Indulging in the indoor sports when the weather turns wintry.

I begin with French Sea Salt. The stock I brought with from across the pond is dwindling. I fully expected to have been across the pond at least twice by now to replenish. Thank you, coronavirus. In our local version of Whole Foods, a store I rarely frequent unless I am willing to overpay for a specialty item, the salt was available.

No. Just, no. I messaged Anna Grace and asked her to collect a couple of cartons, the total cost of which will be less than one-third of this absurdity.

Continuing on the subject of the absurd, while in my regular grocer searching for our preferred brand of chocolate gelato I spied the preferred sweet treat our U.S. House Speaker likes to fill her five-figure freezer with.

I gotta write. She’s wasting her money. This wasn’t OMFG. Not even close.

Not from my kitchen. By the by we found ourselves in the neighborhood where we had rented the airbnb when we first arrived around lunchtime one Saturday. We passed a little Italian place (like, ten tables little) on numerous occasions, but only on this day decided to drop in. Recalling fondly those winter InnerStadt afternoons that would find us at Al Caminetto after a museum outing, cozied up with spectacular Carpaccio di Pulpo to begin; a shared pizza and a Montepulciano to follow. And then typically an hour or two at Gerstner’s for torte and mélange.

Sigh. The restaurant lacks an alcohol license (but allows BYO without a cork fee!), so next time. No octopus, either, so we skipped the antipasti. Tony selected handmade lobster ravioli, which contained actual chunks of lobster! I was craving the off-menu Spaghetti Aglio e Olio from a second favorite Italian place in Vienna, where I would occasionally meet my favorite Nuclear Engineer for lunch.

The excess olive oil aside, this was…really close. We shall return.

In the category of, “I really, really need to take a food photography course,” I could not resist the whole Flounder at the market one day, salivating over the piccata it would become for dinner. I neglected to snap the fish after the lemons and capers had been added; that is because the aroma wafting through the kitchen when I did add the piccata turned the two of us into starving lunatics and we came close to just eating the fish from the pan. But that of course would have been much too uncivil.

Found a batch of handmade pasta dough in our freezer I’d forgotten about. Set to work turning it into ricotta raviolis that I dashed with lemon and chili for lunch one day.

Seared Ahi Tuna “Nachos.” Oh, yes. Though I would recommend perhaps not frying the wontons to Level 10 crispness. 😉

Once upon a time I considered the elegant aubergine to be, well, disgusting. Not any longer!

Meet “rustic” Aubergine Chermoula. Originally a North African spice paste made of cumin, cinnamon and paprika, this chermoula has been fancied up with charred aubergine and caramelized red peppers and onions and turned into dinner.

I have been in love with the cover recipe from Falastin for months, and only recently decided I needed to both own the cookbook and prepare this recipe.

To my surprise, the “dressing” required charred eggplant to be pureed with yogurt. After the baby steps toward the elegant aubergine with the Chermoula I was all into it. The result was a salad that we figuratively came to fisticuffs over for the last portion, it was that good.

No, of course this is not my photo; this is from the cover of the cookbook.

What happens when you melt-yes, melt-anchovies and garlic with butter and olive oil into a sauce; then toss with hot pasta, radicchio, and baby kale?

Utter Umami.

Since we’ve turned onto Umami Lane. Last weekend? we were gung-ho on home improvement projects.

We so did not miss home-improving while overseas.

Back to the story. The dinner hour was drawing near and neither of us wanted to 1) cook; 2) go to the grocer; or 3) default to barbecue take-away. A visual spin through my vault of recipes turned up…Umami Ramen.

There is no snap, professional or otherwise, that could sell this dish. What is required is the courage of one’s conviction, to sauté two entire heads of thinly-sliced garlic together with butter and dashes of brown sugar and oyster and soy sauces, all of which is then tossed with fresh spaghetti (I had no Ramen noodles). For fancy I added chopped scallions. This recipe has been promoted to the “Rotation” file.

When it’s cold and grey outside and warm and Borscht-y inside. I strayed across my Eastern European line by adding short ribs to make for a heartier lunch. My grandmother will forgive me. I hope.

I squeed when I saw baby Boy Choy at the market, so naturally I had to purchase. But then what? Well, Salt and Pepper Tofu with Garlicky Bok Choy, that’s what!

Wrapping up this lengthy episode. This being the most wonderful time of the year, I have turned my attention to cookies.

Jeweled Butter Sables, studded with pistachios; dried apricots; and dried sour cherries. I do not believe these even made found their way into a container.  In our defense, not that we need one, the fruits and nuts made this cookie practically a breakfast option.

My holiday baking challenge: Persian Cardamom and Rose Water Butter Cookies. Made with wheat and rice flours (a first for me). The butter had to be boiled and the solids strained away (another first). And the cardamom needed to be ground by hand (not a first).

The verdict? Tender, delicate butter cookies with the herbal spice of cardamom and light floral notes of the rose water. Definitely a recipe to add to the collection.

The ultimate holiday cookie is hands down the Polish Kolachy. That is next week’s indulgence.