When our friends Giulia and Johannes invited us to their house in Parstein for the weekend, we jumped at the chance to get to know the area outside of Berlin a little better. We’ve been spending a lot of time in the Brandenburg region doing some long hikes, and have been eager to get out of the woods and see more of the area. The weekend was really lovely; Johannes put together a great jazz festival, we watched Germany play in the World Cup with a group of energetic locals, and we visited the organic dairy farm of Brodowin. And almost at the last moment we had a very spur-of-the-moment blueberry picking stop. Johannes just pulled the car over and said “I want some blueberries,” and into the woods we all went to pick some. As TH reminded me later, an experience like this is usually much-more planned for me: I find a fruit picking farm, invite friends to come along, and make a day of it. It was nice to be reminded that we could just do it, totally randomly.
Although we didn’t pick too many berries, I was so smitten with the wild picking experience that I asked to take them home for a baking project. I knew at once that it would be financier cake, because we had some hazelnut meal I wanted to use up, and because blueberries to me must be used in financier. This recipe is a version of the one I learned while cooking at Spago, where we baked the batter off nightly in little triangle-like gem molds, each dotted with their own juicy blueberry. The combination of nutty brown butter and tart fruit is intoxicating. For super rich financier, use all butter; I’ve added half coconut oil here for a variation on the flavor. I also added in some dark buckwheat honey that we found on a trip to the Harz Mountains, but the recipe can also be prepared with just sugar if you prefer. This cake is delicious slightly warm, but can also be enjoyed cool, and would make a nice picnic addition.
I’ve said it before, but I’m a big fan of meal planning. Every week, usually on Friday morning during breakfast, TH and I sit down and flip through magazines and cookbooks, looking for inspiration and ideas for our meals for the week. The plan is generally a mix of go-to favorites, a few easy to prepare meals, and one or two recipes that are new and perhaps a bit challenging. Planning out our meals makes the grocery shopping trip so much easier, because we know exactly what we need to purchase, and we try to not buy much more than that.
After we pick out the week’s meals, we write the meal plan on a big yellow post it-note, which we place on the fridge to reference throughout the week. But for all the planning, sometimes things just don’t go as we imagined. Sometimes there is an unexpected dinner invitation, sometimes we aren’t in the mood for the food we had planned, and some days we are just too lazy to cook at all. Inevitably, this means groceries end up lying around in the fridge and pantry needing a new purpose.
For the past two weeks, this forgotten item was eggplant. I love eggplant (see here and here), but for some reason we recently ended up with two lonely eggplants. I had planned to make a roasted vegetable lasagna, using long slices of zucchini and eggplant as the “noodles,” but never got around to it. I put the eggplant back on our list in a ragù, but also didn’t make the dish. Finally this week was the eggplant week. We prepared homemade chicken wings one night, and I wanted a nice fresh-flavored side dish to go along with the spicy meat. My first thought was tabbouleh, but since we are cutting out most carbs this month, I subbed in French lentils for the bulgur wheat. The addition of charred eggplant gave the salad some nice earthy flavor, and the lime-tahini dressing—packed with chopped mint, basil, and parsley—was exactly the bright and tangy bite I was looking for. This salad is great on its own, and can also be served over salad greens for an even more filling dish.
As one of my (many) goals before turning 30 next month, I’ve been trying to adopt some healthier eating habits. Along with cutting some sugar out, we’ve added a few of the Whole 30 and Paleo eating principles into our diet this month, which means no dairy, grains, and processed foods, and a lot more vegetables and meats. It may sound like a tough love approach, but (most days) it feels pretty great to be eating healthy, and I’m lucky to have a partner like TH who is just as interested in shifting habits.
I’m already not a fan of super heavy mid-day meals, but starches like quinoa, pasta, or even whole-wheat crackers often make up a portion of my lunches. With these options out, I suddenly found myself pretty hungry after lunches last week, and realized I needed to come up with some full-flavored and filling dishes to get me through the day. This combination of fresh green beans and white beans offers just that, with a nice filling kick of protein, a refreshing zing of lemon zest and olives, and a healthy dose of olive oil and lemon juice. It’s great on its own as a side dish, but can also be served for lunch mixed into salad greens along with a hard-boiled egg and some tuna fish for even more protein.