Recipe: Verrines with Orange, Chocolate and Speculoos

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A super-easy and irresistible dairy-free dessert combining some of my favorite flavors: orange, chocolate and speculoos (aka, Biscoff).

During a recent visit to the library in our small Swiss city, I came across a children’s cookbook from the well-known French chef, Cyril Lignac. I first learned of him from watching the French baking show, Le Meilleur Pâtissier, where he serves as a judge. The cookbook I found has lots of nice recipes, and one that immediately caught my eye was for Verrines au chocolat, spéculoos et oranges.

With a few substitutions, I’ve made Mr. Lignac’s recipe dairy-free. If you don’t feel like baking and need a quick recipe with few ingredients for warmer weather, it’s incredibly easy to throw this together. I’ve tried making it with soy cream and with full-fat coconut milk. My boys liked both versions, but I had a slight preference for the one with soy cream (a thicker, creamier texture).


Verrines with Orange, Chocolate and Speculoos

Adapted from Cyril Lignac and Lets petits chefs: Nouvelle recettes (2010), p. 76-77.

Makes 4 servings
(dairy-free)

3-4 oranges
150 grams (about 1 cup) dairy-free chocolate, chopped or in pieces
200 ml soy cream or full-fat coconut milk
35 grams (about 2 1/2 tablespoons) dairy-free margarine, softened
4 speculoos cookies (I used the ones from Lotus Bakeries)

1. In a small saucepan, mix the soy cream and chocolate together. Melt the chocolate over medium heat, stirring the mixture constantly until its smooth. Let it simmer for a few minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the softened margarine until completely incorporated. Pour the mixture into a bowl and refrigerate for about an hour until it cools and thickens.

2. When the chocolate mixture is ready, peel the oranges, separate into sections and cut into bite-size pieces (Please note: Mr. Lignac removes all the pith and membrane, which looks better, but I just don’t have the patience!). Place equal amounts of the orange pieces into four glass cups.

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3. Spoon equal portions of the cooled and thickened chocolate mixture over the four glasses of oranges.

4. Crush the four cookies in a plastic bag and sprinkle them evenly over the chocolate mixture in the four glasses. Serve immediately or return them to the fridge and serve the same day.

We’re back from vacation, and I’m ready to hear about your latest recipe recommendations, restaurant experiences and other food allergy updates, etc. I hope you’re all doing well, and thanks for your continued support and advice!

Free From Farmhouse


Swiss Retro Recipe: Riz Casimir

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An easy meal for kids, I’ve created a dairy-free version of a popular Swiss dish from the 1950s: Riz Casimir.

I first discovered Riz Casimir at Zurich’s Hiltl Restaurant in December 2013. When I saw it on the menu, I didn’t realize this curry dish was actually over a half-century old and known throughout Switzerland. Only after trying Hiltl’s vegetarian version did I start noticing this dish in other restaurants and among the prepared meals from Coop and Migros. Finally, after I came across a simple recipe for Riz Casimir in my Swiss cookbook for public schools, Croqu’menus, I decided to try making it myself.

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According to Betty Bossi, Riz Casimir is often mentioned as a favorite dish by people of all ages in Switzerland. The founder of the Mövenpick restaurants, Ueli Prager, developed this recipe in 1952 with ingredients considered exotic for the time: curry, pineapple and banana. Ultimately, it seems Riz Casimir is the Swiss interpretation of Kashmiri Rice, a northern Indian dish.

Instead of using cream, I’ve been making Riz Casimir with coconut milk. I also added a few other ingredients, like fresh garlic and ginger, and some optional toppings, like chopped cashews and cilantro, to give it a little more flavor and texture. My 3-year old isn’t a huge fan of curry, but this is a very mild recipe.

In terms of presentation, I modeled my version after the photo in my Swiss cookbook of a wreath of rice decorated with banana, pineapple and cherries, and the curry nestled in the center. Honestly, it feels a little ridiculous arranging the fruit like this on the platter, but if it helps my finicky kids find it more appealing, I’ll continue to do it!


Riz Casimir

Recipe adapted from Croqu’menus (9th edition, 2005, p. 91).
(dairy-free, egg-free)
Serves 4-5 people

Ingredients:

1-2 teaspoons sunflower or canola oil
2 shallots, finely chopped
1-2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 thumb-sized knob of fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated or chopped
4 chicken breasts, sliced into thin and bite-size pieces
100 ml white wine or allergy-friendly chicken/vegetable broth
250 ml coconut milk
1 tablespoon curry powder
1-2 teaspoons cornstarch
salt, to taste

Optional toppings: chopped cilantro and cashews, pineapple rings and apple slices

Serve with hot basmati rice

Instructions:

1. Heat the oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Saute the shallots, ginger and garlic for a few minutes until tender and fragrant.

2. Cook the chicken for about 5-10 minutes, stirring frequently, until its nearly done. Remove from the pan and set-aside. Add the wine (or chicken/vegetable broth) and simmer for a few minutes.

3. Add the coconut milk and curry powder to the wine in the pan, and whisk it together until well-incorporated.

4. Whisk in the cornstarch and return the chicken to the pan. Simmer for about 5 minutes more until the sauces thickens slightly.

5. Serve immediately with basmati rice and optional toppings.


Recipe: Swiss-French Red Cabbage Salad with Apples and Raisins

It’s that time of year again, when I try to serve more vegetables to my family after weeks and months of feasting on baked goods—and I’m usually the worst offender!

My latest plan involves trying to work vegetables into all three meals, and ideally in at least two dishes. For breakfast, that means scrambled eggs with spinach. At lunch or dinner, we’ll have a salad and steamed green beans with lemon, for example. With more and newer options, I’m hoping my kids’ interest increases so they actually like eating vegetables, instead of viewing them as a necessary evil.

After a recent Sunday walk, I tried out a new a new red cabbage salad recipe from a local Swiss-French cookbook. I served it as part of leisurely brunch during our last day of the holiday break. My husband, who usually HATES mayonnaise, liked this salad. Unprompted, my 7-year old said it tasted good after his first bite. My 3-year old gave it a thumbs up, but I think he really only liked (and ate) the raisins, to be perfectly honest. We’ll keep this cabbage salad in our mealtime rotation, and I’ll have to try another one I saw recently from Migros’ Saison.ch made with orange juice (here’s yet another salad recipe with cabbage, orange and fennel that also looks good).

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Sunday walk on Mount Vully


Salade de Chou Rouge (Red Cabbage Salad)

Recipe adapted from Recettes du terroir neuchâtelois by Francis Grandjean (2002).

(dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free)

Serves 6-8

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Salad:
500 grams red cabbage (about 1 cabbage)
1-2 apples, diced
about 1/2 cup raisins (I like golden raisins)
Optional: finely chopped chives and lettuce leaves

Sauce:
100 ml vegan mayonnaise (use really mayo if you can!)
3 tablespoons sunflower oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons shallots, finely chopped
2 teaspoons mustard
salt, to taste (I used about 1/2 teaspoon)

Instructions:

1. Slice the cabbage into thin strips and place in a large bowl.

2. Prepare the sauce by whisking together all the ingredients until smooth. Pour the sauce over the cabbage and toss until well-incorporated.

3.Stir in the raisins and diced apple(s). Best served the same day. Top with chopped chives and serve with fresh lettuce leaves, if desired.

For 2015, we have lots to look forward to in terms of managing my son’s milk allergy, like a food challenge next week and starting school in August. I hope you do too! Happy New Year, and Bonne Année, everyone!

Recipe: Swiss Pumpkin Pie – Tarte à la Courge

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Are you looking for a dairy-free dessert for Thanksgiving? If so, please check out my recipe below for an elegant Swiss tart that can be made with either squash or pumpkin.


Our Third Swiss Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving week has arrived, and 2014 marks our third time celebrating this very American holiday in Switzerland. This Thursday, my son will go to school and to his piano lesson. My husband will go to work. In the evening, we’ll all meet back at home for a small-scale version of Thanksgiving—although this year our turkey may be in the form of Fondue Chinoise (the boys love it, and it’s easy for a weeknight!).

I feel thankful this year for many things, but in terms of food allergies, I’m overjoyed that my son is “only” allergic to milk, and there’s a good chance he’ll outgrow it. We had three food challenges this year, two of which were negative and allowed us to introduce new foods into his diet—almonds and raw/undercooked eggs. Then, in January 2015, he’ll begin a new round of milk-based food challenges, starting with baked milk. With cautious optimism, I’m beginning to imagine what life could be like for my son, if he outgrows all of his food allergies. Fingers crossed!

In the meantime, we’re still living dairy-free in Switzerland for him. Our Thanksgiving will be free of milk products again this year, but I love being able to use eggs without any concerns—especially when making a Swiss-style pumpkin pie: Tarte à la Courge.

Courge actually means squash in French, but you can use pureed citrouille or potiron (pumpkin) instead. When I made it this week, I used one large potimarron squash, like those shown in the photo below. This tart has a delicate squash flavor that’s complemented by a cinnamon and sugar topping and a thin, sweet layer of crushed speculoos cookies underneath.

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Please note: If you’re looking for a dairy-free, egg-free and soy-free pumpkin pie, we used a recipe last year from the Kids with Food Allergies Foundation’s online community.


Tarte à la Courge (Squash Tart)

Recipe adapted from Recettes du terroir neuchâtelois by Francis Grandjean (2002).

Makes one large tart in a 28-cm (11-inch) diameter pan.

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Crust:
350 grams dairy-free pâte brisée (i.e., an American-style pie crust. My husband makes this for me, as I have absolutely no patience to do so. His favorite recipe calls for vodka and comes from Cook’s Illustrated.)

Filling:
50 grams dairy-free speculoos biscuits, crushed (I used Biscoff cookies)
2 eggs
50 grams sugar
7 grams vanilla sugar (or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)
200 ml almond milk
50 ml soy cream (or another non-dairy cream)
50 grams all-purpose flour
700 grams squash or pumpkin puree (I roasted and pureed a potimarron squash)

Topping:
A few dashes of cinnamon
100 grams sugar

1. Grease the pan with dairy-free margarine and line it with parchment paper. Roll out the dough for the crust and gently lay it in the pan. Using your fingers, press the dough into place in the pan, making sure it’s evenly spread out.

2. Prick the crust in several places with a fork, and then sprinkle and spread the crushed cookies on top of the dough—only on the bottom, don’t worry about the sides.

3. Whisk together the eggs, almond milk, sugar, vanilla sugar, soy cream and flour until well-blended. Then, stir in the squash or pumpkin puree. Pour the mixture gently into the prepared pan, and spread evenly.

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4. Sprinkle some cinnamon over the top of the filling, and then sprinkle the sugar evenly over the cinnamon.

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5. Bake at 200°C/400°F for 35-40 minutes until filling has set, and the crust has browned slightly. Allow to fully cool and then serve with a generous dollop of dairy-free whipped cream.

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Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! If you have any allergy-friendly recipes to share, please leave a comment below. I’m still planning our menu for Thursday…

Recipe: Reine-Claude Coffee Cake

Reine Claude

What are Reine-Claudes? Maybe you know them as Greengages? Now after two years of living in French-speaking Switzerland, I finally discovered these little green plums with a sweet fresh flavor. Typically grown in southern France, we see Reine-Claudes at our farmers’ market and all the local grocery stores. Their size can vary, but most often they’re smaller than purple plums (pruneaux) and slightly larger than the yellow-hued Mirabelles.

Reine Claudes market

Reine Claude
Named after a 16th century French queen, these special Reine-Claudes have a distinct flavor and are really best eaten raw. Even so, I’m not a huge fan of plums—although I’m slowly acquiring a taste for them. Generally, I prefer them baked in a cake or tart.

Over the last few weeks of summer vacation (my son’s school year started on Monday already!?), I’ve been perfecting my recipe for a cake with Reine-Claudes. When I served my second test-cake to my father-in-law last week, he suggested calling it a coffee cake, given it’s overall appearance and texture. I agreed with him, and since I’m usually downing a large cup of coffee (or several) when eating cake, it seemed like a good name for my new recipe. I had lots of coffee cake growing up in Minnesota, and this one reminds me of one my mother used to make with a cinnamon-streusel topping—except it’s made without dairy and contains French plums befitting a queen!


Reine-Claude Coffee Cake

Inspired by Smitten Kitchen’s Purple Plum Torte, a recipe adapted from Marian Burros’ Famous Purple Plum Torte from Elegant but Easy and The Essential New York Times Cookbook.

Tools:
A 9-inch round cake tin or springform pan
Parchment paper and/or dairy-free margarine for greasing the pan

Dry ingredients:
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons ground almonds (optional)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt

Wet ingredients:
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup dairy-free margarine, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla sugar (or vanilla extract)
2 large eggs
Zest of 1 lemon

Topping:
About 8 Reine-Claudes (Greengages), pitted and halved
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1-2 tablespoons sliced almonds (optional)

1. Whisk together the dry ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside.

2. In a large bowl, beat together the sugar, vanilla sugar and margarine. Add one egg at a time, and combine until the mixture is smooth. Then stir in the lemon zest.

3. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in two batches, stirring together gently until combined, but do not overbeat. Put the cake batter into the prepared pan, spread evenly.

4. Place the Reine-Claudes face down and evenly dispersed on top of the cake batter. Then, sprinkle the lemon juice over the plums and the cake batter.

Reine Claude Cake

5. Combine the sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle it over the top of the cake. Finally, sprinkle on the sliced almonds.

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6. Bake for 40-50 minutes at 180ºC/350ºF until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Best served warm, but also very good the next day!

Reine Claude Cake

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We’ve had a cool and rainy Swiss summer, so I’m hoping for a warm autumn season. Hope you’re all doing well and enjoying the final weeks of summer.

Recipe: Salade Estivale for Summertime

The signs of summer are apparent here in Switzerland. Outdoor music festival season started locally with Festi’neuch. Swiss summer trail racing is also underway, and I’ll be attempting my first one next weekend. Most importantly, my son’s summer vacation from school starts in one week. And in terms of food, I’ve noticed restaurants around town are advertising their summertime salads or salades estivales.

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My research indicates there’s no set rule for making a Swiss salade estivale, other than it should contain some sort of fresh summertime vegetables. Since I’m always trying to get my boys to eat more vegetables, we’ll be making lots of salads again during our summer vacation. The first Swiss salad recipe I’ve been making this summer is appropriately named Salade estivale, which I came across a while back in one of my Suisse romande cookbooks.

With seven vegetables to choose from in this salad, my boys tend to pick out the ones they like and leave the rest, but I still try to see it as progress. I was reminded this week by registered dietician Julia Marriott of Alimentary Bites that when it comes to serving vegetables to picky eaters, “perseverance and patience” are the only way. As with many salad recipes, the directions below serve as a guide, so feel free to swap in your favorite vegetables or mess with the quantities a bit, depending on the preferences in your household.


Salade Estivale

Adapted from Les recettes de Grand-Mère, Tome 4. Published in 2010 by the Association Alzheimer Suisse, Yverdon-les-Bains.

(dairy/egg/nut-free)

Salad:
1 cup kohlrabi, peeled and diced
1 cup carrots, peeled and diced
1 cup potatoes or sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
1 cup corn kernels, fresh or frozen
1 cup green beans, chopped
1 cup red pepper, diced
1 cup peas, frozen

Dressing:
4 tablespoons colza/canola/rapeseed oil
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons parsley, finely chopped
2 tablespoons chives, finely chopped
1 tablespoon tarragon, finely chopped
1 tablespoon soy yogurt
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Make the dressing. Put all the ingredients in a sealed jar and shake vigorously. Add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

2. Cook the vegetables. Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil and cook kohlrabi, carrots and potatoes together until fork tender, about 5-10 minutes. While these vegetables are cooking, use a steamer basket to steam the corn, green beans, red pepper and peas, just until tender. Do not overcook.

3. Put all the warmed vegetables in a large bowl and toss gently with the desired amount of dressing. Sprinkle with some fresh herbs and serve immediately, while still warm.

Salade Estival Sign

 I’m always grateful for the good advice and support of other food allergy parents. Many thanks to you all, and bon week-end!

Recipe: Gâteau St. Honoré with Raspberries

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In our corner of Suisse-Romande, there seems to be a local version of the famous French cake—Gâteau St. Honoré. Named after the seventh-century patron saint of bakers, a Parisian pastry chef developed the cake in the 1840s. I first learned about it last month, when the boys and I were walking by my favorite local bakery. The sign out front read “St-honoré aux Framboises,” so I quick popped inside to inquire about the raspberry cake.

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Inside the bakery, the lady behind the counter pointed to what looked like a cream pie topped with a crown of whipped cream and glazed raspberries in the middle. Typically, I avoid custard-like desserts and glazed fruit. I don’t like making them, and I’m not a fan of eating them either. I would much rather have a big piece of Bundt cake or a sweet yeasted bread—and hopefully made with some type of chocolate.

Still, I was intrigued to learn more about it, especially given the saintly name. So, I picked up a small gâteau and my oldest son and I shared it after dinner. It was much better than I thought, with the flavors of the different sweet and tart components, along with an almost savory pastry shell, blending together with each bite.

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I must mention, however, that some of the Swiss-French Gâteaux St. Honoré differ tremendously from the traditional version of the cake. A true St. Honoré has a ring of cream puffs on top. The French cake is especially popular in May, and particularly on May 16, the day St. Honoré reportedly died.


Allergy-Friendly Shortcuts

One of the reasons I felt more compelled to try making something like this at home was my other recent discovery: Bird’s Custard Powder from the UK. Unlike traditional custard, filled with dairy and eggs, this powder helps to thicken a non-dairy milk into a suitable substitute. To be honest, it took me 3 tries to get it right, with the first two batches going down the drain.

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Despite all the shortcuts I’ve taken for this Swiss-French Gâteau St. Honoré, like store-bought puff pastry and custard powder, this recipe still takes time. I even bought a pastry bag! I typically avoid recipes with lots of complicated and time-consuming steps, but I had to give this a try. Maybe I’ll make it again next May because the boys liked it so much. I’ll need a full year just to practice my custard and piping techniques!


Gâteau St. Honoré with Raspberries

(dairy/egg-free)

What you’ll need:
Puff pastry, store-bought and pre-made
Custard, chilled (I used Bird’s Custard Powder and followed the directions on the can)
Fresh raspberries
Raspberry jam
Whipped cream, dairy-free (I used soy cream)
Small pie or tart pan
Parchment paper

1. Buy pre-made puff pastry and pre-bake the pastry shells in the desired pans, lined with parchment paper and following the directions on the package.

2. Make custard filling. Use your favorite dairy/egg-free custard recipe, but if you don’t have one, I recommend giving Bird’s Custard Powder a try if you can find it. Cool the custard.

3. Gently warm some raspberry jam on the stove until it thins out a bit. Pass it through a sieve to remove the seeds. Cool and gently coat the raspberries in the jam glaze.

4. Fill the cooled pastry shells with custard. Top with the glazed raspberries.

5. Using a pastry bag, pipe whipped dairy-free cream around the edges of the pastry.

6. Store in the refrigerator or eat them all at once!

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If you have any dairy/egg-free custard advice, please leave a comment below!

And, have you been watching the World Cup? Switzerland vs. France tonight, so we’ll be tuning in. Bon week-end, everyone!

Recipe: Kohlrabi and Carrot Salad

kohlrabi salad

I served a lunchtime salad today with a new vegetable for the kids: kohlrabi, or chou-pomme (cabbage-apple) in French. It’s apparently one of the first spring vegetables in Switzerland. We see it all over our farmers’ market this time of year, but I didn’t feel compelled to buy any until I saw a recipe calling for kohlrabi and carrots.

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Instead of cooking the vegetables for the salad, as the recipe called for, I peeled and grated the raw kohlrabi and left them that way. Also, I cheated and bought two bags of pre-grated carrots from Coop, so it all came together rather quickly.

It seems like I’m throwing almonds in everything I make these days, following my son’s successful food challenge. Keeping with this trend, I sprinkled some toasted almonds on top, which I thought were a nice addition.

While the boys were hesitant to try a kohlrabi salad, the carrots certainly helped make it more appealing. I could definitely see us bringing it on a picnic or two this summer. Like my celery root salad, it reminds me of an American-style cole slaw—minus the mayonnaise and other dairy-based ingredients.


Kohlrabi and Carrot Salad

Recipe adapted from Migroscuisine de saison.
Serves 4-6

(dairy/egg-free)

Salad:
6 cups raw carrots, grated
6 cups raw kohlrabi, grated
1 bunch of fresh mint, roughly chopped

Dressing:
4 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup apple juice

salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Optional: toasted almonds

1. Whisk together all the dressing ingredients in a small bowl.

2. In a large bowl, combine the salad ingredients. Add the dressing to the salad, combining until well incorporated. Add salt and pepper, to taste.

3. In a small frying pan, toast some thinly sliced almonds over high heat, tossing them frequently, until they become fragrant and very lightly browned. Sprinkle on top of the salad.

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How do you prepare kohlrabi? What are your favorite kohlrabi recipes? Please leave a comment below or send me an email with the details. Bon week-end, all.

 

Pear-Rhubarb Spéculos Crumble

We almost always have Lotus spéculos cookies and/or spread (a.k.a. Biscoff) on hand. These cookies are still one of the few allergy-friendly treats I can buy for my son in Switzerland. So when I recently saw a recipe for pear crumble with spéculos cookies in a French-cooking magazine, it didn’t take long for me to try it. I grew up eating fruit crisps (no oats) and crumbles (with oats), and I’m not sure I’ll ever make one again without these cookies!

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For the pears, my favorite vendor at the farmers’ market recommended a Swiss-grown pear, la poire Conférence. This pear is apparently one of the most commonly grown in Europe. It was originally introduced at a “Pear Conference” in 1885—hence its name.

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While my 2-year old loves pears, my 6-year old does not. However, he gladly ate them baked with rhubarb in this crumble. As you can see from the photo above, we’ve been generously topping our crumble with whipped soy cream mixed with powdered sugar and vanilla sugar. It’s made with fruit and oats, so I think it’s perfectly suitable for breakfast, right?


Pear-Rhubarb Spéculos Crumble

Inspired by the “Crumble poíres-spéculos” recipe in Saveurs magazine N°208.

(dairy, egg and nut-free)

Crumble:
3/4 cup spéculos cookies, crushed
1/2 cup oats (I use flocons d’avoine complète)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup dairy-free margarine, softened
1/4 cup sugar

Fruit:
juice of one lemon, freshly squeezed
1 1/2 to 2 cups rhubarb, cut into pieces
4 1/2 to 5 cups pears – peeled, cored and cut into pieces
1 packet of vanilla sugar (7 grams) or 1 teaspoon vanilla and 1 teaspoon sugar

For use with a 9×13-inch (22x33cm) baking pan or an oval gratin pan of roughly the same size.

1. Prepare the crumble. Crush the cookies and mix together with the remaining ingredients. Set aside.

2. Squeeze the lemon juice into a large bowl with the vanilla sugar. Add the cut fruit and stir frequently to keep the pears coated with lemon juice to prevent them from browning.

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3. Pour the fruit mixture into the pan, making sure it’s evenly dispersed. Then, sprinkle and spread the crumble mixture evenly over the fruit.

4. Bake for 25-30 minutes at 180°C/350°F until the fruit has softened a bit and the topping is golden brown. I recommend eating the crumble while it’s still warm. Otherwise, try and eat it the same day or shortly thereafter.

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Later today, I’ll be catching a train to Ticino. I’m hoping to discover some new food specialties from Italian-speaking Switzerland. Bon week-end, everyone!

Spaghetti with Barba di Frate

Beautiful spring weather means a new crop of spring veggies, including something I thought looked like seaweed at our local market. Its shape resembles a thick chive, but looks more like a succulent plant that might even grow under water. When I asked about it, the store clerk told me it tasted like spinach and is often served with pasta.

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Back at home, I searched for more information about this mystery vegetable. For starters, I found out it’s known by many names. At my local Suisse romande market, the sign for it was labeled with one of at least three Italian names: barba di frate.

Name Language
salsola soda Latin
barba di frate, agretti, roscano Italian
saltwort, barilla English
barbe de moine French
mönchsbart German

The barba di frate I bought came from Italy. It’s typically found in salty, coastal areas of Southern Europe, such as along the Mediterranean Sea. If you want to grow it yourself, you don’t need to be in Italy though; it looks like you can buy seeds from various online sources.

Besides eating barba di frate as a vegetable, people once used this plant to make “impure” sodium carbonate (barilla) for soap and glass, for example. In terms of taste, I think it does have a mild, but somewhat salty flavor that certainly reminds me of eating seaweed.

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Everything I read about this springtime delicacy said to serve it with lemon and olive oil. With this in mind, I immediately thought of a recent favorite recipe from the Food Allergy Mama, “Spaghetti with Garlic Oil.” Using this recipe as a guide, I incorporated barba di frate into an easy weekday supper. If you can’t find it though, you could substitute another quick-cooking green like spinach.

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Spaghetti with Barba di Frate

16 oz./450 grams spaghetti
1 bunch of barba di frate, trimmed and rinsed (or a couple handfuls of baby spinach)
1/4 cup olive oil
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 lemon, freshly squeezed juice from one half and zest from the whole thing
kosher salt and pepper, to taste

Cook pasta in boiling water, as instructed on the package. During the last 2 minutes or so of cooking, put the barba di frate in the boiling water with the pasta.

While the pasta is cooking, simmer the garlic in the olive oil over low-to-medium heat for at least 5-7 minutes. The garlic can lightly brown a bit, but just don’t let it get dark brown or burn.

When the pasta and barba di frate is finished cooking, drain it in a colander and place it in a large bowl. Toss it with the warmed olive oil and garlic mixture, the lemon juice and zest and salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

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While spring has arrived to Switzerland, along with lots of new fresh produce to discover, I’ve heard rumors of snow this weekend… We’ll enjoy the beautiful weather again today, while we can. I hope spring flowers, like the daffodils below, are blooming (or will be blooming soon) wherever you are.

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If you’re looking for more recipes, Swiss travel info and other food allergy news from Dairy-Free Switzerland, you can follow me on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest. Thanks for your continued support. Bon week-end!