Käsfladen

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I discovered Käsfladen recently, on Karin’s food blog, The Austrian Dish. According to Karin, it’s a specialty from the mountainous western part of Austria.

In my mind, it’s like a cross between flamiche and focaccia, since the topping is a mixture of cheese, onions, and egg, but the dough is yeasted.

The cheese is the most important aspect to making Käsfladen; actually not less than three different cheeses. Recommended are Emmentaler, a mature mountain aged cheese, and one called Räßkäße – a spicy cheese from Vorarlberg in Switzerland.

This recipe was so intriguing to me, and I was a little bummed out not having discovered this specialty food while in Austria, but Karin said that it’s mostly sold at bakeries.

Well, then I knew I’d have to make it myself, although there was little chance of duplicating the cheeses, sadly.

Käsfladen, serves 2

150 grams flour
1 teaspoon instant yeast
Approximately 2 fluid ounces warm water
Pinch of salt
1 large onion
150 grams 3 different cheeses
1 egg
1 tablespoon milk
White pepper

Knead the flour, salt, yeast and warm water together to make a smooth dough. (I added a tablespoon of olive oil and a little more flour.) Let rise in a warm place for about 30 minutes.


In the meantime, chop the onion; set aside.

Grate the cheeses. I used Emmentaler, Gruyere, and Sternenberger Bergkase, from left to right.

Mix the onion with the grated cheese, the egg, milk, and pepper.


Spread the dough in a shallow greased baking dish like a gratin pan.

Cover with the onion and cheese mixture.

Place the dish in a cold oven, and bake at 180 degrees C for about 35 minutes. The top should be lightly golden.

Serve with a salad.

Obviously, I made a tomato salad, and it was a lovely pairing.

The Käsfladen is spectacular. I love the onions in it, as well as the white pepper, but the cheeses are wonderful. You can taste each one of them.

 

 

Pissaladière

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My first experience eating pissaladière was exquisite – an experience I knew I’d always remember.

It was May of 2002. My older daughter had just graduated from high school, and we took her and her sister on a tour of eastern France, from Nice in the south, ending in Paris two weeks later.

I’d always insisted that we would take the kids to Europe – anywhere in Europe – before they left home, and this was finally that trip. My husband had suggested we start with France because I’d lived there, and spoke some French still.

We booked the tour with Rick Steves – a tour company I highly recommend for many reasons. For one thing, there are only 24 people on these trips. For another, someone else does the driving for you and, the hotel reservations have been made and confirmed. And trust me, we are not “tour” people. Plus, half of the time, you’re on your own.

The name of Rick Steves tour company is Europe Through the Back Door. It’s not a traditional tour in that you get to see Europe as the Europeans do. Unless your specific tour focuses only on cities, you’re taken on back roads into villages and areas that the larger tours don’t and can’t take you. It’s very insightful and the experiences unique.

My husband and I have driven in Europe by ourselves, without a guide, but you miss out on a lot of information. Some friends I know are really good at studying before and during their trips, but my husband and I aren’t like that.

The tour guides for Rick Steves are incredibly knowledgeable people. You don’t work for him if you’re not skilled in the language, and passionate about the arts, the politics, history, and much more. We’ve also used Rick Steves in Italy, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Ireland, and Scotland.

So back in 2002, we began our Eastern France tour by visiting Vieux Nice. After two days, we headed out of the city to Èze and had a picnic. And that’s where our guide served us local specialties that included pissaladière, which you can see in the photo on the right.

So that was my first experience. The weather was perfect, the view just stunning, my family was there and happy, and we were finally all in France!

To recreate the pissaladière, I used the recipe in this cookbook.

I’ve seen recipes that use pizza dough and also puff pastry, but whatever kind of crust, caramelized onions, anchovies and Niçoise olives are always on top.


Pissaladière

Pastry
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) cold, unsalted butter
1 large egg
About 2 tablespoons ice water

Topping
Scant 2 tablespoons olive oil
2 pounds onions, thinly sliced (about 6 cups)
2 or 3 sprigs thyme
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon salt
Pinch of ground cloves
Water
20 – 25 small anchovy fillets
About 15 Niçoise or other small black olives

At least 2 hours before you wish to serve the tart, make the pastry: Place the flour and salt in a bowl. Use the coarse side of a box grater to grate the butter into the bowl, then toss with the flour.

Use a knife or pastry cutter to cut in the butter so that you have small buttery crumbs.

(Or, use a food processor!)

Break the egg into the bowl and mix in lightly with a fork. Add the ice water, starting with 2 tablespoons, tossing and mixing to moisten the flour. If necessary, add more water, just enough so that the dough comes together in a mass when you pull it together.

Transfer to a heavy plastic bag. Press from outside the bag to make a flat disk about 6 inches across. Seal well and refrigerate while you prepare the topping (the dough can be made up to 2 days ahead).

Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly oil a shallow 13-by-9-inch baking pan.

To prepare the topping, heat the olive oil in a large heavy skillet. Add the onions, thyme, bay leaf, salt, and cloves and cook over medium heat, turning frequently, until the onions wilt and soften.

Lower the heat slightly and continue to cook: After they release their liquid, the onions will soften further, but as the liquid evaporates, the onions may start to stick – add a little water as necessary to prevent sticking (1/4 cup, or perhaps a little more).

The whole cooking process will take about an hour.

When done, the onions will be very soft and sweet-tasting. Remove from the heat, and remove and discard the thyme sprigs and bay leaf. Set aside to cool to lukewarm.

While the onions are cooking, prepare the crust: Lightly flour a work surface and turn out the dough. Flatter the dough by banging on it with a lightly floured rolling pin, then roll it out to a rectangle a little larger than the baking pan, rolling from the center outward.

Transfer the dough to the baking pan and gently ease it into the corners. Trim off extra dough with a sharp knife. If necessary, use scraps of trimmings to patch any holes, pressing down on the edges of the patch to seal well. Prick the dough all over, about ten times, with a fork to prevent puffing, then line it with foil or parchment paper. Weight the foil with dried beans or pastry weights.


Bake the crust for about 10 minutes, until the edges are firm and just touched with color. Remove from the oven and remove the foil and weights.

Spread the cooked onions all over the bottom of the crust, then arrange the anchovies and olives on top.

Place the tart back in the oven and bake for about 15 minutes, until the edges are touched with brown and pulling away from the sides of the pan.

Let cool for at least 10 minutes and serve warm or at room temperature.

I served mine with a salad, topped with a basic vinaigrette and finely grated Parmesan.

The sweetness of the onions pairs so well with the salty anchovies and olives.

It’s truly a match made in culinary heaven.


And this crust was total perfection – delicate and flavorful.
Vive la France!

My Marinara

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I have to apologize. Seriously. To all of the people who followed me at the beginning when I was first writing this blog. I mean, I thought I was a good photographer. I really did. I had spent years taking pictures of my kids and my dogs. And I took lots of pictures on vacations. So that made me experienced, right?

Then came food photography, which comes along with having a cooking blog. I thought it would be fairly straight forward. Mostly because I was one of those who’d always taken photos of my food at restaurants, and photos at farmers’ markets. I certainly didn’t think I was a pro. But I didn’t realize how bad I was.

Maybe it’s for the best, because otherwise I maybe wouldn’t have pursued this blog. Because unfortunately, to have a cooking blog means you have to know how to cook, you need to be able to write, you must be a food stylist, and you have to take really good photographs. I had 2 out of 4 going for me. But like I said, ignorance is bliss.

I didn’t realize any of this until recently when I decided to look at some old posts of mine. And I nearly fell off my chair. I’m not kidding. I deleted at least 10 immediately, and then thought about perhaps saving some as future, upgraded posts. It wasn’t the subject matter, or the writing. It was those awful photos. What little there were of them.

But my marinara really is so good, and so easy to make, that I decided to offer up a new post on my marinara, but with better photos. So here it is. Hopefully you never saw the old one.

Marinara sauce is basically an Italian name for a red sauce that can contain quite a few ingredients, although never meat. Of course tomatoes are the base for the sauce, but other ingredients can include onions, garlic, celery, carrots, wine, and so forth.

My marinara sauce contains three ingredients. There might be some dead Italians rolling in their graves when I make my marinara sauce, but that’s ok. No two living Italians can agree on what a marinara sauce is comprised of, so I’m off the hook. And I can talk about Italians, dead or alive, because I’m half Italian. Sicilian, actually, but I’m throwing them in the same proverbial Italian pot.

Here’s my recipe:

My Marinara Sauce

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil*
5-6 garlic cloves, minced
8 ounces high quality tomato sauce
Pinch of salt

First, heat up the oil over medium heat in a medium-sized saucepan. Add the garlic.

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Stir gently and wait just until the oil warms the garlic and you can smell it, then immediately pour in the tomato sauce. This should only take about 30 seconds. This is my technique for sautéing garlic because I do not like the taste of burnt garlic, and garlic can burn quickly.

Stirring gently, heat the sauce and let it cook for about 10 minutes. It will thicken a little. (An inferior, more watery tomato sauce will take longer to thicken. If it’s too watery, try adding a little tomato paste.) Add the salt and stir.
marinara
And so, that’s it ! This sauce is fabulous for a chicken or veal Parmesan, simply with pasta, as a dip, or even as a pizza sauce.
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But it’s my favorite with any kind of pasta.

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And with chianti, because the San Genovese grape is perfectly with red sauce. Especially with this garlic-spicy one.
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If you don’t want to call it marinara, don’t. Just call it the best red sauce you’ve ever tasted. You’ll thank me!
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* Don’t be scared about the amount of olive oil in this sauce. It’s good for you and it adds a lot of good flavor, because you’re using good olive oil, right?