What happens when you go without touch for a very long time? This is a questions that I have been discussing with our neighbour, the lovely Frau Späth while wading through our gardens, admiring our plants, this week. We have been finding each other’s company every morning in our joint gardens (Frau Späth and I both check on our plants every morning – me usually still in my pyjamas with some coffee, she already dressed), chatting away. On that particular morning we both exchanged our experiences on the fact that the Corona pandemic has made away with touch. How weird it is that no one shakes our hands as a greeting any more, no shoulder squeeze , no touching with the eye while alone in the apartment, no touch through voices that resonate. While we understand that the Corona pandemic is a complex situation, we both agreed that we miss the comfort of these touches, be it via sight, hand, or voice. This touch of comfort is, however, something we did get that morning while talking and wading through our gardens. Kim and I always say that we will never have neighbours that are as lovely, vibrant, life-affirming, and wise as the Späths. As I write this, Frau Späth has gotten some visitors. Her son Moritz and his wife came over with all the kids and, most importantly, Frau Späth’s new born grandchild, whom she has been squeezing and carrying around in the garden all day. All the joy, all the love, all the squeaky noises of pure bliss. That’s home.
And so, lightly pushed by this conversation, I was looking for these little touches of comfort all week. And I found them: in the moments when my wife brings me coffee in the morning and we open our massive french-doors next to our bed to allow the outside-world in while sipping on this bitter brew, still tucked in; while sitting on the sofa mid-week, all french-doors open, candles lit, thunder and rain raging, sipping some tea under a blanket; when we saw our very special friends Torben & Katrin, who cooked up a storm for us on Friday night and welcomed us with home-made cocktails on their sunny roof-top terrace, overlooking the city and the mountains, talking & laughing away. And so I want to finish the week with this comfort in mind.
Of course (yes, you might have guessed it already!), this comfort on my mind as well as the idea of touch brings me to food. And I was craving pork-chops all week. Pork-chops is a, I would argue very old-shook German, cut of meat, which transport me right into my grandmother’s kitchen. She would bread the chops, put some more wood into her old-shook cookery oven, fry the pork-chops in clarified butter, and serve it with some buttery mashed-potatoes with extra grates nut-meg on top. I crave this memory.
But, it is hot in Tübingen and so frying pork-chops needs to wait until fall. And so I decided on a lighter and more summery, even bbq-feeling, version. The rustic pork is marinated in fresh, acidy lemon juice, sweet & fragrant garlic, bitter olive oil and pungent fresh oregano. After 4 hours, I grilled the pork chops to add some charr and smothered them with honey before turning the meat. And (you must believe me) the caramelised honey, the bitter oregano, the juicy pork, the sweet garlic – it is quite a special treat. As a side, I made one of my favourite summery dishes, a zucchini carpaccio with fresh mint, creamy, roasted pine nuts, salty parmesan. They worked like a dream together. And, to cary us over the marinating time for the pork, I made a classic herby tomato galette as an early starter that we had, waiting, chatting, reading, listening to music, with some crisp white wine. This very long meal was a real treat. It is very basic, but somehow reassuring, connecting the old with the current, without feeling nostalgic. Enjoy!
Herby Goat Cheese & Tomato Galette
200 g flour
1/2 teaspoon backing powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
140 g butter (very cold & cut in cubes; if butter warms up, put back in fridge until cool again)
4 tablespoons cold water
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
3-4 Tablespoons creamy coats cheese
20 g shaved parmesan
6 ripe tomatoes, sliced
some fresh thyme, leaves removed, and one hand-full sage leaves, cut finely in ribbons
roasted pine nuts
salt & pepper to taste; some olive oil to finish off the galette
Heat your oven to 175 degrees celsius.
For the crust: combine flour, backing powder, and sin a bowl. Add your cold butter cubes, working them into the flour with your fingers until you have a sand-like consistency. The butter must remain relatively cold, so don’t over do this step. Add and egg-yolk and the cold water. Knead the dough until smooth, but don’t overwork it and store it in cling-foil for 30 minutes in the fridge.
Roll out your dough on a piece of parchment paper until you have a rough circle. With the back of a spoon, spread the mustard on the dough. Then, take another spoon and spread the goat cheese evenly everywhere, sprinkle with parmesan shavings, and lightly salt and pepper everything. Arrange the tomato slices, leaving a 3-4 cm border. Fold the edges of the dough over the filling, and salt and pepper generously. Sprinkle thyme and sage ribbons on the galette. Bake the galette for 30 minutes, or until golden and crispy. You can add some final touches with fresh basil and some olive oil. Enjoy!
My Favorite Zucchini & Mint Carpacchio
One zucchini, very thinly sliced
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
1 garlic clove, minced
shaved parmesan or peccorino
1 tablespoon roasted pine nuts
2 tablespoons mint leaves, finely sliced
On a serving plate, make a vinaigrette. Mix the olive oil, lemon juice, minced garlic, and add some salt and pepper to your liking. Now, transfer your very thinly sliced zucchini to the serving plate and gently massage in the vinaigrette evenly. This step is important so all slice get a bit of vinaigrette. Arrange dressed zucchini slices on the serving platter. Sprinkle the carpaccio with mint ribbons, add some shaved parmesan or pecorino, season with salt and pepper, and drizzle some olive oil over everything. Voila! Enjoy.
Oregano & Honey Pork Chops
3 pork chops
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 large springs of fresh oregano
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
4 tablespoons of olive oil
2 tablespoons of honey
coarse salt for seasoning
For the marinate, combine garlic, oregano, lemon juice, olive oil, and one pinch of corse sea salt in a mortar and pestle to elicit the aromatic oils from the oregano. Massage the marinate into you pork chops and allow for the meat to properly marinate in the fridge for at least 3 hours or, preferably, over night.
Take the pork chops out of the fridge one hour before grilling. Heat your cast iron pan or grill, grill the pork chops, brushing them with honey before you turn them (approximately brush them 3 times). This step will create a lovely caramelisation. Grill for about 8 minutes, depending on how thick your cut is. You want to cook the meat just through, good pork can be a bit pink inside (if you like it). Now, transfer the chops to a plate with aluminium foil, salt generously wit coarse sea salt, drizzle with olive, wrap up the meat in the foil, and rest the meat for 5 minutes. This way the meat will relax and release all those divine cooking juices you are after. Before serving the chops, pour the cooking juices over the pork chops and sprinkle them with some fresh oregano. Enjoy.