Oven-roasted rhubarb flat breads with smashed blueberry yogurt

I look forward to Sunday morning all week-long. Practically speaking it is the only day of the week I start with absolute and glorious silence. After drinking a caffé-latte in a big white bowl I go about my entire day walking barefoot through the house. Wearing no shoes symbolizes the simple satisfaction that goes with having no obligations on a day with no definitions.

While catching up on my reading and writing, I cook ahead for the jam-packed days that follow. Breakfast is served just around lunchtime. Generally the first meal of the day is savory but lately I have focused on spring and the fruits that it has to offer.

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Omelette with lemon-marinated asparagus

Folded omelette
I grew up in the idyllic northern Italian countryside where breakfast was made up of day old bread soaked in warm milk darkened with a dash of espresso. As the child of adventurous American parents living in Europe, I had the luck of experiencing all kinds of cultures and traditions in the kitchen. One of my favorite moments was Sunday; a lazy day with no obligations where pancakes and omelettes in many variations would make their way to the table. Life’s path brought me later to the Netherlands. The food traditions of the low lands have most definitely made their way into my kitchen repertoire. Food is my passion, not because of necessity but because it weaves daily experience into a tapestry of life’s memories. The following recipe is a mix and match of a simple Italian approach to cooking a two-egg omelette made with the recognizably Dutch flavors of nutmeg and asparagus paired with lemon peel and thick yoghurt.

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Preface to a Beautiful Food Special Edition

Rosemary and thyme with salt and pepper

The kitchen is not just a place for cooking everyday food for my family.  I am a cook by profession. Despite and perhaps because of my profession I believe that food is not only essential to life, but equal to happiness among friends and family. My mother taught me the love of cooking and I am intent upon extending love and good memories to my children from the kitchen table.

I realize that we are a bit out of the ordinary as a family. My oldest child sat next to me while I cooked at nine months old, playing with tea cups and measuring spoons. As a toddler he stood happily on a wooden chair leaning against the countertop. His preferred toys were wooden spoons, mixing bowls and flour. My youngest came to work with me as a baby and often slept in a vegetable crate filled up with blankets while I cooked and chopped my way through a professional kitchen.  Later she pushed around her own wooden cart through my work space, pretending to shop for groceries and prepare for dinner by filling up her miniature grocery cart with tomatoes and eggplant and any other ingredients within her reach. At preschool she decided she wanted to open a restaurant when she grew up. She even had a name for it. Her restaurant fantasy was called “Mmmmmmm”.

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Beautiful Food Special Edition: Homemade herbal salts

Part I.

Homemade herbal salts

Celtic sea salt tastes like the ocean, is pale green and moist in texture. Himalaya salt is pink in color, has a distinct mineral-like flavor and the grains are very hard. Fleur de sel and Maldon salt are light and flaky. Making herbal salts with them is simple since the salt grains are soft. Experiment with different kinds of salt combined with aromatic herbs, doubling or tripling the recipes below. Herbal salts keep well for months when kept in glass jars with a well-fitted lids. Continue reading

Beautiful Food Special Edition : Vinegars and Spices

Vinegar trioPart II.

Vinegars and Spices.

Vinegar is an essential ingredient in a natural kitchen, especially when the accent is on vegetables.  Whether made from apples or raspberries, or from fermented red and white wine, this most sour of ingredients goes generally untouched on the pantry shelf until it is poured over greens with a drizzle of olive oil.  I like to steam vegetables in warm vinegar baths to serve them as an appetizer or as a filling for salad.  I discovered while experimenting with pickling that vinegar marinades taste better with time. The cooking liquids left over from pickling cauliflower, beets, red onions and radishes become colored vinegars for salad dressing.  I make a habit of mixing double recipes of vinegars and spices and save what I don’t use right away in glass jars in the refrigerator. The results of my efforts give a shelf full of interesting colors and flavors readily available for the making of homemade vinaigrettes and jar dressings The following vinegar trio are made in no time at all and make activity in the kitchen just that much more interesting. Continue reading

Beautiful Food Special Edition : Family Favorite Vinaigrettes

Olive oil and herbs

Part III.

Family Favorite Vinaigrettes

With herbal salts and homemade infused vinegars, making jam jar dressings to dip raw vegetables in, or vinaigrettes to toss through roasted vegetables is effortless. The following vinaigrettes  serve as a stepping stone to many simply dressed vegetable dishes in my kitchen.  Like the vinegars above, they are tools to uncomplicated cooking. Homemade vinaigrette makes a perfect dip and will keep well for at least a week in the refrigerator. Make more than needed for one particular meal because this makes cooking just that much easier. Continue reading

Beautiful Food Special Edition : Fall Vegetables and Jam Jar Dressings

Rainbow carrot bunch on newspaperPart IV.

Fall Vegetables and Jam Jar Dressings

With herbal salts and infused vinegars as building blocks, making vegetables interesting is a question of picking and choosing. The following series of recipes are made with the fall and winter vegetables chosen by Jennifer Tyler Lee in her book “The 52 New Foods Challenge”.  Each combination illustrated can be modified by exchanging one in-season vegetable with another. Cooking is an intuitive process and my recipes are blueprints to creativity in the kitchen. Continue reading