rome + nectarines in white wine


August has been a month of short plane rides and long bus rides and on Friday there will be a very long plane ride, as I'm heading home to Canada for the first time in two years.

Where we are from seems to have more weight from where we are. "Where are you from?" is a question that we all hear more often than "Where do you live?". Toronto is where I was born and although I lived in another city longer, it is the city where I grew the most. It is my home, and yet it isn't anymore. I've lived in Europe for seven years now and when I come home from work or a vacation, home is Munich. How does Munich feel that I'm from Toronto and how does Toronto feel that I left it for Munich? And how do both cities feel about all the cities that came in between? I guess when it comes to cities, I'm believe in polyamory. 

Whenever I go home to Toronto, a couple of butterflies come with me. Will I still recognize the city? Will it still recognize me? So far, we both always have and I'm excited to be writing from Canadian soil for the next month. But before you hear from me on the other side of the pond, let's talk about Rome. 


One city that is always easy to recognize is Rome. Rome is a city that knows who it is. It doesn't flirt with passing trends - like food trucks - but it is able to experiment and evolve without compromising its character.

The first weekend of August I spent in Rome and a weekend spent in Rome is a weekend spent eating. I spent three days staying cool in the Roman heat by eating gelato and granita a caffe con panna. I ate the latter at both Cremeria Monteforte and Tazza d'Oro and although the latter had the better granita the former had the dreamiest cream. I ate caramel-meringue gelato at Il Gelato di San Crispino, a peachy ice pop at Grom and (once again) the life-changing riso alla canella gelato at Bar Pica

But then one night when dessert came along I skipped on more gelato, and ordered peaches in white wine instead. It was at Felice a Testaccio, a restaurant that a friend was generous enough to share with me. I sometimes find myself thinking about their legendary tonarelli cacio pepe and you know what they say about when in Rome.

If you're in a restaurant this good, not ordering dessert is certainly a wasted opportunity, but after the cacio pepe, a platter of fried shrimp and calamari, bitter chicory and grilled vegetables, I wasn't sure if I could do it. However, the daily menu included peaches in white. The only thing better than a refreshing and fruity dessert after a filling meal, is one that essentially comes with another glass of wine. 


Back in Munich, I was inspired to bathe stone fruit in white wine and went for nectarines instead of peaches. It was just as good. This summer dessert is as simple as they come and, to repeat a reoccurring theme on this blog, barely qualifies as a recipe. Toss slices of ripe nectarines (or peaches) with sugar, add white wine, leave to chill in the fridge, serve. 

I used a darker, unrefined sugar and it didn't muddle the colour of the nectarines at all. Feel free to use whatever sugar you have on hand or prefer. For the wine, I used muscadet, a wine that is easy on the wallet and sweet in the mouth. Whatever white you use, make sure you want to drink it as that is exactly what you'll do after spooning out and eating the sweet, tender nectarines. 


Nectarines in White Wine

serves 2

ingredients

2 ripe nectarines
1 tbsp sugar
150 ml white wine 

Wash and dry the nectarines. Cut them in halves, pitting them, and then slice each half into several pieces. Place in a small bowl, add sugar and toss them well. Add the white wine, give everything a good stir, and then cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour before serving.

When ready to serve, divide the nectarines and their wine between two glasses and serve cold, straight out of the fridge.

 Guten!

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a salsa made from pumpkin seeds + homemade tortilla chips

 
Black beans, spicy chilies, and blue corn tortillas. Mangoes spiked with lime juice, salt and tajin. Creamy guacamole, smoky mezcal, and Huevos Rancheros - Mexican cuisine certainly has a lot going for it. 

In fact, if in some horrific circumstance I had to commit myself to just one cuisine for the rest of my life it would be Mexican. However, I would insist on Mexican food, preferably, in Mexico and, as a back-up option, in the U.S. or Canada. But if Mexican food in Germany somehow entered this agreement, then I would promptly go to my second choice. 

I've mentioned before that finding good Mexican food in Germany is about as difficult as finding someone who doesn't like mangoes (I haven't met anyone yet). Germany actually has a fair share of "Mexican restaurants", but the vast majority of them are simply cheap cocktail bars which only have chili flavoured tortilla chips and feel a sense of pride because their guacamole is "homemade".  

However, for too brief of a time, Munich had a good Mexican restaurant. A very good Mexican restaurant. So good that the first time I ate there I was afraid that it was a fluke. Just like a thirsty traveler in the desert might see water where there is none, was I tasting good Mexican food only because I was so desperate for it? Was this a figment of my imagination?

After asking several friends on several occasions to test this, I can confirm that it wasn't a mirage, it wasn't a hallucination. I had found (what I can safely assume was) the only good Mexican restaurant in Germany. It is probably no coincidence that it was called Milagros, the Spanish word for miracle, as that was exactly what it was.  

Sadly Milagros closed this spring, but only after opening up a Taqueria here in Munich, so luckily it is still around in some form.  


The menu was charmingly illustrated by Olaf Hajek. Beyond being a looker, it carried good news. It brought news of carnitas and horchata, aguas frescas and pickled red onions, posole and grilled flank steak, pollo con mole verde and esquites. But the best news on the menu, to me, was always Sikil P'ak. Pumpkin Seed Salsa. 

Made with pumpkin seeds, tomatoes, and orange juice and originating in the Yucatan Peninsula, it is unlike any other salsa that I've ever met. The orange juice isn't traditional, but adds an extra brightness. The Milagros kitchen decided that it was a good idea and I agree. It contrasts nicely with the heat of the chili and the creaminess of the ground pumpkin seeds. 

This salsa isn't going to replace the pico de gallo that you smother on burritos and tacos, but you might want to make Sikil P'ak instead of it the next time you eat tortilla chips. Pumpkin Seed salsa has certainly raised all of my expectations when someone mentions chips & dip. 

If your geography makes jalapeno or habanero chilies easy to come by, use whichever one you prefer. Since I live in Germany, I'll stick with whatever chiles I can find (which is only rarely jalapeno or habanero).  

Tortilla chips are dead simple to make at home. Plus, they mean than whenever you have tortillas that you are just a few minutes away from having fresh tortilla chips and that, folks, is pretty good news. I haven't included measurements for the tortilla chips. Simply make as many or as few as you like, with as much salt or as little as your like.  


Sikil P'ak - Pumpkin Seed Salsa with Tomatoes and Orange Juice

makes about 1 1/4 cups

ingredients

1 cup pumpkin seeds
2 medium-sized tomatoes, nice and plump
½ to 1 chili, stemmed and cut in half
¼ cup cilantro, loosely packed, plus more for garnish
a good pinch of sea salt, plus more to taste
juice of half a lime
juice of half a large orange, plus more to taste

Preheat the oven to broil. Cut the tomatoes in half and put in a baking dish, cut side up. Remove the stem of the chili, cut in half and add it as well (remove seeds if you wish). Broil for about 15-20 minutes, or until they are slightly charred and soft. The chili will cook faster, so keep an eye on it and take it out earlier if necessary (between 10 and 15 minutes). Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

While the tomatoes broil, toast the pumpkin seeds in a dry skillet over medium-high heat until they are warmed through and fragrant. Let cool slightly and then put a couple aside to use as a garnish. Process the rest in a food processor until they are coarsely ground (or finer if you wish). Add the rest of the ingredients and blend until smooth. Taste and add more salt, lime juice or orange juice to taste. 

Transfer to a bowl, garnish with reserved pumpkin seeds and cilantro and serve at room temperature. Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge.

* * * * * 
Baked Tortilla Chips

ingredients

corn tortillas
salt
neutral tasting oil with a high smoke point – such as grape seed
 
Preheat the oven to 350 F / 180 C / gas mark 4. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Stack the tortillas and cut each tortilla into sixths, so that you have six triangle shaped chips for each tortilla. Brush each piece with a little oil, on both sides. Lay them on the baking sheet in a single layer and then sprinkle them with salt.

Bake until crisp and darkened, about 12-15 minutes. Remove from the oven, let cool slightly and then serve right away.
 
 Guten!

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edible souvenirs: the scandinavia edition

 
My great-grandmother was Icelandic, so perhaps my draw to all things from the North can be attributed to my genes. That or my taste buds, which generally prefer dark bread to white, fish to meat and cardamom to cinnamon.

Before July becomes August, I want to shortly go back to June. I spent its middle weeks in Sweden and Copenhagen, drinking pear cider, eating sill (pickled herring) and gathering Scandinavian treats that aren't available in Munich - wild cactus cider, pomegranate cider, knäckebröd, cloudberry jam, chocolate-covered-licorice, apple jam with rosemary and vodka (!), and lingonberry vinegar.
 
Beyond Scandinavian grub, both Sweden and Copenhagen have good supplies of British foods that are also hard to come by in South Germany. Those Gruyere and Pistachio Savouries would be my loyal snack food if I could find them here. And although I'm not a fan of licorice, chocolate-covered-licorice is something entirely different, and something else to add to my dream list of afternoon snacks.
 

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grilled radiccho + summertime cooking

 
Now that the World Cup is over I can get back to things such as laundry, reading articles about things other than football (like art and food and news,or The Goldfinch) and going to bed before 1am. This World Cup was a good one, full of drama, surprises, heartbreak, historical moments and humour (I don't know how I missed the Colombian Nazi Weed Pope but even if football isn't your thing, this article delivers some quality laughs). Obviously I enjoyed this World Cup the most since it ended with belting out the lyrics to "We are the Champions" in a crammed Bierhall before celebrating Germany's fourth star with all of Munich (and their first, amazingly, as a reunited Germany).

I can also now get back to eating long and thoughtful meals without being distracted by goals or questionable decisions made by referees. 


I wasn't fussy about radicchio until I spent time in Venice. Too often I had experienced radicchio as the salad leaf responsible for adding both colour and bitterness to a bunch of mixed greens. I wasn't impressed. I think that some salads do benefit from bitter leaves, but that decisions should be conscious and they shouldn't be included just for the sake of it.

One night I was bacari-hopping in Venice and making a meal out of eating cicchetti between glasses of prosecco. At a tiny bar with an impressive variety of dishes, conveniently just around the corner from my apartment, I pointed to a dish that I could only assume held the charred remnants of what had one been a vegetable. "Radicchio con balsamico," I was told. The radicchio had been roasted until limp, blackened in parts and caramelized all over. The balsamic vinegar, thick and sweet, brightened up the radicchio just enough to elevate this simple combination of flavour into a memorable dish with a complex taste. The next couple of times I found myself at this one bar, I made sure to always order the radicchio.


Ever since I've been roasting radicchio in the oven. It couldn't be simpler. I toss the radicchio with a bit of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, roast it until it is charred in parts and then drizzle it with a bit more balsamic vinegar and sprinkle it with crunchy salt. Two weekends ago I was at a summerhouse in Northern Italy and happily took advantage of the barbecue with the view by grilling radicchio, followed by a feast of octopus, zucchini and other treats from the well-stocked, local grocery store. As an appetizer, I stuffed zucchini blossoms with creamy burrata and a home-made tapenade (full disclosure: that I made while watching while Argentina played the Netherlands). It was summertime cooking and eating at its very best.

This summer my cooking has been based around grilling. It is the first summer that I have been the proud owner of a barbecue and I have been putting it to frequent use. Over the years I've used the barbecues of friends and family whenever I can, but it is quite different to have one of my own on my balcony that I can use whenever I please. It has also had an influence of my cooking this summer - the simpler the better, the less prep the more satisfaction. And grilled radicchio couldn't better exemplify this philosophy. 

The measurements here don't matter; only the combinations of flavour do, so feel free to make as much or as little as your prefer. 


Grilled Radicchio with Pine Nuts

serves 4 

ingredients

2 heads radicchio
olive oil
good balsamic vinegar
sea salt
scant 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted

Preheat the grill to medium-high heat.

Wash and dry the radicchio well, separating all of the leaves. In a bowl, toss the radicchio with olive oil and balsamic vinegar until well coated.

Place the radicchio on the grill and cook until lightly and then flip to repeat on other side. Transfer to a serving plate, drizzle with more balsamic vinegar and sprinkle with sea salts and pine nuts.  

 Guten!

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paris, again + lavender chicken with apricots


There is no game (or two) tonight, which means that I can tell you about Paris in June and chicken roasted with honey, lavender and apricots. It also means that I'll probably get a proper sleep and not be distracted from my bed from post-game interviews and the Guardian's ever speedy and amusing match report. If you haven't yet been seduced by penalty shoot-outs or the success of underdogs, record-breaking saves or an awkward selfie between a player and his chancellor, then feel free to skip the next paragraph. 

Because of which game happens on Friday, not the one where, fingers crossed, Colombia beats Brazil, but the first game of the day, it could be that that game kills my desire to write about Paris. You see, Germany plays France. France plays German and although les bleus was my first stop as a fan, I've had a Thomas Mueller jersey in my closet for four years now. Germany is my number one, and so I hope that they'll be Friday's match's number one too.

But this Honey-Lavender Chicken with Apricots, inspired by my trip to Paris and French apricots, is not worth chancing, so I'll play it safe and tell you about it before the game.


 I always seem to visit the Paris in the fall or winter, and so it was a treat to see the city's gardens in colour and its young men in short shorts. Since I had just visited in the fall, I wondered if a summer visit was too soon but, as a friend of mine says, Paris is always a good idea. Plus the weekend heat was the perfect excuse to order glass after cold glass of rose. It was hot enough to drink coffee cold and to walk barefoot on the few patches of grass in the Jardin des Tuileries where walking on grass is allowed. 

It was an indulgent weekend. I drank strong Belgian beer and dry rose. I spent a good chunk of my pay check on caramels at Jacques Genin. I tried the excellent mango passion fruit caramels, but brought only natur back to Munich, where I rationed my buttery gold and practiced my best self control to not eat the caramels all at once. I had an appetizer of foie gras with rhubarb compote and wild strawberries at Frenchie Wine Bar and finished the meal with an apricot tart with herb ice cream and fresh thyme.  

I ate breakfast at Rose Bakery - buttery scrambled eggs served with a parmesan muffin. Good thing that there was a green salad and asparagus as a side to keep everything in check. 


I regularly popped into bakeries that look like jewellery boxes, with pastries that look like gems. 
 
I finally tried Poilane's signature loaf, and packed a quarter of my carry-on with it and their more exciting Punitons cookies; however, I wish that I had saved room for one of the colourful breads from Gontran Cherrier. Poilane bread is good, but it is similar to the sourdough that is in bakeries here in Munich. Rye bread with red miso, on the other hand, is not and I regret having maxed out my bread allowance too early. The bakery is also great for lunch and I had a bun turned green from herbs, stuffed with guacamole, fresh cheese and arugula. Dessert was a chocolate eclair and it was perfect.

Because even Parisians don't live off of pastries and French food, I gave into the trend that is Englishness and ate haddock fish n' chips from The Sunken Chip by the edge of Canal St Martin. 



Once again, I went to Le Mary Celeste, where each dish made me want to high-five the chef. I did my best to memorize its current dishes so I can make them at home. The endive dish with tamarind may have retired, but the flavour combinations on its ever-changing menu are still working hard. Ceviche de boeuf with jalapenos, peanuts and soya sprouts. More deviled eggs. Terrine de noix et quinoa with chimicurri and hoisin sauce. Pannacotta with grapefruit, caramelized sesame seeds and fresh mint. All high-five worthy.

But beyond wanting to eat, Paris makes me want to cook. Its markets are stocked with lush ingredients. Blushing radishes. Apricots so bright they look like they could glow in the dark.


I'm certainly smitten with apricots, French apricots, and I find that I usually like them best when they appear in savoury dishes - in salads and spicy sauces, with strong cheeses and roasted meats. 

This recipe is simple. It doesn't fool around with reinventing roast chicken, it just adds some lavender to the herb mix and throws some apricots into the roasting pan. The flavour that results is surprising. The chicken has a note of sweetness courtesy of the honey and the collapsed apricots are somewhere in the middle on the sweet-sour scale. Make sure that your apricots are ripe but aren't already falling apart before you even expose them to heat. Make sure to use a runny honey and, for extra points, you can use lavender honey.

I also added two handfuls of small, red French potatoes and think that you should do the same. Roasting a chicken without potatoes in the pan seems like a wasted opportunity to me. As my oven preheated, I quickly boiled them until they were nearly soft and then added them to the pan of chicken and apricots.

Just like Frenchie garnished its apricot tart with fresh thyme, I added thyme to this dish. The two flavours belong and I think that making an apricot sorbet with thyme is the next logical step. Someone get on that while the season is still here!


Honey-Lavender Roast Chicken with Apricots

inspired by Rachel Khoo's Honey Lavender Chicken

serves 4

ingredients

2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 lemon, cut in half
3 sprigs of thyme
1 tbsp dried lavender, crushed
3 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp honey
sea salt
pepper
1 organically raised chicken
6 large apricots, halved and pitted

Preheat oven to 375 F/ 190 C / gas mark 5. 

In a small bowl whisk together the minced garlic, the juice from half a lemon, the thyme leaves, dried lavender, olive oil and honey. 

Place the chicken in a roasting pan, generously salt and pepper it, inside and out, and then slather it with the olive oil mixture. Stuff the other lemon half and thyme stems into the chicken. Place the apricot halves around the chicken and give them a good stir, tossing them with the olive oil mixture in the pan. Add some potatoes too if you wish.

Cook until the skin of the chicken is crispy and the juices run clear, about 45 minutes to an hour depending on the size of the bird.

Remove from the oven, let rest for 10 minutes and then serve.

Guten! And may the better team win! And may the better team be Deutschland.

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