Archive for the ‘Recipes’ Category

Checking In:
Beetroot Chocolate Cake

Time goes by in a daze. I spend my days doing the same tasks without much variation. I work and I cook and I watch television and I read and I sleep. Stir crazy, I think, is the word for it.

The snow was a good break. It’s been nearly a decade for me since real snow, and even though it wasn’t real, get-out-of-school snow, it was a change from the city’s usual sleet-slush, and we drove out to Spandauer Forst the Sunday after it stuck to take a walk crisscross over the frozen waterways and under delicate ropy loops still clinging to the branches.

It’s gone now. The snowman the one child living in my building built in the courtyard is just an unpeeled carrot on the flagstones. The sky endlessly dribbles out a wintry mix, or just rain when it’s feeling particularly uninspired. The trees are dead, my plants are dying, and I lost my new raincoat. All day, I’ve been singing Leonard Cohen.

Some good news. I never loved green tea before, but now I crave its musky smell, like an old red barn filled with damp hay drying from the heat of itself.

I crave its musky smell, like an old red barn filled with damp hay drying from the heat of itself.

Cat is changing, too. He’s becoming fond of reading. In the evenings, I sit on the couch with a mug of hot drink and a book, and he slinks in beneath my arm, then crawls carefully across one leg and purrs with a deep-throated decisiveness and sleepish eyes. When he tires of being too close – because he’s wary of prolonged closeness – he sprawls himself against my calf, back just brushed against it, so that he’s there, but not there there. » Continue reading this post...

Adultish:
Pumpkin & Chestnut Gnocchi
with Walnut Sage Sauce

The other day I was lying in bed, the cat curled up somewhere under the blankets beside me. It was around noon and I was working, laptop perched on my legs, coffee within reach, a whole, peeled kohlrabi I was eating like an apple lobbed into the side of my mouth. I was wearing my loose cotton overalls, ridiculous fuzzed socks that look like cat’s paws, my hair piled in a mess somewhere at the back of my head. I am a grownup, I thought. And I was filled with wonder at the thought.

A few mornings ago, between a high-intensity ab workout and a run through the park, I baked a cake. I took a nap with the cat. I ate the cake. I was the master of my destiny. By evening, I was slumped on the couch, talking about feelings and feeling about as mature as a pubescent teen clutching a stuffed animal and struggling with eye contact. Funny, how a day can go.

I think a lot about being a grownup and what counts as being one. Is it paying your own bills? Having a job? Owning a house? Or is it more the emotional work of remembering to call people on their birthdays without needing to be nagged, sending a bouquet of flowers to a sick friend, bringing someone a meal? Is it an age you reach, the moment you move into your own apartment, the minute you become a parent?

Is it an age you reach, the moment you move into your own apartment, the minute you become a parent?

Sometimes, when I confess these thoughts to friends, they look at me as if I’ve just said something very silly. “Of course you’re an adult,” they say. “Of course,” I say. “I know that.”

But most of the time, I feel neither adult nor not; I feel like I’m simply living my life, putting one day after the other, just doing the things. » Continue reading this post...

A Weekend in the Uckermark:
Breakfast Salad

Breakfast salad is a revelation. A weird one, perhaps. One of which I was incredibly skeptical, in fact. While I was eating it, actually. But like other things you’re not quite sure about while you’re in the middle of eating them – for me: kombucha, mango pickle, preserved lemons, fermented radish – once you’ve stopped eating them, all you can think about is eating them again.

I came to breakfast salad this past weekend, on a retreat in the Uckermark, a district in Brandenburg just an hour’s train ride north of Berlin. It was a spontaneous-ish trip with two of my dearest friends. For months, we’d been meaning to go somewhere together, and had even, after a long and wine-replete dinner, set a date in our calendars which we promptly forgot about until the week before we were set to go. Should we postpone again?, we wondered. Would we even find anything on such short notice?

For months, we’d been meaning to go somewhere together, and had even, after a long and wine-replete dinner, set a date in our calendars which we promptly forgot about until the week before we were set to go.

But in a fortuitous and last-minute turn of events, Taylor remembered that the boyfriend of her boyfriend’s friend’s friend runs a farm and guesthouse in the countryside, and he just happened to have an open weekend slot. So we wasted no time in booking train tickets to Angermünde, and met on the Hauptbahnhof platform in Berlin Friday evening laden with groceries – a basket of chanterelles and roast chestnuts for risotto, bulgur and feta and cherry tomatoes for a grain salad, sourdough starter and flour for pancakes, and an assortment of vegetable odds and ends – said Charlotte – for breakfast salad.

Odd, I thought, but did not comment. » Continue reading this post...

All the Things I’m Missing Out On: Berger Cookies

I’m not supposed to be where I am right now. I’m supposed to be in my ancestral home, celebrating the marriage of one of my dearest friends. In the weeks leading up to this one, I was supposed to have been in Boston at the wedding of another dear friend, living in a house with some of my favorite people, laughing about all those spring breaks we spent snowed in at the lake house. I was supposed to be in a cabin in the Finger Lakes drinking wine with my best friends from high school. I was supposed to be in a beachfront condo in Ocean City, sinking my toes in sand and getting sunburnt on the boardwalk. I was supposed to be spending time with my family at home, doing the wonderful, mundane things you do at home. Cleaning out boxes of childhood knick-knacks, letting your parents make you coffee, reading on the couch, taking the dog out to poop.

Last year at this time, I was gallivanting around Mallorca and then Japan. This year at this time, I’m in Berlin. Still. Maybe indefinitely.

I didn’t want to write about the pandemic, but it’s kind of hard to write about anything else these days. It feels tone-deaf to write something not shaped by the zeitgeist of social distancing and face masks and responsible consumerism, even if all you say is: I purposefully don’t want to write about corona today. Alas. Here we are. Talking about corona.

It’s been fascinating to watch us as a society sway through phases of talking and thinking about corona. Concurrent with the panic and anxiety was a pressure to perform and produce, a manic do-all-the-things energy that fed off the idea of optimization and being your best self. Then came the be-kind-you’re-surviving phase, where it was okay to lie around all day watching TV or doing nothing constructive. » Continue reading this post...

The Quarantine Diaries:
Classic Sauerkraut
with Caraway and Juniper

This morning, I managed to drink coffee without having heart palpitations afterwards. In these times of unpredictable anxiety attacks and unwanted solitude, it feels like a win. I seem to be on an every-other-day kind of rotation. One day will be unmanageable. I’ll feel short of breath and unable to concentrate. I can’t read, I can’t write, I can’t answer emails. The next will feel motivational. I’ll think about how to make the best of a bad hand and tackle projects with gusto that I’d normally let linger.

The trick, I’ve found, is to have an extensive grab bag of possible activities, which at any one time might help squelch the threatening upwell of panic. The other trick is that there’s really no trick. It’s a free-for-all of emotional management.

When things get really bad, the only thing I’m capable of doing is paint by numbers. A while ago, a friend sent me a link to a company that had a 50-50 chance of being an internet scam, but which I paid anyway to transform a photo I took into a paint by numbers. It took a solid three months for my canvas to arrive, at which point I was out of the temporary apartment (I thought it would be a good post-fire activity) and busy with settling back into the old apartment. I forgot about it until Corona Quarantine, but oh man, has the mind-numbing minutiae of applying tiny little brushstrokes of paint inside itty-bitty outlined blobs saved my mind from scarpering into an apocalyptic landscape.

The other trick is that there’s really no trick. It’s a free-for-all of emotional management.

When the paint by numbers has me breathing at a relatively regular rate again, I put on my headphones and have a free-flailing dance party in the living room, keeping my fingers crossed that my neighbors aren’t currently enjoying their balcony (which has a pretty clear view through my living room windows). » Continue reading this post...

Love in the Time of Corona:
Turmeric & Cinnamon Tea

My boss says that whenever he gets to feeling down about the Coronavirus, he starts singing “My Sharona,” and that helps. For me, it’s been drinking tea. And ignoring the news.

I’ve been told I’m a master of hyperbole. I tend to say, “Don’t do that, or you’ll die” more frequently than situations warrant. Things are often “the worst” or a “disaster.” We often “almost got abducted.” In part, the tongue-in-cheek exaggeration hides the fact that I have a lot of very real and not always rational fears. I am afraid of being abducted. I am afraid of being struck by lightning, of being hit by a car, of being yelled at, of government collapse, the end of society, apocalypse. My mind zips from the smallest thing to the end of the world in milliseconds. It’s a ride on the anxiety express I’m pretty good at stalling most of the time, but when something happens that makes my irrational fears seem founded, I struggle.

Yet as the clouds of Coronavirus began massing on Berlin’s horizon, I was blasé. The hysteria seemed illogical and inconsistent. How much toilet paper can you really go through in ten days of quarantine? Isn’t hoarding hand soap beside the point when we all need to be washing our hands to avoid spreading germs? And the travel bans and the shirking public spaces and the not meeting friends… Yes, we should wash our hands often, yes we should stay home if we’re sick. But can we really let fear dictate our lives?

I halfheartedly stocked up on non-perishables and dish soap – though while everyone else was panicked about toilet paper, my impulse was to buy a lot of coconut milk and fantasy novels. I even (and I’m a little ashamed to admit this now) decided to spend a day at the sauna. » Continue reading this post...

Feel the Burn:
Sun-dried Tomato Butter (Tomatenbutter)

Tomatenbutter (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

A few days after our apartment burned down, we went grilling in Tempelhof. “We don’t have to buy coals,” I said. “We can just shovel up the remains of the bedroom.”

Hey, I like a joke as much as anybody.

Nevertheless, we did buy a bag of non-homemade coals, and – after discovering that the grill I’d been storing in the damp basement was rusted beyond use – a new grill, too. The humor of a grill being the first household good replaced post-fire is not lost on me.

Tempelhof in the summer is a haze of smoke from the barbecues clustered in the two sections of the park where grilling is allowed. The air is scented with pork fat spitting from the paprika-spiked belly kebabs, sausages, steaks, and good char smell.

Not the toxic char smell that currently blankets the old apartment.

Our barbecue was smack-dab in the middle of the denial phase of my grief process, and it didn’t seem real to me that when the guards came around kicking people out of the closing park at dusk, we didn’t have a home to go to, didn’t have covers to crawl under, wouldn’t have a sleepy Sunday morning to lounge into.

But I also remember how deliriously happy I was, between scoops of salsa and a bratwurst dipped in mustard. I was so thankful to be alive, thankful I was living the life I’ve built for myself in Berlin, thankful for the people who surround me, so sappily thankful for the city itself and all the beautiful people in it.

I was so thankful to be alive, thankful I was living the life I’ve built for myself in Berlin, thankful for the people who surround me.

Long ago and before there ever was a fire, one of those people gave me a recipe for a sun-dried tomato butter called, in German, Tomatenbutter. » Continue reading this post...

Three Meals in Lisbon:
Chickpea Salad with Bacalhau
& Hard-Boiled Eggs

Chickpea salad with bacalhau (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

I. Prado

We have not made a reservation. Two other restaurants will not have us, because they are full, so Prado is just a place that I read about that someone else really liked and it’s nearby and we’re not famished just yet. They don’t have a table available, but do we mind waiting? We can order a drink at the bar. And since we are not famished just yet, and there are lots of plants inside the lofty space and because we like plants, we say, okay, and order the kombucha that’s on tap. We’ve taken perhaps one, perhaps two sips of the slightly sour and tingly drink before our table is ready. And maybe it’s because service in Germany is so far removed from this level of consideration, but I fall a little bit in love with the kindness of the waitstaff, their friendliness and clear knowledge about the menu and what to order, their patience and solicitude, the way they make us feel like we are at home, like there is no right or wrong way to be or eat.

So it is a wonderful thing when the food is remarkable. We order cockles – because – cockles! They’re minuscule and translucent and poised within a sweet, creamy broth tempered by the mineral dampness of spinach. We soak up every last bit of sauce with the bread, honey-brown and crusty, served with both a whipped, garlicky lard and a smoky goat’s milk butter. It is a good tartar, because it comes from a good and confident cut of beef. There are beautiful ceps with swaths of creamy pimiento and sprinkles of crunchy buckwheat and a lovely fish. And then there is the mushroom ice cream, which we have to order – because – mushroom ice cream! And oh, it is earthy and cold and just sweet enough, and there is the rustic chew of pearl barley and a swirl of balm-like caramel. » Continue reading this post...