Chickpea Cutlets with Ginger Beer Carrots

Do you guys cook when you're busy? I don't. I tend to consume whatever is lying around in increasingly gross combinations until someone or something forces me to do otherwise. Since my husband is doing his fieldwork at the moment in Sweden, there is no one around to witness my descent into depravity (at least, cooking depravity.) Let's just say, there are a lot of nooch sandwiches being consumed. (Though strangely, I always have the money to purchase wine.)

This weekend, however, S. came home for a heartbreakingly brief visit and we had a small dinner party to celebrate with some of his friends. Eschewing my normal impulse to make cheap Megadarra, we actually spent a little cash and got some nice veg and chicken for the meat eaters, for the vegetarians we had an amazing throwback: V'Con's CHICKPEA CUTLETS!!! This is not the first time I've made them, but frying them in a cast iron skillet brings them to a whole new level of toothy, crunchy goodness. The other vegetarians, clearly expecting to just eat sides as usual, were terribly impressed. I myself had forgotten how good they are, and they are also excellent broke food as they consist of pretty basic pantry staples (at least, by vegan standards- not sure everyone considers wheat gluten flour to be a pantry staple but I always have some on hand.)

The other exciting side, other than solid wingman mashed potatoes, was a new carrot trick I picked up from watching reruns of Good Eats (don't ask me how I access Food Network reruns from Europe, I don't want to get arrested.) I love carrots with ginger and garlic, but this recipe is quick and easy and an excellent use for the leftover can of ginger beer from your Dark & Stormy party. Hell, next time I might throw some rum into the mix too, just to see what happens.

Ginger Beer Carrots, a la Good Eats

-1 bag (~2 lb.) carrots, peeled and cut on the bias into 1/2'' rounds
-1 bottle high quality ginger beer (not ginger ale)
-2 Tbsp. non-dairy margarine
-pinches each of salt, pepper, cumin
-parsley (optional)

1. Place carrots in large pan with ginger beer, cumin and margarine over medium heat. Simmer 5-8 minutes, or until liquid is mostly cooked off.
2. Turn heat all the way up to high, salt and pepper liberally, and cook while stirring until carrots are getting browned and pierce easily (with some resistance). Serve sprinkled with parsley.


Ottoman Express

Beet dip with Za'atar
Lately I've found my culinary tastes dwelling on a particular regional cuisine instead of drifting all over the world as it normally does. It might be easy to describe as Turkish food, but its more accurate to say Ottoman food, or, food created in areas previously encompassed by the Ottoman empire, from Southern Europe to the Middle East. (I should note that for many of this region, its not a particularly cherished historical memory. But it did make for some great culinary-cross pollination.) It means that incredibly vegan-friendly range of food that gets its taste from creatively concentrated vegetables, fresh herbs, and pungent spices. I'm talking the sweet-sharp hit of pureed eggplant, paprika and onion in Balkan Ajvar, the omnipresent fresh mint, parsley and lemon topping Turkish salads, and the smoky paprika-infused oil glistening in a Hungarian paprikash.

Living in Berlin means that all the needed ingredients for this Balkan-Middle Eastern binge is right at my fingertips, and quite inexpensive. (I defy you to find a cheaper source of Za'atar and sumac than my local grocery store.) It also means you can see the persuasive power of this magic region, as Germans here prefer doner kebab to currywurst as their beer companion, and are far too comfortable drinking salted yogurt beverages (Ayran), slurping lentil soup for breakfast, or binging on cups full of mint and bulgar on a fast food break. Which only means that when I serve something with tahini for the fourth time this week, my own German hardly raises an eyebrow.

I've got a couple recipes I want to share when I perfect them (my own versions of Persian crispy rice, Ajvar, Kibbeh, ect.) but for now, here's a few dishes that explain where my tastebuds are -somewhere on the Orient Express, it seems.

Pureed Beet Dip with Za'atar (veganized from Jerusalem)
3-4 red beets
1 garlic clove (or more to taste) 
1 small dried chili/ pinch cayenne pepper / dried chili
1 cup PLAIN soy yogurt
1 2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. pomegranate molasses OR grape syrup (pekmez)
Salt and za'atar

1. Preheat oven to 400F (200C). Rinse off beets and cut off ends. Wrap in tin foil and toss in the oven, cooking for 45 minutes or until easily fork-pierceable.
2. When beets are done and cool to the touch, remove peels with a peeler + your fingers. Roughly chop and throw in the food processor along with roughly chopped garlic, chili and yogurt. Whizz away until smooth, then transfer to a mixing bowl. Fold in syrup, olive oil, and pinches each of za'atar and salt. Taste, and add in more yogurt or spices to taste.

Serve topped with slices green onions and toasted hazelnuts (if desired) with some good toasted bread or pita.

Turkish Red Lentil Soup

Turkish Red Lentil Soup with Mint and Lemon
I make a veganized combo of this recipe and this recipe, serving it with plenty of extra fresh mint, lemon, and pomegranate seeds. Its hard to mess up something so simple and delicious, and it can be served any time of day but it makes a great breakfast! (Especially with Coca cola for some reason, I know, its weird.)

There are many spellings and versions of this homey rice and lentil dish, but its worth mastering your own because its difficult to find anything else so delicious that can be made so cheaply and with such few ingredients. Be sure to check out alternative preparations, but here's my version.

1 C. Brown or Green Lentils, rinsed 
3-4 medium onions, chopped into half-circles (cut off ends of each peeled onion, slice from end to end, then, laying flat on cutting board, slice through thinly from end to end, producing thing concentric half-circles.)
Olive Oil
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1 C. Basmati Rice, rinsed 
1 tsp cinnamon
Pinch each: turmeric, allspice, sugar
2 C. water
Salt and pepper

Plain soy yogurt
Roughly chopped cucumber and mint

1. You will need three cooking vessels: one large sautee pan for caramelizing onions, one small pot for cooking the lentils, and one larger pot for the rice and lentil mixture. To start, fill the smaller pot with cold, salted water and set on to boil. Set the sautee pan on medium heat and drizzle with a good couple tablespoons of olive oil.
2. Once pot of water has reached a boil, add the lentils and reduce to simmer. Cook for 15- 20 minutes, or until lentils are soft and chewy. Drain, and set aside.
3. -in the meantime (while lentils are cooking) we need to caramelize some onions. When your sautee pan is heated to medium heat with plenty of oil, add in the chopped onions and immediately lower heat to lowest setting. Stir frequently, watching for burning, and let cook for some 20-30 minutes, adding in a bit of extra oil or water if necessary because of burning. When done, onions should be brownish tendrils starting to get crispy in places. Using slotted spoon, remove onions to a serving bowl and set aside.
4. Place larger pot from step 1 on medium heat. Add in cumin seeds and toast for circa 1 minute, or until starting to turn brown. Add in a good drizzle of olive oil, then the rice, turmeric, cinnamon, allspice and sugar. Toast rice for a minute with the spices, then add in 2 C. water, and the cooked lentils. Stir, season with salt and pepper, and bring water to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cover. Cook for circa 20 minutes, or until water is absorbed and rice is cooked.

To serve, scoop a generous serving of lentil rice mixture onto plates and top with plenty of caramelized onions. Serve with a mix of cucumber, yogurt and mint. HEAVEN.

Megadarra, Mujedrah, Mejadra, ect. with cucumber yogurt
For more Ottoman Express inspiration, check out my posts from Budapest, Belgrade, and Istanbul.

Song of the Day: The Preatures- Is this how you feel?


This time in New York

Happy New Year! I'm back from the USA with a new attitude and a new German keyboard (spilled tea on my old one, but now I have all these nice characters like ß and Ä!)

The US was lovely, with freakishly good weather in sharp contrast to present situation. S and I spent most of the holiday in DC, with a brief detour in New York City, checking out some of the sights that I never managed to visit before such as the Lower East Side and Brooklyn.

On our first day we had an awe-inspiring walk across the Brooklyn Bridge into Dumbo to get our first glimpse of the strange new world of Brooklyn. In the evening, my awesome friend Sara took us a large yet homey pizza place in Greenpoint- Paulie Gee's. You would never guess from the omnivorously adventurous first pages of the menu (bacon marmelade?!) but the menu features a fantastic selection of vegan pizzas, including the one I devoured featuring fennel-laced vegan sausage, cashew ricotta and arugula.
The cashew ricotta is to die for at Paulee Gee's in Brooklyn
Greenpoint! Where its possible to eat delicious vegan pizza while you pretend you are in the cast of Girls.

Another great discovery this time in NYC was the Lower East Side/ Chinatown. Previously, I didn't stray much outside of Midtown, but S., being an well-appointed German tourist, wanted to see some off-the- beaten-track museums. A good duo, particularly for those interested in immigration, is the Tenement Museum and the gorgeous Eldridge Street Synagogue. Right down the street from one another, the two museums explore the history of the LES as the primary destination for immigrants arriving in the US. The Tenement museum recreates a historic tenement building with well-researched stories about actual ex- residents, revealing fascinating details about life as an immigrant in the past century.

Prosperity Dumplings
The Eldridge Street synagogue is an elaborate art-deco masterpiece funded by Ashkenazi immigrants and then abandoned for years as the ethnic composition of the neighborhood shifted. Now brilliantly restored, its definitely worth a tour (especially in contrast to famous European synagogues, many of which are in various stages of ruin due to the nazi era.) The stained glass work alone is worth the price of admission.

While in the neighborhood there are also lots of food options, but I need to recommend this one place I found, a small dumpling joint that is insanely cheap and tasty. Prosperity Dumpling, also on Eldridge Street, is a tiny hole in the wall pumping out veggie and meat dumplings to a diverse crowd of lunch patrons. I can't verify 100% if the veggie dumplings are vegan, but they taste vegan and the register clerk told me thez contained no meat or dairy. (Take that for what its worth.) Anyways, 8 cabbage and mushroom stuffed dumplings, steamed or fried for $3.50, and absolutely delish.

In between museums we found another sweet spot, not super vegan friendly but worth poking your head in to check out the specials. Cheeky Sandwiches is a good spot to stop in for chicory-laced coffee or ginger lemonade in a cute, New Orleans inspired setting. The rotating menu has a few vegetarian sandwiches and S. was very happy with his shrimp po´boy (non vegan, obvs.)
Cheeky Sandwiches, a small and cute lunch joint
Its on a street packed with lots of good vintage shopping, and you can, like S. and I, fantasize about being millionaires who can afford to purchase an ex-tenement flat in what was once one of the nation's poorest neighborhoods.

Ah, New York! Bis nexte mal!


Comfort Cooking: Vegan Pierogies

Potato Pierogies w/ Caramelized Onions and Soy Yogurt
In times of crises one tends to reach for fatty, salty or sugary foods that will numb the palate and provide a few minutes of distraction in shoveling and chewing. Often these foods come in a box. Not even I (haha) am immune to the appeal of sugary cereal, ice cream, frozen pizza...

But when eating vegan its not always easy to find your favorite comfort food in the frozen aisle. (Well, at least not in Europe.) Leaving the options open to either gorging on instant spaghetti, ramen, and cereal, or getting up, dammit, and making something yourself. 

I suggest the latter. Make something needlessly complicated and take a luxuriously long time making it right. Not only will it cheer you up and distract you, but it will probably make it easier for you to make it faster another time. (Practice makes perfect!) Not to mention you might bring some happiness to those around you (not your responsibility when you're bummed out, but a nice perk.)

Take pierogies. You can be in a rush to make these and stress yourself out for a dinner party, or you can start a little Scandal marathon on a bad day and slowly and carefully construct these little pockets of salty, fatty, vegan goodness. Try Isa Chandra Moskowitz's recipe or my version outlined below, and then experiment yourself with fillings and sides... sauerkraut, applesauce, soy sour cream, fried mushrooms, ect.

Far, far superior to Captain Crunch.

Vegan Pierogies (makes about 30)
*This recipe is roughly what I make for my two-person household. You'll definitely want to double everything if you are making for a crowd, but I recommend giving them a shot first in a smaller batch to get the hang of it.

Mashed Potato Filling (or use leftovers, if you have some)
4-5 medium potatoes, peeled and sliced
Soy Milk
Salt and Pepper

Caramelized Onions
One gigantic sweet onion, or 3-4 smaller onions
Canola oil

1 C. Warm Water
1.5 Tbsp. Oil
2- 2.5 C. Flour, plus extra for sprinkling

1. Make mashed potatoes. My way is thusly: boil some cut up potatoes, drain when you can pierce them with a fork, and mash to hell with some plain soymilk, salt and pepper, and margarine to taste. There's no reason you can't use any way you like to make them, though, as you'll probably have leftovers. Once potatoes are mashed, remove from pot and store in a bowl in the fridge to cool.

2. While potatoes are cooking, you can get started on the caramelized onions. Cut up a giant sweet onion or use a few- either way you want about 3 cups of onion slices, because they are going to shrink big time. In a medium pan (preferably cast iron), heat a few glugs (like 1/3 a cup, at least) of canola oil over medium heat. Add your onions and a pinch of salt, coat with the oil, and lower to lowest heat setting. They will cook down slowly over about 45 minutes, during which time you must simply stir them and eat ones that get too burnt.

3. The dough is the part that takes the most getting the hang of. The first step is to add the warm water and oil in a bowl and swish together with a fork. Slowly add about two cups of flour and a pinch of salt and try to gather into a loose dough, adding more flour if necessary. Once the dough is just non-sticky enough to handle and knead, remove from bowl and knead for about 5-10 minutes. The consistency you are going for is smooth and elastic, or as a Polish acquaintance once told me, "ear-lobe consistency." Once its there, you can put the dough in the fridge to chill until your other ingredients are done. 

4. Once everything is ready, put a large pot on to boil, filled 2/3 of the way with salted water. While this is reaching a rolling boil, spread out 1/2 of the dough on a floured surface and roll out (flipping occasionally) until very thin but not transparent. Using a large glass, cut out circles of the dough (use a knife to get them off the surface if they are sticking.) Repeat with leftover dough until you are through.

For each dumpling, cup the circle in your hand, add in a small amount (2 tsp. or so) of mashed potatoes, and gently fold and pinch the circle together to seal into half moons. You want enough filling to make it bulge but not break. As you complete each one you can toss it into the boiling water- when they bob up to the surface, they are done. 

Keep finished pierogies in a bowl or plate and drizzle occasionally with oil so they don't stick together too much. You can also fry them for a few minutes in oil or margarine for a crunchier version.

Serve with plenty of onions and a schmear of soy yogurt, sour cream, or apple sauce.

Song of the Day: Neko Case- Bracing for Sunday


Mac and Cheese w/ Rainbow Chard and Sweet Potatoes

Maybe one day I will write a cookbook called "Just Add Sweet Potatoes!". Its kind of becoming my thing- I mean, I've done it with Gnocchi, Enchiladas, Chile...and now with Mac & Cheese. Its no big deal guys... this is just the form that my genius takes, finding things in which to insert sweet potatoes. That, and explaining American TV shows to my husband in a way that makes him think I am psychic. ("How did you know that Walt poisoned the Stevia?!?")

For this delicious combo, I made the classic (if fatty) mac & cheese from Vegan Yum Yum that I always make and threw in a little wilted swiss chard and sweet potatoes for good measure. Consider it my own simple (and late) contribution to Vegan Mofo's mac and cheese mania.

Mac  & Cheese with Rainbow Chard and Sweet Potatoes

Vegan Yum Yum Cheese Sauce (or your own favorite, such as Isa's)
3 C. pasta
2 C. Rainbow chard, sliced into thin ribbons
1 Sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/2" cubes
Paprika and Chile powder

1. Preheat oven to 400F (200 C) and line a bake sheet with baking paper. Set a pot of salted water to boil for the pasta.
2. In a bowl, toss sweet potato cubes with a drizzle of oil, and a pinch of paprika and chile powder (optional for those who like the spicies.) Add to the oven and cook for about 15-20 minutes, or until lightly browned.
3. Once the pot of water is boiling, add in the pasta. Make the cheese sauce according to Miss Yum Yum's instructions, and set aside.
4. Once pasta is finished cooking, drain it, reserving a tablespoon or so of hot water and leaving it in the cooking pot. Add the chopped chard in, stir, and cover pot, leaving for about 5 minutes.
5. Finally, add cheese sauce to pasta and chard, tossing to coat. Add in sweet potato cubes.
Enjoy, topped with plenty of ground black pepper.

Speaking of Germans and Vegan Mofo, I would like to point out two other noteworthy things: first, Spiegel (who I sometimes love-hate but mostly hate-hate) has an article discussing Vegan Food at Oktoberfest and other changes to the Bavarian yearly festival. It features the following amazingly German quote: "It's crazy at times, says Peter Hartwich, head of the Wiesn police station, "because people no longer recognize any social limits to their efforts at self-realization." Second, Seitan Beats Your Meat had a Mad Men theme this month, surely one of the greatest Vegan Mofo themes of all time, and also an excellent excuse to reprint the image below.

"I'll show you vegan," says Betty
Song of the day- The Julie Ruin- Girls Like Us


Pumpkin Chili and White Sage Whip

Pumpkin Chipotle Chili with polenta, yogurt and roasted pumpkin seeds
It comes as no surprise that different cultures have different ideas of what is healthy. In the Balkans, people think strong coffee several times daily is good for the digestion. Turks sprinkle fresh parsley on everything and drink herb teas but are generous with the oil and dairy. And in Germany, many people chain smoke continuously but make sure to buy certified organic produce. I've realized that my specialized quirk as an American is that I think pretty much everything is unhealthy except for vegetables. 

Not that I don't eat sugar, flour, caffeine, alcohol, etc, its just that I make sure to feel guilty while I consume them, like a good American.  Which is pretty much the opposite of my husband, who thinks that everything is healthy except for McDonalds and any form of medicine. (Just trying to get this man to take an aspirin generally leads to a rant about American pharma ending in "pills instead of feelings!")

So when we decided to both try to start eating healthier, I knew this was going to be a piece of cake. Everything I eat is already not a cheeseburger so it should be easy to satisfy his demands. To satisfy his desire for healthy lunch type stuff, we've been cranking out various types of aufstrich- aka, spreads. This white bean, sage, and roasted almond spread ("White Sage Whip"from Hot Knives fit the bill awesomely and is just decadent enough to glam up brown bread and veggies.

As for dinner, my traditional Chili packed with beans and pumpkin and spiked with chocolate, beer and chipotle goes awesomely with (healthy!) polenta and soy yogurt. Its not exactly rabbit food, but neither is it a cheeseburger. (You can find various approximate recipes here and here.)

Hot Knives' White Sage Whip
Song of the Day: Arcade Fire- Reflektor


Resisting Fall

Its truly amazing how the weather in Berlin takes seasons so literally. There doesn't seem to be such a thing as Indian summer here. When summer is over, the sun disappears, people pull out their coats, and the leaves change colors with frightening rapidity. Its hard to remember that just a few weeks ago I was making excuses for not swimming nude in a lake. (Germans love that shit.) Nope, summer is brief and departs suddenly...

And yet, I'm not really ready to start eating (or for that matter, preparing) stews and casseroles again. I'm still in the mood for light and healthy(ish) dinners that make my husband complain. So I've ventured into some roasted vegetables and pumpkins, but haven't fully jumped into Fall yet. Above is a perfect example: a roasted vegetable salad with orange dressing. I simply roasted some beets, pumpkin and mushrooms, then whipped up a dressing of orange juice, agave nectar and white wine vinegar (+salt and pepper and olive oil) to drizzle all over. Perfectly delicious and still not wintry.

Then the other day I had this lovely meal- roasted beets with pumpkin seeds, sauteed spinach with garlic, sesame rice and sliced Asian pear.

Not exactly hearty fare, but then, I have plenty of months for that. #WinterIsComing, folks...

Song of the day: Fiona Apple- Dull Tool


Amsterdam is for lovers!

Greetings! I'm back from a hiatus forced by a circumstantial triumvirate of lost camera, lost appetite, and Berliner work hijinx. Now that the summertime is almost over I will return from my hideaways on instagram and twitter and resume my occasional posting of vegan food experiments and discoveries from wherever I happen to be posted in Europe. This week? Amsterdam!

Literally every time you tell someone you live in Europe the first thing they want to know is whether you've been to Amsterdam (or more specifically, smoked pot in Amsterdam.) Not being particularly into a) drugs or b) hordes of stoned tourists, I was never really keen to visit the city, despite reports that it is "soooo cute!" So when we got invited there for the wedding of two friends, I was looking forward but did not hold out high hopes for falling in love with the city.

But I'm willing to admit when I'm wrong. Amsterdam is awesome! And compared to Berlin I don't even think the drug/ tourist/ party equation is a major part of the appeal. What's far more compelling is the fact that the city is entirely navigable by bike and is filled with water, gardens, and parks- meaning you don't have to spend your time in one small "tourist district" to enjoy the sights. Amsterdam's charms are well distributed.

It didn't hurt that we had absolutely gorgeous weather while we were there. Amsterdam is probably best seen meandering through narrow streets on a rented bike (recycled rentals is central and boasts the cheapest rentals in town at 5 euros a day). Along the way your are fairly sure to find a good place to drink beer, listen to live music, or lie around in the park- and repeating these 3 activities in between meals is as good a way to spend a vacation as I can think of. Maybe punctuated with a visit to the recently reopened Rijksmuseum to check out the Dutch masters, or to Anne Frank's home for a chilling but fascinating historical tour.

When it comes time to eat there is plenty of your average European cafe fare to choose from, but a shady colonial past has also left Amsterdam with a lust for exotic tastes not often seen in European street food. Nasi goreng, Roti, curries, tempeh, plantains, cous-cous peanut sauce... the Dutch have been all over, and brought the food back to prove it. I was treated to a super-cheap platter of flaky roti with potatoes and green beans in "gravy" and crispy savory tempeh at one tiny restaurant- with a side of fried plantains and coconut juice. That would be tough to find in Berlin for sure, and here I saw plenty of restaurants with similar offerings (just double check if vegetarian = vegan.) Another evening in up-and-coming neighborhood De Pijp we had a huge meal of Moroccan and Middle Eastern specialties at Bazar, a huge restaurant filling an ex-synagogue. We stuffed ourselves with huge platters of dolmades, hummus, baba ganoush and grilled veggies with cous-cous. Who would have thought the Dutch, famous for questionable deep-fried meat products, would have such an array of vegan and vegetarian specialties to sample?

Another cool place we checked out was Moeders restaurant.This is definitely less vegan friendly (although its right around the corner from where a brand new Vegetarian Butcher(?) will open) but its so cute that it might be worth a visit if your with a mixed-menu crowd. The restaurant's theme- Mothers- is carried through its decor, which consists of hundreds of photographs of people's moms. The menu is also organized by different price levels of homey Dutch classics, which tend towards the meat-oriented but have a sprinkling of vegan and vegetarian offerings. I had a delish salad with pumpkin, figs, and an orange scented dressing that was to die for while my man dined on excellent versions of Dutch home-cooking.(Including the famous Hutspot!)

All in all I was pleasantly surprised to find my preconceptions of Amsterdam dashed to pieces. The city is perfect for a romantic getaway filled with exotic eats and homey, relaxing scenery. And oh yeah, if you wanna get high I'm sure you can arrange that too. :)

PS- Oh yeah, its VEGAN MOFO! I'm not participating this time around, but I will be following along at home. Check it out--->http://www.veganmofo.com/


Vegan Kibbeh Pie

Kibbeh is a wonderful dish of Lebanese origin that is popular throughout the Arab world. It combines bulgar, lamb or other meat with spices, and a luscious tahini dipping sauce or spread. Kibbeh pie is a non-traditional variation of this classic which combines the main ingredients in layers, a bit like a cake. According to my-secret-Jerusalemi-lover-man Yottam Ottolenghi, this is his spin on a popular dish on his hometown.

As I'm still working my way through the wonderful (*though not vegan) cookbook Jerusalem, this dish caught my eye as something that could be easily veganized- crumbled meat is one of the easiest things to approximate in vegetarian cooking, either through crumbled tempeh, soy curls, lentils, or vegan sausages. I used a sub from my local bio markt, some kind of tiny soy nugget that is often used for vegan bolognese sauce.

I haven't made this totally perfect yet- I think next time I'll use a mixture of faux meat and mushrooms to add a bit more flavor to the middle layer. When I have it totally perfected I'll post the full recipe, but for now let me give you a walk-through that could be easily replicated at home:

Layer 1: Circa 1 c. of prepared bulgar, mixed with a drizzle of olive oil, and a tablespoon or so of flour. You press this mixture into the bottom of a pan as if you were making a crust.

Layer 2: Your faux meat of choice browned on the stovetop with onions, garlic, and pine nuts, seasoned with a few pinches cinnamon, allspice, cumin and salt+pepper.

Layer 3: A thick, creamy tahini sauce that's merely tahini plus some lemon and a bit of water to make it pourable.

You cook the first two layers in the oven at around 375F until good and browned, then add the tahini sauce on top and cook again for another 10 minutes, until its starting to brown in some places. Top with parsley, sumac, and more pine nuts if ya got 'em. Serve with lemon slices.

This casserole would be a perfect thing to set out at a potluck or casual dinner party with a big fattoush salad on the side. As it is, it makes an easy and hearty dinner dish that is exotic yet homey.

Conveniently, you can watch Yottam Ottolenghi make his version in a video here.

Song of the Day: Shostakovitch- Waltz No. 2


Pan-Fried Gnocchi with Green Goddess Sauce and Quick-Pickled Carrots

Last week my little brother was in town from the USA and we had an incredibly fun and ridiculously debaucherous time with him and a pair of his hilarious friends. Not being used to the many party-friendly novelties of Berlin (you can drink on the street! bars never close! everything great is walking distance!) they made it their mission to stay up all night every night and take it all in. I managed to avoid the craziness for a few nights but by the weekend I was in too, and I think I'll be recovering for some time. (Also from the heartbreak of suddenly having to go cold-turkey off of American-boy humor, which I apparently have really been missing.)

So for dinner after they left I decided to make something with a lot of raw garlic and green stuff to stave off oncoming infections surely flooding my weakened immune system. The perfect thing? Green Goddess dressing from Appetite for Reduction, a garlicky, tahini-laced herb dressing with tons of punch. Instead of serving it on a salad like normal however, I opted for some comfort food (to soothe my empty-nest syndrome). What better than some toothsome gnocchi? I boiled a couple of potatoes, set on the window sill to cool off, then put them through a potato ricer and kneaded the resulting mash with flour until it was easy to form little dumplings. Then I pan fried it in some olive oil and margarine. For a final kick, I peeled a carrot and quick pickled it in a bit of vinegar and sugar in the fridge.

Two parts raw, one part cooked, and extremely vibrant and delicious. I can think of many variations on this theme...

Another bright and delicious weeknight meal that incorporates a raw dressing? Another rendition of the sweet potato, tahini and onion dish from Jerusalem, served alongside some kale with garlic, diced red peppers, and a dollop of pomegranate molasses.  
Man I should eat like this every night! But then, what would I tell the veggie dogs in my fridge...?

Song of the Day: Paolo Conto- Sparring Partner


Spargelzeit! (My way)

Not to be a bad German or anything, but I just cannot get behind the sudden enthusiasm this country whips up for white asparagus this time of year. I guess its exciting because its a local vegetable, unlike the imported mealy tomatoes and sad waxy peppers of winter, but just because its ours doesn't mean its awesome.

No, true to my American roots, I like my asparagus green and skinny. As though it has been exposed to sunlight and gone through the process of photosynthesis. Something about covering white, stalky "Spargel" with white, creamy Hollaindaise sauce just does not scream "Spring" to me.

I think a real Spring dish exploits the first greens and pumps it up with some citrus and those wintry standbys, onions and garlic. Something like this simple, weeknight Lemon-Asparagus Risotto. Or an asapargus sautee with tons of lemon and red peppers and tofu. You get the picture. And as for Spargelzeit, I'll jump on the next German food bandwagon... lets say rhubarb-zeit or mirabellen zeit.


Asparagus-Lemon Risotto

1 Quart of your favorite vegetable broth method
1 Tbsp. Olive oil + 1 tsp. vegan margarine
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, diced
1 C. Arborio Rice
1 Glass decent white wine
A fistful of Asparagus, trimmed and cut into quarters
Salt, pepper, Thyme
Juice and zest from one lemon

1.) Heat several cups of your vegetable broth (or water + bouillon) and put on the backburner.
2.) In a large pot, heat olive oil and margarine over medium heat. When sizzling, add in onions. After 1-2 minutes, add in garlic. Stir and cook for about 4 minutes or until translucent.
3.) While this business is getting underway, heat another frying pan with a drizzle of oil on medium heat. When hot, add in your asparagus and a pinch of thyme and cook, stirring occasionally, until it reaches your desired state of "done-ness". (I like them a bit undercooked and crunchy, but to each her own.) Finish off with a dash of salt and pepper and a squeeze of lemon and remove from heat.
4.) Once onion and garlic are ready add in your rice and stir so that it gets coated with oil and butter, and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 1-2 minutes, and then add in your glass of wine. Stir slowly, until wine has been absorbed.
5.) Now comes the "spoon and stir" portion of risotto for which it is famous. Ladle a spoonful of warm broth into your pot. Stir slowly until it has been absorbed by rice. Repeat this until mixture has significantly increased in size and rice is cooked through. (If you run out of broth, you can use water, no one will know.)
6.) At the end, when rice is fully cooked, stir in your asparagus mixture, lemon zest, and squeeze the rest of the lemon juice on in. Turn off the heat and cover and let sit for five minutes, then taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary. Serve with crusty bread, baked tomatoes, or whatever else strikes your fancy.


Song of the Day: David Bowie- Modern Love


The Incredible, Edible Eggplant

Still on a big Jerusalem kick over here, skipping happily over to the big Turkish market nearby to pick up bulgar, sumac, pomegranate molasses and more ingredients necessary for lovely middle-eastern meals. According to the book, "stuffed" veggies are huge in the city, and from my own knowledge of Jewish cooking I can see how this is the perfect melding of Ashkenazi traditions and Middle Eastern/ Mediterranean traditions. Stuffing veggies makes the most of scarce ingredients and also presents beautifully. Just look at these stuffed eggplants! Gorgeous!

In this recipe, a simple bulgar salad with plenty of fresh herbs and spices is spooned into an eggplant that has been cut in half and smeared with a heady Moroccan-style mixture of preserved lemon, garlic, and plenty of olive oil before broiling. On top is soy yogurt that I thickened a bit by letting sit in a cheesecloth over a colander for a few hours. (Its more like Greek yogurt this way, although I understand in the US "Greek-style" soy yogurt is now available in a lot of grocery stores.) This recipe is also super versatile. For my bulgar salad I soaked the bulgar in boiling water for about five minutes until it was "cooked" and then mixed it with a squeeze of harissa, a drizzle of pomegranate molases, and plenty of chopped mint and raisins. You could also use red pepper paste or tomato paste, some chopped green onions or finely chopped onion, or cilantro if you have them on hand. I think the spices on the eggplant could also be switched up for endless combos.

Still having some leftover eggplant and salad, I made a quickie baba ghanoush, baking the eggplant until totally black and mixing the soft flesh with garlic, lemon peel, and olive oil. Great lunch for one of the first sunny days in ages!

Song of the Day: Two Door Cinema Club- Something Good Can Work