Baked cod with toasted almond crust

Baked fish raw with carrot peels

I think there should be another, decidedly more elegant name for the generic term describing fish in the English language. Somehow this particular four letter word  just doesn’t sound as beautiful as the Italian pesce or even the French  poisson — both of which translate into the same ingredient. The senses of taste and sound trigger an infinite number of intangible emotional choices. How something is described can have just as much influence upon awakening an appetite as an aroma can have upon the deepest of feelings.

It is for this reason that I hesitate to write a recipe for fish. The sound of this word just doesn’t conjure up any form of intense desire. In fact to my ear, it does exactly the opposite.  The very sound of food not to mention the perfumes of the kitchen should awaken all the senses. Imagine for this reason something that describes an end result — namely a lovely bubbly baked black cod covered with a golden almond crust. This description is so much more appealing than the first word I mentioned, right?

Add some oven-roasted carrots and some spicy lemon-pepper zucchini ribbons and a lovely dinner is served. Continue reading

Lemon zucchini ribbons

Zucchini noodles in big bowl

This is a recipe that resolves pangs of hunger in no time flat. Heavily inspired by the infamous spaghetti aglio e olio I replace the pasta with zucchini, the garlic with fresh sage salt and the olive oil with lemon juice. The result is equally as pungent and satisfying as the original and completely refreshing at the same time.

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Sage sea salt in a jar

Sage leaves four on a plate

I don’t always have the perfect plan up my sleeve. In fact, what I do in the kitchen (or in life for that matter) isn’t always flawless. Because I cook for a living most of my friends and family assume my preferred place is at a marble countertop with a chef’s knife in hand. I readily admit to feeling incredible happiness in the midst of a collection of colorful vegetables. I can also be found passing away the hours exploring flower gardens and farms in almost every country I visit. Kitchens and gardens are most definitely my happy places. Continue reading

A very summery lettuce leaf salad

Lettuce leaves close-upSummer heat of the kind that weighs so heavily, that all activity seems to be part of a slow-motion movie. This is the kind of weather that makes cooking with a stove an indulgence. When the days are sultry and long, I like to create something raw that tastes like I have been a slave to the kitchen. This means salad but of a different sort. My favorite use for lettuce is to tear apart the leaves and to fill them with brightly colored vegetables. A bowl of  freshly made yoghurt dip turns this simple twist on salad into a delicious appetizer. After a few minutes of preparation in the kitchen, the only thing I might be tempted to add to the table is a loaf of bread with a golden crust to soak up the salad juices.

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Smashed cannellini and tomato jam

Cannellini soaking

Cannellini beans are the most commonly used bean in the region of Tuscany. They are small and chalky-white in color. They are the prized ingredient of vegetable minestrone, and the even more famous ribollita – made of  winter vegetables – day-old bread and new olive oil. My favorite way to eat these beans is baked into a thick perfumed jam in tomato, with garlic and rosemary. Warm out of the oven, I smash them and serve them on thick slices of grilled sour dough bread.  Just like hummus, they make a crowd-pleasing appetizer and accompany every kind of picnic plan.

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Almond milk granita

Baked fruits in almond milk

Most of the desserts I make have fresh fruit at center stage. Sometimes fruit needs to float in something creamy. During one of my kitchen experiments I discovered the fun of making homemade almond milk. Then I turned it into granita. This recipe has since become a part of my summer collection. Although I am inclined to narrate a romantic story about lovely Italy before writing the more official bit of this post, I am keeping things as simple as can be.

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Peaches caramelized in red raspberries

Baked fruits-still life

I find myself day-dreaming lately of careless summer days spent lying on my back staring at billowing clouds drifting across a perfect blue sky. As the perfume of baking peaches floats through the quiet of the kitchen in the early morning hours, my mind wanders. As I gather my recollections together like a stack of plates, the scent of caramelized raspberries brings back memories of lazy-day picnics shared along the rolling hills just outside Florence.  The fragrance of summer fruit triggers memories so tangible, I could bite into them like a peach. I am forever grateful for having learned the simple pleasures of life in Italy. La vita e’ bella  — otherwise translated as  — life is beautiful.

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