Bending of French and German cuisines
It looked like Germany; it felt like France, and it tasted like the best of both cultures. During my recent exploration of the Alsace region of France, I enjoyed a feast of Germanic ingredients prepared with a French accent.
Half-timbered houses, bier stubs (beer halls), bakeries selling bretzels (pretzels), and restaurants serving up gigantic portions of choucroute (sauerkraut), all said Germany. The language and currency, the enthusiasm for food and wine, and the relaxed joie de vivre reminded me that I was, indeed, in France.
Favourite memories of my week there are of sitting at an outdoor café along the River Ill in Strasbourg, sipping Alsatian wines and devouring hot-from-the-oven tarte flambée. This Alsatian pizza, called tarte flambée in French or flammekueche in the Germanic Alsatian dialect, is one of the most traditional of Alsatian foods. It’s usually made with bacon and heavy whipping cream and served at cafes and restaurants to young crowds of enthusiasts, but this ubiquitous fast food is also very often made to order with mushrooms and different types of cheeses.
Although I can never limit my favorite Alsatian foods to three, those presented here are deliciously typical, low-fat, and quick to fix. Slice the vegetables for all three dishes first. Then, as the sauerkraut simmers, get the beets cooked and cooling. Assemble the tart and while it bakes, toss the beets with their dressing and dish up the hot sauerkraut. Pull the toasty tart from the oven,… in just minutes, Alsace at your table.
Tarte Flambée (Alsatian Pizza)
Tarte flambe should always be served hot, right from the oven.
One medium onion, thinly sliced
8 ounces sliced mushrooms
Flour for dusting
1 pound frozen bread dough, thawed
1/2 cup nonfat sour cream
2 ounces grated cheese (such as Gruyere or sharp white cheddar)
Freshly grated nutmeg
1. Preheat oven to 500°. Generously spray a large non-stick skillet and heat over high heat. Add onions and mushrooms and saute for 5 minutes, shaking the pan or stirring occasionally to prevent burning. Remove from heat and set aside.
2. Sprinkle flour on a dry surface and roll out dough as thinly as possible, preferably to about 1/4 inch. (Don’t worry if you don’t get it thin enough, it will be fine.)
3. Sprinkle flour on a baking sheet and place dough on it. Top with sour cream, cheese, onions, and mushrooms. Grate nutmeg over all and sprinkle with salt, if desired. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until crust is crispy and cheese melted.
Makes four servings.
PER SERVING: 438 CAL (22% from fat), 18g PROT, 10g FAT, 71g CARB, 631mg SOD, 15mg CHOL, 4g FIBER
(Sauerkraut, Alsatian Style)
A heaping plate of couchette is the centerpiece of most Alsatian culinary experiences. The taste is complex, flavored with wines of the region, but for a substitute, try a mixture of apple and grapefruit juices. Find juniper berries in the spice section of your supermarket.
2 cups sauerkraut, canned or bottled
One tablespoon butter or margarine
1/2 cup sliced onion
One clove garlic, crushed
1-1/2 cups Alsatian Riesling wine or fruit juice
4 whole juniper berries
Black pepper to taste
1. Place sauerkraut in a colander and rinse with water to remove excess salt. Drain and set aside.
2. In a large saucepan with a non-stick surface, melt butter over medium heat. Add onions and saute for about 3 minutes, occasionally stirring to prevent burning. Stir in garlic and continue cooking for another 2 minutes. Add the rinsed sauerkraut, wine, juniper berries, and pepper to mixture in pan. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered, about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Makes four servings.
PER SERVING: 97 CAL (28% from fat), 1g PROT, 3g FAT, 7g CARB, 785mg SOD, 8mg CHOL, 4g FIBER
Salad de Bette-raves aux Noix
(Beetroot & Walnut Salad)
This easy, colorful, and substantial salad should be served at room temperature.
1 pound beets, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
Two shallots, thinly sliced
1/4 cup chopped parsley
One tablespoon walnut oil
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Two tablespoons Alsatian Riesling wine, or fruit juice
One tablespoon white wine vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
One tablespoon chopped walnuts
1. Place beets in a medium saucepan, cover with water, and cook over high heat until tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. Drain and place in serving bowl. Stir in shallots and parsley. Set aside to cool to room temperature.
2. In a small bowl, combine oil, mustard, wine or juice, vinegar, salt, and pepper, and whisk until blended. Pour dressing over cooled salad and toss to combine. Top with chopped walnuts
Makes four servings.
PER SERVING: 83 CAL (47% from fat), 1g PROT, 4g FAT, 9g CARB, 93mg SOD, 0mg CHOL, 3g FIBER