Archive for the ‘dinner’ Category

in which things get complicated

October 12, 2008

Last friday, yours truly got invited to the book launch party of Cynthia Barcomi’s latest cookbook called ‘Kochbuch für Feste’. The party was great fun, as I got to hang out with a new friend as well as with Madame Barcomi herself AND in addition had a taste of a lot some of the food that’s featured in the book.

Waiters were passing along tray after tray of beautifully arranged taste samples. The only thing was, that we had joined the party a bit late (three kids will do that to you: no matter how you play it, you are never at the right party time – arrive too early, leave too early kinda thing!) and that everyone was already getting into trying out the desserts. This kid next to us however, kept running out and coming back with plates full of salty snacks such as piggies in a blanket, and some fabulous looking bacon-wrapped dates. I was really jealous (seriously, I CANNOT miss out on food. It makes me cranky!) so I made after him only to find myself in front of yet another empty tray. I must have looked really disappointed, because after I explained to the waiter that, while figs w/mascarpone and honey (delicious) and mousse au chocolat were great, I really wanted those piggies, he kept coming to the spot where I was standing with my friend. And every single time, he was bearing a fresh tray loaded with salty goodness. The pout never fails to deliver (or so I like to think!).

Amongst some of the foods I sampled were a fabulous creamy porcini soup, potato salad w/ smoked salmon and caviar, piggies in a blanket (YAY!) and medjool dates filled w/parmesan wrapped in bacon and roasted. Those were just insanely good. I mean, in a way anything w/ parmesan that is subsequently wrapped in bacon and roasted is bound to come out perfect, but those dates were just really really perfect. The secret as C.Barcomi said herself, is to use the medjool dates by the way, and not any ole’ date found at the supermarket.

Apart from talking about the food, the other thing we discussed were kitchens, specifically, how to organise them. And this is a topic dear to my heart since it turns out we are moving and will have to buy an entirely new kitchen of our own liking (I know, right? Poor us!)!
This is as much fun as it is totally grueling, because everything happened really fast and we have to get our act together in the next 6 weeks. AAK! So, if you ever had a brilliant piece of advice about what to do and what not to do in a kitchen, now’s the time to bring it! And yes, I am asking the internet’s opinion, watch it not answer me!

Because all this is very complicated and my head seems to routinely explode when faced with the realisation of the task at hand (Because from now until christmas is also the busiest time at my work. And I will be travelling. A lot. While packing. Watch me spontaneously combust!), I am craving something simple foodwise, namely a pre-meal snack that only requires a quick peeling, chopping and dipping.


Yes, this is a Kohlrabi, a boring old Kohlrabi, a food dear to many a german heart which found it’s way to mine just a few years ago. And somewhere in Switzerland, my sister just dropped from her chair from sheer incredulity and the might of assocations she doubtless has from it. I used to associate it with smelly wurst and prepackaged bread on the dining table for Abendbrot*, alongside the little invidual cutting boards known as Frühstückbrett.


I take back all these associations however, when Kohlrabi is peeled, chopped and paired with a food snobs simplest tools: “a sprinkling of fleur de sel and some really good olive oil!” And as much as this whole “fleur de sel and good olive oil” thing annoys me, it does often turn something boring, into something really great. It’s also good for me, since it means all I need to do now, is post photos and bow out!


*Germans often eat an early dinner of cold cuts, cheese and sliced vegetables along with bread. The whole thing having been totally inconceivable to my 7 year old french self.


The Omnivore’s 100

October 1, 2008

Between ignoring the laundry and obsessively watching re-runs of project runway and the other shows I love to hate, it has come to my attention that I am a bit behind on my blogging.
The horror! I have an excuse though, and a dramatic one to boot: I have been diagnosed with a slipped disc and am ouching my way through both work day and kids duties, which is why I am ignoring the laundry and prefer silly shows to anythong else at the moment. I also would like to add that I am telling you about the slipped disc, because I really like this expression. It sounds so… accidental, and somewhat sporty or maybe it’s just me?

Another thing I have been interested in lately is this list, which has been coursing the internet:

The VGT Omnivore’s Hundred

So much so, in fact, that I have pasted it here and followed the instruction, thus giving you a clear picture of what crazy things I have eaten in the past:

1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.

2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.

3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.

4) Optional extra: Post a comment here at linking to your results.

1. Venison

2. Nettle tea

3. Huevos rancheros

4. Steak tartare

5. Crocodile

6. Black pudding

7. Cheese fondue

8. Carp

9. Borscht

10. Baba ghanoush

11. Calamari

12. Pho

13. PB&J sandwich

14. Aloo gobi

15. Hot dog from a street cart

16. Epoisses

17. Black truffle

18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes

19. Steamed pork buns

20. Pistachio ice cream

21. Heirloom tomatoes

22. Fresh wild berries

23. Foie gras

24. Rice and beans

25. Brawn, or head cheese

26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper

27. Dulce de leche

28. Oysters

29. Baklava

30. Bagna cauda

31. Wasabi peas

32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl

33. Salted lassi

34. Sauerkraut

35. Root beer float

36. Cognac with a fat cigar

37. Clotted cream tea

38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O

39. Gumbo

40. Oxtail

41. Curried goat

42. Whole insects

43. Phaal

44. Goat’s milk

45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more

46. Fugu

47. Chicken tikka masala

48. Eel

49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut

50. Sea urchin

51. Prickly pear

52. Umeboshi

53. Abalone

54. Paneer

55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal

56. Spaetzle

57. Dirty gin martini

58. Beer above 8% ABV

59. Poutine

60. Carob chips

61. S’mores

62. Sweetbreads

63. Kaolin

64. Currywurst

65. Durian

66. Frogs’ legs

67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake

68. Haggis

69. Fried plantain

70. Chitterlings, or andouillette

71. Gazpacho

72. Caviar and blini

73. Louche absinthe

74. Gjetost, or brunost

75. Roadkill

76. Baijiu

77. Hostess Fruit Pie

78. Snail

79. Lapsang souchong

80. Bellini

81. Tom yum

82. Eggs Benedict

83. Pocky

84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant

85. Kobe beef

86. Hare

87. Goulash

88. Flowers

89. Horse

90. Criollo chocolate

91. Spam

92. Soft shell crab

93. Rose harissa

94. Catfish

95. Mole poblano

96. Bagel and lox

97. Lobster Thermidor

98. Polenta

99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee

100. Snake

Reading the list, I was struck at the exoticism or lack thereof, of some of the dishes, but all in all realised that I had the luck of tasting most of these things as a child. Food played a strong part in my upbringing, and I am hoping to pass this on to my children as well. What I didn’t eat as a child, I got to try in New York (huevos rancheros, pho, mole poblano, bagel and lox etc) when I was interning in 1999 (cue the song!), or was introduced to by my husband (PB&J, where were you when I needed you!).

You can see from my list that I am not a big boozer or crazily obsessed with eating something extra spicy. Things such as absinthe have never quite sparked the romantic interest as much as a tasting menu at a three star michelin restaurant would. But even that I am not so sure of.*
Actually, I like simple food. And thanks to this list, I now have a great excuse to post the simplest and greatest Goulash. The author calls it a little black dress of a recipe, and I couldn’t agree more. My only complaint with it is that it needs a couple of hours in the oven. However, I am working on a version that delivers the same tender and slow simmered delight but uses a pressure cooker. I will update if the results are any good.

Please feel free to tell me what foods you would like to eat, have eaten would never eat etc in the comments, I know you are reading, so come out and talk to me! And tell me if you can think of a shortcut for the goulash!


Smoked Paprika Goulash

prep time: 10min, cooking time 3h
heavy cast iron pot with a tight fitting lid, or fitted with tin foil as a lid

600-800 g of beef for goulash, cubed
2 tbsp flour
1 tbsp smoked paprika (I use 2 tsp of sweet smoked paprika and one tsp hot, it still ends up a little overly spicy for children, though)
1 onion finely chopped
1 400g can of whole tomatoes (I like to use canned cherry tomatoes, because they are consistently less acidic than reg. canned tomatoes)
1 cup water

Preheat your oven to a fairly low setting (150°, in my case). Toss the meat in the flour and paprika**, make sure to coat the cubes really well. Heat the oil in your pot and gently sweat the onions until translucent Add the meat and brown on all sides. Add the tomatoes and the water while stirring and scraping the bottom of the pot. Cover with the lid (or tinfoil) and leave in the oven for about three hours. Serve with polenta, potatoes or maybe even pasta.

*I also haven’t been super specific in pointing out what I think of every food on the list, for instance, I don’t think I would enjoy goats milk in anything other than cheese, but I got a little lazy!

** I usually toss the flour/paprika in a clean plastic bag, add the meat, close the bag and shakeshakeshake

Plum Times

September 7, 2008

We went to the Bode museum today, just to see if we could manage with the three kids. It turns out, we can’t really: J. was only marginally interested in the sculptures/paintings, Bas. was in complete agony from being overtired, teething and hungry and Bal. was the only one doing ok, sucking his thumb while looking around. The visit ended abruptly with J. deciding it was a good idea to recline Bas.’ buggy so that he would sleep (sthg which he is not allowed to do, him being only three and all) and completely quetsching the poor childs arm in the process. Everyone started howling on cue — and we fled the scene for home.

After we had put everyone to sleep, we started relaxing, twittering around and generally doing things for our own enjoyment. Meaning, I baked and cooked, while L. computered!
I don’t know if it was to match the weather or the atmosphere in Berlin, but the meal ended up being a nice welcoming of fall: a plum tarte and neck of pork (Schweinekamm / échine de porc) braised in the oven with caramelized prunes. It was totally delicious and along with the nap made everybody feel much better about the weekend. I especially urge you to go make that pork now, because it’s that easy and good!

As an aside, I also tried to replicate the delicious meal L. and I had on our night out, celebrating our 4th wedding anniversary. We went to a big opening, which was great fun, the art on display just as much as the people we met, but the real highlight of the night was the fish with chanterelles in barbecue sauce that we ate later that night at Toca Rouge.
I had already been converted by my father to the idea of serving fish and fresh chanterelles together, but the barbecue sauce was just perfect. When I tried to re-do it (with ginger, hoisin, rice vinegar, soy and a splash of sichara hot sauce), I couldn’t figure out what it was that made theirs so special, but I will try again until I figure it out! In the meantime, please come forth with suggestions or, if you are in Berlin, go check out the place!


Braised Pork Neck with dried Prunes*

Prep Time: 15 min cooking time: 50 min

700 g pork neck, deboned
1 medium sized red onion, roughly chopped
200 g chopped dried prunes (1 packed cup)
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/3 cup rice vinegar (you can subsitute it with balsamic vinegar)
1 /3 cup of water or a little more
1 tsp each of rosemary and thyme

cast iron pot with a tight fitting lid (can be substituted with tin foil)

Preheat the oven to 190°. Heat the oil in the pot on the stove and add the herbs and chopped red onion. Cook for a minute or until fragrant.
Add the pork and make sure to sear it well on both sides. Put the chopped prunes and stir until evenly coated. Pour over the vinegar, cover with the lid and cook in the oven for about 50 min.
When the meat is done, let it rest covered, for another 10 min to let the the meat stay tender and juicy. Eat with mashed / steamed potatoes or rice.


Plum tarte

prep time: 5min, cooling time: 30 min, baking time 40 min
metal mixing bowl and knife or food processor tarte tin

for the Dough**

2 cups of flour (about 240 g)
1/2 tsp salt
100 g sugar
145 g cold cold butter
3 tbsp icecold water

for the Filling

800 g ripe plums washed, stoned and halved
2 tsp of semolina
2 tsp of brown sugar
more sugar to taste

Keep your ingredients very cold. Cut the butter in cubes and using a knife, cut it into the flour, salt and sugar, or mix it in your foodprocessor until it looks like coarse crumbs. Add the cold water bit by bit until the dough starts to come together. Roll it together in a ball, wrap it in clingfoil and put it in the fridge to rest for 30 min or up to overnight.

When you are ready, butter and flour your tarte tin and roll out your dough to fill it’s size. Sprinkle the sugar and semolina onto the dough and arrange your plum halves in the tin. I like to alternate between one half facing up and one facing down, so as not get the bottom of my tarte too soggy.*** Add a couple of pats of butter, sprinkle with some or lots more sugar and bake for about 40 min.

* I’m sorry, but dried prunes sound terrifyingly unappetizing!

** I have already blogged this tarte dough before and still stand by the fact that it’s the Bestest!

*** You can see in the picture that I ran out of plums halfway, I only had one scant pound, don’t make the same mistake: really pack the tin full with them!