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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postcards from Copenhagen

 
Nearly seven years ago, I showed up in Copenhagen after a Baltic beach vacation with a cold and a heavy suitcase. I had heard that the Danish capital was a stylish one and I didn't want to underdress for our first date.
 
My first impressions of the city that I would call home for a year include salty licorice, serious bureaucracy, plump pastries and bikes that were as stylish as the people riding them.

Although since living there the city has added culinary capital to the titles that it wears, my memory of it is rather frozen in time. Last weekend I was there for a short visit and since all of my visits there seem to be short, I get to visit the Copenhagen that I knew, busying myself with familiar faces and well-tested pastry shops. Unlike trips to London and Paris, where I want to eat where I haven't already and stay in different neigbourhoods, in Copenhagen I always find myself walking along my favourite street, eating smushi for lunch, lusting after the food section in Magasin du Nord and going for coffee in Vesterbro. And that is the Copenhagen that I like best.

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Chickpea Quarterly: fruit on fire


Summer is tangled hair and sandy feet. It is long bike rides and cold drinks. It is fresh fruit and hot charcoal.

The summer issue of Chickpea - a vegan quarterly that is more about good quality food than about labels - sure knows what summer is all about. From barbecues to spicy foods and from ice cream sundaes to surfing, it is a love letter to what makes this short season feel so much longer than it is. 

I'm thrilled to have married my fruit-tooth with my attraction to fire, and have contributed an article to this issue about grilled summertime desserts, complete with mix and match recipes. Grilled Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble (oh yes), Grilled Peaches and Ice Cream, and Rosemary Figs with Salty Pinenuts. The issue is available both digitally and in print (available for pre-order now). For those who are curious, there is a preview here.
 

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when life gives you eggs, part II: pickle them pink


Age is something that I feel most in my taste buds. Having a husband, a student loan, a job and a decent number of wool blankets and sweaters with elbow patches should all be signs that I'm an adult, a real adult. However, none of this makes me feel particularly adult. My love for anchovies, capers, Cynar, schmaltz, rye bread and pickled eggs, on the other hand, make me absolutely feel like a real adult. 

My first experience with pickled eggs was in Glasgow. As part of a ploughman's lunch at a sweet cafe where maps were used as tablecloths, I enthusiastically ate my cheddar and chutney, drank my ginger beer, and gave the pickled eggs on my plate some suspicious glances. I didn't trust them. Eggs should be freshly cooked and not preserved, or? Well, I learned my lesson right there and then and ever since I've been a fan.

When a recent project at work resulted in dozens and dozens of organic, Bavarian eggs, I started listing the way that I could fry, boil, scrambled and, most importantly, preserve them so that no egg would go to waste.

After a couple rounds of Spanish tortilla, many eggs for breakfast, a plate of deviled eggs and a rhubarb-polenta cake, I took the classic preserving route by pickling the eggs that were left.

Normally I keep the eggs simple and white, just apple cider vinegar, water and some spices to add some brightness and flavour. Because of all of the tones of red at the markets these days, from ruby strawberries to blush rhubarb, I decided to add some colour in the form of beets. Flavour wise these eggs still taste pretty classic, but colour wise it is hard not to squeal just a bit when cutting an egg in half to see it blush with pink. 


Pickled Eggs & Beets

yields 6 pickled eggs (in two 500g jars)

ingredients

6 organic eggs
1 large beet (mine was a giant), or 2 small
1 tbsp peppercorns (I used black and red)
1 tsp coarse sea salt
4 cloves
1/4 cup unrefined brown sugar
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup water, reserved from cooking the beet(s). 

Give the beet(s) a good scrub with a vegetable brush. Place the beet(s) in a pot of water and bring it to a boil. Cook at a simmer until the beet is tender and easily pierced with a fork. Remove the beet with a slotted spoon (you want to save the water) and set it aside to cool (or place it in a cold water bath). Once cool, peel and cut it into chunks.

While the beets are cooking, place eggs in a saucepan and cover them with cold water. The water should cover them by an inch or two. Place the pot on high heat and bring it to a boil. Once the water is boiling, turn off the heat. Cover the pot with a lid and let sit for 10 minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove the eggs from the pot and place them under the tap with cold water running to cool. Once cool, peel them and divide them between two jars (or one large jar).

In a jug, pot or bowl (something that you can easily pour from) mix together the sea salt, brown sugar, apple cider vinegar and beet water. Give it a very good stir, until the sugar dissolves.

Divide the chunks of beets, peppercorns and cloves between the two jars. Pour in the brine and give it a gentle stir. Place jars in the fridge and let them sit for at least a day before eating. The longer they hang out in the fridge, the more pickled they'll taste. The eggs keep in the fridge for up to 2 months. 

 Guten!

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when life gives you eggs, part I: spanish tortilla with wild garlic


 Not very often does a surprise trip come my way, but as April turned to May I found myself with a plane ticket to Malaga. Malaga was where I landed, but it wasn't my destination. Or I should say our destination. It was a group trip. Although I always prefer putting together my own itinerary (or deciding not to have one), I felt pretty lucky to not have to worry about figuring out directions or where to eat.

Our destination was Granada, a city that I first visited nearly seven years ago. I remember the city's beauty, the majestic Alhambra, its colourful tiles, its spiraling streets, and how drinking tinto de verano in the Spanish heat is always a good idea. 


That trip that I mentioned was my first and my last time to Spain. The culture and the food had me completely charmed, but I just never made it back. The story between Spain and I is classic. We stayed up late, ate well, drank well, and danced well. We exchanged numbers, chatted about future encounters, but in the end neither of us ever called.

And then years later, I found myself in this group of German tourists, taking photographs and having difficulty deciding between beer or wine. The sun was just as hot as I remember and the tinto de verano was just as cold, but sadly I didn't eat quite as well as I had hoped. However, once again a classic is at play: it wasn't Spain. It was me. Traveling in a group is just not the best way to eat.

My weekend meals fluctuated between hits and misses, but the jamón was always good and so was the wine. Moreover, the trip reminded me of how Spanish tortilla tastes good for breakfast, as a snack, for lunch and even for dinner. 

On my flight back to Munich, buried beneath free newspapers, I came across a recipe for Spanish tortilla with wild garlic in the Financial Times. I was old fashioned and cut the recipe out. It seemed like good luck that my renewed interest in Spanish tortillas was coinciding with wild garlic season. To boot, I was working on a project in May that ended with lots of extra, organic eggs. I came home with more than 40. Determined not to waste them (and ambitiously not wanting to freeze them), a Spanish tortilla seemed like a good method for eating my way through the plenty.   


 When it comes to making a Spanish tortilla, there are two different schools. The first boils the potatoes and the second poaches them in olive oil, lots of olive oil. Because cooking is more fun and feels more dangerous with a pot of oil than a pot of water, I am a fan of the second school. Although it sounds messy and intimidating, it is not. You aren't frying (or deep frying) the potatoes. You are just lightly cooking them until tender. To properly do this, you need a lot of oil. I admit that the amount is frightening; however, the potatoes absorb only a fraction. Once the potatoes are cooked, you drain the oil and then have olive oil infused with the earthy flavours of onion and potatoes. In other words, you're even closer to a vinaigrette for that salad that you want to serve with a Spanish tortilla. 

This isn't a dish with a lot of flavours going on. Therefore, be very generous with the salt and pepper. This is, of course, another reason to use good ingredients. Good potatoes and good onions and good olive oil. I give my potatoes a good scrub, but I keep their skins on. A lot prefer to peel them, but I like the extra texture and flavour that the skins add. To peel or not to peel - it is up to you.

Spanish Tortilla is a seasonless dish; however, the wild garlic makes it belong to spring. In other words, you can leave the wild garlic out, but for those few weeks every year where the green plants make your local parks smell like garlic dip, I highly suggest livening up a Spanish tortilla with some garlicky green. 

 Spanish Tortilla with Wild Garlic

inspired by Rowley Leigh for the Financial Times

serves 3-4

ingredients

1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
3 medium potatoes (about 2 1/2 cups), thinly sliced
coarse sea salt
pepper
3/4 cup olive oil
2 small garlic cloves, minced
6 pieces wild garlic, stems removed
6 eggs

In a medium sized bowl, toss together the potatoes and onions with lots of salt and pepper

Over low heat, heat the olive oil in a small pan (about 15 centimeters, 6 inches) and add the potatoes and onions. Cook until the potatoes are tender (about 20 minutes). You don't want them to brown in the oil, only to soften.

While the potatoes and onions slowly cook, mince the garlic. Clean the wild garlic well and then cut the leaves into strips. Crack the eggs into a bowl, add a pinch of salt and a grind of pepper, and give them a good stir to combine the whites with the yolks.

Once the potatoes are tender, remove them from the heat. Let cool slightly and then use a slotted spoon to remove the potatoes. Pour the oil out of the pan into a jar to use later, leaving about 2-3 tbsp in the pan. Return the potatoes to the pan, over medium-low heat, and add the garlic and the wild garlic. Pour the egg mixture over the potatoes. Give the pan a cook shake, making sure that the egg mixture is evenly distrusted. While the eggs cook, preheat the broiler.

Cook until the sides are set and there is just a bit of liquid remaining at the top, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and place the pan under the broiler until the top is just set, about 4 minutes.
Guten!

* * * * *

Speaking of trips that are little and lucky, I'm just about to head to the train station to go to Paris. If you want to tag along for the pastries, seafood platters and glasses of Sancerre, you can find me on Instagram.

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roasted rhubarb


It is the last day of May and I'm ready for June. 

May is my birth month (and my mom's) and so I feel extra charmed by its lilies of the valley and elderflower blossoms, its hot afternoons and chilly evenings. Unpredictable weather aside, I associate the month with celebrations and cake. This May, however, was busier than most. It had many long nights of works, a few ups and downs and many a handful of strawberries to celebrate the ups and console the downs.

One would assume that long work hours mean less cooking, but this isn't always the case. I spent May grilling fruit (more on this to come soon), making chimichurri and homemade mayo, baking polenta cake and brownies and roasting rhubarb. 

Somewhere between working and cooking, I read Molly Wizenburg's new book. It probably needs no introduction here, but it is the tale of the restaurant that her and her husband made from scratch. The book and the restaurant share a name, Delancey, and its pages are effortlessly conversational. It feels like Molly was telling me the story over pizza and beer. I found myself wanting to reply, to comment. I would read a page, nod my head in agreement and then think of a related story that I could add to the table.

At first, however, I was skeptical. The story read too much like her husband's story and not her own. But half way through, I realized that this was the point, the story even. The book is about how the restaurant - what started out as his - became theirs. Beyond his and hers, it also became a community. 

As I read it during my busiest work month of the year, once again, I found myself nodding along as she wrote about being to busy to really cook. Between my cooking spells in May, this is how I felt many days this month. I'm not one for too much takeout, but I am definitely one for one too many meals where making dinner both begins and ends with boiling water for pasta.

In the beginning of the book, Molly mentions roasted rhubarb. This immediately reminded me that I had some rhubarb in the fridge. It was hanging out, useless and I thought that I should put it to work. I put the book down, picked the rhubarb up and roasted it with orange juice, maple syrup and red wine. Then I ate the results three days in a row: twice with yogurt for dessert and once with oatmeal for breakfast.

The rhubarb isn't too sweet, just as I like it best. I did, though, add a little extra maple syrup to the yogurt, but not too much to disguise the rhubarb's tartness. Also, dressing up oatmeal with rhubarb that was cooked in red wine feels luxurious and against-the-rules, a pretty great way to start the day. 

Roasted rhubarb is a good thing to cook when you have no time to cook. Never underestimate the satisfaction of having something homemade at hand to throw on top of yogurt or oatmeal, ice cream or ricotta.  




Roasted Rhubarb

adapted from 'Delancey' by Molly Wizenberg

serves 2-3

3 rhubarb stalks
2 tbsp maple syrup
3 tbsp orange juice
4 tbsp red wine

Preheat the oven to 350F / 190C / gas mark 4.

Give the rhubarb a good wash, remove its ends and its leaves, and then chop it into large chunks. Place the rhubarb into a baking dish and give it a good toss with the maple syrup, orange juice and red wine. Make sure the rhubarb chunks are evenly spread out amongst the bottom of the baking dish and then put it into the oven.

Roast for about 25 minutes, or until the rhubarb is tender and pale, and the juices have thickened into a sauce.

Serve hot or at room temperature over ice cream, yogurt, oatmeal, or any other of the usual suspects. Leftover rhubarb can be stored in the refrigerator for a couple of days.

Guten!
 

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