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I’ve been in Munich for about 36 hours. 3 museums, 8 miles, 0 pretzels, 1 yoga class, and about 100 dankes.

I kind of love it here. I know it’s easy to make such bold statements after a very short amount of time—couldn’t the same be said of just about anywhere after only a couple of days? Er, no. But I have thought the same of Tokyo, Istanbul, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Hong Kong. How many cities have three different Jivamukti Yoga studios? Come. On. Parts of the city have felt like Brooklyn to me, others like Rome, and parts that have felt like no other place I’ve been. And there’s no dog crap on the ground. Anywhere.

Back home in New York, my friend Misha has been singing Germany’s praises for years, from Berlin to Hamburg. I’d never been to Germany so I didn’t get it. I’ve often teased him that, as Jews (part-Jew in my case), we just aren’t supposed to like it here. But that sentiment is so off, limited, antithetical to my core, yet still. I know plenty of Jews in the U.S. who don’t so much as to like hearing German being spoken within earshot. Understandable of course to a certain generation. (And i wonder how many Jewish expats there are here. So far all the expats I’ve met are decidedly not Jewish.) And yet, walking around the English Garden this afternoon I felt at home; strolling through Schwabing, going to yoga, eating brunch at Occam Deli, I constantly felt both unfamiliar and familiar. Or maybe it’s just because, as Monocle magazine declared, this city is just so freaking livable.

As a U.S.’er I find it’s important to get out of the States as much as one can. Roam abroad. Hear other languages being spoken. I live in Brooklyn and hear and see many cultures around me all the time. But there is intrinsic value in leaving one’s land (especially if that land is the U.S.), to breathe different air, to fumble with the language being spoken (especially if you only speak English). It’s humbling, if nothing else.

There has been so much to like in my short time here so far. I did a lightning round of museum touring yesterday afternoon coming off an eight-hour redeye from JFK.

Highlights:

-At the Pinakothek der Moderne, the Linna Bo Bardi architecture show: “Brazil’s Alternative Path to Modernism.” She was a badass architect ahead of her time (see photos below), practicing architecture in an all-boy’s club in the 40s, 50s, 60s, and 70s, building large public buildings and private residences in Sao Paolo and beyond. It’s an architecture povera — not impoverished, but simple, for the people, unfussy, and super integrated its environments whether forest or concrete. The exhibition design was unusual too – exhibition povera. Wall text that was handwritten on the walls, sometimes with errors crossed out in plain sight, beautiful models, and Brazilian music. I thought, there really should be more music curated into visual art shows.

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-The Canaletto show at the Alte Pinakothek. (For 12 Euro you can get into 3 of the Pinakotheks on the same day.) Born Giovanni Antonio Canal in Venice, he masterfully painted sweeping landscapes throughout the 18th century. You could spend an hour taking in each canvas. Master of light, shadow, detail.

-The Lenbachhaus! Home of the world’s largest der Blaue Reiter (Blue Rider) art collection. Turns out, I do still like Kandinsky. I just hadn’t seen as much of this early stuff, very folksy, not precise at all, with chunky sweeps of oil paint crossing the canvas. Below is a photo of the new addition, built in 2012 by Norman Foster, signage by Thomas Demand. Below that a photo of the interior lobby with a permanent installation by Olafur Eliasson.

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This morning I attended a class at the Yoga Loft, taught by the lovely Kari. She told me the buchhandel & coffeeshop I liked so much yesterday—Lost Weekend—was opened by one of the Jivamukti founders here. Of course. Hip setup, vegan food, good music, students on Macbook Airs, well-curated artsy book shop.

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Today, eating pancakes at Occam Deli in Scwhabing (where the photo above was taken), I watched an older woman (in her early seventies I’d say) eating a plate of bread, cheese, and gherkins while listening to music from her iPhone on rather large white headphones, flipping through a fashion magazine contentedly. I wish I had gotten a photo. If this place had been in Fort Greene or Park Slope in Brooklyn there would only be people 25–45 years old. Not here. The ages ranged from about one to eighty.

That’s all for now, tomorrow I start meetings at Prestel, where I recently began a new job as full-time Acquisitions Editor. I’ll be back to this city at least twice a year. Thankfully. Because it doesn’t look like I’ll be making it to the Haus der Kunst or the Brandhorst Museum or or so many other things this trip. Peace out, as they say in German.

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Galette is a galette is a galette.

Pie, or pastry, in the U.S., usually means sweet. It evokes sticky fruit spilling out of pastry in high summer. Or maybe pumpkin pie topped with clouds of whipped cream on Thanksgiving. I like these, I do. But I’m also partial to savory pies, meals tucked into flaky pastry. A galette is neither pie nor tart but the forgiving and rustic cousin—open, free-form, and baked flat on a baking sheet. And truly, pretty simple to make. Don’t let the pastry intimidate!

We had at least one vegetarian coming for Thanksgiving dinner here in Vermont this week so I wanted to make something substantial and special sans meat, rather than requiring the Brussels sprouts, green beans, potatoes, and cranberries to do the heavy lifting. A savory galette seemed both fetching and filling.

The recipe here is an adaptation from Deb Pereleman and Smitten Kitchen. I added whole wheat flour to the pastry mix, swapped yogurt for the sour cream, leeks instead of onions, and included pine nuts to the filling, because, well, why not?

The snow is just beginning to melt in the abundant—but cold—sunshine here; we got at least ten inches earlier in the week. The hardy sage plant in my stepmother’s garden (hidden under snow in one of photos below) still provided me with all the herbs I needed. And while the pastry chilled in the refrigerator I shoveled the entire walkway, it was the perfect amount of time.

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Butternut Squash Galette with Caramelized Leeks
adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Pastry
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/4 cup plain yogurt
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup ice-cold water

Filling
1 small butternut squash (approx. 1 pound)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 to 2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 to 2 leeks, washed thoroughly and sliced thinly (white parts only), approx. 2 cups
1 teaspoon salt
Pinch of sugar
1/4 teaspoon cayenne, or more to taste
3/4 cup fontina cheese (about 2 1/2 ounces), grated
1 to 2 tablespoons pine nuts
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage leaves

Make the pastry: Combine the flour and salt in a bowl; place the butter in a separate bowl. Place both bowls in the freezer for one hour. Remove the bowls from the freezer and make a well in the center of the flour. Add the butter to the well and, using a pastry blender, cut it in until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Make another well in the center. In a small bowl, whisk together the yogurt, lemon juice, and water and add half of this mixture to the well. With your fingertips, mix in the liquid until large lumps form. Remove the large lumps and repeat with the remaining liquid and flour-butter mixture. Pat the lumps into a ball; do not overwork the dough. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Prepare the squash: Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Peel squash, cutting in half and scooping out the seeds. Cut into a 1/2-inch dice. Toss pieces with olive oil and a half-teaspoon of the salt and roast on a baking sheet for 30 minutes or until pieces are tender, turning once during baking. Set aside to cool slightly.

Caramelize the leeks while the squash is roasting: melt butter in a heavy skillet and cook the leeks over low heat (make sure it’s a low flame otherwise they will quickly burn!) with the remaining half-teaspoon of salt and pinch of sugar, stirring occasionally, until soft and lightly golden brown, about 20 minutes. Stir in cayenne.

Raise the oven temperature to 400 degrees. Toast the pine nuts in a small pan on the stovetop then remove from heat. Mix squash, caramelized onions, cheese, pine nuts, and sage together in a bowl.

Assemble galette: On a floured work surface, roll the dough out into a 12-inch round. Transfer to an ungreased baking sheet. Spread squash, leek, cheese, and sage mixture over the dough, leaving a 1 1/2-inch border. Fold the border over the squash mixture, pleating the edge to make it fit. The center will be open.

Bake until golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from the oven, and let cool slightly before transferring carefully to a serving dish. You can serve warm or at room temperature. let stand for 5 minutes, then slide the galette onto a serving plate. Serves 6.

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Any dish that ends “…with ginger and chili” I am predisposed to like. It’s kind of my current favorite flavor profile. I generally like heat over sweet, and there is something medicinal, healing, about the combination. When I can remember to, I like to start my mornings steeping ginger and chili in hot water, sometimes with a little bit of fresh squeezed lemon, and if I’m feeling a stuffy nose coming on, a tiny bit of honey.

So when I stumbled upon a recipe for a spicy butternut squash soup I perused the ingredient list and liked what I saw: coconut milk, fresh ginger, fresh chili, cilantro, turmeric. This was a recipe for October, for crisp weather and fending off colds. It is warmth in a bowl.

I’m in Vermont for a few days watching over a two-month-old kitten named Sam—short for Sammy Davis Jr., naturally. While born feral and therefore fearful of humans, she surprised me this morning when I woke to discover her resting peacefully on my chest. Up, down, with my breath. I picked long red chili peppers with my stepmother from her garden before she headed out of town, putting the better part of one to good use in this recipe. Now I just need to find something to do with all the Swiss chard, white eggplant, and green tomatoes we picked. In the meantime…

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Butternut Squash Soup with Ginger and Chili
adapted from Brooklyn Vegetarian

2 tablespoons coconut oil (olive oil works well too)
1 medium onion, diced
Knob of fresh ginger, approx. 1 inch, peeled and minced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
Fresh red chili pepper, minced, to taste (I used a piece 2 inches long)
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 carrot, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 medium to large butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cubed
4 cups vegetable broth
1/2 cup coconut milk
Salt and pepper, to taste
Parsley or cilantro, to garnish
Scallions, to garnish

In a large saucepan heat the oil on medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for about 5 minutes, or until it turns translucent. Add the ginger, garlic, and chili and sauté for about 1 minute, then add the cumin and turmeric. Stir, then add the carrot and celery and sauté for several minutes until they begin to soften. If the pan gets too dry you can add a spoonful or two of water, so the onions don’t stick. Add the squash, broth, and coconut milk, season with salt and pepper, and slowly bring to just before the boil. Turn the heat down and simmer until the squash is cooked through, about 20 minutes. Allow the soup to cool some before transferring to a blender or food processor. Blend until smooth, in batches if necessary. You can reheat the soup in its pan before serving if you’d like. Garnish the soup with sliced scallions and parsley or cilantro.

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