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 two (or 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

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.


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.

Lemon Cinnamon Sorbet & a new book: 365-A Year of Everyday Cooking & Baking

One of the first things I did, once I was done proof-reading my new book, was to pull my boyfriend out into the sunshine and straight to my favorite ice cream shop. I’m not really an ice cream person, but this place makes me happy. Their lemon cinnamon sorbet was the first of many chilled scoops of sweet bliss, and it stayed my favorite. It’s very lemony and the aromatic spice is confidently present. I’ve been wanting to create my own lemon cinnamon sorbet recipe for years and here it is: Chilled heaven on a spoon!

So now that the endless dark months of proof-reading and correcting my new English and German book are over, days and nights of finding and fixing mistakes and driving everybody (!) around me absolutely crazy with my German hardheadedness and my unbreakable belief that there’s always (!) a mistake to find, I’m finely starting to think clearly again, slowly. I’ve been wanting to share so much about the process of writing a new book here on the blog but at one point I had to accept that there are only 24 hours and 7 days a week. After Eat In My Kitchen, my first book, was so joyfully received and even won a James Beard Award, I wasn’t sure how it would feel to start this process all over again. Would I feel intimidated by my own work? No, I wasn’t, but I thought it would be just as easy to fill a book with 365 recipes as it felt to share one recipe a day in the first year of this blog in 2014. It wasn’t easy back then (I just suppressed the memory) and it was almost insane to do the same thing all over again, just physically, in a printed book.

The new book is done, and it has a name: 365 – A Year of Everyday Cooking & Baking. I’m in love with it now but I hated it at times. I put everything that I am and that I love about food into its pages and I’m happy, overwhelmed, and also scared to see it come into the world (soon, I still have some time to get used to it, it’s at the printer right now). I cooked, baked, and shot the pictures about a year ago and – thanks to the wonderful people around me – we managed to make preparing and shooting 8 recipes a day feel like fun. I don’t know how, but thinking back on this time still gives me goosebumps. It was magical. I just did what I love the most and fed the people around me with far too much food – it was the best. But then, the time started that I fear the most about working on a book. Turning 365 recipes, hundreds of pictures, notes, and thoughts into printable pages without adding mistakes yet finding the ones that sneaked in, is one of the scariest things. I started dreaming about words and measurements at night! I guess I have to admit that I find comfort in perfectionism (or in the rare moments when we believe we are close to it). But that’s not what creating a book is about.

I pity my editor at Prestel Publishing in New York, Holly La Due, who had to go through so many discussions with me about the structure of this book, the cover (a broad field of debate for months!), and all the time have me bagging her to let me triple- and quadruple-check things again and again (until she drew the line – she knows how to deal with her German author).

I’m not yet ready to distance myself and reflect, to see the greater picture, and just chill and let things happen. I’m scared, but I guess that’s fine, and despite the inner struggles I can’t wait for the day when I can hold the first copy of 365 in my hands. For now, all I can do is share the cover with you (below), and my favorite sorbet recipe.

The book will come out in autumn (English book: October 8th / German book: September 23rd) and – if you’re as impatient as me – you can already pre-order it here:

365 – A Year of Everyday Cooking & Baking

Lemon Cinnamon Sorbet

Serves 4

270 ml / 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons water
130 g / 2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 generous tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest (about 1 large lemon),
plus more for serving (optional)
1 cinnamon stick
A pinch of salt
240 ml / 1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 5 large lemons)
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

In a small saucepan, bring the water, sugar, lemon zest, cinnamon stick, and salt to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the lemon juice, transfer to a medium bowl, and let it cool for about 10 minutes then chill in the fridge for at least 40 minutes.

Once the mixture is thoroughly chilled, remove the cinnamon stick, whisk in the ground cinnamon, and transfer to an ice cream maker then freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions (it took about 25 minutes in mine). Transfer the sorbet to an airtight container and freeze for 2 to 3 hours. Serve sprinkled with a little freshly grated lemon zest.

If you don’t have an ice cream maker, transfer the lemon mixture to a shallow pan and freeze for a few hours or until firm, stirring with a fork every hour to fluff it up.

Swirly Peanut Butter Plum Buns and the blissful lesson of taking a break

I started writing a new book eleven months ago. Actually, eleven and a half months, it was Christmas Eve. The moment I decided to dive into this intense adventure again, I couldn’t stop writing down one recipe after the other. It felt like the dishes had been inside my head, waiting impatiently to come out. And all this happened during Christmas 2017, my man thought I was crazy. At a time that’s supposed to be calm and serene, surrounded by our sparkling Christmas tree and piles of cookies, listening peacefully to angelic carols, I stuck my head into my recipe notebooks and discussed undiscovered flavor combinations with my mother. By New Year’s Day, I had an exaggeratedly long recipe list together and felt ready for a new book – and a holiday.

While I wrote my first book, Eat In My Kitchen, I often crossed my limits, I refused to respect them and felt totally squeezed out by the end of it. I didn’t want to make the same mistake twice. So I asked for help and found the best kitchen assistant I could have asked for. He made the whole process of cooking and shooting a book far more smooth than I thought was even possible. He also took care of an impeccable playlist filling my kitchen with the most energizing tunes and making me dance around boxes of vegetables and bowls of cooked dishes. But most importantly, he taught me to take a break once in a while. We often went to a tiny coffee shop around the corner for an espresso and a chat to clear our heads. We started working on the book early February and since then I managed – more or less – to stick to this new ritual in my life: allowing myself to take a little break every day.

Sometimes, after an early morning cooking session followed by an extensive shopping tour for meat, fish, and vegetables, we’d get a bit more excessive and head over to a Berlin bakery famous for swirly buns. Whenever I felt tired and empty, a bite of their spongy cinnamon buns put me back on my feet and felt better than the most sumptuous meal in the world. That’s the bliss that you can find in food – and in a break – it will always impress me how good it feels.

It’s been a while since I cooked or baked for the blog, and for months now I had a flavor combination on my mind that I wanted to turn into a sweet treat and share: peanut butter and plums. We need to hurry, it’s getting late, plum season reached its end, but you can still find some very ripe, sugary stone fruits at the markets. I decided to combine the duo with a recipe that Sofie Wochner from Marigold restaurant in Rome shared with me last summer. The Danish pastry chef treated me to the most wonderful, fragrant cinnamon buns in her kitchen, so I took her recipe for the yeast dough and turned it into Swirly Peanut Butter Plum Buns.

I will keep you posted about my new book, but it’ll still take a lot of time until it comes out, as a book does when you want it to be a part of what you truly are. To be continued …


Swirly Peanut Butter Plum Buns

Mind that the dough has to rise in the fridge overnight before you bake the buns.

Makes 10 swirly buns

For the dough

500g / 3 3/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
75g / 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1 (7-g / 1/4-ounce) envelope fast-acting yeast
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
255ml / 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon whole milk, lukewarm
1/2 beaten large egg (about 25 ml)
60g / 1/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature, divided into 6 portions

For the filling

250g / 1 cup creamy peanut butter
200g / 1 cup light brown sugar
300g / 2/3 pound pitted fresh dark plums

For the topping

1 large egg, beaten
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, combine the flour, sugar, yeast, cinnamon, and salt. Add the lukewarm milk and 1/2 beaten egg and mix on medium speed for 10 minutes or until smooth. Let the dough rest for 15 minutes then continue mixing, adding the butter, 1 portion at a time, incorporating each portion of butter before adding the next one. Continue mixing on medium speed for another 3 minutes or until smooth. Transfer the dough to a clean bowl, cover, and let it rise in the fridge overnight.

Take the bowl out of the fridge and let the dough sit at room temperature for about 1 hour. Line a 24 x 18cm / 10 x 7 inch baking dish with parchment paper.

For the filling, combine the peanut butter and sugar. Cut the plums into small cubes.

Knead the dough for 30 seconds with your hands. Lightly dust a work surface and a rolling pin with flour then transfer the dough to the floured surface and, using the rolling pin, roll it into a 33 x 33cm / 13 x 13 inch square that’s roughly 0.5cm / 1/4 inch thick. Spread the peanut butter mixture on top of the dough, leaving a 2cm / 3/4 inch border, then sprinkle the plums over the peanut butter, gently pushing them into the peanut butter. To fold the dough, divide it into 3 rectangles, don’t cut the dough, just leave a thin mark on top of the peanut butter. Starting with the long side of one of the rectangles and dusting off excess flour, fold the first third of the dough up and over the middle third of the dough, then fold the other outer third of the dough up and place on top of the 2 layers of dough to end with 3 layers of dough. Using a very sharp knife, cut the layered dough into 10 slices.

Quickly pull and stretch each slice of dough then twist into a long spiral, close in a loose knot, and transfer to the prepared baking dish. It’ll be massy, don’t worry, you can sprinkle any peanut butter and plums that fall out on top of the buns once they are arranged in the baking dish. Cover the buns with a tea towel and let them rise in a warm place for 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until puffy.

Preheat the oven to 190°C / 375°F.

Brush the buns with the egg wash then bake for 25 minutes, cover the top with aluminum foil, and bake for another 10 minutes or until golden brown and firm. Rub the warm buns with 1 tablespoon of butter and let them cool for at least 20 minutes before serving.