Archive for April, 2007

April 27, 2007

Louisiana Hot Sauce Update

You may or may not remember my episode a few months ago when I attempted to make Louisana Hot Sauce. Four months have passed since I canned it, even though it only needed three to release all its flavors. I had been waiting for the right moment to open the jar for the big test, and yesterday the time came.

I had several of my fellow language assistant friends over for an American Mexican food dinner. When my friend Briana came to visit she brought along tasty seasoning packets for enchiladas, burritos, and fajitas. Yesterday we decided on chicken fajitas. My friends brought Newman’s Own Salsa, guacamole, Mexican rice, and many other tasty foods. I tried my hand at tortillas and failed miserably, but luckily my friend Pat brought along some store-bought tortillas (until recently unavailable in Germany).

Of course during the cooking process we ate our way through all the guacamole and most of the salsa with our chips, and so the question was: what to eat with the fajitas? That’s when I remembered my Un-Louisiana (Un)Hot Sauce. I took it out of the cupboard, and nervous because of the Liverwurst canning fiasco when none of the jars sealed, Icalled for silence and opened the jar. A satisfying pop of the seal ensued and we excitedly dug into the sauce. It definitely wasn’t Louisiana Hot Sauce (we all agreed on that immediately) but it was a nice, slightly sweet and yet still a little spicy sauce to put on our fajitas or dip the leftover chips into. The fajita filling itself, seen above, was made using an Ortega seasoning packet. Yes, I might pride myself on doing many things from scratch, but that doesn’t mean I don’t accept some short-cuts. And let me tell you, it was very tasty. Must have been all that MSG!

Nevertheless, I can’t wait to try this sauce again with hot chili peppers. It will have to wait though until the fall, because I only have two months left here in my apartment. I can’t believe the time has gone by so quickly! In the meantime, if you want to try the recipe yourselves, feel free. One of my friends said that it could use more vinegar, and I agree – a tablespoon or so more wouldn’t hurt it.

Un-Louisiana (Un)-Hot Sauce

1 small yellow onion, finely diced (about ½ cup)
1 clove garlic
2 cups chopped chilies (preferably spicy variety!)
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 cup sugar (granulated is fine, brown or raw sugar would provide a more complex sweet flavor)
3 Tbsp white (wine) vinegar
2 cloves

Sauté onions until clear, add garlic and chilies. Sauté another two minutes, then add vinegar and seasoning. Let the sauce simmer for a couple minutes, then add the sugar. Blend with a whoosh-whoosh thingy and continue simmering for another few minutes. I added the cloves at this point; however, to release their flavors more you can add the cloves earlier when you add the chilies and seasoning. Fill sauce into a canning jar and seal. Let mature for three months in a cool, dry place.

April 25, 2007

Tomaten-Mozzarella Salat

I know what you’re thinking: “That’s a Caprese Salad, and that’s not German, it’s Italian!” Well, caprese salad is perhaps as German as pizza or spaghetti is American. The first time I had this salad was at the Micha’s house (family friends of ours who are both called Micha, one short for Michael and the other short for Michaela, pronounced with the German “ch” in the back of the throat). It was summertime and they were putting together a light supper for us all. My whole family fell in love and we have eaten this salad ever since.

Like most things, it tastes best when its ingredients are in season. Thus we absolutely love it in summer when we can use our own garden tomatoes. I was excited when I made my first salad of the year today, though the tomatoes are still lacking in flavor and I look forward to better ones in the coming months! My family has used everything from tiny cherry tomatoes to roma and beyond. In Germany it’s very easy to find buffalo mozzarella; however, in the States this proves harder (though it can be found at Trader Joe’s and other specialty food stores if you’re willing to pay the price!). Therefore, my family often chooses to crumble feta cheese on top instead, which has a stronger flavor but still works very nicely with the other flavors.

We slice the tomatoes thinly and arrange them on a plate. Then we slice buffalo mozzarella, equally as thinly, and arrange that around the tomatoes. Next comes garlic, chopped in small slices as well (see a pattern?). This is spread on top of the tomato and cheese and sprinkled with ripped basil leaves. Top it off with a drizzle of quality olive oil and a sprinkling of salt and pepper and serve immediately!

April 20, 2007

Cafe Griensteidl

Today you all get to finally see a picture of me. Yes folks, here I am in Wien enjoying the wonderful sun. Not only that, but I am standing in front of mecca. Okay, perhaps not really mecca for anyone but me and any other fans of Schnitzler and other members of the Jung Wien movement, the literary circle of Viennese Modernism at the turn of the last century. Although Cafe Griensteidl officially closed in 1897, it has reopened in the 1990’s and is now back in the ring of Viennese cafes.

I hadn’t known that Cafe Griensteidl reexisted. In fact, the building itself had been torn down sometime during the 20th century. So it came as a great surprise when Pat and I, who had just come from seeing the Lippizaner horses warm up, stumbled upon this square. We were actually looking at the archaeological dig (seen on the left of the picture) which showed roman heating elements and the likes, when I looked up and saw the sign. I’m sure the look on my face was of shock and elation. Instead of going to the Cafe Central, which was our goal at that time, we decided to put that off till afternoon: we had to go into Cafe Griensteidl.

I wish I had known what Schnitzler’s drink of choice was in the cafe. I’m the kind of person who would have done something so cheesy. Instead, I ordered my new “usual” the kleiner Brauner and Pat and I split a Sachertorte. The Sachertorte is actually made by Hotel Sacher in Vienna, and the recipe is super secret. But, basically it’s a chocolate cake topped with apricot jam and with a chocolate coating. We figured, any kind of Sachertorte (be it “authentic” Hotel Sacher or not) in Vienna is good enough. And of course we ordered it with Schlagobers.

This was probably the climax in terms of coffee houses for me. It was amazing sitting in the cafe that I had written a 25-page paper on in college and going over all of the things I had learned. It made me want to return to that paper, its research, and the people involved. It was an amazing time period, and I am realizing again how much I miss researching things like that. I’m very much looking forward to returning to academia. Let’s hope I can do so soon!

In the meantime, we say goodbye to our week of cafes. It was a fantastic week of learning more about coffee, its culture, and the beautiful city of Vienna. I am already looking forward to returning in July, when my sister and her husband will be spending some time there. Cafe Central is her mecca, as Hermann Broch (her PhD topic) spent most of his time there.

Stay tuned for recipes, which I promise to finally post again. It’s been way too long!

April 19, 2007

Hundertwasser at the KunstHausWien

Hundertwasser Haus in Vienna

I’ve been building up to a climax here all week. You probably haven’t noticed, but it’s true. Today we have the coffee climax at the Café im KunstHausWien.

My sister asked me today if I did anything other than drink coffee while I was in Vienna. In fact, I did. I did a ton of other things. To name a few, I visited the Belvedere palace and saw Gustav Klimt’s “The Kiss,” though almost more importantly many other paintings from German Im- and Expressionism, the Secession, and other eras. I also went to other museums around town, saw the Lipizzaner horses, visited the Schönbrunn palace, took a day trip to Bratislava, and much more.

On the day in question, Pat and I ventured to see some very unique architecture. The building in question (see above) was designed by Hundertwasser, who designed a similar apartment building only a few blocks away. While you can’t enter the apartment building because people live there, the KunstHaus is, as it’s a museum, accessible to the public. Hundertwasser was transfixed with bringing humans back into a natural setting (as much as the 20th century life would allow) and so he built buildings around trees, planted gardens on roof terraces, had uneven flooring, and generally a very colorful, “green” architectural style. This created a very pleasant atmosphere for Pat and me, after we found the KunstHaus thanks to a wonderful Austrian Oma stopped us and told us where to go. Yes, she stopped us. Well, sort of. I was taking a picture of a different building and she asked “Are you looking for Hundertwasser? It’s down there. And if you take a right and then a left and walk two blocks, you’ll find the Kunst Haus, also designed by Hundertwasser.” Or at least she said something like that. In any case, Pat and I were happily surprised by her kindness and trekked off.

Café in the courtyard of the Kunst Haus Wien

We safely arrived at the KunstHaus and decided our schedule only allowed for a look at the museum or a visit to the café. Naturally we chose the café, which would also give us a chance to write our postcards. This ended up being a wonderful idea. I ordered a kleiner Brauner and Pat ordered a Melange. We snapped some photos and then got to writing. When the coffees came, we took a sip (not before taking this photo):

A kleiner Brauner

It was heaven. This kleiner Brauner was like no coffee I had ever had before, and probably like no coffee I will ever have again. I had read David Lebovitz’s entries on the “Illy Coffee University” but I have to admit I hadn’t believed it entirely. It felt just a wee bit too much like an advertisement: Illy inviting a blogger to their “University,” him writing about all of the wonders of the company. I couldn’t remember ever having tasted Illy coffee before, but if there’s a place to have it that’s not in Italy, it would be at the KunstHausWien. It lacked any hint of other espressos I’d had, and had a smooth, nutty, pure flavor. Since then I’ve been a curious convert: was it just the KunstHaus? Or are all Illy coffees like this? I can’t wait to try my next one to find the answers. The problem with having been in the capital of coffee culture is that it’s hard returning to the “real world” of hit-or-miss cafés.

The Hundertwasser Haus can be found on the corner of Kegelgasse and Löwengasse. The KunstHausWien is around the corner on Untere Weißgerberstraße 11-13. The KunstHaus is open 10am-7pm daily.

April 18, 2007

Viennese Coffee Specialties

Café Central
Today’s “café a day” entry will give you a bit of an education on what to expect on the menu of a Viennese café, and give you a glimpse of the Café Central.

Café Central was opened in 1860. It was colloquially called the Schachhochschule (transl. Chess University) until 1938 due to the many chess player who frequented the café. Among its regulars were the writer Hugo von Hofmannsthal, the architect Adolf Loos, and even Leon Trotsky himself, an avid chess player. However, after World War II the café closed its doors, and didn’t reopen until 1975. Nevertheless it wasn’t opened in the courtyard of the Palais Ferstel, named after the architect of the neo-renaissance building Heinrich von Ferstel, where it had been previously, but moved into the former bank hall and thus is now in a room with vaulted ceilings and large windows.

At this point, as I mentioned already, it is necessary to mention the many different types of Viennese coffee. This is an important lesson should you be planning a visit to Wien, as in some cases (for example Café Hawelka) there is no menu. You have to make an educated order completely without aid. Nevertheless, there is no need for panic: you simply have to keep reading and you shall be prepared with the basics.

A kleiner Brauner
  • Kleiner and großer Schwarzer or Mokka: This base drink is probably most confusing as „Mokka“ doesn’t mean chocolate. It is simply an espresso-type coffee. Austrian law prescribes a minimum of 7.5 grams of coffee to be used in its preparation, and it is extracted using steam and pressure for up to 60 seconds. This process allows the tannic acids to be released, which in an Italian espresso (extracted in 18-25 seconds) doesn’t happen.
  • Kleiner and großer Brauner: Similar to the kleiner Schwarzer, this is simply served cream (called Obers in the Austrian dialect). It arrives in a thimble-sized creamer, allowing the drinker to put in as much or as little cream as s/he desires.
  • Schale Gold: This is also similar to a kleiner Brauner, except that it has enough Obers in it (already mixed) to create a “golden” color.
  • Einspänner: A kleiner Schwarzer served with mostly whipped cream (Schlagobers).
An Einspänner
  • Verlängerter: A Verlängerter is a kleiner Brauner thinned with water.
  • Melange: This is a Verlängerter, which is mixed with foamed milk (think similar to a cappuccino). See the previous post on Café Hawelka for a picture of a Melange.
  • Franziskaner: A Melange served with Schlagobers instead of foamed milk.
  • Kaffee verkehrt or Milchkaffee: Literally “coffee inside out” this is a lot of foamed milk served with a side of kleiner Schwarzer to mix together.

There are many other drinks, including a Fiaker (a Mokka with rum), a Wiener Eiskaffee (cold coffee served on top of ice cream), a Maria Theresia (a großer Schwarzer served with orange liquer) and so on. The above list, however, gives you the basics you will need to know to order the coffee of your choice. The most popular drinks are the kleiner and großer Schwarzer and Brauner, the Verlängerter, and the Melange. Your coffee will almost always come on a silver tray, accompanied by a glass of room-temperature water. I loved getting water with my coffee without needing to ask, as most German restaurant establishments frown upon serving their customers tap water. Here it is thankfully part of the tradition of some of the best coffee in the world.

Café Central can be found on Herrengasse 14 in the first district in Vienna, not far from the Hofburg Palace.

Interesting source (in German) on Viennese Coffeehouses: