German Pancakes: Comforting Kummerspeck, or “Grief Bacon”

A few months ago, I came across a term that intrigued me: Kummerspeck.

The German word means “grief bacon” (and we all know how much I love bacon). Despite its bacon reference though, the word has a rather negative connotation — it refers to weight put on due to emotional overeating.

Nonetheless, the word fascinated me — and the Let’s Lunch crew, as it turned out. So off we went, dreaming up ideas for the perfect kummerspeck …

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Mexican Cottage Pie: A British Standard, Spiced Up

I have been in love with pie for as long as I can remember — crisp crust, hot filling … what’s not to adore?

My love extends far beyond traditional American apple and pumpkin pies, however — spicy (or sweet) empanadas, pot pies, shepherd’s pies, British pork pies, Singaporean fried curry puffs (which are, essentially, hand-pies) … you name it, I’ll worship it.

So I was thrilled when Lucy over at A Cook and Her Books suggested pie for this month’s theme for our Let’s Lunch virtual lunch date, which is a special one as we have a bunch of fabulous new bloggers joining our little group this month: Betty Ann at Asian in America, Margaret at Tea and Scones, Too, Naomi at The Gastro Gnome, Sara at Three Clever Sisters and Tammi at Insatiable Munchies.

What to make for this month’s lunch? I decided it had to be something pretty special to toast our new Lunchers …

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Spicy Korean Tofu: A Nod to Asia

I haven’t had much time to cook recently, with my book deadline looming.

But one does have to eat. So recently, when I found myself having to take a quick break from writing to prep a dish for a potluck party at The Studios of Key West, I turned to an old reliable: Spicy Korean tofu.

This dish is so easy (and delicious) that I find myself making it sometimes as often as once a week. Each tofu bite is packed with the intense swirl of garlic, chili flakes, nutty sesame oil and more — it’s terrific on its own but even better over hot white rice.

Every time I’ve made it, people ask for the recipe — so when my Let’s Lunch crew decided to make a dish that honors Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month for our May virtual lunch date, I decided it was time to share it …

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Barley Water: Daffodils, Spring & An Ode to Mary

Cancer has been on my mind a fair bit recently — not too many mornings ago, I awoke to the worst news. A dear friend and longtime mentor had passed away. Another victim of breast cancer.

The world knows Mary Corey as many things — the first female editor of the Baltimore Sun, an elegant writer and intrepid reporter who covered breaking national news and fashion’s frothy runway shows with equal aplomb, a graceful leader of a major regional newsroom at a time of great tumult in journalism.

But I simply know Mary as just about the best boss anyone could have asked for — and an intensely big-hearted friend.

Mary was my editor in my years as a young features reporter — she pushed me to think big and nudged the (then) very-reluctant me into covering fashion, sparking a career path that I’m on to this day. It would be an understatement to say that I would not be the writer I am today without Mary.

By all accounts, even as cancer overtook her life, Mary remained as sunny as ever, still thinking of others above herself. That was just the way she was — big sister to everyone, no matter the circumstance.

So when my Let’s Lunch international lunch club — inspired by cancer survivor Karen at GeoFooding — decided to post a dish today inspired by spring, life and daffodils to promote cancer awareness, I jumped right in.

Mary, this one’s for you …

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Mongolian Buuz: A Perfect TV Snack

Eating in front of the telly is something that happens with some regularity in these parts.

When your partner is a super busy television critic, that tends to happen. And I’m certainly not averse to sitting down to lunch, dinner or brunch in front of the box. (A side of Downton Abbey with any meal? No problem at all.)

So when the Let’s Lunch crew decided on sharing perfect snacks for TV watching in our February posts, I knew I had to jump back in the fray.

What do we eat while watching something? Everything, really: Stews, noodles, omelettes, sandwiches. But I’ve learned that the ideal item is something compact — bite-sized and easy to pop in your mouth for a quick chew.

Which is what makes dumplings pretty much the perfect TV food …

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Summery Mexican Chicken Stew: A Farmers’ Market Treat

The sweltering days of summer always make me crave two things: 1) Something cold. (If it’s bubbly, all the better.) 2) Something spicy.

So when the sous chef mentioned Mexican recently, the wheels started whizzing — talk about a food just perfect with an ice-cold beer on a super hot day. Tacos? Enchiladas? Spicy corn salads? Where to begin?

That’s when I came across a recipe for chicken braised in Mexican spices — a lovely preparation for chicken that leaves you with mounds of shredded meat and a deliciously spicy gravy.

As for what to do with the chicken and gravy, a trip to my Brooklyn farmers’ market seemed to be in order, especially since my Let’s Lunch crew had decided on a local market-inspired lunch dish for August …

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Chicken Satay: BBQ, Singapore Style

Among the things I miss the most about my native Singapore is one simple activity: Sitting by the beach on a steamy summer evening and looking out at the water as I reach for stick after greasy stick of freshly grilled satay.

The satay expeditions of my girlhood were frequent — few things beat the smoky smells of chicken, beef and mutton marinated in a potent cocktail of lemongrass, garlic, galangal, and turmeric getting barbecued in open-air food stalls, after all.

And my family, being hyper competitive as it is, always made a sport of it. Dad would order satay by the dozens and the race would begin to see whose pile of sticks, stripped of meat, would be the largest at the end. (You would think my father, being the oldest and the only male, would always win. Well, not in this cutthroat family, he didn’t.)

So when my Let’s Lunch crew decided on BBQ for our monthly virtual lunch date, satay seemed a must. I’ve only made it a few times in New York — never in Singapore, where it’s so easy to find and cheap (30 to 50 cents Singapore per stick, or 23 to 40 cents U.S.) that it makes little sense to go to the trouble of making it.

But I had just made it recently — at a little dinner one night at the Djerassi Resident Artists Program

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Mee Pok Ta: This One’s For Dad

People often ask me what’s the first thing I have to eat when I step off the plane in Singapore.

It’s impossible to say because the answer really is, everything.

Right up there, though, is mee pok ta (also known as ta mee pok), a dish comprising al dente tagliatelle-like egg noodles tossed in a spicy aioli together with fishballs, sliced fishcakes, minced pork and crispy cubes of fried pork lard.

The dish has special meaning for me — in Singapore, my father and I love nothing more than to get in the car first thing in the morning and drive over to our favorite mee pok place nearby for breakfast. There, as each fiery bite of noodles sinks in, we’ll slowly wake up.

So when my international Let’s Lunch group of bloggers suggested posting a Father’s Day-inspired dish for June, mee pok came to mind. I had never attempted to make it before — it’s so inexpensive (about U.S. $1.50 or $2 a bowl) and easily found in Singapore, no one needs to bother.

In New York City, however, it’s an entirely different matter. So with a bag of fresh noodles from New York Chinatown in hand, I decided to give it my best shot …

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Verjus: Two Americans in Paris

When two people have been cooking together online for almost three years, feeding a budding transcontinental friendship with tales of chili, liquid lunches and more, there’s a lot of pressure to make that first actual meal they have together truly special.

So when I started planning where I would meet Ellise (or, Cowgirl Chef, as you may know her, from the monthly Let’s Lunch posts on this blog) for the first time — in Paris, where she lives, no less — the hunt was on for a suitable place.

Where to meet? It turned out a little place we’d been curious about sounded just perfect: Verjus, a new-ish wine bar and restaurant near the Palais Royal by a young American couple who made waves in Paris a few years ago when they opened Hidden Kitchen, a private underground supper club in a tiny flat.

Now, I’d not been able to check out Hidden Kitchen in its heyday so when I heard that its owners — Seattlites Laura Adrian and Braden Perkins — opened a place last year that I could actually get into, I was all over it.

Almost as soon as I landed in Paris, off I headed …

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Keema Chili: Texas, Meet India

If you’ve been following me on Twitter, you may have noticed a monthly eruption of messages with the hashtag #LetsLunch.

It happens the first Friday of every month, when a motley group of bloggers from around the world get together to break bread over Twitter. This virtual monthly lunchdate began almost three years ago when three women in three cities who had never met found themselves wishing (on Twitter) at the very same moment that they had a BLT before them. Well, the Parisian, the New Yorker and the San Diego baker made a lunchdate for a BLT. This turned into a monthly affair, which grew larger than we anticipated. Now, we have bloggers in Australia, Paris, London, Canada and all over the United States gathering once a month to share a meal.

It’s been very sweet and genteel so far — we’ve sipped high tea together and shared age-old family holiday recipes. But that was all before someone brought up chili — that’s when the oven mitts came off and a smackdown began …

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