My lifetime quest for French bread

Ideally I would be finding it in a charming little boulangerie in France or, if life were fair, making it in my own kitchen with home made butter. Imagine my surprise, delight, chagrin to find perfect French bread in the form of plain old supermarket brötchen in Berlin. These particular Brötchen were still hot from the oven. They were just perfect. Crisp, thin crust and tender, airy crumb. Delicious. I had intended to make a sandwich for lunch but the bread was so good that I just ate it, still warm, with Irish butter. I think they are 19¢.

And can we talk frankly about the German language? Bread is Brot, no umlaut. Bread roll or bun is Brötchen (little bread) and has an umlaut. Excuse me? Wha?

Interestingly, the word “frank” the base word of “frankly” comes from the Germanic Franks, a group of Germanic peoples who lived in what is now Germany and France around 400. And the Germans are nothing if not frank.

Mechouia . . . . God bless you

African meal night. It’s been a long time since I first encountered mechouia, a North African “salad” and slightly less time since I made it. But I have always loved it and we’re entertaining and one of the guests is vegan. This seemed like as good a time as any to whip out my North African cooking skills. Me and Ottolenghi. Plus, I was having wistful memories of Shukette in New York.

It turns out that this is much easier to do on a grill outside rather than in a kitchen, and in (and on) a German stove that makes disquieting noises and delivers incomprehensible instructions (One assumes they are instructions anyway, they may be warnings or funny little comments on my cooking skills, but I doubt the latter, Germans are not funny, as far as I can tell.)

The recipe follows but it’s such a woo-ha that no one will ever do it. Well, Ottolenghi might.

This needs 24 hours to combobulate before we eat it.

Mm hm. Grill groß. Tell me about it.

Mechouia recipe

2 tsp coriander seeds

1.5 tsp caraway seeds

1 tsp cumin seeds

Grind to a powder or just use already ground spices which is a lot less rigmarole

1/2 tsp paprika

1/4 tsp cayenne

1 tsp salt

Whisk all of this into 5+ TB olive oil 

Add 2 TB of this mix to a small pan on gentle-ish heat. 

Add 2-3 chopped garlic cloves (I use a press, I don’t care what the hell Julia Child says about it. I love her though, don’t get me wrong. I just don’ like her anti-press stance) 

Simmer or sauté until fragrant—5 mins—and then cool

1/4 cup each of chopped parsley, cilantro, basil or mint. Mint is more African and I have come to appreciate the virtues of mint over the years except in ice cream or most desserts.

Remove the uncooked 3 TB of spice-oil mix and paint:

1/2 medium eggplant cut top to bottom and score just the skin with a few exes.

2 unpeeled shallots

2 roma tomatoes cut in half lengthwise

2 peppers (red and green) 

1 zucchini

Grill the peppers first. Char skin side down and remove to a covered bowl to steam.

You can throw the shallots on with peppers or any of these, they just have to be charred.

Grill the eggplant cut side down first, then char the skin side. This may require moving it around

Grill the zucchini and then the tomatoes. (tomatoes cut side down then skin side down)

As the vegetables are grilling, take the remaining now-cooled 3 TBs of the spice mix, add 2 TB lemon juice and blend (in a blender or processor) with the chopped herbs. Then add 2 tsp lemon zest. This is the “vinaigrette.”

Once the vegetable are cooled and peeled, cut them into manageable chunks and toss with the “vinaigrette.”

Best to do all of this the day before so the flavors calm down and blend.

Good luck.

American food

Last year I went to a store that sold only American food when I was looking for crackers and I was horrified at the realization that people think American food is all junk only to further realize when I tried to think of some American food that was not junk, that “American food” is precisely junk (aside from crackers and potato chips).

This year we were on a search for anchovies (I know, I know) in KaDeWe (Kah Day Vay) the super upscale department store that I love which has an amazing food court/store/department with a freaking awesome international food area and whilst prancing through it I happened upon this horror. Guess which country is responsible for this mess? I was so ashamed.

And we didn’t even find anchovies.

Not eating this

I am all for plant based. But tuna spread. Why ruin plants by adding fish taste to them?

“Ready to enjoy.” Right.

And here’s a cooking tip: Add extra olive oil so it’s easier to slide into the garbage.