Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Supermarkets, Fillo Dough, Laundry, and School Updates

A couple of discoveries this week....

Fairway. Ever since we moved here, it has been like a buzzword...and finally, this past weekend, I went to check it out. Its a supermarket in Red Hook - about two miles away. It is right on the water and there are cool things to look at there like the Statue of Liberty. It is a supermarket which blends everything - your normal-chock-full-of-preservatives and packaged food items, which, let's face it, you gotta have sometimes, plus all the trusted organic labels that they have at the lovely, very inexpensive, fascist coop plus a huge fresh fish and seafood selection plus all the deli items and cheese you could ever lay at a German breakfast table PLUS all the gourmet and imported food items that we oh-so-savvy world travelers must re-experience from time to time. As if that is not enough, they have fresh produce for days and a perfectly French selection of fresh (hot) bakery and bread items, and even a goddamn cafe. And the prices, still much cheaper than Whole Foods and even competitive with the coop (but not the cheeses). So I went nuts and spent a million dollars there and loaded everything up in my car and drove back home feeling like a responsible and satisfied mother hen who is doing more than providing only one or two edible items in the refrigerator each day.

You see, I still haven't gotten the German-shopping-everyday thing out of my system, so the fridge always looks kind of paltry....but that's just how we do. You know, buy the stuff and eat it, and so there isn't much else there. So, when I really go crazy and stock up, it feels pretty awesome.

And it came just in time for the cooler weather, which I AM SO HAPPY ABOUT. First, a couple of days ago, it rained. This was awesome, because then our car got washed. And then the wind and cooler temperatures finally showed their reluctant faces, and this made Mama Jens Very Happy. So now things like leafs swirling around in little whirlwinds are happening on the sidewalks, and Mama Jens is starting to bake, which is always a sign of fall.

Fall and Spring are basically perfect in my book. These are the months where I don't bitch so much about the weather.

So speaking of what's been cooking, I have discovered the joys and beauty of fillo dough. I am excited as hell about this discovery....the family, on the other hand at this point, is probably like, "Are you gonna wrap every single one of our meals in this shit?!" Fillo dough, as it is spelled on the package, but is probably more properly spelled "Phylo" (but I am too lazy to google it right now) is pretty frickin' awesome stuff. I am sure the rest of the world is very familiar with it, but Mama Jens just discovered it, so let me just bask in my Fillo glory for a minute.

Fillo dough is super papery thin dough. It comes wrapped carefully - lots and lots of sheets of it. You have to let it thaw overnight in the fridge and then when you unwrap it, put a wet cloth or paper towel over it because it dries out very quickly. Then you make what you want, wrap it all up and bake it. The coolest part is that it retains its papery shape and so it has the creases and crevices of crumpled paper, and it is very flaky French pastry style.

So far, I have filled it with spinach and feta, quiche style but with far fewer eggs and also with apples that are tossed like you would if you were making apple pie, with cinnamon, sugar, nutmeg and flour. Both turned out really nicely - delicious and also very pretty.

If you want recipes, just post a comment and I will share them with you.

And now time for the laundry update. I am still doing it weekly at the laundromat. Instead of breaking down and buying a machine, I have only come up with more reasons to keep doing it the hard way. One, a washer and dryer unit would take up a whole closet in our flat, which is Very Valuable Space. And two, I just realized tonight, is that it is a perfect time to call friends and family faraway. Load the washer. Call someone. Before you know it, the clothes are done. Load them into the dryer. Call someone else. Perfect. This is a good example of using your time wisely, my friends. Three, lately, there is an older woman from the West Indies who is watching over the place. I have enjoyed how she very unlovingly barks at everyone that comes in and innocently takes on the basically already unpleasant task of doing their weekly laundry. For whatever reason, she has taken a liking to me, and so I tipped her last week. And let me tell you, folks, tipping goes a long way in this country. So this week, she told me which were the best dryers, and this saved me HALF of my usual drying time. Plus, in between her freak outs on random people, I got to hear her life story. She has lived in this neighborhood for 43 years, and so scoffs (uncontrollably) at all the people who write her off as an "immigrant who can't speak the language" as she put it. At the end of her life story, she said, "This country is a loser!" And well, I gave her another tip, not necessarily for that, but because she didn't make my life double hell while I was out doing something I didn't want to do in the first place.

So laundry and food are all cool. Let's talk about schools.

So far, the preschool in Foxy Brown's neighborhood is turning out to be quite the gem. The teacher is awesome and our younger bundle of joy is excited about going there, which is all we really need for confirmation that it is a great place.

As for PS 321, well, it is everything you've read about and well, worth the insane INSANE INSANE rents. So, every month, as I write my rent check, instead of puking, I just remember that curriculum conference a couple of weeks back when the incredible teachers told us about what the children are learning this year and how, basically, they are teaching children to THINK. It is not about reading and writing and math, it is about thinking about those processes and problem solving and learning to love the process, and therefore loving to learn and learning more. It is also a place where they give the discipline guides in the form of "community codes." If you break one of them, you are responsible for solving the problem you created. Seems simple enough, but for a public school, I find it kind of revolutionary.

Good night and big kisses,
Love, Mama Jens


Blogger Alexandra said...

Halo! I just started using Filo dough also but so far all I have done is baklava (sp?) because I do not konw how to fold it around stuff. What shape do you make it? Also, do you butter each sheet or just the outside one?

p.s. any recipes you could post would be appreciated. you rock.

9:57 PM  
Blogger M said...

One of my favourite Filo recipes: Cut the dough in smaller pieces. Brush them with melted butter and pile them ontop of each other (as many as you like - about 4 or 6 or so). Sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon and put wedges of pears ontop. Then put it in the oven. Eat when still warm.

Unglaublich lecker as we us to say in Berlin.

10:25 AM  
Blogger mama jens said...

Thanks for your post Alexandra. I'd love your Baklava recipe. For the Spinach and Feta action, I just got a square casserole dish, put several layers any old way they would fit (i brushed each with olive oil first) - about 5 layers, then put the stuffing in, and then another five layers or so on top. any dough sticking out, just got tucked into the sides of the dish. for the "stuffing," i sauteed onion and garlic in olive oil, then added 2 tbs of flour, then poured in about a cup of milk, stirring, stirring, then a package of thawed spinach, stirring, then about 3/4 cup of good feta cheese, stirring, then two eggs. I kept stirring until it seemed a little cooked-ish. Then I loaded it all on top of the fillo dough just like that. I baked the whole thing until the layers on top looked crispy and brown.

For the apple stuff, I just cut up some apples (about 5 med size), tossed them with sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and a tsp of flour. I let them sit in the bowl that way for about an hour on the counter so the juices could do their thing. Then I took two sheets of dough, layed them out, put a big scoop of the apple mixture, wrapped them like you would a present and sit them in a dish. I wrapped about four presents and poured all the extra juices on top and topped each with an apple to make it all look pretty. Then I baked them until the dough was crispy again.

And m - thanks for your recipe. I will definitely try it. I love cooked, warm fruit and never really think about pears - so nice to have something new to try.

3:40 PM  
Blogger Alexandra said...

Thanks for the recipes! They sound delicious. The baklava recipe I use is one I found online at: http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Baklava/Detail.aspx

Its an awesome recipe and pretty easy, I highly recommend it.

8:13 PM  
Blogger MollyB, Bloggerin said...

Oh, boy, grocery shopping in Germany is one thing I WILL NOT MISS. Back in the U.S., I used to order on the internet and tip the boys who'd deliver the bags straight to my kitchen table.

Glad to have stumbled across your blog.

And very glad to hear you're happy with the school situation!

11:21 AM  

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