It ended up as a fine anniversary dinner, but because of my forgetfulness it was almost a non-event. On the afternoon of April 27 I was thinking of putting together a pretty simple meal, and already had some good organic sauerkraut and sausage. Then I was reminded, by the other interested party in the relationship, that it was one of our five anniversaries (I used to transcribe all of their dates into my pocket calendar at the beginning of every year, but I’ve become much less dependent on written reminders over the years).
Barry and I had met eighteen years earlier to the day. Ooops.
I decided we could stay with the German theme and still be festive if I only added a few extras. Still thinking simple Teutonic, I came up with the idea of a raw beet salad (raw, in order to minimize the heat in the kitchen on an unseasonably-warm day), and when I picked up a bunch at Whole Food I found that the excellent condition of their organic tops meant I also had the ingredients for some braised greens.
The cooked sauerkraut demanded some time on top of the stove to work through the flavors, and the salad had to marinate for an equal amount of time. I had gone to the store early in the evening and had forgotten these requirements until it was almost too late to prepare a dinner we’d be able to consume before midnight. In the end although I cut the food preparation time a bit short, it didn’t seem to make a difference in the flavors, since everything ended up tasting really good.
I don’t often cook anything resembling a traditional German meal these days. This is partly because of our current taste in food, which is largely in the tradition of the simpler forms of the Italian kitchen, but also, I think, because it seems to me that the cookery of my ancestors doesn’t usually represent an economical use of kitchen time. My own kitchen experience began with my investment in a Fannie Farmer Cookbook [small and paperback, both bad ideas for a cookbook] while I was in grad school, but it was German cooking which seduced me into a life which has always included serious kitchen time. I thought we had broken up years ago, after I started a relationship with Julia Childs and later a good number of Italian cookbook authors, but every so often I find myself reaching for my old copy of Mimi Sheraton’s “The German Cookbook“, which I purchased in its first, 1965 printing , not long after I had arrived in Providence after a year enrolled at the University in Munich (but mostly sitting about in its wonderful taverns and cafes).
I rummaged through the book for refreshers on an approach for both the sauerkraut and the salad, and I came up with this:
- pan-grilled Niman Ranch bratwurst with full-grain mustard on the side; accompanied with a cooked Weinkraut using white onion, juniper berries (I always add more than the recipe suggests), white vermouth and water, thickened with grated potato; raw beet salad [the brightest, reddest ever!], marinated with a mixture of onion, parsley, sour cream and caraway seeds, finished with a little bottled horseradish which had been drained; braised beet greens
- wine: Petri 2005 Herxheimer Honigsack, Riesling, Kabinett – trocken – Im Holzfass gereift (Pfalz) from Philippe Wines