Eat Me. Drink Me.

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

Category: Vegetables

If on a Winter’s Night…

by lyzpfister

lentil stew

I haven’t taken my hat off for days. I’m beginning to wonder if I still have hair, and if I do, whether or not it matters. I’m supposed to be working. Instead, I’m chipping the nail polish from my fingers, staring outside at the falling leaves, debating whether or not to buy a monthly metro pass. (At the end of the story, I will end up buying one. I will not regret it.)

Some days it rains and in the coffee shops the crowds grow a low murmur. Outside, the smell of damp leaves and everywhere, I swear, I smell a roasting turkey. I’m reading a book of short stories by Italo Calvino and at the same time a Harper’s magazine from May I’ve been working on for months. In the news, it’s a blur of politics and hurricanes and I wonder what I’d be doing in New York if I were still there. I think of my McKibbin apartment, where I didn’t close up the three-inch hole in the window with duct tape until winter.

sliced Hungarian peppers

garlic for lentil stew

What I most look forward to are afternoons wrapped up in a blanket and my love, a movie laughing in the background and sleep in my limbs.

Don’t tell anyone, but I like these days. The damp, the leaves, the candles lined up on the windowsill. The snuggled in slippers, the garish green hat.

the beginnings of lentil stew

When I cook on nights like these, I cook for comfort. I want the seeping smell of garlic and spice. I want to feel the thin skin of a tomato crack beneath my knife and hear the familiar sound of a peeler’s swish against a carrot. And when I eat my stew, I want it to mean the day is done. The shutters can be let down and soon, soon, I can go to bed.

curried lentil stew

Easy Winter Lentil Stew

2 tbsp olive oil
1 yellow onion
1 large carrot
2 small Hungarian peppers (or 1 red bell pepper)
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp berbere
Salt & pepper
2 large cloves garlic
1/2-3/4 cups chopped tomatoes (fresh or canned)
1/2 cup quick-cook lentils
1 cup beef stock
Basmati rice (opt.)

Finely chop onion, carrot, and peppers. Heat olive oil in a skillet and sauté onion until translucent, then add carrot and peppers. Season with salt, black pepper, cumin, and berbere and cook until vegetables have just softened. Add lentils to the skillet and stir to coat with spices, then add tomatoes, coarsely chopped garlic, and beef stock. Give everything a good stir and turn heat to medium low. Cover with a lid and allow to simmer until lentils have cooked through, about 20-30 minutes. Stir occasionally, and if it starts looking dry, add more water. Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary. Serve with basmati rice.

Advertisements

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

What I Learned in Brooklyn

by lyzpfister

tacos with roast chicken and habanero salsa

They may not be authentic or conventional. But as long as they’re made with 100% corn tortillas (preferably pressed in the back of a tortilla factory in Brooklyn), they’re real.

When my friend Akiko asked what I wanted her to bring me from America, the only thing I could think of was real tortillas. Not big, floppy flour mats, but small, imperfectly round discs with traces of char.

I’m not a taco Nazi, and I think there are many ways to build a beautiful taco. Often, I don’t even think it’s necessary to include traditional taco ingredients. In Germany this is hard to do anyway, since The Great Cilantro Hunt is a time-consuming task and limes are not, as they were in Brooklyn, ten for $1. But we make do with what we have – and though the tacos I made a few weeks ago on burrito wraps were good, these tacos, with the Brooklyn tortillas Akiko brought me, were great.

habaneros

brooklyn-berlin tacos: roast chicken, habanero salsa, red cabbage slaw

roast chicken with garlic and herbs de provence

Roast Chicken

Before I decided to make tacos, I actually started to make roast chicken with vegetables and herbs de Province. Right after I got the whole pan ready, I thought, but I have these habaneros and I have these tortillas – and herbs de Province or not, I decided to make tacos. Though it might not sound like a great combination, this chicken was so moist and delicately seasoned that it didn’t compete at all with the spice and vinegar of the taco toppings. Now that I think of it, though, the lemons I used instead of limes (no limes at the grocery store today… thanks, Germany) might have been a nice bridge between the two flavors.

Preheat oven to 500°F (260°C) – my oven is an old model and therefore not the strongest; if you’re working with top-notch appliances, you can roast on a lower temperature. Place 1 whole chicken in a shallow baking dish. Rub with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Stuff the inside cavity with 2 carrots and 2 onions, cut into 2 inch chunks. Scatter remaining carrots and onions outside the pan (you might want to cut up some extra – these turned caramelly sweet after roasting and I wish I’d had more…). Make 6-8 slits in your chicken with the tip of a knife and stuff with garlic cloves. Season chicken liberally with herbs de Province and maybe another round of olive oil. Place in oven and roast for approx. 45 minutes or until skin has crisped up and chicken is cooked through but not dry.

roast chicken with garlic and herbs de provence

red cabbage & green pepper slaw

red cabbage and pepper slaw

Red Cabbage & Pepper Slaw

In a bowl, combine ¼ cup thinly sliced red cabbage, 1 small green pepper, 1 green onion, and 1 small tomato (all chopped). Add ¼ cup rice wine vinegar, ¼ cup olive oil, and 1 tsp sugar. Season to taste with salt and pepper and stir. Make this while your chicken is roasting so that the flavors can blend together.

habanero salsa

Habanero Salsa

Finely chop 1 habanero (you might want to cover your hands with plastic wrap or be prepared to burn for the rest of the day) and 1 small onion. Onions in Germany can be very small, so if you’re in the US, you might want to only use ½ an onion. Your habanero to onion ration should be around 1:2. Add the juice of 1 lemon and plenty of salt. Stir and allow flavors to meld.

I also added sour cream and feta cheese to my tacos. But most important, corn tortillas, re-heated in a skillet – or even better straight over the flame if you have a gas stove.

from Tortilleria Los Hermanos in Brooklyn

Anger Cooking/Comfort Eating

by lyzpfister

Don’t even ask me how my day was. Don’t do it.

My roommates asked – and twenty minutes of ranting later they said, “Well, look how… peeled those potatoes are.

And it’s true. They were quite thoroughly peeled and then quite thoroughly chopped. And the onion made me cry. And the eggplant never saw it coming. And I beat the yogurt and lemon juice until it never knew it had been two separate things.

I threw the pan in the oven and sat down. We talked about not me. I took a breath.

My vegetables took an hour to roast (in the way things never really go exactly like you had in mind), but my roommates and I sat in the kitchen. We talked it out. And the aroma of roasting vegetables crept into the kitchen. Soothing.

I heaped the vegetables onto my plate because being angry makes you hungry and sat down to eat, even though I wasn’t even very angry anymore. Just a little bit exhausted.

It took one bit to realize I’d confused the paprika for chili. My mouth burned. A just on the cusp of too much burning, there with the sweetness of onions and rich eggplant, the homey, comforting potatoes. Like the residue of my anger, not overwhelming, not too much for me to bear – just present, just persistent.

Every Kitchen Gets a Post

by lyzpfister

In my new home, we have a tablecloth. It is a dusty pink tablecloth and on top of it are placemats upon which we eat. Our china is rimmed with roses. Our mugs match. At last, I think, I have arrived.

In the last three years I’ve had five different kitchens, and I’ve written about most of them. First there was the Davidson kitchen where this blog began, and my ever-recurring ancestral home’s blue-walled affair. There was the first kitchen in New York, which was tiny – enough counter space only for the mice. Then there was my second kitchen in New York, which stood unused for a long time while we were too busy battling bed bugs to cook. There was the kitchen in Berlin, shower beside the stove. And now there is my new kitchen. Where we use tablecloths.

We are three women in my new kitchen, and of course the tablecloth may have something to do with that. Which is not to say that men don’t care for tablecloths. Just that, well, I don’t think they do.

Normally I’d balk at the idea of living with only women. There’s too much estrogen. Too much makeup, too much body lotion, too much bickering and gossip about boys. But my new little Neukölln apartment is different. It has a good feeling, something I sensed the first time I went to see the place – calm, relaxed, communal.

The kitchen is our shared space. There’s always someone in it – reading the newspaper, doing the dishes, cooking something. It’s also the first time I’ve lived somewhere where there’s an absolutely effortless attitude about food and sharing it. Whoever’s cooked, cooks for whoever else is home. But it’s not as stressful as being required to cook for everyone. It goes more like this: someone cooks, someone walks into the kitchen, food is shared. Unobtrusively, casually.

Last night, I made Ethiopian lentils in order to use up the last bits of vegetables from the fridge. A friend was over for dinner, so I was already making a bit more than usual. But lentils are one of those things that expand, like hot air balloons and lies. My roommates wandered in and out of the kitchen – to chat, to prepare lunch for the next day, to make a cup of tea. And when the lentils were done, there was more than enough to share, and I fed them, just as they have fed me.

Ethiopian Lentils

Heat 1 tbsp oil in a skillet and when hot, add 1 diced onion. When the onion is translucent, add ½ chopped eggplant and cook until eggplant is soft. Add 1 chopped yellow pepper, 6 chopped mushrooms, and 4 chopped prunes. Season with salt, pepper, berbere, turmeric, cumin, and Jamaican jerk seasoning. Cook until vegetables have softened. Add ½ – ¾ cups quick-cook red lentils and just cover with water. Stir in 1 tbsp tomato paste and cover skillet with a lid. Turn heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until lentils are cooked. Serve with freshly crumbled feta.

The Not All At Once Approach

by lyzpfister

I’m not good at change. Anyone who’s ever asked me to make a decision quickly knows this.

It takes me time to think things through. Not necessarily to weigh the pros and cons of a new course of action – but just to get used to the idea of something different.

As a human, I am a huge proponent of the not all at once approach.

Tell me something new, but don’t tell me all at once.

This is also the way I cook. I believe ingredients need time to understand themselves as they melt into a hot skillet – an onion doesn’t want an eggplant until it’s ready. And when they meet, they need time to get to know each other. To feel comfortable as a unit before tomato comes along.

Cooking like this takes longer. But it makes sense to me. One at a time, piece by piece until the composition of the pan has changed. Until it is a full pan, not an empty one.

Pasta with Tomatoes and Arugula

This recipe is about not rushing. It’s very easy and doesn’t take long to make – but it needs a gentle hand. Finely chop 1 yellow onion and sauté with 1 tsp olive oil and 1 tsp brown sugar in a skillet until onion is translucent. Add 1 finely chopped sweet red pepper (I prefer the mildness of a Hungarian pepper) and cook until softened. Add 3 chopped sundried tomatoes with a splash of the oil they were in (or more olive oil if you’re using dry tomatoes) and a healthy pinch of salt. Stir for a few minutes. Add 5 coarsely chopped cherry tomatoes and cook until softened. Add 1 finely chopped green onion and a chopped clove of garlic. Lastly, add a generous handful of arugula and a few leaves of chopped basil until the greens have wilted. Season to taste with salt and pepper. In the meantime, have set a large pot of salted water to boil, and cook as much pasta as you (& others – though this recipe was ideal for 2) plan to eat. When the pasta has cooked, drain it, then add it to the skillet of vegetables with 1 tbsp butter and ¼ cup heavy whipping cream. Toss the pasta with the sauce and cream until coated and the cream has cooked up a bit. You can use any sort of pasta with this recipe – and add other vegetables as you see fit, but I like the simplicity of just tomatoes and greens.

You Say Tomato, I Say Potahto

by lyzpfister

When I think about things that go well with potatoes, the first thing that pops into my mind is tomatoes. There’s a great possibility that this is a vestige of some ingrained-in-my-childhood-brain Fox in Socks trickery, but there’s an equally great chance that this is simply because potatoes and tomatoes taste like magic together.

Let me be truthful – I haven’t cooked in a long time. For the last few days, I’ve been eating toasted slices of bread topped with a plethora of interesting things: garlic-ginger butter with aged gouda and arugula, mini peppers stuffed with goat cheese and marinated in oil, mettwurst with raw onion and cracked pepper, pink roe paste with piquant goat’s milk cheese, or absolutely, absolutely sinful Biscoff cookie spread. And while all of these things are delicious, there is only so much toast you can eat before you never want to see a slice of bread again.

(As an aside, I really hate the word “plethora,” and I’m not really sure why I felt the need to use it here. I suppose that sometimes, words just want to be, whether we like them or not, just as sometimes, it’s not at all bad to be kind to people we don’t like.)

Part of the problem is that I haven’t really had time to cook – and the other part is that I haven’t really been home. I’ve been out having fun. Going to music festivals, entertaining visiting friends, sitting in cafés. Oh yes, I know, my life is hard.

But really, I’ve missed cooking. The quietness of it. The focus of it. The to-do-list-fading-away-ness of it.

So today, for lunch, I whipped myself up a little something something. Nothing fancy – just some simple roast potatoes married to a bacon and sweet Hungarian pepper tomato sauce. As I sat down to eat, I picked up the old issue of Harper’s my dad had just brought over from the states for me and began to read an article on the benefits of fasting.

Potato, potahto.

Roast Potatoes with Sweet Hungarian Pepper Sauce

Preheat the oven to 460°F (though my oven is quite weak – you might want to adjust the heat accordingly). Peel and slice about 5 medium-sized potatoes into wedges. Spread them across a baking sheet along with 1 yellow onion sliced into rings or half-rings and drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt, cracked black pepper, paprika, and an Italian herbs blend (alternatively, you could just use oregano and parsley). Stick it in the oven and roast those beautiful potato wedges for about half an hour, giving them a little nudge around the baking sheet once halfway through.

Right after you do your nudging, start the tomato sauce. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil over medium heat. When the oil is warm, add 1 finely chopped onion and 2 tbsp chopped bacon. Sautee until the onion is translucent. Add 2 chopped sweet Hungarian peppers (if you can’t find these, yellow peppers are probably the closest approximation) and cook until softened. Add ½ cup (or more if it still looks too thin) tomato sauce or pureed tomatoes and reduce heat to low. Add a pinch of red chili flakes and cumin, since tomatoes love cumin. It’s like date night every night. Put a lid on your pan and let the flavors come together. You want to give the sauce at least 10 minutes of melding.

When your potatoes are done, transfer them to a plate. Top with the sauce and garnish with shaved parmesan and basil.

Cook Like No One’s Watching

by lyzpfister

I suffer from performance anxiety. It’s not a big deal, really. It just means that I often cook better when I’m by myself than when I’m cooking for other people. When I’m home alone, there’s no need to prove myself, to live up to having a food blog, to make something so delicious that whoever I’m cooking for never wants to eat anywhere else. I guess that’s what performance anxiety means.

While we’re getting it all out into the open, let me go ahead and admit this now. I’ve never been good at group projects. I like to be either completely in charge or completely the opposite. I take direction well and I lead well, but that nebulous middle ground where everyone’s got a good opinion and we’re all trying to self-moderate – I don’t do that.

It’s not that I was that kid who always got “does not play well with others” on her report card. In fact, I played so well with others that I sunk into the background, becoming an un-player, or a non-entity, a completely forgettable figure. For most of my childhood and young adult life, I’m pretty sure none of my classmates thought I had a personality. If they even knew who I was.

No one believes me now when I tell them I’m shy. Usually, I no longer believe myself. But ask my parents, my grade school teachers, my hometown best friend, who I made cry by refusing to remove myself from the folds of my mother’s skirt the day we met.

I’m not sure if I could pinpoint when it was that I grew into myself, my idiosyncrasies, my strangenesses. Perhaps it wasn’t one moment, but a process of growing. It appears mine is a soul that dislikes stagnancy in temperament as much as location.

The dislike of group projects, on the other hand, is something I haven’t outgrown. I had always ascribed it to being a symptom of shyness, but unlike the shyness I’ve left behind, this dislike of working together with other people – especially on creative projects – has stuck. Perhaps it’s just a palimpsest of qualities, whether good or bad, that I possess. My stubbornness, my unwillingness to be wrong, my dislike of being made to share. When I create something I want it to be mine. I want to possess it. I want all of the glory – or all of the defeat.

At least I will also take all of the credit for a defeat.

But what am I talking about. You want to hear about the food.

So I have performance anxiety. Right. That’s how we started. Last Friday, in the quick snap between work and going to the launch party for Issue 5 of SAND (the literary journal I’ve been working on here in Berlin, for those of you who didn’t know…), I didn’t check my watch (the very same watch I proceeded to lose at said launch party) to see how much time I really had before I had to leave again.

When I came home from work, I threw some zucchini, eggplant, onions, and garlic into the oven on a low roast, cleaned the kitchen, and took a leisurely shower, only realizing as I stepped out that there were scant forty-five minutes to dress myself, make my face presentable, and cook dinner. A quick assessment of the situation revealed that I wouldn’t have nearly enough time to fry up the potatoes I meant to use as a base for the roast vegetables anyway, so I opted to spend most of my time getting dressed, stress-lessed and listening to music. Dinner was improvised. Two slices of toast, goat cheese with chives, topped with the roast vegetables which had melted together in the oven. Perfect and soft, redolent of garlic and onion sweetness. I had to photograph it, even though I didn’t really have the time to get my camera out and snap the shots.

I sat in my kitchen being self-congratulatory, eating my toasts with cheese and roast vegetables. Thinking about how even haphazard meals can be surprisingly stellar.

What I want to say about this is that I love cooking and I love when food and people are together. There’s very little I love more. (Especially if it is grilling outside. Especially if there are craft brews.) But somehow all this loving makes me nervous. It’s got an element of group project to it.

When I cook with other people, I doubt myself. I overcompensate or recede into a background of deferential good opinions. I burn the crepes. I over-salt the rice. By myself, I risk more – which results in both stunning successes and also miserable defeats. And there are defeats.

For that, though, the successes taste so much better because they surprise me. Because they were created with a fearlessness, almost recklessness. An inventive energy I find when I work alone. Without someone looking over my shoulder to read a pre-edited version of a thing. Also, I’m a perfectionist – add it to the list.

So the question is, how to cook for other people like I do when no one’s watching? Blinders? Blindfolds? Boxing up my guests?

Clearly these are not the answers. Maybe the answer to this, like growing out of shyness, is time. It is possible that even now, my brain is coming up with a new body algorithm in which I am better at sharing ideas, better at working with other people, better at being ok with differences of opinion. Better at being imperfect.

Slaw That

by lyzpfister

Speak to me wonders, oh cabbage slaw. Your rings, wound and crenellated round a core. Sliceable, screaming of spring. Fit for kings, yet cheap enough to make poor men sing. Cabbage, cabbage, speak to me divine things.

As we tentatively dive into spring, I find myself increasingly drawn to greener things and (clearly also) 18th century romantic poetry which inspires me to write extravagant and rather ode-ish sentences to cabbage.

Nothing wrong with that. Cabbage is great.

Cabbage gets a bad rep for being cheap and one-dimensional, but I would like to do a little salvaging on behalf of the image. Cabbage is versatile. Main ingredient in stir-frys and slaws, stew-filler, a hull for ground beef and spices. A pinch of crispness in a rice salad or the vinegary tang topping a pulled pork sandwich. And the types of cabbage – there’s red cabbage, green cabbage, Chinese cabbage, Savoy, Napa, bok choy – and here in Germany, I’ve discovered yet another lovely variety called Sptizkraut.

It’s a spitzkraut I’m working with today, a baby one about the size of a kitten with smooth, light green skin. It squeaks apart as I cut it into perfect rings with my knife.

The fresh, green foods I crave in spring mean my meals all take a healthy bent – not a bad thing, considering my cooking habits in Germany have inclined towards excessive use of butter and heavy whipping cream during this past winter. But as usual, I haven’t been grocery shopping in a while, and all I have in the fridge is this cabbage and some chiles, some slim pickings of condiments.

Though to make a springtime lunch, that’s all you need. Dijon mustard and farmer’s cheese spread thickly on freshly toasted bread, topped with a simple slaw of cabbage, red onions, and chiles – the dressing no more than rice wine vinegar, grainy mustard, lemon juice, sriracha, mirin, honey, salt, black pepper, and garlic.

I eat my open-faced sandwich, I’ll make a cup of coffee and sit in the kitchen letting the sunlight in through the windows, pretending its warmer than it really is. Read a magazine. Let the lightness carry me away. Oh cabbage, oh cabbage.