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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