What shall we do? What shall we cook? What shall we buy?

In the last few days, as things became more and more worrying due to the worldwide pandemic situation, I thought a lot about my granny, my Oma Lisa. I thought about her life during war times and poverty, and I thought about her way of cooking that was fundamentally shaped during those times. The ingredients cheap and accessible, recipes made to feed and nourish a large family of six children without too much fuss. Lisa had to keep things running, cooking wasn’t a question of lifestyle, it was a necessity. But still, she managed to turn it into something so joyful and special that she instilled this feeling into all of her six children who then passed it on to her grandchildren – and I’m one of them.

It was a very rational way of cooking. Potatoes were a staple, they store well, are healthy, and versatile. Whenever I visited her she used them abundantly, for latkes (Reibekuchen), or with a dollop of quark with chives, or she mashed and served them with sauce, or fried with bacon and onions. In her times, vegetables were used according to the seasons, cabbage and legumes during the winter months, cucumber salad as soon as spring opened its wings. She was a food loving mother and grandmother who naturally followed the calendar in her kitchen, and we, her hungry children and grandchildren, followed her to the kitchen in awe and excitement.

Last week I was stuck in Malta, all flights to Germany were cancelled and we were put into mandatory quarantine as my man arrived on the island the day as this decree was declared. There weren’t many other countries that still kept their borders open to flights in and out of Germany. I left via Budapest, scared for hours that my connection flight to Berlin would get cancelled and that I’d be stuck in Hungary for weeks. It worked out, yet that day was a changing point. It was the day I understood that the world had changed.

The biggest difference between my granny’s and my own kitchen is the large pantry she had in the cellar of her house. Cool and dark, it was home to endless shelves filled with jars of pickled and preserved fruits and vegetables, of jams and baked treats. Lisa lived on a farm before she moved to that house. Nature taught her well when she was a young woman. Humbly, wisely, and gratefully, all her life she used what nature gave her to eat. Nothing went to waste, everything had to be used. Lisa had a plump cherry tree in her garden. An old swing dangling from a thick branch was my happy place where I’d sit and dream while she was cooking. The harvest from that tree was always abundant and she made use of every single fruit. And she gave to others what she didn’t need for her family, or she swapped.

This memory came back as I found myself in my Berlin kitchen after Malta. I immediately started to think of my shopping and cooking plan for the weeks and months to come. And I reconnected with friends and family to see what they need. Staying calm and sensible, I tried at least. So what do I need to stock up on? I don’t have a large pantry. What dishes am I going to cook or what dishes should I cook? What should I buy and how much? I tried to channel my inner Oma Lisa and assimilate her skill to humbly adapt to whatever life puts in front of you. The women of her generation just got things done when they needed to be done, so why shouldn’t we do the same now? Although times have changed – our way of cooking has changed since her days – my decisions should be just as responsible and deliberate as hers. And beyond my personal worries in this situation, now more than ever is not the time to only think about myself but also about the people around me. In our little community we are staying in close touch and letting each other know if anyone needs something. We share and swap food and stories, like Lisa with her cherries. We talk about our fears, we laugh and cry together (on the phone), but we know that we’re not alone in this and that feels really good.

The list below reflects the way I cook, what I store in my pantry shelves, fridge, and freezer, it’s personal (that’s why you won’t find quinoa on this list). I hope it gives some help and inspiration but you should adapt it to your preferences. You can find many recipes that I will be using myself in both my cookbooks (365 and Eat In My Kitchen) and in the blog’s archive and I’m sure that the internet, all the great cookbooks that are out there, and especially the culinary chats with family and friends offer enough inspiration to cook and bake for years. At the end of this post are two recipes from 365 that indulge in the joy of pasta (recipe no. 59 and no. 102 from the book): one is based on pantry staples – Spaghetti with Sun-Dried Tomato and Pistachio Pesto – and the other is a seasonal celebration of ramp pesto and green asparagus crowned by a creamy burrata.

But let’s start with our SHOPPING:

I generally go shopping once a week. Especially now, I’m trying to minimize contact with others. In the first days after my shopping, I use the fresh vegetables, meat, and fish that don’t last long. Wilting greens and leftover bones are used for cooking broth, which I freeze in small portions. Pantry staples help out when the vegetable drawer is empty.

My cooking will gravitate around carbs in the weeks and months to come, adding fresh ingredients as they will be available. Roots, legumes (dried and canned, also for protein), and grains/ pasta will be my daily playing field.

-Essentials-

Pantry and window sill staples:

Olive oil, dark and white Balsamic vinegar, tahini, mustard

Sea salt (mine is from the Cinis in Gozo)

Spices (black peppercorns, bay leaves, fennel seeds, coriander seeds, nutmeg, juniper and allspice berries, cumin, cinnamon, cardamom, dried oregano and marjoram)

Nuts (pistachios, cashews, and pine seeds for snacks and pesto) and dried fruits (dates, prunes, and apricots are a great addition to minced meat)

All-purpose flour (I use white spelt flour/ Type 630), sugar, fast-acting yeast, baking powder, baking soda, oats (for baking and breakfast: cooked with water, tahini, a pinch of salt, and whatever fruit is at hand), plus fine durum wheat pasta flour and chickpea flour for special cooking projects

Additional note for baking with yeast (March 28th): I started a little kitchen experiment, I decided to grow my own sourdough starter. It’s impossible to get yeast in Berlin at the moment, so why not use and cultivate the wild yeast that’s naturally in the air and flour? Yesterday was Day 1 and you can follow the daily progress in my Instagram Highlight Stories called ‘Sourdough’. I will update and share new stories every day. Click here! And here’s the link to the process of baking my first Tartine Basic Country Bread (recipe from Chad Robertson’s Tartine Bread book): Click here!

Green and black olives, capers, sun-dried tomatoes, preserved artichoke hearts, anchovies, canned sardines (for sandwiches and pizza) and canned tuna (for mixed salads with hardboiled eggs)

Onions and garlic

Fresh herbs (basil, thyme, rosemary, sage, mint)

Citrus fruit (lemon and orange for zest and juice)

Roots/ winter squash:

Potatoes, sweet potatoes, beets, parsnip, and squash (Hokkaido and butternut squash are still available and store well)

You can roast roots/ squash in the oven or boil and mash with olive oil (or milk and butter) and add fresh herbs, spices, lemon zest, chopped olives. I boil a bunch of beets every week to add to salads or simply dice roughly and enjoy with olive oil and sea salt. Roots and squash make a minestrone a little richer (squash is often used in the Maltese minestra, roughly mashed for a thicker texture).

Legumes:

Dried and canned beans (butter beans, cannellini, cranberry/ borlotti, and kidney beans) and chickpeas; dried lentils that don’t require soaking (French green Puy lentils, yellow, red, and black beluga lentils)

Dried legumes can be cooked in unsalted water with fresh herbs like thyme and rosemary (dried beans/ chickpeas need to first soak overnight) then add a splash of olive oil; or add them to soups/ stews; leftover green and beluga lentils can be turned into patties (drained then adding flour, egg, and seasoning)

Canned legumes can be used uncooked for salads and hummus, added to minestrone or other soups/ stews, or cooked briefly in a splash of olive and refined with spices. Then you can either serve them directly or mash with olive oil, something I became particularly fond of in the last couple months.

Fresh green beans, fava beans, and peas can be blanched in salted water and served immediately or frozen (I always have a large bag of frozen peas and fava beans in my freezer).

Grains and dried pasta:

Spaghetti, short pasta, lasagna sheets, polenta, whole grains (buckwheat, spelt, farro, couscous, bulgur), and rice

For pasta there are no limits, yet a bowl of simple spaghetti just with butter, Parmesan, and black pepper (Cacio e Pepe) can be heaven on earth. Leftover pasta can be used for Froga tat-Tarja (Maltese pasta omelette). Short pasta (rice size) can be cooked like a risotto (see Maltese Kusksu with Poached Eggs and Goat Cheese).

When I cook polenta, I like to cook more than I need and serve it soft and smooth on the first day as a side for vegetables or braised meat. Then on the second day, you can spread it in a baking dish (finger thick) and bake for a few minutes then cut into squares and serve with sage butter; or turn it into polenta lasagna: layer the baked polenta slices with Bolognese sauce (or any other red sauce) and Parmesan and bake in the oven.

Buckwheat, farro, and spelt may sound a bit uninspiring but taste surprisingly good when they are boiled in salted water and then served with a knob of butter and some salt stirred in (added fresh herbs or spices won’t harm it either)

Cheese (that stores well): 

Parmesan, pecorino, feta (plus mozzarella, raclette and blue cheese if available and needed)

-Fresh produce and products-

Fresh vegetables and fruit:

I buy fresh produce once a week according to what I need and what’s available and use it raw or cooked for salads, raw as a snack with pesto or sautéed in olive oil, to mix with legumes and pasta/grains, or for soups. I always cook more soup from the start and freeze any leftovers. Wilting vegetables are used for broth then frozen for soups and risotto. Red and white/ green cabbage stays fresh in the fridge for weeks and shredded they are a crunchy addition to salads.

Eggs, yoghurt, milk, butter:

I buy them fresh once a week according to what I need. I barely use butter, olive oil is my go to fat (it also stores much easier), however you can also freeze butter, which is helpful for spontaneous baking.

Meat and fish:

We usually eat meat or fish once a week. It will be one of the first things for us to skip if necessary, especially fresh fish.

If the meat is braised (beef or lamb shanks/ oxtail/ rough cuts for braising), I cook more from the start and freeze the leftovers, which are great for pasta and potatoes. Any leftover bones are turned into broth. I’m a huge fan of minced beef, be it meatloaf or small patties/ burgers, which taste great both cold and warm (there’s a leek and mountain cheese meatloaf in Eat In My Kitchen and a meatloaf with spices and dates in 365). One of my favorite minced meat dishes since my childhood days is Labskaus (also in 365), a stew made of potatoes, beets, minced beef, and pickled gherkins. It’s a traditional dish that sailors used to eat on their travels during the times of the great ships (they made it with corned beef). In Northern Germany, some even add pickled herring. It sounds strange but I love it and it freezes well.

Coarse sausages (such as salsiccia) also freeze well (uncooked) and when you peel and cut them into small portions you can shape them into little polpette and turn them into the quickest meatballs.

Tomato sauce (canned tomatoes) with bacon and fennel seed is an easy substitute for classic Bolognese sauce (for spaghetti and lasagna, you can also add fresh fennel).

COOKING AND BAKING

Cooking is like building a house, it’s assembling blocks and you choose which blocks you want to use to make it your own. There are many ways to build this house, yet at the moment keep in mind that it’s important to strengthen your body and boost your immune system. We often underestimate the very simple, frugal dishes and now’s the time to rediscover them. A couple months ago I found a cauliflower recipe in Anna Del Conte’s Gastronomy of Italy. I’m generally not too fond of cauliflower but I love Anna’s honest Italian cooking so I gave it a go: She sautées onions and garlic, adds tomato pasta and broth (which makes a fantastic sauce) and cooks the cauliflower for around 20 minutes. At the end she adds parsley, I added basil. This recipe also works with broccoli, potatoes, and green beans, capers or anchovies would also fit.

Try to establish special traditions that keep feeding your curiosity in the kitchen, sparking excitement and inspiration, even in tougher times. Every Sunday, we bake pizza from scratch – the reason I always have flour and yeast in stock. The toppings vary, the pleasure is real. You can also introduce a special sandwich day for your family and declare a sandwich challenge/ competition (check out the blog’s Sandwich Wednesday). Is there a cooking or baking technique you’ve been wanting to learn for years, like sourdough? Now go for it! Apart from sweet baking you can also opt for savory treats like quiche, which is just as rewarding and the vegetable filling easily adapts to the seasons (fennel, green beans, peas, squash, tomato, leek). And if you feel close to a breakdown, just bake cookies. Nothing is more satisfying than filling the cookie jars to the rim with your own creations.

-Regular kitchen projects-

Homemade pesto and hummus:

Pesto is a thing of genius, and so is hummus. Both last for days, freeze well, and turn all kinds of raw and roasted vegetables, cooked grains, poultry, fish, and sandwiches into a burst of flavor. I like to stretch the terms ‘pesto’ and ‘hummus’ in my kitchen and use it for every vegetable, legume, and herb that my food processor can turn into something dollop-able.

Inspiration for pesto: basil, ramps (the season just started), arugula, parsley-black olive, dried tomato-pistachio, tapenade (French black olive dip), cilantro-pistachio, blanched peas or fava beans, mixed leftover herbs, walnut-parsley

Inspiration for hummus: chickpeas, beet-chickpeas, white or fava beans, lentils (I’ve also seen carrot hummus but never tried it myself)

Preserved lemons:

If you can find small lemons, now’s the time for this rewarding kitchen project. I use them for sandwiches, pizza, sautéed vegetables, and pasta. For the recipe click here, it’s also in Eat In My Kitchen).

Yeast dough:

Making pizza and focaccia (click here), or your own pretzel buns (click here/ also Eat In My Kitchen), is better than any therapy and can be breakfast, lunch, or dinner for a couple days.

General links to recipes on the blog

You can also use the Search function at the top of the blog’s Recipe page for inspiration (click here): search for any ingredient and it will show the related posts and recipes that I wrote about in the last few years.

General pasta and grain recipes (click here)
General salad recipes (click here)
General vegetable recipes (click here)
General soup recipes (click here)
General meat recipes (click here)
General fish and seafood recipes (click here)
General cake and dessert recipes (click here)
General sandwich recipes (click here)
Quiche, pizza, and focaccia recipes (click here)

Restaurants all over the world are struggling to survive at the moment. A lot of them offer take-out, which allows them to keep operating. Please support them if you can.

Cooking and baking goes beyond necessity, it nourishes our body but the effect it has on our mind and soul is just as essential. It calms us down and puts things in perspective when life feels utterly overwhelming.

Writing these words is a very strange experience. I find myself in a world that I wouldn’t have imagined just a few weeks ago. A world I don’t really know how to deal with, not yet. When I’m absorbed in cooking or writing these days, not thinking about the current situation, it feels like visiting my old life, but I feel physically shocked when reality comes back to mind without warning. It feels like waking up from a dream. The only thing that helps is knowing that we’re all in this together. We are not alone. Despite my fear, there’s a beautiful, strong feeling of togetherness, unconditional help, and solidarity. I guess that’s the same feeling that helped my Oma Lisa to get through.

Stay safe, stay home as much as possible, stay away from others but stay positive and hungry for life.

Sending a big virtual hug,

Meike xxx

Spaghetti with Asparagus, Burrata and Ramp Pesto (from 365)

Serves 2

For the pesto*
2 ounces (60 g) ramp or ramson leaves
1 ounce (30 g) Parmesan, finely grated
1/4 cup (60 ml) olive oil
1/4 tsp fine sea salt

For the pasta
1 pound (450 g) trimmed green asparagus 
6 ounces (170 g) dried spaghetti
Olive oil
7 ounces (200 g) burrata (or mozzarella di bufala), torn in half
Fine sea salt
Coarsely ground pepper

For the pesto, purée the ramp leaves, Parmesan, olive oil, and salt in a food processor or blender until smooth. 

For the pasta, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and blanch the asparagus for about 3 minutes or until al dente. Using a slotted ladle or spoon, transfer the asparagus to a colander, reserving the cooking water in the pot, then drain and quickly rinse with cold water. Cut each stalk into quarters lengthwise.

Put the pot used to cook the asparagus back on the heat, adding more water if necessary, and bring to a boil. Cook the spaghetti, according to the package instructions, until al dente. Drain the spaghetti and return it to the pot. Add a splash of olive oil and toss to coat. Divide the spaghetti and asparagus among the plates. Add the burrata and drizzle with the pesto. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve immediately.

* You can double the recipe and use the leftover pesto for sandwiches, potatoes, and salads.  

____________________________

Spaghetti with Sun-Dried Tomato and Pistachio Pesto (from 365)

Serves 2

For the pesto*
2 ounces (60 g) sun-dried tomatoes, preserved in salt
2 ounces (60 g) salted pistachios, plus 1 to 2 tbsp chopped pistachios for the topping
1/4 cup (60 ml) olive oil
1 large clove garlic, crushed

For the pasta
7 ounces (200 g) dried spaghetti
Olive oil
Coarsely ground pepper

For the pesto, bring a small pot of water to a boil and cook the sun-dried tomatoes for 3 to 4 minutes or until soft. Remove the tomatoes with a slotted ladle or spoon and transfer to a plate; reserve the cooking water. Drain and rinse the sun-dried tomatoes under cold water, dry with paper towels, and transfer to a food processor or blender. Add 4 tablespoons of the cooking water, 2 ounces (60 g) of pistachios, the olive oil, and garlic and purée until smooth. If the pesto is too dry, add a little more of the cooking water.

For the pasta, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the spaghetti, according to the package instructions, until al dente. Drain the spaghetti, divide among plates, and drizzle with a little olive oil. Sprinkle with the pesto, chopped pistachios, and a little pepper and serve warm.

* You can use leftover pesto as a spread on bread.

Enjoy!

Clean-Out-The-Fridge Soups

Food52 asked me about my approach to soups. Not just any soups, but big-flavor, clean-out-the-fridge soups to cure the winter blues. I love them now, but that wasn’t always the case. We’re like friends that had to learn to love each other. So I shared our bumpy love story, my basic soup formula, and three soup recipes from my new book, 365, on food52.com. Converted and convinced that a soup can be one of the best things to find on your dining table after a long day of work, I also decided to share my article on these pages here (you can find one of the recipes from 365 – for recipe no. 13: Kale and Borlotti Bean Soup with Poached Eggs – below):

We have a new habit, we often have soup for lunch, which is actually our breakfast as we only have green tea with lemon in the morning. My man started this new tradition a few weeks ago and I happily join in when I’m not in the mood for porridge or sandwiches. My relationship with liquid foods wasn’t always so harmonic. Soups and stews are very popular in Germany, thick lentil, pea, or potato soup enriched with smoked sausage (Knackwurst or Knacker) is a German winter classic. As a child, I ate it, but I wasn’t particularly fond of it. There was something missing, or maybe I just wasn’t ready yet. Then the eighties came, the Nouvelle Cuisine reached home kitchens and all of a sudden soups where always puréed and as bright as candy: yellow squash, purple beet, squeaking green pea pod. Shallow bowls filled with colorful compositions, smooth and shiny, conquered the menus but unfortunately not my palate. Despite their vibrancy, they didn’t excite me. This is essential to me, and my taste buds – I want, I need food to excite me. So I took a break of many, many years until I found the kind of soup that I like.

Fast-forward to today and it has become a constant in my weekly culinary routine. My basic soup formula is very simple:
1. Canned legumes and dried lentils that don’t need to soak overnight. I always have a vast collection of cans filled with butter beans, cannellini, borlotti (cranberry) and kidney beans on my pantry shelves, and bags of black beluga lentils, dark green French Puy lentils, and yellow and red lentils. Legumes make a soup rich and wholesome, they add heartiness and a nutty touch. It’s what turns a light soup into a proper meal.
2. Cleaning out the vegetable drawer. This drawer is a treasure box that needs to be emptied once in a while. Leafy vegetables, kale, chard, and spinach that start to wilt, sturdy roots like potatoes, parsnip, and beets that lie forgotten, the whole range of winter and summer squash, fresh beans, peas, and tomatoes. Every season has its produce that’s just waiting to crown a soup.
3. Using homemade or quality store-bought broth. My mother taught me to always cook my own broth, with leftover vegetables, chicken, duck, and beef bones, with fresh herbs and whole spices like allspice, peppercorns, and juniper berries. And a bay leaf, always a bay leaf. I then freeze it in 4-cup portions to have my tasty broth right at hand whenever I need it. I never use instant broth as I find it adds an artificial flavor. Broth is the base of a soup, it adds its taste to all the other ingredients and therefore deserves utmost attention.

Soups can easily follow the seasons and the cook’s mood. I want to throw them together spontaneously, quickly, without too much planning or overthinking. A quick look in the pantry and fridge and my mind starts playing. A soup is a simple, a frugal dish, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be exciting. Playing with flavors is a boundless game, playing with textures is at least as rewarding. And varying toppings allows the cook to serve a soup repeatedly without anyone noticing. Crunchy bacon cubes or dukkah, a dollop of velvety mascarpone or ricotta, a fried or poached egg, or a crumbled hardboiled egg, fried herbs like sage or rosemary, or roasted fruit like grapes, apple, pear, or apricot.

In my new book, 365: A Year of Everyday Cooking & Baking, I share a recipe for each day of the year, following the seasons and also the rhythm of the week, from Monday to Sunday, from quick and simple weekday dishes to luscious – and more time-consuming – roasts, stews, and cakes on the weekend. Soups are a constant treat in this rhythm, especially during the colder part of the year. There’s a cozy kale and borlotti bean soup for example, cooked in a flavorful duck broth (recipe from 365 below and on food52.com) – a clear vegetable broth works just as well – and it’s the perfect cure for winter blues. It’s crowned with a poached egg and when you cut through the yolk and let it run into the broth, it adds a creaminess that’s even better than cream; as an added bonus: it only takes twenty minutes for dinner to be ready.

A golden squash, parsnip, and sweet potato soup – basically the tasty finds of a fridge clean out – could be kept chunky but with a nod to the good old Nouvelle Cuisine, I purée it and also go for a more extravagant topping that makes this recipe fit for a Christmas table. Red grapes roasted with woody rosemary until soft and shriveled, and a dollop of whipped orange mascarpone turn this dish into a festive stunner (recipe from 365 on food52.com). However, crunchy bacon bites would make it even heartier and also quite appealing.

One of my favorite soups is the minestrone because there are no rules and limitations. Every vegetable, every combination that the cook finds fitting, works. My partner’s Maltese grandmother uses squash, carrots, potatoes, and kohlrabi, she mashes it a bit, and sprinkles it with a little Parmesan. It’s her famous minestra, loved by our whole Mediterranean family. You’ll always find a large pot of it simmering on her cooker. My minestrone, or rather one of them, is green. I use green beans, peas (which I always have in my freezer), and zucchini, but that’s not set in stone, and add tiny meatballs refined with lime and arugula. It gives it a fresh citrusy note, similar to lemongrass. This is the speediest of all weekday soups. Once the meatballs are mixed and shaped, the entire soup and meat only need to cook for about 5 minutes (recipe from 365 on food52.com).

So what changed my mind, what made me fall in love with soups after so many years of skepticism? First, the taste, I had to find combinations that excite me, but then there’s something else. Sitting in front of a bowl of steaming soup is one of the coziest things I can think of. It makes me feel good while I eat it and this feeling stays. A soup is a friend of my mind and my body.

Kale and Borlotti Bean Soup with Poached Eggs

from ‘365 – A Year of Everyday Cooking & Baking’ (Prestel, 2019)

Serves 4

For the soup
Olive oil
1 medium onion, cut into quarters
2 large cloves garlic, cut in half
7 ounces (200 g) trimmed kale leaves, cut into strips
5¼ cups (1.25 liters) homemade or quality store-bought duck, chicken, or vegetable broth, hot
1 small bunch fresh thyme
1 medium sprig fresh rosemary
1 large bay leaf
Fine sea salt
Finely ground pepper
1¼ cups (250 g) drained and rinsed canned borlotti (cranberry) or pinto beans

For the topping
4 to 8 large eggs
Coarsely ground pepper

For the soup, in a large pot, heat a splash of olive oil over medium heat and sauté the onion and garlic, stirring, for a few minutes or until golden and soft. Add the kale, stir, and cook for 1 minute then add the hot broth, thyme, rosemary, and bay leaf. Season to taste with salt and finely ground pepper, reduce the heat, and simmer for 20 minutes or until the kale is tender. Remove and discard the herbs then add the borlotti beans and cook for 1 minute. Season to taste with salt and finely ground pepper and keep warm.

For the topping, bring a small saucepan of salted water to a low simmer. Crack 1 egg into a small bowl. Hold a large spoon just over the surface of the water and gently pour the egg onto the spoon. Lower the spoon into the water and hold until the egg white starts to turn white then use a tablespoon to gently scoop the egg off the large spoon. Poach the egg for 3 minutes. Using a slotted ladle or spoon, transfer the egg to a plate. Poach the remaining eggs the same way, adjusting the heat as needed to maintain a low simmer. It’s best to poach 1 egg at a time, but you can cook 2 at once.

Divide the soup among bowls, place 1 to 2 eggs in the middle of each bowl, and sprinkle with a little coarsely ground pepper. Cut the tops of the eggs with a sharp knife and serve immediately.

London, Helen Goh & 365’s Roasted Squash Salad

The clouds hung low over London – as usual – yet as soon as our plane plopped through the thick layer of foggy mist, millions of sparkling lights danced underneath us and made me giggle like a child. There’s a picturesque, an almost innocent cuteness about this city that reminds me of a fairy tale. Colorful doors in sturdy brick houses, smoking chimneys and neatly cut boxwoods. If I had painted my dream city as a child, it would have been London.

So I was back, just for a few days, with a new cookbook in my bag and the unsettled excitement of a nervous author. London was the third stop on my 365 book tour and I asked a very special woman if she’d join me to talk about my new book on the big day, a woman whose work I have admired for years and whose creations I enjoy every time I’m in town: Helen Goh, co-author of Sweet, also responsible for some of the best sweet creations piled up at the Ottolenghi temples’ temptingly luscious displays. When Helen said “Yes,” I felt like a groupie who got handed a backstage pass. The first thing she said when we met before the guests arrived was “lets have a glass of wine and sit down.” She saw that I was nervous. I looked into her eyes and immediately felt calm. And contrary to my usual habit of not having a single drop before a talk, I had a glass of Meridiana Wine Estate‘s dark red Melqart. It neither harmed nor increased my chattiness but it reminded me of the fact that all this is fun. To meet people all over the world and talk about food is one of the greatest gifts that my cookbooks – and this blog – have given me. (You can watch some snippets from our conversation here on my Instagram Stories.)

We had a fantastic evening, chatting, discussing, and laughing, enjoying more of Meridiana‘s wines and food from the book; bruschetta, quiche, and brownies, and the Roasted Squash, Shallot, and Radicchio Salad with Stilton – recipe no. 289 in 365 – a beautifully vibrant recipe that I share with you below. This salad is a spectacular, and easy to prepare starter during the festive season, but also a wonderfully light lunch or dinner when December’s feasting becomes a little too excessive.

When I wrote about my Berlin book launch, I mentioned that this tour is only possible because I have amazing friends at my side. People who I’ve been working with for years and who’ve been solid rocks in their support for my adventures. The night I arrived in London, I jumped into a taxi that took me straight to my favorite hotel in town. We celebrated the launch of 365 at the magical Corinthia London, and to come back to the fairy tale, I was also lucky to sleep there and this definitely made me feel like a princess. Laying in the coziest cloudy bed, framed by more puffy pillows than one really needs (but it feels so good), and room service delivering the best fish and chips at midnight. I don’t think life could possibly get any better than this. But then breakfast comes, and the spa, and then lunch, and dinner – and the fairy tale continues. It’s a grown up princess dream come true. Thank you.

Roasted Squash, Shallot, and Radicchio Salad with Stilton
from ‘365 – A Year of Everyday Cooking & Baking’ (Prestel, 2019)

Serves 2 to 4

For the salad
¾ pound (340 g) seeded squash, preferably peeled butternut or Hokkaido with skin, cut into 1-inch (2.5 cm) wedges
8 shallots, unpeeled, cut in half lengthwise
1/3 cup (75 ml) olive oil
Flaky sea salt
Finely ground pepper
5 ounces (140 g) radicchio, soft leaves only, torn into pieces
1 large, firm pear, cored and cut into thin wedges
2 ounces (60 g) Stilton, crumbled
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves

For the dressing
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp white balsamic vinegar
1 tsp honey
Fine sea salt
Finely ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C).

For the salad, spread the squash on one side of a large baking dish and the shal­lots on the other side. Drizzle with the olive oil and toss to combine, keeping the squash and shallots separate. Season generously with flaky sea salt and pepper and roast for 15 minutes. Flip the squash and shallots over and continue roasting for 10 to 15 or until golden and tender. Transfer the squash to a plate. Let the shal­lots cool for a few minutes then peel and add to the squash.

For the dressing, whisk together the olive oil, both vinegars, and the honey and season to taste with fine sea salt and pepper.

Divide the radicchio, pear, squash, and shallots among plates, arranging them in overlapping layers. Sprinkle with the Stilton and thyme, drizzle with the dressing, and serve immediately.

Grilled Raclette with Rosemary Kumquats, Coriander Apple & Star Anise Pear

The light dimmed, tall candles casting flickering shadows on the ceiling, the room filled with the dry heat from the crackling fireplace and the smell of burnt wood and cheese lying in the air like a heavy cloud. When it’s time for Raclette at my mother’s house in the countryside, it’s a celebration of everything that I connect with coziness. Surrounded by family and friends, everybody gathers around the sizzling Raclette grill to watch the magic happen: aromatic cheese melting and dripping, golden bubbles bursting and splashing as they touch the glowing grill, and the rind turning into smokey charred bites.

When you eat Raclette at a snow covered hut in the mountains, you would most likely enjoy it the classic way, with boiled potatoes, raw spring onions, pickled vegetables like gherkins (cornichons) and pearl onions, and lots of crushed or coarsely ground black peppercorns. The cheese needs added acidity, which can come from the pickles but it can also come from fruit.

So here’s the fruity way to enjoy the fragrant melted cheese on a crusty baguette: I skip the pickles and go for Raclette with rosemary kumquats, coriander apple, and star anise pear. Kumquats cooked with honey and fresh rosemary turn the tiny citrus fruits into soft and caramelized bites. Pear wedges seared in star anise butter taste like Christmas and apple wedges softened in coriander butter are sweet, aromatic, and slightly sour. That’s the colorful trio to complete my rustic Raclette table but you could also add roasted grapes or plums, or juicy persimmons. Whatever fruit you would normally eat with cheese will fit; it can only become better with a little heat, either in the pan on the hob or under the grill. The heat softens the fruit’s texture and makes the flavor even more concentrated. I would keep the side dish simple, you can serve the grilled Raclette with a quick green salad.

My mother always uses a very old Swiss made grill that’s rather large. It can hold half a wheel of Raclette, melting the surface where the cheese is cut in half, and then you scrape the melted layer right off the wheel onto your plate. It’s a lot of fun, but it’s heavy, you need a lot of people to eat up half a wheel of cheese, and you can only feed the hungry crowd in batches – around two people every time you scrape the top layer off, then the half-wheel needs to go under the grill again. This is not necessarily a bad thing seeing as we’re talking about a meal that’s rather rich and filling. A break once in a while doesn’t harm the hungry cheese lover, but if I want to throw a cozy Raclette party just for my man and myself (and maybe a couple friends), I go for my more practical tabletop grill with single Raclette dishes instead. Then I opt for sliced cheese and grab Le Rustique‘s Raclette l’Originale. It’s aromatic yet not overpowering and melts like butter. When I use sliced cheese I remove the rind, and if you’re after that smokey burnt touch you can just leave the Raclette on a little longer until the charred bubbles burst under the grill.

Thanks to Le Rustique for sponsoring this post and reminding me of the coziest celebration of cheese: watching – and eating – bubbling and crackling Raclette.

Grilled Raclette with Rosemary Kumquats, Coriander Apple and Star Anise Pear

You’ll need a Raclette grill for this recipe.

Serves 3 to 4

For the fruit
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary needles (whole needles, not chopped)
12 fresh organic kumquats (or canned kumquats, drained), cut in half lengthwise and seeds removed
4 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
Unsalted butter, to cook the pear and apple
3 star anise
1 large, firm pear, cored and cut into thin wedges
2 teaspoons coriander seeds, crushed with a mortar and pestle
1 large baking apple, cored and cut into thin wedges

For serving
About 500-600g (18-21 ounces) sliced Raclette cheese (for a tabletop grill with single Raclette dishes), rind removed
1-2 crunchy baguettes, sliced
Crushed or coarsely ground black peppercorns

Optional
2 large handfuls mixed small leaf lettuce (young spinach and chard, mâche or corn lettuce)
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Fine sea salt
Finely ground pepper

For the kumquats, in a small, heavy pan, heat the honey over high heat until bubbling. Add the rosemary, kumquats, and orange juice and cook, turning once, for 3-4 minutes or until golden brown and soft – mind that the kumquats don’t burn. Set the pan aside and keep warm.

For the pear, in a medium, heavy pan, heat 2 tablespoons of butter and the star anise over medium-high heat until sizzling. Add the pear wedges and sauté, turning once, for about 3-4 minutes or until golden brown and tender. Set the pan aside and keep warm.

For the apple, in a medium, heavy pan, heat 2 tablespoons of butter and the coriander seeds over medium-high heat until sizzling. Add the apple wedges and sauté, turning once, for about 3-4 minutes or until golden brown and tender. Set the pan aside and keep warm.

Melt the cheese, one slice at a time, under the Raclette grill until bubbly then scrape onto a slice of baguette, top with kumquats, apple wedges, or pear wedges and season with crushed black pepper.

You can serve the grilled Raclette with a simple green salad on the side: Divide the mixed lettuce leaves among the plates, drizzle with a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Enjoy!

Berlin & 365’s Autumn Quiche with Squash, Taleggio & Sage

My editor at Prestel in New York asked me one day where I’d like to launch my new book. Berlin, I said, and Malta, of course, and London, and NYC, and the West coast this time, LA and San Francisco. It’s nice to dream and imagine all these places on both sides of the Atlantic, to think of all the people I’d meet and who’d celebrate 365 together with me. I’m good at dreaming but I’m bad at not following a dream. It makes me restless, once my mind is set on something it doesn’t want to stop until it gets there. Sometimes my dreams don’t work out, sometimes they do – even though everybody around me has given up hope. And sometimes they happen to be even better than I hoped they’d be.

There are many ways to launch a book, but I wanted a feast – in six cities. There are many reasons why a dream works out, luck (always), persistence (tiring for everyone around), thoughtful planning (I studied architecture, I’m good at that), and help and support from others (and I got a lot of that). In the next couple months I’ll share some impressions of the six 365 book launch events here on the blog, I’ll write about the places and what I love so much about them, and about the people who made all this possible. And to give you a little taste of this book tour, I’ll always share one of the recipes that we enjoyed at the events. So I’ll start with Berlin, my home, the place where my adventurous journey began, and with the recipe for the Squash and Taleggio Quiche with Crispy Sage (you can find it in the book, recipe no. 287, and below). This quiche became the cover of 365 and quickly gained fans and fame all around the globe.

On the morning of September 23rd I started to feel nervous, it was the publication day of the German 365 and the day on which I’d step out of my comfort zone and talk about the book that I’d been working on for so many days and nights. It feels good when a book is out, you can’t change anything anymore and at one point you even stop dreaming about gram-to-cup conversions but it’s also the time when people start seeing what you’ve created, when it’s not just you and the book anymore. It’s scary.

So I kept myself busy during the day (the best strategy to calm my antsy mind), I went to the hair dresser (thank you Jay for dealing with my anxious self) and then drove straight to the Hotel de Rome, a former bank turned into the hotel of your dreams where 365 would soon see the most marvelous of celebrations. Türkan Arikan, the hotel’s Director of Communications and the best event partner an author could ask for, had reserved the stunning roof terrace for our launch – my favourite spot for a summery sundowner – but Berlin’s weather was set on drizzle, wind, and grey, no blue skies and golden sunset. We took over Hotel de Rome‘s imposing Opera Court with our 100 guests instead, nibbled on hearty tastings from 365 prepared by the diligent kitchen crew, and on the bittersweet recipe no. 70 from 365, Tangerine Jam Chocolate Brownies baked by Fine Bagels‘ fabulous Laurel Kratochvila. A fair feast needs wine and we happily filled our glasses with the wonderful reds, whites, and rosé from Meridiana Wine Estate in Malta (thank you Karl Chetcuti for making Maltese wine that fills my heart and every room on the book tour with so much joy). Florian Domberger baked and shared Berlin’s best bread with us, his crunchy, spongy Beutebrot. And I had a very honest, intimate talk about the book with my friend Cynthia Barcomi. This woman manages to fit more into one life than anyone else and her laugh is so charming and infectious that you totally forget that you’re nervous and that you’re talking about something that existed, not too long ago, only in your head before it became a book. Could I ask for more? No, it was a feast.

Thank YOU so much for all the love and support that you’ve already shown for 365! If you have a few minutes and you’re in the mood, it would be great if you could write a review for the book on Amazon (here are the links for the US, UK, Germany).

You can see all the pictures of the Berlin book launch event here on Facebook. And if you cook or bake recipes from the book and share pictures on Instagram, you can add #365TheCookbook so that they show up in the book’s collection. If you feel like diving into the love that this book received so far, you can read about it here.

Squash and Taleggio Quiche with Crispy Sage
from ‘365 – A Year of Everyday Cooking & Baking’ (Prestel, 2019)

Serves 4 to 8

For the filling

1 1/3 pounds (600 g) seeded squash, preferably peeled butternut or Hokkaido with skin, cut into 1-inch (2.5 cm) wedges
1 tbsp olive oil
Flaky sea salt
Finely ground pepper
3 large eggs
3/4 cup (175 g) sour cream (or crème fraîche)
1/2 cup (120 ml) heavy cream
1 tsp fine sea salt
Nutmeg, preferably freshly grated
5 ounces (140 g) mild, sweet cheese that melts well, such as Taleggio, fontina, or Robiola, diced
3 tbsp (45 g) unsalted butter
50 large fresh sage leaves

For the pastry

2 cups (260 g) all-purpose flour
1 tsp fine sea salt
1/2 cup plus 1 tbsp (130 g) unsalted butter, cold
1 large egg

Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C).

For the filling, spread the squash in a large baking dish, drizzle with the olive oil, and toss to combine. Season to taste with flaky sea salt and pepper and roast for 15 minutes then flip the squash and continue roasting for 10 to 15 minutes or until golden and tender; set aside.

For the pastry, combine the flour and fine sea salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment. 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 egg and mix with the hook until crumbly. Form the dough into a thick disc, wrap it in plastic wrap, and freeze for 10 minutes.

On a work surface, place the dough between 2 sheets of plastic wrap and use a rolling pin to roll out into a disc, large enough to line the bottom and sides of a 12-inch (30 cm) quiche dish. Fit the dough into the quiche dish, pushing it into the dish, especially along the edges. Let the dough hang over the rim a little or trim with a knife. Use a fork to prick the dough all over. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden. If the dough bubbles up, push it down with a fork. Take the quiche dish out of the oven and reduce the heat to 350°F (180°C).

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, sour cream, heavy cream, and fine sea salt and season to taste with pepper and a generous amount of nutmeg.

Arrange the squash in a circle on top of the pre-baked pastry and sprinkle with the cheese. Pour the egg mixture over the squash and bake for 45 to 55 minutes or until golden brown and firm. Take the quiche out of the oven and let it sit at least 10 minutes.

In a large saucepan, heat the butter over medium-high heat, add the sage, and cook, stirring gently, for 20 to 30 seconds or until golden, green, and crispy—mind that the leaves don’t burn. Spread the sage on top of the quiche, sprinkle with a little pepper, and serve warm or cold.

365 – The book is out!

A couple months ago I was in Malta and I received a message: THE book had arrived. I should pick up the first printed copy of 365 at the airport. I screamed. It was a busy Wednesday, the peak of Mediterranean summer, and it was boiling hot. Begging my boyfriend to drop everything and drive me immediately, we rushed outside to the car. In 14 years I successfully managed to avoid driving on my beloved Mediterranean archipelago. There are many things I love doing in Malta, driving isn’t one of them.

My hands were shaking and I couldn’t think. I worked on those pages for 18 months, day and night. They made me laugh, they made me cry. I cooked and baked 365 recipes, I bought so many vegetables, fruits, filled our fridge with meat and seafood, until I ran out of storage space. There was food everywhere in our flat in Berlin, raw and cooked. In the kitchen, in the hall, in the living room, bedroom, and on the balcony. Constantly spread out on our long wooden table were plates and bowls filled with colorful salads, fragrant quiches and cakes, pasta dishes, hearty roasts and wintery braised beef, Mediterranean fish and seafood creations, soups and sandwiches. We had friends over every day to keep the constant flow of food under control. It was a feast – which feels strange to say when one works on a cookbook – but it did feel like a true celebration of food, every day. Although I prepared and shot eight dishes a day and went through my recipes, notes, and photos often until midnight, I had the best time of my life. I felt exhausted but happy.

Working on a book is tricky. You have your vision, your ideas, how it will look and feel when you hold it in your hands, but unless you have the physical hard copy in front of you for the first time, it’s all guesswork. And that’s scary. Sitting in the car, waiting and finally getting to the shipping depot, made me feel both excited and anxious. Would I like it? Would it be what I had in mind when I decided to turn a year of cooking and baking into a book? Standing in a dusty warehouse without windows in the middle of Malta, I gently yet forcefully peeled 365 out of its cardboard package. It was too dark, I couldn’t see it properly. So I ran outside into the blistering hot sun and as soon as the bright Mediterranean midday light hit the cover, it made the shades of blue and orange shine even more. I laughed. I quickly leaved through every page, counting the recipes from 1 to 365 making sure that no page got lost. It was all there. 365 is complete. Breathe.

Today, on the 8th October, the book is out in English (365 – A Year of Everyday Cooking & Baking) and in German (365 – Jeden Tag einfach kochen & backen) all over the world. And it’s already on The New York Times ‘The 13 Best Cookbooks of Fall 2019’ list (click here for the list). You can either grab a copy of the book at your favorite bookstore or order online (click here for some of the links).

My book tour already started and I’m soon going to share the pictures here and on social media from my book launch events in Berlin, Malta, and London but if you happen to live in New York, you can still join me today (8th October) at Rizzoli Bookstore Broadway where I’ll be holding a talk with Susan Spungen (and there will be wine from Meridiana Wine Estate!). On the 16th October, I’ll be at Now Serving in Los Angeles (in conversation with Alana Kysar) and on the 17th October in San Francisco at Omnivore Books (in conversation with DavidKurtz/ Homage). These are all free events, so please come and join us:

October 8th, 7-8pm | NEW YORK CITY | Rizzoli Bookstore
– In conversation with Susan Spungen

October 16th, 7pm| LOS ANGELES | Now Serving
– In conversation with Alana Kysar (Aloha Kitchen)

October 17th, 6:30-7:30pm | SAN FRANCISCO | Omnivore Books
– In conversation with chef David Kurtz (Homage)

I want to thank you, my loyal readers of this blog, for following these pages since I started Eat In My Kitchen in November 2013. For your constant support, your trust in my recipes, and above all, for your love for home-cooked food. Without you there wouldn’t have been my first book, Eat In My Kitchen, that won the 2017 James Beard General Cookbook of the Year Award, and there also wouldn’t be 365. We share a great passion and a belief, and that’s that no food in the world tastes as good as the food that we prepare in our own kitchens. I hope that this never changes and that the dialogue stays as fruitful and delicious as ever. Enjoy!

365 is dedicated to a woman who isn’t here anymore. A woman who deeply touched and inspired me with her love for food and for the truth. The Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia will always be in my heart and her unforgettable strength keeps reminding me that there’s always something worth fighting for.

A book isn’t born out of one mind, it’s created and shaped by the hands and minds of many. My deepest thanks go to these wonderful people who shared their creativity, patience, criticism, and persistence with me:

My editor Holly La Due, everybody at Prestel in New York, London, and Munich, Lauren Salkeld, Tanja Kapahnke, Sven Lindhost-Emme, Jen Endom, Monica Parcell, Djan Sauerborn, Marlon Bertzbach, Seb Tanti Burlò, Iggy Fenech, and my man, Jamie, for being there 365 days and nights for so many years. Thank you, all my family and friends, for being my inspiration and support – and for your unstoppable appetite!

Happy cooking & baking!

Meike xxx

Apricot and Basil Galette

Summer baking is the best baking, you can reduce additional sugar to a minimum and focus on some of nature’s greatest gifts: stone fruit and berries. They are so packed with sweetness and flavor that adding too much sugar would be like insulting their creator. However, sneaking in buttery pastry – no matter if it’s a crunchy crumble, fragile short crust tart, or rustic galette – fortifies the produce’s qualities and has only one effect: you’ll want to extend teatime into dinner and just keep nibbling until the sun sets and the last crumb vanishes.

I went for a galette for this recipe because of its summery, picnic-style look but I sneaked a herb into the topping that gives it a slightly unusual touch. Apricot and basil is a fantastic combo for salads and there’s no reason why they shouldn’t mingle in a fruity tart topping. It’s fresh, it’s earthy, sweet, and sour, it tastes like a hot day in Tuscany.

Taking some time off for such a rewarding endeavor is the best therapy for a weary mind and soul. And I needed that. I lost my rhythm in the kitchen a little over the last year and half. I created new recipes every day, felt excited about the results and was pleased about being productive. All for my new book, for 365. However, my natural flow of shopping, of planning our dinners, of meeting my man in the kitchen after work and pouring us a glass of wine before starting to cook, this wonderful ease has been disrupted. So much so that it’s difficult sometimes to find my way back to my routine, a routine that became the compass of my days over the years. Always pointing towards my next meal, always pointing towards the kitchen. That is my comfort, my safety, and I’m trying to regain orientation.

What I love so much about cooking, about preparing my own food, is the fact that it’s totally in my hands. That I can make myself – and others – so unbelievably happy by only throwing a few ingredients together and indulging in this experience on an emotional, sensory, but also intellectual level. I can’t think of anything more satisfying than creating a meal that reflects the seasons, my mood, and the desires of my taste buds. This galette tastes heavenly, there’s no doubt, it also let’s July’s plump produce shine, but it challenged me to be experimental, to rethink combinations of ingredients that seem a bit farfetched in the beginning. To combine fleshy apricots and fragrant basil – which usually shines atop my summery Caprese salad or Pizza Margherita – meant I had to open up for a new idea. And that’s a good lesson. Always. Even in the most trivial situations. And by doing this, I’m slowly finding my orientation again. Towards the kitchen.

Apricot and Basil Galette

Makes one 23cm / 9″ galette.

For the pastry

180g / 1 1/3 cups plus 1 tablespoon all purpose flour (I used white spelt flour / type 630)
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
125g / 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cold
2 tablespoons water, cold
1 teaspoon cider vinegar

For the galette

4 large apricots (320g / 11 ounces) , pitted and cut in half,
plus 2 large apricots (160g / 5 1/2 ounces), pitted and cut into small cubes
50g / 1/4 cup light brown sugar, plus 1 teaspoon for the topping
1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped
2 heaping tablespoons roughly chopped basil leaves
1 large egg, beaten

For the pastry, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the 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 quickly mix with the paddle attachment until combined. Form the dough into a thick disc, wrap it in plastic wrap, and freeze for about 15-20 minutes, or until firm.

For the galette, in a small saucepan, heat the apricot cubes (not the apricot halves), the sugar, and vanilla seeds over high heat and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes or until the apricots are soft and golden. Reduce the heat if the fruit starts to turn brown. Stir in the chopped basil, transfer to a medium bowl, and let the compote cool for a few minutes.

On a work surface, place the dough between 2 sheets of plastic wrap and use a rolling pin to roll out into a 30cm / 12″ disc. Remove the top layer of plastic wrap and replace it with a piece of parchment paper. Flip the pastry disc over, transfer to a wooden board, and remove the remaining layer of plastic wrap. Spread the apricot-basil compote on top of the pastry, leaving a 5cm / 2″ rim, and arrange the apricot halves, cut side down, on top of the compote. Fold the edges of the pastry up and over the fruit then gently press to seal the folds. Chill the galette, on the wooden board, in the fridge for about 15 minutes or until the pastry is firm.

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

Brush the pastry with the egg wash and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of sugar. Pull the parchment paper with the galette onto the hot baking sheet and bake for about 35 minutes or until golden brown. Let the galette cool for about 10 minutes before cutting. Serve warm or cold.

Hawaiian Lomi Salmon

My mother makes fantastic gravad lax. It’s one of my family’s favorite dishes whenever the whole bunch gathers to feast. When I was younger, I would watch her prepare it and it fascinated me how she managed to turn two raw salmon fillets cured only with salt, sugar, dill, pepper, and juniper berries into something so fine and flavorful. After a few days they were firm yet tender, with hints of the sea yet at the same time tasting slightly sweet – it felt like magic. Salt-curing fish was the only way to preserve the daily catch from the sea in the pre-fridge era. It’s deeply rooted in various cuisines, and thanks to its taste and texture, oily salmon remained a popular candidate keeping this ancient technique alive. Beyond gravad lax!

Alana Kysar had already introduced me to a new fish recipe when I met her in LA for our Meet In Your Kitchen feature back in 2017. Her Ahi Poke Bowl expanded my repertoire of recipes that use the fruits of the sea without adding too many ingredients, which I prefer, especially in summer. Her poke was quick to prepare and extremely delicious, and I immediately knew that I’d always want to go back to Alana’s ‘Hawaiian kitchen in LA’ whenever I’d get the chance. In the meantime, she was busy and put together the most scrumptious cookbook: Aloha Kitchen. The book feels like having Alana in my kitchen and of course, I couldn’t help but go straight for her recipes celebrating the sea.

Although Alana told me that Lomi Salmon is a side dish, traditionally served with poi – pounded, steamed, and peeled taro (kalo) root – or rice, or kalua pig (you can find all these recipes in her book!), I dared to turn it into a main, and almost ate it all by myself. The salmon is cured in salt for 24 hours and then soaked in water for 1 hour. Then it’s ready to be used and assembled in just a few minutes.

Lomi Salmon is so pure, so good, it respects and puts the spotlight on each single ingredient; and there aren’t many. Exactly this kind of cooking became my favorite way of enjoying food over the years. No distraction. Here, it’s just the sea, chunky, tender salmon with a subtle saltiness that – to my surprise – is not overpowering, plus the sharpness of onions, juicy, fruity tomatoes that mellow them, and peppery hints from the chili flakes (Alana suggests gochugaru, Korean red chili pepper flakes, but I only had the more subtle Piment d’Espelette in my spice box). Just keep in mind, these kind of recipes using a handful of ingredients only really work if you go for high quality ingredients – to maximize flavor and pleasure. If you follow this rule, it’s heaven.

Leafing through the colorful pages of Aloha Kitchen not only made me want to hop right on a plane and visit Alana’s home islands, it also made me want to cook all the food that this inspiring woman put together. Alana was born and grew up in Hawai’i. Her life there, her family’s stories and their recipes shaped her style of cooking that’s as versatile as her home islands’ culture: a rich melting pot, influenced by Polynesian settlers, by British, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, Portuguese, Korean, and Filipino immigrants, explorers, workers, and sailors, all of them leaving marks in the islands’ eclectic food culture. The local recipes are fresh and hearty, complex and simple, there’s tender meat, light seafood, dumplings, noodles, and veggies. It’s a vibrant kitchen cosmos that proves that we are at our best when we allow cultures and traditions to mix and create pure delicious beauty!

Lomi Salmon

from Aloha Kitchen by Alana Kysar, Ten Speed Press, 2019

Mind that the salmon needs to be cured for 24 hours and then soaked in an ice-water bath for 1 hour!

225g / 1⁄2 pound salmon fillet, skinned and boned
50g / 1⁄4 cup Hawaiian salt (‘alaea) (I used my flaky sea salt from Gozo)
4 Roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped
2 small Maui onions, peeled and chopped (I used 1 medium yellow onion, cut in half and thinly sliced)
6 green onions, green parts only, chopped
1⁄4 teaspoon gochugaru (Korean red chili pepper flakes) (I used 1/2 teaspoon Piment d’Espelette)

Place the salmon in a nonreactive rimmed dish or pan large enough for the fillet to lie flat and evenly coat both sides with the salt. Cover the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 24 hours.

The next day, prepare an ice-water bath by filling a large bowl with a handful of ice and water. 

Rinse the salt from the fish and soak the fish in the ice-water bath for 1 hour. Slice the salmon into 0.5-to 1.25-cm / 1⁄4-to 1⁄2-inch cubes and place them into a nonreactive bowl. Add the tomatoes, Maui onions, green onions, and gochugaru and gently toss with your hands. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for several hours before serving.