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

Pickled butter beans and marinated mackerel

 

I know that pickled beans might sound a bit strange and most probably not as addictively appetizing as they are in real life. I am convinced that this is the fault of some minor misconceptions. First of all, the process of marinating in vinegar is called “pickling” in English. This word naturally evokes sour thoughts of all sorts,  without doing justice to the wonderful flavor transformation that takes place when vegetables (and beans of course) are bathed in something refreshingly tart like vinegar. Secondly, beans have a bad reputation mostly because when prepared without passion they can be decidedly uninteresting.  Combine both of these words in the English language, and one runs the risk of promoting an unappealing pair on the plate.

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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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