Monday, July 6, 2009
Switzerland is too perfect for me. There, I said it. I want to unbutton your shirt, Switzerland, replace your shiny dress shoes with a pair of worn in ankle boots, muss up your hair, and arrange you in a slouchy position with a drink in your hand. I like things a little rough around the edges, and you, with your rules, and your schedules, and your clean, clean living, you’re bringing me down.
Sometimes, on the train, I want to reach through the window and smudge the cows into the clouds, and the grass into the lake, and the churches into the gardens, and then swirl everything all together like a three year old would with some finger paints. You look too good to be true, Switzerland. Like those sad people from online dating sites who substitute a stranger’s anonymous gorgeousness for self-representation, you are ridiculous with your clear mountain peaks and your drinkable mountain streams. We don’t believe you, Switzerland. Put up a real picture. The one with the thinning hair and the wrinkles, and the pot belly. The one with the trams that steal your money, the heroin addicts, the racism. Give me honesty over your polite concealing smile, a late R train over your predictable ones, a messy Pollock over your singing Mannerist angels.
Yes, I know that wide, wide walkway by the river is especially for you and your puffy poodle, Switzerland, but must you wag your finger at me and point to the bike lane when I am nowhere near you? And you, over there, playing catch by the lake with a beach ball: it’s really funny when your aim is off, and your irreverent ball veers off course and hits a man on the head. Laugh! Use your outdoor voices! Go ahead; break out! And do you really need a six foot high hedge around your house? What are you hiding in there?
I think you might just be excellent fling material, Switzerland. Couple of weeks, a month, here and there. Your shoulders are broad; you smell good; and you speak four languages. You’ve got a great car, a manicured lawn, and damn, you know your way around a fondue pot. You call when you’re supposed to, and never get too close. Your flaw, Switzerland, is your outward perfection, and I think we can work around that if we’re not too serious. Anything long-term and you’re just going to have to get a new wardrobe and dress up like Istanbul or New York or something. And be convincing, will you? I’ll know the difference.
Ground Beef and Herb Stuffed Eggplant, Tomato, and Zucchini (Etli Karışık Dolma)
2 medium eggplant, trimmed and cut into half
2 medium zucchini, trimmed and cut into half
4 medium tomatoes, tops cut off
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 pound of ground beef
1/2 cup dill, finely chopped
1/2 cup parsley, finely chopped
1/4 cup rice (I used brown rice)
salt and pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 cup of water or stock
Core the eggplant and the zucchini so that only about 1/2 inch edge remains, and the interior of each of the four halves is an empty cavity. I use a knife to cut the edge, and a spoon to scoop the interior. Keep the bottom of the vegetables intact, so that the filling will not fall out.
Remove the seeds and the interior of the tomato so that you have an empty cavity. Keep the seeds and the tomato pulp for addition to the sauce later.
Combine the onion, ground beef, dill, parsley, rice, and salt and pepper in a bowl. Use your clean hands to incorporate all the ingredients.
Place the vegetables in a large pot (it’s ok if they don’t fit in a single layer), and fill the cavities of each with a little of the meat mixture. Be careful not to overfill, as the mixture will expand a little as the rice cooks.
Add the reserved tomato pulp to the bottom of the pan, along with the tomato paste. Pour the water (or stock) over the dolma before placing on the heat.
Place the pan over medium high heat and bring to a bowl. When the liquid begins to boil, lower the heat, cover the pan, and simmer until the vegetables are fork tender, and the rice is cooked, about 30 to 40 minutes.
Serve immediately with garlic yogurt sauce.
Similar recipes from A Hungry Bear Won't Dance: Zucchini Pancakes with Dill and Feta Cheese Recipe (Mucver), Turkish Red Lentil, Bulgur, and Mint Soup (Ezogelin Çorbası), Swiss Chard, Lentils and Bulgur Wheat with Parsley, Garlic Yogurt
Saturday, July 4, 2009
My friend Daniel has wanted cooking lessons for some time. In New York, we started briefly with some knife skills, prepping lots of veggies for two cold noodle salads I would prepare for my 40th birthday party, and now that I’m in Geneva, we decided on a transcontinental lesson, by Skype, no less.
Daniel’s family is Jewish and keeps a Kosher household, so I was told that if we were using dairy there could be no meat, and vice versa. Thinking Jewish, and reminding me of potato latkes, I came up with the idea of making zucchini pancakes with dill and feta cheese. Daniel’s mother had planned to make fish as the evening’s main dish, and, with the promise of an explanation of the Biblical justification for this to follow, I was assured that the cheese in the pancakes would not break with tradition. I emailed Daniel a list of ingredients to purchase, set up a temporary work station on a free end of the desk, and angled my computer’s camera toward my cutting board. Away we went.
I was surprised by how simply this worked. When Daniel had a question about whether he was chopping too much dill, or if his mixture looked too watery, he held the bowl up to the camera, and I was able to help him answer his question. With new technology, we were able to share information, catch up with our personal lives, and create the same dish at the same time, more than three thousand miles away.
Daniel reported later that the notkes, as he called them, were a smash hit, and wondered what we were making next. Hmm...let’s see? Notzo ball soup? Fauxllah bread? I’m all for it, Daniel; let’s do it.
Zucchini Pancakes with Dill and Feta Cheese Recipe (Mucver)
3-4 medium sized zucchini, grated
3-4 scallions, finely chopped, including the green tops
1/2 cup dill, finely chopped
1/2 cup parsley, finely chopped
1/2 to 2/3 cup feta cheese, crumbled into small pieces
1 to 1 1/2 tablespoon flour
pepper, to taste
Place the grated zucchini in a colander in the sink and sprinkle with a little salt. Don’t add too much salt; the zucchini will not be rinsed before forming the pancakes. Let the moisture drain out as you prepare the other ingredients.
Combine the scallion, the dill, the parsley and the feta cheese in a bowl.
Squeeze the moisture out of the zucchini, and add it to the bowl with the dill mixture. Beat the eggs briefly with a fork, and add them to the bowl. Sprinkle in the flour and season with a little pepper. Form the mixture into small, not too thick, 3-4 inch diameter pancakes, and cook them in an oiled skillet over medium heat for a few minutes on each side, making sure the interior of each pancake is cooked before removing it from the heat.
Serve immediately. You may serve these plain, or with a little garlic yogurt sauce.
Similar recipes from A Hungry Bear Won't Dance: Fresh Ricotta and Mint Recipe: a Spread with Purple Garlic and Olive Oil, Wilted Dandelion Greens with Dried Figs and Pine Nuts, Almond and Sun Dried Tomato Basil Pesto