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Monthly Archives: March 2012

Two weeks has gone by since my last post, and there’s been a lot going on around here in the meantime- lots of planning and decision making about next year. I will have to talk about that later, but it’s all been good and exciting.

Spring has also arrived in Berlin. Along with the switch to “Sommerzeit” last weekend (it now doesn’t get dark until eight and I’m loving that) there has been a dramatic increase in temperature and a proportional increase in Martini, wine and Bitterol drinking. The spring vegetables are not quite here yet, but they will be soon. The first nice-looking artichokes are appearing, along with asparagus and green garlic- my new obsession. More on these later as well.

For now I have a recipe for this in-between time, just before the spring produce really comes. It’s a frittata and it’s my new standby for weekend breakfasts.  It combines pasta, a bitter green, cheese and sausage, and it is delicious hot or cold. It has no root vegetables. I love my root vegetables and have especially grown to love kohlrabi over here, but after five months of them I am ready to say goodbye until October. Version one appeared above, here is version two:

This is an ideal dish to make with leftovers, but I buy and cook pasta fresh just to make it because I like it that much. As you can see from the two pics above, I experimented a bit with shapes. I find that if you are using the sausage, a longer pasta like spaghetti or fettucini adds a nice contrast to the clumps of meat. If you want to make this vegetarian (and it’s good that way too), a more textured shape like cork-screws or penne make for a nice consistency. As for cheese- I used a crumbly, sour white cheese similar to fetta, but something like Parmesan would be more traditional. Make sure to add plenty of black pepper- it makes the dish.

Frittata with broccoli rabe, sausage and pasta

Ingredients (for 2-3 people)

6 eggs

1/2 lb of italian-style sausage

1 small yellow onion, minced

1/2 lb of broccoli rabe

2 cups cooked pasta (if using a long pasta, chop the strands in half a couple of times)

1.5 cups of coarsely grated parmesan or firm sour white cheese like ricotta salata

Salt and black pepper

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 F.

First prepare the broccoli rabe: Wash but do not pat dry. Remove the lower parts of the stems that are fibrous and coarsely chop the leaves and tender parts of the stem. Set these aside.

Put a splash of olive oil in a cast-iron skillet or other shallow ovenproof pan. Chop up the sausage and cook over medium heat until just brown. Then add the onions and fry until translucent. If the sausage produces a lot of grease, you can drain some of it off at this point.

Next add the chopped broccoli rabe to the skillet, turn the heat down to low and cover the pan, letting the broccoli rabe cook down for around 10 minutes.

In the meantime, beat together the eggs and add the pasta and 1 cup of the grated cheese to the egg, stirring well to make an even mixture. Add salt and plenty of pepper and stir again.

After 10 minutes, uncover the skillet. The greens should be cooked down quite a bit. Carefully pour the egg mixture over the pan, moving around the pasta if necessary so that it doesn’t all cluster together in one area.

With the heat over medium low, cook the mixture on the stove top until the bottom is firm. I like to use a spatula for this part, lifting up the sides and tilting the pan so that the mixture is evenly distributed and cooks more quickly.

When the bottom is firm and the sides are just beginning to firm as well (after about 5 to 7 mintues) transfer the whole thing to the oven and bake until no liquid remains on top (about 10 minutes). Finally, sprinkle the remaining cheese over the frittata and cook for another minute so that the cheese just melts.

To serve: some people like flipping the frittata out of the pan on its back, but I just like to slide it out because the bottom doesn’t look as nice as the top in my opinion.

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Lately I’ve been feeling so accustomed to my life in Berlin that I sometimes forget I’m in a foreign country. The city is so easy to navigate, everything is running smoothly for the most part at work and at home, and I’ve gotten used to using German for everyday interactions.

But then sometimes I have an “Oh yeah, I’m in Berlin” moment. For example: I get on a bus at one o’clock in the morning. I walk past the mulleted bus driver, who waits until I sit down all the way at the back and then announces over the intercom that she needs to see my ticket again. I return to the till and she informs me that I must pay a surcharge for not having the right ticket. I dutifully hand over a 5-euro bill, but she refuses to take it and demands smaller change (there’s a change box at the till). When I explain that I have no change, she simply dismisses me back to my seat, satisfied with having reprimanded me like a bad child. I just can’t picture that interaction happening on a bus back home.

Last weekend I had one of these moments. It involves a little story so bear with me. First, I locked myself out of my apartment. My door locks automatically and I’m very prone to forgetting keys, so it was bound to happen eventually. Normally, I would just go see Monika, the woman who stands in as landlady while the owner is out of the country. Monika had lost her spare keys that week, however, and had called me to ask if I could let her in for her bi-weekly apartment cleaning. I tried calling her anyway and got no answer. I sent a text and received no response. I then went to the key-making service down the street to see if they could help me. Closed on weekends. Still no word from Monika.

Panic was beginning to set in, so I thought that I could see if one of my neighbors knew the number of the Hausmeister. I still don’t know what this person actually does, but he exists, and one of his powers is to give permission for residents to copy keys – yes, sometimes you need a written permission to copy keys in Berlin – so I thought he might have a skeleton key or know about keys, or something.

So, I knocked on my next-door neighbor’s door. I’ve only seen the guy once or twice, mind you. I heard some shuffling around and then the door opened. There was my next-door neighbor at the door, with no pants.

Let me qualify this: my neighbor (a guy about my age) was wearing a long t-shirt that went down to upper thigh where it gave way to bare legs. I don’t know if underwear was part of the equation.

Now, I know that we Americans are a rather uptight and even puritanical bunch when it comes to nudity. Yes, I know that Europe is home to nude beaches and nude saunas, and that occasionally one sees Berliners sunbathing in parks with nothing but a towel to lie on. But it still seemed strange to answer the door with no pants, so nonchalantly. It’s not that hard to say “just a minute” and to go throw on a pair of sweats before opening your home to the wide world, right? I didn’t really know how to react, so I pretended to be cool with it and asked about the Hausmeister. He didn’t know the number. He wished he could help me but just didn’t know anything about locks. I said thank you and goodbye a little too quickly and proceeded up the stairs to try the next neighbor.  I wonder if the look on my face gave away my mild shock.

I eventually did get back into my apartment. Monika had found her spare keys and saved the day, not to mention the seventy euro charge I would have had to pay to the locksmith to make a house call. Over the next week, I asked several friends, German and non-German, about the no-pants door answering thing and there’s been zero consensus on the matter. Some people think it sounds normal, and others think it’s definitely strange. I don’t know whether to think that I have a creepy neighbor or to be ashamed for being a prude.

Berlin’s an easy city for an American 20-something to live in, there’s no question about that. It’s about as easy as it gets I think. But occasionally something happens that reminds me that I’m a foreigner, and this was one of those times. It’s nice actually, to have your comfort zone tested every now and then. Otherwise, what’s the point of travel? The whole locking-myself-out thing was exhausting though, and I was in need of a drink by the end of it. That’s what the following recipe is for, and I hope you enjoy it. Cheers to my pantsless next-door neighbor.

Blood Orange Mimosa 

Notes: This isn’t much of a recipe, but I wanted to record the way I did this because I liked the proportion of juice to wine – not much of the former. The local Turkish weekend market down the street from me sells blood oranges dirt cheap, and they are a bit too ripe to eat, which makes them perfect for juice. I find them a bit too sweet on their own, so I like to add a dash of lemon juice to the mix.

Ingredients (for 3-4 drinks):

1 cup blood orange juice (about 4 small, very ripe blood oranges)

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Sparkling wine (e.g. Cava or Prosecco)

Directions

Put 3-4 tablespoons of the juice mixture into a champagne flute. Top off with chilled sparking wine and garnish with a slice of orange if you’re feeling fancy.