Two weeks ago the deep cold came to Berlin. Hats and gloves are required now for even the briefest trips out to the corner store. But along with the drop in temperature the sun has shown its face a bit more. The days are slowly but surely getting longer as well, and I suppose I’d rather have it be sunny but freezing cold than dark and uncomfortably chilly.
The Saturday before last, Cesar and I went to a sauna overlooking the Spree. It was the perfect thing to do on one of the coldest nights of the year. The sauna is part of Berlin’s public pool system, and is open until 3 AM on weekends. We stayed until 2 AM and got home in less than 20 minutes on the train, including a transfer. So cheap, so easy. These are the times that I love living in Berlin.
On Sunday I went for a walk in the cold while Cesar made pork shoulder.
The lengthening of days is a reminder that 2012 is already flying by. For the last few months, I’ve been photographing objects in museums as part of my dissertation research, mostly fragments of ornament from a palace in Iraq. I was also working on an introductory chapter that didn’t involve the objects. Now that I’m about half way through what I set out to look at and the draft of the first chapter is in, I’m trying to pause for a minute, to take stock of what I have and to figure out what I still need. So far, it’s a lot of click-click-clicking through files on my computer and flipping through pages in exhibition catalogues. Aimless yet frantic at the same time.
Before I had a relatively mechanical task to do. Now I feel like I’m staring into space a lot and time has a tendency to slip away quickly. An afternoon, a week, might evaporate while the cursor only moves a few inches across the screen. But this is what has to happen before the next chapter starts. The dead of winter and the doldrums of dissertating have hit and the only thing to do is to keep clicking and to take more walks in the snow.
Also, to cook. Cook, cook, cook, and bake. I’m not sure where this baking idea came from, but it’s hit full force. After the choco-beet cake , I also made [ these ] and [ this ]. My attempt at the latter is shown below.
For now, I don’t have a cake recipe. Instead, I have a very simple but very satisfying meal that is almost perfect for the dead of winter. Yes, it’s another version of beans, greens and protein, but this time with cheese. In Berlin’s Turkish markets, you can buy this amazing stringy, salty cheese. It’s just salty enough so that no extra salt is required as garnish. I think the term in Turkish is Dil peyniri. I don’t know the German. In North America, you could use queso Oaxaca or something similar. It’s worth it to seek the cheese out for this one. Otherwise, you can use any bean and any dark green that wilts nicely. This time I used pinto beans and kale, but I made it the week before with spinach and preferred that.
Pintos, Bitter Greens and Poached Egg
Ingredients (for two)
1 cup of pinto beans
Salt to taste
2 large eggs
Two hand-fulls of dark/bitter greens for wilting (e.g. kale, broccoli raab or spinach)
100 g (3 oz) stringy white cheese (e.g. queso Oaxaca)
Crushed red chili flakes or tabasco for garnish
Soak beans overnight in a pot of cold water. In the morning, drain the beans and rinse.
About 2 hours before you want to eat, recover the beans with 4 cups of water and add a generous pinch of salt. Bring these to a simmer and let cook until soft (about an hour to 1.5 hours). Add more water and salt if necessary. You should end up with a good amount of liquid so that you can wilt the greens.
Once the beans are soft, rinse and chop your greens to the desired size and shred the cheese. Add the greens to the beans. Stir and cook until the greens are tender, about 5 – 10 minutes depending on what you use.
When the greens go into the pot, bring a small saucepan of water to the simmer with a dash of vinegar. Break your egg into a bowl and gently slide it into the simmering water. Watch the pot so the water doesn’t begin to boil and ruin the egg (keep it over low to medium heat). Let the egg poach for around 4 minutes and then ladle it out with a slotted spoon.
Serve immediately by ladling a spoon-full of the bean mixture into a shallow bowl. Top with the poached egg and shredded cheese.