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Okay. Let's say you've recently come into some sun-dried tomatoes. And not just a few, but a good couple of handfuls, maybe even an entire paper bag full. What on earth am I going to do with all these sun-dried tomatoes?, I can hear you asking yourself. Aren't they so 1998? Aren't we all so over them?

Why, yes, dear reader, I do believe you have a point. I personally think the sun-dried tomato shark was jumped at the precise moment when people started putting sundried tomatoes in their bagel dough. With slivers of them already polluting every pasta sauce and sandwich spread I came across, it was at the bagel store that I decided I never wanted to see another sun-dried tomato again. And so, over the next decade, I did my very best to avoid them at all costs.

Until my Sicilian uncle (of course it was him) introduced me to something called capuliata.


Capuliata is nothing more than sun-dried tomatoes whizzed to little bits, put in a glass and topped with olive oil. You can add a dried chile to the mix or dried oregano or garlic, if you like, or you can keep it plan. What's important is that the capuliata always be covered with olive oil (which keeps it from spoiling). It's intense, this stuff, but it totally rehabilitates the sun-dried tomato. Capuliata is so good, you'll find yourself hoarding it. Max and I once finished a whole jar in less than a week. I do believe some competitive eating might have been involved.

But what do you do with capuliata, I can hear you asking. Well, you can use it as a crostino topping, or dollop it alongside some cured meats for an antipasto. You can use a few spoonfuls to dress pasta, along with copious amounts of chopped parsley and grated pecorino. You can spread a dollop of it on a nice crusty sandwich along with something smooth and cool to calm down the flavors, like ricotta (I'd add some arugula, too). Or you can, like my husband does, eat it from the jar with a spoon. (Only recommended for the diehards, though - my mouth would explode if I tried this.)


As you can probably already guess, it makes for a really nice present, especially when jarred in a pretty Weck glass. As long as there's always a thin film of oil on top, capuliata will keep for up to a year, though I very much doubt it would ever languish in anyone's pantry that long.

You hardly need a recipe, but here's how I do things:


Find yourself some sun-dried tomatoes. My most recent batch of capuliata came from 8 1/2 ounces of sun-dried tomatoes (240 grams). Put them in a food processor and pulse them until they are finely chopped. According to taste, add a healthy pinch of dried oregano and/or a dried chile to the processor before pulsing.

Wash and dry some jam jars (I was able to fill two). Fill the jars with the chopped tomatoes. You may have to push them down a little, but do not stuff the tomatoes into the jar too hard. Pour good-quality olive oil into each jar, pausing halfway through for the oil to slither into all the nooks and crannies, until the capuliata is covered with a thin film of oil. Close the jars. Store in a cupboard for up to a year (no need to refrigerate after it's been opened, as long as there's always some oil on top).

Christmas Covets - A Holiday Gift Guide

Every year, I am surprised by the sudden arrival of the holiday season. And every year, I run around like a madwoman in late November and December, trying to get my act together and feeling supremely incompetent in the process. It is tiresome in the extreme. So this year, figuring that Hugo wouldn't exactly allow me more time to sort this stuff out, I started to write down my gift ideas for the loved ones in my life in August. AUGUST, people. I am such an old lady. It will probably surprise no one that I will still have to run around like a madwoman in order to get it all ordered and made on time, but at least I know what I am getting everyone and that already feels like a triumph.

Here, in the meantime, are some of the frivolous, delicious, luxurious and lovely things that I covet and that I think you might like, too - to either give or receive.

Bellocq's Afghani Chai - I haven't tried this handmade-in-Brooklyn tea yet, but the description alone is bewitching: "A hand-crafted evocative blend of Organic Assam black tea, organic red poppy flowers, green cardamon, star anise, ginger, clove and black pepper." Poppy flowers in my chai? Yes, please. Comes packaged in a gorgeous yellow or blue caddy, if you like.



Rare Tea Company's English Peppermint Tea - I first heard about the Rare Tea Company from Amanda Hesser. While their white and black teas are very nice, it is their English Peppermint that is truly special. It deserves a spot in every tea cupboard in the land. It seems expensive, but you need only a pinch of the Cornwall-grown stuff at a time - it's quite strong and incredibly fragrant.



Garden Place Cards - perfect little stocking stuffers, these would definitely upgrade your next dinner party.



Iginio Masseri Panettone - Apparently, this is the best Panettone in Italy. We will be spending Christmas at my aunt's house near Nice and I'd love to have one of these shipped there in advance of our arrival. (For all you bread geeks out there, if you want to try to make this yourself, here's a semi-comprehensible recipe.)



Beurre & Sel Cookies - Finally - finally! - Beurre & Sel offers online shopping, a godsend for those of us who don't live in New York (sob! tiny, heartreading violins!), yet would like nothing more than to eat, or, um, you know, gift the cookies that Dorie Greenspan and her son sell out of a tiny storefront on the Lower East Side. There are savory cookies, like Sesame Sea Salt and Rosemary Parmesan, as well as sweet ones, like Dorie's world-famous World Peace Cookies (also known as Korova cookies) and the ones that I am hankering after, the Port Jammers and Chocolate Mints.



Johanna Flores's Matte Porcelain Cups - Teatime has never been so chic! Pour your fragrant peppermint tea into one of these elegant little cups, matte on the outside, glazed and shiny on the inside, and kick all those mismatched mugs in your cupboard to the curb. I can't decide which color I love the best. The pistachio? The lilac? The charcoal?



Theo Fig Fennel and Almond Chocolate Bars - On the Seattle stop of my book tour, my media escort brought me to the factory store of Theo Chocolate, an artisanal chocolate company. It was a heavenly place - you could try every single chocolate bar they make! My very favorite bar (I bought bundles of them to give as gifts) was the one flavored with figs, fennel and almonds. It sounds a little weird, I know, but this chocolate is divine, especially during the holidays. It's rich and spicy and not-too-sweet. A really unique and delicious treat. (Though I dare you not to go to their online store and come away with about 17 other bars in your cart.)



iitala Piano Serving Spoons - I'll never get over how timeless and elegant these serving spoons are. Designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano for iitala, they are modern heirlooms.




Manshroom by Amy Ross - Okay, the price tag on this one admittedly pushes this into fantasy-gift area, but I adore this weird and wacky collage by artist Amy Ross and think it would look amazing in a kitchen.



Jane Mount's Ideal Bookshelf - this is a more affordable piece of art for the kitchen, a graphic representation of a New York chef's favorite cookbooks.



Haeckel's Sea Squirts Wooden Puzzle - Need something to do to wile away the hours of your holiday break? Right now, all I want to do is assemble this gorgeous puzzle while drinking tea, nibbling cookies and sitting by a roaring fire.



Astier de Villatte's Conserve Vase - I have been lusting after this vase for the better part of the past decade and think it would look equally amazing stuffed with flowers in your living room as it would filled with all your worn wooden spoons on the kitchen counter. (I keep thinking I should DIY this with an empty tomato can and some white paint.)


Homemade gifts - for those of us more interested in making edible presents, here are my favorites from the archives:

Carolina Braunschweig's Apple Butter

Karen DeMasco's Cashew Brittle

Amy Scattergood's Harissa

Tartine's Panforte

And if you have a copy of My Berlin Kitchen (hey, another brilliant gift idea!), the Austrian Früchtebrot (fruit bread) from my friend Christine is also a great one for gifting (each batch makes four small loaves that keep well for a while). During the next few weeks, I'm going to attempt perfecting Stollen and making Bethmännchen, classic German marzipan confections. I'll keep you posted, of course!

Making Springerle


Last Friday night, I put Hugo to bed and tip-toed out of the bedroom as I usually do, hearing him settle into his crib for the night as I closed the door behind me. I walked carefully down the hallway and into the warm, golden-lit living room where my mother sat on the couch, surrounded by the last few weeks of New Yorker issues. I waited twenty minutes, mostly for my own benefit, since nary a peep was coming from the back room, then put on my shoes, took the car keys and walked out the front door. For the first time since Hugo's birth, I was going out on my own.

Over the past few months, I'd left Hugo a handful of times with my mother or mother-in-law during the day when I had to run an errand or meet a journalist to promote the book. But I was never gone longer than an hour or two and I'd never left him in the evening before. Dinners out or a movie night with Max were a distant, hazy memory. But earlier that week, my friend Joanie had called me to say that the annual Springerle evening, when she and our friend Ann get together to make the molded, anise-flavored cookies for Christmas, had been moved up by a few weeks because she needed to have hand surgery in December. Did I want to come? Around 7:00 pm on Friday? She'd already asked my mother if she wouldn't mind babysitting. (Max was in Kassel.) With only a tiny squiggle of adrenaline at the thought of leaving Hugo at bedtime, I said yes.


When I got to Joanie's, things were already in full swing. In the kitchen, Joanie's mother-in-law's East Prussian gingerbread dough, so thick with honey and flour that Dietrich, her husband, had to use a drill to mix it, ripened on a chair wedged next to the fridge. It would get rolled out and cut the following week. The big batch of the Springerle dough, fluffy with beaten eggs and sugar, was in the living room on the dining table. Between Joan, Ann and my mother, their collection of wooden Springerle molds is practically museum-worthy. The wooden molds were spread out all over the table as Joanie and Ann worked, armed with little brushes, mounds of flour for dusting and sharp-pointed knives to clean out crevices if some errant dough got stuck.


First, they selected a mold. A shell, perhaps, or a lamb carrying a flag, or a winged angel. Then they dusted a bit of flour into the clean mold. After that, they pinched off a lump of dough corresponding in size to the mold, rolled it into an egg-like shape and then dusted that liberally with flour, too. The lump of dough then was pushed firmly onto and into the mold and the edges were trimmed. All that was left was to very carefully peel the formed dough off the mold and lay it onto the anise-strewn cookie sheet. We did this over and over again until all the dough was gone and the cookie sheets were filled with tiny masterpieces.


The unbaked cookies have to rest overnight before being baked. The key to Springerle is not letting them brown in the oven, though they do develop little "feet", like French macarons, as they bake. When they're done, Springerle look like they've been formed out of clay. This might lead you to think that they don't taste very good, but they are my favorite of all the Christmas cookies, delicate and sweet, with that haunting anise flavor. They store well and although they do get very hard with time, all you need to do is slip a slice of apple into their tin and they'll remain slightly cakey instead of rock-hard. (Though rock-hard is actually how I like them, the better for dunking into tea.)


When we were finished, we cleaned off the table, putting all the molds into the empty bowl, sweeping up the leftover flour, scraping the molds clean and wiping down the table. Then Joanie heated up a pot of borscht while Dietrich and I set the table. We ate the hot soup, dotted with spoonfuls of sour yogurt, with slices of dark bread. It was warm and cozy. As always, at Joanie's house, I felt my most calm and comfortable. But the minutes were ticking by and I soon found myself getting antsy, checking my watch. I wanted to be home again, just down the hall from my sleeping baby. So I said my goodbyes, got back in the car and drove down the emptying highway towards Charlottenburg.

Back home, things were as I had left them: My mother on the couch, Hugo asleep in his little crib. But it felt like the world had just expanded somehow. A tiny glimmer of my old life was visible again. Or, no, I guess I'd just seen a tiny glimmer of my new life, the one where Hugo no longer needs me near him 24 hours a day, where I can once again leave the house at times without him, feeling both liberated and like I've left a piece of me behind. It was thrilling and a little bittersweet, too.

Want to make your own Springerle?

King Arthur Flour

Martha Stewart


Delia Smith's Pancakes with Lemon and Sugar


I woke up last weekend with a craving for pancakes. So I dutifully marched into the kitchen with Fannie Farmer stuck under my arm, whipped up a half-batch of serviceable buttermilk pancakes and tucked in, putting three aside for the next day, because it is my opinion that cold, day-old pancakes crisped up in a hot oven are one of life's great delights.

But as I ate my pancake breakfast, I had the dull realization that my craving was not being itched, as it were. The pancakes were fine, but they were so...solid, so thick and fluffy. For once, not in a good way. In fact, I thought I could hear a distinct clang deep in my belly with each swallow. It was rather odd.

This isn't what I wanted, I thought as I chewed. How much of my breakfast do I have to eat before I can throw in the towel? And then I realized what the problem was. What I had in front of me were classic American griddle cakes (as Marion Cunningham calls them). But what I'd really wanted were English pancakes! Thin and light, like crêpes, and topped with nothing but a squeeze of lemon juice and a scattering of sugar. That's what I wanted, right there. (Don't you hate realizing stuff like that just as you're finishing a meal?)

But I am nothing if not patient. (Snort.) The next day, I had to delay gratification once again to make short work of the leftover pancakes, but then! The day after that! I practically flew into the kitchen the moment I woke up.


Armed with Delia Smith's recipe, and with Hugo corralled and momentarily preoccupied by the insane joy of holding Freddy the Firefly IN HIS HANDS OMG!, I got to work:

Flour and salt in a little mound in a bowl, eggs whisked into the mound, followed by a bit of milk and water and a drizzle of melted butter. Delia says you should whisk this mixture manually into smoothness, but I dumped the lumpy mixture into my mini food processor and blitzed it instead. Much less work for a more even, perfect result and zero zero zero lumps in the thin, cream-like batter. (Plus, this way you don't have to sift the flour. Sneaky!)


I wiped some of the remaining melted butter into my skillet and poured in a few spoonfuls of the batter, tilted the pan around and cooked the pancake until spidery lines of caramelization formed on one side and I could flip it to cook the other side. In less than 15 minutes I had a stack of pancakes, all feathery-edged, on the plate.


At this point, Hugo had lost all patience with Freddie, his little bouncy chair and the outrage of not being held, so with Hugo in one arm and a half a lemon and the sugar jar within reach of the other, I finished up the prep work. Each pancake got a generous squeeze of lemon and then a sprinkling of sugar before getting folded up into quarters and plated neatly.

Then, and I admit this with only the slightest bit of shame, I ate every last one with my hands. Or hand, more accurately. Hugo could only look on with what I imagine was a mix of envy and slight shock.

Aggressively sour and crunchy with sugar, but still delicate and barely eggy and light, they were the very best pancakes I've had in a long while. They had the added benefit of being just exactly, precisely, what I wanted to eat. Oooh, don't you love it when that happens?

Delia Smith's Pancakes with Sugar and Lemon
Makes 12 thin pancakes

110 grams (4 ounces) all-purpose flour
A pinch of salt
2 eggs
200 milliliters (7 fluid ounces) milk mixed with 75 milliliters (3 fluid ounces) water
50 grams (2 ounces) unsalted butter
Granulated sugar
1 lemon

1. Put the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the center of the flour and break the eggs into it. Then begin whisking the eggs, incorporating flour from around the edge of the bowl. Gradually add small quantities of the milk and water mixture, still whisking. When all the liquid has been added, use a rubber spatula to scrape any flour from around the edge into the center, then pour the batter into a food processor and blitz until smooth and lump-free.

2. Melt the butter in a pan. Whisk 2 tablespoons of it into the batter. Use the rest to grease the pan, using a bit of paper towel to do so before you make each pancake.

3. Put the pan over high heat to get it very hot, then turn the heat down to medium and put 2 to 3 tablespoons (depending on your pan size) into the hot pan. As soon as the batter hits the hot pan, tip it around from side to side to get the base evenly coated with batter. It should take only half a minute or so to cook; you can lift the edge with a knife to see if it's tinged gold. Flip the pancake over - the other side will need a few seconds only - then simply slide it out of the pan onto a plate.

4. Stack the pancakes on a plate as you finish the rest, then sprinkle each pancake with freshly squeezed lemon juice and sugar, fold in half, then in half again to form triangles, or else simply roll them up. Serve sprinkled with a little more sugar and lemon juice.

Sam Sifton's Thanksgiving


A few weeks ago, I came home to a cardboard package waiting in the mail. Inside was Sam Sifton's slim book titled simply: Thanksgiving, and then, further down on the jacket, How to Cook it Well. Well, I thought, sliding the book onto the coffee table, who needs a whole book on this subject?

But later that evening, I opened the book and started to read. After all, it was just 125 pages long and I'd long been a fan of Sifton's writing. When, by the end of the intro, I had started to laugh out loud as I read - a book about how to prepare Thanksgiving dinner, people - I know he was onto something.

Sifton's manifesto is a total delight. It's bossy and funny and endlessly useful. I'd say it deserves a spot on every wedding registry or housewarming gift list. It covers everything: the turkey, yes, and the sides and dessert. But it also tells you what to do with turkey stock and how to use up the leftover food. It tells you what not to eat on Thanksgiving (salad! garlic! chocolate!) and how to avoid disaster if you decide to deep-fry your turkey (braver souls than I). It has RULES and IDEAS about things as varied as the music you'll be listening to when you start to cook to just how cheap the cookware you use can be. It is, at turns, soothing and stern, funny and very focused. I have not enjoyed myself as much reading a book on food in a very long time.

And as I read, I realized something crucial about this book. Yes, it's true that you might not need all the recipes Sifton proposes. You may already be devoted to your aunt's cranberry jelly, your father-in-law's stuffing or your grandmother's candied yams (although I cannot wait to try Sifton's Braised Brussels Sprouts with Buttered Bread Crumbs and Pecan Pie, not to mention his Turkey Gumbo the next day). But the far larger deal is this: bringing all the elements of a Thanksgiving feast together, not just food, but everything, from the prep work to the drinks you serve to the seating arrangements, is a daunting endeavor. I would dare say just the thought of it has scared plenty a would-be hostess or host off the idea altogether. But Sifton has set out to make you feel brave and capable. With this book, he holds your hand and cheers you on all the way. It's a total kitchen essential.


I sadly won't be cooking a Thanksgiving meal this year - we'll be in Kassel in a too-small kitchen - but these are my perennial Thanksgiving must-haves, in case your menu still needs fleshing out:

Hashed Brussels Sprouts

Peas with Onions and Mint

Roasted Squash Purée with Apple and Ginger

My stepmother's Cranberry Orange sauce

Butternut Squash Pie (but with this crust)

Felicity Cloake's Perfect Fried Egg


I love you all so much, I really do. Thank you, thank you, for your fantastic, encouraging comments. I'm feeling all energized and excited. Did you know that would happen? I didn't! Hooray!

Without further ado, let's get to the fried eggs. I don't know about you, but I'm never happy with my fried eggs. Either the bottom browns too quickly while the yolk is still raw (and, folks, I like a runny yolk), or I end up flipping the egg out of impatience and then the yolk is overcooked and the white is rubbery. Every time I would make a fried egg, I got irritated that the platonic ideal - a set, tender white and a runny yolk - eluded me. But, I confess, I didn't think beyond that. And since Max doesn't like fried eggs at all - he prefers scrambled - the easiest thing was simply to acquiesce to his preferences most of the time instead of figuring out what I was doing wrong.

Except, I really like fried eggs for breakfast or, better yet, on top of things like leftover herbed millet or stewed greens or even a plate of spaghetti. I was getting a little sick of all those scrambled eggs. And so when, on Twitter the other day, I clicked on this article by Felicity Cloake, it felt a little bit like kismet. Finally, finally!, someone was going to tell me how to do a fried egg right.

Felicity Cloake very diligently assembled and tested all the different methods for egg frying, from José Andres's to Delia Smith's, Cook's Illustrated's to Jamie Oliver's, Lucinda Scala Quinn's to David Rosengarten's, even Nathan Myrhvold's sort of wacky sous-vide version, before settling on the following method, which - I tested it yesterday for breakfast - really is perfect.

First, you melt a lump of butter in a pan over low heat. Then you slide in a cracked egg (she has you crack the egg into a bowl first, but that seemed too fussy for me). Then, and this is the crucial bit, you cover the pan with a lid (I used the lid of my pasta pot, which was just slightly smaller than my frying pan's circumference), leave the heat on low, set the timer for 3 to 3.5 minutes, depending on whether you like your yolk totally runny or sort of half-runny and when it rings, you remove the lid, slide the egg onto your plate, season it with salt and pepper and EAT it.

Fried egg perfection! The white is set, the edges just ever-so-slightly frilly and crisp, the yolk is still molten, but not raw. Ooh, I gobbled it up so quick, Hugo did a double take. It turns out that all these years, I'd had the heat turned up too high! And I was missing the lid. I'm so thrilled to have finally cracked the code. Here's to many fried eggs in our future. Hugo, for one, can't wait.


(Yes, he has blue eyes!! My child has blue eyes! He turned 5 months old this week.)

In totally unrelated news, I wanted to share the thrilling news that My Berlin Kitchen was chosen as one of's Best Books of 2012 in the Food Lit category! And the Goodreads Choice Awards are now in the semifinal round, so you can vote again, if you like. Thank you.

Here's to a lovely weekend with lots of fried eggs for breakfast for all of us. Here's to you lovely people and your encouragement. And here's to lots of new posts coming up. Wheee! I can't wait.

See you next week!

Taking Stock


Last week, I found a recipe for Turkish potatoes in a gorgeous English cookbook that I'd bought at TJ Maxx (known as TK Maxx here in Germany) in the spring. I wanted to tell you about finding that English cookbook (in Kassel, incidentally, where Max works during the week, and where Hugo and I spend half of our time these days), about our weird commuting life, about this little Turkish hole-in-the-wall in our Berlin neighborhood and what it means to me and, finally, about those potatoes, too. But I didn't.

On Saturday, we had our first dinner party since long before Hugo was born (the last one we had, I didn't even know I was pregnant yet, to give you an idea) and I made a hoisin-slathered meatloaf and mashed potatoes and sautéed spinach and everything was really good and we drank wine and laughed with our friends while Hugo slept in the dark bedroom and I thought about how wonderful it was to be a parent. I wanted to write about all that, and the meatloaf, too, and yet I didn't.


The other day, I cooked millet out of a friend's new cookbook and while it was very nice, that millet dish that evening, the leftovers were transcendental the next day, especially when topped with a fried egg (which I realized two days ago I've spent my life cooking incorrectly). I wanted to tell you about those things too, but once again, I didn't.


Tonight, I bought a fancy jar of mayonnaise and ate a bit of it dabbed on cold boiled potatoes and thought about boiling an egg for oeufs mayonnaise, but then decided against it and ate a fresh green salad instead and it was the perfect meal for just me, it really was, and as much as I wanted to write about that, I didn't.

The thing is, lovelies, I've been feeling a little hemmed in lately. My trusty model of newspaper recipes inspiring a post has been feeling stale to me and so I keep thinking I have nothing to write about, when the truth is that I have plenty of things to write about, just not in the way I usually do here. So instead I go quiet. The silly thing is that it's not like I want to write about something radically different, but I just keep finding myself needing a different approach to the subject matter we all love so much. The way I've been doing things feels too predictable right now and in need of some shaking up.

(And sometimes, I can't cook at all. I just sink into the couch when the baby's asleep and eat yogurt and chocolate and stare slack-jawed at the wall. That's when I wish I could just post something like this, of my dad reading Eric Carle to Hugo on the living room floor of Max's apartment in Kassel, and it'd be enough:


But I've been afraid of straying. I really have. I've been worrying that if I don't give you what I always do, you might not like it here as much. Is that silly? Or is there some truth to it? These aren't rhetorical questions, I'd really like to know. Would you be as interested if I wrote about my life first, with the food that accompanies it, instead of the other way around? Would you mind if my posts were sometimes shorter, much shorter, but there were more of them? I'm itching to blog as much as I used to, but with Hugo eating up almost all of my available time, I am finding that I cook totally differently these days and that my blog material, as it were, is changing. Or should I just do what I want and stop overthinking all of this?

Not to overstate things, but this here blog feels like my sacred space. And yet I do think it belongs almost as much to you as it does to me. So tell me what you think, readers. I'd really love to know.