If you’d been a fly on our kitchen walls this past week, you would have seen a lot of easy weeknight dinners going on. After we followed Tamar Adler’s advice and, in one big batch of cooking, filled our fridge with jars and Pyrex packed with roasted eggplant, boiled potatoes, roasted yellow squash and so on, we then began the daily task of putting her strategy to the test. There were vegetables tossed with quinoa, vegetables inside morning omelettes, leftover vegetable hash pureed with milk and water until it became a hot and creamy bisque so comforting, I almost cried. Roasted eggplant became baba ganoush. Boiled potatoes turned into mashed, soft and creamy and studded with garlic. Preroasting all your produce is not for everyone (and not for every week), but this last week, as we’ve tried it, Tim and I have seen firsthand how simplifying the strategy can be in helping to make dinner every night.
There are other things you’d see from your kitchen perch, too, though, like the failed cookie recipe I attempted, a sort of cookie rollup is what they turned out to be; or the truly amazing cookies I baked a few days after that. We’ve had our morning smoothies and thrown together a quick chicken salad, and listen, if you have two oranges, some Pellegrino and a bit of honey, go pureé it all in the Vitamix and remember what is good about life. Also, there’s been comfort cooking, like yesterday, when I made a new chicken recipe, taken from Luisa Weiss’s soon-to-be-released book, “My Berlin Kitchen.”*
Luisa Weiss is the blogger behind The Wednesday Chef, which, along with Orangette and Smitten Kitchen, is one of the first three food blogs I started reading back when I discovered food blogs five years ago. When I found her, she was a cookbook editor in New York, though today she lives in Berlin; I was reading the day she posted about getting engaged to the man she dated before her now-husband; the day she wrote about quitting her job, “leaping” as she called it, less than a year before I would end up doing the same thing; I remember reading about her sweet and beautiful wedding; I remember the first photo of her brand-new baby boy. Following along with her life the last few years, the way I do with so many blogs, the way I’m amazed some of you do with mine, I felt on some level like I knew her, and I liked that.
My friend Jacqui and I always say that the thing we most love about blogs is reading people’s stories. Sure, there are recipes and photos and nutrition info and giveaways—but what keeps me reading, what makes me care about any of it at all, is hearing someone else share their story, like she’s a friend. I started Luisa’s book two days after finishing “An Everlasting Meal,” and it only took me another three to get to the final page. She pours her heart out in the pages, detailing her cross-continental childhood, her search for identity, her eventual settling and family-making in Berlin, the city where she first belonged—and as an added bonus, there are recipes along the way.
I went into the book eager to hear how Luisa and her husband met, what made her move to Berlin, more details about her life in New York publishing. What I didn’t expect was to find so much that resonated with me, like the way she wrestled with decisions or the security that cooking could provide when she lacked it or, how, when she first moved back to Berlin, finally closer to the man she loved, she found herself missing girlfriends.
When Luisa writes about saying yes to every social invitation in an effort to forge new relationships, I laugh at the memory of practically inviting myself to join a group of Nashville women at Starbucks every Friday morning, when a girl I just met said she goes (they’re nice enough to let me keep coming). When she tells the fateful story of baking gooseberry cream cake (for the first time!) before a party with friends, I say out loud to Tim, isn’t that how it always goes when you try to make something for a party!
By the time I’m finished, having cried when Max proposes and groaned at the memory of wedding planning and imagined the beauty of a cold and quiet Berlin winter, I’m more sure than ever that there is incredible value in telling our stories—in blogs, in books, to friends across the table in our hometowns. Anytime we can tell someone else our honest experiences, how they’ve affected us and what we’ve felt, in a way that’s real and true and authentic, we not only build connections, we put something beautiful out into the world. I’m thankful for the chance to hear Luisa’s.
“My Berlin Kitchen” will be released this coming Thursday, September 13. It is available for preorder at Amazon now.
Poulet Sauté à la Paysanne Provençale
Recipe lightly adapted from “My Berlin Kitchen: A Love Story”, by Luisa Weiss
There are a lot of things I could say to you about this chicken dish: what a hoot it was to see me separate a raw chicken, alone at home in the kitchen; how unimaginably good shallots smell, sauteéing in white wine and olive oil; or how when the leftovers became stock on my stove, perfuming the air with baking chicken, I could have sworn I was at my grandma’s house and she was about to bring me dinner on a clear, glass plate. Instead, I’ll just tell you this: this one’s worth trying.
White spelt flour, for coating the chicken
1 4-pound chicken, cut into 8 pieces (2 drumsticks, 2 thighs and 2 bone-in breasts each cut in half crosswise; put the wings and backbone into stock on the stove)
Salt and pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
1 shallot, minced
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 handfuls cherry tomatoes, halved, or 4 medium plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped and mashed
1 tablespoon finely minced flat-leaf parsley
1. Put the spelt flour on a plate. Dry the chicken pieces and season them liberally with salt and pepper. dip them lightly in the flour. Set aside.
2. In a broad three-quart sauté pan or a four-quart cast-iron pot, warm olive oil over medium heat until the oil is shimmering. Slip the floured chicken pieces inside, searing them on each side until cooked and golden brown, about 15 minutes. Move chicken to a clean plate and set aside. Pour off all drippings except two tablespoons (the rest can go right into the stock pot with the chicken wings and backbone).
3. Add minced shallot to the pan and let it cook over low heat until golden. Add the white wine, and be prepared for how amazing your kitchen will begin to smell. Bring the mixture to a simmer, and let it cook for about 5 to 7 minutes, until it reduces by half.
4. Add tomatoes and garlic and stir well. Slip chicken pieces back into the pan. COver and cook over low heat for another 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in the minced parsley a few minutes before the end. Then turn off the heat, and let the chicken rest a couple minutes before serving.
*We received an advance review copy of “My Berlin Kitchen,” but all opinions expressed are our own.