The Christof Manheim Burger

Grilled, Meat, Pork, Sandwiches, Sauces & Spreads

Christof Manheim Burger

Makes 4 burgers

I have been fretting lately about my city’s inexcusable lack of interesting food inspired by German cuisine.  For those German bars that serve up pretzels with eight separate mustards, ich libe dich, but sometimes I need to swoon over more than your flat palettes of yellows and browns.  I’m not expecting anything like The Generator (although, Philadelphia, you’re not doing so badly, yourself), but, come on, Germans were some of the earliest immigrants to the Pacific Northwest, and yet we struggle to incorporate their food traditions into our own, insisting on keeping them separate from the others, like some black sheep we don’t want mingling with our prized flock.  We hide them in stained-wood bars, below the sidewalk, or at the bottom of menus.

Well, not today.  It’s sunny today, so I decided to barbecue.  In the fridge are jars of curried sauerkraut I made back in December when the green cabbage was sweet and crisp.  But, since January, I’ve hardly touched the stuff.  You see, I too have been struggling to incorporate the German food into my diet, even that one that’s insanely good for you.  I guess that fermented cabbage never sounds good with black beans or salad or pizza.

Then it hit me: I was making the same excuses as my city.  Well, guess what? Sauerkraut is not meant for only sausages and potatoes!  And, if you give me a chance, I’ll show you why…

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Crab and Arugula Pizza

Pizza, Seafood

crab arugula pizza 05

When I was a boy, my dad boycotted the local pizza delivery chain. I don’t remember why, but it lasted for years. Maybe he felt slighted or overcharged. Whatever it was, the boycott created some problems for us.

First, we weren’t the type of family to make their own pizza. Also, we didn’t stop eating it. No, our demand was too high. My brother and I would have colluded against him and started a mutiny. Pizza was that important. And, lastly, pizza was one of those dinners that forced us to eat together. We couldn’t take our portions and run off. All of us had to sit around the thing, usually with a rental video playing, and devour it slice by slice. It was sort of a cohesive.

The endearing thing about pizza is that many of us have some emotion attached to it, some memory that resurfaces at its baked aroma, or some colorful association to a brand or look.

See, we took pizza seriously. My dad, a Jersey boy, imported his East Coast pizza idealism, and stuck hard to it:

NO PINEAPPLE! Period. End of story. He said that fruit didn’t belong on pizza. (Maybe the pizza chain accidentally sent us a Hawaiian?)

THIN CRUST, THIN CRUST! No one should ever deign to eat pizza with a fork. Never.

ANCHOVIES! And lots of them. It’s called flavor, kids.

The only trouble was, in the suburban area we lived, thousands of miles from real pizza pies, most people wanted the exact opposite. There was one pizzeria (I’ll never forget the “NO PINEAPPLE SERVED HERE” sign and the uncompromising New York owner), but it moved far, far away.

We jumped around from one mediocre pizzeria to the other. When we were really lucky, we traveled to the city to have traditional thin crust. I don’t know whether I preferred that to the commercial, conveyor-belt-oven pizza, but I admired my dad’s enthusiasm.

I never questioned his stalwart tastes, but now I understand them more. He had his own attachments. Memories of his own boyhood, of folding slices of pizza and scarfing them down with friends and family. Pizza, a circle, is beautiful and simply communal, and the larger the pie, the greater the community that can share it.

This pizza is a moment between my girlfriend and me, it’s a memory with my family, it’s the memory of my father, and of my mother with her parents, it’s the memory of my brother, of all of our endless memories of pizza and crab.

And now here I am, about to share a recipe, thinking of these memories, coming full-circle myself. Why is food so dear? It’s always, always a little bit of discovery and recollection, isn’t it?

I wanted to write a more succinct and useful introduction. But all you get is this verbiage. If you decide to boycott me, at least this time I’ll know why.

Speck & Eggplant Bruschetta

Bread, Meat, Pork, Sandwiches, Tapas

Speck & Eggplant Bruschetta 01

What a warm summer night will make me crave: crunchy, crusty artisanal toast; crispy, pillowy roasted eggplant; salty, smokey cured pork; and sweet, succulent caramelized onions. This isn’t your typical garlic- and tomato-topped bruschetta. Don’t go skipping to the wine cellar just yet. It’s going to be messy, it’s going to be oozing with all kinds of bold flavors and textures. Stacked and finished with some stinky cheese and an unsympathetic drizzle of balsamic syrup, this wild and earthy bruschetta is comforting and unabashed by whatever dirty secret you might squeal.

Smoked Whitefish Schmear

Sauces & Spreads

This is a product of leftovers.

  • 1/3 cup smoked fish (sea fish such as sardines or mackerel)
  • 1/2 cup cream cheese
  • 1/4 lemon, juice and zest
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh chives, minced (for dried chives, use 1 Tbsp.)

In a food processor, grind the fish until a paste. Add the cream cheese and grind until homogenous. Add the lemon juice and zest, to taste. Finally, add the chives at the end. Waiting to add the chives will prevent the schmear from turning green. Slather on your favorite bagel. This will keep for a couple weeks in the fridge.

Smoky Nettle Pesto

Sauces & Spreads

Since nettles are weeds, they are also a free and prolific source of food. Right now they are concentrating their energy in producing seeds. Regardless, their phenomenal nutrient content still makes them worthy of consumption.  They are one of the highest plant-based protein sources around.  They are loaded with calcium, vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin K.  Nettles also have detoxifying properties, making them great for your kidneys and adrenal glands.  Not to mention, they are absolutely delicious.

This smoky nettle pesto is a great way to cook with nettles late in their season.  The leaves have adopted a subtle bitterness and the overall flavor of the leaves is slowly dissipating.  You still get to taste the essence of the nettles with this, but the roasted nuts and smoked cheese–variations of aging–really complement the nettle’s complex and quiet flavor, as the plant enters its new cycle.