Make these dishes from Occupied France in World War II – Orange County Register

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Over the years, all 10 of Kitty Morse’s cookbooks have happily made a path to my kitchen. But her most recent book, “Bitter Sweet: A Wartime Journal and Heirloom Recipes from Occupied France,” made its way to my bedside table and into my heart. It’s a powerful book that’s a consistent page-turner, with words that make it hard to put down and turn off the light.

Part family history, part cookbook, Morse shares the journal of her great-grandfather Dr. Prosper Levy, written in Nazi-occupied France from April to December 1940. She also includes her great-grandmother Blanche’s recipes from that era. It reveals a portion of the tragedy that her Jewish family experienced during this dark period of history.

Morse lives in Vista and discovered the journal and recipes in a suitcase in her mother’s closet after her death.

“Bitter Sweet: A Wartime Journal and Heirloom Recipes from Occupied France” by Kitty Morse was published in 2023. (Photo by Owen Morse)

Blanche’s recipes were a much-appreciated bonanza. Of the 146 recipes, most were for desserts, including 15 chocolate cakes.

“The tally was hardly what I’d expected from a woman whose father (my great-great-grandfather) supplied meat and poultry to the armies of Napolean III,” she wrote, taking the liberty in the book to include formulas for several savory dishes typical of northeastern France where her great-grandparents made their home.

Enjoy the recipes. Imagine the joy these dishes brought to the pre-war Levy family.

Red Cabbage Alsatian-Style boasts a diverse array of ingredients, including onions, apples and beer knockwurst. (Photo by Owen Morse)
Red Cabbage Alsatian-Style boasts a diverse array of ingredients, including onions, apples and beer knockwurst. (Photo by Owen Morse)

Red Cabbage Alsatian-Style

Morse told me that cabbage-based dishes are a specialty in Alsace, the French region where her family has deep roots. This formula was included in her great-grandmother’s recipe notebook, and it rang a bell with her because she remembers that her grandmother prepared the same homestyle concoction, as did her mother. Red cabbage teams with onions and apples, as well as sausages. Beef knockwurst is listed in the ingredients, but she said that other German-style sausages or chicken sausage can be substituted.

Yield: 4 servings

INGREDIENTS

4 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided use

12 pearl onions, parboiled and peeled; see cook’s notes

4 beef sausages, such as knockwurst, cooked, cut into 1/2-inch slices

1 medium yellow (brown) onion, peeled, thinly sliced

1 small head red cabbage, cored, thinly sliced

2 Granny Smith apples, cored, thinly sliced

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Cook’s notes: To peel pearl onions, place in boiling water for 2 to 3 minutes; transfer to bowl of ice water to cool. Drain and peel. I often skip these steps by using frozen pearl onions. After thawing and patting dry, they are ready to use.

DIRECTIONS

1. In a medium skillet over medium heat, heat 2 tablespoons of oil. Cook the pearl onions and 1/4 of the knockwurst until the onions turn golden brown. Set aside for garnish.

2. In a large deep skillet or Dutch oven heat the remaining oil on medium heat. Add the remaining sausage slices, yellow onion, red cabbage, apples, fennel seeds, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Cover and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally until the cabbage becomes soft, 40 to 45 minutes. Garnish with the reserved pearl onion-sausage mixture. Serve hot.

Source: “Bitter Sweet” by Kitty Morse

Chocolate Pudding Cake (Kalougat de Blanche)

With merriment in her voice, Morse describes her great-grandmother’s Chocolate Pudding Cake as “fabulous, a star recipe.” There were 15 chocolate cake recipes in Blanche’s notebook, but this one rose to the top. She says that the cake is best served a day after it’s baked because it becomes denser. She suggests serving it accompanied with crème anglaise, but whipped cream or crème fraiche sweetened with a little powdered sugar would also be a delicious accompaniment.

Yield: 6 servings

INGREDIENTS

9 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided use

7 ounces dark chocolate, broken into pieces

4 eggs, room temperature

1 cup powdered sugar, sifted, divided use

1/4 almond meal or almond flour; see cook’s notes

2 teaspoons white vinegar

Optional: A small amount of powdered sugar to dust top of cake.

Accompaniment: Crème anglaise, or whipped cream, or crème fraiche mixed with a little powdered sugar

Cook’s notes: The terms “almond flour” and “almond meal” are often used interchangeably, though they are not the same. Almond meal comes from whole almonds (with skins). It is not the same as almond flour made from skinless blanched almonds.

The baking term “to form a ribbon: when you lift the mixer attachment or whisk from the mixture, the batter should fall back in thick trails. The ribbon lines will stay suspended on top of the batter, remaining clearly visible on the surface for a few moments before slowly disappearing.

DIRECTIONS

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Using 1 tablespoon butter, grease the bottom and sides of a round 8-inch straight-sided baking pan. Line the bottom with a round of parchment paper. Set aside.

2. In a double boiler, over high heat, bring water to a boil in lower container. Remove from the heat and add chocolate and the rest of the butter to the upper container. Stir the mixture until smooth. Set aside.

3. Separate the eggs. In a large bowl, beat the egg yolks with 3/4 cup of the powdered sugar until mixture forms thick ribbons (see cook’s notes). To this, in increments, add almond meal and the chocolate-butter mixture. Set aside.

4. In another bowl, beat the egg whites and vinegar until soft peaks form. Add the remaining 1/4 cup of powdered sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks form. Fold it into the butter-chocolate-almond meal mixture and pour batter into prepared pan. Set in water bath; place cake pan in a larger pan and add hot water to the outer pan, filling it with just enough water to come halfway up the side of the cake pan. Bake until cake is set, 45 to 50 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on rack for 10 minutes before unmolding. Peel away the parchment paper and return to cooling rack to cool overnight. If desired, dust the top of the cake with a little powdered sugar; place powdered sugar in small sieve and shake over the top of the cake.

5. Cut into wedges. Serve with crème anglaise, or whipped cream, or crème fraiche sweetened with a little powdered sugar.

Source: “Bitter Sweet” by Kitty Morse

The version of carrot cake in Kitty Morse's cookbook "Bitter Sweet" is super-moist and doesn't require frosting, though it's delicious topped with whipped cream. (Photo by Owen Morse)
The version of carrot cake in Kitty Morse’s cookbook “Bitter Sweet” is super-moist and doesn’t require frosting, though it’s delicious topped with whipped cream. (Photo by Owen Morse)

Carrot Cake (Gateau de Carottes)

Here is another recipe from Morse’s great-grandmother, a super-moist carrot cake, a light version that stands on its own flavor wise without any frosting. Dotted with grated carrots, the cake can be stored for several days at room temperature.  It’s delicious served with whipped cream.

Yield: 8 servings

INGREDIENTS

Soft butter for greasing pan

4 eggs, divided use

3/4 cup granulated sugar

4 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature

2 oranges

2 tablespoons orange liqueur, such as Cointreau

2 cups coarsely grated carrots

1 1/3 cup almond meal or almond flour; see cook’s notes

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 cup almond meal

1 teaspoon cream of tartar

4 tablespoons powdered sugar, divided use

1 cup heavy cream

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Cook’s notes: The terms almond flour and almond meal are often used interchangeably, though they are not the same. Almond meal comes from whole almonds (with skins). It is not the same as almond flour made from skinless blanched almonds. Both are used in this recipe.

DIRECTIONS

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease the sides of a 9-inch round cake pan and line the bottom with a round of parchment paper.

2. In a large bowl or bowl of an electric mixer, beat the egg yolks, sugar, and 4 ounces of butter until the mixture forms ribbons (a portion of the batter leaves a trail atop the mixture when it falls from a spoon or electric mixer’s whisk attachment). Zest and juice the oranges. Set zest aside. Add 1/2 cup orange juice, Cointreau, and the grated carrots to the egg yolk-sugar mixture; mix to combine.

3. In medium bowl, mix the almond flour, baking powder and almond meal. In increments, fold this into the egg yolk-grated carrot mixture and set aside.

4.. In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat egg whites, cream of tartar, and 3 tablespoons of powdered sugar until stiff peaks form. Fold into the batter and transfer to the prepared cake pan. Bake on middle rack of preheated oven until firm to the touch, 50 to 55 minutes. Cool on a rack and unmold on serving platter.

5.. In a chilled bowl, whip the heavy cream with the remaining powdered sugar and vanilla until stiff peaks form. Cut cake into wedges and serve each with a generous dollop of whipped cream. Garnish with reserved orange zest.

Source: “Bitter Sweet” by Kitty Morse



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