Focus on Food

Focus on Food

“Midsommar” in the Pines

Scandi-style potato salad for summertime festivities

Story and Photograph by Rose Shewey

Midsummer, which marks the longest day and shortest night of the year, is quite possibly the least eventful, most anticlimactic holiday in our neck of the woods. With our proximity to the equator, we gain a modest three hours of daylight in the first part of the year until we hit the summer solstice, and an imperceptible reversal begins. On the bright side, quite literally, our winters are sufficiently sunlit to stave off any form of seasonal depression, so we have that going for ourselves.

Meanwhile, midsummer is nothing short of spectacular in other parts of the world — above the Arctic Circle and the northernmost parts of Scandinavia, Canada and Alaska never lose daylight during this time of the year. In my home pastures of Germany, the sun doesn’t set until almost 10 p.m. during the summer months.

Even though midsummer, or “midsommar,” as it is known throughout northern Europe, has been celebrated in many cultures across the globe, Sweden, Norway and Denmark take the cake when it comes to honoring this day. City dwellers will migrate to the countryside. There will be picnics, bonfires and nights reveling under the open sky; girls will wear flower crowns and dance around the midsommar pole into the wee hours.

At the mention of Sweden, if anything in terms of food comes to mind, it’s usually “Köttbullar” — Swedish meatballs. In part, this is owed to the blue- and yellow-logoed furniture chain that popularized this dish throughout the world. Sweden has many other national delicacies on the menu, though. Especially popular during the summertime is potato salad seasoned with dill pesto. With an abundance of dill, which grows rampantly in northern Europe, and coastal areas supplying fresh fish, it’s a logical step to mince dill into pesto and get creative with it. Dill has a brilliantly fresh, citrusy aroma that pairs incredibly well with seafood — but also makes a stunningly flavorful potato salad.

So, whether you add smoked salmon to this dill pesto potato salad or serve it with boiled eggs as a light lunch or dinner, it has the potential of becoming your new summertime (or year-round) favorite.

Dill Pesto Potato Salad

(Serves 4, as a side dish)

Ingredients

18 ounces cooked new potatoes (skin on)

1 bunch fresh dill

2-3 cloves garlic, peeled

3/4 cup walnuts, almonds or pignolias, chopped

Dash of lemon juice

2 ounces Västerbotten cheese (or Parmesan), grated

80-120 milliliters extra-virgin olive oil

 

Remove tough stems from the dill, discard the stems and add dill to a food processor together with garlic, nuts and lemon juice. Chop roughly, then add cheese and a little bit of olive oil at a time and pulse until you have a thick paste. Add more olive oil for a smoother, sauce-like pesto. In a large bowl, combine potatoes and pesto. Mix until potatoes are well coated and serve right away.   PS

German native Rose Shewey is a food stylist and food photographer. To see more of her work visit her website, suessholz.com.

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Focus on Food

Spill It!

Berry-infused herbal iced tea

Story and Photograph by Rose Shewey

This summer, I plan on adapting the most iconic of all Southern traditions. My goal is to have a jug of iced tea chilling in the fridge at all times, ready to be served to anyone knocking on the door of my screened-in porch, honoring that Southern hospitality I’ve come to appreciate so much.

As someone who is notoriously sensitive to substances of any kind (kombucha on an empty stomach has me buzzed), I had to lay off the caffeine recently which, naturally, disqualifies coffee, but also caffeinated teas. So, black tea is out for me. While everyone’s favorite champagne of teas —  Darjeeling — or any of the other black tea varieties have never been my top choice to begin with, I do enjoy caffeine-free herbal teas with a glowing passion. Not only have herbs helped me heal a number of ailments throughout my life, many herbal teas have the most delightful aroma and are just plain delicious in all their earthy, sweet goodness.

While tea — black, herbal or otherwise — isn’t for everyone, even the staunchest tea opponents (mainly devoted coffee drinkers) will come around to it when tea is served the Southern way: ice cold with a hint (or heaps) of sugar, preferably on a hot summer’s day. If the conditions are right, it doesn’t even matter what variety of tea is served. As long as ice cubes chink and tumblers glisten, bottoms will go up.

Apart from using the best quality leaves available to you, there is one other significant way to elevate your tea-brewing game: collecting water from a pristine source. My mom, to this day, will hike into the woods outside the village where I grew up to bottle the purest mountain spring water that comes spluttering down between moss-covered rocks. In lieu of that, filtered water will do the job. The bottom line is, quality ingredients will make a quality product. Whether you prefer a hot brew, cold brew or whimsical “sun tea,” pour it over ice, add seasonal fruit and enjoy a quintessential part of Southern living.

 

Strawberry Hibiscus Iced Tea

(Makes 2 servings)

Ingredients

1 quart filtered water

5-6 teaspoons dried hibiscus flowers

200 grams (roughly 1 cup) frozen strawberries

Sweetener of choice, such as honey, granulated sugar or maple syrup, to taste

Ice and fresh strawberries, for serving

 

Bring water to a boil. Place dried hibiscus flowers and frozen strawberries in a large jar (bigger than a quart). Remove water from heat and pour over hibiscus and strawberries. Mash strawberries and allow to steep for 6-8 minutes, then strain liquid into a pitcher. Refrigerate and serve over ice with sweetener of choice and fresh strawberries.

For a more intense strawberry flavor, steep the tea without strawberries for 6-8 minutes, strain, then add strawberries, mash and infuse for several hours or overnight, and strain one final time before serving.  PS

German native Rose Shewey is a food stylist and food photographer. To see more of her work visit her website, suessholz.com.

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Hold the Sugar

The sweet, sweet world of cakes and frosting

Story and Photograph by Rose Shewey

American buttercream frosting is what happens when you leave your toddler unattended in the kitchen with access to baking supplies. Too harsh? Well, let’s look at the basic recipe together. To frost a medium-sized layer cake, you need about 2 cups of butter mixed with — brace yourselves — 2 whole pounds of powdered sugar. That’s two bags of sugar! I’m genuinely curious who the first baker was to not just contemplate this mélange, but actually go through with it. It would never cross my mind to use even one-half the amount of sugar this recipe calls for in pretty much anything — mainly because I like to taste flavors other than, you know, tooth-achingly sweet. In case you were wondering, American buttercream is practically what is referred to as “mock cream.” Enough said.

Now that I have trampled all over your family tradition, you might be wondering: What frosting could possibly be better than the one Nana has been making for over half a century? It depends on what you need it for — “better” being a relative and subjective term anyway. To make a stable cream takes a bit more effort, involving more ingredients and equipment (a double boiler, for example), which can be intimidating to some. Frankly, though, I have relied on various types of simple, fluffy, cream-based frostings or, more recently, cake creams made with silky, rich mascarpone, for all sorts of frosting endeavors, and for layering cakes. Mascarpone holds up wonderfully at room temperature. It wouldn’t be my first choice at a sweltering midsummer picnic, but then again, what doesn’t sweat, melt or disintegrate when Dante’s Inferno takes hold in North Carolina during July and August? Exactly.

While actual cake recipe options can be a bit overwhelming, I tend to stick with my top three tried and true choices, one of them being this grain- and gluten-free cake recipe that stays fresh and dewy for many days thanks to the addition of yogurt. I have adapted this recipe many times over but this lemony, sunshiny variation — my tribute to springtime — is a family favorite. Goodbye winter, hello spring!

Gluten Free Lemon Cake with Mascarpone Cream

(Makes 10-12 servings)

Cake ingredients

4 eggs

3/4 cup full-fat milk

1/2 cup yogurt

1/2 cup coconut oil, melted and cooled

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

3 cups almond flour

1 cup tapioca flour

1/4 cup coconut flour

3/4 cup granulated sugar

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

zest of one organic lemon

Frosting ingredients

16 ounces heavy whipping cream

1/2 to 3/4 cup powdered sugar, to taste

16 ounces mascarpone cheese

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon lemon zest (optional)

Preheat your oven to 350F and line the bottom of two 6-inch springform cake pans with parchment paper. Grease the sides, if needed. Add all wet ingredients to a large bowl and whisk until smooth. In a separate bowl, combine all dry ingredients, then add the entire contents to the wet ingredients. Stir to combine and divide the batter between the two springforms. Bake for about 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Allow cakes to fully cool down, release from springforms and divide each cake into two layers (four total) and set aside.

For the frosting, chill a large mixing bowl (metal or glass) for about 20 minutes. Add heavy whipping cream and powdered sugar and beat until stiff peaks form, then add mascarpone and continue whisking until smooth. Distribute cream evenly between layers and frost the outside of your cake. If the cream feels a little soft, chill for 10-20 minutes and resume working on your cake.   PS

German native Rose Shewey is a food stylist and food photographer. To see more of her work visit her website, suessholz.com.

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Focus on Food

Sláinte to Stew

The king of Irish cuisine

Story and Photograph by Rose Shewey

At the height of the Celtic Tiger, a time when Ireland’s economic growth was the envy of every Western nation, I was offered a job on the Emerald Isle. It was a no-brainer. I packed my bags, said my goodbyes and off I went to live and work in Ireland. To be more exact, I set up shop in picturesque Dún Laoghaire just south of Dublin, a town with a pretty port and a laid-back vibe and, as it turned out, right around the corner from Bono’s seaside residence — true story.

After my two-year stint there I can confidently share that a bunch of stereotypes floating about Ireland and the Irish have at least a couple of grains of truth to them. For one, Guinness does taste different on the island. Take this from a wine enthusiast. If I can tell the difference, you can, too. And, yes, drinking is a Celtic national sport. It is socially acceptable to drink at pretty much any point in time, with the exception of the time spent at your place of work — a minor constraint, but fear not, there is always lunch hour. So, that’s that.

More importantly — and this is a delicate one as far as stereotypes go — let’s talk about the legendary Irish cuisine. You’ve never heard of it? My point exactly. If the choices were soda bread and colcannon, I’d say Irish cooking was completely lost on me. But, fortunately, there is one dish the Irish know how to pull off. Their one saving grace — subjectively speaking, of course —  is a hearty stew.

A purist at heart and always in search of the most authentic and original version of a dish, I made a couple of discoveries. To begin with, Ireland has as many “classic” and “traditional” Irish stew recipes as it has pubs. That’s a lot. Andrew Coleman, author of The Country Cooking of Ireland, probably nailed it with his attempt to capture the true nature of this recipe. His version simply calls for four ingredients: mutton, potatoes, parsley and onion. Irish stew, in days long gone, would have consisted of what people had on hand — mainly potatoes. If they were fortunate enough to have meat to add to the stew, they’d call it a feast.

That said, the most memorable Irish stew I have tasted was at the Guinness brewery in Dublin. A little bit richer and bolder than its rural counterparts, the Guinness beef stew may not be the most historically accurate rendition of this celebrated dish, but it is by far the most satisfying.

 

Irish Beef Stew with Guinness

(Adapted from The Official Guinness Cookbook, serves 4-6)

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 pounds chuck steak, cubed

2 onions, sliced

2 celery stalks, finely chopped

5 carrots, cut into large chunks

2 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1 bottle Guinness Draught Stout (440 milliliters)

1 cup beef stock

2 tablespoons apple jelly

2 tablespoons tomato paste

2 teaspoons prepared mustard

2 sprigs fresh thyme

2 bay leaves

8 ounces baby potatoes

Salt and pepper, to taste

In large skillet, heat oil and brown meat in batches, about 10 minutes per batch. Set meat aside, then add onion, celery and carrots to the skillet and cook until slightly softened, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle vegetables with flour, stir and cook for about 2 minutes, add Guinness and beef stock along with the remaining ingredients, except for the potatoes. Add meat back to the skillet, cover with a lid and simmer for 2 hours. Lastly, add potatoes and continue to simmer for an additional hour. Serve with chopped parsley and bread.  PS

German native Rose Shewey is a food stylist and food photographer. To see more of her work visit her website, suessholz.com.

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Focus on Food

A Missing Delight

The case for mousse au chocolat

Story and Photograph by Rose Shewey

I recently came across a clip of Arnold Schwarzenegger making a protein shake. I watched with intrigue as he cracked a raw egg into his shake and, for good measure, threw in the shell, too! For extra calcium, he said. What a savage move! I know most people wouldn’t go near his concoction because of the raw egg in it, which prompted me to take a quick mental inventory of other foods we eat regularly, perhaps unwittingly, that call for glibbery whites and runny yolks.

On the top of my list: traditionally prepared ice cream, followed by tiramisu and mayonnaise (all of which can relatively easily be made egg free), and lastly, mousse au chocolat, which seems to have gone missing — it’s virtually absent from every dessert menu I have laid my eyes on recently.

So, why is mousse au chocolat not as popular as it used to and deserves to be? Could it be the raw eggs? It stands to reason. Raw eggs have most certainly acquired a bad rap over the past couple of decades. On top of that, a large number of mousse au chocolat recipes in the U.S. call for whipped cream to be folded into the melted chocolate as opposed to peaky egg whites (in fact, the original recipe does not contain cream at all). The result is something between a chocolate ganache and chocolate pudding, at best — tasty, but nothing to write home about. It’s the glossy, whipped egg whites that create the unique frothy texture in mousse au chocolat, which is paradoxically rich and airy at the same time. So, this missing delight finds itself between a rock and a hard place; it’s either made poorly or, evidently, not at all.

The decision is yours, of course. I have safely (but also cautiously) prepared and eaten raw eggs my whole life. Beyond that, I have experimented for over a decade with substituting plant-based whole food ingredients for animal-derived ones and have had great success with a lot of dishes. However, mousse au chocolat is not one of them. As much as I enjoy some avocado or aquafaba “mousse,” they are not a match for the centuries-old original; lacking in structure, like a cheap wine. So, if you have access to fresh, quality eggs, skip all the mousse imposters and make this confection just as people have for over 200 years, with satiny egg whites and creamy yolks for the most extraordinary results.

 

Mousse au Chocolat

(Serves 4)

200 grams semi-sweet chocolate (12 percent sugar)

50 grams butter

200 milliliters heavy cream

3 eggs

30 grams granulated sugar

In a double boiler, slowly melt chocolate and butter. Whip cream and set aside in the refrigerator. Separate eggs and beat egg whites (with clean beaters) until they form stiff peaks. In a separate bowl, beat egg yolks with sugar until the mixture turns light in color, stir in chocolate-butter mixture, and immediately fold in egg whites and whipped cream, using a spoon or spatula. Do not over-mix to avoid deflating the mousse, then refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Serve with whipped cream and chocolate shavings or any toppings of your choice.  PS

German native Rose Shewey is a food stylist and food photographer. To see more of her work visit her website, suessholz.com.

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Celebrating the Pear

Delicate, temperamental and extraordinary

Story and Photograph by Rose Shewey

Pears are a recurring, bittersweet theme in my family. My mom grew up in the Yugoslavia of the 1940s as the youngest of five siblings. When her eldest brother secretly packed his bags one night to attempt to cross the border into Italy, my mom, then 7 years of age, sensed that big changes were ahead. Too young to comprehend the gravity of the situation, her brother simply told her that he was about to visit their aunt and would bring back a basket full of pears from her tree — my mom’s favorite fruit. It wasn’t until weeks after he had left that my mom understood that she’d never see the pears she was promised, nor would she see her brother again, who had been granted a visa to immigrate to the United States.

The pear saga continues. The first solid food I ate as a baby — I have photo proof — was a pear and, in middle school, the first poem I learned to recite by heart, wholeheartedly, was a ballad written by Theodor Fontane, Herr von Ribbeck auf Ribbeck im Havelland. It tells the story of an old man, a gentle soul, who graciously hands out pears from his stately tree to the children of the village. Knowing that he would die soon and that his son was utterly ungenerous, he asks to be buried with a pear. In time, a pear tree grows on his grave, and the children of the village joyfully pick pears every fall — the old man’s legacy.

Aside from the sentimental appreciation I have for pears, I always considered them to be in a class of their own. Pears, as opposed to their close relatives, apples — the workhorse of the rosaceous crop — are much more delicate in nature. More temperamental, too, but also capable of creating moments worth celebrating when eaten at just the right time. Pears can do extraordinary things, too. Slide a bottle over a young pear on a tree, as they do in the French Alsace region, and allow it to grow directly inside the bottle. You’ll end up with eau de vie de poire (“pear water of life”) after the pear reaches full maturity and is turned into delicious brandy.

A simple but snazzy way to enjoy pears is to poach them. Ah, the possibilities are endless. From using wine or cider or any type of fruit juice and spices you choose, poaching pears is most satisfying and requires no special skill. My latest discovery in enjoying poached pears? Marry them with whipped cottage cheese. As lumpy and, to some, unappealing as cottage cheese appears in its natural state, once whipped, it turns into a silky, marshmallow-y cream firm enough to make picture-perfect dollops when plated.  PS

 


 

Pomegranate Poached Pears with Whipped Cottage Cheese

(Serves 2)

16 ounces cottage cheese (4 percent milk fat)

1 quart pomegranate juice

1 cup sugar

Juice of 1/2 lemon

1 cinnamon stick

2-3 whole cloves

1-2 star anise

1 vanilla bean, cut lengthwise (optional)

2 large pears (Bosc, Bartlett or Anjou)

Toppings of your choice

 

Place cottage cheese in a food processor and blend until you have a smooth, silky texture that resembles soft whipped cream. Store in the refrigerator.

In a medium pot, heat pomegranate juice. Add sugar and stir to dissolve. Add lemon juice and remaining spices. Peel pears (halve and core, if desired), slide into the liquid and simmer until done — pierce pears with a paring knife, if it meets no resistance, the pears are done. This may take between 10 and 25 minutes, depending on the pears.
Be sure to keep pears submerged or turn them over every once in a while so they cook evenly.

Serve with whipped cottage cheese, pomegranate seeds, muesli, chopped nuts and cacao nibs, or any other toppings of your choice. Add a few spoonfuls of poaching liquid if desired.  PS

German native Rose Shewey is a food stylist and food photographer. To see more of her work visit her website, suessholz.com.

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Focus on Food

Roll, Roll, Roll Your Oats

The renaissance of porridge

Story and Photograph by Rose Shewey

Many moons ago, around the time when candy cigarettes and slap-on bracelets were the cat’s pajamas, a serving of oatmeal seemed more like a punishment to me than a meal worth savoring. My mom cooking oats for us usually meant one of two things: The 7-year-old me had not eaten “right” for a while and needed proper sustenance; or we had simply run out of other breakfast foods (namely bread) before grocery day.

While my brother and I despised cooked oats and feigned tummy aches at the sight of it, we were completely sold on an oatmeal rendition we had been introduced to in our neighbor’s kitchen: raw oats soaked in cold milk for just a minute or two, served with a dash of cacao and a sprinkling of brown sugar. Love, instantly. To us, it was the perfect composition of a refreshing, lightly sweetened, satisfying oat snack, minus the mush. While cooked oats weren’t our jam, this chilled adaptation became a staple in our meal rotation through much of my childhood. My brother, now in his 40s, still eats his oats chilled. Meanwhile, I have made room in my life for traditionally cooked, warm and comforting, creamy oatmeal.

Though porridge, which can be made from any whole grain, is making a comeback as a whole, oatmeal in particular seems to take center stage. Denmark has an established chain of restaurants that serves nothing but porridge for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Savory oatmeal has gone viral on social media this year with masala oats, a traditional Indian breakfast dish, on the rise. Many speculate that the gluten-free craze has contributed to the revival of oatmeal; some believe that studies showing oatmeal aids weight loss are to be credited for it — which is a bit of mystery to me, seeing that the vast majority of people jazz up their oats with fat and sugar. I, however, have a different take on the renaissance of oatmeal.

While oatmeal hardly falls in the category of “acquired taste,” I have numerous friends who, much like myself, went from total rejection to complete adoration of this humble dish. Aside from the fact that I actually enjoy the taste and texture of oatmeal nowadays, I’m drawn to it for another, fairly significant reason. Oatmeal has a unique way of grounding me. However complicated life gets, a bowl of oatmeal is the epitome of simplicity and instantly connects me with the quiet, unrushed aspects of my life. It’s like a warm hug on a chilly day — oatmeal nourishes body and soul. I believe that this sentiment is quietly shared among many of us who embrace this scrumptious, gratifying dish, and may be much more relevant in explaining the recent popularity of oatmeal. But if I happen to lose a few pounds down the road, eating buttery, sugar-sprinkled oatmeal, I’ll happily stand corrected.

 

Creamy Pumpkin Oatmeal

(Makes 2 Servings)

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups water

Pinch of salt

1 cup rolled oats

1/2 cup pumpkin puree

3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1-2 tablespoons sweetener, to taste (honey, maple syrup or granulated sugar)

1/2 teaspoon pumpkin spice, optional (see note)

Directions

Bring water and salt to a boil, then add oats. Stir to combine, then add remaining ingredients. Simmer for 5-10 minutes until you reach your desired consistency; remove from heat and allow to rest for 1-2 minutes before serving. Top with seasonal fruit, such as figs, grapes or pears; add pumpkin seeds, cacao nibs, sliced almonds or other chopped nuts, to taste.

Note: Add pumpkin spice for more flavor. To make your own pumpkin spice, combine 1 heaping teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg, 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger and 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves.   PS

German native Rose Shewey is a food stylist and food photographer. To see more of her work visit her website, suessholz.com.

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A Cottage for the Holidays

New ways to celebrate old traditions

Story and Photograph by Rose Shewey

In the cultural heart of Moore county — yes, I mean Aberdeen — lives a family of three who celebrate Christmas a tad differently. That family is mine. Whether you have a religious or folksy perspective on Yuletide, holiday traditions have evolved over time. But with roots in the Old World and a heartfelt sense of nostalgia, my family preserves its own slice of “Old Christmas” in our home, similar in many ways to an Appalachian Christmas, and closely resembling the festivities of my childhood.

In the old tradition, Christmas actually doesn’t start until, well, Christmas Day, and is celebrated several weeks into the new year. A live tree or branches won’t be brought into the house until Christmas Eve, or winter solstice day at the earliest, and will be kept inside until the first or second week of January. Ornaments are mainly handmade. The Christ Child or St. Nicholas bring presents. Or, if you’re drawn to Nordic folklore as we are, little “tomten” takes care of the gifts.

And the time leading up to Christmas? December always has been, in many cultures, a time of introspection and slowing down, as opposed to hustling from one event to the next. Embracing the darkest time of the year to find clarity, to reflect on the old and anticipate the new, may not be everyone’s cup of eggnog, but to us seems intuitive and in tune with the rhythm of the year.

Though I was raised in the ’80s, what I am about to say might make you think I grew up in a Dickens novel. In my childhood, there was hardly any candy before Christmas Day, and we’re keeping it that way in our house. We mainly had nuts and fruit to nibble on, with the odd chocolate-covered gingerbread doled out by my grandmother. We didn’t make gingerbread houses every single year, but on those Christmases when we did, the hand-crafted gingerbread houses are among the sweetest, most magical memories of my childhood. In contrast to today’s custom of covering nearly every inch of your gingerbread house with candy, we mainly decorated ours with almonds and icing.

While gingerbread houses — the first ones date back to the 16th century — are everything when you have kids, there are other ways to enjoy this whimsical Christmas tradition. This year, we are making cracker cottages for a savory version of the original. These salty, herb-infused holiday homes remind me of the plain and simple, yet timelessly beautiful, gingerbread houses of the past. Cracker cottages are no less enjoyable to build, and add a sense of calm and rustic charm to your tablescape and, of course, make an excellent appetizer and perfect addition to your charcuterie board. 


Almond Poppy Seed Crackers

(Basic recipe yields about 30 crackers)

1 cup blanched almond flour

1 tablespoon golden flax meal

1/2 tablespoon poppy seeds

1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

3 tablespoons water

Seed, dried herbs, powdered onion or garlic, to taste (optional)

 

Preheat oven to 350°F. In a small bowl, combine all ingredients and mix with a fork until it resembles a dough. Roll out mixture between two sheets of parchment paper to about 3-4 millimeters thickness. Remove the top parchment paper and section dough with a knife or pizza wheel into desired cracker shapes. Transfer parchment paper with cutouts to a baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until crackers turn golden brown (the outer edge will always turn darker then the center).

 

Cracker Cottage

Create your own template for a cracker cottage or print out a gingerbread house template from any of the free sources online. For a small cracker cottage, you will likely need to triple the basic cracker recipe; it’s best to work in batches and make more as needed. Prepare the dough as per the recipe above, but use your template instead of sectioning dough into crackers. Assemble the house right before use. To assemble, use cream cheese as “glue.” For intricate details, such as icicles, mix 8 ounces of cream cheese (room temperature) with one egg white and refrigerate until it has a firm enough consistency to pipe icicles and other decorative elements.  PS

German native Rose Shewey is a food stylist and food photographer. To see more of her work visit her website, suessholz.com.

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Pancakes à la Einkorn

Welcome to the world of ancient grains

Story and Photograph by Rose Shewey

Crêpes, the slender, graceful cousin of the pudgy, all-American pancake, used to be the unrivaled god in my Olympus of all things batter-fried. With a culinary frame of reference of an expat and, well, a tad bit of ignorance, I had a lingering prejudice against pancakes for a long time. Put yourself in my shoes. Aside from the fact that a pancake seems to be just ordinary cake posing as a breakfast food, to the untrained eye, they appear a bit clumsy (if not to say uninspired). If you haven’t had the satisfaction of tasting properly prepared, made-from-scratch pancakes (I had the misfortune to be introduced to pancakes from a box mix), it’s not totally unreasonable to be skeptical of the legitimacy of this cake-like meal. Unjustly so, as lovingly home-crafted pancakes, artfully stacked and creatively topped, are a revelation in all their pillowy, puffed-up goodness. Though I have only recently begun to incorporate pancakes into our brunch routine — I still find them a bit heavy for breakfast — what absolutely sold me is making them with einkorn flour.

Einkorn wheat is an ancient grain believed to be the oldest and purest food around. Unlike modern grains, einkorn was never hybridized and contains fewer anti-nutrients, such as gluten. Folks who have a mild gluten sensitivity are often able to consume einkorn because of its gluten profile, which differs in quality from modern gluten.

While you can substitute einkorn for all-purpose flour, I found it best to start out following dedicated recipes to get a feel for this unique flour. Einkorn pancakes are an easy, fail-proof introduction to the world of ancient grains. It adds a nutty flavor and aids in keeping pancakes as fluffy as they need to be. Watch out crêpes, pancakes are on the rise! Pun intended.

 

Chocolate Einkorn Pancakes with Cherry Sauce

(Makes 4-6 pancakes)

Cherry Sauce

1 tablespoon arrowroot powder

1/4 cup water

1 pound fresh or frozen pitted cherries

4 – 6 tablespoons sweetener, such as honey, maple syrup or granulated sugar, to taste

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

In a small bowl, whisk together the arrowroot powder and the water to create a slurry. Set aside. Add cherries, sugar (start with less sweetener and add more later, if desired) and lemon juice to a large pot and bring to a boil. Add the slurry while stirring continuously and simmer until the sauce thickens; for a bright red sauce, take off the heat now or keep simmering for 5-7 minutes for a more homogenous, cooked-through cherry sauce.

 

Einkorn Pancakes

1 1/2 cups all-purpose einkorn flour

3 tablespoons cacao powder

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup buttermilk or full-fat milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 eggs

1 tablespoon melted butter

2 tablespoons honey

Combine all dry ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. Add the remaining ingredients to a separate bowl and mix with a hand mixer until frothy. Add the dry mixture to the liquid mixture and stir until the batter is smooth. Allow batter to rest for a few minutes, as einkorn is slow to absorb liquid. Heat a skillet over medium heat, add desired amount of batter (about 1/4 cup) and cook on one side until the edges look done and the center bubbles up, then flip for a brief moment to finish cooking. Serve right away with toppings of your choice.   PS

German native Rose Shewey is a food stylist and food photographer. To see more of her work visit her website, suessholz.com.

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Hearts of Stone

A sweet and savory summer flatbread

Story and Photograph by Rose Shewey

We no longer want to be just rich. We want to be eco-rich. It may be a generational thing or perhaps it is the zeitgeist, but either way, forget the townhouse with the smart fridge in your up-and-coming neighborhood. Give us an apple orchard with flower meadows on a spring-fed creek and we’ll consider ourselves wealthy. With peach vendors popping up like beach umbrellas and hot tub-sized crates of watermelon lining the produce aisles of every store this time of year, even if you’re not lucky enough to have the acreage (or the time) for a garden of your own, it’s impossible not to see the beauty and richness Mother Nature is affording us, particularly in the stone fruit department.

Cherries were my first love; I grew up with a cherry tree in my parents’ courtyard, and year after year it grew heaps of the most aromatic, crimson-colored cherries. Apricots and plums would grow lavishly in our cool temperate fields, but the climate in my home pastures didn’t allow for peaches. What once was an exotic fruit to me, lumped in with kiwis and mangoes on the market shelves, is now a cherished local harvest, thanks to the sandy soil of this region.

Let’s put the traditional grilled stone fruit and cobbler business on the back burner and try out a more hearty, wholesome meal idea. This sweet and savory flatbread comes together in no time, and cooking is completely optional — that is, if you use a store bought (or pre-made) base, otherwise it will just take minutes to make your own delicious flatbread. You can make this ahead of time or when you need it; topping options and combinations are limitless, and the end result has always been, without fail, a beautiful reflection of summer’s bounty.

 

Easy Skillet Flatbread

(Makes 4 medium size flatbreads)

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon fine sea salt

1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon sweetener, such as honey or granulated sugar

3/4 cup cold water

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and knead for 3-5 minutes, until smooth. If the dough is too sticky, add extra flour; if the dough is too dry, add water, one teaspoon at a time. Divide into four equal parts and roll out to desired shape (about 1/4-inch thick). Heat a large skillet over medium/high heat. Add heat-stable oil (e.g., avocado oil) to the pan and, once heated, add rolled-out dough and cook for about 2 minutes on each side. Reduce heat slightly once you flip the bread, repeat with all remaining portions.

 

Whipped Goat Cheese

8 ounces goat cheese

3 ounces cream cheese

2 cloves garlic

1 tablespoon olive oil

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon lemon zest

2-3 teaspoon fresh herbs, chopped, such as chives or thyme (optional)

Remove goat cheese and cream cheese from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before preparing this dish. Add all ingredients, except for the fresh herbs, if using, to a food processor and blend until creamy. If the texture is still crumbly after blending for 1-2 minutes, add more olive oil, one teaspoon at a time. Fold in fresh herbs and refrigerate up to 3 days.

 

Toppings

2-3 pieces of sliced stone fruit per person (such as peaches, apricots or plums)

Prosciutto slices

Blackberries

Honey

To assemble, spread whipped goat cheese generously on your flatbread, arrange sliced stone fruit, prosciutto and berries to your liking, drizzle with honey and serve.  PS

German native Rose Shewey is a food stylist and food photographer. To see more of her work visit her website, suessholz.com.