Elder Flower Syrup

People, it is elder flower season and that means that it’s time for make elder flower syrup!

If you’re unfamiliar with the elderberry tress it can seem like every other green tree, but when the first warm days of late Spring and early summer roll around, you just can’t miss them.  Elderberry trees grow like weeds here in Germany.  Everywhere I have been in the last few weeks I have seen at least one. They grow on the sides of roads, at thw edge of rivers, in the midst of forest, along sidewalks, in the middle of farm fields…the list goes on.  They can be spotted by their large white flower clusters, and when you get close by their intensely sweet floral scent.


Making a syrup with the flowers is pretty easy and not very labor intensive.  And, afterwards you are rewarded withe a unique syrup for making your own sodas and cocktails year round.  My favorite combination is elder flower syrup topped off with spritzy water with a squirt of fresh lemon juice and Granada-Mint leaves muddled it – and served super cold of course!


For the syrup you will need:

20 Elder Flower clusters, debugged

400g Sugar

500ml Water

1 organic Lemon, cut into rounds

To prepare:

Place all your cleaned elder flower clusters in a large wide-mouthed jar or a bowl (if you use a bowl you may need more lemon rounds).

In a saucepan, heat water and sugar over high heat, stiring frequently, until all sugar is dissolved and the mixture has reached 80C.  Pour the simple syrup over the flowers while it is still hot.

Using the lemon rounds, layer them above the flowers the keep the flowers submerged beneath the syrup.  Let the syrup sit in a cool dark place – unrefridgerated – for 24 hours.

Strain syrup through a fine sieve and discard the flowers and lemons.  Place thw syrup in a sauce pan and heat it to 80C before pouring it into prepared jars for canning.  Pour into the jars and close with a lid and allow to sit on your counter, undisturbed for 24 hours.  Alternatively, you can leave you syrup uncanned and can use it immediately.  Once opened, keep refrigerated.

Makes about 1 Liter.

Simple Breakfast Guacamole

On Sundays we go all out and have a nice big breakfast.  Usually it involves lots of bread from our favorite local baker – Bäckerei Wein Mühle, a colorful mixture of the hundreds of homemade jams that we have in our pantry, and a delicious vegan dark chocolate spread from dm.  However, every once in a while, I just don’t want to have a sweet breakfast, and crave the flavors of my childhood – creamy avocados and tangy citrus.

I grill my bread (Carrot-Pumpkin Seed Whole Wheat Bread) over an open flame on the stove top to give it a nice roasted flavor.  Then, I whip up a quick and simple guacamole that I like to top off with some freshly sliced tomatoes.  A delicious vegan breakfast with complex flavors that help start off a nice weekend morning.

30520648255_7e0d6a39d9_oGuacamole
Serves 1-2 / Prep Time 5 min / Total Time 5 min

Ingredients:
1 Avocado
juice of 1/2 Lime (or Lemon)
1 big pinch of Salt
1 big pinch Garlic Powder
1 dash of ground Jalapeño

Directions:
Mash avocado with a fork and mix in all other ingredients.  Taste and adjust flavors – every avocado is different!

Spread on freshly roasted bread and top with tomato slices seasoned with pepper, or with your favorite vegetables: cucumber slices, alfalfa sprouts, radishes….

Simple Tomato Pastries

I rarely watch tv…I mean really rarely.  Every once in a while I enjoy watching a documentary, and recently discovered Chef’s Table.  I love watching the well thought out moves of the kitchen staff, and find the presentation of the different style fascinating: the delicate moves, the precision of every wielded knife, the vibrant colors of fresh ingredients…I love it.  I have worked in a few kitchens in my life…but none as nice and the ones in the show.
So, when I watched Alain Passard from L’Arpège (in Paris) roll out a homemade sheet of puff pastry, lightly brush it in butter, and cover it in a colorful mixture of thick-sliced heirloom tomatoes – my mouth began to water.  He has such an amazing garden that produces fresh fruits and vegetables for his kitchen – a dream.  One day I will get around to making my own puff pastry…it’s been on my bucket list for years, but will have to stay there a little longer.  Luckily, my local grocery store sells vegan puff pastry, so I picked up some San Marzano tomatoes from my local farmer’s market and got right to it.
This is a really simple recipe, and my kids love eating these delicious crunchy pillows.  The lightly caramelized tomato gives this savory snack a silky sweetness.
tomato_pastry4

Simple Tomato Pastries

Serves 4 (Snack) – 12 (Amuse bouche) / Prep Time 5 min / Total Time 25 min
Ingredients:
1 sheet vegan Puff Pastry, cut into 12 rectangles
3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1/8 teaspoon Garlic Powder
1/8 teaspoon Onion Powder
1/4 teaspoon Fleur de Sel
6 San Marzano Tomatoes (can substitute with Roma), halved
1 pinch of Sugar
1 pinch of table Salt
1 hand full fresh Basil, chopped
Directions:
Preheat oven to 200°C.
Remove the wire rack from your oven and line it with parchment paper.  Place the rectangles of puff pastry on the parchment paper, making sure that they are not touching each other.
In a small bowl, combine 2 tablespoons of olive oil, garlic powder, onion powder, and fleur de sel.  Brush each piece of pastry with the mixture, and place a tomato half on each piece of pastry – cut-side up.  Larger tomato halves can be cut again in half to help them bake more evenly.
Brush the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil on the
tomatoes, and sprinkle each tomato with a small amount of sugar and salt.
Place the wire rack on the very bottom of your oven and bake for 10 minutes.  The, set the wire rack in the center of the oven and continue to bake for another 10 minutes.  Baking the pastries at the bottom of the oven allows the bottom of the pastry to become really crunchy.  If we had a pizza oven, we could skip this step.  Take care not to leave the pastries in for too long as the puff pastry goes from golden-baked to charcoal-black rather quickly.
Once done, remove immediately from oven and allow to cool slightly before sprinkling with fresh basil.
The pastries can be stored for 2 days at (cool) room temperature and still taste great.  These guys always taste great…breakfast..lunch…dinner…or in between meals.

Quick Peanut Noodles

This peanut noodle recipe practically saved my life.  I know it sounds ridiculous, but this recipe has seen me through thick and thin…12 hour work days, kids’ soccer tournaments, pick-nicks, late nights, long and strenuous hikes, and short lunch breaks.  What makes it so amazing…other than tasting awesome?

It is a wholesome meal that can be made in 15 minutes…or even the day before.  It’s flexible, spicy, full of energy, filling but light, and loaded with vegan nutrients – a perfect pre-excersise meal.  And, if you want to change up the flavors or quadruple it, go ahead and be creative!  On many occasions,

I have left out the sambal oelek and added BBQ sauce, or replaced the fresh squeezed lemon juice with lime juice, or added tomatoes…

After countless requests from friends, work colleagues, and family members…here we go!  Comment and let me know how you make it your own.

peanut_noodles_above

Quick Peanut Noodles

Serves 2 / Prep Time 15 min / Total Time 15 min

Ingredients:
~6 Cups Boiling Water
100grams Cellophane Noodles
1/4 Cup All-Natural Peanut Butter
juice of 1/2 a Lemon
1 teaspoon of Sambal Oelek
1/2 teaspoon Garlic Powder
1/2 teaspoon Ginger Powder
1 Cup chopped Cucumber
2 Cups thinly shredded Iceberg Lettuce
1 Tablespoon chopped salted Peanuts
1 Tablespoons sliced Green Onions

Directions:

Bring your water to a boil.  If you have an electric water boiler, this will be your quickest bet.

Place the cellophane noodles in a large mixing bowl, and pour the boiling water over the noodles, until covered.  Loosen the noodles slightly with a fork.  Set aside, and set a timer for 12 minutes.

In a small mixing bowl, stir together peanut butter, lemon juice, sambal oelek, garlic powder, and ginger powder.  The sauce will thicken the more you mix.

Prepare your cucumbers, lettuce, peanuts, and green onions.  Go ahead and get creative if you feel the itch – add tomatoes, mushrooms, roasted eggplant, broccoli, radishes, carrots, black beans, bbq sauce, sesame oil…the sky is the limits.

Once your timer has buzzed, drain off the water from the noodles.  Cellophane noodles are usually very long, so, at this point, take the time to just cut through them a few times to make things manageable.

Scrape the peanut sauce into the warm noodles, and mix it in.  It will be very thick, so use a fork and spoon to “comb” it it.  This will take a minute or two.

Through in your fresh veggies, give it a quick toss, and garnish it with green onions and chopped peanuts.

Done.

Quick. Simple. Delicious. Vegan.

If you want to make this a day in advanced, go ahead.  Just keep the noodles, sauce, and veggies separate from each other until you’re ready to serve to keep it from getting soggy. Heat the sauce up for 30 seconds to soften it up before mixing into your noodles.