Archive for the ‘Tips, Tricks & Lists’ Category

’Merica: A List of Things I Love

4th of July (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
Stars and stripes (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

burgers and corn on the cob (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Once upon a time, when I moved to Germany, I made a list of the things that I thought the Germans did better than anyone else. I think it’s important to love the place you are – but sometimes, when you’ve had one Hefeweizen too many and your belly has grown a döner-shaped hole, you miss the place you left. I’m spending two months of my summer this year in America, and doing my fare share of traveling. Now that I no longer live in the ancestral country, I’m finding that there are some things the Americans just do best.

1. Barbecues
The first in my holy grail of Bs: Barbecue. As a one-time Carolina resident, I love my pulled pork soft and buttery between my teeth, doused with spicy vinegar sauce, and topped with slaw. But don’t get me started on a slow-roasted brisket, so rich it simply melts away in your mouth (Fatty ‘Cue, I’m looking at you). At the end of the day, give me anything on an open flame – a sweat-greased grill searing fat from burgers, olive oil soaking into zucchini slivers, a dry rub fused into the crackling skin of chicken thighs – and I am in heaven.

Juicy burgers (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

2. IPA
Many people are surprised when I tell them that one of the things I miss most about America is its beer (B grail #2). I usually have to hasten and add that I do not miss the beer that most foreigners associate with the United States, that watery piss-potion college students chug from red solo cups, but that I miss interesting craft-brewed batches unafraid of experimentation. I love talking about the taste and texture of beer and the community that grows around certain breweries. I miss sitting out on a deck in summer with a cold summer ale and I miss IPAs. » Continue reading this post…

A Few Things the Germans Do Better Than You (Unless You’re German, in Which Case, You Do Them Better Than Others)

And I don’t mean fast cars or being on time or fancy silver watches that also tell the temperature, your mood, and the relative velocity at which you’re moving through space.  I mean, the things that really matter.  Like food.  A short eat-list for you that I’ve compiled at the three-month mark:

1. Nutella with butter: No, Nutella with just bread is not enough.  I want my Nutella smeared thickly over a piece of bread sheened with butter. Daily decadence. (I’d like to amend this, actually, to butter with everything… butter with cheese, butter with salami and arugula, butter with salmon…)

2. Quark yogurt: Quark is a creamy curd cheese (which doesn’t sound all that good, does it…) used in a number of sweets.  Cheesecake, for instance, can be made with quark instead of cream cheese and the result is a much lighter cake, like custard pumped with air. But my favorite thing + quark is yogurt. My absolute favorite has peach-maracuja fruit on the bottom.

Quark yogurt (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

German cheesecake (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

3. Apfelschorle: Apple juice is so boring. Seltzer is so boring. And yet, two boring things together is so unboring.

4. Mayonnaise on French fries: It’s called pommes rot-weiß, French fries served with a dollop of ketchup and mayonnaise, and it’s the only way to eat French fries, really.

5. Spätzle: I mean, they’re ugly noodles. Fat little fingers of doughy noodles pressed into a vat of boiling water and pulled out scant minutes later with just the right amount of chew.  And they’re endearingly ugly, especially peeking out from beneath a blanket of creamy, umami-laden mushroom gravy.

spätzle with champignons and geschnitzeltes (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

6. The Imbiss: The original food truck, albeit often without wheels.  Everywhere you go, stalls and carts serving snacks and small meals have people stuck to them like gnats on peaches.  For very little money, you can find anything from döner kebab to crepes to currywurst (a phenomenon I admittedly don’t understand) and eat it standing at tall, improvisational tables or carry it along with you as you walk. » Continue reading this post…

Broke Eating 101, a Blog Post for Cedric

Some things on hand (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Last night at work, I found myself talking about food. Again. This happens to me often, usually because I bring my own lunch and when someone asks me what it is, I can’t just say “pasta.” I have to say, “bowtie pasta with a sauce of crushed tomatoes, garlic, olives, capers, and onion topped with grated Sicilian black pepper cheese.” And then, invariably, we start talking about food, or I launch into some rhapsodous description of what I made for dinner last night. And, invariably, it’s the same few people who walk in on me, talking about food, again, and say, “Lyz! You’re always talking about food!” I mean, maybe. But I have other hobbies. Really, I do.

But last night, after going on a foodie spiel, I was asked by a co-worker my advice on cooking cheaply and healthily for yourself. He was taking notes. No one had ever taken notes. But, since there’s no better way to make yourself an expert than to just present yourself as one, I launched into an avalanche of advice. Really, I’m no expert (I lied, I’m sorry, forgive me), but I think I do manage to make delicious food for very little money.

And so, in the interest of sharing, here are some basic tenets on my approach to cooking and how I manage to live on mostly nothing.

The Kitchen’s Golden Rule
Banish your fear. Fear is your worst enemy in the kitchen. You don’t need to measure things exactly, you don’t need to use parsley or caviar. Don’t be afraid to experiment and don’t be afraid to not follow a recipe exactly. If you don’t have an ingredient, substitute something else – it might sound strange, but it could be delicious. (See: the other day, I was making a mango milkshake, but was out of yogurt and used sour cream instead and ohmygoditwasamazing.)

Start With the Basics
Some things are easier to make than others. » Continue reading this post…

Something From Nothing: Pasta with Caramelized Onions and Tomatoes

Onions and garlic (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

I wish there was a tiny chorus of approving gourmands that lived over my left shoulder and gave me a round of applause and a miniature pat on the back from each of their sprinkle-sized hands every time I verged on the brink of culinary genius. Like when, after two months of mediocre results, I finally manage to make perfect foam with my espresso machine for four days in a row (right now! I’m drinking perfect foam! Isn’t it exciting?). Or when, on the spur of the moment, I add a layer of strawberry jam between two layers of ordinary yellow cake with vanilla frosting. Or when, coming home after a long day of work, I despondently shrug my shoulders at the mismatched food in my pantry, only to throw the mess together into something delicious half an hour later.

But there are no invisible gourmands. It’s just me and my mouth and occasionally my roommates, who I make eat bites of my food as they walk past on their ways to something probably very interesting.

Can I clap for myself?

Luckily, I have a partner in crime – the other half to my half-full pantry – and together, we are very good at making something out of nothing. The other day, we were sitting around, kvetching, drinking green tea with ginger and honey, and realized that it was dark (no hard feat in winter Brooklyn) and we were hungry. This is kind of how the conversation went:

Me: “I’m hungry.”
Her: “Let’s make food.”
Me: “I don’t have anything.”
Her: “Me either.”
Me: “I have potatoes and blue cheese.”
Her: “I have lettuce.”
Me: “Ok, we’ll figure it out.”

The result being that we scrounged up a salad with peppery greens, blue cheese, canned beets, almonds, and a dressing of oil, cherry flavored balsamic vinegar, lemon, Dijon mustard, and honey. » Continue reading this post…

A Few of My Favorite Things

All that's left of a great sandwich (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Or, more precisely, ten of my favorite things. Making this list was harder than I thought it would be. For instance, how much of the list was I going to devote to spices or non-essential ingredients? Did these ingredients have to work together? Would this be an “if you were stranded on a deserted island…” list? What if I ended up devoting the entire list to cheese?

What this list has ended up being, however, is a list of foods that recur in my food life, continually influence what I order in a restaurant, or are things I’d just really miss if they didn’t exist. There are a number of food items that come up again and again on this list, such as garlic and tomatoes, that didn’t make the actual top ten, and I’m wondering if that means they should be here too. But then I realize the beauty of a top ten foods list. It’s inclusive.

Olive oil
Josh, having spent six months eating the real stuff in Italy, is certainly more of a connoisseur of olive oils than I am, but I do know a good thing when I’ve got it. Olive oil has the magical ability to transform anything. The bread they serve to you at restaurants? Boring. The bread they serve to you at restaurants plus a little bowl of oil and crushed herbs? Delicious. Broiled eggplant? Boring. Broiled eggplant brushed with olive oil? Delicious. Olive oil is also first on my list because it’s so integral to my cooking. It is a rare dish that wasn’t brushed with, soaked through, or sautéed in olive oil. It’s also first on my list, because it is often how many of my recipes start – a hot skillet drizzled with oil.

Goat cheese
I love cheese. I love all cheese. » Continue reading this post…

Nothing is Sacred

Ham croquettes (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

As I was packing up to leave home after a relaxing Easter break, I realized there was nothing left in the house to eat.

By nothing, I mean, there was lots of leftover ham.

Hungry, and inspired by an almost hidden recipe in Gourmet, I decided to give in and eat ham again, but this time as miniature ham croquettes. Only a little bit daunted by the recipe’s injunction to “deep fry” the croquettes in a stomach-churning amount of vegetable oil, I dutifully followed the recipe, mashing white rice, ham, parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, and egg together into sticky balls and rolling them in bread crumbs. Maybe I didn’t let the rice cool long enough, or maybe my egg just wasn’t enough like cement, but my croquettes looked more like misshapen footballs than the cute, symmetrical spheres in the magazine’s pages. Armed with the longest spoon I could find, I plopped those tentative blobs into the hot oil and hoped they wouldn’t disintegrate too much. And then, as I noticed the thick smoke billowing through the kitchen, I mercilessly abandoned them as I frantically opened all the windows and doors within a fifteen foot radius.

Miraculously, the croquettes were only mostly burnt.

The good deed done, the leftover ham used up, I took my benighted croquettes to the table and took a bite.

Bland. Bland, bland, bland.

Why, you may ask, am I telling you this? Let me tell you.

I am telling you this because it teaches some valuable lessons about cooking. One, that not everything you make will be good. Two, that some things will be bad. And three, that the recipe is never sacred.

Taste copiously while you cook to make sure that it’ll turn out all right, and if it doesn’t taste good, add something new, like horseradish or cumin or caraway seeds. » Continue reading this post…

Easy as Dressing Yourself. Or a Salad. Whichever. (a post by Josh): Salad Dressing

There are a few things that I think people need to make at home. Salad dressing is one of many. No more buying them at some store for too much money. It just seems like a waste to have the ingredients in your kitchen, and also a big jar of Ranch dressing (made of who knows what).

This banter is mainly from my countless dinner parties where someone would ask “is there dressing on the salad yet?” “yeah” “oh, what kind?” “I don’t know, I just made it” “OH! How! I don’t think I could do that.”

Yes, yes you can. And yes, those exclamation points are in there for a reason. It’s real simple, though, to make a salad dressing. I’m going off of a vinegrette (and not anything heavy), but here are the basic ingredients: » Continue reading this post…