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Friday Link Love

Today is a holiday here and the city is quiet, quiet, quiet and feels totally empty. We have a visitor from Puglia in town, so there were sweet olives and fresh braids of mozzarella for lunch and ciambelline di Pasqua coated in thick sugar icing for dessert. It's certainly the coldest Easter I can remember, but I think I've stopped caring about all the snow. Or maybe I'm just sick of complaining about it! Ha.

In other news, Hugo continues his nap strike and we are starting to come to our wit's end. Thank goodness for grandparents who will drop everything to babysit so that we can go out and have dinner and at least two whole drinks tonight (at this place, which, Berliners, is delicious).

Photos above from my Instagram account - a sunset that hints of good weather to come, roasted chicken breast for dinners to come, a teeny, tiny, pale green egg from Hugo's great-grandparents in Bavaria, and the little man himself, moments after feasting on my computer cable. (Best mom ever!)


I've never been big on sweet potato fries, but these (cornmeal-crusted!) look like they will change my mind.

The shortest documentary to be nominated for an Oscar is about...making guacamole? Sort of. (Via My Little Expat Kitchen)

You should know about this salad I made twice this past week. It's perfect.

This book sounds right up our collective alleys, no?

Soup inspiration (the third-to-last particularly).

Such beautiful photography on Happyolks.

I was just sent a copy of this stunning cookbook and have not closed the covers since.

Malted. Buttermilk. Biscuits. (Tim, you complete me.)

And updated to add: Rifka tells us how to make homemade masala dosas! I am so excited.

Have a great weekend, folks!

My Lazy Spanakopita

Lazy spanakopita slice

Here's what I do when I see phyllo dough at the grocery store: I buy it. Then I go home and put it in the freezer and sigh contentedly. I'm weird like that.

It's kind of like having an ace card in your back pocket, though. If you've got frozen phyllo dough then you just need to remember to pick up two boxes of frozen spinach and a block of feta the next time you're out. The spinach can go languish in the freezer alongside the phyllo dough for a while and the feta is usually, if the package isn't opened, good for quite some time in the fridge, too.

Then one day! In the relatively distant future! (I'm talking weeks or months here, though, not years.) You will wake up and decide that you want spanakopita, or spinach pie, for lunch and you don't have to go out and buy a single thing to do so. Instant gratification is so, so good. So is having a stocked pantry. I take a perverse amount of pleasure in having a stocked pantry, in fact. You'd think I survived some sort of horrifying state of want in my formative years by the amount of glee I take in having everything on hand for any number of meals I might want to make. I'm not sure what that says about me.

Lazy spanakopita

But enough about that. What I like about my lazy spanakopita, besides the fact that it tastes very good, is that it's very healthy and will feed me for several days, or will feed me and my husband for a couple. I also like that it's quick and easy to make. Why, just the other day I managed to entertain and feed my child while also making this pie and both the child and the pie survived! If that is not ease, I don't know what is. And furthermore? Leftover slices can be eaten out of hand. You don't need a fork or a plate, which is, for those of you wrangling small children or feral animals, sort of brilliant. (Leftover spanakopita doesn't have any of the crispness of a freshly made spanakopita, but this also means less mess when you eat it the next day. Silver linings, folks. They're everywhere.)

I will not vouch for my spanakopita's authenticity. In fact, if you are Greek, please forgive me if I have committed some unspeakable act against your national dish. I love your country, I love your food, I love your beer. We honeymooned on some of your lovely islands! I was just very hungry. That's an acceptable defense, isn't it?

My Lazy Spanakopita
Makes one 9-inch pie

1 kilo (approximately 2 pounds) frozen spinach, defrosted
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, minced
200 grams  (7 ounces) Greek feta
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and pepper to taste (I use about 3/4 teaspoon of salt)
8 sheets phyllo dough (I like this brand or whatever yufka I can find at the Turkish grocer)
4 to 5 tablespoons neutral-tasting vegetable oil

1. Heat the oven to 180 C (350 F). Put the defrosted spinach in a colander and squeeze out as much water as you can, wringing the spinach out in handfuls like rags. Finely chop the wrung-out spinach. Put in a large bowl and set aside.

2. Heat the olive oil in a pan and add the minced onion. Sauté for around 8 minutes, until the onion is fragrant and golden. Scrape the onion into the bowl of spinach.

3. Crumble the feta into the bowl of spinach. Add the three eggs, the oregano and salt and pepper to taste. Then mix until all the ingredients are well-combined and the mass is relatively uniform. (You will have little pockets of feta cheese here and there.)

4. Lightly oil a 9-inch springform pan. Open the package of phyllo dough and lay a damp towel over the phyllo sheets. Working quickly, line the pan with one sheet of phyllo dough, then brush it lightly with some vegetable oil. Layer another sheet on top and oil that. Repeat with all the sheets of phyllo until the springform pan is fully lined. Scrape the spinach mixture into the phyllo-lined pan and smooth the top. Fold the phyllo dough over the top of the pie (see photo above). Brush a little oil on the tops of the phyllo dough sheets.

5. Put the pan in the oven and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, rotating halfway through. The filling will be set and the phyllo golden-brown and crackling when the pie is done. Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes before removing the ring of the pan. Cut into slices and serve immediately. If cooled completely and then wrapped carefully in plastic wrap and aluminum foil, the spanakopita can be frozen for a few months.

Evelyn Sharpe's French Chocolate Cake

French chocolate cake
Let's start this week off with dessert first, shall we? I don't think you should live a day longer without knowing about this chocolate cake.

On Saturday afternoon, we had friends over for lunch and after we'd finished a big pot of Moroccan stew and couscous I'd made, I brought out a cake, a chocolate cake that was almost flourless. Now, I'd set the heat too high when I'd first put the cake to bake in the oven and the top of the cake had burned ever-so-slightly before I'd realized my mistake and turned the temperature down. Also, I'd overwhipped the eggs by a second or two while preparing the batter and an ominous sentence in the headnote of the recipe gave me the sense that the cake was probably ruined already.

So I was feeling a little blue about the cake, if I'm honest. I had Max whip some cream and I told myself just to be cool as I put it down on the table. People were probably too full from lunch to have much dessert anyway.

But a few minutes later, as forks scraped through the first round of slices, the table went silent. The thing was, the cake was sort of incredible. It was rich but not heavy, powerful but not overwhelming. The texture was fabulous - velvety-soft, tasting much like the fudgiest brownie, but light and fluffy as a cake. (Incidentally, I don't think we could have eaten the cake without little dollops of unsweetened whipped cream, which provided a much-needed cooling effect. Proceed without at your own risk.)

My friend Philippe said that he thought it might be the best chocolate cake he had ever eaten. Philippe is half-French, so he knows from chocolate cakes. His wife Yvonne said it was definitely the best chocolate cake she'd ever eaten. Yvonne is a chocoholic, so she knows from chocolate cakes. Their son, Leo, 2 years old, had two whole slices and then practically licked his plate. (I would not have thought this cake would go over well with children, but there you have it, in addition to being French-friendly and chocoholic-friendly, this cake is also child-friendly.)

I found Evelyn Sharpe's French Chocolate Cake hiding out in the pages of The Essential New York Times Cookbook (from this article). It was apparently the first "flourless" chocolate cake the New York Times ever published. It's not really flourless, since it has a tablespoon of flour, but I can imagine you could substitute ground nuts without a problem. I chose it because it took hardly any time or effort (here's the whole process: melt chocolate and butter in a water bath, add egg yolks, plus a spoon of sugar and flour, then beat egg whites, fold into chocolate mixture, put in pan and bake, done).

Amanda Hesser stipulated using high-quality chocolate like Scharffen Berger, with somewhere between 65% and 70% cacao. But I ended up using the totally bog-standard dark chocolate bars you find in the baking aisles of German grocery stores that don't even have a brand-name - here's what they look like. They have only 55% cacao and the cake was inky-rich and dark and wonderful. I actually can't imagine using a higher-percentage cacao. (If you do go the higher-cacao route, then put some sugar in the accompanying whipped cream.)

French chocolate cake slice

Everyone followed Leo's lead and had another slice and before I knew it, all that was left was this one little sliver. I took a quick snap of it for you all before it disappeared, too.

And now I'm trying to figure out how to make up for lost time. French Chocolate Cake for Easter? For Hugo's first birthday? For our wedding anniversary? For, just because?

Evelyn Sharpe's French Chocolate Cake
Makes one 9-inch round cake

1 pound bittersweet chocolate (ca. 55% cacao)
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
Pinch of salt
1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
4 eggs, separated
Unsweetened whipped cream

1. Heat oven to 425 degrees. Line the base of an 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper.

2. Melt the chocolate gently in the top of a double boiler over hot, not boiling, water, or more speedily in the microwave.

3. Remove the melted chocolate from the heat and stir in the butter, flour and sugar. Beat the yolks lightly and whisk into the chocolate mixture gradually.

4. Beat the egg whites until they hold a definite shape but are not dry and fold into the chocolate mixture. The beaten egg whites should be folded smoothly, quickly and easily into the chocolate mixture. Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat; open the oven door, leaving it ajar, and allow the cake to cool in the oven.

5. The cake is best served a little warm with unsweetened whipped cream.

Friday Link Love


Spring! Wherefore art thou, spring?! Sigh. Inch-thick ice and snow is all that we've got here and a leaden gray sky that hangs there for what seems like time immemorial. But! It is Friday and my husband returns tonight! So there is much rejoicing here nevertheless. Tonight there will be Game of Thrones and homemade schnitzel and a daddy giving his little boy a bath and I just can't wait.

Here are some photos from Instagram this past week: Hugo's sweet little ears, the snow-covered view, a corner of my living room that makes me feel good, and lazy-(wo)man's apple strudel (apple chunks sauteed in butter, cinnamon and sugar, then rolled up in three sheets of leftover phyllo dough and baked at 350 until brown and crisp).


The New York Times has a new recipe column! I love it already.

I found the German edition of this cookbook at the thrift store yesterday for €0.99 and almost shouted out loud. (It's amazing.)

Chocolate pudding made for and by children.

A woman in the audience of my Berlin book reading was bemoaning the lack of pupusas in Berlin. Meanwhile, I'd never eaten one in my life. Now that I've seen this, though, that's going to be rectified right quick.

We're having friends over for a long, cozy Saturday lunch and I'm thinking of making a big pot of chili tonight so I don't have to cook tomorrow morning. This looks incredible, though I'm missing many of the chiles required. This one looks slightly easier and comes from Robb Walsh himself.

Pourable caramel icing? What?

Loving a new-to-me food blog called butter tree. Want to make everything she writes about, starting with the crullers and the rillettes.

Self magazine just published a sneak peek into Gwyneth Paltrow's new elimination diet cookbook, which sounds like it'd be deprivation station, but the recipes don't actually look all that different from the way many of us cook these days. I plan on trying this soon.

Homemade English muffins: intimidating or challenging?

And finally, always and forever, I heart NY. (Via Nat the Fat Rat)

Have a lovely weekend, folks!

Cooking for Hugo: Big and Little Dinner

Fusilli with veg for baby

There are thrilling developments here in the solid foods department, folks. Hugo can now eat entire fusilli all by himself (I was cutting them into little bite-size pieces until one day he reached out and grabbed a whole one, cramming it in his mouth before I could stop him) and I can slowly start making more and more meals for both the big and little people in this household instead of separate ones.

Continue reading "Cooking for Hugo: Big and Little Dinner" »

April Bloomfield's Porridge

April Bloomfield's  Porridge

Oatmeal. No big deal, right? No big thing? Just slap some oats and water in a pan, let 'em come to a boil, maybe salt them, then you're done? Well, yes. And no. Let's start with the yes.

Oatmeal at its plainest is just fine. We eat a lot of oatmeal prepared like that in this house. Max stirs mashed banana and maple syrup into his, Hugo gets puréed fruit on top of his, I like to top mine with a little pat of butter and maple syrup. We'll cook up a big pot for the three of us (always using three times as much water as oats, plus a healthy pinch of salt), then each bowl is customized to the eater's liking. I never gave the preparation much thought, though I did notice that depending on the brand of rolled oats used, our oatmeal turned out slightly creamier or more watery. Those were never happy mornings. I mean, watery oats. No bueno. On to the no, then.

After I schlepped home my tin of McCann's, I was noodling around online doing something else entirely (if you must know, checking out who won Food52's Piglet Award) when I came across this post by Rifka about April Bloomfield's porridge. You know April Bloomfield, yes? The chef behind everything delicious at The Spotted Pig and The Breslin and The John Dory Oyster Bar, which I have not yet had the pleasure of visiting?

Well, Rifka had just made the porridge from April's first cookbook (the winner of the Piglet!) and was bandying words like "luxurious" and "perfect" and "brilliant" about. Plus, she said, April's porridge was so good you could serve it to company, at which point I practically levitated off my chair with glee. Oatmeal for company? Sign me up, right now. The next morning, I made April's porridge for breakfast and I'm afraid I'll never look at regular oatmeal the same way again.

There are several things about this porridge that set it apart. First, it uses both rolled oats and steel-cut oats. The rolled oats sort of melt into the mixture, lending a certain gelatinous heft. The steel-cut oats retain a faint bite after cooking, giving the porridge wonderful texture. Second, it uses both milk and water, which results in a porridge that is silky and creamy and almost pudding-like. Third of all, it uses an enormous amount of salt. So enormous that I couldn't bring myself to do it. (I do salt the food that Hugo eats within reason, since I'm eating it too, but this felt like too much for him.) So take it from Rifka that all that salt in the porridge really is delicious and take it from me that even without the hefty dose, this porridge is delicious. I mean, it's beyond. It is super-duper special. Each bite was a delight.

I mean, can you believe I've just written five paragraphs about porridge? It's that good.

Next time (tomorrow?), I'm going to play with the ratio of milk to water, trying a little less milk and a little more water. I'll keep you posted...

April Bloomfield's Porridge
From A Girl and Her Pig

Serves 2

1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 teaspoons Maldon or other flaky sea salt; if using fine salt, use less – start at 3/4 teaspoon and adjust as needed
1/2 cup steel-cut oats
1/2 cup rolled (not quick-cooking) oats
Toppings (additional milk, brown sugar, maple syrup, flax seed or fresh fruit)

1. Bring milk, water and salt to a simmer in a medium pot over high heat, keeping an eye on it so that it doesn't boil over. When the mixture starts to simmer, add both oats, stir to combine and reduce the heat to medium. Cook the oats at a steady simmer, adjusting the heat as necessary and stirring occasionally. At 20 minutes, the steel-cut oats will be just cooked and the rolled oats will have melted into the porridge.

2. Taste for salt, add more if needed, then divide into two bowls and add the toppings to taste. Eat immediately.

American Grocery Store Souvenirs

American grocery souvenirs

Hugo and I flew to Boston last week to visit my father and stepmother. Hugo got spoiled with limitless attention and eager playmates and I got to leave the house without him, driving around suburban Boston, seeing a few friends, getting to eat a delightful tuna sandwich undisturbed in the car in a drugstore parking lot for lunch, browsing said drugstore afterwards for as long as I wanted all by my blissful self, and feeling like I could hear myself think again. Oh, it was a good vacation, alright.

On the way back to Berlin, I stuffed the suitcase with board books for the baby, a few new shirts for me for spring (elusive spring) and, of course, precious treasures from the grocery store. This time around, I had enough baking powder, vanilla extract and brown sugar waiting back in Berlin, so I got to focus on some new acquisitions.

Namely, steel-cut oats, dried Blenheim apricots, Better Than Bouillon vegetable base (Max is so addicted he sometimes threatens to eat it straight from the jar with a spoon), dukkah, because it looked interesting and because I think Heidi once said it tasted delicious, and two kinds of chile powder (ancho and chipotle).

How about you, fellow ex-pats? What do you buy when you're home for a visit? I don't just mean Americans far away from home - but ex-pats in general. What foodstuffs do you miss the most, whether you're Italian or German or Indonesian? What's the weirdest thing you've ever toted home again? What is the one thing everyone in your life knows to bring you when they come to visit?

If I had had more room in the suitcase, I would have also crammed in a bag of pecans, one of those big jugs of Grade B maple syrup, a package or two of Zip-Loc bags (yes, really), a box of Triscuits and one huge super-sized carton of Cheerios. Sigh.