Category Archives: Summer in Bavaria

Sous vide’ing an octopus

I didn’t take this photo today, but nevertheless, it gives the feeling you get when you walk out onto the balcony of our rental apartment. Quiet, peaceful, maybe you can’t tell, but also breezy. One thing I love about this place we’re living in is that you can open up 10 sky lights all at once and allow the sun and the wind to shine it. In the morning we get this amazing fresh breeze coming through. It’s possible to live on a top floor and not suffer, you just need to rent the apartment belonging to two architects. Hmmm…that’s actually what we did last time too. So maybe they have to be the right architects, willing to put enough money into the place.

Anyway, we can enjoy the fresh breeze for around 7 more weeks and then…it’s back to our apartment. Unfortunately, we will likely be living in chaos, as our place will still not be complete. We’re hoping it will only last a few further weeks. We’ll be eating a lot of take out food, I guess.

But…I do look forward to seeing my kitchen again, although it’ll take some time to get it back in. I can imagine unpacking all the boxes again and putting plates back into cupboards, silverware back into drawers. The kitchen here is not bad, however, and the space is beautiful. Thankfully it was more or less outfitted with most of the things I need to cook, and I brought over a bunch of things, and I received…way back at my birthday last year…a new device, which has been added to the ever-increasing roster of tools I cook with.

One of those fancy cooking wands called a “sous vide stick.” Looks like a giant…uh, well, use your imagination.

This is not the brand I have, but no matter, mine works the same. The idea is that you clamp the wand into a pot and use it to bring the water inside to an exact temperature and hold it there. Then you put your food into a plastic bag, lower it into the water and let it sit there for x number of hours until it has reached that temperature. I think most recipes take about 4 hours or so. Some of them take 3 days, but I will never be doing those.

I haven’t used this present as much as I would like, and last weekend I was determined to try something out. We just got back from Sicily a few weeks ago, so seafood was still on my mind. I found a recipe for octopus, which I love when it is cooked right. So I went out and gathered the ingredients on Saturday, prepped a bit (you need to blanch the octopus in a broth for a few seconds and then sous vide it), and on Sunday afternoon and evening, pulled everything together.

Blanching the octopus

cool it down in an ice bath briefly.

Vacuum it up into a plastic bag.

Cook for four hours at 81 degrees C.

While all this was happening, I made the bean salad that went with the octopus. Giant corona beans that I had soaked overnight and then also cooked for about two hours to get them creamy and soft. Tossed with a vinaigrette and some chorizo sausage and mini corn cobs. The octopus comes out of the bathtub and gets briefly cooked either on a grill or in a pan, to give the outside some texture and crunch.

Results? Good, but not great, unfortunately. The octopus was tender and tasty, but the salad maybe a bit too strong in flavor.

Next try…maybe this weekend…a sous vide steak. 🙂


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The Figs are Guilty


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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.)


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:


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.

IMG_3115    IMG_3138

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.


Here’s the recipe over on Bon Appetit.


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.



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.


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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Duck, Duck, Pizza!


The next president of the United States up there? Sammy does a good impression. I certainly hope not. But after the outcome of the vote in the UK just a couple days ago, everyone is beginning to get quite scared about what might happen. So far away, I feel pretty innocuous, even if I am able to do my civic duty and vote from here. It makes me mad to hear now in retrospect about the ignorance of the British who voted to leave the EU. But I know it’s no better in the USA.

Meanwhile, life goes on.


Crazy things seen all over Europe in my travels these days. A second trip to Australia was taken off the table on Friday, which makes things easier in July. Even if there will be a few more trips ahead to Milan.

Which are always amusing in one way or another.


And the other day, in Turin, even though we were frantically prepping in the last hours up to our meeting,


There was still some time to look out the window and enjoy the view.


And now I get to do that from home as well – all the rain keeps our surroundings in our new place beautiful and green.


When I have time again – soon! – I look forward to spending some more time in the garden next to our kitchen. I need to plant all the herbs into the bed next to the deck.


Thankfully on the weekend, there is still time to try out new dishes here and there.


Lady and Pups is always an inspiration to test out new dishes. She published a really delicious and unhealthy pasta dish the other day that I decided I needed to test out right away.

Simply a carbonara – but made with duck egg yolks. I served it with some juicy duck breast and a celery and fennel salad with lots of lemon and herbs. Good indeed, but these days I’m actually rather addicted to a food that I didn’t think much of in the past.


But with the pizza stone in the new oven, these suckers are done in 7 minutes flat. I mix up a batch of the dough, separate it into 5 or 6 balls, freeze them, and take them out of the freezer when I want to make a pizza. Which is rather too often these days because of how easy and delicious they are.

And I keep trying out different combinations of toppings. Most of the time I’m not really planning in advance, rather just throwing whatever I have in my refrigerator on top of the pizza. Which generally turns out quite well.


Hungry yet? If you have any suggestions for my pizza, I’d be happy to hear. 🙂




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I can’t get no satisfaction


Just so you know, there is something behind this nonsense diet I have undertaken. With all the running I have been doing this summer, around 50k per week these days, I decided I might as well put some goals behind it, so it’s not all aimless running. Scratch that. None of it is aimless, it’s all for fitness, staying in shape, keeping stress away, feeling good, staying young (29 and counting!). But when you can put another specific, dated goal on top, a real challenge that will push you – at least a bit – it feels even better. So I have. As long as the weather is reasonable on that day, I will run the Munich half marathon on October 11. A mere six weeks away. But considering I have been running all summer with the aim to improve, I feel like I have been training for quite a long time already. In theory, it should be a breeze. Not that I have ever done it before.

But…it would be even nicer not to come in last. I’m slooooow. And while I have seen nice improvement over the summer – so far cutting about 35 seconds off my average km speed, I know I can do better if I get more serious. More serious about core strengthening for better posture and simply easier running, more serious about speed by doing interval training, more serious about diet, for which there has been very little seriousness. I don’t eat junk, at least not much, but when you perform sport activities for 2+ hours a day (running, biking to work and back, biking everywhere), you burn a lot of calories, and I’ve noticed that the hunger gets really out of control mid-day. I snack too much in between meals and it’s not snacking on carrot sticks. I am a carb junkie. Give me crackers and pretzels and I am a really happy camper. Throw in some ice cream when the thermometer hits 30+ degrees, and I am wallowing in bliss. But all this means that calories in are only perhaps a bit less than calories out. So I have managed to lose a few pounds over the summer, but really only a few.

And wouldn’t it be nice to be 10 pounds/15 pounds lighter to run a half marathon?

With six weeks to go…time to make a drastic, impactful change and see what happens. I’m cutting carbs. Day 7 in, I’m fairly miserable, but seeing results, so sticking with it. I guess you could say I am trying out a Paleo diet – with the exception that I am also leaving out the fruit, All sugar is gone, all carbs, except what comes from nuts and vegetables, gone. Let’s see what happens. Feels like Atkins, which I tried out quite successfully a long long time ago, but much much worse because in those days I didn’t run a 10k five times a week.

Tonight’s dinner: a reflection of the diet, but doing my best to stay happy with food I love.


Some poached salmon, long cooked kale, (always a favorite),


And a weird but ok attempt at zucchini/pepper/cheese pancakes (I resisted adding an egg to bind everything together, hoping the cheese would do the job as the pancakes cooked, because there have been way too many eggs in the last 7 days. Wasn’t pefect).



Good, filling, better than much of what I’ve eaten in the last few days while traveling, (on the road: piles of nuts, tomatoes, carrot sticks to fill the hunger moments) but…oh, I am really suffering without bread. Timing: gonna try to make it through another 3 weeks. For the last couple weeks before the race I’ll pull in fruit and legumes and some whole grain carbs.

So for now, dealing with this.


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Bean me up


Now you’re awake, aren’t you? My colleague, Valentin, brings a smile to everyone’s face on a daily basis with his crazy outfits. That was yesterday, in the Augustiner Biergarten next door to our office, where I gathered with 5 of my colleagues for a semi-spontaneous homemade lunch. (We planned it two days prior to yesterday – spontaneously.) Now these lunches have become a lunch series, inofficially named “Lunch of Awesomeness” by Herb, another foodie colleague of mine – in the back there, with the cap on. This was lunch number two – each one entailing the participants to bring some sort of home made dish or gourmet offering. We’re quite an international crowd there – representing 5 countries – USA (me), Poland (Kinga), Romania (Valentin), Germany (Guenter and Eva) and Austria (Herb.) Yesterday was a delicious mixed bag offering of Polish celery and beet salads, an Austrian beef “salad” with pumpkin seed pesto, my spicy duck and noodle dish (granted, not very American, but yummy), fresh baguettes, chocolate mousse and strawberry quark, and a minty ice tea (which you’re not allowed to bring into the beer gardens – so Valentin served it to us after lunch back at our desks.)


The last few days and weeks really have been scorching hot, with little reprieve from the sun. Taking picnics to beer gardens helps you stay cool. And when I cook in this heat, I try to find dishes that don’t require turning on the stove or oven for very long, if possible.

I’ve been a bit addicted to Korean recipes again lately, perhaps because of my discovery of this lady’s YouTube channel. Maangchi – just a simple housewife who started putting her recipes into short videos and over time has become this huge YouTube sensation (almost 700k subscribers!). And she’s really great. In just a few minutes she inspires me to throw together nice easy Korean dishes.

A week ago, again with her as inspiration, I went and bought a huge bag of dry soybeans. You know, these:


In 5 days, you can sprout them to full-grown sprouts. You just need to keep them watered regularly and covered. Not much to it.


No special equipment needed. Those are my sprouts! Fun window-sill projects.

And what to do with said sprouts? She had a great recipe for a bi-bim-bop with sprouts (called Kongnamulbap), cooked and done in about 45 minutes.

You mix up some beef with onions and garlic and a few other ingredients (a bit of soy sauce and sesame oil mixed into the beef to further flavor it).


In a pot with the rice and sprouts – yup, all together.


Let it cook for about 20 minutes….first on high and then down at a simmer.

Mix with a “dressing” of sorts, (⅓ cup soy sauce, 2 cloves of minced garlic, 1 stalk of chopped green onion, 2 ts hot pepper flakes, 1 ts honey, 1 tbs chopped onion, 1 tbs chopped green chili pepper, and 1 tbs roasted sesame seeds.)  fry an egg, mix the dressing with a scoop of the beef/rice/sprout mixture and then serve. Easy, fast and reasonably healthy – especially with a salad on the side.



Posted by on August 7, 2015 in Asian, Cooking at home, Summer in Bavaria


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Can you Orecchiette me?


Home for the weekend and almost no travel ahead of me for the next 30 days – just a day trip here and there. It’s an awesome feeling. I will be sleeping in my own bed, cooking in my own kitchen, running along the isar, playing with the cats, every single day through the month of July. Today, after a month of no significant interesting cooking/recipes because I was on the road most of May/June (or it felt like it), I got a chance to really splurge and spend most of the day in the kitchen, quietly preparing dinner, almost meditating as I pressed and folded, pressed and folded, little Italian-shaped “orcchiette” – which means “little ear” in Italian.

I’d seen this recipe a month or two back, and though it is more of a late spring recipe, because stinging nettles are rather more of a spring ingredient, I didn’t have a chance to tackle it until today. And there are still plenty of nettles around my neighborhood, you just have to take care and look for younger ones, preferably those that haven’t yet flowered. I loaded up the bike basket with a bag, rubber gloves, and scissors and went in search of the weeds. It didn’t take long to find some.


There they are, to the right of the bike, mixed in with all kinds of other stuff, but easy enough to spot, their nasty little venomous needles out and ready to bite.


You only cut the top tender leaves off, which I did. Cups of them – perhaps seven or eight – and then I brought them home, to soak in cold water. I wear the gloves all the way through the moment I get them in the pan. I was reminded during the collection, that even a gentle swish of an arm against a leaf is enough to leave a burn.


But washed and prepped, they look innocuous enough. Sauteed with garlic and onion and then pureed, they are a bit like spinach, but with a wild tang to them. Supposedly quite healthy as well, and I always like gathering things that end up in my dinner.

So on to the pasta. That was a nice mix of standard semolina and in my case, buckwheat, as I didn’t have any rye and couldn’t find it at the store yesterday. Mixed with water, the dough rests for an hour or so before you roll it out and begin the process of creating each of the little “ears.” I had no idea it would take so long, but I did a 600 gram recipe, meaning about 210 or 220 of those ears…each carefully hand rolled, hand pressed, hand folded. It was sort of relaxing ultimately, especially if you can just sit there and watch Netflix for two hours while you do it.


Weigh out 100 grams, roll it into a log, cut the log into 30-35 pieces.


Roll each into a little ball. And then press them into shape – a little concave hollow and then press the edges back…to look like an ear. Repeat with the next 100 grams, taking care to always keep the rest of the pasta well covered in plastic wrap so it doesn’t dry out as you roll.

There is probably a shortcut, I just haven’t learned it yet.


And let them dry out on a cloth or some baking sheets for a few hours.


I’ll put the uneaten ones in the freezer and cook them another time. But for tonight, the rest of the recipe was quite easy.

Chop herbs (mint, dill, chives) and crumble some feta. Zest a lemon. Place it all in the bowl where the dish comes together.



While you boil the pasta, saute some oyster mushrooms, throw in some fresh peas, dollop the nettle pesto you’ve made into the mix, stir in some pasta water, and finally mix it all together.


I love how the little ears gently cradle the peas – a perfect bite of sauce in each little ear. (Cute, no!!?!).

And each bite was lovely, a medley of flavors, each bite a little different: fresh herbs, the salty cheese, the sweet peas, the gentle buckwheat flavor of the dough in the background.


And to finish off our meal, I’d made a simple upside-down cherry and cornmeal cake. A coffee cake, as it turned out, served with a spoonful of petit suisse cheese mixed with a bit of honey.


Happy Sunday Supper.


After that, Monday doesn’t feel so bad, does it?



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