Renata’s Red Beans and Rice

My sister, Renata, is a fantastic cook. Unlike me, she’s humble and understated; she doesn’t feel the need to spray her accomplishments all over the internet. But she is supremely accomplished in the kitchen, and a master of comfort food. I don’t mean that in some passive-aggressive denigrating way. Hers is the kind of food you crave when the weather is cold and blowy and you’re feeling a little forlorn. It’s the food you share with family and close friends.

This recipe is for Renata’s famous red beans and rice, which is adapted from a recipe by Nuyorican chef Joe Quintana. Continue reading

Salad Days

June has been a busy month over at Susan Eats London, or perhaps it’s just that I have been busy. I have been doing lots of running around (a whirlwind trip to New York in the middle of the month, and then I’m going back again at the end of the week), and I’ve had a month of wonderful eating – generally thanks to the benevolent interventions of others. There was the gut-busting Indian luncheon prepared by the phenomenally talented Asma Khan, to which I scored an invitation after serendipitously meeting friend Nayan at the Marylebone Summer Fayre. There was the oh-so-British celebration of English asparagus courtesy of Friends Jess and Will, featuring asparagus three ways (although I ended up making the asparagus risotto and the roasted asparagus). And then there was beef. Correction: there is beef. A lot of beef. Continue reading

Toasted Bulghur Salad with Spring Vegetables and Lemon-Tahini Dressing

In London we have had one of the coldest, wettest springs on record. This morning when I went to the Marylebone Farmer’s Market people were heroically sitting in the nearby park wearing wool hats and scarves. I was wearing a winter jacket, and I was still chilly. Nevertheless, my circadian clock tells me summer is coming, or at least I think that’s why I have stopped craving big dark wintry stews and instead hanker after light fresh-tasting salads. This bulghur salad is a request from my sister. (I LOVE getting requests for recipes.) She apparently has a lot of bulghur in her pantry, and as it happens so do I: last week I crankily picked up a sack of coarse bulghur for 70 p from one of the innumerable Middle Eastern groceries that dot northwest London so I could meet the £5 minimum to use my credit card. But how fortuitous! I love this salad. Continue reading

Moroccan Stewed Pumpkin with Chickpeas and Preserved Lemon

I have been feeling Blog Guilt lately (as a nice Jewish girl, I am good at guilt, especially over pointless things) because I haven’t posted any vegetarian recipes for a while. But, vegetarians, this recipe is a delicious vegetarian gem. It is one of those recipes that you feed to ignoramus meat eaters and say “take that!” and they say, “I didn’t realize vegetarian cooking could be so tasty!” and you smile smugly and maybe you tell them it is vegan just to really mess with their heads. This recipe came about as a happy kitchen accident, which is my favourite kind. There was The Pumpkin which I bought on impulse because it was an exciting blue-gray colour, and then there was the sack of onions that I bought with the vague idea of making onion jam. And the rest, as they say, was delicious. Continue reading

Foraging and Cooking with Wild Garlic

Last week a new friend of mine, Nicola (a brilliant cook and blogger in her own right), crowed on Twitter about a recent discovery: she’d found loads of wild garlic at a Secret Location. I immediately demanded to be taken to the spot. She agreed, but not before exacting a “wild garlic tax” (some of my orange-blossom-saffron-vanilla macarons). It was an easy trade. I adore wild garlic. Wild garlic, also known as ramps, wild leek, and wood leek, grows in cool damp woody areas. Its colour is strikingly chlorophyll green and it’s got a sharp allium flavour and intense aroma. It’s gorgeous stuff. Monday, the appointed day, was cool and very wet. Nicola picked me up from an Overground station, her sweet and excitable dog, Toro, in the back of the car, and drove us to the Secret Location, a lovely wooded path Somewhere In London. Continue reading

Butternut Squash and Ricotta Gnocchi

A lot of people are intimidated by gnocchi. With good reason, too – it’s hard to get gnocchi right. We’ve all had leaden, chewy gnocchi, and chances are we’ve even had them at Italian restaurants. Chances also are we’ve made them. I know that my first few attempts at making gnocchi were failures – either I overworked the dough, or I added too much flour, or I didn’t add enough and the gnocchi fell apart in the water. Yet that Platonic ideal of gnocchi has always been out there, tantalizingly: delicate, light, feathery-soft gnocchi that hold their shape yet yield at the slightest touch of a fork. I can (and do) make good gnocchi now, and there are tricks to it, which can be distilled to two basic rules. Continue reading

Polish Sorrel Soup (Zupa Szczawiowa)

Eastern Europeans have been foragers since long before ‘foraging’ became synonymous with Rene Redzepi and trendy $160 copycat tasting menus. I grew up in New York City, but my Polish mother has a Northerner’s intolerance for heat and a Pole’s love for woods and mountains and cold lakes to swim in. In the New York summers, when the humidity index crawled up to 95% and the air was thick with the stench of gingko and the sidewalks beat with a steady heat, my mother would escape to upstate New York with me and my sister, while my poor father commuted up on the weekends.

Carless, my mother would take us for walks through cow pastures and up grass-covered ski slopes into quiet woods of maple and pine. Continue reading

Caramelized Shallot, Yam, and Coconut Soup

I am sorry for the long hiatus since I last posted a recipe. I’ve been gallivanting around the west coast (Seattle to San Francisco) and cooked hardly at all (although I ate plenty). San Francisco is having a summery winter with unseasonably mild sunny t-shirt-and-flip-flop weather, but since my return to London this past Monday it has been FREEZING outside, and last night we even had snow. Soup weather I call this, when I’m not calling it something more unprintable. I’ve been craving a yam and coconut soup with a bit of tropical heat, but my complaint with such soups is that they often taste like holiday desserts – too light and sweet without any sonorous depth to round out the flavour. On a particularly cold day this week I trekked (i.e., took a bus) to the farmers market at Swiss Cottage. It’s wee, but one of my favourite veg sellers is there, and I came home laden with root vegetables and good ideas. Continue reading

Winter Fava Bean and Fennel Salad

On Tuesday I finally had a long-planned lunch date with the lovely Sabrina Ghayour in  Brixton Village. Initially conceived as an outing for an Honest Burger (really good burgers are hard to come by in London), it morphed into a four-hour movable feast (hashtag: #Brixtonfoodcrawl). After a tasty lamb samosa at Elephant and a burger so blessedly rare it was practically mooing, somewhere in between sourdough donuts at Wild Caper and mussels at Etta’s Seafood Kitchen (a chilled out Caribbean café a far cry from the Tom Douglas eatery of the same name in Seattle), what did I do? I shopped of course. For food, naturally. Continue reading

Sautéed Shredded Brussels Sprouts with Nigella Seeds and Orange

It’s an exciting and wonderful thing to cook with a new ingredient for the first time. There’s that lovely thrill of discovery and invention. And sometimes, there’s a sharp ‘ping’ of recognition, when a new ingredient or spice turns out to be something unknown you’ve loved (unknowingly) for a long time. My exhilarating new culinary discovery (and long-lost unknown love) is nigella seeds. Continue reading