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Chop chop

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Have a last look. At my glasses. This is the last of the sexy librarian look for me. I get chopped on Friday morning. WHAT?!?!😉 I don’t know what I was looking forward to more about 3 weeks back, our two week long trip to Morocco (some photos up to the right over there in the Instanibble feed, sorry, none of me lounging in the sun with my glasses on), or the laser surgery to correct my vision I will have on Friday morning now that we’re back.

People keep asking, “aren’t you scared?” and really the answer is no. I look at it perhaps a bit too logically? One in 3000 cases is a problem. And the doctors tell me that those cases tend to be the ones where the person wasn’t careful for the couple weeks after the surgery. And why wouldn’t I be careful? The only thing I am mourning right now is the fact that I am not supposed to do any sports for two weeks after the surgery. I can’t imagine that. Morocco was hard enough in the past two weeks where I mostly abstained. First came the election and who can run after those results came in? You just want to lie in bed curled up in a ball. And then there was the fact that I was in a reasonably conservative Muslim country, where I was maybe a bit too self-conscious about putting on the jogging tights and t-shirts in front of a population that might really have an issue with it. I only managed twice during the 12 days we were there. And they were both uncomfortable experiences. Again, maybe just me.

Anyway, we’re back now and I  am cooking again, focusing on vegetables! So much chopping, so many veggies being chopped to smithereens under my sharp knives and thrown into the hot pan. Because oddly enough, even though the Moroccan diet is very healthy, when you go out as a tourist and eat in the restaurants, you’re getting the richest, most calorie laden food out there. Low on vegetables, high on meat protein. Some days I thought about what we had eaten all day and was really disappointed and craving vitamins. Even the cooking class I did there didn’t offer up much in the way of vegetables, which was a bit disappointing.

So yesterday, there was a bastardized version of ratatouille.

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All the basics in there, the eggplant, onions, garlic, peppers, tomatoes, zucchini, parsley and thyme. But also some chili, some saffron, and in the end I even chopped up a potato finely to help remove some of the burn of the chili. (I was overzealous with chili.) Really simple food, but oh, so satisfying. Meat is off the menu until Saturday evening, when we will celebrate a late Thanksgiving with our American friends here in Munich. A turkey will be served.

I still wanted some more protein in the meal, so I made some Parmesan toasts and sliced a hard boiled egg on top. Perfect light dinner.

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Cooking with Ghosts

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Happy Halloween! Well, a day late, but I started this post yesterday and then got waylaid.

First things first: yummy discovery, care of Christian, who posted a photo of the Chinese junkstreet food goodie he had a few days back and which I then needed to try. Jianbing.

Ummmmmm.

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Basically, a wheat flour crepe, with a fried egg coating…and inside a bit of ginger chicken, a spicy garlic sauce and a crunchy fried cracker to make the eating experience especially toothsome. Pour some nice ginger vinegar sauce on top and you are good to go. Very tasty – being served up at LeDu at Karlsplatz, just a couple S-bahn stations from where I work. But I went over there Monday, a day off – yes yes yes…I am finally getting some holidays, a big relief – during my shopping and running around. There are a couple of them apparently, scattered around Munich. Le Du’s, I mean.

And they must have inspired (?) my dinner this evening. The whole food wrapped up in a pancake thing. I had a craving for Indian food – because of the second source of inspiration, which came from the NYTimes’ special food article for Diwali, where they must have posted about 30 really good recipes for various dishes. And then there was the third inspiration. The Ghosts.

Namely, the Carolina (Ghost?) Reapers, given to me by my friend, Kurt, who knows I like a challenge.

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Look at those babies! Cute! So cute. And so deadly. These are currently the HOTTEST pepper in the world. People try to eat these things whole and go to the hospital.

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I cut one of the itty bitty ones Kurt gave me in half and then in half again. See. No, I didn’t dare to put that in my mouth. I lightly crunched a sliver of that between my two front teeth to see how bad it would be. I spit it out after about 5 seconds and went to find a cracker. It was that bad. But they were indeed very flavorful, if insanely hot. You breath fire for a few minutes, but it is a very fragrant sweet sort of fire. You don’t know what I am talking about…yeah, well, come over for a pepper, needless to say, they are not going very fast. But they’re keeping well.

But….a little bit went into a dish of dal. A bit went into some sauteed cauliflower….a whole small one went into my pressure-cooked chicken. And all in all, we were not gasping for breath at the end of my meal.

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After cooking the chicken, I broke it down into bits and cooked it with some onions and herbs,

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Defrosted some pizza dough and turned it into fake naan…

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And served it up with the cauliflower, dal, some yogurt and an apple and tomato salsa for some Indian Burritos (patent pending😉 )

Which were quite ok.

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How’s that for cooking with ghosts?

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Snackable

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Ahhhhh. Look at that. Perfect weather in my opinion. A sunny beautiful day, great for a run, about a perfect 18 C degrees outside (about 70 F or 72 F).

And you have guests coming over. New ones you’ve never met. And you are expected to provide dinner. And it is already 3 or 4 in the afternoon and you don’t have a menu. I know, first world problems. Anyway, I had a plan. And that was enough.

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I headed straight to the Viktualienmarkt here in Munich and bought amazing cheeses, some Italian sausages and ham, a selection of breads, beautifully fragrant muscat grapes, and a wild herb salad and headed home quickly. We were going to do a fancy “Brotzeit” and that was going to be good enough. No cooking.

Well, but just one thing. Fire roasted walnuts.

I was tempted by these at the market:

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But those huge walnuts have just come off the tree and are a lot of work because you have to first shell them and then peel off their bitter skins. Too much work.

Barbara Tropp has a simple but simply amazing recipe for walnuts in her cookbook “The Modern Art of Chinese Cooking” for a “light bite” or whatever she calls them. Basically a snack. I make them all the time because they are no fuss and easy and they always draw oos and aahs. If you just buy a bag of good quality shelled walnuts, this recipe comes together with very little active cooking time – maybe 10 minutes. They take about an hour and a half to prepare, but 80 minutes is just time while you wait for the walnuts to soak and then to bake.

Process?

Soak your walnuts in boiling water for 30 minutes. This releases the bitterness from the nuts. If you taste the water you have soaked them in, you will immediately taste the leached out bitterness. Spread them out after 30 minutes on a baking sheet. Put them in a pre-heated oven (about 110 degrees C, 225 degrees F) for 30 minutes. You are drying them out. If after 30 minutes, they are not dry in their centers, let them go for another 10 minutes or until you feel most of the water is gone from the nut meats. Then heat a couple tablespoons (for about two cups of nuts) of peanut oil in a pan on medium.

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Toss the nuts in, follow with about two tablespoons of sugar, constantly stirring the nuts. You want the sugar to caramelize and not burn. When you see the sugar is liquid, toss in about a teaspoon of salt and a couple pinches of cayenne pepper. Stir another minute and then remove from heat.

Put in a bowl to cool.

I served them with the cheese and fruit platter. You can store them in a tupperware container for quite a while.

And they work just as well with pecans. A mix of the two nuts is great.

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You’ll be surprised when you taste them. You are used to the slightly bitter flavor that walnuts have, but in these, it’s virtually gone. They are buttery and delicious. And your guests will keep reaching for them…:-)

Which happened.

 

 
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Posted by on October 18, 2016 in Chinese, Cooking at home, Famous Chefs

 

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The Figs are Guilty

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My somewhat newish Garmin watch thinks it’s really hilarious to send me messages like the one up there. Juxtaposed against the running activity the day before I just sort of looked down at the watch yesterday morning and told it to F-off. And then we got on bikes and biked down to Wolfratshausen – about 40 kilometers – for the afternoon. As revenge. Against a stupid watch. I removed the watch this morning (after my run!) and told it enough was enough, no more daily wearing. Time for analog again. I do not need a smart watch. I don’t, I don’t, I don’t, I don’t. (Just throw in an “i” in the middle of that phrase and remove the “n” and smash the two words together. I won’t spell this out for you further.)

THE BIG DECISION. You didn’t know I would make one? Yeah. I realized I needed to make it. I will not run the marathon. It was a big blow, though came on gradually, as I learned through the practice runs that no way in hell was I going to get through 42 kilometers in a time I could be proud of, if at all. Next year. No, really. Next year. I’m already working on it. No joke.

I think my body went sort of haywire after that decision and said, “OK!!! NO MARATHON!?!?! TIME FOR PIE!” Yeah, but the figs are guilty too. I was shopping, i don’t know, shortly after THE BIG DECISION at Eataly – that beautiful and mostly over-priced Italian supermarket cum restaurants, buying, most likely, some overpriced truffle oil, and I came across some figs. Figs are in season now, in case you hadn’t noticed when passing every fruit cart scattered around the city selling the little purple fruits for an ungodly 50 cents a piece. Or something like that. And at Eataly, I came across a sign, most likely misspelled, I thought, which said…Figs…3.99 a KILO. I went up to the guy selling them and pointed at the sign and said…”Wie viel kosten die Feigen? (How much do the figs cost)” With a great deal of skepticism in my voice most likely. “3.99 pro Kilo,” he said. Feeling like a thief I said, “Ok, dann nehme ich die. (Ok, then I will take these.” And handed him a semi giant container of them. I love figs. Especially when they are on the edge of overripe, dripping with juice that tastes like honey. And these little darlings were exactly that shade and squeeze of ripeness. Like a soft little breast.

I brought them home and busied myself looking up the perfect recipes. And found some sort of figs with frangiapane (= that scrumptious ground almonds, sugar, butter mixture) recipes. And cheated and bought the dough. And assembled the whole shebang, dreaming of figgy goodness coming out of my oven in like 30 minutes. But nothing is quite that fast unless you cheat with the dough, which I did.

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Yeah, reminds me of something else too.

Anyway, I used this recipe as a basis for what I eventually threw together. The only problem…was that I made way too much frangiapane. No, really, way too much. So I put half of it in the fridge and baked up my awesome tart with store-bought dough/crust and we ate it, with some disappointment because it was much more beautiful than it tasted.

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Gorgeous, no? Even unbaked.

Let’s move on.

Heaps of frangiapane in the fridge. What to do? More figs? No, boring. I am fickle when it comes to fruit, I guess. PEACHES. Yes. And this time with a homemade butter crust. My husband kept on asking me what was happening to all the butter. (Ooops, what, those 4 packages? I…uh…used them. Yes…you helped me eat them…yes, we ate the butter TOGETHER.)

Peach was a vast improvement, even if not quite so sexy an experience. Or in appearance.

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I like the tartness, what can I say? More or less the same recipe, although with a butter crust which was so much more UH-MAZ-ING, a few adjustments to spice the peaches (some cinnamon, some sugar, maybe a little cognac or brandy). And oh that was a lovely pie. The neighbors got a bunch of it too. To spread the butter sinning around.

The next pie…I don’t even have a photo of the NEXT PIE. It was with plums. And I swear, it was an improvement on the peach. It was from a (tart) recipe worth giving to you. Apparently it is THE MOST PUBLISHED recipe by the New York Times and it was really that good. If you like plums. Which I do. Although which certain other people in this household are not as fond of. So that most awesome pie didn’t go away quite as fast. But fast enough that I didn’t manage to get a photo of it. Double checking. Nope, no photo.

And finally, I finish this post with a cake. A cake that was actually supposed to be muffins. But which is also amazingly awesome as a cake. And which is already half gone or more now that I JUST ATE A PIECE.

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The butternut squash has nothing to do with the ginger cake with lemon icing up there. But isn’t it nice how it matches the color? No, you can’t have a piece of this cake because I am saving the rest for Walt and Chris. If they come over fast enough. I put a lemon icing on it (just powder sugar – 1 cup – and lemon juice from one lemon, sift sugar, mix with juice, done), and instead of pouring the batter into muffin tins, as called for by Marion Cunningham’s recipe, I filled a cake tin and baked it at about 375 F/170 C for around 25 minutes. And then I took it out, still warm, but a few minutes later, I poured the icing on top of it. It sets reasonably quickly, no worries. Although your plate border should be larger than mine because the icing spilled over a little bit. This thing might be better than the plum, but it could also be a draw. MAKE BOTH. (Buy butter first.)

Warning. Do not wash yourself with this soap in the morning. You will be freaking hungry the whole day while you smell yourself sitting around the office. And that might be why there have been so many pies and cakes. The chocolate passion SOAP is too blame, not the figs.

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Posted by on September 26, 2016 in Cooking at home, Summer in Bavaria

 

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Sweet Sixteen

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We got married in the year 2000. Isn’t it sort of freaky to say that out loud? Sounds futuristic. Except that it was 16 years ago! :-O

To celebrate on Saturday, I ran my ass off again to train for this marathon that I might or might not be doing (ok, that wasn’t really part of the celebration and a good chunk of my ass still exits.)

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But in the evening we went out for dinner and ate huge steaks with steamed spinach and mashed potatoes. Heavenly. I didn’t come close to finishing my steak, but the rest came home with me and landed in breakfast and lunch the next day. The restaurant (Theresa Grill, btw, highly recommended), also served a delicious liver pate with the bread before our steaks came out. I asked for the recipe and the chef came out a few minutes later with it written up and gave me in-person instructions! (wow!) Needless to say, this will be tried out sometime this week. Recipe below in hand-written format:

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In English: 500 grams of liver (they used goose, I guess I will use chicken), 2 red onions, 2 stalks of celery, 200 milliliters cognac, 150 grams of butter and salt and pepper. Cut the onion and celery into small pieces and brown them with the liver in a pan. After everything is cooked, pour in the cognac and let cook. Take off the stove, blend with a handmixer, and then mix in the butter. Season with salt and pepper (they used a very grainy sea salt which was delicious), and then let chill in the fridge.

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In the last weeks I have been on the road again with my teammates. Giorgio (catching Pokemon over there while we waited for our train in Stuttgart) and Jonas (with me on the train to Belgium last week) have been keeping me entertained, which has been a lot of fun. Next week I head to the UK alone for a day or two, which will be a grueling couple days without colleagues to work with.

Some lovely new dishes have been created recently, although homemade pizza is still appearing with alarming frequency.

One of the better ones recently has been an easy Ottolenghi recipe: za’atar roast chicken with onions and lemons. Plus I made a flatbread to go with it – also seasoned with the Israeli Za’atar spice blend.

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Here’s the recipe over on Bon Appetit.

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Basically you just mix up the marinade ingredients:

 

  • 2 medium red onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic smashed
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced, seeds removed
  • 1 tablespoon ground sumac
  • teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth or water
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • a couple tablespoons of Za’atar spice mix

Mix it with you chicken, and let sit in the fridge for a few hours or overnight.

Then you bake it for about 50 minutes at 400 F, 200 C.

 

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Serve with yogurt (or green tahini sauce, as in Ottolenghi’s original recipe), a green salad or really ripe cherry tomatoes, and some flatbread to mop up the juices.

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It’s a practically no effort meal if you just buy the flatbread rather than making it yourself.

Just mix, bake, done.

The weather here this week in Munich is supposed to be spectacular. So happy I am not traveling.🙂

 

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Nothing rhymes with Okinomiyaki

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Friday night I felt…unsurprised. Resigned. It felt like it was only a matter of time before the craziness in the world would actively hit Munich. And then finally it did. I was home before I realized what was happening, although it even happened before I left work. I was riding my bike home around 6 pm, just minutes after the shooter at the Olympia Einkaufszentrum was putting people to death. Police car and ambulance and fire trucks all crossed by me and I wondered why so many of them…but it had seemed like so many of them anyway in the last days that I did not wonder too much.

When I got home, I cooked dinner. Like any normal evening. And then I checked email at 7:30 finally, when I noticed that siren after siren screamed its way by the apartment, without pause. But I feel too much nothing. I have been numbed to the tragedies after the most recent incidents in just the last couple weeks. Nice, Turkey, Republican Convention, Würzburg – all very different tragedies, but somehow they add up to numbness and inability to process what it all means and what one can even do. I can hardly compare, though, in my little insulated and sheltered world. It feels like a big farce to live here in the bubble sometimes.

So the next day you go out there and move on and don’t concentrate too much on the craziness. I moved.

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A lot. Getting ready for a marathon run in October. Maybe. My first moments of doubt came with yesterday’s half marathon training run. It was hot, close to 30 degrees. And I was careless with hydrating and eating enough and timing things correctly in the morning before leaving. When I hit 17k, I ran out of water. Still a good 4k from home, no money, no id, nothing but a phone and a key with me and a Powerbar. In the end, I could have gotten help had it really been critical, but I was frustrated that I wasn’t going to make my goal time, that it wasn’t feeling as good as it had the week before.

We went to a movie last night – Star Trek Beyond – no, I don’t recommend it. I woke up in the morning and heard that the shooter had shot himself, so wasn’t roaming the city anymore. So I said “ok” to going to a movie at night. Feeling like I was playing in a TV show of unreality. How can this be the world? A guy kills 10 people and himself 3 kilometers from where you live just hours before and the next night you are going to a movie as if nothing has happened. Well, but life goes on, right?

We didn’t have time to eat dinner before leaving for the film and afterwards it was too late. So I have been hungry the whole day somehow after burning 1700 calories in about 2.5 hours yesterday. Trying to fill in the hunger with fruit and nuts. Nothing seemed to help. Finally I began assembling dinner at around 5:30 tonight, dreaming of fat and carbs and protein and just feeling… not hungry anymore.

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That’s the beginning of Okinomiyaki. Yeah, I know, it’s hard to say without practice. Well, it’s a Japanese pancake. Made with a special Japanese yam and cabbage and in my case, seafood and a bit of ham. The easiest and fastest recipe is over here.  

The name is derived from the Japanese word okonomi, meaning “what you like” or “what you want”, and yaki meaning “grilled” or “cooked” (cf. yakitori and yakisoba).

It does require a trip, most likely, to an Asian supermarket, if nothing else for that weird yam, which you need to shred into the batter.

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It shreds very quickly, and is gooey. You add it to the flour, salt, sugar, dashi broth, and baking powder and then let it all chill in the fridge for about an hour.

And then you add the cabbage, the eggs, the seafood, etc.

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In the end, to cook it, you pile it into a saute pan and let it cook for about 10 minutes or so in total. It should be a nice fat pancake. 2 centimeters thick. You can dig into it.

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A giant pancake.

Which you then take off the stove and garnish with a special sauce (recipe with the recipe above), some mayo, some green onions, some pork floss (or bonito flakes are more traditional).

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And then you sit down, ideally when it is still piping hot, and eat it.

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Ideally with a very cold glass of rosé. Or two.

I am no longer hungry.

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Posted by on July 24, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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Hot. Hotter. Rome.

Trevi Fountain

Trevi Fountain

I don’t know why, but 33 degrees in Rome last week felt like someone had dragged me into the pit of hell. There’s some point where I just totally lose it when it comes to heat. I thought I had everything under control – careful use of umbrellas, stepping into the air-conditioned apartment or shop when needed, drinking lots of water, etc. But on the last morning before I left, I walked around outside for about two hours – last minute shopping –  and ended up back at my aunt’s hotel absolutely dripping. And not in a sexy steamy shimmery way, instead sporting more of a drowned poodle look.

I could relate to this sign which we ran into during sightseeing.

Pepper scale

Pepper scale

Yeah, that’s me on the right. At least during dinner, when drinking wine and wondering why they couldn’t turn the air-conditioning up a notch.😉

Despite this, we had a good time. I just had to think back to Singapore and realize that *nothing* is that bad. The tours were great – our guide was great – it was amazing how she packed in a whole eight hours of the Colosseum, the Forum, Trevi Fountain, etc. without making us lose our marbles from the heat and crowds. My aunt Sue very generously sponsored that part of the trip along with all the lovely dinners we had with her and my cousin.

Joshua and his ancient Roman cousin

Joshua and his ancient Roman cousin

Yes, Rome is PACKED with tourists during the summer. I really look forward to going back sometime in the late fall or early winter, when the city is more of just an amazing city and less of a tourist destination.

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Here we are, somehow reasonably sweat free after an hour walk in the evening to The Forum – before our official tour. It was wonderful to walk around for a weekend even before my aunt arrived and we did the tours just to see the architecture and try the food for a few days. Experience it without the official learning part first.

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The Colosseum had just been cleaned in the past year or so – and the grey/black soot was gone from must of the facade. In the early evening sunset it glowed orange and gold, as did much of the city.

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Inside, a few days later, we braved the heat and had a look at the huge space that used to hold up to 70 thousand people at a time to watch the fights and the spectacles. Can you imagine the wonderful odor of the crowd watching the games during the summer? Ummmmm…..

Two of the best things we ate? Well artichokes were everywhere. In the Jewish quarter during lunch we ordered the “jewish” artichocke preparation – essentially just a deep-fried artichoke that was amazingly crispy and salty and oily in a frech-fry kind of way.

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And even better that that was a seafood pasta with fresh shaved truffles that we found and ordered in a little trattoria near the apartment we stayed in. It competed with *the best pasta I have ever eaten* near Milan some years ago, coming close but not topping it.

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I’m back home now, and the heatwave has followed us, although it’s far more tolerable here, and not as hot.

But I still wanted something cool and refreshing for dinner tonight so I went with a spicy raw fish bibimbap that I love. Chopped vegetables, steamed rice, raw fish, and a delicious garlicky sauce all come together in this yummy creation.

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The recipe is from Maangchi – the little Korean YouTube sensation. The link takes you to her simple 8-minute video where you too can learn how to make this dish, called Hoedeopbap 회덮밥.

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As long as you have the ingredients for the sauce on hand, the whole thing comes together in about 30 minutes – the time it takes to make the rice.

Cool, refreshing and filling with both the rice and the fish, it’s more than a salad, but light enough that you walk away from the table without feeling like you need a nap.

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Next trip begins in about a week and a half, although I’m not yet sure where I am being sent. Around Germany, from what I hear. Stuttgart and…? No idea. Hoping to stay cool.

 

 

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Posted by on July 9, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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