Archive for the ‘Eating Vegetables’ Category

Cook Like No One’s Watching

roast zucchini and eggplant (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

I suffer from performance anxiety. It’s not a big deal, really. It just means that I often cook better when I’m by myself than when I’m cooking for other people. When I’m home alone, there’s no need to prove myself, to live up to having a food blog, to make something so delicious that whoever I’m cooking for never wants to eat anywhere else. I guess that’s what performance anxiety means.

While we’re getting it all out into the open, let me go ahead and admit this now. I’ve never been good at group projects. I like to be either completely in charge or completely the opposite. I take direction well and I lead well, but that nebulous middle ground where everyone’s got a good opinion and we’re all trying to self-moderate – I don’t do that.

It’s not that I was that kid who always got “does not play well with others” on her report card. In fact, I played so well with others that I sunk into the background, becoming an un-player, or a non-entity, a completely forgettable figure. For most of my childhood and young adult life, I’m pretty sure none of my classmates thought I had a personality. If they even knew who I was.

No one believes me now when I tell them I’m shy. Usually, I no longer believe myself. But ask my parents, my grade school teachers, my hometown best friend, who I made cry by refusing to remove myself from the folds of my mother’s skirt the day we met.

I’m not sure if I could pinpoint when it was that I grew into myself, my idiosyncrasies, my strangenesses. Perhaps it wasn’t one moment, but a process of growing. It appears mine is a soul that dislikes stagnancy in temperament as much as location. » Continue reading this post…

Slaw That

spitzkraut dissected (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Speak to me wonders, oh cabbage slaw. Your rings, wound and crenellated round a core. Sliceable, screaming of spring. Fit for kings, yet cheap enough to make poor men sing. Cabbage, cabbage, speak to me divine things.

As we tentatively dive into spring, I find myself increasingly drawn to greener things and (clearly also) 18th century romantic poetry which inspires me to write extravagant and rather ode-ish sentences to cabbage.

Nothing wrong with that. Cabbage is great.

Cabbage gets a bad rep for being cheap and one-dimensional, but I would like to do a little salvaging on behalf of the image. Cabbage is versatile. Main ingredient in stir-frys and slaws, stew-filler, a hull for ground beef and spices. A pinch of crispness in a rice salad or the vinegary tang topping a pulled pork sandwich. And the types of cabbage – there’s red cabbage, green cabbage, Chinese cabbage, Savoy, Napa, bok choy – and here in Germany, I’ve discovered yet another lovely variety called Sptizkraut.

cabbage (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

cabbage about to become a slaw (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

It’s a spitzkraut I’m working with today, a baby one about the size of a kitten with smooth, light green skin. It squeaks apart as I cut it into perfect rings with my knife.

The fresh, green foods I crave in spring mean my meals all take a healthy bent – not a bad thing, considering my cooking habits in Germany have inclined towards excessive use of butter and heavy whipping cream during this past winter. But as usual, I haven’t been grocery shopping in a while, and all I have in the fridge is this cabbage and some chiles, some slim pickings of condiments.

Though to make a springtime lunch, that’s all you need. Dijon mustard and farmer’s cheese spread thickly on freshly toasted bread, topped with a simple slaw of cabbage, red onions, and chiles – the dressing no more than rice wine vinegar, grainy mustard, lemon juice, sriracha, mirin, honey, salt, black pepper, and garlic. » Continue reading this post…

No Food in the Inn: Stuffed Peppers with Tomatoes & Rice

peppers ready to roast (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

My brother is my roommate. This is both lovely and… interesting at the same time. Especially when he says things like, “I just want to see how soon it is before you get really annoyed at me” after saying something really annoying.

The problem with living with your siblings is, they really know how to annoy you. They’ve got practice.

We’ve been living together for all of four days now, and so far so good, despite a few squabbles over how we split the grocery bill. He says, “But I’ve spent twice as much as you.” I say, “But you eat twice as much. Fatty.” And then I cook us dinner.

Tonight, after coming home from work, I realize that there isn’t any food left in the fridge. Of course, by no food left in the fridge, what I mean is, there’s an assortment of strange and half-eaten things. Two peppers, a bit of cream from the tortellini with mushroom and cream sauce I made for dinner last night, an old jar of pesto, some tomato sauce, five forlorn little olives, one fourth of a dried up chili pod.

But my brother is looking at me expectantly. And I’ve promised to cook. So I shrug, and bring the various and unrelated food items out of the fridge until I have a plan. Stuffed peppers. Ish.

bro (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Ben is working on his mash-ups – and I can’t help but think that the total ADD selection of music we’re listening to is something like the way I’m cooking. Haphazardly.

It’s coming together I think, though, as I taste the rice I’ve mixed with heavy whipping cream and tomato puree, sautéed onions, garlic, and olives.

This is what I love about cooking. This something from nothing.

roast peppers stuffed with creamy rice (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

I ladle rice into peppers and top them with generous slices of cheese. » Continue reading this post…

Welcome Back Berlin Fritters: Sweet Potato & Fennel Fritters

Sweet Potato and Fennel Fritters (Eat Me. Drink Me)

I rode my little Hercules down Bergmannstr., and as I did, it started to rain, skinny drops that snuck under my scarf. But even with the rain, all I felt was joy to be reunited with my bike, my little Hercules. I forgot that I need to find another job, need to meet more people, am still so new somewhere. I pedaled through the rain, a route that is familiar to me now and realized, I have stopped comparing Berlin to Brooklyn. Because coming back, even after having been in New York, in my own beloved Brooklyn, feels like coming home. » Continue reading this post…

Spitzen

Spitzkraut (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

My great uncle had always been old. From the time I was young, he’d been the same Hansvetter – I remember him in a newsboy cap, a cigarette in his hand, his feet covered in slippers. He loved to watch the planes take off from Stuttgart airport. He lived nearby and kept his TV programmed to a bluescreen listing of departures and arrivals so he’d know which planes were heading where as he watched them fly into the sky. When I’d visit, he’d ask when I was leaving, what plane I’d be on and tell me he’d track me as I took off.

A few distinct memories recur when I think of my great uncle. Every time we came by he’d ask, in a slow, loud Schwäbisch drawl if we understood what he was saying. It can’t be reproduced in print, but it’s something like that joke about Americans speaking loud, slow English in foreign countries as if it turns their words into something other than loud, slow English. For Hansvetter, it was a question of whether we could understand his dialect. And no matter how many times we said, yes, this crazy south German dialect (incomprehensible to even many northern Germans) makes complete sense to us, he’d always shake his head astounded and say, “Well, you just speak such good German.”

Well, yes, we’ve been speaking it our whole lives.

I drove to the South this weekend for Hansvetter’s funeral. On my way there, I thought of how our language and our dialect works to shape our selves. Such a large part of why I’m in Germany is to understand myself as well in this language as I do in English. Yes, Hansvetter, I grew up speaking German, but in a way, you’re right – it’s a foreign language to me still. » Continue reading this post…

Cheese Sauce for Everything

Potatoes and stuff and cheese (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

There is a battle royale being waged for my waistline. I live on a sixth floor walk up, so every day I walk up and down, up and down, until I think I’d cry if I see just one more step in my life. But I’ve gotten pretty good at it by now, all the up and downing, so I think I must be getting in shape. And then I come home and I make things like potatoes with cheese sauce, thereby undoing all the good work I’ve done.

After a long day of translating, I walk up my six flights of stairs and into the apartment I’m calling home. It’s easy to step inside and hang a quick right to the kitchen, turn on the stove, and throw some olive oil in a pot, since everything I cook seems to start that way. I turn on the light, there’s only one small light in the kitchen and the large, orange shade around it keeps the ambiance dim. Which is alright, I guess, since it gives my neighbors in the building across the way less of a reason to look in my window. Although I know their lives well, by now, so I’m sure they know mine too.

And yet it feels a little Hitchcock to do too much looking – besides, living in New York cured me of all my voyeurism anyway.

The kitchen is a small space, not even the most economical. The stove is wedged between the broken washing machine and the shower and across the countertops are splayed half-full boxes of tea bags, postcards, a potted plant, stacks of books, cutting boards, empty cardboard packages, jars of honey and nutella, small stacks of coins, receipts, ticket stubs, and a plastic placemat with a picture of a palm tree. » Continue reading this post…

Summer in the City: Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Strawberry tea fizz (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Oh yes, summer is here, at least unofficially. At least, I’m sweating enough to call it summer. With every snatch of breeze that thinks about coming inside, I lean closer to the open window. At least, until the mosquitoes eat my face. Oh yes, it’s summer. Time for salads and goat cheese, basil, mint, and buckets of water with ice cubes and lime. Or even better, fancy little cocktails with wild tea vodka, strawberries, mint, lemons, simple syrup, and soda water.

It feels like summer vacation every time we sit outside in the backyard. Two tiki torches light up the freshly raked dirt where someday soon there’ll be grass. There’s now a little string of Christmas lights up and always candles burning after dark. Just enough light to eat by at night. Perfect light when your dinner is strawberry-rhubarb pie and cocktails.

There’s been rhubarb at the market these last few weeks and the strawberries have finally started smelling like strawberries. I had been wanting to make a German-style rhubarb tart, but the dough is yeast-based, and being me, I had failed to read the instructions more than ten minutes before my pie friends were about to come over. And as I always come, back to my favorite crust recipe: 1 cup flour, 1/3 cup vegetable oil, a splash of milk, a pinch of salt. So easy and foolproof. Effortless like the summer night.

We sat in the backyard, talking as the pie baked and easing out of our stoic poises as the temperature dropped to something comfortable.

Strawberry rhubarb pie recipe (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Oh, the gooey mess. Four people, one pie, and a few scoops of ice cream. Demolished.

And much the same my summer days go by. I go to work, I come home, I cook a little, sit in the sun a little, try to do yoga when I can, try to stay hydrated so I don’t die. » Continue reading this post…

Doomsday Dinner: Sweet Potato & Collard Tacos

Tacos with sweet potato and collards (Eat me. Drink Me.)

I figured I’d go out with a bang. Something simple and celebratory that said, “Good food is a good life” and “I’m really tired from work” at the same time. It was time to dig through the pantry for cans unopened, vegetables unused, ideas unexplored. I found harissa. I thought: cinnamon, sweet potato, collards.

I played Adele very loud at the inconvenience of my neighbors. I sang along even louder. I thought, I have yoga-d, I have showered, and now I am cooking in the warm light of my kitchen. This is as ready as I’ll ever be to meet the hereafter. Assuming the hereafter is upon us in the next twenty minutes.

I remembered that when I was doing yoga, the rooster crowing at five in the afternoon was a sign. A frantic and unheeded sign. But now, with the sweet potatoes softening in a bed of onion, garlic, cumin, harissa, and cinnamon, I remembered also that the rooster starts to crow at three in the morning and crows, like sick clockwork, seven times in a row every nineteen minutes apart, until late in the afternoon. And by the end of the day his crows are like death throes, implausibly persisting croaks. And before, I had felt the rain to be ominous, wet foretaste of horror.

Now, it brought a cool evening breeze through the window and a calming patter. I remembered that I like rain.

I snapped open a bottle of Weihenstephaner, my right now favorite wheat beer. The apocalypse postponed itself, I think to give me time to really taste crisp wheat and honey, blue sky, the remembrance of bananas. I remembered that I don’t like bananas.

Two tortillas grilled on the gas stove’s open flame. Collards just simmering into a spicy tomato-laced harissa sauce. Crumbled feta. Everything wrapped in the tortilla. » Continue reading this post…