In all this European, air-conditionless heat, who wants to cook? On the other hand, who wants to eat nothing but salads and sandwiches? Obviously, we are confronted with a dilemma, the worst of dilemmata (notice the correct Ancient Greek plural) I might add, as proper eating is quite crucial to the survival of mankind, don’t you think? Anyway, crucial or not, I can offer not just a solution but the solution: an omelette. It’s easily done, very quick and dirty, it can be seasoned according to personal taste, I myself like to throw in some tomatoe slices and add some garlic for some Mediterranean appeal, and it’s very light and agreeable no matter how high the temperatures go. I know, I should have told you this much sooner, but the next heatwave is already on its way, believe you me.
Some weeks ago, before that outburst of infernal heat, we longed for something spicy, something hot, and something that would really satisfy us—we were really very hungry that day some weeks ago. Some green asparagus with graped parmigiano just wouldn’t do the job. And so we remembered a very rich meal that was very popular in Germany in the 1970s, Gefüllte Paprikaschoten, which translates to Filled Peppers. We always thought of this dish as typically Hungarian a recipe, its origin seemed quite clear to us, as in these days everything served with peppers or even just remotely seasoned with paprika was considered Hungarian, and as Hungarians are very fiery people this meal should actually be a very fiery one. Germans, however, tend to prepare it very, very mild. Overly mild. I’ve said it before, and I say it again, Germans don’t like spices. Therefore, the grounded paprika for the sauce comes from Switzerland, I imported vast amounts of it, not from some posh fine delicatessen, but from a very ordinary supermarket, from Coop, from their cheapest range, Qualité & Prix, and is wonderfully hot. Just perfect. The Swiss love fine dining, and therefore you get the best spices there. Actually, I should call this dish Swiss Hunger Treatment…
39 degrees Celsius, this could be the name of a new diet. I’m serious. “The 39 Degrees Celsius Diet.” This summer’s day inspired me to it. Who wants to eat something out of an oven when you feel like being stuck in one yourself? Who wants ice cream for dessert that will melt on its way to your place at the beautifully set table in the garden just to ruin the festive atmosphere? Who wants red wine that just won’t uphold its cellar temperatures but cannot be served with ice cubes, either? Nobody. Consequently, we decided to skip all meals until temperatures will reach again some agreable 25 degrees or so, and judging by today’s weather forecast, that will probably be some day in late September. Well, what can I say, we’ll be ever so slim by then…
It was not a typical day to be spent outside, the weather forecast for that day had insisted on us staying in, it was really rainy and windy, puddles all over the place, leaves everywhere, but we felt like catching some air in the garden, it was neither the perfect place to have crêpes, the table was ever so wet and quite dirty, too, nor the perfect time, it was way too close to dinner, we’ve had tea hours ago and so we were about to ruin our appetite, but however more of a hindrance than an invitation the moment did appear to us, we couldn’t help ourselves and have crêpes, drenched in sugary Cointreau, right that moment, right then and there… Boy, were they yummy!
In 1998, I was looking for a Christmas gift for my father, when, sometimes that happens, I ran out of ideas and, coincidentally and quite by chance, Hermès had just launched their Rocabar men’s cologne, a very elegant fragrance that seemed perfect for my father. All problems solved. I bought the entire range. My father was delighted and smelled fine for weeks and months.
Today, however, when looking for a new piece of soap at my parents’ place, I found one of these gifts still untouched: the matching soap, stuffed in a drawer, next to various cosmetic items like tooth brushes, dental floss, lotion tonique aux plantes, toothpaste (white, extra white, and diamond white), shampoo (dandruff, extra volume, extra body, and some arctic prunes elixir), and other little helpers that we can’t live without, it has been waiting for the last 21 years to be finally taken out of the box and into the shower. I guess, some things just seem to need the right moment…
When you are supposed to put rosemary on a cake, you know it’s going to be different from your usual hazelnut extravaganza. Truth be told, this fine herb was the only exceptional ingredient of this recipe, all the rest, puff pastry, plums, sugar, cinnamon, and quince jelly, sounds rather familiar, doesn’t it? But once you’ve put the plums casually on the puff pastry and sprinkled the rosemary on it, your eyes won’t believe it’s not butter, sorry, they won’t believe it’s not pizza. Only when it’s out of the oven and into your mouth, its case is closed. It’s cake. No doubt. A very yummy, very Mediterranian cake. If you want to challenge your eyes, do try this at home!
When in Paris, it’s one of my strange habits to have the first coffee in the day in the Marais, don’t ask me why, there are perfectly fine alternative locations all over Paris, but no, it has to be the Marais, Paris’s oldest quarter, you won’t find much of Haussmann’s architecture here, it’s filled with beautiful hôtels particuliers, the residences of the aristocracy, erected hundreds of years ago, and still teaching us lessons about grandeur, in comparison, the front door of Mrs Kennedy’s lodging on Park Avenue appears to me like the back entrance to a dubious embassy of a totalitarian country with a laughable gross national product, sorry, New York, and don’t get me started on Trump and his golden tower, anyway, the Rohans and consorts had much better housing, one of those palaces, that’s what these hôtels particuliers really are, palaces, now houses the Picasso Museum. Then there’s Place des Vosges, a cliché, I know, but I have to pay it at least one visit each time I’m there, it actually looks nicest off season, in January, early in the year and in the morning, on a frosty day, void of people and tourists, under light snow, when only birds have left their prints, I like it in the rain, too, a little morbid, but I rather hate it when it’s full of people in summer, people with too much time on their hands ruin everything, loitering with intent, thirsty for a tan or whatever they do on a lawn – I do sound misanthropic, don’t I? Don’t get me wrong, I like people. Just not in places that look better without.
For family dinners, I’m always in charge of dessert. Today, it’s going to be raspberries with cream. It’s easily prepared, I open the fridge for the cream and the freezer for the raspberries, and I’m done. And then, all while sipping Chardonnay, I witness the rest of the meal being prepared, artichokes are being cooked, a vinaigrette is being composed, lots of French mustard and Italian olive oil form a beautiful entente cordiale, parsley from the garden is being “haché-menu”-ed, ever so fresh chanterelles are being cut, not from the garden but from the grocer, the table is being set, by whom actually, my father, I suppose, gee, that Chardonnay is really drinkable, and all of a sudden, I’m the last one missing at the table, I better join them, hey, they’re are having red wine, okay, fine with me, bon appétit.
Normally, for a nut cake, I need lots and lots of grounded almonds and some chopped walnuts, but yesterday I only had a tiny sachet of grounded almonds, just a mere 100 gramms, some bitter joke of an amount, so to speak, and if I weren’t as stress-resilient as I am, I might have burst out into tears. But then, out of hunting destiny down and kicking its ass, I decided to replace the grounded almonds with caramelized hazelnuts, the brittle priorly reserved for the glaze, and, while I was at it, use whole pine nuts as a substitute for the chopped walnuts, lots and lots of whole pine nuts. The result? Best nut cake ever! Unchanged recipes are for losers!