Spring greens and things

Meet this bunch of tangled up roots that shoot into stalks only to abound into a crazy wig of bright green leaves.

I am referring to purslane, one of the first types of leaf to appear just as the winter  is making its getaway.

Purslane is refreshing and slightly lemony in flavor. The only obstacle to eating it is getting it washed and dried without bruising its leaves.

This is really quite simple and only takes a moment.

It’s a question of cutting away the roots, thus allowing the wrapped up stalks to separate.

I soak the purslane in a big bowl of cold water and let it float. After that, I let the greens just drip dry in a sieve.

The next steps to a great salad is to toss the leaves gently by hand with the best olive oil available; add a pinch of sea salt flakes and a big squeeze of fresh lemon juice and the purslane is ready to serve.

Once again, a nice big bowl comes into the picture.

Purslane is one of my three favorite spring greens in this simple trilogy.

When I was younger, the name “turnip greens” did not sound appealing because I associated it with the root vegetable I preferred to avoid.

Later in life I discovered “raapstelen”, the name of the very same leafy tops, but then in the Dutch language.

I bring the greens home gratefully from the organic market and wash as I describe above.

There is something so reassuring about a bowl of greens floating in water just around supper time.

I love these leaves raw, tossed with olive oil and dressed with shavings of Pecorino Romano. Freshly ground pepper suits this salad well.

I love turnip greens even more, sautéed with wild garlic in a mixture of unsalted butter and extra virgin olive oil.

Greens are a sure sign of spring and are piled up in my plate to serve as a pillow to all the other foods I might be serving (like risotto for example).

The slightly anise-like flavor of delicate green chervil makes for a good match in mixed leaf salads.

Washing them is a breeze, just like the other greens in the trilogy.

A little goes a long way.

My favorite way to mix them is into a salad with the carrot-top greens tossed through some crunchy pale yellow endive leaves.

Chervil keeps well in a vase. Just like flowers, it responds well to some fresh water on a daily basis.

This green herb is often sprinkled over white asparagus, known as witte goud or white gold in the Netherlands.

Somehow its flavor seems to ask for a sprinkle of crushed walnuts.

Another simple favorite of mine is freshly chopped chervil stirred into butter with some chives.

The only ingredients needed to complete a late afternoon aperitivo is a chunk of sourdough bread and a bunch of radishes. 

Here’s to spring greens and a new season !

 

 

 

 

Dutch-inspired smashed potato-carrot and onion hutspot

 

This story is about potatoes. Actually, it’s about onions and carrots as well. I won’t write about how potatoes traveled across continents over the centuries, or even about how many different kinds of potato are cultivated where I live in the Netherlands — this despite the fact that I believe that culinary history is as fascinating as the most thrilling plot to a novel.

My narrative will lead to the recipe for a bowl of superbly simple mashed root vegetables. This humble, crumbly, creamy one-pan dinner is an icon in the country I live in. It goes by the name of hutspot (which literally translated means a hodge podge or a mishmash). The term refers to the technique of mixing things together in a pot, not necessarily or exclusively to the ever-popular trio of onions, carrots and potatoes.

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Bitter and blood orange marmalade

I once read in the preface to a novel that every cook is obsessed and I immediately nodded silently in agreement. I know my obsession: it’s with  citrus.

I am equally, if not more fascinated by all things Italian and that most definitely includes lemons and oranges. Therefore, whether I need them or not, the sight of perfumed bergamot – and especially paper-wrapped Sicilian blood oranges –  inspire me to carry bags full home at every shopping expedition.

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Bergamot-perfumed sea salt

It’s well beyond January and new year’s promises. Short grey days have turned into weeks knitted together by yarn-like thoughts of starting anew. I have doubted, questioned and wondered just how this year would be different from the last one long before I put up the Christmas lights.

So here it is, a short post; one that illustrates my love for simple things. Continue reading

A Dutch apple tart story

This story is about the comforting smell of cinnamon and the nostalgia that comes with apples baked in pastry. This collection of ingredients is symbolic in more than one part of the world for pure happiness.  Just like the warmth of a burning hearth and the simple joys of a steaming mug of tea, the apple tart is an emotional aphrodisiac.

As a regular traveler between Europe and North America, I have studied the similarities and differences between the American apple pie and the Dutch “appeltaart”  for some time. Just how food traditions weave themselves into cultural rituals fascinates me. This fact will  hopefully both explain and excuse the length of the following narrative that eventually does lead to one of my favorite (and most tested) recipes described in detail at the bottom of the page!

So without further ado, this is what I have to say about the Dutch appeltaart and the goodness of home baking. Continue reading

First harvest apple and oat honey crunch

I drag my feet at every change of season. As the long lovely days of sunlight clearly slip away into October, I dig my heels into every Indian summer moment until the arrival of first harvest apples. The entrance of countless sorts of just-picked varieties of this cheerful fruit, neatly organized in bushels and crates at farmers market stalls everywhere simply win me over. Before I know it, autumn feels like my favorite time of the year and I find myself experimenting in the kitchen with colorfully crunchy apples from countryside orchards spread across the low lands of the Netherlands.  Continue reading

Buttermilk and red currant pancakes

When I was growing up on rare occasions my mother would make pancakes for dinner. This was an incredible treat and felt like being on vacation in the middle of the week. Although she made different sorts — including potato pancakes which I will write about another time — my favorites were made with buttermilk. This particular kind of pancake was referred to as “Finnish”; although that name referred to our family heritage, at the time it sounded as luxurious as having breakfast for dinner actually was. Many years later, my mother’s recipe is alive and well as part of my comfort food collection.   Continue reading