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In Food

Wieners in Sauce: A Recipe that Speaks for Itself

Wieners in Sauce

Morbid curiosity led me to make this recipe.

When I was back in Ohio visiting my father, I flipped through old recipe cards from my grandmother. She mostly made desserts. I’ve heard my father say on multiple occasions, “She could’ve opened a bakery.” During my last visit, I learned that she baked treats for weddings of her friends or even for her dentist.

“I remember carrying bags of baked goods for to her dentist when she had an appointment,” my dad told me.

Then I came across a recipe card that didn’t exactly fit in with the rest. Sure, it was wrinkled at the edges like the others with sepia stains and my grandmother’s barely legible handwriting. But the name of this one left me tilting my head to the side like a puppy trying to understand its owner.

“Wieners in Sauce.”

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In Central America/ Food

Costa Rican Gallo Pinto Recipe: The Best Breakfast Ever

What can I say about gallo pinto? First and foremost, it’s how I started many a day in Costa Rica. In the land of pura vida, it’s breakfast––rice mixed with black beans, cilantro, onions, maybe a red pepper, and seasoned with Salsa Lizano, a kind of Worcestershire sauce that’s truly the nectar of the Gods. This simple yet delicious combo is typically served with some scrambled eggs and a hot cup of coffee. I came to love gallo pinto in the same way I loved my ridiculously sugary breakfast cereals with cartoon mascots before I hit double digits.

If you’re looking for something different to make for breakfast that isn’t your typical egg-focused dish, pancakes, or cereal, then you ought to start working gallo pinto into your routine. It even stores and reheats nicely if you want to make a big batch. Just be sure to keep a bottle of Salsa Lizano handy so you can top yourself off with each plate.

For more Costa Rica, check out my book “Talking Tico: (Mis)adventures of a Gringo in and Around Costa Rica.

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In Food

This Pause in Vegetarianism Was Brought to Me by a Larder’s Reuben

Pastrami Reuben from Larder Clevland

After six holiday seasons outside of the US (one in Costa Rica, five in Germany), those annual December trips back to Cleveland look basically the same on paper. We alternate time spent with our respective families, and there’s a minimal amount of schlepping across town involved to ensure everyone is pleased with our visit.

We rarely do anything that’s purely selfish when in town. Once we spent a night at a downtown hotel near where we used to live, but even that ended up being for work. This year, I planned a surprise Airbnb overnight in the building next door to our last US address only for the host to ghost me on check-in day. (I got a full refund but never an explanation.) But the sudden surge of COVID cases drastically changed what that overnight would’ve looked like anyway. My planned night out at my wife’s favorite neighborhood restaurant with surprise appearances from extended family and friends warped into grabbing take-out and some beers to bring back to the Airbnb.

(If I’m honest, I’m partly spelling out the surprise I planned for posterity. I don’t do many things particularly well, but I can plan a fucking thoughtful surprise.)

At best, we get to check out a new restaurant and maybe a couple of old favorites. Even that’s been limited in recent years due to family illnesses and, in case you haven’t heard, the pandemic. But this year, I remained determined to finally stop by Larder Delicatessen and Bakery in what would’ve been a few minutes’ walk from our old apartment.

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In Essays/ Food

Not Actually An Experience: A Restaurant in Gdansk

I’m generally skeptical of all things Airbnb. It’s not just the questionable things they do to cities i.e. one person buying up multiple properties in a neighborhood and renting them out exclusively to travelers. I just generally feel awkward running up and down the staircase of an apartment building, sticking out as the obvious tourist. I’d much rather be in a hotel, lumped together with my fellow ignorant travelers. To me, a city hotel is a safe space to make mistakes. Nobody expects you to know the cultural cues of a destination when you’re walking in and out of a hotel.

That said, I do from time to time pop on over to Airbnb Experiences when I’m traveling and even when I’m not. When I first moved to Berlin, I found it could be a great source for locating neighborhood interesting tours, cooking classes, and other culinary experiences. So that’s precisely what I looked for when Melanie and I planned our trip to Gdansk to celebrate our anniversary.

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In Food

Lentil Potato Soup Recipe for Soup Beginners

A lentil soup is the perfect beginner’s soup. For reasons that seem silly to me now, making soup was initially an intimidating task. There were some pretty simple, basic details that eluded me. Like, that most of a soup is just stock. Hell, I didn’t know what stock was.

Once I realized that soup is essentially stock plus seasoned veggies that you sauté, I felt free to finally shift into soup mode. To get started, I followed my wife’s lead and learned to make a simple lentil soup. Over time, I started making it my own with the addition of smoked paprika and potatoes because, well, I love potatoes. It’s the perfect merging of my Ashkenazi and Irish heritage.

The recipe is below complete with the requisite measurements. But as most home cooks will tell you, I don’t actually measure things when I cook. I listen to my gut and taste test. The key is to make sure you have enough stock for the soup. I make my own vegetable stock that can fill up my dutch oven. Although I say 4-5 cups in the recipe, I generally just pour enough stock into the dutch oven so that it almost fills it up because it’s going to reduce later on. Also, I like my lentil soup spicy so I go a bit heavier with the cayenne pepper. Play around and make it your own!

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In Europe/ Food

Things to do in Gdansk, Poland for Eaters and Beach Bums

Gdansk Beach Plaża Jelitkowo

Poland in and of itself is a country that I think gets unfairly overlooked by travelers. But if you want that quintessential European aesthetic of cobblestone streets and gorgeous centuries-old buildings without lighting your wallet on fire, then you go to Poland.

Warsaw and Krakow are a couple of the first cities to come to mind (though some, unfairly I think, deride Warsaw’s old town as a Disneyland for tourists). But those towns are just the tip of the pierogi, if you will. In fact, one of the most impressive cities I’ve seen––across Western and Central Europe––is Gdansk, a seaside city where you can get your fix of Polish culinary classics alongside fresh fish and Baltic beach access.

Hankering for some pierogis, Baltic beach, and a train ride, we hopped on Deutsche Bahn Eurocity’s EC59 for a lumbering six-hour ride through western Poland and into Gdansk.

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In Food

Stuffed Eggplant Recipe: Turkish Imam Bayildi and Greek Papoutsaki

I first came across this dish flipping through Yasmin Khan’s “Ripe Figs.” In it, she has a recipe for Imam Bayildi––or “the imam fainted” for reasons few seem to know. It’s a classic Turkish mezze, not to mention simple to make. Essentially, you roast your eggplants and stuff them. Traditionally, you’d stuff them with something like tomatoes, onion, and garlic.

When I pointed this out to my wife, she reminded me that I’ve had something similar before––Greek papoutsaki.

Here’s a stuffed eggplant recipe that I’ve been making more regularly as of late. I got inspired by Yasmin Khan’s Imam Bayildi recipe in “Ripe Figs” and the Greek Papoutsakia from my wife’s side of the family. This is a very similar dish where you cut the eggplants lengthwise and scoop out the flesh so they look like little slippers before stuffing them with the cook’s choice. The main difference is that the Greek variety is typically topped with bechamel sauce like a pastitsio.

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