Dear Friends, Fans, and Readers,
On December 27, 2018, I lost my mother, Mia Schwarze. I am posting this recipe in loving memory of her.
Schwetzinger Spargelsalat — a creamy Asparagus Salad with Chicken named after the town of Schwetzingen — was a staple in my mother’s repertoire.
On one of my visits home I asked her for the recipe, as I had to prepare a dish for a potluck, and at that time had not yet discovered my culinary passion, so ease of preparation was essential. And it didn’t need to be kept hot. It was a smashing success and enjoyed repeat performances in the potluck circle.
This is the original recipe as scribed by my mother in the early 1980s:
There are many little things that reflect my mother to me in the way she wrote this recipe. Note the efficient re-use of the cardboard inside the packages of nylons as notepaper (front and back!) Also, how she edited the name of the dish by adding “bzw. Geflügelsalat [or rather, poultry salad),” to the polite “b.w. [over]” at the bottom of page one, to the ending statement “Salat zu Tisch geben. Guten Appetit! [Serve Salad. Enjoy!]” — in all I see my mother as if she is still here with me.
My mother was a good cook. I remember both simple, everyday dishes and more elaborate, seasonal or celebratory ones. As a perfectionist, she always presented beautiful and tasty food. I did not truly understand until much later — after I had discovered my own culinary style and passion for creating soulful food — that the reason she was a good cook was her ability follow a recipe to the letter. She had artistic talent, so her plating skills were excellent. Her cooking was the union of craftsmanship and art.
Ironically, she was unable to any of the food she prepared. She lost all her appetite while cooking. Sadly, cooking was a duty and a challenge, not a joyful task.
My father, on the other hand, had a more limited number of dishes he could cook, but enjoyed doing so and cooked almost every weekend he did not travel for work. Once he retired from corporate life, he took over most of the cooking.
Grieving for my mother is hard, but I can’t imagine how difficult it must be for my father, who is grieving for his life partner of the last 61 years. These last few months I have grown closer to him than I ever have before, and it feels good. I am so thankful we have an opportunity to support each other.
So, in the words of my Mutti,
Salat zu Tisch geben [serve salad]
Guten Appetit! [Enjoy!]
Yield: 8 servings
Prep time: 70 minutes (30 minutes inactive)
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total time: 60 minutes
4 chicken breasts (can be with or without skin, and, since our personal preference is dark meat, I use thighs)
4 cups water
10 pepper corns
1 pound fresh asparagus (in Germany I would use white asparagus, but the green asparagus available more widely in the US is fine. My mother’s original recipe called for jarred or canned asparagus, but I much prefer fresh.)
8 small tomatoes
8 slices pineapple (again, fresh is nicest, but canned also works.)
5 tablespoons mayonnaise
5 tablespoons sour cream
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 bunch parsley
salt and pepper to taste
1 pinch sugar
1 dash Worcestershire sauce
How is this sustainable ?
It may not be my most sustainable recipe, but it is a comfort food, so it sustains my soul.
The meal is easily made more sustainable by using fresh organic ingredients, and making your own mayonnaise.
- In a large pot, add water, salt and peppercorns.
- Bring to a boil.
- Add chicken breasts (or thighs) to water and cook on low heat for 20 minutes.
- Drain chicken and let cool.
- Remove skin and bones (if needed.)
- Cut into bite-sized cubes.
- Scald and peel tomatoes and cut into cubes.
- Wash and drain asparagus.
- For white asparagus, peel, cut off bottom of stem, then cut into bite-sized pieces.
For green asparagus, break off wooded ends, then cut into bite-sized pieces.
- Peel pineapple if fresh, or drain if canned, then cut into cubes.
- Place all ingredients into a large bowl and mix.
- Whisk together dressing ingredients, taste, and pour over the salad.
- Let stand in a cool place for 30 minutes.
- Serve salad.
- Guten Appetit!