Friday, April 21, 2006

An Affair of the Heart I Can’t Let Go

Maybe it was the caffeine deficiency. Maybe the withdrawal had already begun. My brain reduced to a mere feeble bulb instead of its usual bright glare.

This is the result of something so fundamental to my life going up in smoke. I mentioned yesterday that the coffee grinder had died. In mid-grind. Well, it didn’t work today either. And my rations of pre-round coffee are slim.

I could have gone down to and gotten something cheap. But coffee and me have a pretty serious relationship. A relationship that commands respect. One formed over thousands of cups of coffee throughout Italy, France, Germany, Sweden, even Belgium and the Netherlands, to some extent. All strong coffee places.

Sweden is a super strong coffee country, from my experience. I knew some guys, one was from Malmö, in the south of Sweden (a skip away from Copenhagen), and the other was from somewhere nearer to Stockholm. Both drank coffee that was thick, black, strong stuff. The one roasted his own beans. They almost died the time they came to America and had to make due with our brown water. They survived only by ordering multiple shots of expresso – combined to make a cup of their idea of coffee. They drank this all day and all night. And the caffeine didn’t seem to have any effect on their sleep. I still don’t understand it. I have to say that I have only visited Sweden in the winter – when the sun makes its 2 to 3 hour appearance a day – or less, before calling it quits. So, maybe that has something to do with it.

Italy of course has deep, rich expresso. And wonderful cappuccino. In France, I usually get Café au Lait, especially for breakfast, of course. In Germany, they have very nice black coffee, strong and rich, but I usually get Milchkaffee with the steamed milk, maybe because of all my Paris memories.

I also enjoy a well made cup of Turkish style coffee on occasion, thick to the point of holding the spoon upright, usually well sweetened.

So you can see that this coffee affair is more than just a fling. It’s got a hold of me deep within. The faces of the coffee may change from country to country, day to day, but as long as it’s strong and well brewed, I can’t say no.

I can’t just replace my burned up grinder with any old coffee grinder to grind up something so integral to my life. It has to be a burr style grinder, number one, and those are expensive. They range in price from $40 to $900. It has to be well rated as well. And those are hard to find. The selection at most stores is very limited. And ordering from the Internet takes time for delivery. So the dilemma was intense. And had to be dealt with in my dazed de-caffeinated state.

In the midst of all this, my mind kept wandering to all the cucumbers stacked up in the fridge. And the great Greek and Turkish food they have in Hamburg. Every corner has a shop with fantastic Dönner Kebabs, with the huge lamb spit rotating and roasting slowly in front of a hot grill, where hot crispy slices would be trimmed off onto a waiting bread and slathered with Tzatziki sauce. Not to mention all the slow-cooked vegetables. And the breads. And the desserts. And the coffee.

Clearly I’ve become delusional. What does the coffee grinder dilemma have to do with cucumbers in the fridge? But the images kept swirling in my head.

So dinner was decided. Something Greek, with Tzatziki involved. And since I don’t have a gigantic lamb spit and grill at home, it would have to be something simpler.

I decided on something called ‘Soutzoukakia Smirneika’, which is basically cigar shaped, spicy hamburger sausages finished in a tomato sauce, and served with rice. With Tzatziki on the side - even though it didn’t go with the meal. It just had to be there.

I’m hoping the new grinder works. And the meal tomorrow has a more rational basis to it. Despite the odd comments about the Tzatziki, everyone seemed to love the ‘Soutzoukakia Smirneika’ since I couldn’t get a single comment out of them before the food was devoured.

Soutzoukakia Smirneika (Minced Meat Rissoles with Cummin)

Serves / Yields: 4 persons

3 thick slices of bread, soaked in water
500 grams finely minced beef
1 egg
2-3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
2 teaspoons cummin
salt and pepper
1 glass white wine
30 gr. flour, for frying
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoones olive oil
3 tablespoons tomato puree or 1200 grams can tomatoes, liquidized roughly
chopped parsley, to garnish

Soak the bread in water for 10 minutes and discard the crust. Squeeze the water from the bread and mix with the mince, egg, garlic, cummin, salt and pepper and 3 tablespoons of the wine. (The best results for mixing are always achieved by using your hands.) When properly mixed make long thin shapes, like fat cigars, about the length of your finger (around 15 of them), roll them in the flour and fry in the vegetable oil on medium heat, making sure that they are crisp all over.

In the meantime, put the olive oil in a saucepan and, when it is warm, add the tomatoes and the rest of the wine and cook slowly for 10 minutes, stirring and making sure it does not stick. Add the soutzoukakia as they come out of the frying pan, roll them in the torrato sauce, add a little more water if needed, cover and cook slowly for 10 minutes. Garnish with chopped parsley.


1/2 seedless cucumber (usually plastic-wrapped), peeled, seeded, and chopped (1 cup)
1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 small garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint

Purée cucumber, yogurt, lemon juice, garlic, salt, and pepper in a blender until almost smooth, about 1 minute. Stir in mint and chill, covered, until serving.

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Blogger Kalyn said...

I have the Cuisinart Grind and Brew, which grinds the beans in the top and then sucks them down to the filter, where it brews like a regular drip coffeemaker. I program it at night to start at the exact time I get up. I LOVE this coffeemaker. It's pricey, but worth the money.

8:42 PM  
Blogger surfindaave said...

Kalyn, I didn't see that one - but it sounds like a great idea!

11:43 PM  

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