la dolce vita a Venezia


Do you remember me mentioning my crush on Italy? Even if you don't, you're probably not surprised in the least. What kind of person with a love for food wouldn't have a crush on Italy? Well, me for a long time, I do admit, but that was because I had a long streak of bad luck finding good restaurants in Italy. Fortunately, I have now shed that unlucky streak.

It took me three visits to Rome and then I ate food so good that my mouth was saying I love you before my brain even registered that is how I felt. My trip to Alto Adige this spring had me even more convinced. Then a visit to Naples and the Amalfi Coast made me certain that it was time to move in together. And so now Italy and I are moving on to that next step. I'll be spending the next two months in Venice and now that I know how to find local restaurants and how to skip tourists spots, I can say with a lot of certainty that I'm looking forward to eating very well.

That said, recommendations never hurt. If Venice stole your heart and you want me to try to find it, let me know. If you know where to find the city's best risotto, do share the love. And if you know about any great truffle hunting outside of Venice, please share that love too!

I recently found out about a women's prison in Venice that sells fruit and vegetables from its garden on Thursday mornings. Is it strange that I think this is pretty much the greatest thing I've discovered in a while? Oh Venice, I'm totally ready for us to live together. 

A piu tardi.

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fluffier than i knew


I'm not usually someone who makes omelets at home. Nor am I one who is inclined to order them when I'm out for breakfast. It is not that I do not like omelets per say; it is just that I rather have a poached egg, or some French toast.

Mumbai started to get me to think about omelets without the distraction of either poached eggs or French toast. That is because Mumbai is home to a large Parsi community and Parsis love omelets and are particularly known for making very good ones. Referred to as poro, a Parsi style omelet typically is made with onion, cumin, fresh coriander, and fresh chilies. The inclusion of fresh coriander was enough to convince to order an omelet. However, what I found most interesting about the poro was that it is made with eggs and eggs only. And by that I mean that it does not have milk or cream. I think that there must be some great reason behind this. I had grown up thinking that an omelet was beaten eggs always with some milk or cream and here was an omelet sans milk. However, although I enjoyed poro more than a few times in Mumbai, it still was not enough to get me to make an omelet at home.

The turning point was Luisa Weiss' new memoir and cookbook: 'My Berlin Kitchen'. It includes a recipe for an incredibly fluffy omelet that is rolled and stuffed with jam and I figure that I should probably share a breakfast recipe that I've made four times in the past week. 

Luisa's recipe does call for one tablespoon of milk. I now realize that debates over whether one should add milk or skip it entirely distract from the secret of making a fluffy omelet: beating and lots of it. To make the omelet fluffy you separate the egg white from the yolk and beat the white until soft peaks form. This, my friends, is the secret and I now know that this is how most Parsi poro are also made. 



Some people go to the gym and others wake up and beat the hell out of an egg white. I represent the latter. In my defense, my electric whisk is sadly broken; however, I don't really mind because I rather beat an egg white than lift weights any day.
Luisa swears by serving the omelet with powdered sugar sprinkled on top and she would certainly disagree that here I am marking it here as optional. Sometimes I add it, sometimes I leave it out. It is really up to you and whether or not you're into powdered sugar (or even have some at home). For me the fluffiness of the eggs and the sweetness of the jam alone make this recipe a star.

The recipe serves 1, but I've doubled it a few times and it works just as well. 

Omelette Confiture

from 'My Berlin Kitchen' by Luisa Weiss

serves 1

ingredients

1 large organic egg
1 tbsp milk
pinch of salt
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp jam (I have been using fig, but Luisa recommends black or red currant jam)

a sprinkling of powdered sugar, for garnish (optional)

Separate the egg white from the yolk and put each into a separate small bowl. Add a pinch of salt to the egg white and beat until it just holds soft peaks. Beat the egg yolk and the milk together until well combined. Fold the beaten egg white into the egg yolk and milk mixture.

Over medium heat melt the butter in a small nonstick skillet. Pour the mixture into the pan and cook until the edges have set, about 3 minutes. If you are an experienced omelet maker, then shake the pan gently and flip the omelet. If you are like me - someone who wasn't too into omelets until learning how fluffy they can be and how delicious they taste with jam - then put a plate over the skillet to invert the omelet. Cook for an additional 3 minutes, or until the omelette is cooked through and set.

Once cooked, slide the omelette onto a plate. Dab the jam along the omelet's centre and then roll the omelet using a plastic spatula (or your hands). If you are into powdered sugar, sprinkle the sugar on top. Serve immediately.

Guten!

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on cooking + roasted applesauce


I've been thinking a lot about cooking recently. Not just food (which is a topic I am forever thinking about), but I've really been pondering how we cook, how we learn to cook and why we cook.

Cooking, obviously, encapsulates a lot- from how we feed ourselves to how we take care of others and from what traditions we've inherited to which ones we decide to create on our own. Cooking is also a way of communicating. It speaks several languages - from the specific to the general - and it is the best way that I know to make someone feel welcome or to take care of myself. 

I learned how to cook by watching and by doing. I never recall being afraid of cooking or even making a conscious decision to learn how. I just cooked. There was a lot of trial and error. I remember eating undercooked eggs that I should have probably not eaten. And I remember learning the hard way that a knife should always be sharp (I once spent what felt like a whole afternoon cutting a baguette for crostini with a knife as sharp as a spoon and had blisters as proof). I also have memories of making a French onion soup in high school and wearing ski goggles - my ski goggles from childhood that were decorated with dinosaurs nonetheless - in the kitchen as I had not yet learned tricks to prevent tears while chopping onions. My father came home and of course asked me if everything was okay.

For years I was a master at assembling. I assembled more often that I cooked at first. I assembled salads of scallops, mango and avocado. I assembled salads of pear, greens, walnuts, and blue cheese. For a long time I was more of a salad maker than a cook. And I think that it is fine. In fact, I think that it is even great. Some of those salads were pretty tasty and they introduced me to making food without having to light an oven, or separate an egg's white from its yolk.

It always surprised me when I met someone who told me that they couldn't cook. If cooking isn't assembling then I don't know what is. I think that it is a shame that people are intimidated by their kitchens. Cooking need not be complicated. In fact, cooking does not have to be much more than assembling. I believe in honest foods and simple foods. Sure, something decadent is usually delicious, but most days I will choose a bowl of fresh yogurt with chunks of apple and honey (another example of assembling) over a layered cake. Unfortunately, a lot of recipes make cooking more complicated than it actually is.

Tamar Adler writes poetically and philosophically about exactly this. A good introduction to her take on food is summarized by the title of an article she wrote: "A Recipe is not Always the Place to Begin". She argues that recipes are too dominant. Cookbooks are more popular than ever it seems, yet they are not intended to teach people how to cook. They are regulated by the concept of following a recipe, of buying certain ingredients and following specific steps. Recipes do not teach one how to gaze at the contents of a fridge with the eyes of a chef. They do not instruct one on what to do with that half of a red pepper, left-overs of strong piece of mountain cheese and a day old loaf of bread. Recipes often encourage us to go buy groceries instead of using the ones that we might have on hand. They also do not tell us that some of the best meals are the ones without recipes.

That said, I do love recipes. I read them like poetry and I find them to be sources of inspiration for endless meals and endless flavor combinations. However, I am not overly obedient when it comes to following them. And I don't think that you should be either because it is through tweaking and experimenting that we learn how to cook. And learning how to cook is much different than just following a recipe and making dinner. Inspired by Tamar Adler I am trying to use the contents of my fridge or pantry more and more as a starting point for my meals as opposed to the recipes that I collect.

In addition to these thoughts I cannot ignore what time of year it is. I've already taken my Dirndl out of the closet and have found new ribbon to lace it up with. I've been lifting weights in preparation for drinking a Mass of Oktoberfest bier. Just kidding. I'm not yet that much of a convert (although I do confess to owning a Dirndl). Of course I'm referring to fall, or apple season more specifically. When life gives you apples then you should of course make apple sauce. And road trips across Southern Germany give you heaps and heaps of apples this time of year.



To bring up this topic in a space that I often fill with recipes and tales of food is of course ironic. That said, I can't think of a more humble ingredient than an apple or something that is as comforting or as simple as apple sauce. I learned how to make apple sauce before I probably even understood that it could be called cooking. Boil some apples until they are soft and then mash them into a sauce. Sweeten it if you want. Add some other fruit if you care. Maybe some spices. Apple sauce doesn't need a recipe. In fact, making it will even teaching you the basics of purees. The concept is as simple as simple gets and the technique is one of the pillars of cooking. Boil and then mash. Boil and then mash. Boil and then mash pears instead of apples. Or pears with strawberries. Or apples with plums. The same applies to vegetables. Instead of mashed potatoes, how about mashed turnip or parsnip or carrot, or all three? Add some good olive oil and salt. Or butter, or cream, or milk. And herbs. Or spices. This is cooking and not following a recipe. 

I think that recipes are more effective at getting us to get out of old habits as opposed to teaching us to cook. With one recipe we can think about an ingredient in a new light. For years and years I boiled apples to make sauce with and then last year I read about roasted apple sauce. Roasted! Yes, I thought. It make so much sense. I normally roast vegetables as opposed to boiling them as roasting always yields more flavour. So it just seemed right to start roasting apples for sauce.

The roasted apple sauce that I made went quite a different route than the original recipe. I try to skip white sugar when I can. I think that apples and maple syrup belong together so I added a bit of maple syrup to sweeten the sauce. I also find that a squeeze of lemon juice always helps to enhance flavors so I added just a tad. I omitted the butter as I don't think apple sauce really needs it. That said, if you like spices in your apple sauce add them. If you like it really sweet then add more maple syrup. If you are a firm believer in butter in apple sauce then go for it. Just remember to cook and not just to follow instructions. 




Roasted Maple Apple Sauce 

inspired by Judy Rodger's Roasted Apple Sauce via the Wednesday Chef

yields about 3 cups

ingredients

3-4 pounds of crisp apples (about 9-10 medium apples)
2 tbsp lemon juice 
pinch of salt
1-3 tbsp maple syrup (this will depend on how sweet your apples are)

Preheat the oven to 375F / 190C / gas mark 5.

Peel, core and the cut the apples into chunks (about 8 chunks per apple) and place them in a baking dish. Taste the apples for sweetness and add maple syrup accordingly. Add the lemon juice, salt and toss well.

Roast the apples until slightly caramelized and soft, about 30-40 minutes and stir the apples once or twice in between.

Once the apples are cooked, remove them from the oven and let cool slightly. Puree them with a hand-blender (if you are going for smooth) or a potato masher or a fork (if you are going for chunky - my preference).

Transfer to a container and store covered in the fridge for up to a week.

Guten!

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postcards from hanji


An old roommate and a good friend opened up a Korean stationary store - Hanji - in Toronto nearly a year ago with her husband. Traditional Korean paper is made from mulberry and Hanji means the paper of Korea. I finally had a chance to visit when I was in Toronto this summer and I was beyond excited to see her and her new shop. 

As a very crafty/nerdy child I knew how to make paper from recycled paper scraps and how to make prints with potatoes and sponges. In other words, I am the ideal customer for shops selling handmade stationary. In addition to handmade paper, books and gifts, they have some pretty charming postcards. I am tempted to turn the Kimchi postcard into wallpaper and plaster my kitchen with it. I like it that much.

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pancakes that are blue


There is just something about these pancakes.

Pancakes make a regular appearance on weekends around here. Hell, they even make a regular appearance on weekdays. I've told you about classic buttermilk pancakes with walnuts and cinnamon and I've told you about sweet potato coconut pancakes. You would think that two recipes for pancakes would be enough. But not so. 

I had never actually had blue corn pancakes before Saturday morning, but then I had them again Sunday morning. I'm thinking about making them again tomorrow. In fact, I had never actually known that such a thing existed until I stumbled upon a post on L.A. in Bloom last week. I had one of those moments where you blank out because you get so lost in a series of thoughts about food that you forget that you are actually looking at a computer screen. Yeah, I get lost on the internet a lot.

When I read about blue corn pancakes I checked out Heather's recommendation for Santa Fe Culinaria. I then thought about ordering the mix to Germany. Obsessive? Perhaps. Okay, a lot. So I had to start reasoning with myself. I'll be in Texas in December and surely I'll be able to pick up some blue cornmeal there, I said to myself. After all, I had never actually had blue corn pancakes before so I was sheltered by my own inexperience. I surely did not know what I was missing (if anything) so I could certainly wait until December. A few days later I was scanning the shelves at Munich's Mexican grocery store. I am pretty well acquainted with those shelves. I know where to find the dried chiles. I know what days they sell fresh tortillas and I know where to find the Mexican beer. What I did not know is that they have started selling blue cornmeal. 

And was I ever missing out. The day after I brought a whole kilo of blue cornmeal home I made these pancakes. We ate them with juicy Pakistani mangoes and maple syrup. They tasted blue. They tasted better than I knew corn or blue or pancakes could taste. My partner doesn't get nearly as excited about food as I do. He enjoys it. He just would never look like he was a child experiencing Christmas for the first time just from seeing a bag of blue cornmeal. However, that spark came out when he was eating these. "They taste blue," he said. "Wow," he said, "these are special pancakes." And we eat a lot of pancakes around here, like I said, so that must give us some kind of authority to tell you to go make these now. Eat them with mango or a really ripe peach. Who cares if it is dinner time? 


Blue Corn Pancakes


serves 2-3

ingredients

3/4 cup blue cornmeal
1 tsp sea salt
1 tbsp sugar
1 cup boiling water
1/2 cup milk, plus 1-3 tbsp as needed
1 organic egg, beaten
2 tbsp butter, melted
3/4 cup unbleached all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder

butter or oil for greasing the pan

Mix together the blue cornmeal, salt and sugar in a medium bowl. Stir in the boiling water and mix until all of the ingredients are wet. Cover the bowl and let it sit for a few minutes.

In a smaller bowl mix together the milk, egg and melted butter and then add the milk mixture to the corn mixture.

Combine the baking powder and all purpose flour and then add to the corn mixture. Stir everything together until just combined. If the batter is quite stiff then add more milk 1 tbsp at a time. The batter should flow off a spoon both thickly and smoothly. 

Heat a frying pan over medium heat. Grease the pan with butter or oil. Spoon the batter into the pan - about 2 tbsp per pancake - and flip once the pancakes are covered in bubbles and then continue to cook them until golden.

Serve immediately with maple syrup and fresh mango or fresh peach. 

Guten!

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breakfast: the canadian edition


Before autumn's pears and apples make me forget all about summer's peaches and corn, I want to look back. I want to remember how hot Georgian Bay's waters were this year and how it felt to jump off the dock. I want to remember the smell of the barbecue in my parent's backyard as I waited for it to heat up so I could throw on some scallops and scapes. I want to remember how my ears felt during the three weeks I was in Canada; there was English everywhere. I want to remember how my hometown smells, what it sounds like and how it tastes. 

I also want to remember how I started my days. For three weeks I ate in backyards or on docks. I visited favourite haunts (such as Saving Grace, Lady Marmalade and Aunties and Uncles) and I tried new places (such as Hammersmith's and a My New Roots cooking class) in the city. 


I almost always ate outside. I shared meals with my grandparents and my aunt, with my parents and my uncle, with my sister and with my friends. I shared breakfast with the Globe and Mail newspaper. It all felt so comfortable. It all tasted so good. 
 

breakfast: the Canadian edition 


peaches, wild blueberries and hazelnuts

grilled mini portobello mushroom with a poached egg and feta cheese, freshly squeezed orange juice

quinoa, wild blueberries and maple syrup

breakfast tacos (with scrambled eggs, pinto beans, homemade chorizo and Canadian cheddar) at Aunties and Uncles  

lots of freshly squeezed orange juice (my grandfather, freshly squeezed orange juice's biggest fan, got me hooked) 

Vietnamese iced coffee at Saving Grace

peach and kale smoothie 

baked pepita and blackberry oatmeal - I was very lucky and got to test this recipe for the upcoming Green Kitchen Stories cookbook. If the rest of the book is as good as this one breakfast recipe (which I'm sure it will be), watch out as your life is going to get a lot more delicious. So good. I didn't think that I could love blackberries even more than I do, but I just might because of this recipe. 

broccolini, wild mushrooms and a poached egg


* * * *

I jumped on the bandwagon and am now on Instagram. Look for Sasha Gora. There is more breakfast goodness over there to be found.

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postcards from düsseldorf


 It was my first time to Nordrhein-Westfalen and the region's capital city seems to know exactly what I like. 

Between drinking Altbier (shh: don't tell Munich how much I like Altbier), strolling past the three dancing towers designed by Frank Gehry and attempting to imagine how Joseph Beuys looked walking in an out of the Kunstakademie both as a student and then as a professor, I was completely charmed. 

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