If you follow us on Facebook or Instagram, you’ll know that I tried and failed to make retes while we were in Slovakia. At the supermarket, there’s a selection of different refrigerated doughs, but all seemed more like puff pastry than flaky phyllo. One did specify it is for strudel, so we bought it, but when I unwrapped it at home it was a single thick sheet. I had tasked the children with collecting sour cherries from the half-wild stand of trees in the far reaches of the yard, and prepared a mixture of finely chopped walnuts and toasted breadcrumbs to fill the retes, but with just this single slab of pastry to work with, I had way more filling than I needed, as well as a lot of melted butter that needed to be put to use. So I improvised a cake, baked in a tart pan because that’s what I could easily dig out of the cupboard, and it was really good! But of course, I didn’t really measure any of the ingredients or makes notes for a recipe.

awesome girl big daddy and 2 appricots

Flash forward to this morning; I thought I’d recreate the cake so I could share it with you. But birds had gotten to the rest of the sour cherries, leaving us instead with an enormous dish of apricots from our trees, some a little knocked around it’s true, but all the better to cook with. Then there weren’t enough walnuts left in the cupboard, and oddly, none of the little village shops carried them, so I came home with hazelnuts: we have a bushy nut tree in the yard as well, but they won’t be ready until late autumn. I like hazelnuts, but they are a little more trouble than some other nuts, since their skins need to be removed unless you like the sensation of little bits of paper in your food. Further complicating things today, I found some parts of a blender in the cupboard, but not all the pieces needed to get it to, you know, actually work. So I had to chop the roly-poly hazelnuts by hand, which looked to be a nightmare until I realized I could smash them to bigger bits with a handy meat mallet (something no Central European kitchen would be without) and then more finely mince them with a knife. Making do!

apricots on an awesome tree

I wanted to bring in something more from the garden to make this cake really reflect the high summer season. We were sweltering for most of our visit here to Slovakia, and with the cool damp spring behind us, the garden has really exploded. I chose the tiny tender leaves of our thyme plant to add some of summer’s perfume to the cake, and while you definitely could leave it out, it really works with the tart apricot/rich hazelnut pairing. Try it!

Hazelnut teacake with apricots
Serves 10
Bright apricots top a nutty cake with herbal notes from fresh thyme
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Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
50 min
Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
50 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 cup whole hazelnuts
  2. 10-14 fresh apricots
  3. 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  4. 3/4 tsp baking powder
  5. 3/4 tsp baking soda
  6. 3/4 tsp salt
  7. 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  8. 3/4 tsp finely chopped fresh thyme (optional)
  9. 5 Tbs butter, melted
  10. 2 eggs
  11. 1 tsp vanilla extract
  12. 3/4 cup plain yogurt or sour cream
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400° F. On a baking sheet, spread the hazelnuts in a single layer and toast until they are fragrant, their papery skins are cracking and the nuts themselves beginning to turn golden. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly; rub in a clean dishtowel to remove the rest of the skins.
  2. Reduce oven temperature to 350°. Grease a 12" tart pan or springform pan.
  3. In a food processor, pulse the toasted hazelnuts a few times until coarsely chopped (you don't want them to start forming a paste). Scrape nuts into a large bowl.
  4. Add the flour, baking powder and soda and salt to the chopped nuts.
  5. If you are using the thyme, rub it into the sugar to release some of the oils, then add the sugar to the dry ingredients and whisk to combine.
  6. Whisk together the melted butter, eggs, vanilla and yogurt or sour cream in a small bowl.
  7. Gently stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until just combined.
  8. Scrape batter into the prepared pan.
  9. Cut or tear each apricot in half, and arrange, cut side down, on the top of the batter (discard the pits). Sprinkle the top of the cake with additional sugar, if desired.
  10. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until top is golden and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
  11. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before slicing.
Notes
  1. If you don't have the full 3/4 cup of yogurt or sour cream, just make up the rest with milk.
  2. If, like us, you don't have a food processor, you can more quickly chop the nuts by first crushing them in a plastic bag using a rolling pin or meat mallet, then take them out of the bag and chop with a knife.
Emperors Crumbs https://www.emperorscrumbs.com/

Hey! The blog has been really quiet for ages (years!), I know. But we’re back in Slovakia for a few weeks, so we thought we’d share some thoughts and pictures from the old homestead. We’ll try out some recipes as well.

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One of the first things we noticed was how much the food culture here has improved. Score! I used to tease Valerian because he always reads the supermarket circulars that come in the mail (which go straight to recycling in California). But they’re actually worth a look these days; while the pictures of raw chicken are still a feature, there are so many new products! There’s chia seeds, hummus, fancy cheese, and yes, that’s Ben & Jerry’s!

Circulars

Really, though, we’ve come for nostalgia: utopenci, Mila, kifli/rožok, lángos, yogurt and all the candy. There’s even a retro version of the local beer, isn’t it cute?

Pheasant by bowl

When we moved to our house in Slovakia, we were so excited to have a huge garden. We went a little crazy planting trees, which were still skinny saplings when we left. No longer! We have a jungle out there.

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The plums were sadly shut out by a late frost, but the cherries are loaded–we have a long-suffering old tree in the front of the yard, and back in the orchard, we have several varieties of both sweet and tart/cooking cherries. Apples and Asian apple-pears are on their way, and possibly even before we leave there will be peaches ready to eat.

Valerian created a “berry alley,” which is now overgrown into more of a patch, with plenty of raspberries, some struggling gooseberries, and rampaging currants both black and red.

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Years ago when I visited a Swedish friend at her home near Stockholm, she served an amazing dinner and afterwards, took us out to her back yard where she had a thicket of red currant bushes at the edge of a lake. We filled a bowl in the late twilight of the far north, and then brought the berries back in where my friend crushed them with a little sugar and served them over vanilla ice cream. It was a simple and splendid way to finish the evening.

yogurt granola parfe 2

We do love our European yogurt, so I was inspired to layer up some parfaits to celebrate our summer return. Easy and festive! Maybe you’ve had red currant sauce at Ikea, or tried black currant jam; if you see some in the produce section, snap up a pint and try this recipe (or just substitute another berry). If you can’t find currants, raspberries or blueberries are just as delicious, and probably need less sugar.

Granola and currant yogurt parfaits
Serves 4
Crispy granola, creamy yogurt, and sweet-tart currants make a satisfying breakfast or, with a drizzle of honey, a festive dessert
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
30 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
30 min
For the granola
  1. 2 cups oats
  2. 1 cup slivered almonds
  3. 1 1/2 cups puffed rice
  4. 1/2 tsp. salt
  5. 1/3 cup olive oil
  6. 1/3 cup honey
For the parfaits
  1. 2 cups red or black currants, or a mixture (about a pint), or another berry
  2. 2 tsp. granulated sugar or to taste
  3. 4 cups plain or vanilla yogurt
First, make the granola
  1. Preheat the oven to 325° and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
  2. Mix together the dry ingredients in a large bowl, then stir in oil and honey. Mix thoroughly.
  3. Spread the mixture in an even layer on the prepared baking sheet.
  4. Bake for 10 minutes, stir gently, then bake for another 10 minutes or until golden brown.
  5. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before stirring to get nice chunks of granola.
While the granola bakes, prepare the currants
  1. In a medium bowl, gently crush the currants with the back of a spoon. Stir in the sugar.
Create the parfaits
  1. When the granola is cool, layer the yogurt and currants in four jars or glasses. Top with the granola (you'll likely have leftovers). Top with additional honey, if you like a sweeter treat!
Notes
  1. Granola adapted from Megan Gordon, A Sweet Spoonful
Emperors Crumbs https://www.emperorscrumbs.com/
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Summer! How I miss you. If you’re like me, you think of summer as a relaxing, low-key time; you imagine lazy days, long evenings, letting the schedule slide. But then there’s: reality. The kids lay waste to the house, starting endless glue or paint related “craft” projects, then squabbling, then wanting to play Minecraft instead, until HOORAY, the camps begin. But wait – now it’s making sure everyone has swimsuits and goggles and sunscreen, who’s getting picked up when? Who needs a plain white t-shirt to tie-dye NOW? And the inescapable lunches. So many lunches. In fact you have to redouble your efforts because the long, active days call for extra sustenance. Luckily, summer also means fruit and plenty of it, which makes it much easier to fill up hungry kids.

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So here’s one thing that’s easy. These bars originate on a recipe card my mother gave me many years ago, but every few years I come up with a variation. These days, I’m using fresh fruit instead of a layer of jam, because who can pass up the tumbled piles of stone fruit and the gleaming berries that are everywhere in summer? Not me, that’s certain. These bars are sturdy enough to hold up in a lunch box or even for scarfing in the car as a quick breakfast. They’re full of whole grains and not too sweet either.

To bring out the juicy best of the fruit, I like to dice it up and let it macerate with some sugar for a few minutes while I assemble the other ingredients. And it really is just a few minutes – this recipe is supremely unfussy, mixes in a single bowl and can be modified any number of ways to suit your taste or what you have in the cupboard. Now that school days are here again, make the most of the last fruits of summer and make a quick batch of these bars for snacks. They pack well, or are the perfect after-school treats, and easy enough the kids can make them with just a little help.

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Fresh Fruit Crumble Bars
Yields 16
Quick and easy snack bars loaded with whole grains and fresh fruit.
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
40 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
40 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 pound fresh fruit - strawberries, apricots, blueberries, peaches, plums are all good.
  2. 1 Tbs granulated sugar
  3. 1 cup flour
  4. 1 cup rolled oats (regular or quick cooking)
  5. 1/4 cup almond meal
  6. 1/2 tsp salt
  7. 1/4 tsp baking soda
  8. 1/2 cup brown sugar
  9. 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  10. 4 Tbs water or fruit juice
  11. 1 Tbs honey
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F, and line an 8" square baking pan with foil or parchment paper.
  2. Prepare the fruit: pit and chop larger fruit into fine dice, toss with the granulated sugar in a medium bowl and allow to sit while you prepare the other ingredients.
  3. In a large bowl, mix together the dry ingredients. Stir in the oil and honey, and add the water or juice, one tablespoon at a time, until the mixture is uniformly moist and beginning to form clumps.
  4. Reserving about 3/4 cup of the mixture, firmly press the remaining mixture into an even layer on the bottom of the pan.
  5. Spread the fruit evenly over the oat layer, making sure to get all the collected juices in as well.
  6. Sprinkle the remaining oat mixture over the top of the fruit.
  7. Bake for 30 minutes or until the top is brown and toasty and the fruit is beginning to bubble.
  8. Allow to cool completely before slicing into bars.
Emperors Crumbs https://www.emperorscrumbs.com/

My kids love dumplings. Every time I make soup it is expected that I will make dumplings. For me it is a random thing, experimenting with different proportions, different flours, an add this, add that kind of thing. They always turn out different, but they are always a success.
I think my personal favorite is when they are made with semolina flour and when I incorporate cooked vegetables. What kind of vegetables? It depends on what kind of soup I am making.
dumplings-picture2
This time I was making my favorite Summer Pea Soup, so the candidates were cooked carrots, parsnips, celery root and peas. If you are making a different style soup, you can put your favorite things into them. Make sure you let us know how it turns out!

Vegetable Semolina Dumplings
Serves 4
Semolina Dumplings full of vegetables. Ideal for soups. Kids love them.
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
5 min
Total Time
20 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
5 min
Total Time
20 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 1/2 cups cooked vegetables
  2. 1 cup semolina
  3. 2 eggs
  4. 1/2 tsp salt
  5. pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Put a large pot of water on to boil
  2. In a medium bowl, mash the cooked vegetables.
  3. Add semolina, eggs, salt and pepper.
  4. Stir until a thick batter forms.
  5. With a soup spoon, form tablespoon-sized dumplings and drop them carefully into the boiling water.
  6. Boil the dumplings until they bob to the surface, approximately 5 minutes.
  7. Add them into a soup or enjoy by themselves.
Emperors Crumbs https://www.emperorscrumbs.com/

One day Katy suggested we make grilled corn as an end of summer treat. For me as a Central European used to actual cold winters, the concept of “end of summer” in California is slightly weird. But so be it; it’s a great reason to celebrate and everybody likes corn.

We’re always trying to teach our kids about food: not only to eat it but also to make it, and to think about what they like and to try new things. There are flavors we all like more or less, which of those flavors taste great together? What works, what doesn’t? Can we make something EVEN MORE delicious? Neither of our kids is really adventurous, in life and at the table, but we’ve found ways to encourage them to taste a wider range of stuff. Corn is a great vehicle for experimentation. Each of the family member got the task to make their own version.

group-corn-6

I decided to limit the number of ingredients on the corn to three since my son made a series of bacon and … trials and errors. Unfortunately I had to be the one to judge and while bacon with cocoa and brown sugar was ok, the “find all spices and dump them on the bacon” version was definitely an error. I could not even lie, my expression and running off to brush my teeth said everything. Based on this experience, everybody had to eat their own corn!

Unfortunately our little one decided to not participate, because she is missing her front teeth and she has a hard time fighting with the corn on the cob. She promised to make it up at the next challenge.

Stilton Rocket – Corn & Stilton Cheese

This was my choice. I shaved few shards of Stilton and put it on the hot grilled corn. The shavings melted and took this friendly corn into a different universe.It is hard to describe the decadent pleasure of this one. It is like the heat coming from a fireplace on a cold day dressed in warm fuzzy jammies and wearing warm slippers. Perhaps the house is a very old one and here and there a whiff of mold completes the picture.
corn4a

Miso & Brown Butter Corn

The combination of miso and brown butter is amazing – I first read about it on Cookie and Kate, and it’s a perfect match for the sweet and smoky corn. We browned about 2 tablespoons of butter, added a generous teaspoon of white miso and brushed it over the roasted corn.
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Cotija Cheese, Lime and Chile

A Latin classic. Or maybe a specifically Mexican one? Educate us, please. Cotija has just enough salty funkiness to offset the zip zap of the lime and the burn of the chile.

corn3a

Italian Snow – Corn with Pecorino

A very adult choice for Bennett. I was surprised when he came up with this idea, but hey. This works! Salty sheep cheese sprinkled over warm and sweet corn. Flavor bomb!
corn1a

Butter and Chives

The last improvisation. We had one last ear of corn left and did not know what to do with it. Katy suggested herbs and I ran out to cut some of our chives from the garden. We used butter as glue and sprinkled on the chopped chives. Turned out excellent.
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One More “Corny” Group Photo

Just when you thought there won’t be a “corny” joke in a post about a corn, we totally fail you. It had to happen and you know it!
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