I’ve read somewhere that the fewer ingredients food has, the better. The healthier, too. Nothing could be less healthy than the overprocessed stuff supermarkets sell in these shiny, poorly designed, ever so colourful boxes, one might think. Reflecting on this, I was asking myself what I could possibly have for lunch that consisted of not more than one or maybe two things. Hmpf. I gave up immediately and made my notoriously famous risotto. It’s really yummy. And truth be told, I am still convinced that my risotto is not only yummy, but also quite healthy despite the fact it has way more than two ingredients in it. There’s rice in it, obviously. And then there’s chicken broth, broccoli, graped parmigiano reggiano, salt, white and black pepper, white wine, Italian Chardonnay, to be quite precise, butter, and olive oil. That’s an awful lot of stuff, isn’t it? Still healthy, though. I think it’s not the number but the quality and origin of the stuff one puts together for a meal. So, don’t you listen to what you learn on the internet! In order to stay healthy, just follow my advice: eat more risotto!
Some days ago, we cooked some pears in red wine, in some Rioja, just to be overly precise, but it doesn’t really matter, I think, the minute you put in the cinnamon stick and the cloves, it would be a little casting-pearls-before-swine-ish if you had opened a bottle of Château Pétrus especially. Not having one of these fancy bottles in the cellar anyway, I was quite secure not to spoil the swines I don’t own either. Anyway, whichever red wine you use, let the pears simmer at an almost boil for quite some time, just to make sure not only the aromas are allowed enough time to infuse properly but also the red wine’s red colour. I’m sure, these red parts are especially high in flavonoids and antioxidants so you can tell yourself poires au vin rouge is a very healthy dessert. Works with me. Maybe too well. Health and dessert appears so very contradictory a combination… Maybe that’s why I completely forgot about the pears twice: first on the oven, I only thought of them when it was way too late for dessert and by then most of the red wine had diffused into thin air (or rather rich air, the whole kitchen smelled of wine and spices), I had to add some fresh Rioja, and then a second time in the fridge, where subsequently the wine was allowed three whole days to infuse ever so completely. They tasted divinely! And as far as I’m concerned, it’s one more recipe to make it to 100. By the way, you don’t need a steak knife to cut them like in the photo, they’re ever so mellow and soft. It was just the only knife of our household not yet in the dishwasher… Anyway, Bon appétit, or rather Santé!
There’s pasta and there’s… nothing! If it comes to pasta, I lose all objectivity, I forget all about any other meal, I always declare I will never ever eat anything else again. Like the boy who cried wolf, nobody believes me, but it’s true, nothing beats pasta, nothing is better, believe you me! As a proof, I stop writing right here and now, there’s nothing left to be said.
We’re all schizophrenic beings, I think. Otherwise, how could it be possible to name a duck your favourite animal, and still love the very same guy served for dinner, à l’orange or Peking or roast with some yummy sauce? As for sauces, I came up with a totally new one. Lots of rucola, haché menu, some garlic and spring onions, aka shallots, also chopped and minced in as tiny little pieces as you can manage, some fine aceto balsamico, from Modena of course, ever finer olive oil, from any Mediterranean origin, I prefer Sicily, lots of crushed white pepper, chillies, and some honey, not a lot, all of it gets stirred, not shaken, and you end up having the most aromatic condiment for your roast duck. It’s so good, you want to give it a name! Donald, or Daisy, or as you please. As I said, we’re all schizophrenics…
I have no idea if F. Scott Fitzgerald or any of his protagonists ever had bratwurst for dinner, leastwise the Divers should have eaten this teutonic meal at least once when staying in Zurich, the Swiss make such fine bratwurst, but since I happen to own Jay Gatsby’s personal napkin ring, discovered it some years ago in an antique store in West Egg, Long Island, I can tell you that his spirit is still with us and was with me tonight, when I had bratwurst for dinner, accompanied by some savoy cabbage. This curly leafed vegetable surely would have put a smile on Scott Fitzgerald’s face, savoy has such a nice first class hotel ring to it, doesn’t it? I think, I can say sans rougir that tonight, Jay Gatsby and I had a bratwurst as big as the Savoy.
Today, just by chance when shopping for Turkish chestnut honey at my Turkish grocer’s (despite the Turkish invasion in Syria, I decided not to take it out on the Turkish bees and chestnut trees, I cherish both of them way too much), I came along some dorados that were fresher than any other dorado I had ever met, and my life’s plans changed instantly—tonight’s originally planned linguine surely wouldn’t mind taking a rain check, and so I carried two of these wonderful, bright-eyed dorados home. Not realizing of course, that they were so fresh that I would have to remove all of the scales first, tricky job, and then open their bellies and operate on them to extract all of their intestines before I could finally put them in a pan, oh what lucky people all these vegetarians are… It was kind of a survival trip, rather challenging, no filleted stuff served on fancy plates by some blasé waiter, no, these guys I almost hunted down myself like a lion would an antilope… We had them with potatoes and some parsley, quite à la Hemingway, I understand lions like them best this way…
In December of 1980, I ate my very first merguez on a Christmas market in Baden-Baden. I still remember it strangely well, for some reasons I can still recall that very unusual taste, although it looked almost like a German Bratwurst, it tasted nothing like it. First of all, it’s lamb, and then are Arabian spices in it that in these years weren’t too common; actually, if Baden-Baden wasn’t so close to the French border and hadn’t been such a worldly place since the 1800s due to its casino, merguez wouldn’t have been on a German Christmas market menu, trust you me, no chance, none whatsoever. Today, however, you get them everywhere. Even at Aldi, Germany’s cheapest of supermarkets. Times do change, and sometimes even for the better. And so does my routine: instead of the hummus I usually serve merguez with, I had them with homemade ratatouille today. Really good a combination.
It just so happened that some days ago, when temperatures were still a little higher, I felt like pasta for lunch but didn’t have much time to prepare a complicated sauce, you know that kind of Bolognese that needs a day or two to develop all of its aroma or that sauce that Sophia Petrillo from the Golden Girls starts cooking days in advance and that therefore needs a very special occasion. This day’s lunch, however, was no special occasion at all, nor had it been a special day, I was just hungry and so I improvised and made a cold sauce from freshly cubed tomatoes, olive oil from Sicily, and lots of basil. It looked so yummy though that I thought I should immediately post it on Instagram. Now, that freshly invented sauce of mine needed a name. As it consisted of the two main ingredients of Insalata Caprese, apart from the third one, namely mozzarella, I named my dish Spaghetti Caprese. Of course, shortly after I had posted my lunch, some guy on Instagram would correct me and tell me that Italians called it Spaghetti alla Litigata. Quite humiliating, don’t you think? One is so proud of one’s pasta, done on a whim, just like that, from the hip and ever so yummy, and then one is outed as a Non-Italian!
When I felt like having some French goat cream cheese yesterday, I realized for the first time in my life how very white it is. I mean, it’s really white. Almost whiter than white. And that’s where it got tricky. When I put that ever so white cube on my white plate, plain white as white plates go, my eyes went blank, they had suddenly stopped transmitting any information, as if they were kind of snow-blinded. I would have needed sunglasses if hadn’t been already dark, we’re talking a late-night snack here… Anyway, I exchanged plates immediately and not only did I choose a very vivid pattern, hand-painted using a lot of turquoise ink, I also looked out for the red cheese cutlery I once bought in France. The morale of the story? It’s the boy scout’s motto: always be prepared.
In all this European, air-conditionless heat, who wants to cook? On the other hand, who wants to eat nothing but salads and sandwiches? Obviously, we are confronted with a dilemma, the worst of dilemmata (notice the correct Ancient Greek plural) I might add, as proper eating is quite crucial to the survival of mankind, don’t you think? Anyway, crucial or not, I can offer not just a solution but the solution: an omelette. It’s easily done, very quick and dirty, it can be seasoned according to personal taste, I myself like to throw in some tomatoe slices and add some garlic for some Mediterranean appeal, and it’s very light and agreeable no matter how high the temperatures go. I know, I should have told you this much sooner, but the next heatwave is already on its way, believe you me.