Archive for the ‘Recipes’ Category

A Pennsylvania Fall:
Tuna Salad Croquettes

In Berlin, if you blink too fast you’ll miss fall. For the last ten years, I’ve stubbornly insisted that fall is my favorite season. But this year, as I celebrate my decennial in this city, I will finally give up the fight and align myself with team summer. In part, it’s because I recently spent two weeks in my ancestral homeland remembering what a glorious fall is supposed to feel like. The days are still slow-baked with sunshine, but there’s a breeze that tugs against it as night falls. The late-September leaves are just starting to dip-dye orange and red and yellow. It’s sweater weather. It’s decorative gourd season. I have no feelings about pumpkin spice, but maybe I’ve just been away too long.

At the apple harvest festival, held each year in Adams County, Pennsylvania, I reanimated a twenty-year old memory. There were the vats of apple butter being stirred, the Boy Scouts selling hot apple cider. The chainsaw carving demonstration, the craft stands, the antique hand-cranked machine that makes friendship bracelets. The apple fritter, scooped fresh from a bubbling vat of oil and dusted with powdered sugar, so hot it’s hard not to burn your tongue. I grew up in apple growing country, and it has spoiled me for the supermarket. Outside Gettysburg, there’s an orchard market that always provided our autumn apples – they’d have big wooden crates piled high with different varieties, some standard, some heirloom, and we’d fill a big paper bag with them, plus maybe a pumpkin or two and whatever late summer fruits were still coming off the trees. Mom’s apple pie is the best apple pie, but the secret is Hollabaugh’s apples.

The apple fritter, scooped fresh from a bubbling vat of oil and dusted with powdered sugar, so hot it’s hard not to burn your tongue. » Continue reading this post...

So You Want to Talk about Cats:
Flammkuchen with Shaved Fennel
& Asparagus

So I had been planning to write about cats. Specifically, the cat birthday I was going to throw for Rum Tum light of my life, who turned two on April 8. He’s got a friend staying with him for a month and a half, and in these pandemic times, when you get to be in the same place as a friend, it’s already a party. My human friends with cats were going to Zoom in. I’d organized a Champagne-colored satin dress to borrow. (The aesthetic I was going for was one of those old oil paintings of royalty where everyone’s wearing light blue and pink satin and holding a silky-looking lapdog.) I’d purchased a sparkly gold party hat and a pink bowtie for Rum Tum, two tins of pate cat food – the good stuff  – which I was going to stick with a cat-head party topper and maybe candles, and a pack of milk-flavored cat snacks. Alas, two days before the big day, my human co-conspirator and photographer got corona.

Like my bag of 50-count deflated metallic balloons, I put my cat party dreams on the back shelf of the cabinet, to be dusted off in tamer times. When I finally do it, it’s going to be even bigger, even more absurd, and my cat will still care zero much.

When I finally do it, it’s going to be even bigger, even more absurd, and my cat will still care zero much.

In the meantime, I continue to enjoy the joys and annoyances of having two cats for just a few more days until my friend returns to Berlin to take my godchild away from me.

Universe and the German government, if you’re listening, please make it so that I can spend more time with people again.

But cats.

Zami has taken a while to settle in. » Continue reading this post...

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...