eat in my kitchen

To cook, to bake, to eat and to treat.

Chorizo and Strawberry Bruschetta with Basil

Chorizo and Strawberry Bruschetta with Basil

I found a new duo that comes close to perfection: chorizo and strawberry. It’s an unexpected match, the fruity sweetness and slightly hot, porky sausage merge beautifully, as if they had just been waiting to meet.

It started as a quick snack while we were cooking, we filled our glasses with our favourite summer wine and looked in the fridge to see what we could nibble on while chopping and stirring the ingredients for our dinner. The red sausage and berries caught my man’s attention and – in these moments he’s a little more brave than me – he sandwiched them and stuffed a rather large portion of it in my mouth. We immediately discussed what we could do with this new find. A salad? I’m not a big fan of meat in my salad. Pasta? I don’t like the combination of pasta and strawberries. I tried it, but it just tastes wrong. An open sandwich seemed like the right answer, a golden Italian bruschetta drizzled with good olive oil, crowned with thick slices of the peppery salami and juicy berries. Some fresh basil, salt, and pepper, and you have the perfect snack for summer on your plate.

Chorizo and Strawberry Bruschetta with Basil

 

Chorizo and Strawberry Bruschetta with Basil

Chorizo and Strawberry Bruschetta with Basil

Serves 2-4

medium baguette, sliced, 1
olive oil
chorizo (salami, not fresh chorizo sausage) 1/2 ring, about 150g / 5 ounces
ripe strawberries, cut in half, about 18
fresh basil leaves, a small handful
peppercorns, crushed in a mortar
flaky sea salt

To roast the bread, set the oven to broil (grill). If your oven doesn’t have a broil setting, toast the baguette in a hot cast iron pan.

Brush the baguette on both sides with olive oil and, if using your oven, spread them on a baking sheet and roast for 1-2 minutes on each side or until golden brown, but not burnt. If you use a pan, in batches, spread the bread in the pan and toast on both sides until golden.

Depending on the size of your bread, pile up 2 slices of chorizo and 2-3 strawberry halves on each bruschetta. Drizzle with a little olive oil and sprinkle with basil, crushed pepper, and salt. Enjoy!

Chorizo and Strawberry Bruschetta with Basil

 

Chorizo and Strawberry Bruschetta with Basil

 

Chorizo and Strawberry Bruschetta with Basil

 

Chorizo and Strawberry Bruschetta with Basil

Strawberry Pistachio Cookies with Oats and White Chocolate

Strawberry Oat Pistachio Cookies with White Chocolate

This spring feels strange, it doesn’t seem to start. Most of the time it’s either too cold, too grey, or too wet, I’m more in the mood for cozy stews and hearty pies munched away on the sofa than the springy treats that I usually crave in May.

I’m impatient (not just in the kitchen), I tend to rush to the next season with hungry excitement. I find it hard to wait for the right ingredients to appear at the farmers’ market for all the dishes that I already picture in my head. So, I guess I should be thankful for the unpleasant weather, it helps me to stick to the actual season – spring with a wintery touch. Unfortunately, the unusual frosty temperatures at night are a tough burden for the farmers. Their produce suffers, which narrows their harvest dramatically. The white German asparagus that I tasted wasn’t as thick and tasty as in the past years, strawberries – by far – aren’t as sweet. It reminds me that we’re in nature’s hands. It’s an important reminder, showing us that we live in a fragile system that we easily tend to forget about.

Although I’m not too impressed by the strawberries’ taste, they are totally fine in a cookie. Accompanied by nutty pistachios, smooth white chocolate, and a handful of oats, I turned them into the best cookies that my kitchen has seen in a while. They are sweet, soft, and so addictive. Have a bite, close your eyes and you can feel summer.

Strawberry Oat Pistachio Cookies with White Chocolate

 

Strawberry Oat Pistachio Cookies with White Chocolate

Strawberry Pistachio Cookies with Oats and White Chocolate

Makes about 20 cookies

plain flour 200g / 1 1/2 cups
rolled oats 50g / 1/2 cup
fine sea salt 1/2 teaspoon
baking powder 1 teaspoon
butter (soft) 130g / 1/2 cup
granulated sugar 150g / 3/4 cup
vanilla pod, scraped, 1/4
organic egg 1
white chocolate, roughly chopped, 100g / 3 1/2 ounces
unsalted shelled pistachios, roughly chopped, a small handful
fresh strawberries, ripe but not soft, cut into small pieces, 100g / 3 1/2 ounces

Set the oven to 175°C / 350°F (preferably convection oven) and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Take 1 heaped tablespoon off the flour and set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the remaining flour, oats, salt, and baking powder.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the butter, sugar, vanilla, and egg for a few minutes or until fluffy. Add the egg and continue mixing for about 1 minute until well combined. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the flour mixture until just combined. Fold in the white chocolate and pistachios.

This will make it easier to mix in the strawberries: Sprinkle and mix the strawberries with the heaped tablespoon of flour. Crumble and spread the dough on a baking sheet. Spread the floured strawberries on top of the dough and, using your fingers, gently (!) fold in the berries. Don’t worry if it looks loose and messy, mind not to squeeze the berries too much. Scoop out a heaped tablespoon of dough for each cookie and gentle form a ball slightly smaller than a golf ball. Spread the dough balls on a dish that’s safe to keep in the freezer, then put the cookies in the freezer for 10-15 minutes or until hard but not frozen. Spread the cookies on the 2 lined baking sheets, mind to leave enough space between the cookies, they will expand in the oven.

Bake, one baking sheet at a time, for about 13-15 minutes or until golden but still slightly soft. After 5 minutes, using a fork, flatten the cookies softly. Let them cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes before you transfer them onto a wire rack.

Strawberry Oat Pistachio Cookies with White Chocolate

 

Strawberry Oat Pistachio Cookies with White Chocolate

 

Strawberry Oat Pistachio Cookies with White Chocolate

 

Strawberry Oat Pistachio Cookies with White Chocolate

 

Strawberry Oat Pistachio Cookies with White Chocolate

 

Strawberry Oat Pistachio Cookies with White Chocolate

Meet In Your Kitchen | Deb Perelman – Smitten Kitchen’s Berry Ricotta Galette

Smitten Kitchen's Berry Ricotta Galette

Last week I went to New York and I had three wishes on my mind:

1. I wanted to win the James Beard Award (I had strong doubts that that would happen).
2. I wanted to eat oysters at April Blumfield’s The John Dory.
3. I was hoping that Deb Perelman would open the doors to her famous Smitten Kitchen for a Meet In Your Kitchen feature.

And what can I say, I was a lucky girl. I won the award, I had a fantastic pre-award oyster treat just for myself (if you like oysters, book a table at April’s restaurant next time you visit NYC!) – and I met and baked together with Deb!

Smitten Kitchen was the only blog I knew about when I started Eat In My Kitchen in November 2013. I discovered many more in the past three years, but not many managed to keep my attention with such persistence as Deb’s. She knows how to entertain, impress, and inspire me with calm ease. Her love for food jumps out of all of her recipes, out of every picture she takes and every line she writes. She’s a perfectionist, but she knows how to hide it. She’s a charmer.

Smitten Kitchen's Berry Ricotta Galette

 

Smitten Kitchen's Berry Ricotta Galette

Deb’s blog is a staple in the blog world. She started in 2003 writing about her life in general and focussing on recipes since 2006. When you ask yourself how a single person can build up such a successful food platform on her own and keep it running like a smooth motor, you just have to meet her and you’ll know why. Deb is full of life and energy, at the same time down to earth and humble. She’s not interested in the blunt surface, in superficial attention, she wants to explore a recipe in depth and present it in all its glory. And here lies her secret: all her recipes make sense, from a cook (or baker) and an eater’s point of you. She calls herself a fussy eater, picky like her children, she doesn’t mind baking the same cake 14 times until it’s just right. This leads to a habit of excessive note taking whenever she’s at the cooker. To learn, to improve, and to develop the right formula that she and her readers can totally trust. This trust is what a food blog is built on. Mrs. Perelman takes this task quite easily as she loves what she does, she only cooks the food that she craves herself and that she’s curious about. She’s like a passionate scientist, working late at night, while everyone else is already in bed, and she’s still there, solving culinary problems.

Her journey into and in the kitchen was influenced by her work at a bakery as a teenage girl, by her family with roots in Germany and Russia, Jewish baking, and American cooking. Her mother’s cookbook by Julia Child added some French extravagance to the palate and sparked her interest. When you read Deb’s blog, you can see that she has a weak spot for comfort food. She might be a fussy eater but she’s not into fussy cooking.

After hundreds of recipes developed by herself and shared online, it was time, in 2012, to turn this treasure into a physical publication. When Deb’s first cookbook – The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook: Recipes and Wisdom from an Obsessive Home Cook – entered the book shops, it happened anything but quietly. It was a success that screamed for a follow up book. A second child (the cutest baby girl!) and obsessive recipe tasting caused a few delays in the schedule, however, Deb’s confident that it’s going to happen this year. Her new book will come out soon, including more global influences than in the predecessor’s recipes. It’s a collection that represents how we cook and eat today. Different cultures from all over the world inspired Deb to experiment with ingredients that are relatively new to our kitchens. The frame, however, is Deb, her style, and her love for American comfort cooking.

We baked the most wonderful berry ricotta galette together, it tasted divine, and the fact that Deb baked it for me made it taste even better.

Smitten Kitchen's Berry Ricotta Galette

 

Smitten Kitchen's Berry Ricotta Galette

Deb also made a couple small galettes (as you can see in the picture above), but if you aim for the star-shape it’s easier to make one large galette. The smaller ones opened in the oven.

Berry Ricotta Galette

Recipe by Deb Perelman / Smitten Kitchen

Leakage is almost inevitable when making galettes but you shouldn’t sweat it because I’m convinced that it’s more distressing for the baker (who knows exactly how much jammy deliciousness has been lost) than anyone eating a wedge (it will taste like nothing is missing at all).

Here’s the PDF template I made to help you form a star shape, if desired. As should be abundantly evident, I’m no graphic designer, but it will hopefully give you a start.

Makes one 7.5 to 8-inch (19-20cm) galette

For the pastry

1 1/4 cups (160 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1 1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar
Zest of half a lemon
8 tablespoons (4 ounces or 113 grams) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/4 cup (60g) ricotta, yogurt or sour cream
3 to 4 tablespoons cold water

For the filling

2 cups raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries
3 to 4 tablespoons granulated sugar (use the lower amount if your fruit is especially sweet)
2 tablespoons cornstarch
Juice of half a lemon
Pinch of salt

For the glaze

1 egg yolk beaten with 1 teaspoon water
1 heaped teaspoon turbinado or coarse sugar for sprinkling

For the dough, whisk the flour, salt, sugar and zest together in the bottom of a large bowl. Work the butter into the flour with your fingertips or a pastry blender until mixture resembles a coarse meal and the largest bits of butter are the size of tiny peas. Stir ricotta and 3 tablespoons water together in a small dish and pour into butter-flour mixture. Stir together with a flexible spatula as best as you can, then use your hands to knead the mixture into a rough, craggy ball. Wrap in plastic and flatten into a disc. Chill in the fridge for 1 hour or up to 48 hours, or you can quick-firm this in the freezer for 15 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C).

On a floured counter, roll the dough out into a large round-ish shape, about 14 to 15 inches (36-38cm) across. If you’d like to form your galette into a star, as shown, use the red dashed outline of the PDF template mentioned above. It will print smaller on an 8.5×11-inch (DIN A4) piece of paper than you need, but you can use it as a rough guide to cut as large of a pentagon shape as your dough will allow.

Transfer round or pentagon-shaped dough to a parchment-lined baking sheet; I like to fold my dough gently, without creasing, in quarters then unfold it onto the baking pan. If you’re making a star, cut a 1-inch (2.5cm) notch in the center of each side, angling it toward the center, as shown in the blue dashed lines of the template.

Stir together all of the filling ingredients and spread them in the center of the dough, leaving a 2-inch (5cm) border. If you’re making a round galette, fold the border over the filling, pleating the edge to make it fit. If you’re making a star shape, fold each of the 5 corners into the center, along the green dotted lines of the template. Pinch the outer corners closed, to seal in the filling and the shape (see 6th and 10th picture).

Whisk egg yolk and water together and brush over exposed crust. Sprinkle with coarse sugar.

Bake for 30 minutes, or golden all over. Remove from the oven and let stand for 5 minutes, then slide the galette onto a serving plate. Cut into wedges and serve hot, warm or at room temperature, preferably with vanilla ice cream.

https://smittenkitchen.com/2016/06/the-consummate-chocolate-chip-cookie-revisited/

The ever-growing number of Smitten Kitchen’s followers has now trusted you for over a decade. What’s your secret?

I have no idea how I got so lucky with this. When I got started food blogging in 2006, there was no such thing as turning it into a career so it wasn’t even in the remotest corner of my mind. All I wanted to do was create a collection of recipes I considered perfect so once I got a dish the way I liked it, I didn’t have to reinvent the wheel every time I was hungry for it. I still feel exactly this way. Having an audience makes it way more fun, but I often wonder if I’d still be doing this in a vacuum because I will always want to cook new things and get them right.

You call yourself a perfectionist, do you feel the drive to perfection just in the kitchen or also in other fields of life? Does the perfect recipe really exist, when do you know you have to stop?

I think near-perfect recipes exist. I don’t think every recipe is going to work with every set of ingredients, in every kitchen, at every altitude, at all times but I think when the recipe is very strong, it withstands these variations well. If I think a small thing will throw a recipe immeasurably off though, I won’t publish it because I’ve found in 10+ years of comments that if something can go wrong with a recipe, it sooner than later will for someone.

As you’ve seen my fridge and freezer (since cleaned, but only under duress), I think you know my perfectionism does not extend everywhere in my life. But I do want things the way I want them and I hear from my parents I have been this way from the beginning (sorry guys).

Which of your recipes do you love the most? Which one does your husband and two kids love the most? 

We all love the Leite’s Consummate Chocolate Chip Cookie, especially now that I’ve updated them in a way that I can make them more often (I like to stash them in the freezer, bake whenever we remember). And not to be too much of a tease but because this is something I’ve been working endlessly on for the last couple years, there’s a grandma-style chicken noodle soup and a crumb cake in my next cookbook that everyone is nuts for. They never go to waste.

Where do you find inspiration for new recipes?

Oddly, never inside the kitchen. The kitchen is where I test out ideas and pay close attention to what happens, but it’s not where new ideas come to me. They come to me when I’m on a train or in a car going somewhere far enough that my mind wanders off, or at a restaurant when I like the flavor intersection of ingredients and want to apply it to something else at home.

How do your family’s roots in Germany and Russia influence your cooking and your personal culinary journey?

From my husband’s Russian family (he was born there but doesn’t remember it), an appreciate of garlic, pickles, sour cream, dill, wafer-y cakes, syrniki (cottage cheese pancakes), as well as the value of a freezer full of pelmeni, vareniki (filled dumplings), and at least one bottle of vodka. From my mom’s German side, spaetzle, schnitzel, bretzel, bienenstich (popular German cake), and every type of almond paste/marzipan confection you can dream up.

What do you enjoy about writing a cookbook and what do you hate about this project? Do you prefer working on your blog or on a book?

I love both for different reasons; the blog is my favorite place to be, to try out ideas, chat with people in the comments, field questions and more. The speed of output and feedback is faster, it lends itself well to cooking whims and streaks; it makes me very happy. Books are less balanced. You spend years (5 years, even!) working through recipes and ideas behind the scenes with an additional layer of design — I don’t know how your book experience was, but I seem to always go 20 rounds with the cover, 45 rounds with the title, 10 rounds with page layouts, and am making recipe swaps until the day I’m cut off, like being at a bar at 2am — all to yield one (hopefully) wonderful thing that you hope people will want to take home and read and cook from but you have no idea and so, perhaps, the stress is also much greater. But so are the rewards (or is it relief?) should people be as excited about it as you were. I loved getting to book tour last time, and hope to do more this fall.

You have a large cookbook selection in your apartment, what makes a good cookbook in your eyes?

So many things. While I love, like anyone with eyes, looking at beautiful pictures, it’s never made a just-okay cookbook a great one. What I love even more is feeling like I’m stepping into a story, a world, with recipes. I love a funny anecdote about how a recipe came to be or a small tidbit I wouldn’t have known about a dish. I want the recipes to be airtight, even though I know how hard this is, but to me this is the baseline of a cookbook. And I’m always hoping to see something I hadn’t seen before; to feel the creativity bursting from the page.

Do you enjoy being cooked for? On a special night, do you prefer to eat at home or dive into New York’s vibrant food scene?

I love being cooked for! I love going out; we used to do it so freely before kids and I do miss it, it’s just more complicated with noisy people with early bedtimes. I get so inspired going somewhere teeming with fresh ideas, and it makes me want to come home and cook immediately, so eating out fuels eating in.

Who is your biggest inspiration in the kitchen?

I’ve always enjoyed Julia Child’s tenacity, Marion Cunningham’s defense of home cooking against drudgery, and Gabrielle Hamilton’s unapologetic embrace of her food vision.

When it comes to school events or a friend’s party, do you get requests to bring a dish or are people shy to ask Deb from Smitten Kitchen to bring a birthday cake or sandwiches?

Absolutely not.

What was the first dish you cooked on your own, what is your first cooking memory?

Brownies, I think. Not very different from My Favorite Brownies on my site, but I’d forgotten to add the flour. They were a little burnt at the edges and very mushy in the middle and yes, we still ate them. They weren’t even bad, but I never heard the end of it.

What are your favourite places to buy and enjoy food in New York? 

Union Square Greenmarket for vegetables and fruit and everything; Murray’s or Saxelby for cheese, Kalustyan’s for spices and around-the-world ingredients, Buon Italia in Chelsea Market, mostly to load up on the Setaro pasta, Faicco’s for spiral sausages for grilling weather, which are always a huge hit, can I go on and on? I could go on and on.

If you could choose one person to cook a meal for you, who and what would it be?

I think my kids should wake up early to make me pancakes this weekend for a change. (I am joking, of course. They are 1 and 7 and our apartment would be in ashes.)

You’re going to have ten friends over for a spontaneous dinner, what will be on the table?

Spaghetti with clams or mussels and fries or assemble-your-own steak salads with a side of roasted potatoes.

Do you prefer to cook on your own or together with others?

Solo if I’m working on a new recipe or one I haven’t ironed out yet, because I want to be able to pay attention and take notes and make tweaks. If I’m throwing together the above meal for 10 friends, they better be hanging out in the kitchen and drinking wine with me.

Which meals do you prefer, improvised or planned?

Improvised; I like the challenge. 

Which meal would you never cook again?

Anything where I’ve ended up cooking things individually over a stove for many people; I have bad memories of making Fake Shack Burgers for 10 people (so much hamburger grease from head to toe when I was done) as well as an early brunch party where I made French toast for everyone as they trickled in.

Thank you Deb!

Smitten Kitchen's Berry Ricotta Galette

 

Smitten Kitchen's Berry Ricotta Galette

 

Smitten Kitchen's Berry Ricotta Galette

 

Smitten Kitchen's Berry Ricotta Galette

 

Smitten Kitchen's Berry Ricotta Galette

 

Smitten Kitchen's Berry Ricotta Galette

 

Smitten Kitchen's Berry Ricotta Galette

 

Smitten Kitchen's Berry Ricotta Galette

Rhubarb Corn Galette with Saffron & we won the James Beard Award!

James Beard Awards 2017

Last Tuesday we won the James Beard Award. I flew to New York thinking that I had no chance of winning – Ina Garten was nominated in the same category as me: General Cooking. I was sure that this was not going to happen.

And now I’m sitting here at JFK airport, writing these words while waiting for my flight back to Berlin. Trying to think clearly, but I can’t. I wish there were words to describe how I feel, or at least give you a vague idea of what this means to me – but I can’t. It’s almost impossible to talk about a feeling that still shakes me up every time the memories come back and makes my heart fall as if I’m jumping of a cliff. It’s not just in my mind. I feel physically overwhelmed. Just like I did when I went on stage to fall around our host Andrew Zimmern’s neck, to kiss and squeeze him, and to receive the James Beard Foundation medal from his hands (watch my speech here).

When I say we won and not I won, you need to understand that this book, Eat In My Kitchen, would not exist without a bunch of people who gave me all the help, love, support, and inspiration I needed whenever I thought I wouldn’t manage. These people believed in me before I did myself, they were the ones who convinced me to trust and follow my instincts:

Nothing would be as it is without my man, Jamie; my editor Holly La Due who guided me through the past two years since we first spoke about a cookbook – and she held my hand in these endless painful seconds before my name was announced at the awards ceremony by legendary Andrew Zimmern; my mother who passed her love for food and wine on to me, the seed out of which Eat In My Kitchen grows every day; everybody at Prestel Publishing and our external experts Lauren Salkeld, Jan Derevjanik, and Ron Longe, who gave everything to make this book look as it looks and stand where it stands. And my family and friends all over the world, your belief in me makes me grow every day. Thank you for trusting me, and for waiting for me patiently.

When your work is recognized and awarded by one of the most critical juries in the food world, a jury who’s not interested in numbers or celebrity status, but in the quality of recipes, it can easily feel intimidating. But that rainy night at New York’s Chelsea Piers was not intimidating at all, it was magical. I was in a room together with so many talented people who all love what I love so much – food – and I experienced the warmest welcome to this family (a word that winner Dori Greenspan used). There’s a lot of respect, a humble appreciation of the work of the others. Ronni Lundy, Dori Greenspan, Andrew Zimern, Pierre Koffmann, Naomi Duguid, Judith Jones, Keith Pandolfi, Francis Lam and many more (here’s the full list of winners), we were awarded for our work, and everybody who came to this event came to celebrate us, but also a passion that we share and that connects us, no matter what part of the world we come from. I want to thank the James Beard Foundation and all the inspiring people who I met that night, a night that I’ll never forget in my whole life.

Knowing that I wouldn’t be able to cook or bake anything to share with you when I came back, I made a galette (twice actually because it’s so good) just a few days before I left. It’s a spring treat and it’s quite a spectacular one. A crunchy short crust base made of corn flour and spelt flour (you can also use wheat), topped with sour rhubarb and the most fragrant saffron sugar. Cookbook author Yossy Arefi introduced me to this golden spice sugar and inspired me to use it for various sweet pies. Last summer I wrote about her berry galette and I will never forget how the addition of saffron to fruit and buttery crust hit me. It’s a true celebration cake.

And now I want to thank you for always pushing me to try out new things in my kitchen, to keep cooking, baking, and writing about what we all love so much. Food!

Photos of the James Beard Award Ceremony by Kent Miller Studios, c/o the James Beard Foundation.

James Beard Awards 2017

 

Rhubarb Corn Galette with Saffron Sugar

Rhubarb Corn Galette with Saffron Sugar

Mind that it’s best to prepare the dough for the galette the day before you bake it to give it enough time to chill in the fridge.

Makes one 23cm / 9″ galette.

For the pastry

very fine corn flour / corn meal (not corn starch) 90g / 1/2 cup
plain flour (or white spelt flour) 90g / 2/3 cup
granulated sugar 1 tablespoon
fine sea salt 1/4 teaspoon
unsalted butter, cold, 125g / 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon
water, cold, 2 tablespoons
cider vinegar 1 teaspoon

For the galette

granulated sugar 75g / 1/3 cup and 1 tablespoon, plus 1 teaspoon for the topping
vanilla bean, scraped, 1/2
saffron threads about 1/8 – 1/4 teaspoon
plain flour (or white spelt flour) 1 tablespoon
fine sea salt 1/8 teaspoon
trimmed rhubarb 280g / 10 ounces
freshly squeezed lemon juice 1 tablespoon
organic egg, beaten, 1

For the pastry, in the large bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the hook attachment, combine the corn flour, flour, sugar, and salt. Add the butter and use a knife to cut it into the flour until there are just small pieces left. Quickly rub the butter into the flour with your fingers until combined. Add the water and vinegar and, using the hooks of the stand mixer, mix until combined. Form the dough into a thick disc, wrap it in plastic wrap, and chill in the fridge overnight (or for a few hours) until hard, or freeze for about 20-30 minutes.

On a table or countertop, place the dough between 2 sheets of plastic wrap and use a rolling pin to roll it out into a 30cm / 12″ circle. Pull off the top layer of plastic wrap and replace with a piece of parchment paper. Flip the pastry circle over, transfer to a wooden board, and pull of the remaining layer of plastic wrap. Store the pastry (on top of the wooden board) in the fridge while preparing the topping.

Using a mortar and pestle, grind the sugar, vanilla seeds, and saffron until the saffron is fine and the mixture is well combined. Stir in the flour and salt and set aside.

Cut the rhubarb into 10cm / 4″ long pieces and quarter each piece lengthwise. In a large baking dish, using your hands, toss the rhubarb and saffron-sugar.

Take the pastry out of the fridge and arrange the rhubarb, overlapping, in a circle on top of the dough, leave a 5cm / 2″ rim all the way around the fruit (see 10th picture). Sprinkle with any remaining saffron-sugar. Fold the edges of the pastry over the ends of the rhubarb, press to seal the folds. Chill the galette in the fridge for about 10-15 minutes or until the pastry is firm.

Preheat the oven to 200°C / 400°F (conventional setting). Place a baking sheet in the middle of the oven while preheating.

Brush the pastry with the egg wash and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of sugar. Take the hot baking sheet out of the oven and pull the galette with the parchment paper onto the baking sheet. Bake for about 30 minutes or until golden brown. Let the galette cool for about 10 minutes before cutting. Serve warm or cold.

Rhubarb Corn Galette with Saffron Sugar

 

James Beard Awards 2017

 

Rhubarb Corn Galette with Saffron Sugar

 

James Beard Awards 2017

 

Rhubarb Corn Galette with Saffron Sugar

 

James Beard Awards 2017

 

Rhubarb Corn Galette with Saffron Sugar

Nominee – Winner:

James Beard Awards 2017

 

James Beard Awards 2017

 

Rhubarb Corn Galette with Saffron Sugar

Spaghetti with Asparagus, Burrata and Ramp Pesto

Spaghetti with Asparagus, Burrata and Pesto

I think spring is my favourite season – until I feel the same in summer, autumn, or winter, depending on my mood. Spring offers a lot of drama and surprises. The changeover from the cold season is so drastic, so abrupt. There’s so much energy around and inside me all of a sudden without even knowing where it’s coming from. The temperature rises, nature’s sprouting and flourishing at every corner, adding colour to a scene that was brown and grey only a few weeks ago. I welcome these changes with gushing excitement and open the doors to my kitchen for all those greens that are soon to come to my cooking space.

In the past couple weeks, the fragile leaves of fragrant ramps brought Mediterranean pesto back to our table. And crisp asparagus is next. The official harvest start of the white asparagus from Beelitz happened last week, so let the feasting begin! When I eat the white stalks, I’m quite a traditionalist. Young potatoes, ham, and Hollandaise sauce is all I need. But when it comes to green asparagus, I become more experimental.

This little lunch was as simple as it was stunning: I added the green stalks, boiled and very thinly sliced, to a plate of warm spaghetti, burrata (mozzarella di Bufala would also work), and ramp pesto. You could also go for a basil or arugula (rucola) pesto, but I enjoyed the subtle oniony flavour in my green creation. In case you disagree, you’ll find the links to all three pesto recipes below. Buon Appetito!

Spaghetti with Asparagus, Burrata and Pesto

Spaghetti with Asparagus, Burrata and Ramp Pesto

Serves 2

For the ramp pesto
(here you can find alternative recipes for basil or arugula pesto)

ramps or ramson, leaves only, 1 medium bunch (around 60g / 2 ounces)
parmesan 30g / 1 ounce
olive oil 60ml / 1/4 cup
salt 1/4 teaspoon

For the pasta

green asparagus, the bottoms cut off, 1 pound
spaghetti 150-200g / 5-7 ounces
olive oil
burrata (or mozzarella di Bufala) 200g / 7 ounces
ramp pesto about 4 tablespoons
flaky sea salt
black peppercorns, crushed with a mortar

For the pesto, purée the ingredients in a blender or food processor until smooth and season with salt to taste.

Cook the asparagus in plenty of salted water for about 3 minutes or until al dente. Using a slotted ladle, transfer the asparagus to a colander (leave the water in the pot), rinse the stalks briefly with cold water, and drain. Using a sharp knife, lengthwise, quarter each stalk into 4 long pieces (including the heads).

To cook the pasta, put the pot you used for the asparagus back on the heat, bring the water to the boil (add more water if necessary), and cook the spaghetti until al dente. Drain, transfer back to the pot, and stir in a tiny splash of olive oil.

Divide the pasta and asparagus between 2 plates, folding the vegetable into the spaghetti. Break the burrata in half and place in the middle of each pasta plate. Drizzle with pesto and a few drops of olive oil (optional) and season with salt and crushed pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

Spaghetti with Asparagus, Burrata and Pesto

 

Spaghetti with Asparagus, Burrata and Pesto

 

Spaghetti with Asparagus, Burrata and Pesto

 

Spaghetti with Asparagus, Burrata and Pesto

Ramp and Prosciutto wrapped Monkfish with Spring Peas

Ramps and Prosciutto wrapped Monkfish

I didn’t have many cookbooks when I was younger, I learned all about cooking from my mother. She’s my mama bird in the kitchen, I just watch and follow her. Then, in my late teens, she gave me my first cookbook, a detailed introduction to the most important basic techniques covering everything from eggs to soups, meat, seafood, and vegetables. It felt like she wanted to be sure that I wouldn’t starve when I moved out. The book was published in the 80’s and beautifully photographed. Quite minimal. I think, in regards to food photography, this book influenced my style of capturing food in pictures more than any other publications.

It was my only cookbook for a long time, but I collected and wrote down recipes myself whenever I got the chance to sneak a kitchen classic from a friend or my family. Even in restaurants, I was never shy to ask, if they’d share a recipe with me (the ones that really hit me). This strategy led to a bursting folder packed with notes, snippets, and sheets torn out of magazines. I still haven’t cooked and baked all of the treasures collected in more than 30 years. It’s a steadily growing project.

As I got into collecting cookbooks, Jamie Oliver’s books were one of the first added to the shelves. First as a present from friends, but later on I bought a few myself. I liked his style of playing with food. I was in my early twenties, I had seen and tasted many German, French, and Italian traditional classics cooked to perfection, by my mother and in friend’s kitchens, or at restaurants. But I felt like a younger voice. And Jamie’s voice felt just right at that time. In the end, I might have only cooked about 15 of his creations in all those years, but he inspired me a lot. And at least 5 of his recipes became staples that I still embrace today.

There’s one recipe that I’ve been wanting to try for more than 15 years. And again, I didn’t use it to follow, but to play with: Jamie wraps monkfish filets in prosciutto spread with pesto. It’s so simple, it looks stunning. As spring is in the air, or at least the smell of ramps as you enter the woods, I decided to wrap my firm white fish fillet in ramp leaves and prosciutto di Parma. Thanks to Jamie, the cooking time and temperature were perfect. The fillet was tender yet firm. And the wrapping was spot on: green, fresh, and slightly salty.

If you’re still looking for an Easter menu, what about skipping the traditional lamb roast and go for seafood? This dish is so easy, serve it with a bowl of lemony ramp peas and baguette (for the lazy ones like me) or Mediterranean mashed potatoes (either from my book, or try this recipe). And what about an eggnog sponge cake for dessert?

Have a wonderful Easter time with your loved ones!

xx

Ramps and Prosciutto wrapped Monkfish

 

Ramps and Prosciutto wrapped Monkfish

Ramp and Prosciutto wrapped Monkfish

Serves 2

olive oil
monkfish fillet, a thick center piece, 250-300g / 9-11 ounces
fine sea salt
ground pepper
prosciutto di Parma (or San Daniele or Serrano) 10 very thin slices
fresh ramps leaves, a small bunch
peas, fresh in shells (about 400g / 15 ounces) and peeled, or frozen (170g / 6 ounces)
freshly squeezed lemon juice, 1-2 teaspoons

Preheat the oven to 200°C / 400°F (conventional setting) and brush the bottom of a baking dish with olive oil.

Cut the monkfish in half (lengthwise) and, using your hands, coat it in olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

On a large chopping board, spread out half the prosciutto (overlapping slices). Arrange a layer of ramp leaves on top (laying across the prosciutto), then lay one half of the monkfish on top (see 5th picture). Roll and wrap the fish tightly and transfer to the oiled baking dish. Prepare the second fillet the same way and lay next to the first fish wrap. Brush the prosciutto with olive oil and bake in the oven for about 15 minutes or until the fish is tender.

While the fish is baking, prepare the peas: Cut 12 ramps leaves into thin strips, set aside. Cook the peas in plenty of salted boiling water for 1 minute or until al dente. Drain and briefly rinse with cold water. In a small saucepan, heat a splash of olive over high heat, add half the chopped ramps, and take the pan off the heat. Stir in the peas and lemon juice and season with salt and pepper to taste.

When the fish is done, using a sharp kitchen knife, cut the fillets into thick slices and divide between 2 plates. Serve with the peas sprinkled with the remaining chopped ramps, crunchy baguette, and chilled white wine.

Ramps and Prosciutto wrapped Monkfish

 

Ramps and Prosciutto wrapped Monkfish

 

Ramps and Prosciutto wrapped Monkfish

 

Ramps and Prosciutto wrapped Monkfish

 

Ramps and Prosciutto wrapped Monkfish

Kwareżimal – Maltese Easter Sweets without Eggs and Butter

Kwarezimal - Maltese Easter Cake

No eggs and no butter, but lots of spice and flavour and a soft and chewy texture. Maltese Kwareżimal are an almost guilt-free pleasure that tastes so good, that I ask myself why I didn’t bake them earlier.

This ancient treat dates back to the medieval times, when the Knights in the Mediterranean traditionally baked Kwareżimal during Lent. The little dark brown loaves are made without dairy products, just ground almonds (or hazelnuts in my recipe), spices, and honey create a beautifully fragrant cakey sweet. Sugar was allowed, as it was seen as a spice in those days. It’s not a healthy bar after all.

The name derives from the Latin word quaresima, the 40 days of the Lenten season. Although you can find Kwareżimal in some confectionaries on the Maltese islands throughout the whole year, my favourite bakery for sweet treats, Busy Bee, only pulls them out of the oven as Easter is nearing. The problem was that I have never been to Malta around this time, so I had no idea how good Kwareżimal tastes. I knew that I wanted to try them at Busy Bee first and thanks to Jessica and Luke this day has finally come. Our friends visited us a couple weeks ago and gave me – besides many other goods – this plain looking miniature cake as a present. It only took me 12 years to have my first bite of Kwareżimal and it was pure enjoyment. I didn’t share a piece with anyone.

So I finally knew what I was aiming for, I felt ready to give it a go. My Kwareżimal are made with ground hazelnuts, as my Maltese man doesn’t like almonds, but feel free to use whatever nut you prefer. I mixed in some white spelt flour (plain flour woks just as well) to lighten up the texture. But don’t worry, it’s still as soft and chewy as it should be thanks to the juice of half an orange.

The texture is divine, almost moist, it reminds a bit of rough marzipan. And it tastes so rich, nutty, and citrusy, with strong tones of rather Christmassy spices, such as cinnamon, cloves, citrus zest, and flowery orange blossom water. I went for a crunchy pistachio topping, bedded on sticky honey running down the sites of my little Kwareżimal. You can also chop almonds or hazelnuts. When you buy this sweet from a shop, you get a single bar, not more than 12cm / 5″ long, that was my measure. To serve, I cut it in thick slices – it’s a bit like a cookie with a chewy feel.

Kwarezimal - Maltese Easter Cake

 

Kwarezimal - Maltese Easter Cake

Kwareżimal

Makes 2 small bars (serves 2-4)

finely ground hazelnuts (or almonds) 120g / 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons
plain flour (I used white spelt flour / type 630) 100g / 3/4 cup
granulated sugar 100g / 1/2 cup
cocoa powder 1 teaspoon
baking powder 1/8 teaspoon
fine sea salt 1/8 teaspoon
ground cinnamon 1 teaspoon
freshly grated nutmeg 1/4 teaspoon
cloves, finely ground in a mortar, 1/2 teaspoon
vanilla bean, scraped, 1/4
freshly grated orange zest 2 generous teaspoons
freshly grated lemon zest 2 generous teaspoons
freshly squeezed orange juice 60ml / 1/4 cup
honey 1 tablespoon
high quality orange blossom water (preferably organic) 2 tablespoons
candied orange peel, finely chopped, 1 tablespoon

For the topping

honey 2 tablespoons
freshly squeezed orange juice 1 teaspoon
shelled unsalted pistachios, roughly chopped, a small handful
freshly grated orange zest 1/2 – 1 teaspoon

Preheat the oven to 180°C / 350°F (preferably convection setting) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together the ground hazelnuts, flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, vanilla seeds, orange zest, and lemon zest.

In a small saucepan, heat the orange juice and honey over low heat and whisk until the honey has melted. Take off the heat and whisk in the orange blossom water. Let it cool for a couple minutes, then stir into the dry mixture. Add the candied orange peel and stir until well combined. The dough will be soft, but you should be able to form a bar; if it’s too soft, add a little more ground hazelnuts.

Wet your hands lightly, divide the dough in half, and form 2 bars, about 5cm / 2″ wide and 2cm / 3/4″ tall. Mind that they aren’t too flat or they will dry out in the oven. Bake for about 15 minutes, the top of the loaves should still be soft and just slightly baked.

While the Kwareżimal are baking, prepare the topping: in a small saucepan, heat the honey and orange juice over medium heat and whisk until combined. Take the pan off the heat.

Brush the warm Kwareżimal with the warm honey and sprinkle with the pistachios and a little orange zest. To serve, cut into thick slices. Wrapped in cling film, it stays fresh for days.

Kwarezimal - Maltese Easter Cake

 

Kwarezimal - Maltese Easter Cake

 

Kwarezimal - Maltese Easter Cake

 

Kwarezimal - Maltese Easter Cake

 

Kwarezimal - Maltese Easter Cake

 

Kwarezimal - Maltese Easter Cake

 

Kwarezimal - Maltese Easter Cake

15 Recipes for your Easter Brunch Table

Tsoureki Easter Bread

Hunting Easter eggs in the woods was one of my childhood’s spring highlights. The sweet smell of blossoms and sunlight in the air, the trees’ leaves presenting their most fragile green, and – in a lucky year – I could even replace boots and jacket for shirt and jeans while searching for golden wrapped chocolate eggs and bunnies. I always loved the sprouting energy that comes with the change of season, when winter’s shades of grey and brown give way to vibrant colours. Easter is a changing point in the year, there’s the promise of summer in the air.

Is there a better way to celebrate this day than gathering your loved ones around the table and treating them to a luscious brunch? Here’s some inspiration (click the titles for the recipes):

Tsoureki – Greek Easter Bread with Aniseed and Orange Blossom Water

greekeasterbread18

 

Traditional Maltese Figolli

figolli20

 

Eggnog Sponge Cake with Whipped Cream

eggnogeastercake19

 

Poppy Seed and White Chocolate Babka

Poppy Seed and White Chocolate Babka

 

Green Shakshuka Crêpes

Green Shakshuka Crêpes

 

Rhubarb Tartlets with Cinnamon Oat Crumble

rhubarbtartletcinnamonoatcrumble16

 

Gruyère and Red Onion Focaccia

Gruyere Onion Focaccia

 

Pistachio Orange Blossom Muffins

Pistachio Orange Blossom Muffins

 

Crescent Milk Rolls with Poppy Seeds

Poppy Seed Crescent Milk Rolls

 

Bean and Ramp Quiche

Bean and Ramp Quiche

 

Rhubarb Chocolate Cake

Rhubarb Chocolate Cake

 

Marzipan-Ribboned Challah Knots

Marzipan-Ribboned Challah Knots

 

Cheesecake Swiss Roll with Mascarpone and Blackberries

Cheesecake Swiss Roll

 

Roast Rosemary Lamb with Garlic and Tomatoes

Roast Rosemary Lamb

 

 Spinach Ricotta stuffed Conchiglioni on Grilled Cherry Tomatoes

Spinach Ricotta Conchiglioni

 

Spring Timpana – Maltese Pasta Pie with Asparagus, Peas, and Leeks

Spring Timpana

 

There will be two new Easter recipes coming up this Sunday and next Wednesday!

 

Eggnog Easter Cake

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