Pardon my stupid unoriginal pun, I just couldn’t resist. Fact is, however, this salad’s recipe is originally from Nice, France, and secondly, it’s very nice a recipe, especially when served in summer on a hot day and spaghetti bolognese are just to heavy a meal to even think of. You might say now, that in November, temperatures are ever so moderate, and ask what kind of point I was trying to make, and in fact, you’re right, if served outside now, you might want to exchange your glass of red wine that goes ever so fine with for some mulled wine or punch in order to stay alive and/or unfrozen, but I still would have to remind you of the people from Down Under who are suffering from some rigid heat wave right now, so hot, they might actually wanna have their red wine served on the rocks. I have never quite understood why that actually is, they having summer when we have winter, something with the sun and rotation and blind sides and solstice and astronomical stuff such as that going on, but I digress. Anyway, salade niçoise, this lovely dish from Nice, France tastes fine in any season, at any time, with any ocean next to it, the Mediterranean Sea or the Pacific, but if you prefer some heat to go with it, just turn it on. Bon appétit!
We’re all schizophrenic beings, I think. Otherwise, how could it be possible to name a duck your favourite animal, and still love the very same guy served for dinner, à l’orange or Peking or roast with some yummy sauce? As for sauces, I came up with a totally new one. Lots of rucola, haché menu, some garlic and spring onions, aka shallots, also chopped and minced in as tiny little pieces as you can manage, some fine aceto balsamico, from Modena of course, ever finer olive oil, from any Mediterranean origin, I prefer Sicily, lots of crushed white pepper, chillies, and some honey, not a lot, all of it gets stirred, not shaken, and you end up having the most aromatic condiment for your roast duck. It’s so good, you want to give it a name! Donald, or Daisy, or as you please. As I said, we’re all schizophrenics…
I have no idea if F. Scott Fitzgerald or any of his protagonists ever had bratwurst for dinner, leastwise the Divers should have eaten this teutonic meal at least once when staying in Zurich, the Swiss make such fine bratwurst, but since I happen to own Jay Gatsby’s personal napkin ring, discovered it some years ago in an antique store in West Egg, Long Island, I can tell you that his spirit is still with us and was with me tonight, when I had bratwurst for dinner, accompanied by some savoy cabbage. This curly leafed vegetable surely would have put a smile on Scott Fitzgerald’s face, savoy has such a nice first class hotel ring to it, doesn’t it? I think, I can say sans rougir that tonight, Jay Gatsby and I had a bratwurst as big as the Savoy.
Today, just by chance when shopping for Turkish chestnut honey at my Turkish grocer’s (despite the Turkish invasion in Syria, I decided not to take it out on the Turkish bees and chestnut trees, I cherish both of them way too much), I came along some dorados that were fresher than any other dorado I had ever met, and my life’s plans changed instantly—tonight’s originally planned linguine surely wouldn’t mind taking a rain check, and so I carried two of these wonderful, bright-eyed dorados home. Not realizing of course, that they were so fresh that I would have to remove all of the scales first, tricky job, and then open their bellies and operate on them to extract all of their intestines before I could finally put them in a pan, oh what lucky people all these vegetarians are… It was kind of a survival trip, rather challenging, no filleted stuff served on fancy plates by some blasé waiter, no, these guys I almost hunted down myself like a lion would an antilope… We had them with potatoes and some parsley, quite à la Hemingway, I understand lions like them best this way…
Cheese is the best thing there is, unless you’re lactose intolerant. I thought I was, at least until very lately, but it turned out to be an imaginary intolerance. Actually, it was a severe case of media brainwash, thus called by my physician, but that’s a totally different story. Anyway, as I said, cheese is the best thing there is. Especially this one, imported from Burgundy, France, by my parents who came back yesterday, served tonight for dinner with baguette and some other fine stuff and, most importantly, with a (actually, two and a half) bottle of Maranges, a very fine Burgundy wine, with a nice aroma of almost overly ripe cherries to lighten the almost overly creamy heaviness of that wonderful cheese. A cheese, of which my parents couldn’t recall the name, otherwise I would have told you, please believe me!
In December of 1980, I ate my very first merguez on a Christmas market in Baden-Baden. I still remember it strangely well, for some reasons I can still recall that very unusual taste, although it looked almost like a German Bratwurst, it tasted nothing like it. First of all, it’s lamb, and then are Arabian spices in it that in these years weren’t too common; actually, if Baden-Baden wasn’t so close to the French border and hadn’t been such a worldly place since the 1800s due to its casino, merguez wouldn’t have been on a German Christmas market menu, trust you me, no chance, none whatsoever. Today, however, you get them everywhere. Even at Aldi, Germany’s cheapest of supermarkets. Times do change, and sometimes even for the better. And so does my routine: instead of the hummus I usually serve merguez with, I had them with homemade ratatouille today. Really good a combination.
It just so happened that some days ago, when temperatures were still a little higher, I felt like pasta for lunch but didn’t have much time to prepare a complicated sauce, you know that kind of Bolognese that needs a day or two to develop all of its aroma or that sauce that Sophia Petrillo from the Golden Girls starts cooking days in advance and that therefore needs a very special occasion. This day’s lunch, however, was no special occasion at all, nor had it been a special day, I was just hungry and so I improvised and made a cold sauce from freshly cubed tomatoes, olive oil from Sicily, and lots of basil. It looked so yummy though that I thought I should immediately post it on Instagram. Now, that freshly invented sauce of mine needed a name. As it consisted of the two main ingredients of Insalata Caprese, apart from the third one, namely mozzarella, I named my dish Spaghetti Caprese. Of course, shortly after I had posted my lunch, some guy on Instagram would correct me and tell me that Italians called it Spaghetti alla Litigata. Quite humiliating, don’t you think? One is so proud of one’s pasta, done on a whim, just like that, from the hip and ever so yummy, and then one is outed as a Non-Italian!
Fall is near, autumn, too. Even cappuccino cups remind us ever so ostentatiously that summer will soon be over; way too soon, if you ask me. Summer, however, fights back big time; the moment, I took this photo, temperatures resembled the ones of a heatwave, 32 degrees Celsius. But, alas, we cannot be fooled, can we?
When I felt like having some French goat cream cheese yesterday, I realized for the first time in my life how very white it is. I mean, it’s really white. Almost whiter than white. And that’s where it got tricky. When I put that ever so white cube on my white plate, plain white as white plates go, my eyes went blank, they had suddenly stopped transmitting any information, as if they were kind of snow-blinded. I would have needed sunglasses if hadn’t been already dark, we’re talking a late-night snack here… Anyway, I exchanged plates immediately and not only did I choose a very vivid pattern, hand-painted using a lot of turquoise ink, I also looked out for the red cheese cutlery I once bought in France. The morale of the story? It’s the boy scout’s motto: always be prepared.
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.