10.14.2011

Newlyweds Cook: Luisa + Max {Date Night in Berlin}

Around here, Friday is date night. It's always given the end of the week a special sparkle, stealing away to the ladies room to put on lip gloss before András picked me up Friday from work, or slipping the secret ingredients for his favorite meal into the fridge for a surprise supper at home. It's a harder date to keep since baby girl arrived on the scene, but this sweet, sweet story from my friend and brand-newlywed Luisa Weiss, reminds me how important it is to keep the Friday fires burning. You might know Luisa as author of the well-adored blog The Wendesday Chef, but I'm guessing to one man, she's better known as the hightlight of each week, authoress of a superb plate of Spaghetti all’Amatriciana Tedesca, beloved wife. Join me in welcoming Luisa and Max home from their honeymoon in Greece and on with the rest of their joyous life together! Here is their story.  


 {photo by cinzia bruschin}

Luisa + Max
Berlin, Germany


Just a few months before my husband and I were married, he was offered a job, the kind of job that’s hard to refuse. Good news, you would think, especially in this day and age. And indeed, we were thrilled. But the offer was contingent upon one crucial thing: that Max move to another city, one in western Germany, just a little too far away for a daily commute from Berlin, which is where we live together.

Plenty of Germans, especially Berliners, commute elsewhere for work, since our city – as vibrant and beautiful as it may be - holds little in the way of employment for people in industries other than the creative one. In fact, Max’s father has this very life, working Mondays through Fridays in a town about three hours away from Berlin and coming home to Berlin and his wife, Max’s mother, only on weekends. A number of Max’s friends do the same dance each week.

It wasn’t ideal, we agreed. But it was doable. The commute would be just under three hours each way. And once a month, I’d go to see him, so Max wouldn’t have to travel every single weekend. The hope was (and is) that after a year or two, he’d be able to put in for a transfer to an office in a town just on the outskirts of Berlin and he’d move home. Our fingers are crossed.

Max and I are no strangers to long-distance love. In fact, in our early twenties, we spent five years in love while I lived in New York and he lived in Germany. We were too young and stupid for that relationship to ultimately flourish (and frankly, that amount of distance was, over that amount of time, the true killer). But after having found each other again in our early thirties and after I made the huge step of moving back to Berlin from New York, in part so we could we be together, the separation between Berlin and Kassel feels like a piece of cake.

After all, we are in the same time zone these days. The same country, too. We are each other’s wake-up calls and good night calls. I can hop on a train or get in the car if I really need to see him. Just knowing that he’s that close goes a long way. Every Saturday, we wake up together. Every Sunday evening, I drive him to the train station and we wave to each other, again and again, as he walks towards the tracks. And every Friday night, barring a train delay, Max comes home in time for dinner.

That first meal together on Friday evening, after five days of not seeing each other, is always special, no matter where we go or what we eat. Sometimes we make cheese sandwiches and munch on quick cucumber pickles on the living room couch. Sometimes I make us a simple pot of spaghetti with tomato sauce (a sauce Max learned to cook so well that I had to include that fact in our wedding vows). Sometimes I put on lipstick and heels before I go pick him up and we drive straight into the city from the train station, settling in at the bar at our favorite sushi restaurant, where we watch the sushi chef work furiously behind the bar, fingers flying. Sometimes, rarely, just as a guilty pleasure, we get currywursts from a street vendor, piping hot and sweetly spicy, and eat them in the front seat of the car, the way we used to do years ago, before we had any idea how our story would end. Or, really, how it would continue.

“But you're newlyweds!" people sometimes howl when they hear of our living arrangement. "Isn't it haaard?" And I don't think it's always easy for Max. He's the one with the weekly train rides, the new city to adjust to, the homesickness. All I do is miss him, but from the comfort of our home and our city, I don't think I really get to complain.

Plus, the upside of our arrangement is that our weekends together feel sacred and romantic. From the activities we choose to do, the people we see and the meals we share everything is done more deliberately, with more care and thought. The time we have is precious. We don’t want to waste a minute.

~
Luisa generously shared her favorite restaurants in Berlin to hide away with Max which you can find here, but since most of us can't get to Berlin tonight {poor us!}, here's her recipe for your date night. 

~

 Spaghetti all'Amatriciana Tedesca

When no restaurant holds the appeal that a home-cooked meal can, we stay home and I make spaghetti. These days, with summer gone and the cold nights of Berlin’s autumn stretching into daytime, we need fortification from our spaghetti sauce; a simple tomato sugo spiked with basil won’t do. In heavy rotation around these parts lately is what I like to call Spaghetti all’Amatriciana Tedesca. Instead of using guanciale or pancetta in the tomato sauce, I use German Schinkenspeck, which is the very lean part of a cured ham (it has a thick cap of fat, but I cut that off and the meat below is entirely lean). I like to buy a thick slice from the butcher at my favorite market on Saturday mornings and then use it all week long, cut into tomato sauce or diced finely in potato salad. It has a much stronger flavor than pancetta or guanciale, but it works incredibly well with the sweet onions and tomatoes and the kick from the chile. It’s hard not to eat the sauce straight from the pan while cooking.


 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
A 4-by-4-inch chunk of lean Schinkenspeck, cut into large dice
1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
1 14-ounce can whole tomatoes
1 small dried chile, broken in half
Salt to taste (optional)
200 grams dried spaghetti (I calculate about 80 grams for me, 120 grams for him)

serves 2

1. Put the olive oil in 10-inch sauté pan over medium heat and add the diced Schinkenspeck and onions. Let cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent and fragrant, about 7 to 10 minutes. Do not let the onions brown.

2. Pull the peeled tomatoes into long shreds with your fingers and add to the onions. Reserve half of the tomato puree; you don’t want this sauce to be too gloopy. Add the broken chile and stir to combine. Let the sauce simmer while you put a pot of salted water on to boil for the spaghetti.

3. The tomato sauce should simmer for about 20 minutes, about the time it will take you to boil the pasta water and cook the spaghetti until al dente. If you find the sauce getting too dry, add a spoonful or two of the tomato puree and let simmer. Taste the tomato sauce for seasoning just before serving; if needed, add some salt to taste. But between the chile and the Schinkenspeck, you probably won’t need much.

4. Drain the spaghetti, reserving some of the starchy pasta water. Put the drained spaghetti in the pan with the tomato sauce and stir to combine. Add some of the starchy water to loosen the mixture, if necessary. Serve and eat immediately. 

Date Night In Berlin {with Luisa + Max}

It's Friday, date night and reunite night for today's sweet Newlyweds Cook couple, Luisa + Max. In case like me, you're dying to know where Luisa Weiss + her hubby are eating tonight in Berlin, here are three of their favorite sweet spots in and around their sparkling city. 

Our favorite Friday night haunt is a fantastic Japanese restaurant in Berlin’s Prenzlauer Berg called Sasaya. We invariably sit at the bar, always wedged into a corner, so we can watch the head sushi chef work while we eat our dinner. It’s like theater, only with better food. I usually order the wakame salad and the omakase sushi, while Max is incapable of walking into the place without getting an appetizer of fried chicken (crisp, greaseless and delicious), which comes with a wedge of lemon on a Kraft paper-lined straw plate.

Sasaya
Lychener Strasse 50
10437 Berlin
Tel: (030) 4471 7721

When Max’s train is delayed, we head to a Spanish restaurant in Kreuzberg called Bar Raval, where the kitchen still bustles after 10:00 pm and the wait staff is sweet and kind, if slightly harried. The crisp cava is served in coupe glasses, there are complimentary dishes of addictive green olives on the table and their pan con tomate (or pa amb tomaquet, technically, since it’s a Catalonian restaurant) is a smoky, salty, chewy, juicy delight.

Bar Raval
Lübbener Strasse 1
10997 Berlin
Tel: (030) 5316-7954

If it’s one of those Friday nights, you know, the kind that caps a no-good-very-bad-stinky-to-high-heaven kind of week, then we hop in the car and drive to a quiet part of the Ku’Damm (western Berlin’s shopping mile), where, at a stand that’s an institution for old West Berliners like us, we each order a currywurst, a Berlin specialty consisting of a deep-fried hot dog sliced into rounds, doused liberally with curry-flavored ketchup and served with a hot roll on a fluted paper plate with a small plastic trident. Yes, currywurst is an acquired taste. Yes, it can be delicious. And yes, sometimes it is just what you need for dinner. Take it from me.

Bier’s 195
Kurfürstendamm 195
10707 Berlin
Tel: (030) 881 8942


10.11.2011

Marriage, Stinky Cheese & Fig Jam {an anniversary story}





Three years ago today, I married this crazy, brilliant, handsome, playful man. I love him more than I ever dreamed it possible to love. And when you love someone, sometimes you want to steal them away from the world and have them all to yourself, just for one day. That's how I'd hoped to spend today, in my favorite city with my favorite guy. Maybe we'd eat at abc kitchen or swing Greta between us in the park or just sit outside together at our favorite beer garden with our baby girl toddling at our feet and try not to be busy, just for a few minutes.



Yesterday, we found out András had to go to Boston for work this week, so there would be no dinner at New York's chicest local food mecca, no shared stein of beer, no Netflix streaming snuggled side by side in bed.

When he told me, I did a requisite pout. Then I spent a good hour feeling sorry for myself, something I don't believe in but allow myself about once a year. Until my friend Breana told me she spent her very first anniversary at home in North Carolina eating stinky cheese and fig jam while her hubby, Scott, was off doing his dissertation research among the cheetahs in Kruger National Park, South Africa.

That was a good reminder that in marriage, we didn't sign up for one perfect day together once a year, but instead, for all the simple, imperfect days we share in between, including the support and sacrifices it takes to follow our dreams. Perfection? That's what the wedding day is for, one magical day to get you started, something to relive when you're apart, and to hold onto anytime you need a little bit of fairy tale.







Today I have these photos from our fairy tale, and sweet Greta who is our happily ever after. And by tomorrow, András will be back by my side again.  But in the meantime, I'd like to commence the the tradition of the wild-card Stinky Cheese & Fig Jam Anniversary, redeemable for leather (3rd), pearl (30th), gold (50th),  diamond (75th) or any other anniversaries anytime you have to celebrate your special day apart from the one you love.

I'd love a story to keep me company while I stir my fig jam. Tell me, when you have had to spend your beloved day away from your beloved, and what did you do to sulk or celebrate? 


~
Fig Jam

2 pounds green or purple figs, stemmed and quartered
1 1/2 cups raw, organic sugar
zest and juice of 1 lemon
1/3 cup water


makes 3 8-ounce jars

  1. Toss the figs, sugar and lemon zest together in a non-reactive saucepan and let them sit, about 15 minutes.
  2. Add the lemon juice and water and bring to a simmer over low heat. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until figs are soft and the liquid is jammy, about 20 minutes.
  3. Cool and transfer to sterile jars. Store in the fridge for up to 2 months. Serve with scones or toasted bread and stinky cheese. 


10.01.2011

Heading to Memphis To Sing the Tomato Blues


{homegrown. hurley, ny}


Sometimes it's hard to let go of something. Like tomatoes. See the passing of tomato season means it's really fall. The season Greta was born in. Which means she's almost one. Not so much baby. Yes, still a baby, but no longer the tiny kind that fits in a pouch on your chest and goes with wherever you go without wiggling to get out and crawl and walk and, sigh, run ever more toward being a big girl. It means there's no more the first time she wiggled her toes in the sand or the first time she said Mama or the first tiny tomato she ever ate right off the vine.


{tomatoes irene. hurley, ny}


I got to thinking about all this tonight as I packed for Memphis, where Greta and I are headed bright and early in the morning to celebrate my dear, sweet Aunt Dorothy's 80th Birthday. I got to thinking we might need to sing a little tomato blues while we're down there. 



{food network kitchens. chelsea, ny}


In the meantime, I'm leaving you with this tomato retrospective and a few of my favorite fallish {is that a word?} tomato recipes to help you bid adieu to the summer's-over blues.


{lunch. porva, hungary}



Eight Outstanding Late-Season Tomato Recipes

101 Cookbook's Spiced Tomato Gratin




{fallen. hurley, ny}
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New York City, United States
Sarah Copeland is a food and lifestyle expert, and the author of Feast: Generous Vegetarian Meals for Any Eater and Every Appetite, and The Newlywed Cookbook. She is the Food Director at Real Simple magazine, and has appeared in numerous national publications including Saveur, Health, Fitness, Shape, Martha Stewart Living and Food & Wine magazines. As a passionate gardener, Sarah's Edible Living philosophy aims to inspire good living through growing, cooking and enjoying delicious, irresistible whole foods. She thrives on homegrown veggies, stinky cheese and chocolate cake. Sarah lives in New York with her husband and their young daughter.