Tomorrow I leave for Europe - Munich, Castelrotto and Merano, Italy and then to the Lake Geneva area. Food, wine and friends, here I come! Don't hold it against me if I don't come back home. In that spirit, I thought I'd write about my favorite dishes I hope to encounter, with a focus on late spring, seasonal ingredients.
Asparagus will be at its peak, both white and green. Although the tender spears and delicate taste of the white is lovely, I prefer the earthy, grassy flavor of green asparagus. Paired with freshly-made gnocchi, my mouth waters in anticipation. In this country, people seek out the skinny, pencil-thin spears, wrongly assuming they'll be more tender. The truth is, so long as the asparagus is fresh, thicker spears have more intense flavor and are just as tender as the thin ones. As usual, break the stem at its weakest point, and the woody part will be left behind. You can save those pieces to use in making a stock for a future asparagus soup, discarding them when you strain the broth.
Not strictly seasonal, but a personal must for me, is haxen. Spit-roasted pork shank. Just look at that crispy skin! Heaven! My favorite place to eat this is in the Bavarian countryside, at a little restaurant in Kirchbichl. It is perfect. They serve it with either knödel and kraut (a bread dumpling and sauerkraut) or with a platter of various salads. We always order the salad. It makes us feel a tiny bit less hedonistic for eating such a load of meat! Of course, one should wash it all down with beer, but I don't like beer, so I have it with a heavy red wine, to cut the fat.
A beautiful lemon-herb risotto tastes bright and fresh in spring. When I make it this time, in my friend's enviable kitchen, I'm going to add some shredded zucchini. A bit of extra color and a nice texture, I think. I'll post the recipe when I return.
Lest you think I've forgotten dessert, I'll tell you about a sweet ending I love, from the South Tyrol ~ germknödel. Okay, it doesn't translate well into English, if said phonetically. It's pronounced with a hard 'g' and hard 'k' - say 'gayrm-knay-del'. This is a sweet, yeasty dumpling, filled with plum preserves or stewed plums. Over the dumpling is poured a vanilla sauce with poppy seeds and browned, melted butter. Some people eat it as a main course. It is HEAVY and filling. It's often to be found at high mountain-top restaurants where, after a long hike, you feel as if you could eat a horse. And, horse is indeed served in Europe. But that's another story.
There are other dishes I look forward to, like fresh fava bean and pecorino salad, fruit with zabaglione and grilled lake trout from Lac Leman. So off I go, to food, wine and friends. Enjoy your late spring days ~