Eggplant Involtini

I have discovered a new recipe that uses one of my favorite vegetables: eggplant! This recipe, called Eggplant Involtini, from Alexandra’s Kitchen is so delicious that I can’t stop myself from making it at least once a week. Make sure to prepare the eggplant (salt the slices so that the water drains) an hour ahead before rolling them with a cheese filling and baking.

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Berlin in the Spring

This past Memorial weekend, I took a trip up to the biggest city in Deutschland…Berlin! The last time I had been to Berlin was about four years ago, when I did my first EuroTrip with my friend Deborah. It was a Sunday, so nothing was open, and it was cold, which made it even more depressing. This time, I got to see Berlin in full spring bloom, and it was wonderful. I got to revisit the Berliner Dom, the Brandenburger Tor, and the Reichstag, and got to see more of the local areas, such as Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg. The food is dead cheap, to German standards. Many of the bars were selling drinks for 4 euros at happy hour. Compare this to 8 euros drinks in Stuttgart.

And of course, there was so much to eat. Food is very varied and more authentic in Berlin. If you want Vietnamese, you get real Vietnamese, and not a fusion of Vietnamese and Chinese, for example. It was a very good weekend to be in Berlin, mostly because of the good weather, but also because the Karneval der Kulturen (Carnival of Cultures) was being held in Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg. There were stands selling jewelry, clothes, and food from many different cultures.

Jamaican jerk chicken.

Chick pea, couscous, and falafel.

My friend Insa holding a coconut drink.

Serving soft serve American ice cream. Give me gelato instead, any day. :p

As well as the carnival, we visited a few other food establishments.

Curry 36
Mehringdamm 36, Berlin, Germany

Apparently this is a very famous curry wurst place a few steps from the U-Bahn stop Mehringdamm, which was close to the carnival. I didn’t try their curry wurst, however my friends did. They say it wasn’t anything special. I had the pommes mit ketchup (french fries with ketchup).

Fassbender & Rausch Chocolatiers am Gendarmenmarkt
Charlottenstraße 60, Berlin, Germany

This place reminded me a bit of Sprüngli in Switzerland (of course, no one can beat Swiss chocolates). I was contemplated to buy something, but because of the warm weather, I didn’t want to risk melting chocolate in my bag, so I passed.

A chocolate volcano, need I say more?

Cô cô bành mí deli
Rosenthaler Straße 2, Berlin, Germany

The last time I remember having bành mí was before I became a vegetarian (sometimes you come to accept that the vegetarian versions of the things you loved the most are the worst). So it’s been about 7 years. 7 years. I was excited when I heard about this place. I thought, maybe I would have a go at a vegetarian bành mí with tofu. It wasn’t too bad, although I do miss pâté slathered on my baguette.

Tofu and Bell Peppers in Hoisin Sauce

My first memory of tofu was in the third grade. Every week, my third grade teacher would introduce us to a new food, whether it be celery, blueberries, or papaya. Usually it was something healthy and could be eaten raw. One week, it was tofu. Tofu can’t be eaten well unless cooked, so one of the parents brought it in a strawberry tofu cake. To this day, I remember it as the most incredible cake I’ve ever tasted. And it was made out of tofu! My mom has also been a tofu fan, and I especially loved it when she made mapo tofu (a recipe that I will need to conquer sometime). Anyway, this recipe is something that I’ve been making for lunches to take to work. Some of the ingredients, like the hoisin sauce and the chili garlic sauce, can be found at your local Asian market.

Ingredients:
9 ounces extra firm tofu, cubed
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
1 teaspoon chili garlic sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon water
1 bell pepper, diced
1 cup pineapple chunks
1 tablespoon olive oil (for cooking)

Directions:
1. Heat a wok or a deep skillet with oil to medium heat. Fry the minced garlic until fragrant.
2. Fry the tofu until all sides are lightly browned, about 5-7 minutes.
3. Toss in the bell peppers and pineapple, and fry for 2 minutes.
4. Mix the hoisin sauce, chili garlic sauce, water, and sesame oil. Stir the mixture in with the tofu until all is coated. Cover the wok with a lid and cook for 2 minutes. Occasionally lift the lid to stir the mixture. Finish cooking when all the sauce has disappeared.
5. Best served with rice.

2 servings

Mixed Green Salad with Grapes, Pears, and Curried Cashews

I don’t really prefer salads, but this is the salad I always make and bring whenever there are potlucks, birthdays, and what not. This salad is especially perfect for the summer time.

Ingredients:

Curried Cashews
1 cup cashew halves
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Dressing
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 cup olive oil
salt and black pepper to taste

Salad
1/2 head of red romaine lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces
1 package of mixed greens (spinach, rucola, whatever works)
1/2 medium pear, cut into small cubes
1/2 cup halved seedless green grapes

Directions:
1. In a large, dry skillet over medium-high heat, heat up the butter and toast cashews until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Remove cashews to a dish to cool slightly.
2. In a medium bowl, stir together curry powder, brown sugar, salt, cayenne pepper, and toasted cashews. Set aside.
3. In a small bowl, stir together apple cider vinegar, mustard, and honey. Slowly whisk in olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.
4. In a large salad bowl, toss dressing with mixed greens, pear cubes, grapes, and curried cashews.

3-4 servings

Japchae (Korean Glass Noodles)

Ingredients:

1/4 pound dried Korean glass noodles
1 bell pepper, sliced
1/4 pound spinach, washed and drained
1/2 carrot, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons sesame oil, divided
2 tablespoons soy sauce

Directions:
1. Fill a large pot with water and boil. When water is boiling, add the noodles and cook for 5 minutes. Immediately drain and rinse with cold water. Drain again and toss with only 1 tsp of the sesame oil. Set aside.
2. Add olive oil in a wok or large saute pan on high heat and swirl to coat. When the cooking oil is hot but not smoking, fry bell pepper and carrot slices, until just softened.
3. Add the spinach, soy sauce, and noodles. Fry 2-3 minutes until the noodles are cooked through. Turn off heat, toss with the remaining 1 1/2 tsp of sesame oil.

1-2 servings

Braised Potatoes


Ingredients:
3 medium potatoes
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3 tablespoons Korean or Japanese dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary
2 tablespoons malt syrup
1/2 cup water
a pinch of salt

Directions:
1. Clean and peel the potatoes. Boil the potatoes in a pot of water for 10 minutes.
2. Drain the potatoes and let them cool for 5 minutes. Cut them into cubes.
3. Heat a wok with a bit of olive oil over low heat. Saute the potatoes with a pinch of salt until they can be poked through with a fork without them breaking in half.
4. Mix the soy sauce, garlic, red pepper flakes, dried rosemary, and sugar. Pour the mixture over the potatoes and stir to coat.
5. Stir the malt syrup in water, add to wok, and stir well to combine.
6. Put a lid over the wok and cook slowly. Stir occasionally so the sauce evenly coats the potatoes. The longer you braise them, the more the sauce will disappear and the darker the potatoes will become. If the sauce disappears entirely before the potatoes are cooked, add a little more water to the wok and keep cooking. Have the potatoes cooked just enough so that they hold their shape and are soft to bite all the way through with no crunchiness.
7. Do not serve this dish hot. Allow to cool at least to room temperature.

1 serving

Sanchon

Being a vegetarian in Korea is a bit difficult. In England, almost every restaurant has at least several vegetarian options labeled on the menu, but there isn’t so much of that luxury in Korea. Koreans love their meat. So I decided to research vegetarian restaurants, and the first one I came up with was Sanchon in Insadong, which is run by a former monk and serves Buddhist temple food. The food is made with roots, herbs, plants, and vegetables that are grown in the mountain areas. Everything is natural and extremely healthy. A friend and I went one afternoon, and got to experience their lunch. The menu is set, no matter one time of day, so you simply come in, sit down, and wait for them to bring you the food: tofu, potatoes, mountain greens, jjigae, rice. The lunch menu is 22,000 won, and the dinner is 39,600 won with a show.