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Monday, October 31

Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup

This is so much the Halloween recipe that I waited to post it, on October 31. In fact, tonight’s dinner is chicken chili but I want to share this today because the soup is loaded with garlic. And you know garlic keeps the vampires away. Sometimes, it's easier and fun to be silly.

And though it doesn’t feel like Halloween in the old city here in Germany, I am still playing along.
Grilled Cheese

4- 6 ounces Emmentaler (swiss) cheese, grated

6 slices sandwich bread, sliced 1/4 inch thick (I bought a bread that was part sourdough and part wheat bread from my Bäckerei and it worked)

2 tablespoons butter or clarified butter, softened

Heat a cast iron skillet or a heavy 12-inch skillet over low to medium heat. Meanwhile, brush the outsides of the bread with softened butter. Layer one slice with 1/3 of the cheese and top with the 2nd layer of bread.

Put each sandwich in the skillet. Put another heavy skillet or pan on top for weight. Cook until crisp and deep golden brown, 3 minutes then flip the sandwich, carefully (we had trouble with this because the cheese stuck to the cast iron skillet), and continue to cook for 3 more minutes. Serve immediately with hot tomato soup.

Tomato Soup

5 vine ripe tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, unpeeled
1 tablespoon clarified butter
1 small onion, sliced or chopped
small Parmigiano-Reggiano rind*, optional
1 cup water
1/4 cream or whole milk

Preheat oven to 400°F. Place whole tomatoes and unpeeled garlic cloves on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Roast tomatoes and garlic until skins are wrinkled, 30- 40 minutes. (My garlic became too brown, but I don’t mind so watch the garlic).

Heat clarified butter in medium pot over medium heat. Add onions and sauté for 5 minutes. Add the cheese rind if using. Peel tomatoes and garlic once cooled. Stir in tomatoes, garlic, salt and black pepper to the pot with onions. Add water and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered until soup thickens, 15 minutes. Remove from heat.

When slightly cool, remove the cheese rind with a slotted spoon. Blend the soup with a hand blender or a food processor. Pour the soup back into the pot and stir in whole milk. Season to taste with salt and black pepper.

Serve immediately with cheese sprinkled on top and grilled cheese sandwich.

*Note- when I’ve grated all the cheese from Parmigiano-Reggiano, I save the rind (it is edible) for soups and stews. I add the rind after the onions/garlic/celery/carrots are finished sautéing. The rind releases its flavors while the soup cooks. Then when the soup’s ready, discard the rind. It’s safe to eat but no one wants to get a big piece of semi melted cheese block in a bite. I learned this rind trick from Lidia Bastianich.

(I know many cheeses are naturally aged and have edible rinds but some do not like Gouda. If you decide to add a rind other than Parmigiano- Reggiano, make sure it’s one that is edible otherwise you’ll end up with melted plastic soup.)

Monday, October 24

Greek Baked Beans

This was inspired from our dinner at Meteora Taverna. The beans and lamb were so good, I wanted nothing but to try this at home. I looked up many recipes online and created my own from the various versions. The key was to braise the meat with the beans. The other thing were the herbs, dill and oregano were repeated in almost all the recipes. Parsley was also an important element but I don’t remember parsley in the dish we ate at Meteroa so I omitted it. That and Parsley and I don’t get on so swell. It’s not you Parsley, it’s me. However I can say I’ve given Parsley a chance here in Deutschland and it’s worked so far, I added it to a soup and I didn’t mind its forthright taste. Who knows, this may be the place I find Parsley’s flavor appealing. The recipe implies baked beans but I, on the other hand, did not bake ours. This is why I call it my own recipe.

Gigantes Plaki (Greek Baked Beans) and Chicken

1 1/2 cup dried gigantes (or lima beans)
4 bone-on chicken pieces, (dark meat is preferred because of the long braising time)
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 bay leaves
3 cloves garlic
4 cups water (stock would be better)
1 teaspoon dried dill
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon tomato paste
6 medium tomatoes, diced
salt and pepper to taste

Soak the beans in water overnight.

Heat oil in a 5 quart dutch oven. Salt and pepper the chicken pieces on both sides. Add the seasoned chicken to the dutch oven with hot oil. Cook on the first side for 8 minutes, or until the chicken is ready to turn. If the meat is sticking to the pan, let it continue to cook on the first side. Turn and cook for 6 minutes. Remove the chicken from the dutch oven to a plate. Add bay leaves and garlic and let them cook for 20- 30 seconds. Then immediately add the drained beans. Stir in dill, oregano, salt and pepper. Add 1/2 cup of the water. With a wooden spoon, scrape up the brown bits from the pan. Increase the heat, add the chicken and the other 3 1/2 cups of water. (The water should be half way to the chicken.) When liquid is boiling, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 1 hour.

After the first hour, stir in the tomato paste and diced tomatoes and continue to cook, covered, for 30 minutes. Then remove the chicken and continue cooking the beans, uncovered, 20 more minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

Serve warm with chicken and crust bread.

Yields 4 servings

Thursday, October 20


In all of my young-adult and adult life, I’ve always had a car. Even while living closer to Washington DC for college my parents gave me a car (mostly so I would come home in the weekends and not go to DC.) Same goes for him. All of his young-adult and adult years had some mode of transportation that he called his own. Briefly when he first arrived in United States for graduate school he did not have a car but that didn’t last long. When family visited from India he bought a car to travel with them. So the unusualness is this is the first time in our lives neither of us has a car. Thankful to a very well built public transportation infrastructure, we haven’t had a need for a car. Once in a while, when we need to buy a large piece of furniture we wish for one but other than those times we love not having one (and its maintenance). Which leads me to walking. Walking a lot and often. We walk everywhere. And we enjoy it. Not only is this good for the environment, it’s great for our waist lines. Together, we’ve lost 30 pounds or 14 kilograms since moving to Germany. This is also unusual because in United States I paid gym membership for years to go regularly and never saw weight loss results. So this walking thing has multiple benefits.

Then the other unusual thing, when we lived in United States, I didn’t care much for wings. They were fine, once in a blue moon but I never had the craving for them. The husband on the other hand was a complete different scenario. There was a wing place close to work and often he and his coworkers went there for happy hour and “dinner”. I never understood how wings can be sufficient for dinner, maybe having many wings and a lot of beer makes a complete meal? I digress. So never having a craving for wimpy piece of meat I was surprised to learn there isn’t one restaurant in town that serves tasty wings. What’s the saying about ‘you always want what you can’t have?’ That was me few days ago, I was craving wings, especially since I knew I couldn’t have them. I asked few vendors at the farmers market and found them.

So I made this recipe with some adaptations and I am renaming it “so good we don’t have time to take pictures wings

1 tablespoon Sichuan peppercorns, crushed and chopped finely
1 teaspoon kosher salt
12 chicken wings, split into drummettes and wingettes
2 tablespoons butter
1 garlic clove, grated or finely minced
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
2 tablespoons Sriracha

Preheat oven to 400°F.

In a small container, combine Sichuan peppercorns and salt. Sprinkle over both sides of the chicken wings. On a foil-lined, greased baking sheet, add chicken wings. Place in the oven for 10 minutes, turn and bake for 10 more minutes or until almost cooked-through.

Meanwhile, in a saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Add minced garlic, soy sauce, rice vinegar and Sriracha. Whisk well to combine. Cook for 1 more minute and then remove the pan from heat.

Transfer chicken wings and Sriracha-butter mixture into a bowl. Using tongs, mix together until wings are liberally covered with sauce. Return coated wings to the foil-lined baking sheet and place in the oven for 6- 8 minutes or until browned.

Serve immediately

As soon as the wings came out of the oven, we gobbled them up. I asked for feedback for future attempts and he said “I love them”. I’ve tried my hand at wings couple times but this is the first time they were this good.

And finally dessert. I rarely bake. Because I despise measuring ingredients and baking food at a specific temperature. I am a chef that cooks with my eyes, nose, ears and hands (obviously, but I like to feel how much salt or spices to add in a dish with my fingers rather than measuring.) So baked desserts are a rare form in my house. Fortunately this dessert is exactly how I like to cook, add ingredients to feel and bake for 30 minutes.

Pear Crumble
2 ripe pears
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons almonds, chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Streusel Topping:
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup milk, may not use it all
Butter, at room temperature for the baking dish

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Butter a baking dish. Slice the pears and put them in a large bowl. Sprinkle over the brown sugar, flour, almonds and nutmeg and toss to coat the pears with nutmeg. Spread the pears up in a buttered baking dish.

In the same bowl, mash together the butter, brown sugar, flour, and salt with your hands. Stir in milk, a little at a time. The mixture should be sticky and crumbly. Evenly spread the mixture over the pears in the baking dish and bake until the topping is crunchy and browned and the pears are very tender, 30 to 40 minutes.

This dessert was unusually good.

(The dessert can be baked after the wings are done.)

Tuesday, October 18

Internet Saga IV

After many weeks of stress and waiting, I am happy to report we are finally connected to the Internet!

Late last week Kabel Deutschland technician came to look at the main cable box in the basement neighbor’s apartment. Fortunately they both arrived at the same time and all the “checking” was completed in 15 minutes. The conclusion? Kabel Deutschland must install a new cable box in an open area (as opposed to in someone’s apartment- duh Einstein! and it took 8+ weeks to figure that out?). The technician had the new box with him but unfortunately did not have the correct parts and tools to install the box. It’s like a carpenter brings timber to make a table and chair but doesn't bring a saw or axe.

Since he didn’t have the parts, we’ll have to wait 2 weeks for it.

But more importantly, earlier in the day Deutsch Telekom came to “turn on” the Internet for Alice. (It was the same guy that stormed out on me the first day this started.) He was nicer this time. I thanked him for his work and he was on his way. The comical part? As he was leaving he says (in German) “this process took a long time.” Since I didn’t understand him the first time, I asked him to repeat it and he said it, louder. I love how people think if they scream the sentence the second (and third) time, we’ll understand. It doesn’t work like that; it’s more annoying because I still don’t understand you and now you hurt my ears.

Regardless, the husband came home that night and fidgeted with the phone and the computer. Unfortunately he had no clue what the prompts were on the phone so he gave up after 30 tries. We called Alice for help but they weren’t helpful either. Then the next day at work, the husband found a website that explained the process of turning Internet and phone on at home. That evening he followed those instructions and WE WERE ON! The phone is still not working (Alice sent an incorrect modem for phone line). However we aren’t too pressed about the phone right now, we’re just happy to have net.

So that's THE END to the Internet saga stories.

Monday, October 17

Meteora Taverna

We recently went to the north, 3 kilometers north, so not a far distance for a party. After leaving, we both realized we were starving and wanted to stop somewhere for a bite. We were thinking of eating somewhere closer to home in the Altstadt but once we saw few restaurants on the walk back we changed our mind and wanted to try a new restaurant. As we walked passed Meteora Taverna, it was buzzing with people. For a late summer, cool evening all the outside tables were taken. We peaked inside and saw only one table occupied.

We decided to stay solely based upon the outside tables. And boy are we glad we did. We ordered 2 glasses of wine, lamb with beans and lamb with orzo. Before our food came out, the server offered us Greek water. Greek Water? Sure we’ll take it. It was ouzo, anise flavored liquor; good thing he offered it because it was very clean and refreshing.

My dish was braised lamb shank with gigantes (large beans) in tomato sauce and his was braised lamb shank with olive oil drizzled orzo. The portions were hefty but perfect for two very hungry people. Both of our meals were lovely. The braised lamb was delectable, especially mine which was braised in tomatoes. The beans were cooked just right, soft and creamy on the inside but yet still held their shape in the braising. His orzo was especially tasty because of the herb and olive oil flavor.

Although I previously said Delphi was a wonderful Greek place, and it is, I think we’ve found another favorite. This is off the beaten path, away from the city crowd, a family operation (we think) and overall offers great food and service.

Sunday, October 16

Black bean and Roasted Butternut Squash Soup to embrace the cold

We just returned from a trip to Italy. Italy was magnificent, distinctive, tasteful everything great that is associated with Italy. And we were fortunate enough to have temperatures in the 70s and 80s for 85% of our trip. When we arrived it was sunny and warm and the same the day we left. There were couple days towards the end when we were in Venice that it rained and was cloudy but other than those two days, we thoroughly enjoyed the weather. We returned on Sunday afternoon. What did we find? Cold. I was sad it was a drastic temperature shock.

While driving home we caught a glimpse of the Swiss Alps covered in snow.  And if that wasn't enough, upon returning we saw this beautiful color on the trees from our living room window.  This scenery makes it official that it’ll be cold and the days will be dreary in the upcoming months.

We’re trying to embrace the cold and accept the fall and winter months but it’s taking some adjusting especially because we walk everywhere. None the less, one area that will keep us warm is the aromas from the kitchen with homemade meals especially soups and stews.  

Black bean and Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large white onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
2 dried chiles de árbol, dried & left whole
1/2 teaspoon epazote
2 tomatoes in juice, roasted and chopped
1 pound butternut squash, halved, seeded, roasted and chopped
1 20-ounce can black beans, rinsed, drained (or dried beans, soaked overnight and cooked in a pressure cooker for 3 whistles or in the slow cooker for 4 hours on low)
1 teaspoon Salt

Preheat oven to 400°F

Slice butternut squash in half, oil the cut side, wrap in foil and roast in the oven for 45 minutes. Leave tomatoes whole and add them to the pan with the squash 20 minutes after squash has been in the oven.

Heat oil in heavy 5-quart dutch oven or a large pot over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add garlic, cumin, coriander, chiles, epazote, salt and stir. Cook until the spices release their aroma, 1 minute. Peel and chop the tomatoes and add them with juices to the pot.

When the squash is cool to touch, peel and discard the skin. Chop the squash in large chunks and add to the pot. Stir in the black beans, water and bring to boil. Taste for seasoning, add salt accordingly. (If the beans are canned, reduce the amount of salt that’s added.) Reduce heat and simmer on low for 15 minutes. Taste and season if necessary.

Friday, October 14

Internet Saga, III

So the last time we spoke, I left you wondering whether we got Internet because it has been two weeks.

The appointment with Kabel Deutstchand was for weeknight evening between 4- 6pm. Since the main cable box is in a neighbor’s apartment/storage in the basement, we scheduled an appointment for him to come at the same time.

The husband came home early, 3:45 precisely, to get this show on the road. At 4pm he looks out the living room window and sees a Kabel Deutschland truck. He ecstatically says to me, “he’s here!” So we wait for the technician to ring the bell. No ring. Then he pulls away we presume to search for parking. 30 minutes later while we’re wondering about the technician our neighbor with the basement apartment knocks on our door and hands us a note. It says (in German) “We tried to call you and ring your bell, you were not home. Please call us to reschedule your appointment.”

Confused, the husband asks the neighbor where he found the note and he tells us it was hanging on our name in the front door when he walked. What!?!? We have been home this whole time. We are enraged which triggers serious swearing, so much so the sailors would feel uncomfortable.

We call Kabel Deutschland to find out what happened and the lady on the phone says she will have to call back with details. 3 minutes later we get a call from the same lady and she tells us exactly what the note said. “The technician tried to ring your bell and call you but you didn’t answer.” The husband says to her, “you just called me so my phone works.” She had nothing to say but offer another appointment couple days later. See what I mean about service?

And we know for sure our bell works we even tested it after this debacle.

We are still shocked this technician downright lied about ringing our bell and calling us. This brings this Internet Saga to a brand new low.

Week 10 and still no Internet.

Wednesday, October 12


Service is defined very differently here in Deutschland. I can go as far as saying it’s still the one area that needs some work, actually it completely lacks compared to other countries I’ve visited.

Restaurant service works on a different model than in America. In America, hosts greet customers as soon as they enter and take them to the seats. In Deutschland there are no hosts; customers seat themselves, generally. If a restaurant is really busy then a server helps to find the next available seat. Then a server comes to take drink orders and generally brings glasses of water for the table, in America. Here, they take the drink orders but also ask for water orders. Water isn’t free so the question is stilles or gas? (Still or Natural- both bottled.) Once the server brings out the drinks, customers order their dinner, as is the case in America.

Here’s the major difference between restaurant services in the two countries. Here once the dinner order is placed, the server is rarely seen or asks for anything else. If drinks are finished, it is the customer’s responsibility to flag down the server to let them know. Once the food comes out (sometimes with the server, sometimes with a food-runner) and if there is a problem, again the customer has to flag down the server for attention. This is especially trying when the entire restaurant is packed. The same rule applies for checks. Once the dinner plates are cleared, the server is still buzzing around the restaurant taking care of other tables. In Germany (and possibly all of Europe) it is considered rude and hurried for a server to bring customers’ checks to their table soon after dinner/dessert is finished. Also important to note is dining- out, like coffee breaks, is special; customers dine for hours and hours and don’t want to be interrupted when enjoying the company of their friends and family. And the other side of the coin is the server wages. Wages here are much better than in America for servers therefore the need to be overly friendly and turnover tables quickly doesn’t exist. Servers work on a decent wage therefore their isn’t the need to get more and more customers on their tables in one night. Coming from a food industry, I do like this about the German system. I appreciate that German servers get good wages and aren’t having to work extra hard and be extra nice for their tips. I must add, customers tip about 5- 10% at the end of the meal for extraordinary service. Otherwise, customers round up their bill to the next whole number.

And although I understand the restaurant server system, I can’t say I agree with it completely. I like that the servers aren’t working on below minimum wage, like in America, but I would also appreciate some attention to the customers since we are paying for the meal. More than me, I am married to someone that is very impatient so this concept of flagging down a server for another drink or waiting for a check is beyond tolerable.

Moving away from restaurants customer service, in general, is unresponsive. Having lived in America and India and knowing the Indian culture, the customer service in Deutschland doesn’t come close to anything we’ve experienced in either countries. Here, when a company makes a mistake they don’t apologize or try to fix the problem, instead they offer another product or appointment time to make it better. We’ve experienced this couple times, say Internet Saga and Part II. Neither of the companies we are currently working with have apologized that it’s taken this long to get Internet or as much as try to find the problem and fix it. It’s startling to us both that one company went as far as saying that we had to find the main cable box ourselves if we wanted Internet.

It is often said, Germans very rarely apologize for a mistake. The idea is if they apologize then that’s admitting they have done wrong and *gasp* one cannot admit they are wrong. Which leads to accountability; there isn’t any of it. People generally pass the blame on anyone and anything to save themselves from the blame. So the bottom line is if they don’t apologize then they are not admitting to being at fault which means they aren’t wrong, someone else is.

Like when we ordered our kitchen. We talked to 5 different people in the course of 24 hours to figure out what the problem was with the scheduled delivery date and each person blamed the previous person we talked to. Finally the last guy said it was the sales associate, Viktor, we ordered the kitchen from who made a mistake. We never talked to Viktor to find out the truth to that but it was so easy to blame him since he wouldn’t to be able to defend himself on that phone call.

So the least I can say is although Germany has done some things right, customer service isn’t one of them. That’s an area that needs many, many more years of improvement before it can compare to other countries.

Friday, October 7

Making it a home

I've been cooking like a mad person in our "new" kitchen. After some of the experiences (finding an apartment after seeing 16, not getting internet and still not having internet, washer isn't delivered on time), I've been inspired to release my creative juices in the kitchen. Comforting meals is just what we need. Cornmeal slow cooking in a saucepan while the meat braises in a skillet is the ultimate comfort food.

I always knew that stone ground grits could be interchanged with polenta and vise versa. (Polenta is the name of an Italian dish made of cornmeal.)

Last year when a friend returned from her North Carolina trip with a pound of stone ground grits, I was thoroughly content. We made shrimp and grits few times while living in the US, however I never remembered to use the grits in place of polenta, until Germany. Moving to Germany changed many things but one thing I recalled (learning in culinary school) was stone ground grits can be used to make polenta.

So here is a simple recipe for Polenta using stone ground grits and instead of shrimp, I made it with braised chicken, just as good.

Leeky Grits (No pun intended)

1 tablespoon butter
1 leeks (white and pale green parts only), thinly sliced, cleaned*
1/2 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 cup water
1 cup milk
1/2 cup stone ground grits
Salt & Pepper to taste
1 teaspoon chopped parsley

Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add leeks, and cook for 3 minutes, while stirring constantly. Add garlic and jalapeno pepper and continue to cook for 1 more minute. Add water and milk and bring the liquid to boil. Gradually whisk in grits. Add salt and pepper. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook until mixture is thick and creamy, stirring often. Add more water if necessary for thinning. Cook the grits, covered for about 30 minutes. Remove from heat and garnish with chopped parsley. Serve immediately.

*Leeks have a lot of dirt inside them. My best technique is to slice them thinly and soaking them in a bowl of water. Remove the leeks from the bowl with your hands by picking them up out of the water; don’t dump the water out with the leeks in a colander, the dirt will come out with the leeks. Repeat until the water is clear and no dirt or sand is settling at the bottom of the bowl.

Braised Chicken with Polenta or Grits

2 pieces of bone-in, dark chicken, (leg and thigh bone jointed)
1 tablespoon clarified butter
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 small jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 cup ripe tomatoes, chopped
2 teaspoons chopped parsley
Salt & Pepper to taste

Season chicken with salt and pepper, on both sides.

Heat clarified butter in a medium skillet on medium heat, add the chicken, skin side down and brown on each side for 3-4 minutes. While the chicken is still in the pan, add the garlic and jalapeno pepper. Cook for 1 minute, making sure the garlic doesn’t burn.

Add wine and simmer until reduced by half. Add the salt and pepper, tomatoes, lower the heat and cover the skillet with the lid. Cook the chicken in the simmering liquid, basting every 5 minutes. Cook until the thighs are tender, about 20 minutes. Uncover and continue to cook for 5-8 more minutes. Sprinkle with parsley (I was heavy handed on the parsley; use only 2 teaspoons). Serve over cooked grits. This is also great with egg noodles or pasta.

Thursday, October 6

Lamb with Vegetables and Stuffed Tomatoes

The weather is getting cooler and I am looking forward to making roasts and stews. As a nod to the start of cooler season, I made this roasted lamb and vegetable dish. Since I knew that wouldn’t be enough food to feed us a healthy dinner, I made stuffed tomatoes as the 2nd side. Both the Lamb and Stuffed Tomatoes were inspired by Mark Bittman.

Roasted Lamb with Garlic and Parsley
Adapted from How to Cook Everything

1 (300 gram) boneless lamb shoulder, in one piece
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
2 tablespoons minced garlic
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Salt and black pepper
2 cups carrots, celery root, parsley root, onions (potatoes would work fine too)

Mince parsley and garlic with salt until fine. Use a thin-bladed knife to cut small slits in the lamb and push pinches of parsley-garlic mixture into them; rub the lamb all over with parsley/garlic remains and drizzle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Grind fresh black pepper on the lamb.

Roll the lamb shoulder onto itself and tie it with a twine. This will help keep the moisture inside the meat and prevent the meat from drying out while roasting. Allow the meat to marinate for 1 hour, up to 24 hours. (If marinating for more than 1 hour, refrigerate)

While the meat is marinating, chop carrots, celery root, parsley root and onions in large dices. (Free form is fine, just make sure all the pieces are the same size so they all cook evenly).

Preheat oven to 400°F

20 minutes before roasting, remove the meat from the fridge and allow it to come to room temperature.

Put the vegetables in a roasting pan, season with salt, black pepper, and olive oil. Put the roasting pan with the vegetables in the oven for 15 minutes.

Carefully add the wrapped lamb onto the roasting pan with the veggies. Cook for 15- 17 minutes for medium. Transfer the shoulder to a cutting board to rest for at least 10 minutes.

Slice the shoulder and serve hot or warm with roasted vegetables.

Stuffed Tomatoes with Rice and Sausage
Adapted from How to Cook Everything

4 firm ripe tomatoes
4 ounces fresh sausage, removed from the casings if necessary (I used 1 link of Nürnberg Wurst)
1/2 cup cooked basmati rice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

Combine cooked rice, sausage meat, salt, pepper, and parsley.

Cut a 1/4-inch slice from the smooth end of each tomato (the stem end is typically flatter and makes for a more stable base). Reserve these slices. Use a spoon to scoop out all of the insides of the tomatoes, leaving a wall about 1/4 inch thick.

Sprinkle the inside of the tomatoes with salt and pepper, stuff them with the sausage and rice mixture, and replace the top slices. Spread half the olive oil in a shallow roasting pan that will allow for a little room between the tomatoes and put them in the pan. Sprinkle all with salt and pepper and put the roasting pan in the oven.

Roast the tomatoes for 20 minutes, until they are shriveled and the sausage is cooked through. Take a peek into the middle of one of the tomatoes; if the sausage is still pink, continue cooking. Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature.

This couldn’t have been a more perfect meal for a chilly Fall evening. It was very garlicky and full of vitamins from the vegetables. We both enjoyed it.

Tuesday, October 4

Coffee Machines

Germans are serious about their coffee machines, Kaffeemaschine. I may say all Europeans are serious about their coffee and coffee machines in a week but for now familiarity tells me Germans don’t mess around when it comes to the machines. (Although rumor has it that Germans are the last (and least) of the European countries to ask about coffee because they don’t brew good coffee.)

As far as taste, it tastes 100 times better here than it does in America or India. (India knows how to do tea but not coffee, sorry people). I’ve never drank so much coffee in my life but I am thoroughly enjoying it. And not only is the taste good but drinking coffee is an experience. There is no such thing as “coffee on the go” or “to go cups”. It is order by the cup at the coffee shop or at home, sip and enjoy.

All this coffee drinking and café hopping has got us inspired to buy our own Kaffeemaschine. At the end of a day, a cappuccino is just perfect especially for the cold, winter days that are around the corner. For a machine, we’ve looked on Amazon as well as Saturn, the local appliance store. A good machine costs as much as 500 Euros, on the lower end. We’ve seen some machines that cost up to 3000 Euros. I think if I pay that much for a machine, it better wake me up in the morning, grind the beans, make the coffee, clean itself and make breakfast while I am busy doing other things.

As of today, we’ve agreed upon one on Amazon that is well within our budget and should be delivered soon if things go well. Soon is relative in Deutschland so as long as we get the machine, we’ll be happy.

I am hoping not only will it grind the beans, make the coffee, but clean itself when I am watching TV. That’s not too much, right?

Sunday, October 2

Washing machine

In Germany, washing machines don’t fit into a spare bedroom or coat closet, they sit in the kitchen or bathroom. This is because of the water connection; most apartments are set up to have a washing machine only in the kitchen or bathroom. Since our bathroom is big enough for one person to brush their teeth, shower and take a shit, we knew we’d have to install ours in the kitchen. After having our kitchen installed, we measured the space left for a machine, 58cm. Yes, that small. Everything is small here, you know this already.

On the other side of the machine, we put a cart that we brought from America that I would like to use. The cart is 60cm. We decided to buy a machine that is 50cm, smaller than normal. Normal is 60cm. And although 50cm is not regularly available it is likely to find one. We searched high and low, at Saturn (Germany’s version of Best buy), and local papers. Finally he saw an ad in the paper for a 50cm machine at a local store, Poco. He went to the store the day the machine was on sale to order and the associate tells him they’re out of stock. 2 hours after the store opens and they’re out of stock of the one machine we wanted? Clearly, the demand for smaller sized washing machines is big.

Later that day he finds out another Poco has some in stock. Upon arriving at the store, he asks the associate for details; price, delivery charge, installation charge, size, etc. Everything is fine until the associate says 60cm for its size. Surprised, the husband points to the ad in the paper that advertises 50cm. And the associate’s response: “Printing typo, we don’t have a 50cm machine. Never did”

What a disappointment.

After this debacle, we decide it would be best to get a 60cm machine since it seems impossible to find the smaller one. And I would replace the cart with a smaller cart. No matter what, we need a machine, as soon as possible. It’s becoming annoying to have to carry weeks of laundry to the Laundromat. Finally, we order a machine from and request delivery for Wednesday 14/9/11. On the scheduled date, we find out the machine won’t be delivered. It won’t be delivered until 28/9/11. They decided this on their own without asking us. Neither of us still know why this was the case but we're happy that the machine did deliver on 28/9/11.

We've done a load of laundry and it works like new. Now it’s onto finding and buying a dryer. Wish us luck….

Saturday, October 1

Internet Saga, II

If you aren’t up to date on our Internet saga, read this first.

So after all this happens with Alice, we decide we want to have Kabel Deutschland provide Internet service to us. Another expat couple that’s also here with work told us that Kabel provides free calls to America in their package, more the incentive to go with this company. Their system works on cables and not the telephone wiring. The husband calls Kabel Deutschland and starts a new contract with them to provide service, in the meantime we still have an outstanding contract with Alice. They are much faster and schedule a date 2 weeks from the phone call.

When the technician arrives, he looks around the apartment and the basement to see the connection. He says he can’t find the main cable box so therefore will need to come back. Again this exchange is all in German, broken German at best for me. I quickly call the husband and ask him to speak with the technician. They agree that he will continue to look for it in the building with my help and the husband will come home early from German class. We search around some more and even ask our 1st floor neighbor if she knows the whereabouts of the main cable box and since she has no idea we continue to search. Finally the husband comes home and I halt the search and let the men figure it out. After 1 hour of searching the entire building, they turn up with no answers. Both of them agree, the main box is in someone’s apartment but neither the technician nor the husband know which apartment. Before the technician leaves he tells us it is our responsibility to find the main cable box if we want to have internet from Kabel. This is when we both look at him, laugh and say “are you kidding me?” He didn’t think that was too funny because he repeated "if you don’t find the box then no internet."

After much begging, a Kabel technician came out to our apartment recently to help us find the main box. With his help, we've figured out that the main cable box is indeed in a basement apartment. Unfortunately for us the tenant uses the apartment for storage. And since he isn’t ever there, we scheduled a new meeting with both the tenant and Kabel Deutschland technician on the same date, hoping to turn on the internet in the next couple weeks.

Where are we? We have 2 open contracts with 2 companies and after having lived in this apartment for 8 weeks we still don’t have internet. Thankfully, Kabel technicians and customer service has been very helpful and friendly while Alice and Deutsch Telekom customer service and technicians are rude. Last week, Alice sent Deutsch Telecom technician to look at the wiring one more time and the technician called that morning to say he wasn't coming. No explained reason, he just wasn't coming. At this rate, we'll schedule any one to come over that will give us internet service, even America. Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? We joke that we’ll be lucky if we have internet in the next 6 months.

On another note, I am happy to report that 2 weeks ago the husband figured out a way to use internet at home for free, sort of. We connect our iphones to the laptops for wifi. This is at no extra charge on our cell phone bills and works efficiently thus far. The only problem with this is we can’t skype with family and friends because of the low bandwidth. Hopefully once we have real internet, we’ll be back in business. Let’s hope.