Greek Flammkuchen (Feta cheese, green olives, spinach, red onions, dried Basil)
Pre-heat the oven to 450°F (230°C).
Place the prepared dough on a pizza stone or oven rack covered with baking paper.
Spread crème fraiche evenly onto dough, leaving 1/2 inch of outer edges free.
Sprinkle salt and pepper to taste on top of the crème fraiche.
Sprinkle the chopped onions evenly over the crème fraiche.
Next sprinkle the pancetta bits on top of the crust.
Place the Flammkuchen in the pre-heated oven and bake for about 8-10 minutes or until crust is crispy, but not too burnt.
Garnish with fresh or dried thyme.
Note: As oven temperatures vary, you’ll need to carefully watch the Flammkuchen or it will indeed be a burnt mess – baked in the flames.
Classic Red Beans and Rice Recipe
This New Orleans classic red beans and rice recipe will take about two-three hours to cook, but so worth the wait. I omitted the ham bone and cook the dish with Andouille sausage (spicy sausage) which is easier to come by in Germany and adds mega flavor. Add the holy trinity, cook the beans until creamy, service over white rice on a Monday (or any day).
You can also make a vegetarian version and omit the sausage. Either way you too can enjoy the flavor of classic Red Beans and Rice when you’re not in New Orleans.
Red Beans and Rice Recipe
Ingredients (Makes 8 servings)
1 pound dried red beans, rinsed and sorted over (the bad beans will quickly float to the top)
1 large smoked ham hock or 3/4 lb. smoked ham, diced (Optional for vegetarians)
1 pound Andouille or spicy sausage, sliced in half and then into 1 inch pieces (Optional)
4-6 cups water
4 cups cooked long-grain white rice (Preferably Louisiana rice)
Hot sauce (Preferably Louisiana hot sauce)
On Sunday evening, cover the beans with water and soak in a large pot of water overnight.
On Monday morning, exchange the water (to reduce flatulence) and boil the beans until the water is rolling, for about 1 hour ensuring the beans are always covered with water.
Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the Holy Trinity (onion, celery, and bell pepper) and celery and cook for about for 3 to 4 minutes until ingredients are translucent.
Add the garlic to the vegetables and sauté for about 4 minutes being careful not to burn the garlic.
Add the seasonings, vegetables, and smoked sausage to the large pot of beans and add enough water to cover the beans.
Simmer for about 2 hours adding more seasonings as desired and stirring occasionally so the nothing burns or sticks to the bottom of the pot.
After a few hours, the beans should become creamy. If not, remove them from the heat and with the back of a heavy spoon, mash about 1/4 of the beans against the side of the pot. Continue to cook until the beans are tender and creamy, about 15 to 20 minutes adding water if required.
Remove beans from the heat and remove the bay leaves.
Serve over steamed Louisiana rice and top with chopped green onions.
Monday is Red Beans and Rice Day
Red Beans and Rice Day
During my time living and studying in New Orleans, I always wondered why my friends would anticipate their mother’s or grandmother’s meals at the beginning of the work week. That’s because Monday is Red Beans and Rice Day in the Crescent City.
Whether served up at home or as the Monday special at many of the New Orleans restaurants, there’s nothing like a pot of slow cooked creamy red beans. Just serve them over rice and top with a few dashes of Louisiana hot sauce. It’s pure Cajun and Creole heaven!
They’re so good Louis Armstrong not only ate them, but he signed his name,
“Red Beans and Ricely Yours, Louis Armstrong!”
So why do we eat the Louisiana Creole dish on Mondays?
Traditionally on Sunday a ham was served for supper after church. You probably remember having a big meal every Sunday at Grandma’s, right? Since the following day Monday was laundry day and during those times people didn’t have washing machines a low-fuss meal needed to be prepared.
You see, the ladies of the house (generally house maids) had to scrub the family’s clothes by hand, often having to boil the garments and then use a crank and wringer to dry them as much as possible in preparation for hanging them on the clothes line.
As you can imagine, there wasn’t much time to cook a meal, let alone a fancy one. Therefore, the women would soak the red beans overnight, put a pot of beans on the stove; including the “The Holy Trinity“, a few other simple ingredients, as well as Sunday dinner’s ham bone. Voila! The laundry was cleand and a filling and low-cost delicious meal was ready for supper on Monday evening.
Who Brought Red Beans to New Orleans?
Red beans were most likely first introduced in New Orleans when sugar plantation owners fled Saint-Dominge (Haiti) for Louisiana after the Haitian slaves revolted in the 1790s. The old Haitian recipe Riz et Pois Rouges mirrors the red beans and rice recipes that slaves either cooked for themselves or their slave master’s families. The dish is called Arroz con habichuela in Spanish-speaking countries, such Spain, Cuban, Puerto Rico, and Dominican Republic, and is also a popular staple meal. You’ll even find varieties in Jamaica and India too.
While traditional New Orleans cuisine is thought to be spicy (namely Cajun and less often Creole dishes) red beans and rice are rather mild, so you’ll always find a large bottle of Louisiana hot sauce on the table if you want to add some kick.
It’s almost Monday wherever you are in the world, so how about cooking a pot of Red Beans and Rice ?
French Epiphany Cake Recipe (Galette des rois)
French Epiphany Cake Recipe
Today is January 6th Epiphany, marking the visit of the Magi to the Christ child. People all over the world people are celebrating Epiphany by baking cakes and celebrating the holiday with friends and family members. In thousands of lucky homes a delicious warm French Epiphany Cake or galette des rois (kings’s tart) will be served.
While living in New Orleans, to celebrate Epiphany or the beginning of the Carnival, I traditionally bought or baked a Mardi Gras King Cake, but today I decided to bake a galette des rois.
I should be taking down the Christmas decorations but baking is so much more fun 🙂
The French Epiphany cake galette des rois is a light dessert made of puff-pastry filled with a creamy frangipane (almond paste). The cake is relatively easy to make requiring about one hour of time from start to finish.
Epiphany Cake Traditions
The Epiphany Cake is served to celebrate the feast of Epiphany or Twelfth night marking the end of Christmas when the Magi brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to the Christ Child Jesus. There is a tradition dating back to the middle ages that after the cake is served, the last piece (“piece for poor” or “piece for the virgin”) is reserved for the first needy person knocking at your door. It’s not likely to happen, so I follow the second tradition.
In every French Epiphany or Mardi Gras cake there’s a little surprise hidden inside. In France it’s a fava bean (fève) or trinket (santon). In New Orleans a baby Jesus figurine is hidden in the colorful cake to symbolize rebirth or renewal. The person who gets the piece with the trinket is declared king or queen, gets to wear the crown, and should buy the next cake.
I wore the crown last year, so this year I’m baking a French Epiphany cake to see who will become king or queen in my home today.
French Epiphany Cake Recipe (Galette des rois)
500 grams (1 lb 2 ounces) ready-made puff pastry
100 grams (4 ounces) finely ground almonds
75 grams (3 ounces) sugar
50 grams (2 ounces) softened butter
2 medium eggs
1 teaspoon French Cognac (optional)
1 bean (fève), almond, or santon (figurine)
Pre-heat the oven to 210 Celsius (410 Fahrenheit).
Divide the pasty in two parts. Roll out each to a circle about 23 cm (9 inches) wide or size of your pie pan.
By hand or using a stand mixer, mix the almonds, sugar, butter, one egg, and Cognac until a smooth paste is formed.
Place the first circle on the non-stick pie dish and spread the paste evenly across but not too close to the edges.
Place a fève or figurine on top of the paste near the outer edge.
Carefully place the second disk on top and seal the two edges with a fork.
Brush the top with the egg yolk and decorate by making a swirl pattern using a knife.
Bake for 30 minutes or until golden.
Before serving a warm slice of French Epiphany Cake Recipe (Galette des rois), warn your guests of the trinket to avoid an unnecessary visit to the dentist.
Mexican Wedding Cakes Recipe
I wonder when the holiday baking period officially ends. After Christmas or before New Year’s Eve? Does it ends on January 6th to celebrate Epiphany? In our home the holiday baking will continue for a while because baking and cooking actually relax me. I know, I’m weird like that.
The other day I had a sweet idea to invite the family over for dessert after our post-Christmas lunch at as local resturant. To continue the holiday celebration I’m serving an international array of sweets. A French Gateau au Chocolat, an American apple pie, a plate of German Spekulatius cookies, and last but not least, Mexican Wedding Cakes.
No, no one is getting married (at least not that I know of), but I want to celebrate a sweet Christmas with the family by serving Mexican Wedding Cakes in contrast to the multi-tiered conventional wedding cake.
History of Mexican Wedding Cakes
Mexican Wedding Cakes are actually bite-sized cookies traditionally served at special occasions such as weddings and christenings. The recipe calls for rich ingredients such as butter and sugar which in years past was normally reserved for significant events.
In Mexico the sugar cookie became popular following Spanish colonization in the 16th century. Some food historians believe these types of cookies and cakes derive from Moorish traditions that spread through Europe and eventually reached the Americas.
Other historians say Mexican wedding cakes may have migrated to Mexico with European nuns, or may have been associated with cookies served beside Russian samovars (tea urns).
Somehow, someway the cookie recipe traveled far and wide.
One Cookie, One World
Across the world, the basic recipe includes butter, powdered sugar, flour, finely chopped nuts, and the best pure vanilla extract you can find. The shape varies from round and flat to crescent-shaped.
The cookie name on the other hand is quite diverse depending on the country. You’ll find them called Russian Tea Cakes, Mandulás kifli (Hungary), Polvorones (Spain), Finska kakor (Finland), and Napoleonshatte (Danish) and the list of names go on.
Holiday celebrations will continue for a few weeks, so I won’t end my holiday baking right away. The Mexican Wedding Cake cookies are easy to make and your guests will really love the powdery melt-in-your mouth cookie.
Mexican Wedding Cakes Recipe
Butter and nuts and vanilla to spice, melt in your mouth Mexican Wedding Cakes, are heavenly nice!
Cookie Ingredients (Makes about 50 cookies)
1 cup (105 grams) nuts (almonds, pecans, walnuts, or hazelnuts)
1 cup (227 grams) unsalted butter (high fat content European-style) cut into teaspoon sized cubes, room temperature
1/2 cup (30 grams) confectioners’ (powdered or icing) sugar
2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups minus 2 tablespoons (255 grams) all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons flour (for grinding the nuts)
Sugar Dusting Ingredients
1 cup (120 grams) powdered (icing or confectioners) sugar, sifted
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C) and place rack in center of oven.
Place nuts on a baking sheet and bake until lightly brown, about 8 minutes. Allow the nuts to cool completely.
Place nuts and 2 tablespoons (25 grams) of flour into your food processor. Pulsate until the nuts are finely ground (being careful not to form a paste).
In your stand mixer (hand or electric mixer), beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy (about 3 minutes). Add the vanilla extract and baste. Add the remaining flour, salt, and cinnamon and beat until combined. Stir in the ground nuts.
Cover and refrigerate the dough until firm (about 60 minutes).
Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
Using a large melon baller, take the approximate amount of dough needed to form the chilled dough into balls about 1 inch (2.5 cm). Place them 2 inches (5 cm) apart on the prepared baking sheets.
Bake for about 8-11 minutes, or until the edges of the cookies just begin to turn light brown.
Remove the cookies from the oven and carefully place them on a wire rack to cool for about 5 minutes.
Place 1 cup (120 grams) of sifted confectioners’ sugar on a flat plate or in a bowl. Work quickly and roll the hot cookies in the sugar, one at a time using a spoon or knife to cover them completely. Alternatively, you can sift confectioners’ sugar directly onto the cookies.
Place the cookies on a wire rack to cool completely before storing (in an airtight container).
Before serving you may want to dust the cookies again using sifted confectioners’ sugar.