Archive for the ‘Recipes’ Category

On a Sticky Summer Day: Coffee & Cocoa Chili Con Carne

Chili con carne (Eat Me. Drink Me.) I know it’s summer. I can feel the sweat dripping down my back, the wet air making my elbows peel from my desk as I type. My eyelids stick when I blink. And yet… Call me crazy, but I made chili for dinner. I thought about calling this breezy summer chili. Fresh, seasonal meat and beans magic? And then I realized that there was really no point in telling the story any other way than the way it was. It was too hot to make chili, and that’s exactly what I did. Stick, stick, says my elbow, letting me know I spent too long thinking about that last sentence. Chopped vegetables (Eat Me. Drink Me.) Diced garlic (Eat Me. Drink Me.) You know that feeling you get when you’re on the verge of a nervous breakdown? That quiet, manic calm that feels watery and full of cracks? I feel a little bit that way. There’s too much to do. I’ve had to read piles of poetry for SAND, the literary journal where I work as the poetry editor. I’ve been working on a translation competition, getting my own poetry collection finished, visiting with family, keeping the apartment clean, working on home improvement projects and crafts, answering emails. It doesn’t even sound like much to write it out, and a lot of it is things I generally enjoy doing – but all those little things add up. And when I think about tackling just one of those things, I go… ah! GIFs on the internet!

Oregano (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
Fresh vegetables for chile con carne (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Bacon! (Eat Me. Drink Me.) So logically, after a full day of work, I pedaled to the grocery store to pick up beef and peppers, coffee for breakfast tomorrow, bacon, sour cream and green onions. My project was herculean, considering the weather. Stand by the hot stove, sweat streaming, to slow-cook some chili. At least I remembered to pick up an icy Hefeweizen to take the edge off. » Continue reading this post…

Tooooooooooooor!: The World Cup Cocktail

Lemon and melon cocktail (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Since the day I saw Robben superman dive a head ball into the net, I’ve been enamored with the World Cup.

No really, I promise it’s not the finely muscled men running around and showing off those fine muscles in skin-tight shirts. Or the slow motion shots of grimacing coaches flailing on the sidelines like birds stuck in pudding. Or even the drama – bites and broken backs, sneaky fouls and field-side shoves.

Ok, I lied. It’s all of that – but it’s also the beauty of the game.

Sliced lemons (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Sugar in a shot glass (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

I didn’t grow up in a very sports-minded household. I neither understand, nor care about, most major sports. My family never hosted a Superbowl party, I never bothered about which team won, and the only reason I went to high school football games was because I was in the band. The closest I ever came to really caring was back at Davidson, when Stephen Curry led the team to the Elite Eight. Those games were fun to watch – cheering for people you knew with people you knew, while people you didn’t know across the country were cheering for them too. I still remember sitting in the dining hall, crammed shoulder to shoulder, trays of food clutched in our laps, sighing as one body to the big screen rolled down to project that final game.

Then I graduated, and poof, that was the last time I cared about sports.

So it’s surprised me how much I’ve loved watching these games, how passionately I care about my team (the Netherlands, of course. Hi, Robben.), how closely I follow their footwork and appreciate a good passing play. Granted, I still can’t comprehend off-sides, can’t remember for the life of me how many points each team has, or figure out when they call a corner kick, a penalty, or you know, that other one. » Continue reading this post…

Currant Status: Ripe Red Currant Cake with Almond Meringue

Red Currant Cake with Almond Meringue (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

I had approached the situation with misguided optimism. Upon waking this morning and like a sleep-stupored zombie wandering to the kitchen to make a cup of coffee and some toast, I snipped open the brand new bag of grounds just as I saw the word “decaf.” Hoping for a placebo-like effect on my brain, I made a cup anyway, tossing grounds into the French press and dousing them with hot water. Mixing the strained coffee with a little fresh milk and sugar.

A sunshine of egg yolks (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Oh, oh, oh what a horror. My eyes and my limbs lisping back into sleep. Heaviness settling into my bones. My fingers thudding on the keyboard as if there were little bricks attached to each one.

Oh, no, this would never do. Real coffee needed to be procured immediately. I grumbled my weary body onto my bike and slugged to the nearest grocery store to right the wrong.

Fresh red currants (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Home again, I said good riddance to the failed morning and lay back down in bed. I’d restart the day. And when I woke up, I’d make a cake.

Status: 15 minutes later

Coffee and baking (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
Powdered sugar (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Coffee and currants (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

At least, we know that caffeine is real. I’m standing at the wooden bar in the kitchen, sipping a nice, strong (maybe overcompensatingly strong) cup of coffee and whipping up butter, powdered sugar, and an egg yolk into dough.

Butter (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Powdered sugar (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Modern art (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Yesterday, as Germany faced Portugal in far-off Brazil and the canons began to sound not long after, I was in a garden in Schöneberg picking currants. The bushes were full of ripe little fruits, clustered like grapes, with thin translucent skin bursting red. I filled my bag with one bunch after the other and still found branch upon branch hiding jeweled bunches of berries.

The vuvuzelas blared out into the balmy Berlin evening.

Johannisbeeren (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Meringue (Eat Me. Drink Me.

I grew up calling red currants Johannisbeeren, which is what they’re called in German, and Germany being the only place I’d ever seen them. » 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…

What I Took From the Woods: Pepper, Fennel and Sausage Breakfast Casserole

Fennel, pepper and sausage breakfast casserole (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Once upon a time, I used to lead backpacking trips. Strange to think about now, after having found my affinity for cities – and big ones at that – that at one time, I gladly trekked through green forests with a pack damping sweat on my back, feet sheathed in sturdy boots, and plastic bags of trail mix stashed inside my pack. We called it gorp, short for “good old raisins and peanuts,” and individuals were severely reprimanded for what was called “strip-mining the gorp” – eating only the colorful M&Ms and leaving behind a pile of nut-dusted raisins.

Round Knob hike (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Each trip lasted about a week and was divided three ways. Three days were spent hiking along the Tennessee-Carolina Appalachian Trail. As we wound our way up steep and rocky paths, we’d stop to pick small wild blueberries studding the bushes or to watch a Monarch rest its wings on a cluster of flowers. The woods were full of squirrels and chattering birds, honeybees, butterflies, and more dangerous animals too – rattlesnakes, bears, and pesky mosquitoes. We made camp near shelters, setting up blue tarps for tents, purifying water from nearby streams to drink, peeling sweaty socks from our tired feet.

There were two separate routes, but both led down to the Appalachian town of Hot Springs, where dirty groups would meet at the Smoky Mountain Diner for giant glasses of tooth-shattering sweet tea, deep-fried sweet corn and okra, cornbread and warm blackberry pie with ice cream.

Butterflies on the AT (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Peppers (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Peppers, onion and fennel (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

One day of the trip was spent doing a service project in the Asheville area. Some days, we’d clear forest trail of overgrown weeds, fallen stumps and stones. Others, we’d plant gardens for schools or sort cans at the food bank.

Two days of the trip were spent on the river, the French Broad, fondly referred to as “The Dirty Broad.” It was a very dirty river. » 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…

Veggies in the Fridge, the Leftovers Edition: Thai Green Curry

Thai green curry (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

What to do the day after you’ve made Balinese Gado-Gado and have a refrigerator full of vegetables just begging to be eaten? Roll with the punches. Give them what they want.

And what do they want? Well, they desperately want to be made into a spicy, fragrant Thai Green curry.

Birds-eye chili (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Cilantro (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Preparing green curry paste (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

I’m particularly fond of Thai food. It’s both comforting and fresh, spicy and sweet, and it makes use of some of my favorite ingredients: coconut, chili, cilantro, brown sugar, and lime to name just a few.

Measuring curry paste (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

This green curry is plumped up with chicken and plenty of green vegetables like sugar snap peas, Napa cabbage, green bell pepper and sprouts. And carrots, which aren’t green, but wish they were.

Green peppers and carrots (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Chicken (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Green curry paste (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

It’s a lovely meal no matter whether you’re using up gado-gado leftovers or starting from scratch. » Continue reading this post…

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