Immigrant vs. Regional (Food). Holiday Cookies with Tahini and Orange

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Writing a post and recipe for holiday cookies to me seems to be pretty much out of space, considering the current situation in Berlin. For two days I’m working on this article now and through writing I try to understand and come to terms with my emotions and thoughts about this dark incident and its consequences. I had written a lot. But, I didn’t click on ‘publish’. I became too personal. And although I know and see everywhere around me how personal stories  (fights in relationship, family problems, details about personal sexual intercourse, naked- but arty- photos etc.)  are nowadays the visa stamp for facebook prominence, I decided rather to drink two Hemingway Sours and listen to Tom Waits with my dearest friend. So, please forgive me, if I spare you from my current desperation and if I don’t offer you a diary note that will make you cry, just like a movie you watched another day and have already forgotten its title. I’ll leave a simple food comment, because food is what I can speak best – with a little help of the ingredients list which I used in this cookies recipe:

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1. The cookies we traditionally bake for Christmas don’t come from Europe, United States or England. They probably come from Persia.

2. Tahini, or sesame butter, I used for this recipe comes from Arab culinary tradition.

3. First types of spelt (and spelt flour) have been discovered in West-Georgia (close to Russia).

4. Chocolate into which I dipped the cookies comes from Mexico.

5. First paintings with roses motives are 4000 years old and were discovered in Sumer caves in southern Mesopotamia.

6. Pistachio trees grow in Turkey, Greece, California and Guatemala.

7. Olives came to Greece probably from Syria.

8. Orange was born in China.

9. Botanic homeland of coconut (sugar) are Sunda Islands.

10. Author and recipe developer of this food blog was born in Bosnia and lives in Berlin. She is an immigrant. And she doesn’t give a fuck about political borders. Just like food doesn’t.

Sorry if I screwed your very personal tradition! But, as you can see, immigrants are not our problem! Happy holidays!

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Chocolate dipped cookies with tahini and orange

Ingredients (makes aprox. 25 pieces à 5 cm radius):

150 g spelt flour (or white, wholegrain flour)
100 g coconut sugar (or refined brown sugar)
200 g tahini
2 Tsp melted butter, or coconut oil
Juice of 1 orange
Zest of 1 orange
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp natron
2 tsp cinnamon
pinch of salt
20 g pistachio, finely chopped
10 g dried rose petals, finely chopped

Chocolate dip:

100 g dark chocolate
1-2 tsp olive or coconut oil

Directions:

1. In a large mixing bowl, rub together the orange zest and sugar. Add orange juice, melted butter (or coconut oil) and tahini, stirring to combine. You will get a thick mixture.
2. In a separate medium mixing bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, natron, salt and cinnamon. Add the flour mixture to the nut mixture and knead everything together with your hands to combine. If your texture is to dry or crumbly add a little bit more of butter or coconut oil. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and put in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
3. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper.
4. Form the dough into 25 balls, roughly a level tablespoon’s worth. When all the balls have been made, take a flat-bottomed drinking glass and press the dough into rounds about 5cm across. Bake for 5-7 minutes until just starting to brown on the bottom.
5. Remove cookies from the oven. They will still feel squishy to touch on top, but they solidify as they cool. Let rest out of the oven for about 10 minutes before dipping in chocolate. Dip each cookie half-way in the chocolate, then set back on the cookie sheet to cool. Sprinkle the chocolate half with pistachio and roses. Eat immediately or set the cookies in the fridge or freezer for 15 minutes to solidify the chocolate.

Chocolate dip

1. Set a double boiler (or a glass bowl over a pan filled with water) over low eat. Add the coconut oil. Once the coconut oil is melted stir in the chocolate. Cut off the heat and set aside for 5 minutes. Stir the chocolate and coconut oil together until combined. Done!

 

 

 

 

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Kitchen Levitations and Creamy Polenta with Brussel Sprouts

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St. Teresa of Ávila who lived in XVI century was a very unusual women. At the highpoint of European colonization and Luther’s reformation, this women was oscillating between several identities: she was a mystic, writer, reformer, and saint. Her biography is truly interesting, but voluminous, so I’ll skip all details – you can read about her online – and focus on a delicious detail, which I found while reading one of many books written about this famous lady:

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The story about St. Teresa’s levitation was confirmed by many witnesses and it is the story that fascinated me most. One day, while she was floating in the church, Teresa has become hungry. She decided to go home to cook something.  While she was in her kitchen preparing food, she started floating again. Although she was hungry she couldn’t get down, so she furiously kept floating over a pot with a boiling soup. Even if Teresa had qualities that made her sacred, she would have give them up for a full belly. Food is a crossroad where spirit meets nature.

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Dreaming to fly is a phantasy I play with since my childhood. First I was a bird, than Aladdin, superwoman and currently a Tao-monk. But not only on my yoga mat I can sometimes feel a meditative lightness caused by balanced flow between the movement and breath. Those special moments also surprise me regularly in my kitchen, while carefully decorating a cake, kneading a bread with devotion or just waiting for water to boil… From my university teacher I have learned that fly and flight (escape) have the same etymology. So I can’t but ask myself, what does this childhood dream and my attachment to practice of meditation want to tell me? Do I only want to fly or simple… fly away?

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St. Teresa was not only to me fascinating, but to many other persons. In 2009 Marina Abramovic, the most famous performance artist, inspired by lovely and important memories on her grandmother’s kitchen and the amusing story about St. Teresa’s levitation, made together with Italian photographer Marco Anelli a row of videos and photographs, taken in a former Spanisch orphanage and she called this project The KitchenHomage To Saint Therese: “My entire childhood was about going around the kitchen. The kitchen was the centre of my world. The kitchen was the place where I would tell my grandmother my dreams. The kitchen was the place where she would tell me stories, and the kitchen was the place where all the secrets were told. It was a kind of place where the spiritual world and the daily world met and mixed.”

abramovic2(photo source: http://www.dazeddigital.com/artsandculture/article/5849/1/marina-abramovics-kitchen)

Creamy Polenta with Roasted Brussel Sprouts 

First prepare vegetables:

*I roasted these brussel sprouts in a sea buckthorn syrup I bought at the market place few days ago. It happened to be an amazing combination! If you are not able to find it, roast the brussels in honey, maple syrup, or try it with another fruit syrup- like apple syrup.

Ingredients (serves 2 persons): 

300 g brussel sprouts
1 chilli pepper, finely chopped
1 dl sea buckthorn syrup (or honey, maple syrup, or try it with another fruit syrup)
1 tsp fine sea salt
pinch of black pepper
zest of 1 lemon

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 220ºC.
2. Trim and halve the brussels sprouts, then place on a large baking tray. Add the lemon zest, chill pepper, sea buckthorn syrup, then sprinkle a pinch of sea salt and black pepper. Mix with your hands to coat.
3. Roast in the oven for 20- 30 minutes until the sprouts are tender.
While brussels are in oven, make polenta:

Ingredients: 

2 l water
150 g organic cornmeal
1 tsp. nutmeg
70 g grated parmesan (optional, but tasty)

Directions:

  1. In one medium sized pot bring 2 l water to boil. Reduce the temperature to a simmer and carefully add the cornmeal while constantly stirring. Stir and stir until all lumps are gone (Add more water or more meal if necessary) and polenta reached a perfect creamy consistence. It takes about 30min.
  2. Serve it warm. Put a couple of spoons of polenta on the plate    first and spread vegetables on the top. Garnish with some parmesan crumbles, squeeze some lemon juice and pour a bit native olive oil over it. Enjoy!

 

 

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Warm porridge with sautéd quinces and apples

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There are two reasons why I want to share this recipe with you.

First, let me tell you a story that happened last Saturday on the marketplace in my neighborhood. My husband and I were standing in front of an extraordinary stand that was well supplied with fresh seasonal and local vegetables and while I was sniffing on beautiful yellow quinces, two young men curiously starred at me. “Can you eat this like you eat apples, I mean, just bite into it?”. Confused and willing to help,  for a very short moment I thought this question was put to me, but then I looked up and saw that quince-virgin was waiting for the seller to answer him the question. Perplexity and doubt shaded the seller’s face, his shoulders started to sink to his knees and instead of giving the answer, he desperately turned his head into his colleague’s direction… I got very dizzy because of this circular head motions, so I slowly walked away, hoping that someone was able to throw some light on this situation. Like I sad, I could’t- I almost have fainted. What is next? “Is a cow really not purple?”

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The thing is: I eat quinces almost every day since their season started. For someone who writes her PhD thesis about food, who writes a food blog and develops various recipes, for someone who spends almost the whole free time cooking, who enjoys photographing, growing and sharing food with others, some people would say that when it comes to breakfast- I am very boring. Well, it depends how you see it. I love to make researches not only about food but also with food. When I have found a good basis for a meal, I spend many days (or months) consuming this same meal, only refreshing it with various toppings and add-ons. Staying in this process I can truly discover a full potential of a specific food or food combination. After a while of practicing an intentional eating my body and mind can clearly feel the difference between lentils and rice, beans and chickpeas, parsley and sage. Then I register their characteristics in detail and with this knowledge I create further recipes that are not only nourishing but also very tasty. This is what I call a individual, conscious eating. It is a never ending process of observing. And at the same time, “healthy” eating should never be your main goal- it is (only) one of your most important instruments on the path you’ve chosen for yourself. Because, in the end, we all  should be grateful for having so many food options.

Having the same breakfast for a month?! No, it is not boring. Remember: MAGIC HAPPENS THROUGH REPETITION!

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Warm porridge with sautéd quinces and apples

*This porridge is really everything you need during cold and grey days. For the basis I combined millet and oat flakes, but feel free to adapt it to your taste. Warm quinces and apples combined with pinch of cinnamon provide wonderful freshness. Nutty taste comes from almond butter to which I’m addicted lately, but you definitely can skip it and add some nut milk or few roasted almonds or hazelnuts. Spicy aroma comes from freshly grated curcuma. At the end I made everything a little bit more juicy with pomegranate seeds. 

Ingredients (for a smaller pot, 2 persons):

3 quinces, peeled and chopped into chunks
2 apples. peeled and chopped into chunks
1 Tsp ghee (or butter, or coconut oil)
a pinch of salt
a small piece of freshly grated curcuma, or 1/2 tsp curcuma powder
1 tsp cinnamon
2 dl water
2 Tsp honey, or maple syrup
50 g oat flakes
50 g millet flakes

Toppings:

3 Tsp almond butter
pomegranate seeds
1 Tsp hemp seeds
1 Tsp sunflower seeds

Directions:

1. Prepare the vegetables. Wash apples and quinces, peel them and chop into 2 cm cubes. In a smaller pot melt the ghee, add quinces and cook for 1 min. Add 1 dl water and stew the fruits for around 10 min. or until firm to the bite. Add more water if necessary.
2. Add apple cubes, salt, honey, cinnamon and curcuma and stew for another 5 minutes. Add more water, if necessary.
3. Put one half of the fruits in the blender and blend until smooth, or purée it, using a hand blender. If you use it, mix in some nut milk of your choice.
4. In a a medium sized pot combine oats, millet flakes and fruits puree and cook for another 3 minutes, over the low heat. If the porridge is too sticky add some more nut milk, or water. Remove from the heat and cover with the remaining fruit cubes. Serve with the suggested topping or with your favorite one.

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