Looks like summer is coming very quickly. Before the trees have had time to grow out all the leaves, actually. The landscape is still a bit bare here and there: the woods are starting to dress up with a huge variety of green shades. There are many types of trees, which you don’t notice in winter, but are bound to in Spring or Fall. On Sunday we took advantage of the weather and had a barbecue in our garden with a few friends. We grilled German bratwurst and krakauer from the market, Pakistani chicken kebabs (courtesy of this book), Moroccan beef kebabs (courtesy of this other book), mushrooms skewers, and zucchini. We also had a considerable amount of cold pils. It was our first barbecue here, and we really enjoyed sitting out in the sun, even though in the end all of us – most people grown up in warmer climates than Germany – were quite dizzy from the excess of heat. You are just not used to it any more after four solid months of snow. So for the dessert we moved back to our flat. Time to blink my eyes, and the cheesecake I had prepared was gone.
There are two main types of cakes to me. The ones that disappear without any hopes for leftover, and the ones that last a bit longer. I usually bake or cook cakes that belong to the first group, which is a smart choice, dietary speaking – you do get a few extra calories that night, but it is a one-off and you usually share. This means that I usually bake only when I have friends coming over for dinner or lunch or tea or just cake, or when I plan to bring the dangerous goods somewhere else.
It might be a smart choice, but it is sad. It is so nice to have something sweet to enjoy every day, a little bit at a time, something very special that you have made yourself. I usually don’t do that and when my sugar cravings are too strong I just buy something ready made. Sometimes it can be darn good, of course, but then this tends to fall back into the first group – it will disappear, matter of minutes; so most of the times the sweet craving resolves into the ‘hateful commercial calories you should really avoid, bound to give you more guilt than pleasure’. On the other hand, when I bake something just for us, I know exactly how much butter and chocolate and… goes in there, and I know that there is no excuse, I did not share the thing with eight friends so over the course of those few days I had an extra X calories.
At this time of the year, if you happen to be in Wales, you can walk in the woods near the Ocean without smelling the sea at all. Coastline in Wales is stunning. I had no idea before going there. It has not much to envy to the beautiful Irish coastline, but is much less known outside the UK. I used to live at the doorstep of an assortment of cliffs, sand beaches, pebbles beaches, peninsulas, tidal caves. From home in half an hour I could choose between five or six different beaches, all facing different directions so I was guaranteed to always get a lot of wind (I never managed to actually avoid it 🙂 ). I was spoilt by the choice of walks, some in the open, others in the woods. The woods are particularly luscious and magnificent: the mild climate allows for an almost tropical quality of nature, always green, with many imported species who have successfully adapted, including little bamboo bushes. The open parts on the other hand are wild moors covered by heather and thorny bushes, where lazy sheep graze the grass and the wind always blows.
I might claim I’m done with lemon dessert, and I might also be convinced to be honest. But in my heart I know that this is false: as soon as I have lemons at hand, it’s dessert time. This time I made a quite light and bright dessert, a bit old fashioned. I wanted to make a variation on my all time favourite strawberries and cream theme, and I thought: why not add some lemon? (of course. Addiction signal.).
And here is the recipe for the Insalata di Carciofi I had at Roscioli, in Roma. It contains both warm and cold artichokes, so it plays with temperatures; it plays with consistency, as it contains soft cooked artichokes, crunchy raw artichokes, and very crunchy toasted pine nuts. But what really won me over is the flavour symphony. Artichokes at their best are bitter at first taste, with extremely sweet undertones revealed afterwards. This salad complements the flavour by adding the bitterness of rocket and walnut oil, so that the sweet component of artichokes shines; the nutty walnut taste is amplified by the toasted pine nuts. A fresh note of acidity comes from the raw artichokes dressed with lemon juice, and more freshness comes from the herbs the artichokes are cooked with, I think they were originally coriander and ‘mentuccia’, a mint relative that is traditional with artichokes in Rome. I used only coriander and it worked quite well.