Thursday, September 10, 2015

Planes, Trains & Automobiles…..Leipzig or Bust!!

As I’m writing this, I am suffering through our 6th heat wave. Labor Day unofficially ended summer; however, it is still hanging on!  Hurry up and be over!  You know, there once was a time when I loved summer & mourned its end but those days are increasingly fading into the past.  Summer is certainly a whole lot different as a grownup compared to being a kid. Growing up in the 1970s & early 80s, I longed for endless summers. Every 2 years during summer vacation, I trekked with my mom to visit my grandparents in communist East Germany & various relatives and friends in the West. My first trip was in the summer of 1974, I was soon to be 6 years old and I was anxious.  I hadn’t seen my grandparents or been in Germany since I was 2 years old & upon arriving in Germany, I had absolutely no idea what anyone was saying.  The only German word I could think of was “Schweinhund” from the TV show Hogan’s Heroes.  I was homesick the first week but by the end of our visit, I didn’t want to leave and German was rolling off my tongue.  As much as I anticipated these trips, I know they were often stressful for my mom as she was the one who had to do all the planning, packing & repacking, etc. Flying the friendly skies back then, especially in the ‘70s, was a whole lot different than today.  We used to actually get “dressed up” to travel.  Looking back, I have to laugh at how my mom always requested non-smoking, yet we were always seated DIRECTLY BEHIND the last "smoking" aisle.  Like that was going to make a difference.  We always arrived in Frankfurt, dreading making our way down the escalator with what seemed like 100 pounds worth of luggage and then onto an express train that stopped for 2 minutes to allow passengers on (Hey, it’s Germany, Mach Schnell! or miss the train). Thankfully, there were always some kind souls on board who helped load us and our luggage onto the train, often accompanied with an “Ach du meine Güte” while rolling their eyes, after discovering the weight of our suitcases.  The train took us to the Frankfurt Main station where my beloved godmother Elsa & her sister Liesl would be waiting for us with a luggage cart & lots of goodies to take with us on our way to the East.  We would sit together in the café at the station having coffee and pastries while we waited for our train.  Then we bid a quick farewell, as we would return to stay with them in several weeks time.  We always had reserved seats in a cabin on the train. Riding the Bundesbahn was wonderful; the speed at which the train would travel as we passed through cities and whizzed by the beautiful countryside. Often I would open the windows and hang my head out trying to take it all in.  I was so excited and counted down the hours until we reached Leipzig!  The train made a prolonged stop at the East/West border where the Stasi and the border control officers with their perpetual looks of disdain would board and check passports, visas and luggage (looking for any Western goods).  My mom always gave a sigh of relief once the train started moving out as our suitcases were ALWAYS LOADED with contraband.  We would arrive at Leipzig Hauptbahnhof and there would be my Omi waiting for us; either with her friend, Doris, or her neighbors the Brodkorbs. If I close my eyes, I can still hear the sounds and see the images of that train station as if it were yesterday.  Alas, from the train we would either go by taxi or Wolfgang “Wolfie” Brodkorb’s car to Alte Strasse 19, my grandparents’ apartment and the home where my mom grew up.  I still see my Opi looking out the third story window, waiting for us and waving when he saw us coming. My grandparents always had a decorated handmade sign hanging on the apartment door: Herzlich Willkommen.  As soon as I stepped through the door, I could smell the schnitzel that Omi had already cooked for me.  I had happily arrived to my home away from home.  And I was hungry!

Our arrival to Alte Strasse 19, Summer of 1974. From left to right: Opi, Omi, me, my sister Yvonne

Frühstück mit Opi auf dem Balkon

Schnitzel doesn’t exactly come to mind as something you would cook during the summer; however, I love a good schnitzel.  Something that seems to be on trend, is placing the salad atop the cooked entrée.  Here, I’ve prepared a recipe that pairs a chicken schnitzel with a mixed greens salad & vinaigrette.  It’s a great way to lighten up what may seem to be a heavy dish and it utilizes the fresh produce of summer. Guten Appetit!!
Chicken Schnitzel with Mixed Greens Salad & Herb Vinaigrette:
Chicken Schnitzel
2 large  Boneless, skinless chicken breasts pounded to approx. ½ “ thickness
             2           Eggs, whisked
¾ c.      Flour (more if necessary)
1c.        Fresh bread crumbs (more if necessary)
3Tb.     Butter
3Tb.     Canola Oil
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large skillet, heat the butter & oil over medium high heat.  Take the chicken breasts and coat them in the following order: flour, egg, bread crumbs.  Place each chicken breast in the skillet & allow to brown, approx. 3-4 minutes.  Turn over and brown the other side for another 3-4 minutes.  Remove chicken breasts to either a small baking sheet or individual sizzle plates and cook in oven until fully cooked, approx. 5-7 minutes.  Chicken should be cooked to a temperature of 165 degrees. Remove from oven & tent with foil to keep warm.
Mixed Greens with Herb Vinaigrette
3Tb.       Red wine vinegar
1Tb.       Shallot, minced
1 clove  Garlic, minced
1Tb.       Dijon mustard
1Tb.       Parsley, finely chopped
1Tb.       Basil, finely chopped
1Tb.       Oregano, finely chopped
1/3 c.       Extra virgin olive oil
Fresh ground pepper
4c.          mixed greens/spring mix
5-6         multi-colored cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
Ricotta Salata Cheese
Whisk together the first 7 ingredients.  Slowly whisk in the olive oil until it emulsifies with the other ingredients.  Season to taste with salt & pepper.  This can easily be made in a mini food processor or in a salad dressing bottle with a lid.
Toss the dressing with the salad greens and tomatoes then place 2 cups of salad atop each schnitzel.  Grate some of the ricotta salata cheese atop the salad and serve.


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