Tag: cucumber

Rhubarb and Cucumber Caprese

After months of calming my mind and palate with familiar comfort dishes – creating a soothing counterpart to the uncertainties in the world – I suddenly feel a growing appetite for kitchen experiments again. Pizza, spaghetti Bolognese, German stews and roasts, and yes, baking sourdough bread, gave me comfort and safety while the world turned upside down and pulled me off my feet. But I recently started to feel curious and hungry again, searching and finding a refreshing caprese salad with pickled rhubarb, orange blossom water, cucumber, mozzarella di bufala and mint.

As I leaved through Marc Diacono’s fabulous new book, Sour, which was nominated for a James Beard Award this year, I immediately stopped on page 147 as I spotted a vibrant pink Rhubarb and Radish Salad. Marc uses raw rhubarb that he cuts very thinly and marinates in rose water. That made me think. I always cook, bake or roast rhubarb and wasn’t quite sure if I’d fall in love with its distinct taste and texture when raw. The British cookbook author adds blue cheese and dill and this, in combination with the rose water, wraps it up snugly. It’s sour, it’s bold and somehow harmonic, or in Marc’s words: “The rose water sets everything off and encourages the radish and rhubarb to sit a little closer together while retaining their independence.”

So I asked myself, would that also work with orange blossom water? And what about quickly pickling the rhubarb first and adding crisp cucumber and a hint of fresh mint? I find blue cheese too strong for cucumber but a creamy mozzarella di bufala or Burrata would work. All of a sudden I had a very unusual caprese salad in front of me that had all the crispness, sourness and excitement that I was hoping for. To be fair, one can only truly appreciate this unorthodox caprese variation if one loves sour and is up for having some fun with an Italian classic. I have a Winter Caprese with Blood Orange, Beet and Mozzarella di Bufala in my 365 book and when I came up with that recipe I understood that a) a good mozzarella di bufala and especially Burrata can deal with strong flavors and b) playing with a traditional recipe is a good way to keep tradition alive.

Rhubarb and Cucumber Caprese

Serves 2

  • 1 slim rhubarb stalk (around 60g / 2 ounces), trimmed and thinly sliced with a mandoline slicer or sharp knife
  • 60ml / 1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
  • 60ml / 1/4 cup orange blossom water (or freshly squeezed orange juice)
  • flaky sea salt
  • 1 small / Persian cucumber (with skin, rinsed), thinly sliced with a mandoline slicer or sharp knife
  • 125g / 4.5 ounces mozzarella di bufala or Burrata
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
  • crushed or coarsely ground black peppercorns
  • 4-6 fresh (young) mint leaves, very finely sliced

Transfer the rhubarb to a medium, heat-resistant bowl. In a small saucepan, bring the vinegar, sugar and a pinch of salt to a boil. Stir in the orange blossom water, keep it on the heat just until it starts boiling then pour over the rhubarb and let sit for about 1 hour. You will use the rhubarb and the pickling liquid for the caprese salad.

Quicker but less satisfying: In a small bowl, mix the rhubarb with 2 tablespoons of vinegar, 2 tablespoons of orange blossom water, 1 teaspoon of sugar and a pinch of salt and let sit for 10 minutes. The texture will be tougher and not as crisp compared to the properly pickled rhubarb described above.

Spread the cucumber and 1/3 of the pickled rhubarb on a large plate, adding more rhubarb once you tasted it, and arrange the mozzarella in the middle. In a small bowl, whisk together 2 tablespoons of the pickling liquid and 2 tablespoons of orange juice then drizzle over the salad. Drizzle with the olive oil, sprinkle with a little salt, pepper and mint (mind that the mint is very powerful!). Taste and add more of the pickling liquid if you prefer more of a sour note. Enjoy the salad immediately.

Bacon, Egg and Cheese Sandwich with Garden Vegetables

Bacon, Egg, and Cheese Sandwich with Garden Vegetables

In a couple weeks we’ll be off to Malta and my heart is already there. There isn’t a single day that passes without thinking of my family and friends in the Mediterranean. With every month that summer gets closer, I feel the urge to go there and the pain of not yet being there becomes almost unbearable. As much as I love Berlin – it’s my home – I see myself spending far more time on my beloved archipelago south of Sicily.

You can ask any Maltese person living abroad what he or she misses the most and almost everybody will tell you the sea and family. I’m not Maltese, but I agree. With every passing year I feel closer and closer to the life we live there. Being surrounded by the sea and the people who are so important in my life is a great gift I don’t really want to let go off, but it’s also the food, the pace, the culture and lifestyle that makes me miss this place so much.

In two weeks I’ll be starting my days with a cup of tea in my Maltese mama’s garden, sitting under her citrus trees. Then I’ll pick some honey sweet fruits and crisp vegetables from my favourite mobile vegetable truck in Msida and prepare a luscious breakfast. For whatever reason we started the ritual to have very opulent and rich breakfast sandwiches when we live in the South. If we leave out my spontaneous (but very regular) visits to bakeries, cafés and pastizzi shops, we only eat twice during the day: before we go to the beach and afterwards, and both meals are little feasts. We end our days with Mediterranean inspired dishes but we start the day following the small country’s British tradition. There are fried eggs, different kind of cheese, and a bit of meat on the table. Be it crisp bacon or a selection of course sausages from our butcher in Sliema – classic Maltese style with fennel and coriander or English sausage with apple and sage – our breakfast is quite a hearty affair, often sandwiched between two slices of Malta’s amazing sourdough bread. But what comes with baked beans in the cold North is served with fresh garden vegetables in the South. Juicy cucumber and tomatoes, sweet bell peppers, or sautéed zucchini – qarabali in Maltese – there are always the freshest fruits from the garden involved. You could easily leave out the meat and keep it light and vegetarian, sliced fennel bulb, sautéed onions, or a juicy caponata are nice too, but the current star of the toast scene – thinly sliced avocado – made it into my creation, along with cucumber and red bell pepper.

This is the third sandwich of the tasty trilogy I created for Leerdamer:

Grilled Persimmon, Ham and Cheese Sandwich with Basil

Zucchini Cheese Fritter Sandwich with Strawberries and Lemon Balm

Bacon, Egg, and Cheese Sandwich with Garden Vegetables


Bacon, Egg, and Cheese Sandwich with Garden Vegetables

Egg, Bacon and Cheese Sandwich with Garden Vegetables

Makes 2 large sandwiches

olive oil
breakfast bacon 8 slim slices
organic eggs 4
flaky sea salt
peppercorns, crushed in a mortar
large rustic buns, cut in half, 2
Leerdammer cheese, or another mild hard cheese, very thinly sliced, about 170g / 6 ounces
small red bell pepper (and or tomato), cut into rings, 1
small organic cucumber, rinsed and scrubbed, very thinly sliced with a mandoline or cheese slicer, 1
medium ripe avocado, very thinly sliced with a mandoline or cheese slicer, 1

In a heavy pan, heat a splash of olive oil and cook the bacon until golden brown and crispy. Transfer to a plate lined with kitchen paper, but leave the fat in the pan.

In the pan used to cook the bacon, cook the eggs for a few minutes until the egg yolk is still liquid, season with flaky sea salt and crushed pepper.

Divide the cheese between the bottom sides of the buns and arrange the bacon and vegetables on top. Drizzle with a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Finish it off with 2 eggs for each sandwich and close the bun. Squeeze and enjoy!

Bacon, Egg, and Cheese Sandwich with Garden Vegetables


Bacon, Egg, and Cheese Sandwich with Garden Vegetables


Bacon, Egg, and Cheese Sandwich with Garden Vegetables


Bacon, Egg, and Cheese Sandwich with Garden Vegetables



Cucumber Salad with Dill and Sour Cream Dressing

Cucumber Salad with Dill + Sour Cream

Lots of amazing food was gathered on my own and on my friend’s and family’s tables in the past couple days, we enjoyed some special culinary treats, had a great time, and of course ate lots of sweets, cakes and chocolate. No complaints but it’s time for a break! I love to feast for days, especially together with the ones I love. Treating others and myself to good homemade food, spending time together at a long table, trying out and sharing new recipes, I need and appreciate this so much. It’s like taking a break from the daily routine when time is tight and work is always waiting. These feasts caress my soul, I  treasure these moments highly and most of the time they become my most beloved memories!

But each feast has its end, otherwise it wouldn’t be so special. Therefore I gladly enjoy a light salad, simple and quick. It combines a lot I love about spring, juicy and tasty cucumber which is such a pleasure after months of watery winter cucumbers, fresh dill, strong and aromatic, and a smooth dressing with sour cream and lemon. For the two of us, I sliced 1 small cucumber very thinly and dolloped my milky dressing over it. I whisked 2 heaped tablespoons of sour cream with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 2 tablespoons of heavy cream and added 1 tablespoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice, salt, pepper and a pinch of sugar. This is just a rough guideline, adjust the ingredients to your own taste, or add some more herbs like chives or parsley or some other vegetables like cherry tomatoes or lettuce. I was happy with my puristic combination, just cucumber, the dressing nicely balanced between sweet, sour and milky, and some freshly chopped dill sprinkled on top.

Cucumber Salad with Dill + Sour Cream


Cucumber Salad with Dill + Sour Cream

Yu-Kyong’s Bibimbap, a traditional Korean treat


A few weeks ago I met a very sweet couple from Norway, Lena and Knut, we sat opposite each other at a supper club and started talking. Days later I found out about their wonderful blog Teak Tray Weekdays where they share little treasures of their daily life in Trondheim and their traveling trips, I got peacefully lost in their stories. When Lena asked me if I would like to cook something together with them I was very happy. I liked the idea of the three of us cooking the same meal in different kitchens in different countries and with different recipes. I let them choose what we would cook and they suggested Bibimbap. They had just been to Berlin and enjoyed this Korean speciality at a restaurant so much that they wanted to cook it at home. You can find the link to Lena’s and Knut’s Bibimbap here.

At first, I wasn’t sure about my approach to this meal. I had never cooked Korean before and I usually need an experience, a memory, a story, taste, something that opens the door to a new culinary experience. I asked my oldest friend Yu-Kyong for help, we lived next to each other through our whole childhood, she has Korean roots, her father grew up in North Korea and her mother in the South. She lived in Germany all her life but her mother cooks Korean for the family and introduced her daughter to the traditional recipes, like Bibimbap.

When I asked Yu-Kyong to write down the recipe so that I could buy all the ingredients she told me that this wouldn’t work, we would have to go shopping together! We met at an Asian market and she gave me an introduction to Korean cooking. She explained the necessary spices, mixtures, spice pastes and preparations to me, all in between hundreds of boxes, tins and bottles of food, freezers stuffed with tiny crabs, octopus and fish. The scent of a different world in my nose, visually overwhelmed, I tried to keep up with her. She told me about the different flavours and qualities of sesame oil, I learnt how to cook sticky rice properly, which cutlery I have to use (a metal spoon and metal chopsticks, not wooden!) and so much more. Basically, a one hour crash course on Korean cooking, in the middle of an Asian market, typing everything more or less precisely into my phone, not to forget a single detail.


I got home with bags of vegetables, Kimchi, roasted seaweed, Obok Gochujang hot pepper paste, many colourful tins and boxes. I bought the first tofu of my life and I felt happy and finally prepared for this new cooking experience.

Here’s a quick description of Bibimbap, it’s a one pot meal, rice at the bottom and steamed vegetables mixed with a sesame oil and soy sauce dressing on top. I steamed spinach, sprouts and carrots and added strips of seaweed, Kimchi (spicy fermented cabbage), fried tofu and eggs. The spinach is glazed with the special Bibimbap Gochujang sauce which is mixed into the rice as well. I made a traditional cucumber salad on the side, mixed with sesame oil and soy sauce, sprinkled with chili powder and toasted sesame seeds.

This meal needs good preparation before you mix everything together, it’s a ceremony of pure tastes mixed with the strong flavour of good quality sesame oil and the spiciness of Gochujang. When you make your own Bibimbap you should allow some extra time to enjoy the cutting, steaming and mixing, it’s meditative. I learnt that this is not a warm meal, the rice and egg (which I fried in the end) have to be warm but the steamed vegetables can be cold.


 Vegetable Bibimbap  and Cucumber Salad

For 3-4 people you need

sticky rice, rinsed, 170g / 6 ounces
soybean sprouts, steamed for 1-2 minutes, a handful
spinach, steamed for 1-2 minutes, 250g / 9 ounces
carrot, cut into julienne, steamed for 1 minute, 1-2
tofu, cut into 0.5cm / 1/4″ slices, 200g / 7 ounces
Kimchi 6 tablespoons
spring onions, cut into thin slices, a small handfull
Korean roasted seaweed, cut into strips, 5 sheets
organic eggs 3-4
sesame seeds, toasted in a pan for a couple minutes on medium heat, 2 tablespoons
cucumber, peeled, cut in half, without the seeds and soft parts, a 15cm / 6″ piece for the cucumber salad
dried chili spice for the cucumber salad, 1/8 teaspoon
Gochujang hot pepper paste 1 tablespoon
sesame oil 6 tablespoons
soy sauce 5 tablespoons
garlic, crushed, 4 cloves

Whisk the following ingredients for the sauce used for the steamed soybean sprouts, carrots and cucumber salad

4 1/2 tablespoons of the sesame oil
3 tablespoons of the soy sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons of sugar
and 3 small crushed cloves of garlic

Whisk the following ingredients for the Bibimbap sauce (used for the steamed spinach and the rice)

1 tablespoon of the Obok Gochujang hot pepper paste
1 1/2 tablespoons of the sesame oil
2 tablespoons of the soy sauce
3/4 tablespoon of sugar
and 1 small crushed clove of garlic

Cook the rice in a pot filled with water and a pinch of salt (the water should be 2cm / 1″ above the rice) for 12 minutes, on medium heat, keeping the lid closed. If the rice is still hard and didn’t soak all the water, keep it on the heat for a couple more minutes. When it’s done, keep the rice covered and set aside.

For the salad, cut the cucumber into strips, mix with 1/3 of the dressing (not the Bibimbap sauce) and sprinkle with some sesame seeds and the dried chili spice. The cucumber salad is served as a side dish, not on top of the Bibimbap like the rest of the vegetables.

Glaze the steamed soybean sprouts with 1/3 of the dressing (not the Bibimbap sauce) and the steamed carrots with the rest of the sauce, sprinkle both with sesame seeds.

Mix the steamed spinach with 4 teaspoons of the special Bibimbap sauce (keep the rest of the sauce to mix with the rice).

Fry the tofu in a little sesame oil for 2 minutes until golden, turn gently and fry on the other side. When it’s done, set it aside.

Fry the eggs, leaving the egg yolk soft.

Put the rice in a large bowl and the spinach, carrots, sprouts, Kimchi, spring onions, tofu and seaweed on top, arrange them in a circle next to each other. Place the fried eggs in the middle and sprinkle everything with sesame seeds.

When you serve the Bibimbap at the table, you can either mix everything in the bowl together with the rest of the Bibimbap sauce or divide it between the plates and add some sauce to it (that’s how I did it).