The really lovely thing about being in a foreign country is that so many things seem mysterious which might, if you were at home, seem commonplace or even obnoxious. You glimpse strange things while walking by open doors, smell heady and unknown delicacies cooking, and hear live music playing from rooftops and basements... all of it seems to have some story that is more interesting by virtue of the fact that you don't understand it, aren't part of it. My downstairs neighbors' late-night fighting, for instance, takes on a romantic quality that causes me to speculate about their passionate french, rather than merely stomp on the floor like I probably would in the US. Similarly, the large, empty office buildings near my flat, tucked in the middle of residential neighborhoods, inspire my imagination with their dark names, "mercelis" or "syalin corp."... They sound like ancient gothic cults or obscure security organizations bent on global domination, but they probably produce antibacterial hand spray or water filters or some such thing.
At any rate, one of the biggest mysteries has been my cooking. Without proper measurements, essential ingredients, cookbooks, (and some would say common sense), I've been consistently making jaw-droppingly good meals for myself. Its truly uncanny.
Take the other evening. I decided to inaugurate the "oven" (ie, huge toaster-oven contraption with instructions ostensibly in hungarian) by merely roasting a sweet potato I was lucky enough to find. While waiting, I sliced up some ginger and shallots and contemplated a little sauce for the sweet potato... maybe with some coconut milk too? Cardamom? Hell, an apple... why not.... and while I sauntered in and out of the tiny kitchen (a feat readily accomplished in one step) I heard a strange sizzling sound, and some popping. It turns out, the "oven" gets incredibly hot, and all of the jars, plastic bags of spices, and fruits nearby were cracking, melting, and cooking. While I
Tonight I made it again, more intentionally, and served it over some tempeh, carrots, pasta and sugar-snap peas. It was still suspiciously delicious. Here is the gist of the recipe, as usual without measurements, but you get the picture.
Witch Sauce Serve over roasted root veggies or as a light pasta sauce
In a small sauce/saute pan, heat a good glop of olive oil over medium heat. When hot, add in a sliced large shallot (or sub 1/2 an onion) and about 1" worth of peeled and chopped ginger. Cook for 5-10 minutes, until shallots have become soft and caramelized. In the meantime, chop 1/2 of an apple into small chunks. When shallots are ready, sprinkle pinches of any combination of the following: black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, cumin, paprika, curry powder. Cook a moment longer, then add in apples. Stir, then add in 1/2 a can of coconut milk and a dash of hot pepper sauce (if you want) and turn the heat up to high. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently, then let simmer a few more minutes until sauce has thickened. Serve over whatever, but it seems to like orange vegetables.
There is something very satisfying about knowing that no matter how confused and alert I am, when making this sauce tonight there was probably someone walking by on my little street, smelling my bizarre and delicious sauce, hearing my weird music, and wondering what on earth was going on behind the curtains...
Song of the Day: St. Vincent- The Strangers
*PS- Sadly, I guess I'm not doing VeganMoFo. My internet, like everything else in BRXL, operates in a fashion that is beyond my earthly control or understanding, and precludes regular posting. But on those occasions when it is working I'll love catching up on everyone else's month, and can't wait to do it next year. :)*