Baked pumpkin and chanterelle risotto

Saturday is definitely my favorite day of the week because it is full of promise. Rarely is Saturday defined by schedules or obligations. Rather it is the perfect example of limitless possibility. After a luxuriously silent and relatively early morning coffee, I start my day with a trip to the farmers market. My task of the morning is to soak up the sights, ultimately deciding which ingredients will take part in of the weekend ritual of cooking.

Although I have often promised myself to make lists and menu plans for the work week, my mind simply refuses this kind of obligation. By mid afternoon, I make my way home with linen bags filled with ingredients and thoughts swimming with opportunity. Continue reading

Yellow summer zucchini and purple basil salad

September is all about bright colors and abundance. It’s also about sun-ripened vine tomatoes and the delicate, intensely yellow zucchini. While the days of Indian summer are still ahead, I am doing just two simple things: cooking on the stove as little as possible and stuffing my kitchen with bunches of herbs and tomatoes for as long as it lasts.

The following recipe paints a picture like a suggestion. In fact, there are no steadfast rules to this salad.  Follow the recipe below if you will; but see it above all else as a leisurely collection of simply beautiful ingredients paired on a plate. To my mind this is the perfect kind of recipe. Continue reading

Chili and citrus marinated olives

My adoration of olives was born in my teenage years, when visits to the food markets of Naples were heavily encouraged by my mother’s pleas to help her with the daily grocery shopping. Little did I know,  as I strolled unwillingly past vibrant market stalls overflowing with tomatoes, eggplants and peppers, that all the colors and sounds of Italy were making a profound impression on my senses. Continue reading

Raw tomato summer pasta “al sugo crudo”

I cannot remember which of my Italian friends taught me to make a “sugo crudo al pomodoro” but it was most certainly on a warm summer’s day.  It’s magic is in the mixture of freshly sliced tomatoes shimmering in a small pool of olive oil, perfumed by leaves of fresh basil. Given a moment to marinate, these ingredients marry as it were — the tomatoes taking on the flavor of basil and the basil melting into the juices of the fresh tomatoes.  Continue reading

Wild garlic spaghettata

 

It was Sunday evening after the movies and it was time to eat sooner if not later. I was in the mood for a spaghettata — the charmingly Italian name for a late night bowl of pasta.

spaghettata is all about cooking with pantry ingredients. It goes hand in hand with noisy nights with friends stuffed around the kitchen table filled with conversation. It’s symbolic for spontaneity in other words.

Continue reading

Strawberry fields forever . part I .

The very first bright red strawberries have made their way home. Strawberries are a modestly delicious  fruit; the kind that lend themselves to sweet family gatherings rather than to complicated cheffy creations. I cannot help but love these berries for what they symbolize.

I have favorite ways to bring them to the table, none of which I would really call worthy of the name recipe. One of them is Italian in origin — the country I grew up in — the country that drives my creativity.

Imagine summer in southern Italy somewhere outside the rowdy city streets of Naples

Put yourself under the shade of an umbrella, seated at a table close to a busy family kitchen

Envision a terrace filled with huge terracotta pots of brilliantly blooming red geraniums

Amidst vivid conversation on a warm August evening, a chilled porcelain bowl is brought to the table 

Floating in red wine are freshly cut strawberries that go by the name “fragole al vino”

This summery Italian dessert is a breeze to prepare. Wash a bunch of bright red strawberries and tip them into a bowl. Squeeze the juice of a half of lemon over the berries and add the faintest sprinkle of sugar. Toss and stir gently. Pour a slightly chilled red wine to barely cover the fruit just before serving.

Note

I will be sharing more of such narratives.The next one will be Dutch in character.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

They’re here ! I mean the luscious red berries in this enamel bowl.

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 !