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Introducing the Monsters

They may look adorable, innocent, harmless, but beware. Those are the monsters, Tom and Finn, who come and wake us every single morning at 5 am, if not a little before. Truthfully, I’m not complaining. They are adorable.

A face like that sticks his little face in your face and you can’t help but smile. Even that early.

They have been around now for just over two weeks, driving poor Sophie a little up the wall. We keep thinking she’s handling them a bit better, but I’m not sure. I hope she chills out a bit more in the next couple weeks.

They are certainly chilled.

My day pattern has changed a bit now. Very early in the morning we’re up, running around with the monsters, trying to keep them away from Sophie while she eats her breakfast. And then we eat, go to work, and I try to get home early, to feed everyone, run them around some more, and then collapse into bed.

Weekends are easier. And I am enjoying spring-time food. This was an inspiring recipe a week back. An easy lemon ricotta asparagus ravioli. In the end, it turned out to be more work than anticipated because I also made the dough – the recipe calls for simply using Chinese dumpling wrappers. But I’m not a fan of them. I find them too thin and flimsy most of the time.

In essence, you make your filling – a sort of pesto, blanched asparagus, and cheese mixture that you wiz in the blender.

Then either use pre-purchased dough, or make your own. I did mine – a rye and white flour mixture with some herbs mixed in – with my manual pasta machine.

I remembered only after starting to roll what a pain whole grain flours are. I find them harder to work with. They crack easily. Maybe I need to work on my water, egg, flour ratios. And resting time.

But they came together finally.

And I made enough to freeze about half of them for another time.

To serve, I blanched a few more asparagus and then did a butter/herb/wine sauce.

Tom and Finn did not partake. They stuck to their favorite chicken pate. 🙂

 

 

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Posted by on May 21, 2017 in Cats, Cooking at home, Pasta, Vegetarian

 

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Veggieliscious

Shelling peas

I am in sort of a marathon vegetable phase, for better or for worse. Don’t get me wrong, I love my vegetables. But I simply have never been a vegetarian, or really even tried to cook without meat or fish for any sort of extended period of time. I definitely don’t eat meat or fish with every meal and I do my best to make sure every meal is well balanced with not too heavy emphasis on the animal protein when it is in there.

But…for a few weeks or months – let’s see how long – I’m doing my best to simply go without meat. Fish may be reintroduced soon, as the purpose of this “fast” is health only. What’s particularly nice is that it forces me to be more creative, rather than relying on the easy fat and flavor that meat often brings to dishes. More creative with spices, more creative with variety.

So far so good, although I am collecting lots of recipes to keep the idea database well-stocked.

Breakfast is pretty easy – fruit and either my standard toast and avocado or cheese or else a bowl of quinoa or amaranth when I have the time to cook it (often).

Lunch has been a mix – going out for lunch when I’m out of town and ordering only vegetarian or alternatively bringing leftovers for lunch or making a quick pot of lentils and bringing them to the office (was met with snarky comments on Friday by some of my colleagues who didn’t like the look of my lentils).

And dinner last week saw a variety of things. A lovely whole grain pasta mixed with onions, tomatoes, mushrooms and herbs quickly sauteed and then tossed with yogurt and a bit of garlic (a favorite of mine).

Veggie pasta with yogurt

Veggie pasta with yogurt

When I have time, I might bake some bread – as in this photo with a yogurt and molasses and whole wheat bread – on the side, some sauteed greens and parsnips and a sunny-side up egg.

Bread, sauteed greens, egg

I can imagine doing all kinds of variations on the recipe below – with socca pancakes (an Italian chickpea pancake) and tamarind potatoes.

Chickpa pancakes with tamarind potatoes and tomato salad

Chickpea pancakes with tamarind potatoes and tomato salad

Last night I had a bunch of guests over and did a few courses of veggies. A lovely warm soup with tomatoes, chickpeas and coconut milk with smoked paprika – highly recommended!, a fresh pea and ricotta cheese torte, a seasonal asparagus salad with pistachios and mint, and finally a very delicious avocado mouse/brulee (brulee didn’t work out quite as desired…) – but more on the dessert in the next post…it’s deserves its own post….

Spring Pea and ricotta torte and shaved asparagus salad with mint and pistachios

Sophie was most impressed with me shelling the peas…

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Some recipes well worth sharing – but I did quite a few modifications on the pancakes, the roasted broccoli, and the tamarind potatoes. The last four links I followed more or less to the letter:

 

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Istanbul Food Tour

Breakfast cart - street vendor

Breakfast cart – street vendor

Back now in Germany for a few days, I have to say that I miss warm and sunny Istanbul a little bit at least. We had a few hours of sun yesterday in between the thundershowers, but by the time I left work, the rain was back. Somehow I am a bit gloomy today, maybe a combination of things…the rain, the news that I will finally roll off my New York project next week (although maybe on to an interesting new one doing a mobile app), who knows what. But i can reflect with some smiles on the morning spend in Istanbul with Olga walking through the city and tasting many Turkish favorites.

We started out with tea and that breakfast sandwich I posted last week. The man who made them for us was serving breakfast up out of his cart simply parked in a little alleyway off a road. He seemed to be very popular – there was a line of people waiting for his sandwiches, which were stuffed with cheese, meat, olive paste and herbs.

People waiting in line for breakfast from cart

People waiting in line for breakfast from cart

Olga explained to us that generally eating from the carts in Istanbul is perfectly safe (I wasn’t at all worried) because of the intense competition. If someone gets a reputation for serving up food that makes you sick, he/she won’t last long. Therefore, the produce and meat have to be extremely fresh or your crowd of hungry consumers will go find another place to eat.

After the sandwich we headed over to one of the local shops that sell sweets.

Confectionary shop selling Turkish Delight

Confectionery shop selling Turkish Delight

I will forever associate Turkish delight (only one of the many types of Turkish sweets, with the book, “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.” There is a scene in there where Edward gets drugged by the queen when she feeds him Turkish delight which somehow magically puts him temporarily under her control. Then I had no idea what Turkish delight was and I could only imagine the sweet chewy stuff. I don’t think Olga had any evil intentions, however, when she offered us some to taste.

Olga offering us Turkish delight

Olga offering us Turkish delight

After we had been thoroughly doused in sugar, the next few stops along the way to the spice market included nut and spice vendors, a taste of Ayran – the well-known Turkish yogurt drink (I think I like the Afghan version even better, “Doogh,” more or less the same, but with herbs and shredded cucumber mixed in as well. ). At one of the spice vendors, I finally bought something the vendor introduced to me as “lemon salt.” But I actually don’t know exactly what it is. It looks like salt. But it is not at all salty. It tastes like lemon juice when you put a crystal on your tongue. The vendor suggested it could be used on fish. I sprinkled a bit on a piece of chicken last night while it was cooking in the pan with other turkish spices, which was quite good. Olga and the vendor talked about how the stuff was made briefly – drying out lemon juice in the sun or something like this – but I am not sure exactly. There is no salt flavor at all in the crystals. Would lemon juice crystallize like that?

Lemon "Salt"

Lemon “Salt”

Then we continued on to the Spice Market, where before we walked in we were reminded that the market was really more or less for tourists. Even so, the market overwhelms (as it is supposed to do) with its play on your senses – the bright colors and cacophony of vendors yelling at you, the smells of the teas and coffees and herbs. It’s hard not to be drawn in to some extent, you want to buy a little bit of everything to try, the stranger, the better – like this sheep cheese which is stored in goat skin (you can vaguely make out the hair on the skin…versions we saw later in the day that were still closed looked like big hairy balloons). But I didn’t.

Sheep cheese stored in goat skin

Sheep cheese stored in goat skin

There were a few “real” vendors in the spice bazaar, as Olga pointed out – shopkeepers who really do focus more on selling to the locals. They are more recognizable because of two things. First of all, they don’t sell a little bit of everything. They tend to specialize much much more in their area of competence. Secondly, they don’t have piles of spices and teas and such just lying out to get stale. Their wares are carefully put away to keep them fresh. Here was one such vendor. You would need to ask for what you want from these guys.

Traditional shop vendor in Spice Market, Istanbul

Traditional shop vendor in Spice Market, Istanbul

Out the other side, we made a dash for the ferry (ok, not really much of a dash, more a slightly brisk walk), enjoying the sun on our heads and faces. It was supposed to have rained the entire time we were there, but we got truly lucky.

Lovely weather

Lovely weather

The ferry ride to the Asian side of Istanbul was too quick – a mere 15 minutes later we disembarked and walked over to the local market in Karaköy.

Ferry ride to Asian side of Istanbul

Ferry ride to Asian side of Istanbul

Here Olga explained, was the real deal. Not at all a tourist market, it becomes obvious walking around that while the vendors are interested in you, they are not hawkers like in the spice bazaar. Sure, they like it when you buy something, but they are not reaching out to grab you into their store or stand.

We passed by the fish vendors first, selling a huge variety of fish, large sea bass and tiny sardines, turbot proudly displayed on the walls, some bright pink in hue and others paler. To demonstrate the freshness of the catch, the gills of many of the fish are turned inside out. The bright red color means there is still oxygen enriching the blood – still fresh. Grouped together, it often looked like the fish were covered in roses.

Fish gills show freshness

Fish gills show freshness

We stopped after that for some refreshment – a bite (or more!) of a Turkish pizza – lahmacun – which I eat all the time in Munich. But this one had an incredibly thin crust. They came fresh and steaming hot out of the wood-burning oven – a cheese version and a meat version. A perfect lunch. The next day I had another perfect Turkish lunch and another classic – manti – the little Turkish ravioli, which is traditionally served with a cold yogurt sauce. Olga told us the Turks eat manti as a comfort food. It would be something your mother would make for you when you come home from school.

Turkish ravioli - "Manti"

Turkish ravioli – “Manti”

As the tour approached the end, we naturally had to finish with some Baklava and Turkish coffee. Olga offered us a lesson in eating Baklava properly with a fork, something I still need to master. The coffee was delicious, mild, smooth and a little smoky. Served traditionally with a little glass of water and a small piece of Turkish delight. You need to tell the waiter in advance how much sugar you like in your coffee because the cooking process already incorporates the sugar, you don’t add sugar after you receive your coffee to drink. This was actually a photo of coffee from the following day, but almost all the presentations of coffee were similarly elaborate and sparkling.

Turkish Coffee

Turkish Coffee

Our tour came to an end and we got on the boat to go back to the European side of Istanbul. A couple of musicians came and sat down right next to us to perform and they were really wonderful. A sweet ending to a lovely tour.

Musicians on boat back to European side of Istanbul

Musicians on boat back to European side of Istanbul

But today, in addition to lovely memories of our tour, I have a very cute cat to keep me company. :-)

Happy cat

Happy cat

 
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Posted by on May 31, 2012 in Cats, Istanbul, Uncategorized, vacation

 

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California Birdies in a Bread Pocket

When I was home recently  I spent quite a few hours paging through cookbooks in my sister’s house. She always has some new ones…and the hardest part for me is to figure out which ones I want to buy and bring home with me. This time she seemed to be on a North African/Turkish/Mediterranean kick, which more or less fit with what I am cooking a lot of at home these days as well, so there was inspiration aplenty.

So home with me came two cookbooks: Moro (name of the restaurant run by the two authors) and Crazy Water Pickled Lemons.And I naturally haven’t had enough time to cook my way through them, but I am picking out a recipe or two when I can. Today…beautiful sunny day…perfect day to ride the bike down to the Viktualienmarket (farmer’s market) and pick up some nice things. Which is what I did…with a list of ingredients at the ready.

I wanted to make an herb salad – tossed water cress, dill, taragon, basil, cilantro, parsley, etc – with a light oil and lemon juice dressing. And a pistachio sauce that my sister made when I was there would be really nice, perfumed with orange blossom water and a grind of garlic and salt. I had also seen a recipe that looked delicious and easy: marinated quail breasts stuffed in a fresh bread pocket and baked for 10 minutes. A dab of yogurt, a spoonful of Italian tomatoes…really, what more could you want?

But I was suffering a bit because the recipe called for the breasts of quails and only the breasts. You might bake up the rest (legs) and munch them like little barbequed chicken legs at some other point, but I didn’t really see that happening. And I really didn’t want to just throw away half the bird so I could eat their breasts. Look – I mean…..these are the cutest birds….they just hop and sputter around the neighborhoods in northern california….it’s bad enough…just the thought of eating them.

California Quail

California Quail

Maybe the only thing cuter is a photo of my kitties having a nap on the couch this morning.

Napping Kitties

Napping Kitties

Anyway, so I was thinking of alternatives (duck breast? chicken legs?) and wandering around one of the downtown grocery stores after buying my veggies at the farmer’s market. When I suddenly came across a package of quail breasts. Was really the strangest thing. And of course I grabbed them and walked out the door triumphant. I wouldn’t have to waste half the bird and I could try out my recipe.

Which is what I have now just finished eating. They were yum yum yummy.

Quail Pastries with Pistachio sauce and Salads

Quail Pastries with Pistachio sauce and Salads

And super easy to make. You sprinke the breasts with cardamom and black cumin, salt and pepper and let them rest in the fridge for a bit. Meanwhile, mix up the dough (I used my breadmaker, so no effort there.). 45 min later, saute the breasts on both sides,

Sauteeing the breasts

Sauteeing the breasts

Roll out the dough and put the two breast halves and some herbs on one side. Fold and seal them all up.

Stuffing the pastries with the meat and herbs

Stuffing the pastries with the meat and herbs

Put them in the oven to bake for 10 minutes…

Into the oven with the pastries

Into the oven with the pastries

Eat and enjoy.

I’m happy to share the recipe with anyone who wants it, just tell me.

Quail Pastries with Pistachio sauce and Salads

Quail Pastries with Pistachio sauce and Salads

By the way, while the quail breast was very good, I do in fact think you could easily swap it out for a chicken thigh. Duck breast might not be as good.

 
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Posted by on April 30, 2011 in Cats, Cooking at home

 

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Naughty and Nice

I don’t know. Maybe I am just a prude. But yesterday at the train station, my jaw dropped open when I passed the refrigerator isles in one of the convenience stores. They were selling this drink. And for the cat lover…you look twice and think….”ooooooh, cute.” At least at first glance and until you read the label. The name of the drink….”kalte muschi…” sorry, I refuse to translate it for you. Go to Google Translate and look it up yourself. Needless to say, it is not *polite.*

Naughty: Cold...uh...cat.

Even more interesting…the lovely stuff – I mean the actual drink inside the bottle – seems to be (literally translated) “Rotwein Cola Zeugs : Red wine cola stuff.”  So an interesting mixture of red wine and coke flavor. I needed a drink for the train. But that…sure as hell wasn’t gonna be it.  Gave me the shivers. The heebie jeebies.

Today, I picked up some groceries after work. And was pleasantly surprised in the fridge section as compared with yesterday. Maybe it is because my sister will have a baby in a week and I am looking at all kinds of cute baby presents, but I was like…”awwwww, so cute.” Here’s what I saw:

Nice: 2 fruits drink

I don’t really drink any fruit juice…but the little Hawaiian girl just suckered me in with a wink. (Although I tasted the drink by now…and the stuff is ok, but I am not dying to gulp it down. Design packaging success…)

 

 
 

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Evil Car

As I was riding my bike to work this morning, I caught this little symbol out of the corner of my eye on a little Smart car I passed.

5 down, how many to go?!?!

Five down, how many to go?!?!

I doubled back to take another look.

Ahhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!

I interpret that this sign means: “I have murdered 5 cats. I am proud of this. Cats, get out of the way if you don’t wanna die.”

But what was even more disturbing, was this little sign was seemingly at odds with the sticker on the other side of the rear of the car.

Schizophrenic Smart

Schizophrenic Smart

How can anyone who hates cats so much, love Apple?

So sad. I covered the license plate because I didn’t want to feel responsible if anyone would feel even more strongly than I do that the owner of this car should undergo a light lobotomy. 😛

 
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Posted by on March 14, 2011 in Apple, Cats

 

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Sulky

Sometimes better to blend in.

 
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Posted by on March 5, 2011 in Cats

 

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