Archive for the ‘Grilling’ Category

Campfires & Cakes

Emma's Linzertorte (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

It begins and ends with fire. In the middle, is cake.

On the day we arrive in Burladingen, we don’t waste much time in loading up the cars with boxes of sausages and driving up the narrow, winding road into the mountains. The landscape is brilliantly green, like a patchwork of multi-hued golf courses, speckled with tall, dark pines. Everywhere in the not-so-far distance is the upward slope of a gentle mountain thick with cover.

Here on the Swabian Jura, summer is a cool afterthought. Today the sun is shining, albeit meekly, meagerly, and I am dressed in all three sweaters I thought to pack. On the Eichland, the land of oaks, the grass is littered with pinecones and dead needles. The sun glimmers out beyond the copse. Where we are is shaded, and a naughty breeze nips the trees.

We quickly light a fire by throwing brush into the ring of stones, then adding sticks and larger logs. At nearly 85, my grandfather still fells trees up here on his two forest plots, and what we burn is the scrap from the wood he uses to fire the furnace in his valley home.

Kebabs (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
A grilled Bratwurst (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Soon, a blaze licks back against the breeze, and we creep our camp chairs closer to the flame. It’s quiet on the Eichland today; we’re a small group. Michael has taken over the task of burning woodsy brush on the fire. Livi has gravitated toward the push lawnmower, as every child who’s ever been to the Eichland is wont to do. She whirrs it industriously across the grass.

For dinner, we throw kebabs on hot coals and roast sausages on sticks over the open flame. There are potatoes with skin crisped black and dense slices of bread. It’s a simple meal: Meat. But our bellies are full as the dusk settles into night and we pack up and drive home. » Continue reading this post…

The Element of Surprise: Moroccan-Style Burgers with Apple-Balsamic Reduction

Moroccan-style burgers with balsamic-apple reduction (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Cinnamon had been a rash last-minute decision. It settled on the mound of ground almonds and beef like a smug crop dusting. I looked at my hand in surprise. Who told you that was a good idea? my brain said to my hand. The body works in mysterious ways, my hand said to my brain. But by then there was nothing to do but move on with the bold decision, adjusting the plans accordingly.

In Chopped, it’s all about surprises anyway. It’s a game where you have to create an entire, cohesive dish from three disparate ingredients on the spot. There’s no time to research or prepare. You have nothing, and then suddenly, you have to have an idea. You’re already thinking creatively, open to the unexpected.

Whole almonds (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Almonds (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Chopped almonds (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

When we made these burgers the first time for the family Chopped competition in Italy, the ground, toasted almonds mixed with minced garlic and onion piled on pillowy beef reminded me somehow of chicken bastilla, one of my favorite meals in the entire world. Bastilla is a Moroccan dish in which saffron chicken, egg, and toasted almonds are sweetened with orange water and cooked inside crispy, thin phyllo dough. Though it’s garnished with powdered sugar and cinnamon, the filling is a perfect blend of savory and sweet, crunchy and soft.

Ground beef (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
Toasted almonds (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
Ground beef and spices (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
Burger mash (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

I don’t think my thought process at the time was as rational as all that, but adding the cinnamon to the burger mash felt right, even though my brain was surprised at quickness of my hand’s action. » Continue reading this post…

Berlin to Burladingen, and Back

Opa (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

The weather was unseasonably warm on the Alb. While Berlin’s skies were overcast and gray, raindrops dripping from every balcony and eave, Stuttgart’s sun was shining. A filmy blue sky unrolled over deeply green hills as we drove away from the city and into the rural landscape of the Schwäbische Alb. It’s called the Swabian Jura in English, but that feels so wrong to say, I just won’t.

I forget how pretty the Alb is when I’m not there, especially in late spring and early summer, when the trees have bloomed and the fields sprout full of wild daisies, dandelions and purple wildflowers. I love the unreal color of green coating the grass, the way the landscape looks freshly dipped in dew.

Flowers on the Alb (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

My brother and I are on our way to our grandfather’s house. My uncle is driving, we’re chatting about the upcoming world cup and which nations are the happiest on Earth. He outlines our program for the weekend. When you only fly south for a long weekend, your hours are tightly regulated. My aunt and uncle are coming for dinner, the next day, if the weather holds, we’ll go grilling on the Eichland. There’s talk of Eurovision.

Burladingen is all talk, it’s always all talk. By which I mean, we start a constant stream of visiting and chatting and catching up from the moment we set foot in my grandfather’s house to the moment we leave. And in the Southern Germany I know, there’s no talking without something tasty to go with it – creamy mushrooms wrapped up in crepes, Danishes and coffee, homemade pizza finished with a round of my grandfather’s bootleg raspberry liqueur, dark bread for breakfast with butter and jam, cake and cake and cake. “It’s not my fault if you go home hungry,” my grandfather says. » Continue reading this post…

Baking My Own Birthday Cake

Birthday party (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

One of my greatest fears in life has always been that no one will come to my birthday party. I’ll invite everyone I know. I’ll send out pretty invitations on cardstock with glitter ink. I’ll promise party favors and food and fun beverages loaded with crushed ice. I’ll promise home-baked cake. But on the day of my party, people will just trickle in and out, if they come at all, and stare sadly at the limp, swaying streamers.

There’s generally very little anyone can say to allay these fears. My boyfriend said, “Don’t be ridiculous.” My brother said the same thing. I’m just always afraid that something else will come up – an apocalypse, a Backstreet Boys reunion tour – and I’ll be left tearing through the sugared crumbs of cake and piles of party food like a lonely Godzilla.

Birthday guest (Eat me. Drink Me.)

Grilling in Tempelhof (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

I celebrated my birthday last Saturday with a grill in Tempelhof, a shut-down airport featuring a runway-turned-park where Berlin’s citizens gather on sunny days to rollerblade and bike down the long runways, lie in the sun, and cook on small, portable grills that send up a haze of smoke.

That morning, I’d picked up one of my best and oldest friends from the airport, and like a tyrant, pushed her through her jet-lag by making her go to the market to buy fresh strawberries and herbs, cheeses, vegetables, dirt-crusted potatoes and stalks of bright red rhubarb. Then I made her help me cook. We made my family’s German potato salad, tabbouleh chock full of bright, sweet tomatoes and parsley, and a rhubarb frangipani tart baked on puff pastry.

Picnic potluck (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
Sun in Tempelhof (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

We were gathering together the ingredients for mojitos, packing paper plates and picnic blankets, when David asked me, “When did you tell people to meet us?”

“Three PM,” I said.

“So around four?” he said. » Continue reading this post…

Midnight Feast

Baby octopus (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

There are few things for which I will willingly stay up late. Pork belly is one of them. Of course, as I trekked through the slushy Brooklyn night I had no way of knowing that a thick and streaky slab of raw pork belly was waiting for me just past the Bedford stop.

I was on my way to a midnight cooking feast. In two weeks of schedule scouring my friend Ben and I didn’t have one overlapping free hour to cook. And all we really wanted to do was cook. So lets cook at midnight, we said, and that’s how I found myself struggling to stay awake on an empty train, kicking myself for having agreed to something as ridiculous as not being in bed at midnight.

Our plan was to let ourselves be inspired. To not plan a single recipe until we looked at what we had. During his 11 pm grocery run, Ben bought whatever looked pretty and cost less than $2 a pound.

I felt like I was on Iron Chef, watching as he pulled each ingredient out of a Whole Foods shopping bag and laid it on the counter. Lemons. Eggplant. Baby potatoes. Red and yellow beets. Pork belly. Parsley and cilantro. Jicama. Tangerines and grapefruit. Fennel. And lastly, a small, brown paper-wrapped package. “Guess,” he said. “Chorizo,”  I guessed. “Stranger than chorizo.” “Tripe,” I guessed. “Less strange than tripe,” he said and unwrapped a tangled mess of baby octopi.

We threw around ideas for our meal – should we do an Asian-inspired glazed belly or slice it up and cook it like bacon – should we roast vegetables or frittata them – could we do anything without vinegar? (No, was the answer, and Ben made a quick run to the corner store for two bottles of vinegar.) We settled on belly flash seared and then braised in a citrus glaze and a jicama and roasted beet slaw. » Continue reading this post…

Big Man at the Grill: Homemade Barbecue Sauce

Grilled trout (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Let’s play a game. It’s a warm evening. The pre-dusk glow is thick, and a soft breeze carries the smell of freshly cut grass. Children shout, dogs bark, the night’s first firefly sparks faintly against a blue sky. Smoke, scented with sweet barbeque sauce and pork fat or seared fish and bell pepper drifts under your nose. Someone stands at the grill, deftly grasping a pair of tongs in one hand and a cold beer in the other. Who do you see?

Chances are, if you’ve ever felt the stirrings of the American Dream, you see Dad, out of his suit and tie, tossing Fido a nugget of meat from the grill and watching his two and a half children tumbling through the yard. Or maybe you see a bunch of bros, throwing back Miller High Life and slinging burgers on buns loaded with ketchup and onions.

Whatever you see, chances are good that it’s not me, a petite, fresh-out-of-college woman (gasp – no) pushing hair out of her face with olive-oil greasy fingers and flinging steaks on the grill with panache, all the while swigging from a bottle of Newcastle. If that’s not what you see now, I hope it is soon. Men have steered the grill for far too long, and I’m taking back the tongs.

My goal for this summer is to become a grill master. Lamb chops, eggplant, pizza crust, whole fish, you name it, I’m going to grill it. In facing the grill, a beast I just learned how to turn on a few days ago, I will also come up against one of my other culinary fears – meat. I’m not sure why cooking meat scares me. Vegetables and grains can be taste tested as they cook, so I know exactly when they’re done or whether they need just a little bit more pepper. » Continue reading this post…

Tis the Season…To Go Outside (a post by Josh): Sweden Meets America Burgers

Burgers (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

The sun is finally shining through the April showers, and shorts are more than appropriate. Now a few weekends ago (oh how the time has flown on my adventure through the South), my house christened our new grill. Our house came with a few downers – the electricity, water and gas all getting cut off within the first week of us living there – but a few uppers too. We have a porch, some rocking chairs, a spacious kitchen and a grill. We had all taken advantage of one of those perks except for the grill until that weekend. It was only fitting though, for us to have a bunch of people over to enjoy the luxuries of our massive grill. We wanted to fill up the grill with as much as possible.

We planned on starting the festivities early afternoon, around three o’clock, to bring the weekend to us even sooner. It was a sunny, breezy, Southern day where the grass was growing a bit too high and the condensation from our water glasses couldn’t cool us off enough. But we prevailed, somehow.

This wasn’t our first ever cookout in our lives, but probably the first one that we, specifically, held. So we felt like the pressure was on. But the one thing we knew was that we needed foods, propane and above all, people.

We never really thought about what we were going to have, rather that we were just going to have a cook out. I mean, everyone knows what a cook out is, right? Well, I quickly found out that it was regional. We had differing opinions – barbeque, burgers, vegetables, watermelon? It as all fair game, and that was part of the problem.

Friday noon rolled around and we still only had a grill and a determination to provide for our future guests. » Continue reading this post…