eat in my kitchen

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

Category: TO COOK

Meet In Your Kitchen | Kismet LA’s Persian Cucumbers, Melon & Rosewater Labneh

Kismet

White brushed walls, pale wood, and strong geometric lines turn Kismet into a minimalist spot of casual elegance right on LA’s sunny Hollywood Boulevard. Sitting on the wooden bench at the wide window, the fleshy leaves of a tall banyan tree playing with the light, I felt immediately captured by the restaurant’s laid-back vibe and exciting Middle Eastern and Mediterranean-style menu.

Sarah Hymanson and her partner Sara Kramer created a beautiful place to enjoy breakfast, lunch, or dinner with a group of friends – following their philosophy that food tastes best when you share it. Kismet is a neighborhood hub where you can fill your table with plates full of colorful vegetable focused delicacies and indulge in the pleasures of wonderful treats such as Little Gem Lettuce with Plums, Sprouted Lentils and Tarragon, Freekeh Polenta with Lamb, Green Chili, Greens and Poached Egg, or the wonderful Persian Cucumbers with Melon, Rosewater Labneh and Parsley Seed Za’atar – this recipe is a feast for the taste buds thankfully shared with us by the two chefs. You just dig in and feel happy, inspired by new flavor combinations focusing on taste and freshness. Or celebrate some precious time just for yourself and a book, have a coffee, and nibble on a Scone with Lemon Cream or Brioche Toast with Date Butter.

“LA is an exciting place to be right now, there’s a lot of young creative energy”, Sarah says. She doesn’t hide that she loves the East coast, she’s from Chicago and worked in New York for years, moving west wasn’t an obvious step for her. In 2015, she met NY native Sara Kramer at Glasserie in New York, Kramer was the opening chef at the acclaimed restaurant and won Eater’s NYC Chef of the Year award for her celebrated way of cooking. Yet the two strong willed chefs and highly creative minds who developed the vision of opening their own place, had to find out that it wasn’t in the East but West, in California, where their first “baby” would open its doors. An organic falafel shop at the lively Grand Central Market in Downtown LA called Madcapra was their testing ground. It became a huge success and so Kismet came next.

Rooted in California through the produce that the Kismet chefs get from their beloved farmers and friends who are such an important part of their community of chefs – “their produce is what makes our food” – yet their style of cooking is very much based on their experiences in the kitchen and their upbringing. Thanks to the similar climate, they can use a lot of fruits and vegetables that are prominent in Middle Eastern cooking, such as pomegranate, dates, olives, and fresh herbs. This is the kind of food that both of them loved all their life, what they grew up with – Sara’s mother is Israeli – it’s the food that fascinates both of them and constantly feeds their inspiration.

LA has always offered a great platform and an excitable open-minded audience to female chefs, like Nancy Silverton, Suzanne Goin, Marie Sue Milliken, and Susan Feniger to name just a few. There’s a history of inspiring women in this city and also in California in general who try alternative ways of producing food, cooking, but also working together. Over the past few years, there have been changes in restaurants all over the US that touch the roots of this industry. Work ethics change, the tone in the kitchen that was very male for decades, changes. “The women today try to challenge these norms by treating people as people. It’s not an easy process, but it’s a responsibility to the industry and the people working in this industry.” Sarah and her partner introduced a 20% service charge on top to improve payments and also even out the gap between front and back of house at their restaurant. It’s not easy, but it’s an important part of the place that they want to create, where it’s about good food, but also about a healthy community, in and outside Kismet.

In the next months, I’ll share many new Meet In Your Kitchen features with you that took me to California, Italy, France, and Japan. Thanks to Zwilling for sponsoring these features for our culinary trip around the world! Thank you, my man James Hickey,  for joining me on these adventures and helping me take pictures!

Kismet

 

Kismet

Persian Cucumbers with Melon, Rosewater Labneh and Parsley Seed Za’atar

By Kimset / Sarah Hymanson and Sara Kramer

Serves 6

For the Za’atar

2 tablespoons untoasted sesame seed, ground
1 tablespoon whole toasted sesame seeds
¾ cup (about 12g) dried rose petals, broken up
1 ½ teaspoons sumac
1 teaspoon parsley seeds, ground
¼ teaspoon salt

For the rosewater labneh

2 cups (470g) labneh
1 teaspoon salt
Zest of 2 lemons
2 cloves garlic, grated on a Microplane
2 teaspoons honey
¼-1 tablespoon rose water, to taste
Black pepper, finely ground, to taste

For the salad

9-12 Persian cucumbers, rinsed, shaved lengthwise on a mandoline
1 cup (about 160g) melon, cut into oblique pieces
Juice of 2 lemons
Olive oil
Salt, to taste
Fresh chervil, leaves only

For the Za’atar, in a small bowl, combine the untoasted and toasted sesame seeds, rose petals, sumac, parsley seeds, and salt. You can keep the Za’atar in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

For the labneh, in a large bowl, combine the labneh, salt, lemon zest, garlic, honey, and ¼ tablespoon of the rose water and season to taste with pepper and additional rosewater. You can prepare the rose water labneh in advance and keep it in the fridge for 1 day.

For the salad, mix together the cucumbers, melon, lemon juice, olive oil, and a pinch of salt. Toss to coat and set aside.

Divide the rose water labneh between bowls, arrange the cucumbers and melon on top, and sprinkle each portion with about 1 teaspoon of the Za’atar and a little chervil. Serve immediately.

Kismet

 

Kismet

 

Watch my interview with Sarah in LA in September 2017:

 

 

Thank you, Sarah!

 

Kismet

 

Kismet

 

Kismet

 

Kismet

 

Kismet

Meet In Your Kitchen | Alana Kysar’s Hawaiian Poke & her sunny life in LA

Alana Kyser

Driving up and down Hollywood’s soft hills is like swinging in a cradle in one of those dreams that you never want to end. Seduced by the sweet city cocktail of warm asphalt and colorful blossoms popping up behind the iron gates of the elegant Spanish-style mansions along the endless streets and boulevards cutting through the city, I had to pinch myself to believe that I finally arrived at the first stop of my culinary trip around the world, an adventure I started together with Zwilling.

These trips will take me to different continents to meet the locals and dive into the secrets and excitements of their cuisines. The cooking of each country, region, or even village is unique, but despite the differences, we have one thing in common wherever we live: we meet in the kitchen, at the table, to eat, drink, and feast together with the ones we love. This has never changed and I don’t believe that this will ever change.

LA wins me over in an instant, always, whenever I go there. There seems to be freedom in the air, no boundaries, but opportunities. Palm trees gracefully grow into the endless blue sky, and even the Pacific hitting the long beaches of Venice and Malibu with its wild waves seem to mellow down as it touches the city’s golden sand. LA just puts a smile on your face, you can’t help it, it makes you focus on what’s possible rather than the obstacles. It’s magical and this might be the reason why so many people from all over the country working in the food scene come together in this beautiful spot in California, to work together, to create, and to let their visions come alive.

This, and the fact that the state’s unbelievably pleasing weather lets the produce grow so lusciously that it turns the land into a Garden of Eden. Whoever I met in LA, praised the gift of having the best fruits and vegetables at hand almost all year round. All the chefs, home cooks, and farmers who I met in California, who often came from far-flung places and left their home town or country behind, were pulled and inspired by the ingredients that California brings to their kitchens.

Alana Kyser

This woman has the sweetest smile and the cutest sausage dog and I don’t remember what hit me first when I met Alana Kysar in the hall of her elegant home in LA. The blogger and soon to be cookbook author lights up a room with her positive attitude and aura and makes you want to just sit in her kitchen and chat – and that’s what I did.

I had been following Alana’s work on her food blog, Fix Feast Flairand on Instagram for years and she successfully made me curious to learn more about the cuisine of her roots. Born and raised in Hawaii, she has an inspiring cooking heritage that shines through most of the creations that come out of the kitchen in her new hometown LA. Her poke recipe in particular roused my appetite just by the look of the pictures on her blog and to finally cook this dish together with her in her minimalist kitchen perfectly equipped with a knife collection that would make every chef jealous, felt just right. We stood at the long counter, attentively watched by her sausage dog, LA’s skyline sparkling right behind us, cutting tender tuna fillets that felt like butter. I can honestly say that I considered moving to California in that moment and becoming my host’s sous-chef.

According to Alana, it’s best to enjoy a bowl of poke on the beach, with a six pack of beer and a bunch of friends after work. It’s a Hawaiian classic, slightly similar to Peruvian ceviche, however, the fish stays raw, it’s not cured in citrus juices as in the South-American version. It’s a very minimal dish that impresses with its simplicity and ingredients of outstanding quality. The spotlight is on the ahi (yellowfin tuna), cut into cubes and tossed in sesame oil, soy sauce, and Hawaiian salt, then you add some onions, nuts, and seaweed, the result is unbelievably tender and tasty. It’s usually served with rice, which points to the fact that the roots of Hawaiian cooking are versatile but strongly connected to Asia. Japan, Korea, the Philippines, all these countries left a mark on the cooking of America’s 50th state, but the Hawaiians adapted it to the produce that their islands offer: mainly fish, fruit, and vegetables – and lots of sugar.

Alana was born in Kona and raised in Kula on the island of Maui, surrounded by a family of true food lovers who also brought a great portion of humor into her life. Her father often cooked with young Alana and established a judging system for her creations: she’d get points for ingredients, creativity, and presentation. Her mother introduced her to the local cuisine, laid back dishes, she’s a master in the kitchen who Alana admiringly describes with the words: she’s all that I want to be in the kitchen. One of her chicken recipes must be so good, that the daughter is still trying to beat it.

However, you shouldn’t be deceived by a beautiful woman’s smile, the soon to be author describes herself as a dictator at the cooker. She knows how she wants everything chopped and done and doesn’t accept compromises, even when it comes to her mom who had the honor – and pleasure – to test all the recipes in Alana’s new book. The feedback was content from both sides, so I guess Alana Kysar isn’t that far away from fitting in her kitchen idol’s footsteps.

In the next months, I’ll share many new Meet In Your Kitchen features with you that took me to California, Italy, France, and Japan. Thanks to Zwilling for sponsoring these features for our culinary trip around the world! Thank you, my man James Hickey, for joining me on these adventures and helping me take pictures when I’m too busy chatting and laughing!

Alana Kyser

 

Alana Kyser

Alana Kysar’s Ahi Poke Bowl

Serves 2

1 pound fresh ahi steak (yellowfin tuna), sashimi grade, cut into cubed, bite size pieces
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce, plus more to taste
¼ cup thinly sliced sweet Maui onion (or sweet yellow onion)
¼ cup chopped green onions
½ teaspoon Hawaiian salt, plus more to taste
¼ teaspoon shichimi togarashi (Japanese seven spice) or chili pepper flakes
2 teaspoons finely chopped toasted macadamia nuts
1 teaspoon toasted white or black sesame seeds
1 handful fresh chopped ogo/ limu/ edible sea moss (optional)
Shredded nori (dried seaweed) or furikake (dried seaweed seasoning), for the topping
Cooked white rice (optional)

Place the ahi in a bowl.

Start by adding one tablespoon of sesame oil, soy sauce, the sweet onions, green onions, Hawaiian salt, shichimi togarashi or chili flakes, toasted macadamia nuts, sesame seeds, and the ogo/ limu (if using). Using your hands or wooden spoons, gently toss together and adjust the seasoning to your liking.

Divide the rice between 2 bowls. Arrange the poke on top of the rice and sprinkle with shredded nori or furikake, serve immediately.

Alana Kyser

 

Alana Kyser

 

Watch my interview with Alana in LA in September 2017:

 

 

Thank you, Alana!

 

Alana Kyser

 

Alana Kyser

 

Alana Kyser

 

Alana Kyser

 

Alana Kyser

 

Alana Kyser

 

Alana Kyser

 

Alana Kyser

 

Alana Kyser

 

Alana Kysar

Limoncello Panna Cotta

Limoncello Panna Cotta

Some years have the pace and mood of a little stream in the woods, burbling along quietly, without anyone really taking any notice of it. And then there are years that are more like a hungry wave, rolling like thunder and hitting the shore with a crash, ready to pull you off your feet and make you tumble in the most unexpected moments. 2017 had quite a few of these moments, whirling and twirling, they shook the world politically, socially, and environmentally, and also my own world on so many levels. It’s exhausting when the ups and downs wear out the mind and squeeze it like a sponge, but it’s also a challenge that forces us to question and grow in our own existence and that’s its gift. I believe that our human mind needs to leave the known path once in a while, our comfort zone, that can easily become too comfortable and that makes us lazy. The irritating state of mess and confusion can be a great starting point to be brave and dive into the unknown, as much as I hate these moments as it’s scary, I’m thankful, afterwards, when they force me to unfold the old, familiar pleats.

Just over 12 months ago, the Eat In My Kitchen book was sent out into the world and little did I know how much it would change my life and the way it used to be. In April 2017, Andrew Zimmern hung the medal for the  James Beard Award for Best Cookbook in the General Cooking category around my neck, the state of bursting happiness, surprise, and thankfulness that I felt on that magical night in New York lasts until today. The world also revealed some of its culinary tricks and secrets to me as I travelled in America, Asia, and Europe during autumn. I was on the road for a new project and, for once, I let other people cook for me. I was introduced to the wonders of food in some parts of the world where I had never been before. It was pure bliss to experience new tastes and smells, to listen to unknown languages and learn about traditions and rituals that grew over centuries. And to see so many inspiring women in their kitchens, wherever I was, women who strongly believe in a gastronomic concept of respect and togetherness, women who create praised and highly celebrated restaurants, that made me happy and confident that the future will bring more and more of these fantastic female chefs into the spotlight.

In 2017, we all lost and gained, we gave and took, and as long as the exchange feels balanced, it was a good year. Before I pull the plug and go offline for a week, finally after 4 years of constant buzzing, I have one more thing to give to you: the recipe for this joy-bringing limoncello panna cotta. Now you have a sweet recipe at hand, for the moments when life gives you lemons.

Enjoy food, wine, and especially time with the ones you love, have a happy Christmas and a joyful start to an exciting 2018!

Meike xxx

Limoncello Panna Cotta

 

Limoncello Panna Cotta

Limoncello Panna Cotta

Serves 2 to 4

gelatin sheets 2 1/2 (7 x 11-cm / 3 x 4-inch)
heavy cream 240 ml / 1 cup
whole milk 120 ml / 1/2 cup
Limoncello 60ml / 1/4 cup
lemon peel 2 long strips
granulated sugar 2 tablespoons
fine sea salt 1/8 teaspoon
lemon slices, very thinly cut for decoration (optional)
fresh mint leaves for decoration (optional)

Soak the gelatin sheets in cold water for about 5 minutes.

In a small saucepan, bring the cream, milk, Limoncell0, lemon peel, sugar, and salt to the boil. As soon as the mixture is bubbling, take the pan off the heat. Squeeze the excess water from the soaked gelatin sheets, crumble into the warm cream mixture, and whisk thoroughly. Let the mixture cool in the pan, whisking occasionally.

Once the cream mixture is at room temperature—it will still be liquid—divide it between 4 120-ml /4-ounce ramekins. Cover them with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour. Transfer the ramekins to the freezer and chill for about 35-45 minutes or until set but not frozen. Alternatively, leave the ramekins in the refrigerator for about 3 hours or overnight.

Decorate the panna cotta with lemon slices and mint just before serving.

Limoncello Panna Cotta

 

Limoncello Panna Cotta

 

Limoncello Panna Cotta

 

Limoncello Panna Cotta

 

Limoncello Panna Cotta

Langostini al Cartoccio cooked in seawater

Langostini al Cartoccio

I’m sure I spent more time in the water than on land in the past few weeks. When I’m in Malta, I turn into a fish, I practically live in and from the sea. Crystal blue water, secluded bays, and hidden caves under limestone arches are my very own little Mediterranean paradise. And once I’m out of the water, there’s often the freshest seafood on my plate. Simplicity rules Malta’s summer cuisine, a whole fish or pink crustaceans from the grill seasoned with a squeeze of lemon and some parsley from the fields, tender octopus in an aromatic stew – great quality ingredients don’t need much to shine.

Although I enjoy visiting the islands’ villages on Malta and Gozo a lot, walking down the quiet alleys and stopping for a cappuccino or ice cream at one of the old cafés, if there’s a chance to put my goggles on and snorkel, you can be sure to find me in the water within a split second. In the first week, I went to my beloved Fomm ir-Riħ to sadly find the gravel beach considerably narrowed by clay swept down from the steep hill behind it. The sea was rough, so we didn’t even bother walking down the hidden track along the cliff face. We went to Sliema’s city beach instead and I finished the day with my obligatory sun-downer – a glass of Ricard at the Exiles bar. Sitting on the warm rocks and smelling the salty air – after a dip in the sea of course – is one of the best ways to end a day in the Mediterranean.

Another trip took us to Marsaskala, a seaside village that I never really gave the attention it deserves. It’s a very Maltese place, not many tourists, old houses, bars, and palm trees lined up along the promenade where the young and old meet after sunset. I had a Ftira sandwich for dinner, but before we dove into village life we discovered a beautiful rocky beach north of the Xrobb l-Għaġin Temple. It was so peaceful, the endless sea framed by chalk-white cliffs softly sliding into the water. We were alone there, my Maltese family, my man and I snorkeled and Mama tried to catch our dinner – without success.

On one of our trips to Gozo, I discovered a recipe that I’d love to share with you today. Noel, the excellent chef at his open-air restaurant at the deep Mgarr ix-Xini bay – which is a bit tough to find – cooked the sweetest langostini al cartoccio in seawater. He doesn’t have to go far, a few steps from his place he finds the cleanest Gozitan sea, always at hand to cook seafood in his preferred method: wrapped in a package, al cartoccio, with a splash of seawater, on the grill. Don’t worry if you don’t happen to live at the sea, just use normal water mixed with the best sea salt you can find, that’s what I did in my Maltese Mama’s kitchen. We got Maltese langostini, which are the sweetest I know. Noel’s crustaceans were a little smaller than ours and tastier, however, my fish monger only had the larger size. You just have to add some lemon wedges to the package and cook it on the grill for a few minutes (or in the oven). They cooked to perfection, with a gentle touch of the salted water. I used Gozitan salt, which I find not only subtle in saltiness, but also tastier than any other I’ve tried. Choose a good one, it’s worth it when you follow simple cooking.

Langostini al Cartoccio

 

Langostini al Cartoccio

Seawater cooked Langostini al Cartoccio from the Grill

You can cook the langostini on the grill or in the oven.

Serves 2

extra wide aluminium foil
medium langostini, fresh and uncooked, 8-10
sea salt 1 tablespoon
water, warm, 300ml / 1 1/4 cups
olive oil
organic lemon, cut into wedges, 1

Start the grill or preheat the oven to 200°C / 400°F (conventional setting).

Lay 2 pieces of aluminium foil on top of each other, large enough to wrap the langostini.

Stir the salt into the warm water and let it sit until the salt dissolves. Or, if you happen to live close to the clean sea, use the same amount of fresh seawater.

Lay the langostini in the middle of the aluminium foil and fold up the sides. Add the salted water / seawater, a generous splash of olive oil, and the lemon wedges. Wrap the package and seal the ends well.

Cook the langostini for about 3-5 minutes on the grill (I closed the lid of the grill), or in the oven, until they are just done.

Serve immediately with fresh bread and, if you like, a glass of chilled white wine.

Langostini al Cartoccio

 

Langostini al Cartoccio

 

Langostini al Cartoccio

 

Langostini al Cartoccio

 

Langostini al Cartoccio

 

Langostini al Cartoccio

 

Langostini al Cartoccio

 

Langostini al Cartoccio

 

Langostini al Cartoccio

Maltese Fennel & Coriander Cheeseburger Toast

Maltese Fennel Cheeseburger Toast

A few weeks ago, I received a message from someone excitedly telling me that she visited my ‘fennel lady’ in Malta. I often wrote about this lovely farmer, on the blog and in my cookbook, and I can’t imagine cooking without her aromatic harvest anymore. Every Sunday, she spreads her fennel and coriander seeds on the wooden table at a tiny stand at the farmers’ market in Marsaxlokk, a picturesque fishermen’s village in the south of my beloved Mediterranean island. It seems like this is what she’s done all her life, picking and selling seeds, always with a happy smile on her tanned face. The person who wrote me the email did what I always do in summer: she bought bags of fragrant seeds to fill the spice box in her pantry.

Malta is the reason why fennel became so prominent in many of my recipes. It grows wild all over the islands, the plants dig their sturdy roots into every patch of soil they can find. I guess its abundance is one of the reasons why you can find fennel in many traditional dishes in Malta’s Mediterranean cuisine – and its wonderful sweet taste of course. If you visit the small local restaurants, you often find baked fennel potatoes as a side dish on the menu.

When Leerdammer asked me if I’d like to create a recipe with their new Toast and Burger Cheese, I didn’t think twice. I love a good cheeseburger. I live in Berlin, a city where new burger joints pop up at every street corner like mushrooms. Although I like to try a new spot once in a while, I still have my favourite place when my meaty cravings creep over: The Bird. I always go for a perfectly cooked steak burger topped with a slice of Swiss cheese. However, in my own kitchen, I’m a little more experimental.

Leerdammer’s aromatic cheese tastes slightly sweet and it melts on top of a warm, juicy burger like butter. The cheese has a fine taste, but it’s not shy, it can easily take a generous amount of warming spices stirred into the burger mixture: fennel and coriander seeds, alongside lots of garlic, fresh parsley, and spicy black peppercorns crushed in a mortar. I felt inspired by the famous Maltese sausage, which is coarse, rough, and so tasty. It features all the spices that you can find in my burger. When it comes to flavour, Malta’s traditional sausage is one of the richest and most delicious I know. And what works in a sausage, can’t go wrong in a burger.

The burgers are bedded on a thinly sliced fennel bulb that adds freshness and crunch, a few red onion rings and arugula (rucola) instead of a lettuce leaf brings a sharp note. Usually, I prefer to buy my cheese in one piece, but when it comes to cheeseburgers, I don’t mind working with sliced dairy products. This way it looks like a proper American style burger, one with a Mediterranean make-over. You could pack the whole thing in a bun, but what about trying something new and layering it between two thick slices of toasted white bread? And instead of using the toaster, make use of the burgers’ buttery cooking juices and crisp the bread in the pan.

Thank you Leerdammer for inspiring me to make a Maltese cheeseburger toast. You can find more Toast & Burger recipes celebrating regional treats here.

Last year I created a few scrumptious sandwiches together with Leerdamer, here are some of my favourites:

Egg, Bacon and Cheese Sandwich with Garden Vegetables
Spiced Plum and Cheese Omelette Ciabatta Sandwich
Grilled Persimmon, Ham and Cheese Sandwich with Basil

Maltese Fennel Cheeseburger Toast

 

Maltese Fennel Cheeseburger Toast

Maltese Fennel Cheeseburger Toast

Makes 4 burgers

For the burgers

minced meat (beef and pork) 500g / 18 ounces
dry breadcrumbs 30g / scant 1/4 cup
organic egg 1
garlic, crushed, 2 large cloves
fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped, 1 medium bunch
fennel seeds 1 tablespoon
coriander seeds, crushed in a mortar, 1 tablespoon
black peppercorns, crushed in a mortar, 2 teaspoons
flaky sea salt 1 1/2 teaspoons
butter, to cook the burgers
olive oil, to cook the burgers

To assemble the burger toast

fresh white loaf, 8 thick slices
medium fennel bulb, cored and very thinly sliced, 1
medium red onion, cut into thin rings, 1
Leerdammer cheese (or another aromatic cheese that melts well) 4 slices
(I used Leerdammer’s ‘Herzhaft-Intensiv’ Toast & Burger cheese. If you prefer a smoky note, go for ‘Rauchig-Würzig’.)
arugula (rucola), a small handful
olive oil
fennel seeds, crushed in a mortar, for the topping (optional)

For the burgers, in a large bowl, using your hands or a stand mixer, mix and knead the minced meat, breadcrumbs, egg, garlic, parsley, fennel seeds, coriander seeds, pepper, and salt until well combined. Shape the meat mixture into 4 thick burgers.

In a large, heavy pan, heat 1 tablespoon of butter and a generous splash of olive oil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-high, add the burgers, and, turning them 2-3 times, cook until medium rare. You might have to turn the heat down to medium after a few minutes if the burgers turn dark. This takes about 10 minutes. Add more oil if the pan becomes too dry.

Transfer the burgers to a plate (cover them with a lid), leaving the fat in the pan, and turn the heat up to high. Add the bread slices to the pan and toast each slice on just one side until golden and charred at the corners.

To assemble the burger, lay a slice of bread on a plate (toasted side facing down) and lay a few fennel slices and red onion rings on top. Arrange the warm burger and a slice of cheese on top, then finish it off with some more onion rings and a few rucola leaves. Drizzle with a little olive oil, sprinkle with some fennel seeds, and close the sandwich with a slice of bread (toasted side facing upwards). Squeeze and enjoy!

Maltese Fennel Cheeseburger Toast

 

Maltese Fennel Cheeseburger Toast

 

Maltese Fennel Cheeseburger Toast

 

Maltese Fennel Cheeseburger Toast

Lemon Butter Roast Chicken with Peaches and Rosemary

Lemon Butter Roast Chicken with Peaches and Rosemary

Roast poultry is always a feast. Nothing beats a whole roast chicken, the skin golden and crisp, the meat succulent and tender. And when it comes to seasoning the chubby bird, there are no rules to obey. Sweet or sour, fruity or veggie-focused, spiced-up or plain, a chicken can deal with everything. Lemon butter sounds fresh, tastes fresh, and turned my chicken into a perfect summer lunch. Italian peaches lend juice and fruitiness, a little sweet, but not too much, and rosemary brings in woody tones. Seeing as we’re talking about feasting, there had to be wine on the table. The bird didn’t necessarily need it, but my mood called for a German Riesling, chilled, fresh, and fruity.

If you love wine, here’s a little experiment for the next time you open a bottle: choose a good bootle of white or red wine and pour it into three to five different wine glasses. You can also go for champagne, if you’re in the mood for bubbles, but take your time and consciously taste the wine, its complex tones and colours, revealed by the dimensions of each glass, its shape, volume, height, and curves. If you have three glasses, you’ll taste three variations of the same wine.

My mother – who loves wine at least as much as she loves food – introduced me to this kind of wine tasting in my early twenties. She has a huge crystal glass collection handmade by 260 year old glass maker Riedel, not only for white, red, and sparkling wine, but also for different regional wine and grapes. The taller Bordeaux glass, the rounder Burgundy that opens at the mouth, the elegantly shaped Syrah glass, they all bring out the best, the typical characteristics of these wines. That doesn’t mean that a fine Chablis can’t be enjoyed out of a glass that was made for a Riesling, but it might miss certain nuances that give it the final touch, the magic that goes beyond words.

After my first lesson in the art of wine glasses, I decided to follow my Mama’s food steps and invest in a basic collection, my first machine-blown Riedel glasses. My budget was a bit more limited than my mother’s, I focussed on shapes that work well for various grape varieties. Riedel’s Rheingau glass, for example, is quite an allrounder, it flatters crisp and fruity whites like my beloved German Grauburgunder (pinot gris), but I also found out that a bubbly Crémant d’Alsace doesn’t mind this shape either – in case a Champagne glass isn’t at hand. When it comes to the reds, I’m a fan of body, weight, and depth. The classic Bordeaux shape goes quite well with a few of my favourite wines. These wine glasses were the start of my ever growing collection, which also led to ever growing kitchen shelves, but that’s another story.

Lemon Butter Roast Chicken with Peaches and Rosemary

 

Lemon Butter Roast Chicken with Peaches and Rosemary

Falling for wine glasses is a passion, it makes sense once you start investing in finer wines. A glass collection grows and changes every year, like a wine collection, there will be losses and new additions. It’s alive, like the wines that they’re filled with. It’s always sad to lose a precious glass, but it’s also so exciting to see a new shape added to the shelf.

When Riedel asked me, if I’d like to try out their new Fatto A Mano range, handmade at their headquarters in Kufstein in the western Austrian province of Tyrol, I could already hear my mother’s ecstatic voice. Fatto A Mano is a beautiful collection, thin and light at the top, tall and elegant, and it introduces a new feature. Inspired by the Venetian tradition of glass making, a coloured handmade stem is the base of each glass of this collection. The bowl, however, sitting on top, is machine-blown and then fused with the stem, a process developed by Riedel. The colour scheme, including bold yellow, red, blue, and green, and more minimal black and white, adds fun to the table. The art of wine making is a science, but the art of wine drinking is first and foremost a pleasure that allows us the luxury to relax and let go, to taste and just smile at life.

Setting up the table for a dinner party or a weekend lunch feast with friends – especially now, in summer – doesn’t need to follow strict rules anymore. We play with the arrangement and mix and match tableware, colours, shapes, and materials. Whatever mood I’m in, the food I choose, but also the way I lay out my table, reflects how I feel. The table is the stage for the feast, where we gather with the ones we love to enjoy a few hours of good food and wine, of closeness and conversation.

Thank you, Riedel, for introducing me to your artful Fatto A Mano collection. It has already created quite a few hours of pleasure at our table – for me and my friends.

In the pictures you see the Riedel Riesling glasses from the new Fatto A Mano range, the stemless Viognier / Chardonnay glasses from The O Wine Tumbler collection, which I used for water, and the perfectly shaped round-bellied Marne wine decanter.

Lemon Butter Roast Chicken with Peaches and Rosemary

 

Lemon Butter Roast Chicken with Peaches and Rosemary

Lemon Butter Roast Chicken with Peaches and Rosemary

You can use leftover meat, sauce, and fruit to stir into warm pasta and sprinkle with fresh basil.

Serves 2-3

unsalted butter 60g / 4 tablespoons
freshly squeezed lemon juice 75ml / 1/3 cup
whole free-range or organic chicken, about 1.5kg / 3.3 pounds, 1
flaky sea salt
ground pepper
medium sprigs fresh rosemary 6
large lemon, cut into 8 wedges, 1
large, not too soft peaches, cut into 8 wedges each, 3

Preheat the oven to 190°C / 375°F (convection setting or Rotitherm setting, if available).

In a small sauce pan, melt the butter and pour into a medium baking dish, large enough to fit the chicken in. Whisk in the lemon juice, then transfer the chicken to the baking dish and toss in the lemon butter until coated on all sides. Season the chicken with salt and pepper inside and out and lay 2 sprigs of rosemary inside the chicken. Arrange the remaining rosemary, lemon and peach wedges around the bird. Roast, spooning the juices from the pan over the chicken every 15 minutes,  for 45-55 minutes or until the juices run clear when you prick the thickest part of a chicken thigh with a skewer. Turn on the broiler (grill) for a few minutes or until the chicken skin starts sizzling, mind that it doesn’t burn. Take the chicken out of the oven and let it rest for a few minutes.

Carve the chicken and serve with the peaches and baguette to dip into the juices – and with a glass of chilled Riesling of course.

If you’re looking for a starter, or a dish to accompany the roast chicken for an easy lunch or brunch, try my leek, tomato, and thyme quiche or basil ricotta and tomato quiche.

Lemon Butter Roast Chicken with Peaches and Rosemary

 

Lemon Butter Roast Chicken with Peaches and Rosemary

 

Lemon Butter Roast Chicken with Peaches and Rosemary

 

Lemon Butter Roast Chicken with Peaches and Rosemary

 

Lemon Butter Roast Chicken with Peaches and Rosemary

 

Lemon Butter Roast Chicken with Peaches and Rosemary

 

Lemon Butter Roast Chicken with Peaches and Rosemary

 

Lemon Butter Roast Chicken with Peaches and Rosemary

 

Lemon Butter Roast Chicken with Peaches and Rosemary

 

Lemon Butter Roast Chicken with Peaches and Rosemary

Maltese Stuffed Bell Peppers from my cookbook & a short trip to Malta

Maltese Stuffed Bell Peppers

Old cities and beaches, seafood and wine! When Condé Nast Traveler asked me to take over their Instagram Stories last weekend and share some of my favourite spots in Malta, I immediately booked the flights. There’s no way I would miss a chance to visit my second home!

I’m in the Mediterranean for just a few days at the moment, but it’s enough time to visit my personal hot spots. An early morning boat ride starting in Sliema took me to Valletta to enjoy my first espresso of the day at the beautifully old fashioned Prego Caffe on the capital’s narrow South Street. It’s a beloved morning ritual of many locals, nibbling on buttery breakfast pastizzi filled with ricotta surrounded by the café’s original 60’s decor. A quick visit to the Baroque Saint Francis of Assisi Church (1607) and then I strolled through the streets – one of the most relaxing things I can imagine. If it had been a Sunday, I would have gone to St. John’s Co-Cathedral‘s early morning mass, which is held in Latin accompanied by the most heavenly sounding choir.

On the way to my next destination, Casa Rocca Piccola, I stopped by at the peaceful Lower Barakka Gardens. This place always manages to overwhelm me with its stunning views over The Grand Harbour and The Three Cities – and its almost meditative atmosphere. Frances de Piro was so kind to show me around the 400 year old private Valletta palace Casa Rocca Piccola, where she lives together with her husband, the 9th Marquis de Piro who’s a Knight of Malta, and their family. Many of the private rooms can be visited during guided tours and are a must see for everybody who loves art, history, and architecture.

My man joined me for lunch, which turned into a little feast at Scoglitti right at the sea at the Marsamxett Harbour facing Sliema. Pasta with Maltese prawns, swordfish from the grill, and a bottle of Meridiana Wine Estate‘s fruity white. Maltese Mqaret filled with dates for dessert and we were ready for a nap. Only the thought of an afternoon swim in Malta’s deep blue waters could stop us from having a siesta. We chose the secluded Delimara bay, limestone rocks and crystal-clear turquoise sea are the best conditions for a good snorkeling trip.

My perfect day in Malta wouldn’t be complete without having dinner at Legligin, my favourite restaurant in Valletta offering the most delicious Maltese tapas cooked by our friend Chris. And if it’s a Friday night, you can stroll over to Bridge Bar for their weekly open air Jazz concerts. Sitting on red cushions on the capital’s ancient stairs in front of the bar, sipping on a glass of pastis, and listening to good music make me ask myself why I should ever leave the Mediterranean (sorry Berlin).

As a part of the Instagram takeover, I also shared a recipe from my Eat In My Kitchen cookbook on Condé Nast Traveler‘s website. It’s a Maltese classic: stuffed bell peppers. Stuffed vegetables are a staple in every Maltese home. Tomato, zucchini, eggplant, pepper are filled with meat, seafood, or other vegetables and turned into the coziest treat to please a large Mediterranean family’s appetite. In my version, which you can find below, I go for green peppers cooked al dente – I don’t like them too soft and soggy – stuffed with white fish like cod, tiny zucchini cubes, tomatoes, and parsley refined with a shot of vermouth.

If you can’t travel at the moment, just cook a dish that reminds you of your favourite holiday spot, close your eyes, and you’ll almost be there.

Maltese Stuffed Bell Peppers

 

Maltese Stuffed Bell Peppers

Maltese Stuffed Bell Peppers with Cod, Tomatoes, and Zucchini

from Eat In My Kitchen, To cook, to bake, to eat, and to treat

Serves 4

4 to 5 medium green bell peppers
Olive oil
1 ½ tablespoons butter
510g / 18 ounces cod fillet (or any firm, white fish, such as monkfish or grouper), preferably 1 thick center piece
Fine sea salt
Ground pepper
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 large clove garlic, crushed
340g / 12 ounces zucchini, cut into very small cubes
60ml / ¼ cup dry white vermouth, like Noilly Prat, or dry white wine
1 medium tomato, cut into small cubes
3 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves, plus 1 to 2 tablespoons for garnish

Preheat the oven to 220°C / 425°F.

Cut the tops off the peppers. Scrape out and discard the seeds and fibers, then rinse the peppers and set aside.

In a heavy pan, large enough to fit the fish, heat a generous splash of olive oil and the butter over medium-high heat. Sear the fish, turning once, for 1 to 3 minutes per side or until golden and flaky—mind that you don’t overcook it. Remove from the heat, break the fish into chunks, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

In a large, heavy pan, heat a splash of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes or until soft and golden. Add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Pour in a little more olive oil, add the zucchini, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Sauté for about 4 minutes or until soft. Add the vermouth and cook, stirring and letting the alcohol burn off, for about 10 seconds. Take the pan off the heat, stir in the tomato and parsley, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

To combine the filling, spread half the zucchini-tomato mixture on a large plate, lay the fish on top, and finish with the remaining vegetables. Adjust the seasoning if necessary.

Season the inside of the bell peppers with salt and pepper. Using a large spoon, generously stuff the peppers with the zucchini-cod mixture without pushing on the filling too much. If you have leftover filling, stuff the fifth bell pepper. Place the tops on the peppers and place them in a baking dish. Add a splash of water to cover the bottom of the dish and bake for about 25 minutes or until the bell peppers are al dente and the tops turn dark. Take the peppers out of the oven, sprinkle with more parsley, and serve warm.

Malta

 

Maltese Stuffed Bell Peppers

A Summery Berry and Bacon Panzanella with Rosemary

Berry and Bacon Panzanella

A Tuscan Panzanella salad had been on my mind for weeks, I could clearly picture the colourful composition: Dark red cherries, crunchy bacon, crisp arugula (rucola), and chunks of spongy ciabatta dripping with olive oil and thick Balsamico vinegar and then sprinkled with woody rosemary. I was just waiting for the fruits to arrive at my Turkish vegetable shop around the corner.

Unfortunately, the day I planned to throw the salad together, my trusted vegetable man didn’t have cherries and – what worried me even more – the weather was dull and grey. The first problem was easily solved, I replaced sweet cherries with even juicier strawberries, blueberries, and figs, which made the whole thing even more mushy and luscious. It tasted great, but the soggy look made it rather difficult to catch a pretty picture. Even more so as they just put scaffolding in front of my kitchen window, which means the light situation in this room is far from ideal.

In these moments I always know why I love food so much and why photography, sometimes, drives me crazy. Food either tastes good or it doesn’t, of course it should look appetizing, but I believe what tastes good also looks good. But photography has its own rules and mysteries, to be able to capture a dish’s yumminess in a picture, the conditions need to be right, especially the light. So please, when you look at the pictures in today’s post, think of summery-sweet fruit juices, porky saltiness crisped in the pan, the freshness of green leaves, and the confidence of Mediterranean rosemary. Buon appetito!

Berry and Bacon Panzanella

Berry and Bacon Panzanella with Rosemary

Serves 2-4

For the dressing

olive oil 3 tablespoons
Balsamic vinegar 1 tablespoon
white Balsamic vinegar 1 tablespoon
fresh rosemary, very finely chopped, about 2 teaspoons
fine sea salt
ground pepper

For the Panzanella

olive oil
bacon 4 slices
arugula (rucola) or mixed lettuce leaves, torn, a large handful
ciabatta or rustic white loaf, cut into chunks, 2 large handfuls
strawberries, cut in half, a handful
blueberries, a handful
figs, quartered, 2

For the dressing, whisk all the ingredients together and season to taste with salt and pepper.

For the Panzanella, heat a small splash of olive oil in a heavy pan over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook for a few minutes on both sides until crispy and golden brown. Take the bacon out of the pan, let it cool for a few minutes, and break into large pieces.

In a large bowl, spread the greens and lay the chunks of bread on top. Arrange the fruits and bacon on top of the bread and pour the dressing all over the Panzanella. Serve immediately, preferably for lunch, accompanied by a glass of white or rosé wine, and think of your next holiday.

Berry and Bacon Panzanella

 

Berry and Bacon Panzanella

 

Berry and Bacon Panzanella

 

Berry and Bacon Panzanella

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers:

%d bloggers like this: