Tyranny of tiny plums

So we are still fairly flooded with cheap and tiny plums (the "mirabellen" variety, to be exact) here in good old Berlin. They sell for almost nothing at markets, come in our weekly CSA basket, and sometimes, you even find them on the streets. So I have been trying to come up with new uses for them other than the ubiquitous plum cake. Well, actually, we made a plum cake too. (A beautiful one!)

I used the fancy cake recipe from the Urban Vegan cookbook (I really urge you to go out and grab that cookbook if you can, its jam-packed with greatness) and put a layer of golden mirabellen jam in between layers, with more plums on top. Boy, was this sweet. (Maybe a little too sweet?) But then again, we served it on Rosh Hoshanah, so too sweet is good. My friend SY was there and had a professional touch that made a simple cake just stunning- she knows all the tricks for making food gorgeous. Unfortch, I didn't get a pic of the finished product, but then, that's how it always is on holidays. (It was a nice celebration though, as seen below.)

In other plum related news, I made a salad with some gorgeous fennel we also got in our basket and some arugula: it was basically caramelized fennel, chopped plums, arugula and homemade balsamic vinegar dressing. Very rich and delicious.

And finally, I made some plum and ginger muffins to hand out in language school. In my opinion, these were a little bitter or something with a strange aftertaste, so I will withhold the recipe until I can perfect them. But they were pretty and good, just not absolutely perfect. (Next time they will be!)

I am pleased that I now have a variety of options for getting rid of the tiny little plums everywhere, but I must say that now I'm ready for the next challenge... maybe pumpkins?

song of the day: Belle and Sebastian- Sookie in the Graveyard


Vegan Pierogi Power

Yes! I finally got around to making the pierogi from Vegan Brunch! Thanks Madame Moskowitz, another winner!

I felt desperate to make them this week because I am currently in a German language class down the street with many different nationalities, including an Australian man, a Korean woman, a Japanese man, and two lovely Polish women. No one, except for me and the Australian, speak a common language, so in order to communicate we have to cling to our tiny bit of German, along with our national stereotypes. For the Japanese man, for instance, this means that teacher constantly asks him about sushi. (I can only imagine how much he loves that.) For the Polish women, this means that they speak German with a charming, rolling accent ("Trrrotsdem, ich will nach Park gehen") and that we end up talking about Pierogi a lot.

Actually, language school in general is rather charming. No one really knows how to say anything complex enough to be snarky or sexual, so we end up talking like kindergardeners all the time, babbling on about whether we prefer swimming to playing soccer, or what our favorite color is, or what we eat in our home country. Of course, this is all conducted in the sort of German that no actual Berliner would even come close to comprehending, but its fun all the same and I feel like I'm making some progress.

At any rate, after discussing pierogi for the 5th time in class, I thought I'd better break out Vegan Brunch and see what all the fuss was about. And, honestly, these are just lovely. If you've been waiting to make them because they seem like a lot of work, well, that's true. But they are so tasty, especially dressed up with some caramelized onions, salt and pepper, and apples (in lieu of apple sauce.) S. and I gobbled them all up and I assured him I would make more soon. (Maybe next time with the sauerkraut and mushroom variation!)

Luckily for you, the recipe is already online!
However, you should still get Vegan Brunch, because the pancake and sausage recipes are absolutely iconic.

In the meantime, if you decide to try this at home, I would recommend doing it the first time with a partner, because while it is not difficult, like bagels it can be a bit stressful to master at first, particularly in a tiny kitchen. That way, you won't have to throw out a third of the dough because you knock it over into the compost... like some people I know.

Song of the Day: Best Coast- Boyfriend


A Day at the Mauerpark Flea Market

With the startling re-emergence of good weather in Berlin (but not for long, I fear), we decided to take a trip to the giant flea market at Mauerpark in Prenzlauerberg."Mauerpark" is named after the Berlin wall, which used to run through the area and designate it a large strip of no-go zone, but now it's a large park that holds a weekly flea market full of everything your little heart could desire. We love to go to browse through records, Donald Duck comics, and tons of vintage clothes, as well as to gobble bruschetta and arepas while watching the public kareoke, which always includes a rapturous version of "I did it my way" by an old man with a great voice and self-made German lyrics. All in all, its a great example of something that used to be quite horrible that has altered completely in the new Berlin. Definitely worth a visit.


Gemüsekiste Central

Look at all my purple CSA babies...

So I've still been adjusting to the awesomeness of having a CSA basket delivered (auf Deutsch, gemüsekiste) and how to use up the relatively large bounty between two people. So far, though, its been pretty easy going and my bf is pretty game to try out new things. Last week we had a huge bag of tiny plums, and I recalled from last year's plum cake experiments that Mihl of Seitan is My Motor is the resident tiny-plum expert. Luckily, she has just posted a recipe for slivovice plum compote that fit the ticket perfectly, and I had a bottle of dusty Mirabellen brandy in the cabinet that handily replaced the slivovivovice (or however you spell it.)

Guys, it was so good I wish we got nothing but plums from now on out. I kept on poking my finger in it and spreading it on anything we had around (like a simit, weirdly) but we eventually spooned it over milk-rice (a German kind of rice pudding, with soymilk, natch) and everyone was very happy. Thanks Mihl! You win at life, and plums.

We also had a little issue of disposing of the two(!) huge kohlrabi we got in the basket. Here's a sample conversation:

Me: So, are ever going to eat all that kohrabi?
S: Was?
Me: You know, that weird green vegetable that smells like broccoli?
S: Ach, ja, kohl-raaaah-bee.... hmmmm.... yeah we really should eat those...
Me: Maybe you could like, make some kind of German soup or something?
S: Or you could make some kind of American kohrabi stir-fry oder so?

....BOTH: Or maybe we could just have spaghetti again.

So eventually I won and S. made some soup! I was really impressed, it tasted a bit like broccoli and potato soup, a creamy and perfectly acceptable way to get rid of the bizarre looking vegetable.

If you're looking to get rid of some kohrabi of your own, its basically this: 2 diced kohlrabi and one potato, 1/2 onion, 4 garlic, and plenty of veg broth. Cook until everything is soft, then blend with some soy creamer and salt and pepper to taste. Dunno the exact measurements unfortunately, as it comes from an old German cookbook and I'm not quite there yet with my German. (Soon!)

And so now we've got the box for the next week and I'm looking forward to introducing S. to the joy of beets... And since its already getting cold in Berlin, I imagine we have many more soups in our future.

Song of the day: Interpol- Barricade


Dissertation Days and CSA Food

I've been absent not just from the blogosphere but also from real life the last weeks because I've been working on my Master's Thesis, an exciting exploration of public international law and its impact on....on.....*BANG* Oh sorry, just dozed off on the keyboard. Well let's forget about all that awfulness and focus on the food.

Interestingly, my S. really stepped up to plate as I languished in front of the keyboard for interminable hours, plying me with Club Mate and the occasional beer as well as breaks to watch True Blood and Mad Men. But most importantly, he cooked! Like this nice peanut butter curry with TVP that we found at a local Asian market.

He also fixed up the rice with the remaining nuts and dried fruits in the cupboard, plus some cumin. It was the perfect meal to shovel in my mouth as I worked on the Geneva Convention Chapter.

In addition, we recently signed up for a CSA basket to be delivered weekly, which has so far offered such delights as mirabellen (tiny little yellow plums), rainbow chard, and organic sauerkraut. Who knew this last would be such a delight?

We made a souped-up version of the Dutch hutspot I featured last year (you know, the carrot and potato mash that is cheap and crowd-pleasing). This time, we used potatoes, Sauerkraut, apples and garlic. It may not look like much above, but it was so good- sour, sweet, salty and creamy, and perfect with a crisp salad. Since the winter weather is already kicking into Berlin, this one is a keeper for a filling cold-weather meal.

Best of all, between the sauerkraut, potatoes, and apple, its hard to spend more than 1€ on this meal.

Hutspot Revisited
-5-6 peeled medium potatoes, quarted
-About 1 and 1/2 cups sauerkraut (more or less won't hurt) drained
-1 medium onion, diced
-4 cloves garlic, diced
-1 apple, peeled and diced into small cubes
-soy creamer and vegan margarine to taste

1.) Bring a pot of salted water to boil. Add in potatoes and drain excess water until just barely covered. Add in sauerkraut on top so it is spread out and covering potatoes. Cover and simmer for 23-30 minutes or until potatoes are easily pierced with a fork.
2.) Meanwhile, in a saute pan dollop some olive oil and margarine and put on medium low. Saute garlic and onions until soft and translucent, then raise heat to medium and add in apple. Cook 3-5 more minutes until apples and onions start to brown then remove from heat.
3.) When potato mixture is done, drain excess water then salt and pepper to taste. Mash with small amounts of cream and margarine until fairly creamy. Then add in onion-garlic-apple mixture and stir until just mixed. Serve with a big salad and some crusty German bread. Lekker!

Now if I could just figure out what to do with all of this kohlrabi, then the CSA would really be a thrill...

Song of the day: Beach House- Walk in the Park