Saturday, October 31, 2009

French Cooking 101

My sweet friend, Adele, and I walk to school (our German language school) every day. I drive to her house in town and park in her parking spot, and we walk down to our school which is right in downtown Stuttgart. I love hearing about the yummy things that she cooks for her husband, and Zev and I have even been lucky to experience some of her cooking, whenever we have been invited to their house for dinner. And it is GOOD food too!! Anyway, on one of our walks, we came up with the hair-brained idea to host lunch at our house on a weekly basis, rotating from house to house every other week. The plan is teach each other how to cook a dish from our homeland (I get to choose from Australia AND the US!! I'm thinking about Mexican for our first round. Wooo hooo!!) This week Adele showed me how to make quiche- from scratch. We were talking about this plan one morning when she asked me how I like to make my "pastry" or crust for the quiche. I've never honestly made quiche before, so I said "make the crust? I just buy it. Don't you?" Hmmm, nope, she makes hers from scratch!! We invited our friend, Hend, to join us for lunch at Adele's house the day after the cooking lesson. It looks like Hend might join us in our cooking lesson round robin- I can't wait to learn how to cook some yummy Lebanese dishes! Zev likes this exercise too, because I bring him a sample of what we have cooked. Thanks for the lesson, Adele! I look forward to our next session!

Adele has the cutest kitchen- with lots of great accessories from Ikea and some very cool appliances.

I was on chopping detail.

Step 1: Make the crust.

Adele's super cool crust-maker-machine.

Looking good.

Isn't this a great idea to store your spices? The tins have magnetic bottoms.

Tomatoes from Adele's garden outside.

Adding water to the dough.

Kneading the dough.

Mise en place. (Adele that one's for you, from Zev ;-))

Creme Fraiche, Curry Powder and Riccotta Cheese.

Mix it all together.

Roll out the dough.

Line the tin with the crust.

Add a thin layer of "sharf senf". AKA "sharp mustard."

Start layering the ingredients.

Spoon in some of the egg mixture.

Keep repeating.

Add some riccotta cheese and ham to spice up the tomato layer.

Mushrooms from Adele's grandparent's farm in France- they may be a little hard to find in the US, but I am sure any mushroom will work ;-)

A light dusting of curry powder on one of the layers.

The finished product, ready for baking.
Voila -- DELICIOUS!!

Let's have lunch!

Don't forget dessert! Hend is a dietician (strawberries, cream, vanilla wafers) - it must be healthy!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Castles, culture...and a captive audience

Another good aspect of having family and friends come visit, is that they are usually very interested in the places you have to take and show them, and in the things you have to say about those places. Zev says that I love having a captive audience, especially when it comes to castles, and well, I do. A dear friend of mine, Trinity, who also lives here in Stuttgart, is as much a castle and history fan as I am, so I know that she will able to relate. She is also the resident expert on all things English, and we both love Phillipa Gregory's historical fiction novels....but I digress.....

Zev's parents returned back to that States, and it seriously seems like time just flew by. We saw and experienced so many things together, and I think that they really enjoyed their experience of Europe and will probably return for another visit! Their friends, Tom and Liz, joined us for the last week of their stay here, and we visited a few of the local castles and old towns near Stuttgart. Of course, for those of you who have visited us will remember, we took them to my personal favorite castle, Schloss Ludwigsburg, where we were treated to a wonderful and detailed tour in English. We also visited the beautiful old town of Tuebingen, where I hope to study next year (hence the German lessons!), as well as Zev's favorite castle, Schloss Hohenzollern. Really quite amazing works of architecture and art. The house seems strangely empty now that everyone is gone, but we have so many lovely memories and pictures to remember this visit by. Enjoy the pics and take care!

Every town in Germany has these awesome, personalized drainage grate covers- who would have thought that they could be so interesting!? Judy took this picture- she has a creative eye.

Hello Captive Audience and Welcome to Ludwigsburg. Your tour starts here. Zev, are you taking notes?

I love castles. I really do. They make me happy.

Zev likes cars. His dad too. Here is Dave testing out a model car in the Mercedes-Benz Museum.

The gate into Ludwigsburg Schloss. Zev and Dave are standing out the front.

Another gate. Imagine riding through this gate in your horse and carriage. Yes, I do think of these things...

Imagine getting married here. People do too. One time when we came, we saw 3 different bridal couples walking through the castle. It is quite large inside.

We ate lunch in a darling little German Restaurant and tried some local German specialities, such as spaetzle (very typical for the area of Germany that we live in- the "Schwaebish" region), as well as some goulash and other yummy things. Sehr gut!

Inside the restaurant. Loved the Fall colors and decorations. I am really interested in decorating for the season all of a sudden this year. Must be the influence of the fall colors on the trees outside- very pretty!

Outside the restaurant.

Inside the castle- one of the bedrooms on the Queen's "side". Back "in the day" the King had one "wing" of the castle, the Queen had the other "wing." The King had 3 "steps" leading up to his throne, the Queen had two. Hmmm. BUT the queen DID have these adorable "plumes" on all four corners of her throne. Very girly if I may say so myself. As is this color. I would personally miss my husband and get cold at night if I was a Queen living in this castle, but luckily for me, I don't have to worry about that. Side note of interest, Tom asked the tour guide about bathrooms "back in the day." You can actually see the bathroom or toilet used "back in the day" in this you see it? I'll give you a hint. It is white with silver vertical stripes and if you look very closely, you can see a "pot" hanging out from underneath. Yes, indeed.

Game of chess anyone?

I must give credit where credit is due- Judy took all these wonderful pictures except of course this one. She is standing in an alcove above the garden of Ludwigsburg.

The back of "Favorite Schloss" which was primarily used by the King as a hunting palace. As Zev would say "it's good to be the King." You can see still wild deer and other animals in the grounds near this castle.

One of the world's largest pumpkin festivals was happening on the grounds of Ludwigsburg Castle. This giant pumpkin carriage is meant to be like the carriage from "Cinderella." Also on the grounds is "Rapunzel's Tower" complete with a long blonde "braid" with a red bow that children can pull on in order for Rapunzel to "let down her hair." Do you see why I love this fairyland!?

A picture of a water fountain in Tuebingen, taken by Judy. I really love the town of Tuebingen, because of the "stories" behind every corner, and down every alley. The University of Tuebingen is over 500 years old, and I am hoping and praying to study law, in a course designed especially for foreign lawyers there next Fall.

Someone actually lives in this house/ tower. Isn't it adorable? It is 2 minutes from the castle in Tuebingen and from gorgeous downtown Tuebingen. I love it. Every time I pass this house, I think "Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair."

Rapunzel's front door.

I am already getting ideas for next year's flower boxes...

Judy and I at the "Hohentuebingen" Castle. The building behind us is part of the University's School of Archeology. They hold artifact replicas in another wing of the castle. Imagine going to school here!? (The Law School is not located in the castle, but still in a lovely building down the road.)

Good thing we brought umbrellas with us, hey Liz!?

Picture of Tom taking a picture- in front of Tuebingen's Rathaus. The artwork on the facade is absolutely exquisite.

Flower lady at the market.

Downtown Tuebingen- the Neckar River.

A classic picture of the river houses.

We visited Hohenzollern Castle in the afternoon, after a morning in Tuebingen. This is the entry up to the castle, and the driveway winds up a very scenic route.

The fog and mist added to the whole "castle-on-a-big-hill" experience. It looked really cool (and rather imposing) as we were driving up to it. Like something right out of the movies. A real prince still owns this castle- well his family does. And the tour guide never forgets to mention that he is 33 years old and apparently good looking AND has a heart for others- he does charity work in Guatemala. He spends his summers in his private residence at Hohenzollern Castle and the rest of the year at his residence in Berlin. He needs to meet my single girlfriends!! As Zev would say "it's good to be the King" (or Prince in this case).

Inside one of the rooms in Hohenzollern Castle.

This dress was worn by a Queen that lived in Hohenzollern Castle, Queen Luise. According to a short biography I read of Queen Luise, she was the Queen of Prussia, and lived from 1776 to 1810. Queen Luise was renowned for her beauty but also her intellect. She was a pretty spunky young lady- she muscled up to Napoleon once in a meeting which he later described as "having to defend myself stoutly" in his conversation with Queen Luise (who had arranged a meeting with Napoleon to plead for his army to leave the Kingdom of Prussie Kingdom alone. She wore this dress which is embroided with silver (and must have weighed a tonne!!) for her meeting with Napoleon.

A close-up of the detail in the silver embroidery (which has tarnished over time).

The military "jacket" worn by Queen Luise, who I might add, bore 10 children by the age of her untimely death at 34.

Tom surprised us all by buying us these decadent cake slices from a bakery near Hohenzollern Castle. A lovely way to end the day and reflect on the memories.