The food group, such as it is, met for dinner last night. I have to say it was really on of the best meals I’ve had in ages.

  1. Charred green onion and lemon hummus. (RECIPE) This could have used less lemon and more charred green onions but it was good. And looked good, and really, isn’t that what counts?
  2. Shrimp and cucumber tower (RECIPE) I’m not sure if this link is actually the real recipe since a certain TasteBud isn’t coughing up the recipe. No one is ever gonna make this or any recipe from this blog anyway.
  3. Asparagus risotto (RECIPE) This is an adapted mushroom and pea risotto. Asparagus was substituted for peas since a certainTasteBud does not like peas.
  4. Brown butter scallops (RECIPE) These were fabulous and the shallot, caper sauce was a phenom.
  5. Lemon swirl cheesecake (RECIPE) Apparently really easy to make and really good. (no photo)

French class redux

Seems like we get together less and less but cooking for my fellow former French student colleagues is always a pull out the stops kind of meal. Oeufs mayonnaises is a French classic and a favorite of mine and also of one of our number Jean (en francais, Jeanne). So I put that on the entrée list. Entrée in France is the first course. Le plat, the plate is the second.

Le plat in this case was crevettes vol au vent. Shrimp flying in the wind or some such thing. It is so blessedly fussy, luscious and gorgeous. Les deux plats étaient un spectacle. Et oui, j’ai fait ma propre mayonnaise.

Unfortunately, our fellow Francophile, Jean, however did not make the meal citing other commitments. Who would chose something else over flying shrimp?

Birthday sadness

It’s been a week but I am still reeling from the disappointment. As a certain special sort of birthday treat I was going to buy myself a box of Dots. Going rogue like this is a once a year, at most, kind of extravagance in which I rarely indulge. It would be one thing if I could eat like 5 of them every couple of days but I cannot. Once the box is open it will be gone in about the time it takes to inhale.

So I went to the store (for other things too, I’m not that crackers) and imagine my disappointment. And now I have to wait another year.

Birthday gift

When Huzoor moved to Europe too many years ago to think about, he left me with a lot of stuff he couldn’t/didn’t want to take along. One of those things was a Cuisinart spice/nut grinder. At the time I thought, pffft, I’ll never use this. But as it turns out, I used it a lot. Enough that I killed it. (Fig. 1 Dead Cuisineart)

Yesterday I was standing in my kitchen trying to think how I was going to grind up cilantro for the street tacos I planned to make for dinner. The door bell rang and Fig. 2 arrived. I was literally standing in the kitchen trying to decide how I was gonna accomplish this. The ol’ ball and chain came through just in time.

The maiden voyage. (Fig. 3) It was fabulous.

I made an extra cup for Ann White

Feeding the squirrels

My friend Judy feeds her squirrels peanuts. I feed mine onions. Why? Because they hate onions and I hate them. I’m not really feeding them, I am repelling them from places and things in my yard.

I had a large rotting onion and I chopped it up and spread it around their sexcapade area. Fer chrissake, in the spring they’re on a constant sex romp in the yard and I have to bear witness to the procreation of the next generation of my tormenters. This is not fair.

The chopped onions are pretty effective for a while. Ultimately they will disintegrate and the squirrels will be right back at it. I have more onions though.

Right about the time they’re showing their progeny around the yard pointing out the best spots for getting olives, peaches, grapes and how fun it is to bat the limes off of the lime trees, I will redouble my efforts. My fear is that they will develop a taste for them and then my onion crop will be in danger as well.

Berlin im Ruckblick

Such a fun language.

Berlin is very racy apparently. Leather and rubber is a “clothing” shop. JAXX is a “club” for gentlemen wearing that “clothing.” Dildo King. ‘Nuf said. Sex macht schon when put into Google translate appears to mean “Sex is okay.”

Künstlerbedarf. This language, Jesus. An art supply store.

We kept running into Robert Indiana. The entire time I was seeing this on posters all over Berlin and reading it as LOVE when in reality it is VELO, a bicycle festival. I wonder if Mr Indiana is aware of this.

Fabulous architecture.

Insane architecture.

Prostitution is legal in Germany. Or at least it is in Berlin. These “Eco Toiletten” provide convenient if malodorous trysting spots.

While there is a serious amount of graffiti in Berlin, it seems to be of a higher caliber than Italy’s.

This fabulous monumental sculpture. Seemed like it might work as a trysting spot as well.

I neglected to mention this amazing, adorable little restaurant in my food post. I go at 11:55. By 12:15 you cannot get a table. I had spaetzle with mushroom sauce. The noodles were boiled and then fried. So damn good.

She must have been tired.

The Berlin beach scene.

I nearly wet myself when I discovered (TBH, the Royal Mounted Police pointed it out to me) that the most recent David Hockney Four Seasons show was merely blocks from his house. It is four massive paintings each comprised of 8 individual pieces. I really like David Hockney and this show has had amazing reviews. Coulda fooled me. Meh.

The SONY Center is absolutely amazing and astonishing. Built on the wasteland between East and West Berlin. Unfortunately the restaurants in it are completely unremarkable, if not downright subpar.

Germans. They all look just like this.

German ingenuity

As per usual, whilst I was in Germany I had old bananas. They just seem to follow me. Where I am, there are always old bananas and that’s not necessarily a bad thing (unless there are the accompanying fruit flies). I made banana bread. The Germans do not have banana bread and seem to like it. And while I have made it many times there it does not seem to have become all the rage yet.

I made banana bread but I couldn’t find loaf pans. It is possible they are there. I just didn’t take the time to scrounge through the oceans of copper pots, Japanese wooden containers, silicone moulds and extraordinarily heavy cast iron lidded casseroles. So I opted for a springform cake pan. It held a full recipe of batter and I baked it for 45 minutes as the recipe calls for. I don’t see why this would need more time than a loaf pan. I did not test it with a toothpick at 45 minutes since I could not find those either. It looked great and felt done but the damn thing was not done in the center.

I cut it into logs spread them with butter, sugared them and toasted them. I called them Banana Banatons. Maybe those will catch on.

Food in review

I am home now but when I was in Europe we mostly ate in restaurants. While generally speaking I prefer to cook and eat at home it seems when I am visiting my husband we almost always eat in restaurants. There are a few reasons for this, I think.

First, there is the outing and abouting that makes everything feel festive.

Then there is discovery. The new place/new food experience. New ways to make old favorites. The teacher of a cooking course I took a cooking course at WCTC decades ago told us that some ethnic group (I forget which) believes that every time you try a new food you live an extra 100 days. This is only a good idea if you’re up for it. I am not sure I’m up for the several extra decades I may be living.

But then lastly there is the Me in his Kitchen issue. He doesn’t want me in it. I get it. I’m messy. He is not. He knows where things go. I don’t really. He has his routines, I have mine. I won’t say who’s are better although I could mention a few things. Anyway, the restraint he uses when we’re talking about my using his kitchen is evident on his face. If I even look at his knives he gets a nervous twitch in his left eye.

Senf pickles. These weird “mustard” pickles. I ate the entire jar in 3 days.

Dumplings. Chinese and German. I’ve had these potstickers before and they are fabulous. The German bread dumplings in mushroom sauce were a revelation. Sooooo good.

In the realm of appetizers the snails were always a first choice if they were on the menu. Some better than others. But even the less than great ones were good. How can you miss with all that butter? Freaking amazing calamari in Italy. These fried eggplant slices. OMG, I don’t actually know what this dish was but I do know it was fabulous.

Balls. German meatballs in mustard cream and veggie balls in vegetable sauce.

Berliners. Deep fried and then creme filled, delicious. Ich bin ein berliner—in so many ways.

Asparagus risotto topped with deep fried white asparagus (it’s the beginning of “Spargel Season” in Germany. The Germans are wild about asparagus, I mean nuts). The second shot is some damn Neapolitan spaghetti thing we never actually ate. We just walked by it all the time and it looked fabulous. Except that it was sitting in this outdoor deli case on the sidewalk for at least a week getting eaten a slice at a time apparently. Seemed like a good breeding ground for various bacteria to me.

I neglected to get a pic of all of these cheese stuffed zucchini flowers. They were good. My own are better. Still it was an adorable place (with a very dispassionate server unfortunately).

An inside out pizza, actually outside in, calzone. It was good but, my god, the mortadella pizza with pistachio cream sauce. Knock out. Easily the best thing I ate in the entire time I was in Europe.

Despite Husoor’s (husoor, an Urdu word for boss) reluctance to let me in the kitchen I did manage to squeeze in a meal of two. (I mean, seriously, he was at work a great deal of the time and how was he going to prevent me from doing, well, whatever I was doing? Believe me, things happened in there). I made a key lime, um, pie for his colleagues. I brought graham crackers from the US. They do not have them there.

He didn’t have a pie plate so I used this odd sized tart pan. Volume wise it was slightly smaller than a normal pie pan but it was actually the perfect size. The crust was a bit thicker and the filling more substantial. And it was exactly the right shape to cut for serving. They all had seconds. In my book that’s a triumph.

This was just too cute to pass up. (For the record I had the gloves on because I was frantically cleaning a mess up before a certain tidy person arrived home, not because I was afraid of a chicken’s butt feather.)

I passed through Dublin on my way home and was starving when I finally got there. I was looking forward to a nice Irish breakfast in the lounge but all they had was chick pea curry, chicken tikka, rice and naan. I mean, seriously???!?