Recipe: Rum Manhattan

I am not going to say too much, I am just going to leave this right here: 

I am calling it a Rum Manhattan. It may have another name somewhere in the world, but as this classy Mad Men-esque drink came directly from the brilliant mind of Jacob, I don't know what that name is. The drink is reminiscent of a good Whiskey Manhattan though (one of my all time favorite drinks), so Rum Manhattan it is.

It goes something like this: one part spiced rum, one part sweet vermouth. Off to a good start, aren't we?

Then we add in some Grand Marnier for a decadent orange edge, balance it out with some lemon, and add two types of bitters for depth and complexity. 

Are you sold yet? Thought so, here's the recipe:

Recipe: Plum Clafoutis

Meet my new favorite dessert, the Plum Clafoutis.

Last Autumn, Jacob and I "discovered" Tarte Tatin, an upside-down French apple tart. Yum. It is delicious, impressive, and baked in caramel, which means making it is a pain in the butt...I mean, labor of love. 

The technique includes making a butter caramel in a heavy skillet, then cooking the apples in the soft caramel sauce, and covering everything with puff pastry before transferring the whole deal to the oven. After baking comes the ever-treacherous flip, which has flung molten caramel across my kitchen more than once. 

In comparison, you have the Plum Clafoutis, our current summer obsession. A Plum Clafoutis uses a similar technique as the Tarte Tatin, while thankfully leaving out the dangerous bits (I have spent a lot less time scrubbing burnt sugar off my stove this time around).

The plums are cooked briefly in butter and sugar, forming a thick syrup around the plums and giving the fruit a caramelized bite. The fruit and syrup is then transferred to a pie tin, topped with an eggy, pancake-like batter, then popped into the oven to finish baking. While baking, the cake puffs up (similar to a Dutch Baby), and the plums rise to the surface to show off. 

Topped with powdered sugar before serving, a Clafoutis makes a unique and elegant dessert, while also pairing beautifully with coffee for brunch or an afternoon tea. 

Best of all, the a Clafoutis is a highly customizable cake, and can be made with just about any summer stone fruit you have on hand. Cherries? No problem. Peaches? Nectarines? Go for it. While the small sweet-sour Zwetschgen plums are plentiful in Vienna though, I will be making a lot of Clafoutis. 

Recipe: Summer Radish Tartines & Aperol Spritzers

It has been a blisteringly hot summer. The hottest summer, in fact, in Austria's recorded history (and they started recording some time in the 1700s, so that's a big deal). Most Austrians will tell you that a summer will contain one or two days where the thermostat is above 90 degrees Fahrenheit - this summer, we are nearing on two months of it. 

It has not just been Austria though. All of Europe is suffering from the heatwave, and parts of the Middle East are reporting mind-numbing figures like 165 degrees Fahrenheit. 

The dog days of summer indeed. (I am SO excited for Autumn.)

Until then however, Jacob and I have been enjoying a luxury few Viennese have: air conditioning. Yes, we have air conditioning. Not just one, but three air conditioning units, meaning to me that the previous tenant had a fixation on hyper-cooled air. We are so grateful. 

Even with the air though, many of the 100 degree days (with a relatively high humidity point) have been spent trying not to move and certainly trying anything to avoid turning on the oven or stove.

I like finding recipes that makes my heat-avoidance look glamorous rather than lazy. These Radish Tartines have become one of my go-to recipes this summer, and at this rate, will still be in the repertoire even after my oven and I have made amends. 

The recipe I have included is the "fancy" version, though I will share the "I'm hungry now" version too, which is just as good: bread, radishes, cream cheese, salt, and olive oil. The combination is simple, light, refreshing, and filled with beautiful layers of contrasting textures and grassy-creamy flavors. 

Then you need something to drink. Overall I am not a huge fan of spritzers - I tend to like my alcoholic beverages to taste like alcohol, not fruit juice. This spritzer is the best of both worlds - tangy, sweet, refreshing, with multiple nuanced layers and a slightly bitter finish from the Aperol. Pair the Radish Tartines with this Aperol Spritzer, and you just may forget about the heat for a little while.  

 



Recipe: Roasted Tomato & Vodka Pasta

It's funny how long some things take to settle. Jacob and I have now lived in Vienna for over six months, and yet parts of our daily routine are just now falling into place. You may have noticed that my recipe posting over the past several months has been painfully nonexistent. Sure, I could excuse myself by saying that I've been busy - but that isn't the full picture. 

The truth is, Jacob and I moved to Vienna and forgot all about what we used to cook. Suddenly everything was different: the stores, the ingredients, the prices, our kitchen, our second-hand pots and pans that are lacking proper lids. My immersion blender broke the first time I used it, and the extent of our counter-top appliances is a toaster (also second hand). We boil water in a saucepan, and heat leftover food in the oven or a skillet. 

You know what though? We are happy. Yes, I look forward to collecting all the gadgets that make cooking easier (though I'm just fine without a microwave, thanks), but we have managed to gather everything we need and make do with the rest. That does mean, however, that nearly every time I asked Jacob what he wanted for dinner he would stare at me blankly and ask, "what did we used to make?".

To which my answer would be, "I have no idea". 

It was as if the Austrian supermarkets had knocked us over the head and washed our memories clean of everything except the ingredients we could no longer attain - like Poblano peppers. Slowly, ever so slowly, our cooking amnesia has been fading as our growing familiarity with our life in Vienna opens our eyes to details we passed by before - like avocados. Last weekend I knew the amnesia had finally passed when I walked into an Asian supermarket for the first time and walked out with frozen shrimp, cilantro, mung beans, and rice noodles for Pad Thai. 

While it may seem like an insignificant thing, for me, the passing of that forgetfulness was a bit of a revelation. Food is important to me. Meals are my favorite part of each day. Cooking is my preferred way of unwinding after work, and my most natural expression of love towards those I care for. So not knowing what to cook? Well, that's just unacceptable. 

With that, I am happy to resurrect the recipe portion of this blog with this little "let-me-dump-some-stuff-into-a-pot-and-see-what-happens-OMG-this-is-amazing" recipe. Disappointed with the anemic winter tomatoes we currently have available, I opted to oven-roast the tomatoes until they became concentrated and nearly caramelized in their own juices. Pair that with cayenne infused olive oil to balance the sweetness, a generous dose of creme fraiche, and a couple dashes of vodka to cut the richness...and let the feasting begin!

It's good to be really cooking again. 



Recipe: Chocolate Bark and Christmas Markets

As I'm sure most of you have noticed by now, Christmas is almost here!

So far Christmas in Vienna has been a quiet flurry of shopping, menu planning, market touring, and Christmas parties. Though it has been unseasonably warm (apparently it was the warmest November in 285 years), and the promise of a white Christmas has come and gone, Jacob and I have still been reveling in our first Christmas in Vienna. Though our families and friends are greatly missed, we have been so fortunate in making new friends that there was no threat of a lonely Christmas. Before we knew it we had made plans for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and Boxing Day with friends. It is going to be an exciting holiday full of new friendships to celebrate. 

Ok, enough with the sappiness. 

 Jacob and I with our friends Neil and Zoe. 

Jacob and I with our friends Neil and Zoe. 

Along with the cold winds and 3 PM sunsets comes the start of one of Vienna's favorite sports: Christmas Market Marathons. With Christmas Markets set up around every corner - each with their own unique atmosphere and backdrop, and little wooden huts peddling arts, crafts, and kitsch - a tour of each market can easily take you the entire month of December. For most of us though, Christmas Markets are about the food: steaming mugs of mulled wine, rum-spiked hot punch, roasted chestnuts, freshly-fried spiral cut potatoes, fruit-filled powdered donuts, chocolate covered fruit, pumpkin soup in bread bowls, hot melted Raclette cheese poured over potatoes and salami...are you hungry yet? (I am, it's dinner time over here.)

The markets are such a winter fixture in fact, that I wrote an article about it for Our Man On The Ground's travel blog that you can find HERE. 

I say that touring Christmas Markets is a sport, and it's true - you even run the risk of injury during your marathon. Aside from the sore feet that can accompany a day of heavy walking, you also run a real risk of trampling. Some of the bigger markets, such as the one located in front of the city hall, or Rathaus, are not for the faint of heart. Getting through the crowds at anything other than a shuffling turtle pace requires throwing your elbows out with shouts of "ENTSCHULDIGUNG!". It's defensive walking, and Jacob and I are perfecting it to an art form. Orderly though Austrian culture may be, queueing and walking tends to be a dog-eat-dog free for all. 

Lest you think the risk is not worth the reward - trust me, it's worth it. The Christmas Markets are just the sort of fairytale old-world European Christmas you dream of in storybooks and Thomas Kinkade paintings. 

One of the holiday gatherings that Jacob and I attended presented us with the challenge of bringing a dessert to share that was both dairy and gluten free. As Jacob has been having fun making candies rather than cookies this Christmas (our peanut-chocolate-toffee turned out fantastic), we decided to make chocolate bark. 

I won't lie, this chocolate bark makes my inner-child seriously happy. It's stupidly easy, and filled with salty bites of potato chips, pretzels, and peanuts robed in rich dark chocolate. Best of all, it comes together so quickly that even if you have a panic moment realizing that you promised to bring something to the party but it's too late to bake...you're covered. And you will look like a genius. Win, win, win. 

Recipe: Apple Cabbage Reubens

A while ago I came across a recipe for German cabbage served alongside bratwurst. Living in San Diego at the time, with a husband who has German food in his blood, that recipe was immediately added to the dinner roster. 

The thing was - it tasted amazing and it was easy. As time went on the recipe was adapted and memorized and I ditched the bratwurst. The cabbage, as a side, was way too good on it's own. 

It wasn't until a couple of weeks ago, however, that some of the left-over apple cabbage snuck into a grilled ham and cheese sandwich. That, my friends, was a revelatory moment. If I ever opened up a deli (not likely, but you never know) this sandwich would be the signature dish that made the deli world-famous.  

As for the cabbage it's self - shredded green cabbage is cooked down with apple, cider vinegar, and some butter until meltingly tender and sweet-tart. It makes an incredible accompaniment to just about any meat dish. 

As a sandwich though - with the crunchy-fried exterior of grilled cheese, packed with melted cheese, ham, and the apple cabbage? The stuff of dreams. Just make sure you have a few extra napkins on hand. 

Recipe: Kumquat Tangerine Marmalade

To me, this recipe tastes like California. 

Wonderfully light, tart, and floral, it reminds me of the warm spring evenings when I could smell the wafts of orange blossoms on the breeze. I always liked those evenings - they felt comfortable and exotic all at once. 

KumquatTangerineMarmalade

These days the evening air smells cold and damp, though if you are lucky, you will get whiffs of mulled wine and firewood. That scent holds another type of charm, one where you can envision strolls through snowy streets glowing in the lamp light, or curled up in front of a fire with a book. 

Both worlds are fairytales, realities that only exist for a few precious moments at a time before the reverie is interrupted by a question, a phone call, or another item on the To-Do list.

I like this recipe for how it gives me a bit of both worlds at once. I can enjoy the scent of California spring evenings while basking in the warmth of the Viennese holiday season. I wouldn't trade our current situation for anything - though we miss California we adore Vienna, and are enjoying all the holiday season has to offer. Much more on all of that to come - the Christmas Markets are blooming into existence, with a promise of an advent season full of festivities and excuses to stroll with mugs of amaretto mulled wine. 

But for now, I can still have a taste of California. 

Recipe: Herbed Gougeres

Thankfully, not all of my recent cooking adventures have been train wrecks. My cookie failure blog post however, generated a huge amount of sympathy, advice, and spontaneous gifts of Baking Soda (which does exist here, it's just called "Natron", which to me sounds like an alien material Superman would be allergic to), and Chocolate Chips (they are a relatively new concept in Europe). My next batch of cookies will be unstoppable!

In the meantime however, these little guys below turned out great. 

Gougeres are a French creation, a deceptively easy-to-make cross between a popover and a cheesy biscuit. The base dough is endlessly adaptable, and would taste amazing with any add-ins from sun dried tomatoes to bacon. 

Serve as an appetizer, in place of bread with dinner, alongside a cheese plate - no matter what they will make you look like a très chic cooking genius rather than a cookie failure. 


Recipe: Spicy Tomato Soup with Cilantro Oil

The past couple of weeks have been busy. 

Months ago, imagining a life in Vienna, I had a somewhat dismal view of what the settling process might be like. I imagined, along with the vast excitement of being in the city, long weeks spent sorting out logistics, shuffling through paperwork, hoping for the day we could feel like we had a relatively normal life. It was impossible to imagine friends, jobs, churches - who knew when those would come along? It was difficult for me to guess how quickly we would feel at home in our new country, and I suppose I was mentally steeling myself for the worst. 

I was wrong.  Friends popped up the first night we arrived. That was quickly followed by a church, which led to my part-time teaching job within out first weeks in Vienna. The teaching job led to making more friends, friends who have already played significant roles in our lives by introducing us to other amazing churches and new friends. Those new friends led to another job designing a new website for one of the churches we had found. 

Even in this short span of hindsight, God's sovereign leading and provision is so evident. Now, a mere three months from the day we arrived in Vienna, we have a mostly furnished apartment that we absolutely adore, a group of dear friends that is growing ever bigger, a variety of part time jobs to occupy us while we search for full time work, and not one but three churches to choose from. 

What are all these jobs you ask?

Well I am: 

  • Running a family and portrait photography studio called Love Vienna (I booked 10 clients in the first month! That's amazing!)
  • Working as a substitute teacher at an international school
  • Developing recipes for a print publication
  • Co-designing and building a website for a church

In the meantime, Jacob is: 

  • Working remotely for the Engineering firm he worked for in the U.S.
  • Co-designing and building a website for a church

We are amazingly blessed. From having no idea what work might look like in Vienna just a couple of months ago, we are so inundated with possibilities we are running out of time to take on anything else (unless it's a full time job). We are continuing to look though, continuing to prayerfully seek out what the Lord has for us, hoping we might be used to build up and encourage the community around us. 

I am absolutely humbled with gratitude to God who took my expectations for the beginning of our lives in Vienna, and turned them on their head. Of course He gave us more good things than we could have thought to ask or hope for - when has He done anything less? And that will only continue, because that is who my God is. 

So I look forward to the future, and sharing all the news with you, knowing that however exciting or difficult it may look in the moment, God's plan is always better than I could hope for. 

Oh yeah! A Recipe! Enjoy. :) 

Spicy Tomato Soup with Cilantro Oil

Recipe: Spanish Tortilla

Looking back over the past two months of recipes that have been added to the archives, I had a revelation. 

There is no meat. 

It's true! Had you noticed? The only meat can be found in the form of bacon in the Farro Carbonara recipe and the crab in the Baked Eggs with Poblano Pepper and Crab. I was pondering this odd fact while I was making dinner tonight (chickpea and black bean burgers with tahini yogurt sauce). In a collection of 21 carefully curated recipes, I had somehow unintentionally become a vegetarian. 

I could come up with only two explanations: 

  • Vegetables are my comfort zone. 
  • Meat is pricey. 

Place a pork chop in front of me and my creativity will sink like a stone until a Google search of "best pork chop recipes" comes to the rescue.  An eggplant however? I have a hundred ideas for that! Ok...maybe ten... off the top of my head.

As for the price - well that, to me, is just about the funnest game ever: How cheaply can I make a healthy and exciting dinner? 

Spanish Tortilla.jpg

Thankfully, I am not alone. Entire nations have developed culturally iconic dishes around the pursuit of cheap and tasty meals. Take the Spanish Tortilla - it is essentially potatoes and eggs, a classic filling and inexpensive combination. Cooked in olive oil however, with an onion and a healthy dose of cumin and paprika, and you have something entirely different than your typical American potato and eggs.

Serve with a Sofrito - onions, peppers, and tomatoes cooked down into a cumin-spiked sauce - or salsa for a tapas classic that feels more like a feast than a my-pantry-is-empty meal. 

Recipe: Spiced Chai Vodka Cocktail

And just like that, autumn has arrived. 

Autumn has always been my favorite season for all the clichés - scarves and boots, pumpkins and comfort foods, air that is simultaneously crisp and warm, changing leaves, and the promise of the holidays on the horizon. When my family moved to Southern California however, autumn disappeared. The first day of fall was just as hot as any other summer afternoon. My longing for crisp weather meant that anytime the thermostat fell beneath 60 degrees I dusted off my parka with glee. 

Here in Austria however, autumn kicked off well before it's time. After years of missing cool weather, I am not disposed to complain...but maybe you should ask me again four months down the road. 

Jacob dreamt up (or as he would say, "skillfully mastered") this cocktail in honor of fall and all the flavors that make food-lovers sing for autumnal joy.

Vodka has never been my favorite of the spirits - I love my drinks with deep, complex flavors. As it turns out however, throw a couple of bags of chai tea into the vodka and surprise!, a couple of hours later you have gorgeously flavored vodka with the taste of chai front and center. Dress it up a bit - bitters, some citrus and sweetness to balance the spice - and soon you will be trading in your afternoon pumpkin spice latte for one of these. 



Recipe: Summer Tomato Jam

I tried this recipe for the first time two years ago, and have been dreaming of it ever since. 

My Uncle Olivier, a Benedictine Monk in France, had invited Jacob and me to spend a week at the monastery. I remembered visiting the monastery with my family as a child, captivated by it's air of sublimity and mystery,  moss grown stone walls, and shaded orchards. 

This time all of those same impressions held true, but a new facet of our experience caught my attention: the food. 

Summer Tomato Jam

The majority of our meals were shared in a communal dining hall, the food eaten in silence with polite nods and gestures to offer or ask for more food. Unmarked bottles of red wine graced the tables for lunch and dinner. The meal always began with a light soup, followed by a vegetable and a grain dish. Meat or fish was served on the weekends. Simple though the menus were, they never failed to satisfy.

In the morning, breakfast was served in the guest house - typically loaves of fresh bread served with homemade jams and butter. It was here that I discovered sweet tomato jam, and my life was changed. 

This gorgeously balanced sweet-tart jam uses the rich flavors of summer tomatoes to their fullest potential. The recipe and ingredients are simple - a slow simmer with a bit of sugar and apple cider vinegar and the tomatoes break down into the best thing you ever tasted. (I will grant that my culinary world would be dead without tomatoes, so I might be a bit biased.)

Serve it with bread and butter like we had in the monastery, though I guarantee once you taste it you will be tempted to eat it straight out of the jar with a spoon.