Archive for the ‘Eating Vegetables’ Category

Saving Grace

Bulgur salad with tomatoes (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

It’s been a while. I dove right into crazy town and am just now coming up for air. In the past three weeks, some things happened: Like fine balsamic, I aged another year. My mother, grandfather, and littlest brother came to visit Berlin for a time, and we smashed the town – boating down the Spree, petting the goats in the zoo, touring the hidden depths of the Bundestag, and eating and eating and eating. Of course I was deathly ill for a time, during which there were massive deadlines at work. And on the other hand, we finally got chairs for the apartment. They’re blue and beautiful and I love them. I went to Greece, I rode a donkey, I came home from Greece, and now I’m here at my desk, watching a quickly fading dusk shutter the daytime sky.

It’s both a blessing and a curse to be back in routine – well, ish, since the work week hasn’t really started yet, and I came home to David’s visiting friends on the couch and a spontaneous trip to Mauerpark to grill, which was rained out by thunderstorms, and today we had lunch in the TV tower like tourists in our own city. So there’s that. And then there’s the specter of responsibility that hovers here – I left my calendar and its to-do lists sitting on my desk, and they’ve greeted my homecoming with reproach for having neglected them for so long.

Chopped dill (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Quick bulgur salad (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Today, the only reasonable thing to do has been to keep ignoring them. Instead, I swept the floor a few times, which always just seems to shift the dust from one room to another. I lay in bed with an icepack on my head and moaned about my humidity headache, trying to nap and restlessly jumping up from bed again. » Continue reading this post…

Spargel Fever: White Asparagus and Pancetta Pizza

white asparagus (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

When spring finally hits Berlin, what people here are most excited for isn’t lush grass tickling along the banks of the Canal or bright bouquets of flowers filling every market stall, but the piles of white asparagus cropping up on grocery store shelves around the country. Spargelzeit is here.

I must admit, I’m not immune to the fever. Unlike the brisk, verdant crunch of green asparagus, white asparagus is surprisingly sweet and just this side of mellow – a perfect template for its traditional accompaniments of hollandaise or browned butter, salty prosciutto and creamy boiled new potatoes with parsley.

yeast (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

pancetta and green onion (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

shaved asparagus peel (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Last weekend, I took a stroll through our neighborhood Spargel Festival. It wasn’t much – just a few small stands set up around the fountain in the Rathaus Park. There were a few odd participants – a political cluster with competing parties and pamphlets, the boy scouts with their tipi set up on the lawn – but for the most part, it was full of typical German street festival fare: Thüringer Bratwurst and Knackerwurst, Flammkuchen (wood-fired flatbreads typically topped with crème fraîche, onions, and lardons), grilled pork steaks stuffed inside crusty bread rolls… and at the asparagus festival, of course, asparagus.

flour for pizza dough (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

salt (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Pizza dough (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

There’s something provincial about these neighborhood street fairs, even in a big city like Berlin. They’re different from the citywide festivals, like May 1st or the upcoming Carnival of Cultures, where there are rows upon rows of carts, stands, and foldable tables set up selling edibles of every kind on disposable plates. There might be a euro deposit on that caipirinha everyone seems to be carting around, but what’s one euro lost on a plastic cup when the crowd has carried you down the long, muggy line of revelry from one end to the other?

peeled white asparagus (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Spargel (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

At the Asparagus Festival, the asparagus tent served classically-prepared asparagus with accoutrements on real plates with real silverware. » Continue reading this post…

Resolutions, if I Have to: Kale Chips

Kale chips (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

I’ve never been much for making resolutions in January. I find the beginning of October a much more invigorating time for making grand gestures. January may have a new four-digit number after it, but really, what’s motivating about January besides that? The weather is still stuck in a perpetual slump, and me, I’m usually caught in some jetlag horror that pushes sleep way up to the top of the life goal list. This year, a lingering illness and late start back to work made my early January a less-than-inspiring start to 2015.

But for all that, I’ve really managed to make a lot of resolutions this year. And just as I type that, I swear to you, the gray clouds are breaking up and a bright blue sky is swinging into view. So maybe that’s a sign. (On a side note, the plus side to never seeing sun is that you never really know how dirty your windows truly are. Maybe I should add Windexing to the resolution list…

Dinosaur kale (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Raw kale (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

So here are my 2015/rest of my life resolutions:

Live more unplugged – or, live plugged in, but conscientiously
During the second month I lived in Berlin, I spilled a drink into my laptop and broke it. I was living in a new city, I knew almost no one. The internet was my crutch. I panicked until I realized this was probably the perfect opportunity to really do the things I’d moved to Berlin to do – read, write, and cook. Computers are totally great, but they make us approach multitasking in the worst possible way. A computer allows you to work in multiple windows at the same time. You can check email, write a blog post, nose around on Facebook, listen to iTunes and edit photos all at the same time. » Continue reading this post…

Fall Pleasures: Savory Fig and Rosemary Galette

Savory fig galette (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

On my way home from work, I pass by a little shop, a grocery where they sell fresh fruits and vegetables from a farm in Werder. The produce is seasonal, and there’s no telling what they’ll have from one day to the next. They’re always friendly, throwing in extra tomatoes when the batch is about to bruise or adding a lonely apple to your order of plums. The fruit is weighed and wrapped up in brown paper bags, and the price rounded down with a wink. It’s all very quaint, somehow, and odd in today’s Berlin landscape where the grocery store is efficiently impersonal and the weekend markets are luxuriously hip.

This ugly, un-hip nook nestled on one of Berlin’s less remarkable streets feels like a remnant of another time, when you knew your neighborhood grocers and special requests were run of the mill. It feels like an impossible venture.

Figs in a paper bag (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Pumpkin (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

A few nights ago, on our way home from work, Ellen and I picked up pumpkins we’d special-ordered. We’ve gone into a bit of a Halloween craze at work, planning a costume party, figuring out where to buy candy corn, ordering dry ice for spooky cocktails… and buying all the pumpkins, of course, to carve, cook, eat, and decorate. And while our office has been pleasantly orange-hued for some time, we hadn’t had a chance to take the Halloween home.

Hollowed pumpkin (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Pumpkin flesh (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

As we waited for the grocer to get our pumpkins from the back of the shop, I noticed a box of figs, plump and just soft, skin purplish-black and velvety. He sold them to me for a song.

Fresh figs (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Cutting figs for a galette (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

A halved fig (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Tell me a better way to spend your Saturday afternoon than sitting in the kitchen carving a pumpkin, drinking chilled prosecco, and baking a fig galette, and I will pack up my bags and move to Antarctica to eat only the slowly melting polar ice caps. » Continue reading this post…

Back-to-School Weather: Roasted Quince and Pumpkin Soup

Roasted quince and pumpkin soup (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Fall weather motivates me like nothing else can. When everyone else is complaining about how gray and mucky it is outside, how depressing the drizzle, how dour the cold, I’m making plans.

I’ve never put much stock in New Year’s resolutions – I seem to make all mine in the fall. Fall feels like the start of something new. Everything about it is crisp – the scent of dried-out leaves, their crackle under your brand-new boots, the brisk wind brushing your cheek.

Maybe fall feels so fresh to me because I associate it with the start of school, a time I always loved and which is full of new things. New classes, new wardrobes, new shrink-wrapped blocks of college-ruled paper. Everything is so full of potential.

Roasting pumpkin and quince (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

For me, fall couldn’t have come at a more perfect time. I’ve just spent three weeks traveling, being a total lazy bum on vacation, letting other people cook for me and ignoring the steadily growing pile of emails in all of my inboxes. (Why do we all have so many email accounts?)

Now that I’m back in Berlin, fall has shocked me into motivation. While it’s a little melancholy to think that there are no more hazy summer afternoons on picnic blankets to tempt me away from my work, it’s invigorating to wrap up in blankets at the desk (um, the heater’s not so great) and feel a surge of focused, creative energy that comes along with the cold.

Fall is also the season where I’m most motivated to cook and create new dishes. I love pumpkins and dark leafy greens, slow-simmered sauces and jeweled pomegranate berries. I love rich sweet potatoes and freshly plucked apples from a gnarled tree, earthy mushrooms and tart quince.

Quince (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Quince slices (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Quince is a new addition to my fall repertoire. It’s hard to find in the States, and most people wouldn’t know what to do with one if it hit them in the head. » Continue reading this post…

Dear Diary: Summer Rolls with Peanut Sauce

Ready to roll (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

The last time I had summer rolls was for my birthday, which was 360 days ago, to be precise. It seems a sin not to have had summer rolls in the meantime. I’ve done so many other things, like move into a new apartment with my boyfriend, spend two months in the states going to weddings and being a summer bum, taking a cruise to Bermuda, starting a new job. And while all of that was going on, I couldn’t find a spare second to make summer rolls. It seems.

And what a loss, because summer rolls are one of the great belly gifts. Slick vermicelli noodles vie for position with carrot and cucumber slivers, shaved Napa cabbage and garlicky shrimp, flavorful herbs like sweet basil and mint, sweet hoisin sauce and garish red Sriracha. They press up against pliant, clear rice paper like strange alien life forms just waiting to burst free. Yet, the summer roll’s fate is a dunk in peanut sauce, sweet and limey with a hit of garlic and chili.

What could I possibly have been doing to keep me from making those more often?

Carrots (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
Sweet basil (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Summer rolls (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

I’m going to tell you a secret. I keep a journal. It’s embarrassing, isn’t it? It feels so Ramona, so pre-teen, so crush. But here’s why: I started doing it when I was 8 years old, and because I feel compelled to keep doing the things that I start until they’re done, I can’t stop journaling until I die. In the same vein, I also still keep a list of books that I’ve read, because in 4th grade, we had to keep a list in order to get Book-It Club pizza points. I have a list of every book I’ve read since 4th grade! Really! And no one’s giving me pizza anymore. » Continue reading this post…

It’s Spargelzeit!: White Asparagus with Honey-Dijon Sauce

White asparagus with bacon and honey-mustard dressing (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

The asparagus are miniature trees, woody and white. Like baby birches tapering into golden spear-peaks. They fill the grocery’s bins, and roadside stands sell crates overflowing with ghostly stalks. Cooking magazines sport bundles on the cover; they’re in turn glistening with butter, flecked with green herbs, or soothed with a blanket of mustard sauce. On the streets, people whisper their favorite recipes to one another or debate proper preparation. When spring hits in Germany, you may as well shout it out: It’s Spargelzeit!

White asparagus (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Spargelzeit begins in mid-April and lasts until the 24th of June, the feast day of St. John the Baptist. In Germany, Spargel refers only to white asparagus. What Americans call “asparagus” earns its own differentiator here: “green asparagus.” Here, real asparagus is white – those skinny, little green fingers are an aberration.

Peeled white asparagus (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Asparagus peel (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Yet, like dogs with chopped off tails, white asparagus isn’t a natural occurrence. It’s just another one of those ways in which we’ve altered nature for so long we’ve gotten used to it. White asparagus is cultivated by covering the shoots with soil as they grow (a process called hilling) to prevent exposure to sunlight. Without sun, the shoots never begin to photosynthesize, and remain white.

No matter the methods, people go nuts when Spargelzeit hits. The shops set up displays; there are special long pots for cooking Spargel, special ladles for fishing individual stalks from the boiling pot, special plates to set the Spargel on, not to mention myriads of Spargel peelers, all purporting to be the best.

Mustard in a measuring spoon (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Long stalks of white asparagus (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

But there might just be some grounds for the hysteria. White asparagus is milder and sweeter than its skinny cousin. The plump stalks are delicate and must be cooked gently to release their softly nutty flavor. Because the asparagus are so fragile, they must be quickly processed, sold, and eaten. » Continue reading this post…

Springtime Deities: Green Goddess Dressing

Tarragon (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Today is a happy-Joni Mitchell kind of day. There’s another kind of Joni Mitchell day which is rather introspective, but this isn’t that kind of day at all. It’s the kind of day where you open all the windows and belt out, “Oh Carey get out your cane / And I’ll put on some silver. / Oh you’re a mean old Daddy / But I like you fine.” The neighbors are probably listening to you, and that’s ok.

The persistent reminder of spring is everywhere in the city. The tree in our inner courtyard is flush with green. There’s a pretty, yellow flower (whose name I just spent 15 minutes trying to find on the internet, to no avail) sitting on my kitchen table. Every market stall is plump with fresh herbs and the vegetables are starting to taste like themselves again. I fell in love with a basket of cherry tomatoes this morning and ate every single one.

Parsley (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
Chives (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

It’s the kind of day to make green goddess dressing. Like so many lovely things, green goddess dressing is a relic from another era. According to the internet (that lovely little thing from this era), it was invented in the 1920’s at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco in honor of George Arliss, star of the hit play The Green Goddess. In the 20’s, the girls were fast and loose and the men were dandies, hotels were hotbeds of inventions, and there were hit plays that didn’t have an accompanying musical score by Andrew Lloyd Webber. What a decade.
Chopped herbs (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Mayonnaise and sour cream (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

But spring is a time of rebirth, so on happy-Joni Mitchell days, relics live again. As its name implies, the goddess is green, green, green. Chopped fresh herbs like parsley, tarragon, and chives release verdant perfume. They’re mashed with garlic and anchovy, lightened with the tang of lemon juice and the bite of salt, then whisked smooth with mayonnaise and sour cream. » Continue reading this post…