Archive for the ‘lunch’ 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.



June 1, 2008

DISCLAIMER: this post has absolutely nothing to do with the fabulously red vegetable slicer pictured in the last post. Sorry!


My first encounter with flatbread, was an intolerable ad for the golden arches’ newly invented chicken flatbread in Vancouver in 2003. I thought it was a weird cross between a tortilla and a pizza and vowed never to try it. However, the donna hay magazine that already brought you potstickers, had a recipe for flatbread in it as well which I tried. And liked.


Flatbread tastes like a cross between focaccia (a word the germans love to pronounce for some reason, saying with a lot of emphasis on the tchia at the end!) and emerican style pizza. The yeast dough is made with milk, and uses more of it than you would use water to make pizza dough. Meaning, the flatbread gets very doughy and chewy and tasty! I could get all poetic about how pillowy and and savoury and whatevery it was, but I’ll let you find out for yourself.

Our flatbread was topped with some thyme and lemon marinated mozzarella (which I marinated for all of 5 min, due to my permanent lack of TIME!) and it was so good, it was still tasty eaten cold in my office the next day! You could use any kind of simple topping, although I wouldn’t really use it as a base for anything saucy, rather something simple (Donna, my high priestess of all things caloric, suggests using caramelised shallots or simply salt and rosemary).


Flatbread topped with Marinated Mozzarella

adapted from donna hay magazine
prep time: 30 min, active time: 10 min, baking time: 15-20 min,

for the dough

2 tsp of active dry yeast
1 tsp of sugar
1 1/3 cup of lukewarm milk
2 1/2 cup of white flour

1 tsp salt
1 tbsp of oilve oil and more for brushing

silicon mat / parchment paper

In a small bowl combine the yeast, milk and sugar and set aside in a warmish place until bubbles rise to the surface – about 5 min.
Preheat the oven to 180°C and line a baking sheet with a silicon mat or parchment paper. In a bigger mixing bowl, combine the flour, salt, olive oil and the yeast mixture and knead with a handmixer fitted with dough hooks. Add some extra flour if the dough is too sticky. When you have reached an elastic consistency, cover the bowl with a clean towel and let rest until doubled in size – about 20 min.

Press the dough to about 1.5 c thickness onto a your baking tray covered with the silicon mat or parchment paper. Brush with oil and / or the topiing of your choice. Bake for 15-20 min or until golden. Serve warm.

For the Mozzarella

1 ball of buffalo mozzarella packed in brine
2 tbsp of lemon zest
2 tbsp of fresh thyme
about 1/4 cup of olive oil

Tear the mozzarella into small pieces and place in a shallow plate or bowl. Add the thyme and lemon zest and cover with the olive oil. Leave to rest until ready to use. It should keep for a couple of days covered and refrigerated. The flavors intensify with time.

For more immediately intense flavors, you could infuse the olive oil with the lemon zest and thyme by putting them with the oil in a shallow frying pan and gently heating it up for a couple of minutes. Don’t forget to cool down the oil before you add it to the mozzarella or you’ll end with a gloppy mess!

Dip It!

April 15, 2008

The weather being the best conversation starter there is, let me just tell you that I have nothing but complaints on it. It’s been a continuation of winter for about as long as spring has officially started.

As much as we WANT to buy spring fare, what I really want to EAT are stews and roasts and real mac’n’cheese.

The produce vendors however, are plowing on and trying to convince us of the season by offering asparagus, rhubarb and (globe) artichokes. And because I am a sucker for marketing, i fell into their terrible ploy (for the third time, might I add!), caved and bought artichokes.

As a child I have never been incredibly fond of artichokes, and a bout of stomach flu a few years back left a truly terrible memory involving the lovely thistle hearts(variation, a pseudo-writers best friend!) paired with spaghetti, and I will leave the rest to your imagination. I mainly got them at the markthalle because my toddler boy is absolutely in love with dipping. Dipping for him, is food at it’s funnest (as opposed to funnIEST). i figured therefore, that artichokes (how many times will I type artichokes in this post, hmm? well, better read on and count!) were a nice change and a bit of fun for the rainy dinners.

The artichokes were steamed and I served them with two dips: a variation on the classic italian salsa verde – a green sauce (my linguistics skills are unparalleled) made with fresh herbs, capers and anchovies – for the husband and me, and a surefire winner for all of us, which is a tahini-yoghurt sauce spiced with ras-el-hanout (a very fragrant north african spice/herb mix including cumin, fenugreek, coriander and mild chili, to name a few).

Artichokes with Double Dip

prep time: 5 min/dip and 40 min total for the artichokes

For the Artichokes

count one artichoke per person

pot with a steamer inlay or a pressure cooker fitted with a steamer inside.

Cut of the long Stem of the artichokes to about 1/2 cm of the globe. Chop pf the tips of leaves with scissors or simply cut a couple of cms of the top. Place in a bowl of cold water with a splash of lemon to prevent them from turning black.

When you are ready to cook, place the artichokes ionside the steamer basket and steam them for about 15-20 min or until tender. Reduce the cooking time appropriately if you are steaming them in a pressure cooker ( my guess would be about 10 min after the cooker is starting to vent steam)

Serve the artichokes hot or cold. to eat, pull out the leaves and dip them into a classic vinaigrette, or even just olive oil and lemon or this, or whatever else you like. To eat the artichoke heart, pull or cut out the hairy fuzzy part, the heart is what lies underneath.

For the Salsa Verde

4 tbsp olive oil or more
1 tbsp basil
1 tbsp mint
1 tbsp flat leaf parsley
1 tbsp cilantro (optional)
1 tbsp capers (either salted or brined, be sure to rinse the salted ones well!)
3-4 anchovies, packed in oil or salt (again, if salted, make sure to rinse them well)
splash of lemon juice, or more to taste

Put all the ingredients in a food processor and whizz together until it all comes together. Alternately, you can chopp up the herbs, capers and anchovies finely and blend with the lemon juice and the olive oil. Your sauce needs to look green, and solid, between a vinaigrette and a pesto.

For the Yoghurt-Tahini Sauce

1 tbsp tahini (sesame butter)
1/2 cup of yoghurt
juice of one lime/lemon
1 tsp mint
1 tsp ras-el-hanout

salt and pepper to taste

Whisk together all the ingredients and let stand for a little while. The tahini will cause the sauce to thicken slightly. If you find it a little to runny, add some more of the sesame butter.

Both sauces/dips will keep covered in the fridge for a few days, but make sure to check because mint can sometimes cause dishes to go bad quickly.