Summer spaghetti frittata

There’s something about spaghetti for breakfast – or eating the crusts of homemade pizza in the morning for that matter –  that remind me of countless carefree summer days living along the coast of Naples. When I was younger, my mother’s best friend and everyday espresso partner taught her how to make use of leftover spaghetti by baking a simple frittata. The following recipe is the perfect example of how southern Italians make something delicious out of a handful of seemingly unimportant surplus ingredients.

Once baked this dish packs well as picnic food.  Served cold – wrapped in parchment paper –  with a ripe red tomato washed in the salty ocean – is how I remember this rustic Neapolitan frittata at its very best.

Served straight from the oven sprinkled with salt flakes – it makes for a wonderfully simple lunch –  even without a view of the Mediterranean.

The crunchy brown curls of the baked spaghetti are the best part by the way . . .

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Rhubarb stalks and rose petals

I never would have imagined that I would grow to love rhubarb but the appearance of bunches of this bright reddish pink stalk at the market every spring have gradually won me over.  I started experimenting with this astringent vegetable a few warm summers ago and I don’t think I am finished understanding its qualities yet. At the moment refreshing drinks with rhubarb are my solution to the summer heat.

Both of the recipes written below involve clean clear water with the simple addition of fresh mint on the one hand and rose petals on the other. It has taken me a while to decide which one is my favorite and then I realized there is no need to choose. . . Continue reading

The makings of migas

I traveled across continents from idyllic Italy straight into the heat of Texas oh so long ago to follow my studies in philosophy. Needless to say this move was a culture shock of massive proportions. One of the things that kept me focused was my fascination for people and for what defines them — despite and absolutely because of cultural differences I might add.

In the midst of a head-spinning number of years at university, I made friends with a couple of true-blue Texans who took me under their wing and showed me the good things in life in this laid-back part of the world. It was at their home that I learned how to cook migas — a Tex-Mex “breakfast-for-lunch” dish filled with savory ingredients as easy to prepare as making a piece of toast.

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Elderflower water forever

If given the opportunity I would probably wander the fields gathering blossoms and greens every single day of the year – only to take my discoveries home to study and create in the kitchen. These delicate elderflower blossoms were foraged for me. I found them at the organic market close to where I live. Once I got my stash of pale golden flowers home I wrapped them in newspaper and put them in a jug of water for the afternoon – just so I could experience their delicate perfume before throwing them in a pot of water.

It didn’t take long before I simply had to get cooking. I always try to work simply, adding more ingredients or complexer techniques only if necessary. I guess that sums up my idea about cooking — the closer I can stay to nature’s flavors the better. The effort required to make elderflower infused water is minimal and the result is more than worth the time. Continue reading

Sweet potato cakes

I learned how to make things stick a long time ago. Although mathematics are not my strong point, I know from experience that any combination  of ingredients requires the right proportions in order to work.  Whether making fresh pasta, gnocchi or polpette — the Italian name for an edible ball of goodness — it’s all about texture.

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A salad of orange . fennel and pale pink langoustines

I have no explanation for how the weeks and months have flown by so quickly that the last time I wrote in my collection of recipes was more than a season ago. In the meanwhile I have been caught up in the pragmatic whirlwind that goes with cooking for a living. A professional kitchen is not unlike an average household; it just has a tighter and more demanding time schedule with less opportunity for flexibility.

When I am overwhelmed with the straightforward line of thinking that goes with my work, the rational can actually overshadow the creative — and when that happens for too long I become decidedly restless. In order to stay down to earth I need the fuel that dreams are made of. . . .

As the necessities of the last work day of the week fade into the freedom of weekend, the peace of mind I need to tell food stories is slowly settling in.

What better way to move from one state of mind to the other than to write about a combination of ingredients as simple and rustic as the Sicilian countryside ? I am referring to the salad recipe below, made from the licorice-like fennel bulb, mixed with the sweet and sour beauty of the blood orange.  I discovered this combination of flavors deep in the winter while wandering through Rome — but this tradition is most definitely Sicilian-grown.

Before fennel and oranges disappear from local market stalls for another year, I hope you will be inspired to make this crunchy-sweet-and-savory mix of colors and textures.

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Winter pears in spiced red wine

pears-in-wine-with-whole-pears

Winter is by definition a time for reflection. The misty fog that floats faintly across the flat river waters of Haarlem seem to cover my thoughts like a blanket lately.  Not only that — I find every possible reason I can imagine to stay inside. With cooking as my chosen form of meditation, I have been passing this quiet time indoors studying many a traditional Dutch culinary habit — spiced red pears being one of them. There is something about the perfume of simmering red wine drifting through the house that makes enduring the short days and dark-dark nights of December so much more than simply acceptable.

I won’t fill the page today with stories of things past, nor will I write about the interesting relationships between cultural traditions of northern Europe and those of America or even Italy. Perhaps I will undertake more writing of that kind in the new year. . . . only time will tell.

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