Aaaaaaand we're back! Thanks, folks, for being so kind while I took some time off. We had a lovely week in Austria, near Salzburg, Sound of Music country, where it really does look like Maria is going to come bounding around the corner in her Tracht any minute now, and Hugo and I spent a hot, gorgeous weekend in the Mosel with our friends from Brooklyn, but mostly we passed the days knee-deep in sand at the playground and visiting the family of goats that live around the corner from us (no, really) and going on long walks in the park across the street and even making it down to Wannsee, where we had to forcibly restrain Hugo repeatedly from throwing himself dramatically into the waves. Max is, unfortunately, still commuting home on weekends (epic floods, submerged railway tracks, yadda yadda yadda, gnash, urgh, argh, etc), so that part of our summer didn't quite work out, but otherwise, it really was wonderful. Hot and sunny for weeks on end (pretty rare for this town) and full of incredible little moments with our temperamental bundle of toddler joy.
(Who, as of last Tuesday, now walks! Alone! Glory be.)
What I didn't do while on vacation was cook. Or hardly at all, let's say. It was mostly survival food over here, you know, the things you can do with your eyes closed when your child finally goes to bed and you are too bushed to care about what comes next. Related: Last night, I sat in front of the computer, trying to figure out how to get back into the swing of things here, but came up totally empty. See, the nice thing about taking time off is the time off. The bad thing is realizing afterwards how totally rusty and out-of-practice you are, feeling like, whoever said I was any good at this blogging or cooking thing?
But! Today is a new day. And when I went through my photos of the past months this morning, I realized I did have a few things to tell you about. So we're going to do a little round-up this morning to get us all back in the swing of things.
1. I made Kevin West's Blueberry Lime Jam after picking several kilos worth a few weeks back. My jam took longer to set up than he said it would and I find it a little on the sweet side for my personal taste, but I love the touch of cinnamon and the fact that the end product really does taste of (very sweet) blueberries, something I haven't always had luck with when making blueberry jam before. It's brilliant on French toast and pancakes in lieu of syrup and Hugo and I both highly recommend putting it on top of ricotta-spread peasant bread for breakfast.
2. I made the much-hyped one-pan pasta from Martha Stewart Living when my dad was in town, but we were a little underwhelmed. It tasted just fine, but we agreed that it would never get either of us to stop making tomato sauce in one pan and spaghetti in another. Funnily enough, this felt like more work than just doing it the regular way. Go figure.
3. Currently drowning in plums, I made Nigel Slater's plum cake with cinnamon and honey the other day. Since I was out of golden syrup, I used honey instead, strong chestnut honey from my mother, which gave the cake a grown-up, ever-so-slightly bitter profile. The recipe seems a little odd when you get started and the batter looks too thin and you really are meant to leave it to cool for 20 minutes (but no longer!) in the oven with the heat turned off, but the result is very fine indeed. Tender and moist, with a lovely, haunting flavor. It feels cozy and autumnal and would be good for Rosh Hashanah, I think. Hugo gobbled an entire slice all by himself.
4. This! The hit of the summer, hands down. It's Rose Elliot's Grilled Eggplant and Halloumi except instead of grilling it, I bake it. My friend Suzy told me about this recipe and, as usual with things recommended by her, it was a total winner. (Tragically, Suzy has left Berlin and moved to Barcelona, leaving me absolutely bereft.) We made it no less than four? five? times in two weeks. It's so good. The silly link above only gives you the ingredients and first steps, though, so make a note of this: You make the marinade (I halved the maple syrup quantity) and you cut up the eggplant and halloumi. Then you toss everything together, arrange it on a baking sheet and bake at 400 F (I think?) for 20 minutes. It should look like the photo above. Remove from the oven and strew with chopped mint and eat immediately. DELICIOUS.
5. Finally, just to keep things real over here, I made this gorgeous pan of cauliflower cloaked in béchamel sauce flavored with nutmeg and a mix of grated cheddar and comté, figuring that it would make Hugo's day. (He loves cruciferous vegetables! He loves cheese! He loves milk!) Of course, he was totally outraged that I would even try to put a tiny forkful in his mouth, proceeded to throw an honest-to-goodness seated tantrum and then made me eat it all by myself (not in one sitting). Oh, what hardship. (In case you'd like to try: Parboil a head of cauliflower, then break into florets, arrange in baking dish and cover with a nutmeg-and-cheese flavored béchamel. Bake at 375 (ish?) until browned and bubbling.) Goes well with a big glass of wine to drown out the sounds of your screaming child.
Oooh, it's good to be back!