Archive for the ‘Eating Vegetables’ Category

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...

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...

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...

The Arrival Poems: Berliner Leek and Apple Tart

Leek and apple tart with goat cheese (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Who knows pleasure who does not know the smell of leeks on a stovetop? Fragrant and sweet, soft with butter, the scent is a perfume muskier than onion and green with earth. The leeks slowly simmer down, reducing to the thinnest slimness, translucent and rimmed with butter-burnt brown. Now there is sage in the pan, now salt, now the hiss of hard apple cider.

In this moment, I can imagine nothing more beautiful. I am completely happy.

I have just started to write poems about Berlin. What does this mean? For one, it means that I have stopped writing poems about New York. It means that at least for a while, Berlin is the most tangible home I have.

Baking the crust (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Rolled-out dough (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Tart crust (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Beneath my fingers, flour and butter blend. Light, quick rubs until the butter leaves no more trace than a yellow stain and the dough feels silkily dry. Then there is a whisked egg, drops of cold water. Then the dough is a smooth ball beneath my fingertips. It is rolled and glossy, wrapped in plastic and set aside. It needs to think.

It seems to me that New York is a story about leaving a place you love and Berlin is a story about arriving in a place you come to know. Where we are or where we live is never as simple as choosing what we love. It can be right to live in a place we don’t care for and wrong to live in the place that knows us best. » Continue reading this post...

Show Me the Green: Wilted Kale with Feta and Fried Egg

Wilted kale with fried egg and feta (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Apparently I have a reputation for really liking kale. I don’t know where it came from or what I’ve done to start it, but my love is apparently well known. I’m not ashamed. I do love kale. I’m hitting the talking-about-kale bandwagon a bit late. According to the internet, kale’s trending days have come and gone – it’s so last year’s green. (Although The Guardian seems to think that kale popsicles are going to be big in 2014…) But I don’t love food because it’s trendy; I love it because it’s delicious. I love the way crisp and chewy kale plays off shaved parmesan, chopped dates and lemon dressing in a raw salad, the way the curled leaves trap salty pancetta bits, the way a kale chip crunches apart in your mouth, or the way a bitter wilted leaf is the perfect foil for chili flakes and a soft, rich egg.

Kale, shallot, pancetta (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Frying pancetta and shallot (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

That’s what I want to talk to you about right now. The perfect combination of flavors: The heat of chili, the bite of briny feta, the warmth of a fried egg and the all-things-are-better-with-bacon quality of bacon supported by a base of hearty green. Kale makes all this possible.

Chili flakes (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
Cooking kale (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

I first discovered this magical combination (or at least the basics of it) back in 2009, when this blog was in its infancy and I was just starting to shop and cook regularly for myself. Of course I wrote about my discovery back then, and of course I didn’t have the consideration to write down the recipe. (The gall. The gall.) So I’m making up for the error of my ways now, and sharing a dish that’s seen me through a lot of tight budget days and a lot of lazy lunches. Cheap, tasty, and quick. Gimme those greens. » Continue reading this post...

Cornucopia: Thai Pumpkin Curry

Roasted pumpkin seeds (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Berlin seems to have taken a step back to acknowledge my favorite season. Walking through the streets, there’s the slow, steady fall of leaves. In my neighborhood, they are the yellow of barely ripe bananas and small like babies’ palms. There’s a chill in the air that makes you want to snuggle deeper into your coat and your scarf, and the wind blows past the old brewery, wafting the lingering yeasty apple smell of fermenting beer through Neukölln.

The bins in the Turkish grocery stores along Karl-Marx Str. and the rogue Russian grocery on the corner are full of apples, root vegetables, and piles of pumpkins. Fall has always made me feel like building a cornucopia, a shrine to beautiful burnished things, crisp fallen leaves and chestnuts, acorns and other nuts, colorful squashes that look like warty witches’ noses, frost-edged sunflower leaves, apples with matte pink and green skins, tiny beveled pumpkins.

Leaves in Berlin (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
Cubed pumpkin (Eat Me. Drink Me.)
Garden-grown pumpkin (Eat Me. Drink Me.) Halved pumpkin (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

A few weeks or so ago, I was given a pumpkin, homegrown, heavy and green-skinned. It has been my table decoration for weeks, next to the wicker basket of fruit, the pitcher cum vase from the flea market that never seems to be full of flowers, the tea cup full of sugar – reminding me on my harried travels here and there that no matter how much there is to do, there’s really no rush; a pumpkin will wait for you.

I love that in the midst of the chill of fall, the quickening dark as winter comes closer, nature presents some of her most brilliant colors. That’s some sort of a reminder too. The inside of a pumpkin glows like two halves of sunshine. It’s so enticing, you almost want to eat it raw. But the pumpkin likes to wait, and to convince it to open up to you, you must promise it your time. » Continue reading this post...