Garlic and Puy Lentil Soup with Smoked Paprika and Spicy Greens

There are few flavour combinations that I like so well as garlic and paprika. Married to one another, garlic and paprika have a greater-than-the-sum-of-their-parts appeal, a briny, lingering, and distinctive aroma and flavour that work equally well with seafood and meat, with pulses and with vegetables. I am, of course, immensely fond of Spanish food, which some might say has its foundations in this happy union. Paprika, or pimentón, supposedly was brought to Spain from the Americas by Christopher Columbus, and it has become such an integral part of Spanish food that in Spain, paprika is rigorously regulated for quality, with denominations of origin, like wine and olive oil. When cooking with paprika, invest in high-quality Spanish paprika (it makes such a difference), and keep both sweet and smoked in your cupboard – you’ll use both. Continue reading

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Chłodnik (Chilled Polish Beet Soup)

Apparently the propitiation of the sun gods has worked: London has finally gotten a real hit of summer this week, and what a glorious week it’s been. People here are giddy; delirious even. Bathed in lambent sunlight, the narrow passageways and brick soften. The city at once feels broader and more open, and more risqué. London’s decided to show some milky-white leg. My flat has windows that face east and west. In the winter, when the sun sets at four o’clock, these windows are a lifesaver. These past few days, however, the afternoon sun has baked my front room to a sub-tropical heat. Working at home, I douse my top in water (a trick I learned from a friend who had family in Death Valley) and type until the water evaporates.

When I lived in Seattle, during the hot summers (they can and do get hot) I’d make a soup that I knew of only as my mother’s cold summer beet soup. I’d make it by the pitcher, pour it into glasses, and drink it. When the pitcher was empty, I’d make another batch. Soon friends in the know would drop by for some in the afternoons. Vividly pink-magenta, this soup is delightfully sweet-tangy and refreshing; it gives gazpacho a run for its money. I only learned its Polish name when I decided to make it for this blog. Continue reading

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

Braised Baby Artichokes with Chestnut Honey and Thyme

In the microuniverse of blogging, there are few controversies more spirited than the debate over sponsored posts and advertising. I personally don’t like advertising banners and badges on blogs – they’re distracting, unsightly, and (perhaps irrationally) they make me slightly suspicious of the blogger. My attitude may be self-indulgent – after all, great segments of bloggers’ conferences are devoted to “monetizing” your blog. (I admit I have never been to a bloggers’ conference.) But I figure this is MY blog and I can do what I like with it. I sneeringly turned down advertisements from a reputable Large London Grocer and I have decidedly mixed feelings about blogging restaurant reviews from places that offer free meals in exchange for a review. (Chris, at Cheese and Biscuits, does a nice job of describing the queasy internal conflict that goes along with the freebie here. He gets way, WAY more freebies than I ever will.)

All that said, however, I have a slightly different attitude to products. I think this is probably because I make everything from scratch and it’s hard to hide behind a raw ingredient. Plus if I’m lucky it gives me the opportunity to cook with something that I might not otherwise have tried. I’m pretty choosy about what I’ll accept – I have to like the people that are offering the item to me; e.g., I have to respect their ethos and their approach to food-sourcing. But I was pretty excited when the nice folks at Seggiano (a small family-run Italian food importer) invited me to choose some items from their catalogue. A box duly was delivered on Monday, and yesterday I took a crack at creating a recipe from one of the most intriguing of the contents: chestnut honey. To be clear: I got the honey for free, but I am not otherwise being paid to write this post. 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

Another Roll in the Allium (More Wild Garlic Recipes)

Unless you’ve been under a rock or you live in the Southern hemisphere, you probably know that wild garlic is currently in season. Wild garlic, called wild leeks or ramps in the United States, is annoyingly but deservedly trendy. It is (a) delicious; (b) beautiful; and (c) did I mention delicious? As I discovered, it also freezes beautifully; although the leaves lose their structural integrity, they maintain their colour and pungent flavour. To freeze wild garlic, simply chop finely or puree in a food processor, pack in a Tupperware, and pop in your freezer.

Perhaps, like me, you were lucky enough to “find” wild garlic actually growing wild, and you greedily picked way more than you could possibly use at once. (It still counts as finding it if someone else found it first and showed you where, right?) Or maybe you bought a bunch at a Farmers Market, used some leaves in a recipe, and now are wondering what the heck to do with the rest. Or maybe you just need a little inspiration. Whatever your need, here are three lovely things to do with wild garlic when you’re at a loss. For what it’s worth, all of these recipes were made using wild garlic that I had previously frozen. 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

Jamaican Jerk Sauce

To those of you who read my blog with any regularity and/or know me personally, and who know of my ADDICTION to spicy food (I don’t think that’s too strong a word), it should come as no surprise that I have been obsessed with making, and perfecting, my own Jamaican jerk sauce. I should state a disclaimer: I have never been to Jamaica. But I’ve loved jerk seasoning ever since I first encountered a seriously fiery jerk paste while I was working in a spice shop at age 21. I’ve conducted exhaustive “research” on Jamaican jerk sauce; i.e., I eat jerk whenever I can and I try lots of different jerk sauces. London’s got a huge West Indian population, and during the Notting Hill Carnival, my favourite place to be is Golborne Road, where the food stalls are crammed the tightest, the air is so smoky from oil drum barbecues it makes your eyes sting, and you can get a plate of jerk chicken and rice and peas and plantains for £5. 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