Last night dinner came together in my favorite way: a bit haphazardly, an amalgamation of skimming food blogs, getting inspired, and patching their ideas together with what I already had on hand, plus a little imagination.
I recently found a new blog, deliciousdays.com, based out of Munich. Actually it’s far from new; it’s one of the oldies started in 2005 or so–that golden era of blog-starting, the time when Orangette started, and Smitten, when they started creating valuable content on their content farms, and now their harvest is bountiful indeed (k sry a little hipster runoff reference.)
But really, that was a good time to start a blog. Starting a food blog was more up and coming then–or so I like to think. The internet was more sparse, in terms of food blogs, not the overpopulated quagmire it is now. Back then the internet was to food blogging what Canada is to its citizens–a vast resource teeming with possibilities and open spaces. Now the internet is like China. (Don’t think about actual Chinese internet usage, the Chinese government, the Great Firewall–I haven’t factored those into the analogy for fear of complications and potential snags.)
The competition is fierce. There’s just so much valuable food blog content out there. I want a great food blog; I want success and acclaim and book deals, of course…but has that ship sailed? Is the internet too clogged with blogs? Can anyone be noticed anymore?
Ummm…OK, back to the point, Delicious Days. She started in the golden days of blogging, yes. She has books, yes. She’s on the Times’ list of 50 best food blogs. These accolades she deserves, for sure, because her blog is well-designed with a nice Courier font and her writing is pretty entertaining and her archives are jammed with great recipes I’ve been leafing through the past few days.
I’m not sure how I’ve missed her till now. I guess it’s because I tend to stick to my tried-and-trues: Smitten Kitchen, Orangette, and Amateur Gourmet. I like Smitten because her personality really shines through, her photos are amazing, she’s funny and witty and tells great anecdotes with each recipe, and tests those recipes meticulously. Orangette has been and will always remain my favorite, maybe because hers was the blog that introduced me to food blogging. When I read her blog I felt like I had found someone like me, someone who loved to cook so much and, although in a way hipper city with way better foodie options, wasn’t that different from me and my friends. Someone who thought about food throughout the day, schemed meals up, prepared them with friends, then analyzed and enjoyed and savored every detail of the meals–with plenty of wine, of course.
I like Amateur Gourmet because he’s so unpretentious and funny, and I like his blend of restaurant reviews, home videos with interviews of chefs and foodie people-about-town, and recipes.
Everyone is different, even if they talk about some of the same recipes and chefs. I like hearing some of the same conversations, the same famous chefs and great recipes and just-out, must-have cookbooks from all my favorite bloggers. It makes me feel in on a great conversation I’m never bored with–FOOD. Because of these bloggers I know about Pierre Herme in Paris, Alice Waters, and so many more. I know what restaurants to visit now in Munich, Berlin, San Francisco, New York City, and L.A. (Not to mention Seattle! I will go to Delancey one day, I swear. Hopefully in the next few years sometime, once I move stateside.)
It’s nice to find new people, too. I don’t know if Delicious Days will become part of my regular rotation (and by regular, I mean one of the ones I immediately type into my search bar on waking, bleary-eyed and even before morning coffee, to see if there’s a new post.) I must admit I don’t like the recipe format (is it a German thing? I’m not sure) of posting the directions, then the ingredients at the end. I know it’s a minor and rather petty critique, but I find it difficult to read. Or maybe it’s just because I’m programmed to look for the ingredients’ list at the top, so keep skimming up, only to remember, annoyed, and skim down again. It feels totally backwards.
I made her roasted potatoes last night. She instructs cutting the potatoes into tiny cubes to ensure even roasting, before tossing with olive oil, salt, pepper, and maybe fresh rosemary. I roasted some potatoes the other day, but steamed them until nearly cooked, so then only the outsides would need to get crusty and brown in the oven. I’ve had bad results with roasting raw potatoes–the outsides nearly always get blackened before the insides are cooked. Steaming provides the perfect solution for creamy insides with crusty golden outsides.
However, that’s if the potatoes are in bigger slices or sticks or wedges. If they’re in tiny little cubes, you can just go ahead and roast away, without bothering to boil or steam. Unless you’re emotionally attached to the shape of wedges, it’s a nice way to cut time and the hassle of dirtying a big steamer pot.
I took her suggestion of giving them an Indian twist, with a little turmeric and paprika and curry powder. I also mixed up a yogurt sauce of plain yogurt, lemon juice, garlic, onion, a dash more of turmeric, chili, and some curry powder…and then plenty of finely minced fresh mint and basil. Let me tell you, that zingy minty yogurt, fresh with lemon and shot through with spice, was the perfect cold creamy foil for the crusty cubes of warm spiced potatoes. Though, as Brett and I concluded, the yogurt would be good on anything. I almost ate it with just a spoon.
Alongside we had a salad of roasted eggplant and garlic with chickpeas and quartered cherry tomatoes. I dressed it with lemon, olive oil, minced onion, some fresh chopped basil, and of course salt and pepper. A dash of spice, too. I love spice. We crumbled some feta cheese on top, too, for some salty creamy tang.
For a final touch I smeared some of the roasted garlic cloves on toasted sourdough bread, drizzled it with olive oil, and cracked some salt and pepper over the top for a fresh twist on garlic bread.
We washed all this down with a improvisation of Matt Armendariz’s “Summer Sangria,” a delicious-looking white wine “sangria.” He suggests pineapple, melon, and apricots for the fruit, but I lacked all those, so simply used apples and plums.
I had the fresh ginger, though, and the mint and basil, and bashed that up with a bit of lime and lemon juice. I didn’t have any orange liquor, either, so I used Aperol. So what we ended up with was a fresh, fruity, herb-infused white wine laced with Aperol. Not really sangria, or anything like, but delicious and refreshing all the same.
It was all so fun and delicious, and came together so easily–just roasting, really, and tossing and chopping. I’m all for meticulousness in baking (sort of?) and taking on complex projects (sometimes), but this is my favorite type of cooking. Food that comes together quickly and almost isn’t cooking so much as it’s combining ingredients in simple but delicious combinations of herbs and spices and textures.
It reminded me of how much I love putting together a meal, and enjoying delicious food at home. I want to cook a lot more, now that I’m part-time at my job, which I really really hope means more time to source and prepare recipes. My kitchen is super-tiny, and don’t get me started on my “oven”…but for the moment, in this big sprawl of a mixed-up city, it’s what I’ve got, and I’m gonna make delicious happen.