Eat Me. Drink Me.

Why We Eat. Why We Drink. Why We Write.

Month: October, 2012

Boo

by lyzpfister

pumpkins

I’ve never really cared about Halloween. Until I moved to Germany, that is. Here, I seem to love all those American things I didn’t really have much interest in before. Carving pumpkins, dressing in ridiculous costumes, making pumpkin pie.

To be fair, pumpkin pie is something that I’ve always loved. To play devil’s advocate for myself, my mother always made pumpkin pie from fresh pumpkin. Which is, I don’t think, very American.

Pumpkin pie made with real pumpkin is not like typical pumpkin pie. It’s custardy, with an almost vegetal undertone and a sweet, earthy hit of cinnamon. None of this creamy, creepy rust-colored goo, real pumpkin pie is bright orange and textured with scraps of shaved pumpkin.

Naturally, the only course of action available to me was to organize a pumpkin carving soiree.

scooping out pumpkins

ready for pumpkin pie

So last Friday, my roommates and I chilled some wine, pulled the extensions out on the table, and bought two big, beautiful pumpkins. (OK, they were from the bottom of the barrel… all the good ones were already gone – but we loved them nonetheless.)

Being the only veteran pumpkin carver, I oversaw the operation, but to tell the truth, I don’t think I actually scraped a single bit of pumpkin flesh from the shell or cut out a single eye. Not that it mattered – for me, it was enough to know that it was being done.

carving a jack-o-lantern

I spent the evening making edible things from our pumpkins. Roasting seeds with olive oil and salt to an addicting crisp, turning scooped-out handfuls of pumpkin into spicy curried pumpkin-coconut soup – and making pie.

roasted pumpkin seeds

Can I tell you how lovely it is to sit around a table by candlelight, hands greased with pumpkin guts, sipping white wine from juice glasses and laughing with friends? What it is to eat together?

chestnuts

pumpkin party

curried pumpkin soup

I’ve been living in Berlin for a little over a year now. Last year at this time, I was sitting at a kitchen table alone, just about to spill a drink into my laptop and break it. Not that life was bad. It was just a new thing.

Carving pumpkins this Halloween, eating with friends – I can’t help but look back on this past year and think about how blessed I am to be here and to have met the people I have. How beautiful it is to be this heartbreakingly happy.

Granted, it’s not just carving pumpkins with other people – or making pie for them – that makes me so happy, but it’s a part of it.

the view from my desk

pumpkin pie recipe

Pumpkin Pie

Crust:
2 cups flour
2/3 cups vegetable oil
1/3 cup milk
pinch of salt

Filling:
2 cups raw pumpkin, scraped from inside of the pumpkin
1 cup milk
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg (opt.)
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 tbsp melted butter

For the crust: Blend flour and salt. Add vegetable oil and milk and whisk ingredients together. When the dough starts to come together, use your hands and quickly knead it into a ball. You may have to add more vegetable oil for the dough to stick together. Conversely, if the dough is too wet, add more flour.

Press dough into a 9-inch pie dish. You may have extra dough – set it aside for another use (or a mini-pie!). Place your pie crust to the side.

Pre-heat oven to 400 F.

Place raw pumpkin in a medium pot and add 1 inch of water. Turn heat to medium-low and steam pumpkin until cooked through (about 10 minutes). (If you haven’t just carved a Jack-o-Lantern and don’t happen to have shaved raw pumpkin, you can roast pumpkin cubes in the oven and, when cooked through, mash them with a fork to get the right consistency.) Drain any juice from the cooked pumpkin – you should have approximately 1 1/4 cups of cooked pumpkin. Don’t worry if it’s not exact – pumpkin pie isn’t a science.

To your cooked, drained pumpkin, add milk, sugar, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg (optional), beaten eggs and melted butter. Stir all ingredients together until well-blended.

Place pie in the oven and bake until set. Depending on your oven, this should take about an hour.

pumpkin pie

Soup Time/Winter Time

by lyzpfister

lentil soup with lemon-parsley oil

Let’s not get technical. I know it’s fall. But unless you too are living in Berlin – waking up every morning moaning about having to leave the comfort of your covers, wearing your winter coat inside, and wishing the heater went up just a few more notches – and want to argue with me, it’s winter.

It’s winter and I’m cold and all I want is a giant, warm bowl of soup. (And a new pair of glasses, pumpkin muffins, and a pedicure – but these are totally unrelated things.)

The great thing about soup is that it’s a totally addressable need. It requires very little energy to make – and make masses of. In mere minutes of work, you have a pot contentedly bubbling filling your living space with the warm aroma of – what is the aroma of soup? It might be a feeling, like saying, “I feel like soup smells.”

lentil soup with lemon-parsley oil

chopped yellow onions

I made my first soup of the season the other night. A lentil stew sweetened with carrot and sweet potato and brightened with a touch of curry and berbere. I might have gone a little overboard with the lentils. By the time I’d added everything to the soup, it filled the pot. I will be eating lentil soup for years, I thought.

What I forgot is that it’s winter, and that in winter, everyone is craving soup. That night, a few friends met at my apartment before heading to a party, and when I checked the soup pot the next morning, everything was gone.

ready for soup

Berbere from Kalustyan's in NY

Lentil & Sweet Potato Soup with Lemon-Parsley Drizzle
(serves: a lot)

1 tbsp olive oil
10 bacon strips
2 yellow onions, finely chopped
1 sweet potato, peeled & diced
2 carrots, peeled & sliced
salt
cracked black pepper
1 tsp berbere spice
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp turmeric
pinch of chili powder
1 tsp curry powder
1 package quick-cook lentils (guesstimating, I’d say about 2 cups)
2 vegetable bouillon cubes

For the drizzle:
½ cup olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
¼ cup loosely chopped parsley

Heat olive oil in a large pot. Add bacon (I used cured pork belly, which sounds fancy, but in Germany is the kind of thing you get at the discount grocery store for a euro fifty) and fry until crisping. Add yellow onions and sauté until translucent. Add sweet potato and carrots and cook until just tender. While the carrots and sweet potato are softening, add salt, cracked black pepper, berbere spice, cumin, turmeric, chili powder and curry powder.

sauteeing onions and pork belly for lentil soup

When your vegetables have softened, add quick-cook lentils and make sure to coat them with oil and spice before adding vegetable bouillon cubes and water to cover everything in the pot by about 1 inch. Bring to a boil, then turn heat to low and cover pot with a lid.

lentil soup

Now go away. Do something else. Read a book. Cuddle with a puppy. Try on all of your sweaters. Check on your soup every now and then, and if it starts to get too thick, add another cup of water. Taste to adjust seasonings. For sure you’ll need more salt and pepper. This soup doesn’t take long to be “ready.” The lentils cook in about 15 minutes – but you want to let the flavors meld as long as you can, say 2 hours. Whenever you decide you’re ready to eat, use an immersion blender to puree your soup and add water to adjust thickness, if necessary.

a pot of bubbling lentil soup

I served my soup with this delicious lemon-parsley sauce which I had at a dinner party the other night. Whisk together olive oil and lemon and loosely chopped parsley. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper.

lentil soup with olive oil drizzle

Biscuits & Blogging

by lyzpfister

sweet corn biscuits

When Ellie and I get together, we talk. About lots of things. Like work and men and crazy people we know. We do things like make cocktails and Instagram photos of them, then drink them and make another round, which we do not Instagram. But really, when we get together, what we do is bake.

The baking, of course, might just be an excuse for the gossiping and the cocktails, but then again, it might be because there’s something really rewarding about sitting around chatting and drinking and ending up with yeasty donuts covered in pink gloss, or red velvet cupcakes topped with an icing that involves very. specific. instructions. and slightly strange ingredients.

Because of all the baking and the eating, I think Ellie has made more appearances in this blog than anyone else. There was Thanksgiving (we’re already getting ready to order the turkey for this year…), the plätzchen-baking extravaganza, an ancient Easter, and of course that time we decided to eat in the dark. And probably because of all the appearances she’s made here, she’s spent a lot of time listening to me talk about the blog – why I’m even still writing it and where I’d like for it to go. Or maybe that’s because of the cocktails.

sweet corn biscuits

We talk about the big plans I have. I want to redesign the site so that it’s easier to navigate. I want an index of recipes and photos. I want to write a book…

And then sometimes I want to pretend that there’s not a place where I have been, more – or less – regularly, recording my edible thoughts for over three years. What a long time to throw words into the sometimes uncommunicative interwebs. There are times when I don’t know why I’m still writing it, but there you go – I’m still writing it.

sweet corn biscuits

Maybe that’s the beautiful thing about food writing. The foods we cook and eat, much like the stories we tell – another day at work, another awful date, another crazy piece of gossip – repeat themselves. And yet each time we tell a story, every time we cook a dish, it’s something new because life has configured itself differently around us.

Just look at the way Ellie’s appearances thread through this blog, which in a way is also a chronicle of my life. You could say, it’s always the same – you cook, you eat, you cocktail – and yes, there’s an element of repetition there. But it’s not stagnant repetition – it builds a history, one which tells the story of a friendship through a sequence of meals.

So, though sometimes I wonder why I’m still writing – it’d almost be like asking why Ellie and I are friends. At one point, you might be able to say, it’s because we can talk for hours – or that she knows how to make me breathe when I’m having a mini panic attack. But you reach a point where friendship is no longer a list of whys, just a knowledge that you are.

In a certain sense, this blog is like a friend (in a totally non-lonely-I-swear-I-have-breathing-friends-too sort of way). We’ve been through a lot together, and sometimes we tell the same story over again. But whatever. We’re changing, we’re growing, we are.

sweet corn biscuits

Sweet Corn & Pepper Biscuits

Adapted from Joy the Baker

There might not be an obvious connection between these biscuits and blogging and friendship. And actually, when I started writing this post, it was going to be a different thing. You see, Ellie and I made these biscuits together – and they were super great, so I thought – well, I’ll write about them and at the same time, write about blogging, because this recipe is from Joy the Baker’s blog – which is a blog I admire and enjoy even though it often puts me in a reflective mood about blogging. (When will hundreds of people comment on my posts? When will I be invited to cook with slightly famous food people? When will I get to go on a book tour?) And then I started writing – and it ended up being a totally different thing, a story about friendship with a little bit about blogging thrown in. Somehow, the biscuits got totally lost. But they are a part of this story too – they’re the reason I wrote it. And they’re pretty good biscuits. So here you go:

Whisk 2 cups all-purpose flour, 2 tbsp baking powder, 1 ½ tbsp. sugar, and a pinch of salt together in a medium bowl. Add 3 tbsp cold, unsalted butter and 3 tbsp vegetable shortening, and with your fingers, crumble the fat together with the dry ingredients. Don’t worry if your butter balls are different sizes, though none should be larger than a pea. Add 1 cup corn kernels and 3 finely chopped, charred chili peppers and stir.

Pour ¾ cup cold buttermilk into your flour mixture and quickly blend the wet and dry ingredients. Let me warn you – it’s not a very pretty dough. Regardless, dump it onto a lightly floured work surface and knead about ten times, until you’ve brought it together into a disk. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate 1 hour. (You can also refrigerate it overnight… but you know I didn’t read the instructions in advance enough to plan that.

sweet corn biscuits

sweet corn biscuits

Pre-heat oven with a rack placed in the upper third to 375ºF. On a lightly floured surface, roll out biscuit dough until it’s ¾-1 inch thick. If you’re fancy, you can use biscuit cutters. If you’re not, you can use the open end of a drinking glass and press it into the dough to cut out rounds.

Place biscuits about 2 inches apart on a greased (or parchment papered) cookie sheet. Reshape and re-roll excess dough, then cut out some more biscuits. Repeat until the dough is gone.

Brush the tops of your biscuits with a bit of heavy cream and sprinkle with coarse sea salt. Bake for 15-17 minutes until biscuits are cooked through and golden brown on top. These guys are best served warm. We topped ours with cheeses, avocado slices, smoked salmon, cucumbers, and tomatoes… and of course melted butter.

sweet corn biscuits