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

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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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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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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Rosemary roasted chicken cacciatora

 

pollo-alla-cacciatora-just-carrotsThe originally Tuscan dish called pollo alla cacciatora has been a part of my family repertoire as long as I can remember. When I prepare it, I am invariably reminded of growing up in the northern Italian countryside — years that proved formative in more ways than I can describe in an introduction to preparing a stew. Suffice it to say that being surrounded by Renaissance villas helped to make me the (hopeless) romantic that I am today. And just exactly what this has to do with a baked chicken is quite simple – it’s perfectly logical I promise.

My senses are triggered by the perfume of rosemary and tomatoes. Their aroma remind me not only of Italy but also bring back important memories of my childhood.  This is what home cooking does — it connects the past with the present. If recipes tell the stories of our lives as I believe they do, the food story below carries a diary of unwritten personal history along with its cooking instructions. It is also my answer to winter’s supper.

Like any good food baked in a pot, pollo alla cacciatora also known as hunter style chicken takes time.  Fortunately, waiting around the stove is not a part of the cooking process.  After a bit of cutting and chopping — something I find quite relaxing —  the oven does the work of mingling flavors and textures all by itself.

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Crown Prince pumpkin curry

pumpkin-and-eggplant-vertical

It’s Sunday afternoon. Pale grey clouds float carelessly across an ice blue sky and evening promises to arrive long before I am ready for it. Today is laundry day and that coincides with a silent afternoon filled with writing.  I’ve had roasted Crown Prince pumpkin mingling slowly in a pot with just the right amount of ginger, garlic and onions since this morning. The curry I have made is neither traditional nor part of my family heritage — it is what I often make in anticipation of a very busy week. This is what the perfect Sunday feels like.

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A late summer caponata pasta

summer-caponata-verticalI think I could write a book about caponata. I realize that this is a rather dramatic statement to make about something as simple as onions, celery, zucchini and eggplant cooked with tomatoes. But it’s the vinegar combined with just a touch of sweetness (in my case always honey) that makes this Italian version of the French ratatouille a subject of endless possibilities.  Like each day of the week — caponata is never the same way twice — and this is exactly why I love it.

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