still seems too moist. It’s best if you use your hands instead of the food processor to finish the dough, form a ball at let it rest for a while.
Prepare a baking sheet. Form a kind of flat baguette of the dough, put it on the sheet and bake for twenty minutes. Take the “Cantuccibaguette” out and let it cool for a few minutes, then cut it diagonally in 1.5cm-wide Cantuccis. Put them back on the baking sheet and off they go to the oven for another 10-15 minutes (watch them, the thinner you cut them, the faster they are done).
Let them cool completely before you taste them! Enjoy them with a glass of Vin Santo, or just like that!

* my Daddy’s recommendation: if you read in recipes that you should melt butter in a pan and then add to the dough (any type), don’t follow that step, it kills your dough, instead, take it out of the fridge ahead of time, after 15 minutes it will be soft enough to be worked into the dough without cooking it first.

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Chitarrine ai carciofi isilino style

Not only did I get bear garlic at the farmer’s market, I also bought a few cute little artichokes, the small purple carciofini.
They can be prepared in different ways, I decided to make them with pasta.
So I cleaned the little devils, removed the outer tough leaves, cut them in half and did squeeze some lemon juice on them so that they do not turn brown.
In a pan, I heated my wonderful olive oil de Provence and added the artichokes and a few fresh garlic gloves. I did stir them until they started to get a brownish color, then I added 50g of bacon cubes and continued to fry the mix for 2-3 minutes.Then, in a glass I mixed about 1 tbl spoon of tomatoe puree with 2dl water and added that to the pan….careful, it may splash all around your kitchen..well, it did in mine:-)
I added salt, pepper and of course my Cretan Oregano, then lowered the temperature to a minimum, covered the pan and let simmer the artichokes for 10 minutes. I did add some more water, just to make sure they would really turn soft and not remain hard and bitter.
In a separate pan I did bring water to boil, added salt and the Chitarrine (kind of Spaghetti), of course, any other type goes too. And, never ever add oil to the water in which you cook your pasta, this is a no-go!!
After 5 minutes the pasta was perfectly cooked al dente, I drained the water and put the pasta into a large bowl, I added some chopped fresh italian parsley to the artichokes and topped the Chitarrine with them.
This is really a fast and simple recipe, and it is really very tasty!

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Fry artichokes with olive oil and garlic. Don’t buy cheap olive oil, extra native has its price but is worth it. It just tastes much better

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The pasta is close to “al dente” and the veggies ready.

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Et voilà…simple, fast, tasty.

My wine recommendation to accompany this dish:

Chianti Classico Riserva Il Poggiale di Castellare

The making of….bear garlic tagliatelle

My pasta maker…has spent a few years unused and today I thought it is time for a revival.
Yesterday, I have bought the first bunch of bear garlic of the season. I usually use it to make pesto with it, same recipe as with basil, just without garlic as it is garlicy enough.
Today, I used part of the chopped bear garlic for the pasta dough.
Recipe:
200 g flour Italian style 00
2 eggs
1 pinch of salt
1 teaspoon of extra vergin olive oil
1 tablespoon bear garlic chopped

Place the flour on a table, make a well in centre and crack the eggs into it. Add salt, olive oil and bear garlic. With a fork, stir the eggs, salt, olive oil and 1 tablespoon of finely chopped bear garlic until smooth. Now comes the fun part. With your fingers add flour to the mix, incorporating little at a time until you get a dough, it takes time, then, knead it at least for 10 minutes, this will develop the gluten in the flour, else the pasta will be flabby and soft, it will never be al dente!
Cover the dough well and store it in a cold place for one hour.

Now comes the pasta machine:
Cut small parts from the dough, roll them through the widest setting first, then smaller and smaller until it has reached the narrowest. Some people do use the narrowest setting right from the beginning, but in reality, it would be better to go step by step. It takes time and patience. Then roll the dough through the shaper of your choice. This time, the tagliatelle shaper. Then let the pasta dry. Since I have no fancy pasta dryer, I just spread them on baking paper and let them dry in the air.

Cooking: in salted water, if fresh about 3-5 mins, if you let them dry a few days/weeks 11mins, until they are al dente. Serve with any kind of sugo.

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Flour and eggs

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The dough

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The production