Food Musings

A Winnipeg blog about the joy of preparing food for loved ones and the shared joy that travel & dining brings to life.

“My Berlin Kitchen-Eating for Heartbreak” by Luisa Weiss

January16

I emotionally eat for a variety of reasons:-to celebrate, yes, that is a great excuse of mine.   Others are to reward myself for a difficult task finally accomplished, when I am blue or under the weather, when I am stressed or hurried.   I don’t recall eating for heartbreak not because this has never occurred, but that I have successfully blocked the feeling from my consciousness.  My “consoling” foods are often warm and slurpy pastas that create that sense of physical fullness.  I suppose I rationalize it this way: if my heart cannot be full, perhaps my full stomach can replace the sensation.  I am far too “carb” focused to ever consider a salad as a comfort food, but when so beautifully described as Luisa Weiss does here, I would consider having the provisions on hand (in case of an emergency of the heart).

Now, I’m not talking about big leafy green salads.  Those won’t do for heartbreak.  What I find to be a very reliable meal in times of misery involve a little bowl of what some people might call an abbreviated version of a Greek salad.  What’s important is that you find yourself a snappy little cucumber without any give (I like seedless Kirbys or Persian cucumbers), a handful of cherry tomatoes that actually taste like something, mercifully available all  year long now, a small slab of feta cheese (Greek or French, it doesn’t really matter as long as it’s fresh), and dried oregano (Greek or Italian, please).

 

Don’t bother peeling the cucumber, but slice it in half lengthwise and then in little half-moons.  Cut the tomatoes in halves or quarters and the feta into small cubes.  Combine all of this in a bowl and sprinkle judiciously with oregano, plus a good pinch of flaky salt.  Don’t skimp on the salt because of the feta.  trust me, it’s a mistake.  Your body needs the salt; haven’t you been crying your eyes out?  Replenish.  Then add a good glug of olive oil and the smallest drip of vinegar (I use white wine vinegar; but you could use Champagne, I suppose, or sherry vinegar; whatever you do, no balsamic, I beg of you), and toss the whole thing together until the tomatoes glisten with olive oil, the herbs are dispersed, and the fetas is starting to break down, ever so slight;y at the edges.

Now if it’s summer; and I hope it I because at least then you’ve got a leg up on the the poor winter heartbroken who definitely have the rawer end of the deal, go out on your balcony, your backyard, or, all else failing, your front stoop.  I find it rather important to eat this little salad, which might be all you can stomach in a day, in the setting sun.  As you crunch your way carefuly through your bowl, the sun makes you squint and warms your hair,and the soft evening breeze will feel like a caress, which I think you need almost as much as you need the salad.

As your fork spears every more hungrily, you can start to daydream about that trip tp Greece you’d like to think about taking where you can eat feta and tomatoes, all day long ever day, and great big olives too, and nice warm bread, and there will be a few handsome waiters winking at you as you sit by the bar with your glass of retsina and your sun-kissed tourist glow.  Suddenly, you’ll find yourself scraping the bottom of your bowl rather lustily and you might feel sheepish, or at least a little guilty, for enjoying the simple meal so much when you thought you might never eat again. 

Don’t worry the heartbreak’s not entirely gone, and it won’t be until it skulls away of its own accord.  But in the mean time, you snuck a meal past its shadowy figure and you are felling rather good, like you wouldn’t mind another one of those,or at least a spoon to get at the dregs of the dressing at the bottom of the bowl.  Here’s a little tip from me to you: no one, but no one, will notice if your raise your bowl to your lips and tip it back, letting the herbed oil and vinegar, flecked with bits of feta and tomato seeds, pour down your throat.  You might cough a bit if its too sharp, and you might feel just a little greedy.  But it’s worth it, I think, to feel your appetite and your lust for life come back to life, one cherry tomato at a time.

I hope that these couple of excerpts have tantalized you to pick up My Berlin Kitchen for your own.  I haven’t even told you about the great recipes which eat each and every chapter…….

Kath’s quote: “I have made a lot of mistakes falling in love, and regretted most of them, but never the potatoes that went with them.”-Nora Ephron
 

Love-that is all.

“My Berlin Kitchen-Stunningly Complete” by Luisa Weiss

January15

In this second excerpt Luisa Weiss recounts what I have struggled to appropriately describe in the past; that moment when I have become overwhelmed with that utter bliss that comes after a well-prepared meal, surrounded by loved ones and often times in a beautiful setting. 

I am happy to report that my life has been made up of a string of these moments: on my many travel adventures, whilst on our precious Isla Mujeres,

a sunset walk on the beach at our summer house and indeed, even in my own backyard-lying in a hammock, or cuddled up around our fire pit or sitting under the blossoming plum tress that have been strung with white lights.  I think what I am trying to say is that Luisa Weiss “gets” me and I “get” her….

But pavlova felt too fussy for this languid afternoon.  I leaned back on the couch and closed my eyes, hearing the faint hum of the traffic from the outdoors and thinking about our day.  I remembered the buttermilk we’d shared, creamy and sour.  It occurred to me that buttermilk and berries would make the perfect summer dessert.  In my collection of clipped recipes from so long ago, I found the recipe I was looking for almost straightaway: buttermilk pannacotta.

The dessert consisted of not much more than buttermilk, heavy cream, and sugar, with a a little gelatin for suspension and wiggle.  To serve with the pannacotta, I decided to sugar red berries, letting a syrupy, ruby-red juice form.  Their sweet-sour pop would be a good contract to the nursery-dessert quality of the pannacotta.

The pannacotta was simple to make, but when the time came to unmold the set cream from its ceramic mold, I struggled to loosen it from the sides.  Max walked into the kitchen just as I was starting to lose my cool and ended up helping me, the two of us giggling at the pannacotta’s luxuriant wobble as it settled onto the serving plate.  Then I spooned the juicy berries and their syrup all around the pannacotta, almost obscuring the creamy mound.  As Max drove us to Muck and Jurgen’s house on a leafy street in Zehlendorf, I held the serving plate gingerly in my lap as the fruit syrup slid back and forth precariously.

Out on their deck at dusk, we ate pink-fleshed lake trout poached gently in fennel broth, small boiled potatoes, waxy and sunflower-yellow and dusted with chopped parsley, and a little salad of soft greens studded with toasted sunflower seeds.  There was a cold bottle of Riesling and a sharp and creamy horseradish sauce mixed with grated apple for a bit of sweetness to dollop on the fish, its flesh tender and barely warm.  Later, when the sky had grown dark and we sat outside in candlelight, full of fish and potatoes and wine, everybody oohed and aahed as I spooned out trembling portions of pannacottaand sweet-sour berries into little dishes that Muck had brought out.

As we ate, the buttermilk cutting the richness of the cream and the sugared berries a sharp contrast to the soothing blandness of the pannacotta, we listened to the neighbor’s children play in the garden next door.  The table soon fell quiet and as our spoons scraped against the china and I saw the light draining from the sky, my world suddenly felt so stunningly complete, so full and rich and just as it should be, that I almost lost my breath.

 Kath’s quote: “Life is not measured by the breaths you take but by its breathtaking monents.”-Michael Vance.

 

Love-that is all.

“My Berlin Kitchen-The Apple of His Eye” by Luisa Weiss

January14

No secret here-I love to read.  This winter, I have averaged 2-3 books per week and I have a stack of them waiting for me on my night table.  Although I have been drawn to fiction all of my days and have had dalliances with some non-fiction travel writing, I am crazy about what I call the newest genre- the blogger/book author.   I too have a book in my head but not enough hours in the day to actually get it out of there or to put my “real” work aside, (the work that pays the bills while I support my “writing” habit).  So I am fascinated by the bloggers turned authors who have managed to pull all of this together.  And I love the authenticity with which they write: recounting the disappointments and indeed heartbreaks  but also the joys and triumphs in the kitchen and in life.  Luisa Weiss is my latest fascination.  In this excerpt she is writing of her relationship with her Dad which has so many parallels to my own.

My sweet Dad was as much my food mentor as my Mom.  I inherited my Dad’s inventiveness when I make “refrigerator” soup and I would attribute my natural instincts of knowing what foods will pair well together from him.  My love of salty/sweet is all about my Dad.  Just this Christmas, I was so hoping that someone would ask me about my recipe for the ham glaze because I intentionally mimicked my Dad’s style: throw open the fridge door, get your head and arms in there and start pulling out jars and bottles of sauces and chutneys and marinades, mixing homemade preserves with Asian, Italian and French concoctions.  The result was fabulous (in my mind at least) perhaps because it tasted like “Christmas past”.

And so here is an excerpt by Luisia Weiss. But do not limit your reading to here, go out and buy My Berlin Kitchen.

But best of all, my father gave me a family tomato sauce.  He says he got the recipe from my mother’s mother, Nini, whom he adored, but my mother says that couldn’t possibly be true, because Nini hated to cook.  They always like to argue about who was right on this count.  “Ree-chard, don’t you think I’d know if my mother ever made that tomato sauce.” Oh, get out of town.  Are you telling me that I don’t remember who taught me how to make it?”  I didn’t mind the arguing; it was nice hearing their voices together in the same room.  And besides, I didn’t really care where the sauce came from-to me, it was his sauce.

It may seem a little funny to talk about tomato sauce.  Chances are you scarcely need a recipe for one.  The thing is, this is where it all starts for me.  This sauce was one of the first things I ever made.  It’s the only thing I tend to cook when there’s nothing in the kitchen and I need a quick dinner: its what I cook when there’s nothing I’d rather be doing less than cooking.  It’s what I make when I need steadying and reassurance.  Its smell reminds me of my father and my Italian Grandmother and I like to think that, one day, it’ll be the first recipe my children inherit from me.  If it’s not a family heirloom, then I don’t know what is.

To make it, he would dice up an onion and throw it along with a clove of garlic into a pot of olive oil warming on the stove.  The smell of the cooking onions would drift past the pantry into the living room, where I’d sit in anticipation.  When the onions were soft and fragrant, he’d add chopped carrots and canned tomatoes into the pot and the whole thing would simmer together until it got sweet and saucy and I could hear my stomach growl.  He’d boil a pot of water for spaghetti and break the long strands in half to cook them.  Then he’d dress the whole thing.  We’d sit down at the drop-leaf table in the kitchen and we’d eat together and talk about the day.

Sometimes before bedtime, after he’d finish singing to me and he’d said good-night, he’d turn at the doorway, ready to switch off the light, and tell me I was the apple of his eye, the love of his life.  But I’m not sure he ever really needed to.  I knew it all along.

Kath’s quote: “Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings.” Psalm17:8

Love-that is all.

Blizzard Warning!

January11

When you live on the Canadian prairies, blizzards are not unexpected.  I have experienced some lollapaloozas in my memory but not surprisingly, the most precious one was when I was little.   In the midst of the storm, we could not see the Dyers’ home across the street, when in clear weather, my Mom could see her good friend at the kitchen sink washing dishes.  I know that schools closed (not such a thrill for me because I loved school) and my Dad got to stay home from work.  But true to form, he went to all the neighbours and took their lists for provisions and then snow-shoed to the grocery store pulling a toboggan to ensure that neighbouring families all had milk and bread.   I recall the post storm photos in the  Winnipeg Free Press of all the stranded Eaton’s staff and shoppers who had to spend the night in the mattress department (I remember thinking how cool that would be).  Just after the enormous drifts accumulated, my two eldest brothers fashioned a snow slide which started on the roof of the garage, down a snow bank and right to the far corner of the back yard.  Good times.

The storm that is forecast to hit today has been predicted for days and in anticipation, I have an extra big storehouse of red wine.  Rural schools have already been closed and travel will be tricky for D’s entourage at work, who have assembled from Man/Sask for a food show.  But other than that, it is business as usual (for now at least).

If we have to, we can always make what I call refrigerator pizza.  We did so last Sunday (for mandatory dinner) just because I had an excess of sauces and pestos around.  I made double batch of dough in our bread-maker with ingredients that are always in the house.  Daughter #2, who is a professionally trained pizza maker, is always put in charge of expertly stretching and forming the pies into shape.  I am in awe of her ability, at this and every skill that I see my children demonstrate that I (or D) didn’t personally teach them.  She also supervises the application of ingredients knowing that you want to go very light-handed with the sauce and have two layers of cheese-one right next to the sauce and the second on top of your varied ingredients.

These were the resulting refrigerator concoctions:

Margherita on the pizza stone

and out of the oven.

Meat lovers with Italian deli purchases of salami and spicy sausage.

Daughter #1 and 3’s fav of Alfredo sauce, spinach, roasted chicken and feta.

And my favourite of the evening: ham, asparagus and sun-dried tomato pesto.

So get your head into the fridge and see what you can invent.  You are going to need the calories for all that shoveling that awaits you.

Kath’s quote: “A blizzard is a severe snowstorm characterized by strong winds and low temperatures. The difference between a blizzard and a snowstorm is the strength of the wind. To be a blizzard, a snow storm must have sustained winds or frequent gusts that are greater than or equal to 56 km/h (35 mph) with blowing or drifting snow which reduces visibility to 400 meters or a quarter mile or less and must last for a prolonged period of time — typically three hours or more”.-Wikipedia   PS Blizzard is also the name of my favourite Dairy Queen treat.

Love-that is all.

posted under Entrees | 1 Comment »

Our Annual Fondue

January10

Here is Daughter #2 with that “Mom, you aren’t going to take another fondue picture of me when -I- have- just- put- food -in- my- face expression.”

It is fun to go back over the years and the photos of our annual family fondue party.  There have been various friends invited to join us and the date has sometimes been New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day or the Sunday between Christmas and New Year’s but the one thing that remains the same, is that it must be scheduled.  Last year when we spent New Year’s on Isla Mujeres, I even tried to gather up some fondue pots on the island, to no avail.  We are a family who love our traditions.

The key to a successful fondue party is being well prepared.  I layout a plastic table cloth, ensure that we have lots of fuel on hand and that every place setting has an adequate share of forks.  If you are queasy about cross contamination (we have many safe food handlers in our family), you can eliminate concern by placing  stack of paper plates in front of each of your guests.  You would think that this would cut down on dishes to be done but the dirty dishes still seem endless.  One small drawback to a fondue evening, but still well worth it.

I also like to provide lots of variety, not only on the nightly selection but the choices from one year to another.  We started making tempura vegetables the year that the Frenchman’s sister (who is vegetarian) joined us and now that has become a staple.  But this year was the first time that I prepared an authentic tempura dipping sauce to have with it-that was a big hit. 

I also mixed things up a bit by preparing a spicy chicken coating and a meatball stuffed with camembert.  Here is the recipe for the latter:

 

Fondue Meatballs
Author: 
Recipe type: Entree
 
Original recipecalled for ground veal.
Ingredients
  • 1 T canola oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • ¼ c tomato, diced
  • 1 t basil, finely chopped
  • 1 T parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 egg
  • 1 lb ground chicken
  • ½ lb camembert cheese, thinly diced
  • salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Warm the canola oil in a pan and add the garlic, tomato, basil and parsley.
  2. Cook these ingredients for about three minutes then turn off the heat and let cool.
  3. In a separate bowl, beat the egg and mix the ground meat and the contents of the pan.
  4. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Using a piece of cheese as the center, shape the ground veal mixture into balls.
  6. Keep the meatballs refrigerated until fondue time.
  7. Let your meatball cook into the hot oil for a few minutes.
  8. Note: if you use ground chicke thigh, meat with still remain pinkish even when fully cooked.
  9. Once cooked, remove from the oil and let cool for a few minutes.

We always have a bazillion sauces on our refrigerator door so I pour out a variety of these.  I also made Bearnaise to have as a treat with the sirloin strips.  To add more veggies, I prepared a broccoli cheese fondue rather than our typical cheese only one.

For dessert: angel food cake, strawberries, pineapple and banana are always dipped in melted chocolate.  This year we added a salted caramel sauce and the piece de resistance-we dipped the most amazing shortbread (a Christmas gift) into chocolate (salty/sweet-I’m in heaven)!

Kath’s quote: “Well loved he garleek, oynons, and eek lekes. And for to drinken strong wyn, reed as blood.”-Geoffrey Chaucer

Love-that is all.

 

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