bitter foods for a sweet season: belgian endives bathed in butter

Christmas looks like it may be grey this year instead of white, but that doesn't make this season any less sweet. 
In the spirit of relaxing and celebrating, I'm taking off for a couple of week. I'll be ringing in 2015 in Myanmar, a country I know little about and a cuisine that I'm very excited to become acquainted with. 

But before I hit the road, I'll be eating rich roasts, fancy cakes, and indulging in the decadence that is Christmas. I'll also be bathing endives in butter, which I think that you should do too. There is nothing like a little bit of bitter to complement all of the season's sweets.
At the end of November Molly wrote about Belgian Endives Bathed in Butter, which I've made four times since. It sounds and tastes decadent and turns out to be the best way I now know to cook endives. 
 One time I ate the endives and their juices with quinoa. Another time with a fried egg. Another time I ate the leftovers straight out of the pan, using bread to scoop up as much as buttery, lemony, bitter liquid as possible. 
The recipe comes from Jennifer McLagan's Bitter: A Taste of the World's Most Dangerous Flavor. She explains that since endives are mostly water themselves they should never be cooked in water. Instead they should be cooked in fat, lots of it. This is suiting since she is also the author of the cookbook Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient
The recipe uses lots of butter and just a little bit of fresh lemon juice to brighten things up. 
One of the times I made it I served it with duck confit and yellow beets. The fact that the duck was from my local butcher, pink on the inside and had crisp skin and that the endives were still the most delicious thing on the plate says everything. 
Think of this as a formula, and not a recipe. I've mostly halved the amount and it works just fine, although it yields less juice. In a pinch, I've also increased the heat of the oven so that it would be ready in less than two hours and that worked too. The recipe says to use an ovenproof skillet and to cook the endives in said skillet both on the stove top and then in the oven. I've done that, but I've also transferred them to a baking dish (as pictured) instead, which also works.

In other words if you follow this formula, you'll be well rewarded and pleased: Belgian endives + lots of butter + good salt + a little lemon juice + cooking them shortly in a skillet of hot butter and then roasting them slowly in the oven. 

Belgian Endives Bathed in Butter
from 'Bitter: A Taste of the World's Most Dangerous Flavor' by Jennifer McLagan, via Orangette 
yields 4 servings
800 grams (1 3/4 pounds) Belgian endives (anywhere from 3-8 endives, depending on their size)
100 grams (7 tbsp) unsalted butter
coarse sea salt
2-3 tbsp fresh lemon juice juice
black pepper
Preheat oven to 300F / 150 C / gas mark 2.
Use a damp cloth to wipe the endives. Discard any leaves that have gone bad and, if needed, trim the stem ends. 
Place an ovenproof skillet (one that has a lid) over low heat and add the butter. If you don't have a skillet with a lid or prefer to use a baking dish for when the endives go in the oven, warm the baking dish in the oven as it heat. Proceed with a regular skillet.
Once the butter has melted, increase the heat to medium and let the butter cook until it smells nutty and the milk solids have started to brown. While it cooks, stir it from time to time, making sure to scrape the bottom of the pan.
Add the whole endives to the pan. Season them with salt and turn them with tongs to coat them in butter. Cook until they take on some color on all sides. If you are using the skillet in the oven, remove the skillet from the heat and pour in the lemon juice. Cover with a lid and place in the oven for 1 hour.
If you are using a baking dish instead, remove the heated dish from the oven and use the tongs to transfer the endives to the pan. Pour in the liquids from the skillet and add the lemon juice. Cover with a lid or aluminum foil and place in the oven for 1 hour. 
After an hour, remove the pan from the oven and carefully flip the endives. Cover it again and return to the oven. Cook for an additional 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until the endives are very soft and limp.
Before serving, taste the pan juices and add more lemon juice if you please. Serve hot with salt and lots of freshly ground pepper. Any leftovers can be kept in the fridge for a few days.
* * * * *
Illustration by Kera Till for Prantl
May your holidays be delicious and bright!


apple and cheddar: from snack to scone

My all-time favourite snack hasn't changed since I was about 4 or 5 years old: slices of apple topped with pieces of cheddar cheese. Some of the specifics have evolved - like white cheddar instead of orange and the older the better - but no other snack has ever threatened to dethrone it.

As much as I love the cheeses of France and the German Alps, a good aged cheddar will forever be my number one. You can take the gal out of Canada, but you can't take Canada out of the gal. 

Cheddar with a tart and crispy apple is as good as it gets in my book. This combination, however, can be dressed up to be a bit more interesting and sophisticated than the afternoon snack plate of a toddler. It can be the basis of a pie, a salad, and scones.

A couple of Decembers ago I wrote about ginger cookies and how I think that they should be eaten with blue cheese. Take this as proof that come cookie season, I'm craving cheese. Christmas baking is swell, but all the sugar and spice makes me want heartier baking, baking that is a bit more savoury.

These apple and cheddar scones nail both sweet and savoury. With a little extra sugar on top, the first taste is crunchy and sweet. Then you reach the bottom, which tastes like a frico. In other words, it is hard to just eat one.

You want the bottoms a little dark, not burnt, but dark. Like all scones, these taste best the day they are baked, but no need to worry: they won't be sticking around long.

I have a rather old fashioned kitchen, which means few appliances, so I made these by hand. If you have a food processor, certainly put it to work instead. 

The recipe calls for cutting the apples into small pieces once they've been cooked, but I kept them as chunks. It further plays up the contrasts of these scones: sweet and savoury, finely grated cheese, coarse chunks of apple. 

Apple and Cheddar Scones

adapted from Smitten Kitchen's take on 'The Perfect Finish'

makes 6-8 scones


3 firm tart apples (425 grams or a bit less than 1 pound)
195 grams (1 1/2 cups) all purpose flour
55 grams (1/4 cup) unrefined sugar, plus 2 tbsp for sprinkling
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
85 grams (6 tbsp) unsalted butter, chilled
65 grams (1/2 cup) white cheddar cheese, grated
60 ml (1/2 cup) heavy cream
1 egg

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

Peel and core the apples and cut each apple into 12 slices. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and evenly spread out the slices. 

Bake the apples in the oven for about 20 minutes, or until they take on some colour and feel dry to the touch. Remove and set aside to cool, but keep the oven on.

While the apples bake, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a medium sized bowl. Cut the butter into small cubes and add to the flour mixture, either with your hands or by mixing/cutting it with two butter knives. Once the butter is the size of peas, use a spoon to mix in the sugar, cheddar and cream. Add the apple pieces and give it a good stir until it all comes together, but do not overmix.

Flour a clean counter top or large cutting board, and dump out the dough onto its surface. Flour your hands and pat or roll the dough into a circle that is about 3 cm (1 1/4) inches thick. Cut the circle into six to eight wedges, depending on how large you want your scones (I made eight).

Line the baking sheet with a new sheet of parchment paper and transfer the scones to the sheet, leaving space between them. 

In a small bowl, beat the egg with a pinch of salt. Brush the top of each scone with the egg mix. Sprinkle the two tbsp of sugar over all of the scones.

Bake until the scones are golden and firm, about 30 minutes.

Remove from the oven and use a spatula to transfer them to a wire rack to cool. Cool for about 10 minutes and then dig in.



a break from cinnamon: pomelo salad

The first Advent is now behind us and I'm doing a good job at celebrating the season by eating Lebkuchen at least once a day. My apartment is also accented with notes of red and green and so far I don't mind that the evenings come so early, as I've been lighting candle after candle. 

But I'm also taking breaks from all things cinnamon scented to celebrate the arrival of citrus season, specifically the biggest citrus fruit of all: pomelo.

Munich has excellent gelato and Lebkuchen, but good Asian food can be a little harder to come by. My recent interested in Chinese home cooking is one part fueled by how easy and fast it is (not to mention delicious), and another part fueled by how I much I miss Chinese food in Toronto.

But thank goodness for exceptions. Of all places, Munich happens to have a gem of a Thai restaurant. Tucked beside a casino and about the size of a standard North American bed, it gives new meaning to the expression hole in the wall. Seriously, I think that I've slept on mattresses larger than this restaurant, but clearly size does not matter. 

Manam it is called and I call it the best Thai food in the city. The women who run the kitchen aren't afraid of making their German customers sweat. The food is spicy, flavourful and full of soul. 

One of my favourites on the menu is the pomelo salad: Yam Som O. It is made with lemon grass, chili, shredded coconut that has been toasted, salty peanuts and fresh coriander. It is a nice light lunch for one, or a welcome side dish to share with a curry.

As much as I love Manam, I'm not always up for biking to the other side of the river and waiting in line to sit on a tiny plastic stool (although I admit that I am more often that not). Also, they close at 9pm, so I don't always have the choice. 

So inspired by Manam, I've started making pomelo salad myself. 

Pomelos range in colour, sometimes with pink flesh and other times with yellow. No matter the colour, it makes for a good salad. The possibilities are vast. Add some shrimp if you want a heartier salad. Add more herbs if you want more green. Use a shallot instead of red onion. Make it spicy, or keep it mild. 

Pomelo Salad

serves 2 as a main and 4-5 as a side dish


1 ripe pomelo, peeled and segmented
1/4 cup fresh mint, roughly chopped
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
1 stalk lemongrass, thinly sliced
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
juice of 1 lime
4 tbsp fish sauce 
1 Thai chili, seeded if desired and finely chopped
2 tbsp brown or coconut sugar
1 tsp chili sauce, such as Sriracha
1/2 cup coconut flakes, toasted
1/2 cup peanuts

 In a large bowl, toss together the pomelo segments, fresh mint, cilantro, lemongrass and red onion. 

In a small bowl, whisk together the lime juice, fish sauce, chili, sugar and chili sauce. Whisk well until the sugar dissolves and then give it a taste, adjusting the seasoning as necessary.

Pour the dressing over the pomelo and toss well to mix. Top with peanuts and coconut flakes and serve right away.



a short season: cranberry pear tart

Cranberry season is short. And when they are being imported from across an ocean, it is even shorter. 

Here in Germany the season isn't as strongly on my radar as when I was living in Canada. So when I see fresh cranberries for sale at markets in Munich each year, it feels like a surprise. A good one.  And I buy some, regardless of what I was planning to make.

This bright red berry helps to brighten up a month that too often feels grey.
And this cranberry pear tart, sweetened with maple syrup, does exactly that. There isn't much this tart wouldn't brighten up. Breakfast, dessert, that sweet snack you need to make it through the last hour of the work day? Name it and it's got you covered.

The crust is crumbly, the cranberries bring just the right amount of sour and the pear is sweet and a tad crunchy. 

I first made this tart a couple of years ago and remember wanting to eat it at all of the times mentioned above and then some. I made it again yesterday and it probably won't be around to see tomorrow. It's that good.

I changed the recipe a little bit, using maple syrup instead of honey and brown rice syrup. I'm Canadian - I just can't help myself. Besides, maple syrup and cranberries have the same roots. They make sense together. Sorry brown rice syrup. 

Coconut oil costs a small fortune in Germany, so instead of using it both for the crust and the filling I used olive oil for the crust. Use one or the other or both.

Cranberry Pear Tart

serves 8-10


For the Crust

1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup walnuts
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
75 g flour

For the Filling

2 pears, thinly sliced
2 and1/3 cups (250 g) fresh cranberries 
1/2 cup maple syrup
2 tbsp chia seeds
6 tbsp water
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cardamom
zest of 1 organic lemon

Preheat oven to 350 F / 190 C / gas mark 4.

In a food processor, pulse together all of the ingredients for the crust until well mixed.

With either olive oil or coconut oil, grease a tart pan (about 9") and then press the crust along the bottom of the pan with the back of spoon. Make sure that it is even. 

Layer the pear slices over the crust.

For the filling, begin by mixing the chia seeds with the water. Set aside until it forms a gel. In the meantime, mix the cranberries with the remaining ingredients, stirring to make sure everything is well combined. Add the chia seed gel and fold to mix. Pour the cranberry filling on top of the pear and crust layer, making sure to spread it evenly.

Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until the cranberries shrivel up and the crust looks firm.

Allow to cool completely before removing from the tart pan.

Serve with ice cream, a dollop of creme fraiche or yogurt.

* * * * *

The winter issue of Gather is now out and, just like this tart, it knows a thing or two about magic. That's right - this issue is all about alchemy, magical herbs, fairy tales and potions. I've shared a magic trick of my Babcai's: getting unloved ingredients to perform disappearing acts at the dinner table. 

With the holidays fast approaching, it is good to have a reminder to not let your eyes be bigger than your stomach. Rub & Stub, a restaurant in Copenhagen, is exactly that reminder with their inspiring efforts to decrease food waste. I've written about them over at MUNCHIES


remembering + roasted grapes

Yesterday was Remembrance Day in Canada. When I lived there, I used to always buy a poppy and wear it on the left breast of my autumn coat. I wore mine with extra pride, since I actually called my grandfather, a veteran, Poppy. 

I remember how the red of the poppies would always pop against autumn's rusty colours. I remember the drama of November's leaves being the background of the outdoor ceremony in Ottawa that I sometimes watched on TV. I remember veterans selling poppies, in exchange for a small donation, their boots buried beneath fall's leaves.

Occasionally I remember the red of the poppy looking so bright against the whiteness of the early snow. 

My grandfather kept all of his papers from when he served in the Canadian Army and, years later, my Nana compiled them into a photo album. That album is now in my living room in Munich. It is charming and curious and full of handsome black and white photographs of my relatives and specific instructions about writing letters (that says things such as "Wisecracks and jokes. Sterilized." can be included in NEWS and E. - THE ENDING "Never end without a "God bless You."). 

The paper that I'm drawn to most falls between yellow and brown in the colour spectrum. It has three columns: German, Phonetic and English and includes words such as Angetreten - Fall in!, Marsch - Quick March, and Nicht Schiessen - Don't Shoot.  

As a child I was always fascinated with this album. I flipped through its pages and it brought all of my grandfather's stories to life. I never paid much attention to this one piece of paper with German translations, until I was flipping through it as an adult and realized that I could now read the German. I also realized that based on the phonetic description, this was a north German accent being deciphered (Nickt Sheeson). 

Remembering is important. But it is also complicated and sometimes challenging. It changes with your geography, your politics.  

Roasted grapes, on the other hand, are simple, uncomplicated. And thank goodness there are simple things to provide a break from the complexity of politics.

Roasted grapes are delicious wherever you are, whatever your politics. They are ridiculously easy to make and versatile. Roast them with olive oil, ghee, or coconut oil. Roast them until they are just hot, or keep them in the oven until they are about to burst.

Eat them hot in a bowl of yogurt with a sprinkle of sea salt. Throw them into salads, or add them, like I have here, to rice pilaf.

Rice Pilaf with Roasted Grapes 

serves 3-4 


1 cup brown basmati rice, soaked overnight or for a couple of hours in water
 1 tbsp of ghee
1 large yellow onion, coarsely chopped
zest of 1 small organic clementine or orange
2 cardamom pods
1 cinnamon stick
pinch of saffron
1/4 cup fresh parsley, coarsely chopped
fresh lemon juice, to serve
salt, to taste

350 g grapes (3/4 of a pound), preferably seedless
a knob of ghee or coconut oil

Rinse the rice and then soak it in water for a couple of hours or overnight. Rinse well again and then drain. Set aside. 

In a medium to large pot over medium heat, melt 1 tbsp of ghee. Add the onion, a pinch of salt and then cook until brown, about 20 minutes. Stir occasionally to make sure that the onion does not burn. Once the onion has browned, remove about half of it from the pot and set aside. 

While the onion is browning, give the clementine a good wash and then slice its rind into thick strips, trying to not get any of the white pith. Set aside.

Put the saffron into a small cup and add 2 tbsp of hot water. This will make a "saffron tea" to add later to the rice. 

Keep the rest of the onion in the pot over medium heat and add the orange zest, cardamom pods and cinnamon. Saute until fragrant. Then add the rice and give it a good stir, so that it is thoroughly coated with the ghee and onion. Add two cups of water and the saffron tea. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Simmer until the water has been absorbed and the rice is cooked, about 40 minutes.

While the rice cooks, preheat the oven to 400 F / 200 C / gas mark 6. Line a baking sheet with baking paper and spread the grapes out on the baking sheet. Melt the ghee and then drizzle the grapes with it and a pinch of salt. Roast in the oven for about 15 minutes, until the grapes are soft and shriveled and about to burst. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly. 

Once the rice has finished cooking, remove it from the heat and season to taste with salt. Add the chopped parsley, roasted grapes, the rest of the browned onions and a couple of squeezes of fresh lemon juice to taste. Serve warm.


* * * * *
I'm thrilled to announce that I'm now contributing to MUNCHIES, Vice's food website. You can read my first article here.  


"send the rice down"

When I got home from Moscow, I found myself craving spicy food. The weather in Munich felt tropical compared to the Russian capital, and yet this craving for chilies did not wane. 

Specifically I wanted Chinese food. I guess I was missing Toronto's several China Towns that spoiled me with steamed fish made Cantonese style, mapo tofu, and Chinese pancakes.

Although I never made it to a Chinese restaurant in Moscow (I was too busy trying pre-revolution Russian cuisine and drinking tea), I got the feeling that Moscow must have good Chinese food.

Upon my return I bought Fuchsia Dunlop's Every Grain of Rice, which celebrates simple Chinese home cooking. It is a charming and approachable book that I plan to spend a lot of time with this winter. The first recipe I made was Sichuanese "Send-the-rice-down" Chopped Celery with Minced Beef, which has already been lovingly praised over on the Wednesday Chef.

I've made it twice in the past week and, if I wasn't sick and far too lazy to dress myself let alone walk over to the butcher shop, I'd be tempted to make this for dinner tonight. Both times I've served it with black rice, which adds a little extra drama to the plate, but of course brown or white rice would be fine.

If you like, you can add a splash of light soy sauce to taste. I skipped this as I thought the flavour of the dish was so perfect, so complete, that it didn't need anything else.

 Chopping the celery is the only part of this recipe that requires a bit of time. Other than that, this meal is weeknight eating at its best. I had to make two new additions to my pantry: Sichuan chili bean paste and Chinkiang vinegar. But I have a whole book to cook my way through and a whole winter to spice up, so they'll surely be put to frequent use.

Fuchsia writes that this dish is typical of Sichuanese home cooking because it has a strong flavour and is a perfect companion to a bowl of rice, hence "sending the rice down". 

 Sichuanese  "Send-the-rice-down" Chopped Celery with Minced Beef 

adapted from 'Every Grain of Rice' by Fuchsia Dunlop

serves 2 as a main

300g celery
3 tbsp cooking oil, such as peanut
100g minced beef
1 1/2 tbsp Sichuan chili bean paste
1 1/2 tbsp ginger, minced
1 tsp Chinkiang vinegar 

Cut each celery stick lengthways and then chop into thin strips. You want the celery to be finely chopped.

While you prepare the celery, bring a pot of water to a boil. Once it reaches a boil, add the celery and blanch it for about 30 seconds and then drain immediately. You don't want to cook the celery, you just want to take away its rawness.

In a wok or frying pan, heat the oil over high heat. Add the minced beef and with a wooden spoon or wok scoop or ladle, break up the strands. Stir-fry the meat until it is fragrant and cooked. Then add the chili bean paste. Continue to give it a good stir until the oil has reddened and the bean paste is fragrant. Then add the minced ginger and fry it for a few moments until it is fragrant. 

Finally add the celery and let the whole dish cook until the celery is piping hot. Add a little soy sauce now, if you wish. Stir in the Chinkiang vinegar and serve right away with rice. 


* * * * *

In other news, last week a text that I had written about my grandfather was published in the Globe and Mail's Lives Lived section. It is a real honour to share his life in Canada's national newspaper and if you are interested in reading it, you can find it here.  


postcards from moscow

Don't be tempted to see these black and white postcards as representative of the colour palette of Moscow. The Russian capital was anything but shades of Soviet grey. So although these postcards are the best ones I found, they are misleading.

Moscow was full of pastel greens and pale yellows. Its temperatures were freezing (down to -8C), but its sky was sunny and bright. And the food was just as bright. More on that soon, but first I'll be back with a recipe that I could cook every night. 


edible souvenirs: the canada edition

Just as I'm packing my suitcase to fly to Moscow, a city that I've never been to and am very eager to get to know, I realized that it was just a few weeks ago that I was unpacking my suitcase after visiting a city that I know very well.

We all know that when you travel to Italy you bring home espresso, pecorino and good olive oil. When you travel to France you pick up raw butter, creamy cheese and pastries. And, if I wasn't already living in Germany, I would bring home a loaf of dark sourdough bread, Lebkuchen and Quark. But what culinary souvenirs does one bring back from Canada, other than maple syrup of course? 

Well let's start with mustard. It might seem unnecessary and even silly to lug mustard all the way from Canada to Germany, but Kozlik's is so good that I would even risk paying (and probably pay) the overweight baggage fee for this mustard. The maple mustard is my personal favourite, but they also produce other sexy flavours, such as balsamic fig & dates, and lime and honey. This family-run, Toronto-based company has been making mustard since 1948. 

Another Toronto gem is Delight, a chocolate shop based in the Junction. Once again, it might seem counter-intuitive to bring chocolate back to Europe, but have you ever seen a Quebec blue cheese (or any blue cheese) chocolate truffle in Europe? Exactly. 

I filled the rest of my suitcase with sea salt from Vancouver Island, Raincoast Crisps - the best crackers I know, pickled fiddleheads, ginger syrup for making lots of ginger ale and, of course, more maple syrup.


plums, effort and giving thanks

Today is Canadian Thanksgiving. Although I do have pumpkin roasting in my oven, I want to talk about plums. The first of the pumpkins may be showing off at markets these days, but I'm still trying to get my fill of the last of the plums. 

I made a simple plum cake last week and I hope to make it again this week. It takes only a couple of minutes to mix everything together and with Italian prune plums and olive oil instead of butter, it is incredibly moist, but still with a little bit of crunch. It is the type of cake that you are tempted to eat for breakfast and could easily commit to as your number one afternoon pick-me-up.

I listened to the instructions and managed to resist cutting into it until the day after I had baked it. Because I miraculously didn't sneak a slice the day of, I cannot say how the day after compares. However, I can say that the cake lived up to all of its praise on Lottie and Doof, Smitten Kitchen and Bon Appetempt.  

What I like most about this recipe is that it could not be easier. It takes very little effort, labour and time, yet what it yields is excellent. It is the type of cake that you think about when you are waiting for the bus and thinking about what to eat when you get home. I also like its history: the New York Times published this recipe every September from 1982 to 1989! I like that this encourage repetition, the establishment of a ritual and I will do my best to bake this cake every year when summer turns to fall. 

The recipe calls for a spring form pan which, alas, I do not have. I used a regular cake pan and it worked out fine. Depending on the size of the plums, you might need more or less. The recipe calls for 12, but mine were on the smaller side so I ended up using 14. Also, if your plums are very ripe and already quite sweet, cut back on the amount of sugar. 

On a different note, if you haven't already I highly recommend reading this article about a woman who decides to stop cooking and how cooking for others can be selfish. Cooking can be a chore, a resented obligation, a means of getting people to like you (which connects thematically to the excellent article "Learning to Love Criticism") and, for some like myself, a source of pleasure. Just because I enthusiastically derive joy from the act of cooking, doesn't make cooking any less complicated for me. This is because I'm acutely aware of the issues that it ties into and how it connects to politics, gender and society. That said, I'm thankful that I am in the position to enjoy cooking even though I am in no way obligated to.

So, if you are like me and enjoy the heat of the kitchen, make this plum torte and dig into these two articles. And if you use your oven to store books and sweaters, go buy yourself a piece of cake to keep you company while reading. 

Plum Torte

adapted from the New York Times

serves 8


125 grams (1 cup) unbleached all-purpose flour
5 grams baking powder
large pinch of salt
200 grams (1 cup) unrefined sugar + 1 tbsp for sprinkling
67 grams (1/4 cup + 2 tbsp) virgin olive oil + a knob more to grease the pan
2 organic eggs
 12-14 small Italian prune plums, pitted and cut in half
1 tsp cinnamon 
2 tsp fresh lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 350 F / 190 C / gas mark 4.

Grease a cake pan with olive oil.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. In another medium bowl, stir together the sugar and olive oil and then add the eggs, one egg at a time. Add the flour mixture to the olive oil and sugar mixture and stir until combined.

Pour the batter into the cake pan and give the pan a little shake, side to side, to make sure the batter is evenly distrubuted. Arrange the plums on top of the batter, with the skin side facing down. Sprinkle with cinnamon, 1 tbsp of sugar and lemon juice.

Bake until the cake is golden and a toothpick inserted in the batter (and not a plum!) come out clean, about 40 to 50 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool before serving. 



the bread exchange

First in Sweden, then the rest of Europe and, as of today, North America - The Bread Exchange has been released! 

Malin bakes bread and travels the world trading her sourdough for anything other than money. By doing so, she collects stories and her first book puts that collection on display. From growing a sourdough starter in the Sinai desert to borrowing an oven from a star chef in New York and from the rituals of community baking in Afghanistan to winter soups in Poland, Malin's book is a collection of recipes and stories that are equally delicious.

I leave the bread baking up to Malin but to those curious about baking with sourdough, the book includes her signature recipe, plus some adaptations including a loaf with goji berries and rosemary. 
The subsequent chapters feature recipes from her trades and travels and I had the absolute honour of contributing two recipes for winter jams (not with plum, but one is with blood orange and the other pear), which you can read a bit more about here

In addition to the usual suspects and (hopefully) your local bookstore, you can also order the book on her website.

Good bread and good stories seem like the right essentials to prioritize and the Bread Exchange celebrates both. 


not quite ready: grilled zucchini and halloumi salad

I was at the post office the other day to mail some letters when the women at the desk picked up one of my envelopes and asked "Wohin?" To which country she wanted to know and I realized that I had forgotten to write Canada. I suppose that it hadn't quite hit me that I had left, that I was somewhere else again.

Leaving gets harder as I get older. The hugs that I give my grandparents have gotten longer. I fall in love all over again with friends that I see way too seldom, making time apart feel slower. I was in Canada for five weeks and yet it wasn't enough. I wasn't quite ready to leave and I think this is exactly why it still feels so much like home. 

So here I am, slowly catching up with where I am and what time of year it is.

It turns out that it is the time of year that isn't quite ready to bid farewell to one season as it turns into the next. Between mornings of grey and chilly evenings, Munich has had a couple of afternoons that easily make you forget that it is fall and no longer summer. 

Before I went to Canada I made this salad on my balcony. It is a warm salad, one that is a meal in itself. I grilled slices of yellow zucchini and chunks of salty halloumi cheese. I added some chickpeas and tossed everything with fresh mint, zesty za'atar and enough olive oil and lemon juice to make a dressing. On the scale of hearty and fresh, the salad balances between the two. The chickpeas and halloumi make it into a meal and yet the za'atar and mint make it taste light. It is exactly what I want to eat when the seasons and I are both making up our minds about where we are and what time of year it is.

If you've already put away your grill, just roast the zucchini in the oven and fry the halloumi in a pan.  

Grilled Zucchini and Halloumi Salad
inspired by Chatelaine
serves 2
1 large zucchini (I used a yellow one)
1 pack (150g) halloumi
1/4 cup loosely packed mint, roughly chopped
1 1/2 cups cooked (or canned) chickpeas
2 tbsp za'atar
sea salt
3 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp lemon juice
a neutral oil for grilling, such as grapeseed

Preheat barbecue to medium. While the grill heats up, cut the zucchini into medium-thick slices, place in a bowl and toss with some oil and coarse salt to prepare them for the grill. Cut the halloumi into chunks and also toss it with some oil (skip the salt as halloumi is already quite salty).

Place the zucchini and halloumi on the grill, or one first and then the other depending on the size, and barbecue until the zucchini is tender and the halloumi has grill marks, about 3 minutes per side for the zucchini and 3 minutes per side for the halloumi.

In a bowl, toss together the zucchini, and halloumi with the chickpeas, mint, za'atar, salt and pepper to taste, olive oil and lemon juice. Season to taste. Serve either warm or at room temperature.



Chickpea Quarterly: the rock we eat

Oktoberfest keeps the city of Munich so busy that it is easy to forget that the season is changing, that summer has turned to fall.
However, the folks at Chickpea Quarterly haven't forgotten and their fall issue is now out and happens to be their biggest issue yet. Between stories about shrubs, cold-weather spices, hunting for mushrooms, and cooking over campfires (written by my lovely friend Shirin), there is a tale from when I was in South Korea last August and harvested enough sea salt to see me through both fall and winter and then some.
As always, the issue is available digitally and in print.  
Today the journal's founder Cara Livermore chatted with Michael Harlan Turkell on the Food Seen about the creativity of veganism, the many hats that she wears in putting together this journal, and sushi so inventive that I'm tempted to hop on a plane to New York City (that's right, New York and not Tokyo). Chickpea is a rad publication that is about so much more than just one way of eating and I'm happy to be a part of it.  


postcards from toronto II

Tomorrow I fly back to Munich with a suitcase generously packed with maple syrup and Canadian-made mustard. Leaving Canada is bittersweet. Time feels different when you are back at home. You have years and years of memories that animate the streets you walk on and the cafes you frequent. With so much history in a city, the past feels closer to the present. It has a bigger influence, a stronger presence. And that is what it means to be rooted somewhere.

I was hoping to write more while in Canada. I wanted to tell tales of ferries and islands, oysters and ale, barbecues and wild blackberries. I wanted to narrate them in the present tense, but instead I'll have to use the past. 

Thank you Toronto for always feeling like home, no matter how far away I've gone or how long I've been away.


women in clothes

I haven't been able to talk about Canada yet as my mouth has been full with Ontario corn and peaches and my hands have been busy hugging people I love (and scratching mosquito bites). Let's just say that there is no place like home.
Last Thursday marked the release date of Women in Clothes. A compilation of interviews, conversations, diary-like texts, essays, illustrations and photographs, this book skips the hackneyed question of what to wear and instead asks why do we dress the way we do. It is about storytelling and personal style. It is about what we inherit from our families and from our cultures. It is about what we reject and rebel against. It is about the rituals of dressing and their pleasures or frustrations.
Edited by Sheila Heti, Heidi Julavits and Leanne Shapton, the book collects thoughts on dressing from 639 women. It all started with a survey (which you can fill out online) and both the book and the website have developed into a fascinating project about and an archive of how women dress. You'll find some thoughts from me both in print and online.
To celebrate there is a series of talks and clothing swaps taking place across Canada and the United States the next couple of months, including one in Toronto on the 18th of September. Hope to see you there!


rome + nectarines in white wine

August has been a month of short plane rides and long bus rides and on Friday there will be a very long plane ride, as I'm heading home to Canada for the first time in two years.

Where we are from seems to have more weight from where we are. "Where are you from?" is a question that we all hear more often than "Where do you live?". Toronto is where I was born and although I lived in another city longer, it is the city where I grew the most. It is my home, and yet it isn't anymore. I've lived in Europe for seven years now and when I come home from work or a vacation, home is Munich. How does Munich feel that I'm from Toronto and how does Toronto feel that I left it for Munich? And how do both cities feel about all the cities that came in between? I guess when it comes to cities, I'm believe in polyamory. 

Whenever I go home to Toronto, a couple of butterflies come with me. Will I still recognize the city? Will it still recognize me? So far, we both always have and I'm excited to be writing from Canadian soil for the next month. But before you hear from me on the other side of the pond, let's talk about Rome. 

One city that is always easy to recognize is Rome. Rome is a city that knows who it is. It doesn't flirt with passing trends - like food trucks - but it is able to experiment and evolve without compromising its character.

The first weekend of August I spent in Rome and a weekend spent in Rome is a weekend spent eating. I spent three days staying cool in the Roman heat by eating gelato and granita a caffe con panna. I ate the latter at both Cremeria Monteforte and Tazza d'Oro and although the latter had the better granita the former had the dreamiest cream. I ate caramel-meringue gelato at Il Gelato di San Crispino, a peachy ice pop at Grom and (once again) the life-changing riso alla canella gelato at Bar Pica

But then one night when dessert came along I skipped on more gelato, and ordered peaches in white wine instead. It was at Felice a Testaccio, a restaurant that a friend was generous enough to share with me. I sometimes find myself thinking about their legendary tonarelli cacio pepe and you know what they say about when in Rome.

If you're in a restaurant this good, not ordering dessert is certainly a wasted opportunity, but after the cacio pepe, a platter of fried shrimp and calamari, bitter chicory and grilled vegetables, I wasn't sure if I could do it. However, the daily menu included peaches in white. The only thing better than a refreshing and fruity dessert after a filling meal, is one that essentially comes with another glass of wine. 

Back in Munich, I was inspired to bathe stone fruit in white wine and went for nectarines instead of peaches. It was just as good. This summer dessert is as simple as they come and, to repeat a reoccurring theme on this blog, barely qualifies as a recipe. Toss slices of ripe nectarines (or peaches) with sugar, add white wine, leave to chill in the fridge, serve. 

I used a darker, unrefined sugar and it didn't muddle the colour of the nectarines at all. Feel free to use whatever sugar you have on hand or prefer. For the wine, I used muscadet, a wine that is easy on the wallet and sweet in the mouth. Whatever white you use, make sure you want to drink it as that is exactly what you'll do after spooning out and eating the sweet, tender nectarines. 

Nectarines in White Wine

serves 2


2 ripe nectarines
1 tbsp sugar
150 ml white wine 

Wash and dry the nectarines. Cut them in halves, pitting them, and then slice each half into several pieces. Place in a small bowl, add sugar and toss them well. Add the white wine, give everything a good stir, and then cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour before serving.

When ready to serve, divide the nectarines and their wine between two glasses and serve cold, straight out of the fridge.



a salsa made from pumpkin seeds + homemade tortilla chips

Black beans, spicy chilies, and blue corn tortillas. Mangoes spiked with lime juice, salt and tajin. Creamy guacamole, smoky mezcal, and Huevos Rancheros - Mexican cuisine certainly has a lot going for it. 

In fact, if in some horrific circumstance I had to commit myself to just one cuisine for the rest of my life it would be Mexican. However, I would insist on Mexican food, preferably, in Mexico and, as a back-up option, in the U.S. or Canada. But if Mexican food in Germany somehow entered this agreement, then I would promptly go to my second choice. 

I've mentioned before that finding good Mexican food in Germany is about as difficult as finding someone who doesn't like mangoes (I haven't met anyone yet). Germany actually has a fair share of "Mexican restaurants", but the vast majority of them are simply cheap cocktail bars which only have chili flavoured tortilla chips and feel a sense of pride because their guacamole is "homemade".  

However, for too brief of a time, Munich had a good Mexican restaurant. A very good Mexican restaurant. So good that the first time I ate there I was afraid that it was a fluke. Just like a thirsty traveler in the desert might see water where there is none, was I tasting good Mexican food only because I was so desperate for it? Was this a figment of my imagination?

After asking several friends on several occasions to test this, I can confirm that it wasn't a mirage, it wasn't a hallucination. I had found (what I can safely assume was) the only good Mexican restaurant in Germany. It is probably no coincidence that it was called Milagros, the Spanish word for miracle, as that was exactly what it was.  

Sadly Milagros closed this spring, but only after opening up a Taqueria here in Munich, so luckily it is still around in some form.  

The menu was charmingly illustrated by Olaf Hajek. Beyond being a looker, it carried good news. It brought news of carnitas and horchata, aguas frescas and pickled red onions, posole and grilled flank steak, pollo con mole verde and esquites. But the best news on the menu, to me, was always Sikil P'ak. Pumpkin Seed Salsa. 

Made with pumpkin seeds, tomatoes, and orange juice and originating in the Yucatan Peninsula, it is unlike any other salsa that I've ever met. The orange juice isn't traditional, but adds an extra brightness. The Milagros kitchen decided that it was a good idea and I agree. It contrasts nicely with the heat of the chili and the creaminess of the ground pumpkin seeds. 

This salsa isn't going to replace the pico de gallo that you smother on burritos and tacos, but you might want to make Sikil P'ak instead of it the next time you eat tortilla chips. Pumpkin Seed salsa has certainly raised all of my expectations when someone mentions chips & dip. 

If your geography makes jalapeno or habanero chilies easy to come by, use whichever one you prefer. Since I live in Germany, I'll stick with whatever chiles I can find (which is only rarely jalapeno or habanero).  

Tortilla chips are dead simple to make at home. Plus, they mean than whenever you have tortillas that you are just a few minutes away from having fresh tortilla chips and that, folks, is pretty good news. I haven't included measurements for the tortilla chips. Simply make as many or as few as you like, with as much salt or as little as your like.  

Sikil P'ak - Pumpkin Seed Salsa with Tomatoes and Orange Juice

makes about 1 1/4 cups


1 cup pumpkin seeds
2 medium-sized tomatoes, nice and plump
½ to 1 chili, stemmed and cut in half
¼ cup cilantro, loosely packed, plus more for garnish
a good pinch of sea salt, plus more to taste
juice of half a lime
juice of half a large orange, plus more to taste

Preheat the oven to broil. Cut the tomatoes in half and put in a baking dish, cut side up. Remove the stem of the chili, cut in half and add it as well (remove seeds if you wish). Broil for about 15-20 minutes, or until they are slightly charred and soft. The chili will cook faster, so keep an eye on it and take it out earlier if necessary (between 10 and 15 minutes). Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

While the tomatoes broil, toast the pumpkin seeds in a dry skillet over medium-high heat until they are warmed through and fragrant. Let cool slightly and then put a couple aside to use as a garnish. Process the rest in a food processor until they are coarsely ground (or finer if you wish). Add the rest of the ingredients and blend until smooth. Taste and add more salt, lime juice or orange juice to taste. 

Transfer to a bowl, garnish with reserved pumpkin seeds and cilantro and serve at room temperature. Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge.

* * * * * 
Baked Tortilla Chips


corn tortillas
neutral tasting oil with a high smoke point – such as grape seed
Preheat the oven to 350 F / 180 C / gas mark 4. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Stack the tortillas and cut each tortilla into sixths, so that you have six triangle shaped chips for each tortilla. Brush each piece with a little oil, on both sides. Lay them on the baking sheet in a single layer and then sprinkle them with salt.

Bake until crisp and darkened, about 12-15 minutes. Remove from the oven, let cool slightly and then serve right away.

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