June 21, 2010


Ok, so this isn't my very first harvest, but rather a late spring/early summer harvest coming in the middle of a relentless streak of rain and cold weather in June (!). And on (and possibly through) June 21 (!!!!) to boot.

Now I love fall and, being a Southern California girl, get very excited about the first snow - I love cozy weather where it makes sense to drink tea and eat cake, curled up in front of a movie - maybe one you wanted to see and never got around to or one you'd never even heard of before you saw it at the rental store or on iTunes. But on the summer solstice? Really?

That, my friends, is a picture of the sky in Munich right now (a color photograph, mind you), at around 3:30 in the afternoon (not sometime after dusk) during a time of year and in a part of the world where the sun doesn't set until almost 9:30 p.m. or even later.

So when my friend V., with whom I am renting out garden space from the city of Munich, stopped by in the pouring rain yesterday with two heads of lettuce, some spring onions, two different kinds of radishes, some late spinach fresh from our garden and a lot of mud on her shoes, I was definitely impressed. That's dedication!

And just the right amount of fresh color to brighten up a gloomy day. So tonight, we will dine like queens (and kings, of course) on abundant salad and grilled onions. Maybe with a cup of soup (protest! I want light, refreshing summer food!) on the side to help keep us warm.

And in the meantime, Laughter will kick it on the heater.

P.S. With that said, I've heard there is hope and that the gloom might flee these parts by Wednesday, making way for some real summer days. As they say, hope springs eternal, or, as they say in German, die Hoffnung stirbt zuletzt.

P.S. Next time I'll include a recipe. Promise!

June 7, 2010

When in doubt, boil an egg

One of the most difficult meals of the day for me is lunch. For some reason, I always seem to have a hard time coming up with something nutritious, tasty and filling between the hours of 12 and 2, especially if I will be eating alone. And this is bad. Because if I don't eat, I become one of two things -  a raging beast who is willing to eat practically everything in sight or a woozy slug who can barely make it to the door. So what to do?

Well, I know, I know, a sandwich is always good, and I'm trying, but I can't really seem to find the inspiration for layering things on top of each other between bread when my energy level is at its lowest.

What about soup, you say. Yes, soup is a very good idea and something that I often crave during the noontime hours. The only problem with soup is that I have a hard time mustering up the patience to go through the soup-making process when I am so hungry I could eat my cat (something, I'm sure, he often thinks about me as well. I mean, let's face it, deep down in their hearts even house cats are ferocious, carnivorous beasts - we're just too big to eat). If I happen to have soup, left over and ready to go, great. If not, no soup.

This is a situation, by the way, that I hope to change in the near future. Lunch every day, rain or shine, on my own or in the company of others...

But for now, what is the grand, over-reaching, mother of all solutions? Well today it's an egg.

The egg...

Hard-boiled, plain and simple, no fuss, no frills.

Chop it up and add some dijon mustard, a little bit of pepper, green onion tops, a sliced radish fresh from the garden, some tasty bread and there you go.

And this little protein bomb in a shell can be eaten with all sorts of things or just plain naked with some salt and pepper. So, when in doubt, at least for now, a hard-boiled egg can save the day.

Hard-boiled egg life-saving lunch

1 or 2 hard-boiled eggs, depending on how hungry you are, preferably still piping hot from the stove*
A dollop of dijon mustard (or more if you want a real kick)
pepper to taste
1 green onion top, chopped (I usually just snip it with scissors)
1 small radish, sliced

After you are done hard-boiling your egg (cook it for about 10 minutes in boiling water), run it quickly under some cold water so you don't burn your fingers and peel it. Then, chop it up into rough, "rustic" chunks, add a dollop of mustard and mush/stir it together a little with a fork - just enough to spread the mustard around. Garnish with the green onion on top and add the sliced radish on the side. Break out the bread and enjoy!

*eating the egg nice and hot gives the yolk a creaminess when mixed with the mustard that you just can't get from cold egg yolks

You can take the humble, freshly hard-boiled egg and make it into a simple meal by adding all sorts of ingredients. I'm thinking sliced prosciutto, tomatoes and basil or, maybe next time, goat cheese.

June 1, 2010

Impromptu carbonara cure

It's rainy here in Munich.

And cold.

I'm not sure if someone forgot to read a memo somewhere, but it's June 1st! And it's not just the fact that I'm from California and have a different internal thermometer (yes, still, even after 10 years - lows of 41? What?) Everyone here seems to be longing for sunny days. One of the things I love most about living in Munich are the seasons. But today, June 1st? Brrrrrr.... Still, I suppose it's good for the grass seeds we sowed on the weekend.

And for the other plants that finally got repotted or put in the planter where they get to stretch their legs a bit.

So what's a girl to do on a day like this? Well, after going for a run during the only relatively rain-free patch of the day (only four more weeks to go until I do my very first half marathon ever, gulp), C. and I made pasta. Spaghetti carbonara to be exact. No rules, no recipes. We just kind of threw it all together. C. is becoming a whiz at sauces and almost anything to do with noodles, which is nice because that means a lot of potential dinners! Dinners where I can enjoy being treated to someone else's talents and let my creative juices stew for other endeavors.

And it was amazing...

I cut up two smallish onions, while C. got the water boiling.

I also cut up the ham and grated some parmesan.

There were the onions, and the ham of course, and eggs and then there was the cream. I love you, cream!

Although this isn't exactly a one-pot wonder, it's pretty close. Once you have the onions nice and translucent, you add the pasta, then the ham, the cream and then, finally, the eggs. Salt and pepper to taste, add some parmesan and you're golden. And so is this dish.

We sat down to a delicious, creamy, smooth pasta with a slight crunch from the onions and a salty kick from the ham. I am starting to think that cream makes anything work (i.e., delicious). Every noodle was covered with a delicate coating of cream, cheese and egg. So good. The rain started up again outside and I could feel a cloak of coziness wrap around me. It's still there. And now I think I'll go make a cup of tea.


Spaghetti carbonara improv

serves 2

enough spaghetti noodles for 2 people (about a fist-full)
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
75 grams prosciutto or other salty ham, sliced (if necessary) and cut into squares - I used Schwarzwälder ham here... I'll get to that another time
2 smallish onions
2 eggs
150 grams heavy cream
a small pile of parmesan
salt and pepper to taste

Start a pot of water boiling for your pasta. Don't forget to salt it! While the pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil in a skillet for about a minute and then add the onions. Cook the onions over medium heat until translucent and somewhat brown around the edges. Drain the pasta and add it to the skillet. Add the ham and stir to combine. Next, pour in the cream and stir some more to coat the noodles. Let simmer for about a minute. Crack two eggs on top and mix those in as well. Each strand of pasta should be completely coated by now. Cook for 30 seconds or so to give the egg some time to set. Add the parmesan and salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

You can garnish this dish with chopped parsley, chives or any other green, leafy edible herb you can find around the kitchen. The green color gives the dish a freshness and ties it all together.