Posts Tagged ‘soups & salads’

A Winter Slumgullion: Chicken & Shrimp Gumbo

Chicken and shrimp gumbo (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

I collect words. When I find a good one, I copy it into my little black notebook, the one that also contains restaurants and bars I’d like to visit, directions, sketches, snatches of poetry hurriedly composed in a cramped hand, email addresses and phone numbers, Spanish grammar tips, post ideas, books to read, little moments I’d like not to forget. And words.

I carry them around with me all the time – since my little black book is always in my bag – and read through them on occasion, rolling my tongue around and into those verbal nooks. There’s “pullulate”: “to exist abundantly, to send forth buds, to increase rapidly, teem.” Or “sirocco”: “any hot, oppressive wind.” “Quisle”: “to betray, especially by collaborating with an enemy.” “Collop”: “a small slice of meat, a small slice of anything, a fold or roll of flesh on the body.”

Garlic and thyme (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Living abroad, my vocabulary shrivels. Here, English lives within the law of averages, and if I remember from long ago math lessons (one thing I definitely don’t write down in my little black book are equations), an average sucks up the best and the worst and plunks you somewhere in the middle.

There are some words left languoring that way – and good riddance to them. I think “plethora” is the worst word in the English language, like a dull goat in an academic’s gown. Goodbye “myriad” and “veritable” and “moreover.” And truthfully, I’ve found that simpler words, when fitted well together, are often better at expressing ideas than all the viperines, girns and borborygamuses combined.

Okra (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
Wintry chicken and shrimp gumbo (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

That brings me to this little gem of a word: “slumgullion,” whose meanings are as myriad as what it means: “A meaty stew, a weak beverage, refuse from whale carcasses, a muddy mining deposit.” I mean, wow, what multitudes! » Continue reading this post…

Body Positive: Crunchy Cauliflower Couscous Salad

Crunchy cauliflower couscous salad (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

I’m pissed. Just downright, straight-up peeved. I’ve been working out with an inspired consistency for the last six months. I go running two to three times a week, have a weight lifting program that focuses on strengthening my arms, shoulders, and chest. I stopped buying monthly train passes and ride my bike around Berlin instead. I’m probably the fittest I’ve ever been. But for all of that, I didn’t see the kind of results I’d been hoping for – until this detox.

I’m in the third week of my month-long detox. I’m not eating white carbs, refined sugar, or alcohol. I allow myself one cheat per week in each category, and I’m not a real stick-in-the mud about what constitutes a carb or whether I can’t eat ketchup because it’s packed with sugar.

But the thing that’s making me so mad is that it’s working. In the shortest amount of time, I’ve lost the weight six months of running couldn’t shake. Was it really that easy?

Cauliflower (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

I feel conflicted about this for a few reasons. One, I’ve strongly opposed dieting for as long as I can remember. I love food, and I love eating – and anything that placed a restriction on my enjoyment felt like a lifestyle that wasn’t worth it. I could get behind eating smaller portions or trying to stop eating once I felt full – but to actually cut things out? The idea made me balk.

Two, I find the positive reinforcement about my weight loss both pleasurable and problematic. I enjoy hearing heartfelt compliments about my appearance (from people I know, not people on the street; that I never enjoy), but it makes me wonder – did I not look good before? Do I only look pretty when I’m thin?

Cauliflower florets (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
Cauliflower couscous (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

What was most important to me during this detox is that I never felt a sense of deprivation – that I never felt hungry. » Continue reading this post…

Whether the Weather Be: Asian-Style Grilled Steak Salad with Peanut Dressing

Asian-style grilled steak salad with peanut dressing (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

It’s been an uneasy summer, afraid to commit. Brilliant, glaring days are chased with sky-wracking thunderstorms that dissolve into cloudy cold and chill. The wind is a fierce prickle or a wet sigh, like hot breath fogging up a glass. We’re all wearing too many clothes or too few, and the city is like an endless striptease GIF. Now we’re dressed, now we’re not.

Yesterday, we rode our bikes down to the beer garden at Schlachtensee, a lake on the southern edge of the city. It was warm riding down on our bikes. There was a comfortable breeze, but the sun was shining, and as we moved, we peeled off sweaters and jackets and threw them in our baskets. By the edge of the lake, sitting at a table dappled with shade, it was almost too chilly. We guiltily slunk our sweaters and jackets back on as we gazed out at the sun paparazzi-popping over the waves.

Lettuce (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
Salad components (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

There are a few things summer is for me – or at least should be. There should be time spent reading in the sun, big glasses of milky iced coffee and cold beer dimpled with a lemon slice. There’s the smoky smell of a rack of ribs on the grill, soft grass beneath bare feet, ice cream melting down the side of a waffle cone.

When the weather is so indecisive about what season it wants to be, it’s hard to really get into the swing of summer. How to have a weekend cookout when it won’t stop raining? Why bother reading outside when it’s misty out and you’re wrapped up a few sweaters?

Summer is supposed to sweep you off your feet with its lethargic charms. Sometimes, I’ll wake up early to get work done so I can spend a lazy afternoon out in the park. » Continue reading this post…

Go Big, Go Greek: Classic Greek Salad

Greek salad (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Michael, my youngest brother, has this fraternity shirt that reads “Go Big, Go Greek” in giant letters across the chest. He wore it all over Greece, which was rather amusing. Can you go any bigger than by going to Greece?

Everywhere we went in Greece, bouzouki players plucked out the same song, which my grandfather identified as the theme to Never on Sunday, a black and white 1960’s comedy flick starring Melina Mercouri as a free-spirited Greek prostitute. And everywhere we went in Greece, we found ourselves la-la-la-ing along. It’s a catchy song.

And everywhere we went, we were entertained by traditional Greek dancing. It’s an interesting kind of dance to be entertained with. It’s not particularly fast, and not particularly athletic, but it’s mesmerizing in its own way with its slowly repetitive steps that sometimes build and sometimes don’t. And sometimes there’s some quite athletic kicking, and sometimes everyone joins in the circle for a little swing step.

Ingredients for Greek salad (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
Chopped veggies for Greek salad (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
Greek salad dressing (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
Red wine vinegar, lemon, oregano, olives (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

But best of all, everywhere we went, there was Greek salad. I wasn’t always impressed with the food in Greece, but the salads were consistently good. Big, ripe hunks of tomato and cucumber, salty olives, sweet red onion, crisp green bell pepper and a feta quite unlike the kind we buy in Berlin. It was creamier – and later, I found out, made with part goat’s milk (I found this out by trying to feed it to David, who hates the taste of goat cheese. Now I have a brick-sized chunk of Greek feta I’m slowly trying to make disappear.).

Greek salad recipe (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
Tomatoes, green pepper, feta, cucumber, red onion (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

I loved the simplicity of the dressing – a little more acidic than oily, a perfect fit for the ripe vegetables’ natural sweetness – and rife with dried oregano. It was so uncomplicated and so eminently eatable.

So when I think back on how to “go Greek,” I think of those three things: bouzouki music, dancing, and big plates of salad. » 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…

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…

A Little Journey: Balinese Gado-Gado

Chopped red onion (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Germany is a country of church bells. They ring the hour languorously – glottal chimes layered one upon the other, deep, dull peals. From my apartment, I can hear three distinct churches. The large, loud bells from the church nearby, which sets off the next two bells like dominoes. They’re further away. One like gleeful wedding chimes, the other low and bored.

The sound of the bells transports me to another part of Germany, to Bremen, where I first recall really feeling the bells. For three summers, my family lived in the city, and I’d wake to their morning clang. The Teerhof, where we lived, was close to the inner city and its many old churches. Maybe because I was young, probably because I was reading a lot of Victor Hugo, Bremen was a magical, romantic city. And when I hear the bells today, I’m swept up in nostalgia. I can smell the moist, rain-laden air and the river, the sweetish apple smell wafting from the Beck’s brewery down the way.

Chopping garnishes (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Hard boiled eggs and tomatoes (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

For some reason, I notice the bells more in summer. The weather has been gorgeous in Berlin. Though it’s just the beginning of spring, it feels more like summer. On the spring’s first official day, I walked through the city in a loose blazer, feeling the warmth of the sun on my face and the sweet breeze.

Berliners love the outdoors when it’s sunny. At the first wan hit of sunshine, they flock out to sit at sidewalk cafés, to lounge in one of the city’s many parks, to wander along the Spree. The bike lanes are choked with cyclists. Even though the weather might not be all the way warm yet, they anticipate the heat. That peek of sun wakes memories of summer lakes and grilling, cropped shirts and sandals. » Continue reading this post…

Making Home: Won-Ton Soup

Won-tons (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

The view from my new kitchen window is a giant swath of salmon wall. On gray days, it’s the color of a salmon slab that’s been sitting too long in the fridge. On sunny days, it’s that flash-frozen pink of a fresh fish pulled from the river and slit open. The windows are uniform and white, and in one window box there’s a slightly infuriating lavender plant that bobs and bobs and bobs in the wind like mesmerizing purple tentacles.

I love my new apartment, but I have the feeling I’m going to grow to hate these inner courtyard walls. I turn my gaze inside. When the sun shines, our apartment is bathed in light. It glances off the lacquered wooden floors and paints the walls a brilliant white. When it’s gray out, and let’s be truthful, in Berlin it’s often gray out, I light all the candles I impulse bought at Ikea, and I am glad for that acted-upon urge.

Whole shrimp (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Green onion (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

It’s easy to forget how much work it takes to move. You think that once you’ve carted your personal effects up and down hundreds of flights of stairs, and thrown yourself upon the mattress lying in the middle of the floor that the hardest part is over. But after you’ve bathed your sore muscles in a bathtub filled with water boiled on the stove (because of course the hot water isn’t working yet), you realize that somehow, all of these things must find a home.

So you go to Ikea (again), and buy a Hemnes for the clothes and some other things you’ve never had to buy because you’ve always lived with roommates who’ve had these things. (Shower curtains and hot water kettles, cutting boards, a bath mat.) Suddenly, you are very grateful for the set of silverware that caught your eye two years ago and that you just had to have, even though you didn’t know what to do with it, so stored it in a box. » Continue reading this post…