My Favourite Animal, The Duck

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…

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Jay Gatsby’s Savoy Bratwurst

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.

Dorado Eldorado

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…

A Little History of Merguez

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.

Spaghetti alla “What?”

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!

The Whitest Cheese Ever

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.

The Omelette, Our Saviour

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.

Hungarian Hunger Treatment

Some weeks ago, before that outburst of infernal heat, we longed for something spicy, something hot, and something that would really satisfy us—we were really very hungry that day some weeks ago. Some green asparagus with graped parmigiano just wouldn’t do the job. And so we remembered a very rich meal that was very popular in Germany in the 1970s, Gefüllte Paprikaschoten, which translates to Filled Peppers. We always thought of this dish as typically Hungarian a recipe, its origin seemed quite clear to us, as in these days everything served with peppers or even just remotely seasoned with paprika was considered Hungarian, and as Hungarians are very fiery people this meal should actually be a very fiery one. Germans, however, tend to prepare it very, very mild. Overly mild. I’ve said it before, and I say it again, Germans don’t like spices. Therefore, the grounded paprika for the sauce comes from Switzerland, I imported vast amounts of it, not from some posh fine delicatessen, but from a very ordinary supermarket, from Coop, from their cheapest range, Qualité & Prix, and is wonderfully hot. Just perfect. The Swiss love fine dining, and therefore you get the best spices there. Actually, I should call this dish Swiss Hunger Treatment…

Crêpes Surprise

It was not a typical day to be spent outside, the weather forecast for that day had insisted on us staying in, it was really rainy and windy, puddles all over the place, leaves everywhere, but we felt like catching some air in the garden, it was neither the perfect place to have crêpes, the table was ever so wet and quite dirty, too, nor the perfect time, it was way too close to dinner, we’ve had tea hours ago and so we were about to ruin our appetite, but however more of a hindrance than an invitation the moment did appear to us, we couldn’t help ourselves and have crêpes, drenched in sugary Cointreau, right that moment, right then and there… Boy, were they yummy!

A Cake That Looks Like Pizza

When you are supposed to put rosemary on a cake, you know it’s going to be different from your usual hazelnut extravaganza. Truth be told, this fine herb was the only exceptional ingredient of this recipe, all the rest, puff pastry, plums, sugar, cinnamon, and quince jelly, sounds rather familiar, doesn’t it? But once you’ve put the plums casually on the puff pastry and sprinkled the rosemary on it, your eyes won’t believe it’s not butter, sorry, they won’t believe it’s not pizza. Only when it’s out of the oven and into your mouth, its case is closed. It’s cake. No doubt. A very yummy, very Mediterranian cake. If you want to challenge your eyes, do try this at home!