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How to Roast Strawberries

Roasted strawberries

Fact #1: Strawberries are at the top of my list of favorite summer fruits.

Fact #2: Strawberry jam is at the bottom of my list of least favorite jams.

Fact #3: My favorite strawberry-monger was selling half-pound baskets of Saturday's strawberries yesterday, at the rock-bottom price of 1 euro per basket.

Fact #4: I am powerless in the face of cheap, delicious, local fruit.

Fact #5: I bought a pound of strawberries and though they were cheap, they were also at peak ripeness and needed to eaten or processed that same day.

Fact #6: While I probably could have eaten all the strawberries in the course of the day, I exercised exemplary restraint and ate only about a third. Standing up. With my fingers.

It didn't seem worth it to make jam out of the remaining strawberries. Especially since I don't particularly love strawberry jam. (Does anybody else think it tastes a little like Band-Aids? Just me?) Instead I took to the internet, which informed me that everyone and their mother has moved on to roasting their surplus strawberries, duh, and so I decided to follow suit.

I hulled the strawberries and cut them in half lengthwise, then dropped them in a large baking pan. I added about 1/4 cup of sugar (I'm guessing that I had about a 3/4 pound of strawberries) and one teaspoon of vanilla paste, something I acquired at a TJ Maxx in Newton Highlands on a recent trip to Boston and am still not entirely convinced by. Mixed up and then spread out evenly, the strawberries went into a 375 F oven (190 C) for an hour. I rotated the pan halfway through, but only sort of shook the strawberries a little instead of stirring them.


At the end, the scent of roasting strawberries had filled the house. The fruits had given off a gorgeous claret syrup, but had stayed intact - shrunken, but intact. I let them cool, much to my son's chagrin, and this morning we ate them spooned over bowls of cool, creamy yogurt. The flavor of the strawberries had concentrated and deepened, of course, but gone darker too, into a richer, almost savory place. And the texture of the strawberries was wonderful - with just the barest heft, the seeds still crunching pleasantly in my teeth, the flesh silky and tender. They made our bowls of breakfast yogurt taste like dessert.

When you make this (not "if"), you will probably want to adjust the amount of sugar you use. The strawberries I had were incredibly sweet and delicious on their own and more than 1/4 cup of sugar would have been too much. But you don't want to use too little sugar, either, because that strawberry syrup that collects at the bottom of the pan is pretty great stuff.

Fact #7: We need more strawberries.

Joanie's Picnic

Joanie's picnic

My friend Joanie celebrated her birthday a few weeks ago the way she does every year, gathering friends and family under a big oak tree in a park on the border between Berlin and Potsdam. It's a potluck thing and the spread each year boggles the mind. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that Joanie's picnic is my favorite meal of the year.

The grasses in the park reach to your knee in June and Glienicker Park is a big and sprawling place, so it always feels like we've got the place to ourselves. Joanie and Dietrich bring tarps and blankets to make an enormous tablecloth and as everyone arrives, the table fills up with all manners of delicious things. It grows so much, in fact, that I couldn't capture all the dishes this year despite holding my phone over my head.

I'll tell you, though: There were homemade bagels, two kinds of Turkish flatbreads and baguettes. There were two different potato salads and little skewers of pickled asparagus. There were baked phyllo packets filled with greens and feta. Bulgur and beet salad. A salad that Joanie makes every year with potatoes, tomatoes and Romano beans. Homemade baba ghanouj and hummus. Carrot, feta and harissa salad (Joanie's birthday request from me each year). Quinoa flavored with red pepper paste. Roasted vegetables. Meatballs. A platter of dried fruits stuffed with nuts and marzipan. Wedges of watermelon and fresh apricots. A baking sheet's worth of Linzer torte. Another baking sheet's worth of Austrian apricot cake (from yours truly, it'll be in the book). There was cheesecake decorated with orange peel. Brownies. Some sort of fresh strawberry cake topped with meringue flecked with mint leaves. There was wine and juice and water and iced tea. And instead of plastic cutlery, Joanie and Dietrich always bring metal flatware and reusable plastic cups that they've had as long as I've known them.

The picnic starts in the afternoon and if we're lucky, it's sunny out. If we're even luckier, it's warm and sunny out. The big kids play soccer or climb the oak tree or go for a walk through the woods until they get to the water for a swim. The little kids run around in the tall grass or slip and slide on the tarps. The rest of us pile our plates high with delicious things and find a cozy seat to talk and eat. It feels warm and happy and easy - the ineffable comfort of being around people you've known for decades.

With Hugo around now, we have to leave earlier than we used to. But the nicest thing is to just sit there for hours, high up in the park, feeling the sun sink slowly in the sky until it casts the dusky, fuzzy light that makes Berlin summer evenings so special. The sun filters through the tall grasses and the air grows a little cooler and then it's time to pack everything up again, shaking off the ants and the crumbs, shaking the drops of moisture out of the plastic cups, folding up the tarps and then walking back down through the park to the cars, along the dirt path, thinking that next year can't come soon enough.

Friday Links

We are gripped in the throes of World Cup fever around these parts. The German team are my guys, but it's been great to see Italy and the USA doing so well so far. (SO FAR, ragazzi.) Hugo even has his very own soccer ball now (he turned two last week and the ball was his birthday present from his German grandparents) and has taken to tucking it into bed with him and other hilarities.

Now I know it's been so long since I've done one of these, but there's just been so much good stuff around recently that I couldn't resist.

First of all, this article on thriving Paris bistros made me happy. So much good stuff to bookmark for future visits (make sure to read the comments, too).

This essay on Noma was an interesting read (via Sam Sifton).

Rachel wrote beautifully and evocatively about her visit to the Anna Tasca Lanza cooking school. I was supposed to have been on the trip, but Hugo got very sick at the last minute, foiling my plans. Regret, I have nothing but regret! (He was scary sick. But still!)

How to use up every last leafy green in your fridge.

Famous chefs from around the world flew to New York in April to cook a surprise birthday dinner for Wylie Dufresne. Best birthday ever? I think I would have cried.

Genius: How to salvage bad glazed doughnuts.

I still need to tell you about Diana Henry's incredible new book, A Change of Appetite. This gorgeously vibrant recipe from the book is just a hint of all the good things she's come up with.

Oh, and did you have a fancy wedding cake? I'm writing about Peggy Porschen (and attempting one of her cakes) for my column in the September issue of Harper's Bazaar Germany and now all I can think about are handmade fondant flowers and piped buttercream.

Have a great weekend, everyone. I'll be practicing rosettes!

How I Became a Cookbook Editor

One of the most frequently asked questions I get, whether it's in my inbox or at a reading or at a random intersection of social circles, is how I got into cookbook publishing. I've long promised to lay it all out in a post. But each time I wanted to get started, I got overwhelmed by the prospect of telling people a story that is not at all a blueprint for how you should get into publishing; it's just my story. And I got a little overwhelmed at how long it might take me. And so I postponed and postponed and postponed, feeling guilty the whole time, instead of taking some time and just doing it and putting in all the necessary disclaimers, like "don't take this as the gospel, it's all sort of random, like a lot of life!" and "book publishing may be dying; you should become an engineer instead!" and "no, seriously, back away from the liberal arts degree RIGHT NOW, for the love of Pete." Silly me.

So today, let's talk about how I got into cookbook publishing and my advice to you, should you want to attempt the same thing. This is going to be a longish post, so put on your reading glasses or whatever and get comfy.

Continue reading "How I Became a Cookbook Editor" »

Sara Forte's Soba Bowls with Poached Salmon

Soba bowls with salmon

I am chicken with no head, hear me roar. The washing machine just flooded the bathroom, I haven't started packing yet for a flight to London that leaves less than three hours from now and I still need to do about 67 things including mopping the bathroom between now and then, so forgive me for throwing this recipe at you so unceremoniously, but it's been sitting in my drafts folder for too long already and I just couldn't make it wait any longer.

Now: Since I discovered these soba bowls with poached salmon (from Sara's The Sprouted Kitchen cookbook), I have made them more times than I can count and if a week goes by without them on the cooking plan, Max starts to get very itchy and plaintive. This is high praise indeed; I find it difficult to make the same recipes over and over again when there are so many other delicious things to discover. Don't you? But these lovely things are are silly easy, fantastically delicious, and even virtuous, if that's your thing, and I'm happy to make them every week. Oooh, I love them.

The preparation seems a little fussy at first. You need three different cooking vessels: a pot for poaching the salmon, a pot for the soba noodles and a roasting pan for the broccoli. You also need a serving bowl that you mix the dressing in. But as long as you have a loving (or electric) dishwasher, this shouldn't dissuade you, because all these little steps are worth the trouble. And if you are even just mildly interested in Asian cooking, you probably have all the ingredients required. In fact, for us, the salmon is the most difficult thing on the ingredient list to source. (Sara's original recipe has you use green tea for the poaching liquid, but I skip that step because I never have any green tea bags lying around the house and I'm too cheap to use my fancy loose green tea for this.)

My favorite part is spangling the top of each serving plate with toasted sesame seeds from a little plastic container I bought a few months ago from a Japanese shop. It sort of feels like one of those old-school green Parmesan cans, but instead of a questionable cheese product, out come toasted sesame seeds with a flick of the wrist. Happiness!

And that's that! Off I go.

Sara Forte's Soba Bowls with Poached Salmon
From The Sprouted Kitchen
Serves 4

3 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
2 tablespoons tahini
2 tablespoons agave nectar
Grated zest and juice of 1 lime
3 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
2-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
1 bunch broccoli
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
Pinch of sea salt
1 tablespoon peppercorns
½ cup mirin or dry white wine
1¼ pound (preferably wild) salmon fillet
1 (9.5-ounce) package soba noodles
4 green onions, white and green parts, thinly sliced on the diagonal
½ cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
¼ cup white or black sesame seeds

1. Preheat the oven to 425°F.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together the sesame oil, tahini, agave nectar, lime zest and juice, tamari, and grated ginger until smooth. Set aside.

3. Cut the broccoli into small florets, including some of the stems. Toss the broccoli in a bowl with the olive oil, garlic, and salt and then spread out on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast for 15 minutes, then remove from the oven.

4. In a saucepan, bring 1 cup water to a gentle simmer. Add the peppercorns and mirin to the water. Gently slide in the salmon, skin side down. Cover and cook until the salmon is just barely cooked in the middle, 8 to 10 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fillet. If in doubt, it’s better to undercook the salmon a bit than overcook it. Remove the salmon to a plate, loosely cover with foil and set aside.

5. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the soba noodles according to package instructions or until al dente.

6. While the noodles cook, chop the roasted broccoli. Drain the noodles. In a large bowl, toss together the warm noodles, broccoli, dressing, green onions, and half the cilantro. Divide the noodles among four bowls, top with a portion of the salmon, and sprinkle the remaining cilantro and the sesame seeds on top. Serve immediately.