Grilled corn Cafè Habana style









Hello, we know this! you might say and of course you do. Everyone remotely familiar with Mexican, Cuban cuisine has had a combination of corn, crema, cheese, chile and lime. Blogs have waxed lyrically for years about classic Mexican street food staples like Elote en vaso (corn in a cup) is classic Mexican street food and the famous grilled corn of Café Habana in New York or it’s West Coast outlets. Understandably people don’t mind queueing for this delicious comfort food and tuck into these with abandon although there is no elegant way of eating the creamy-spicy-limey-salty-cheesy charred corn ears.

This heavenly combination is the reason for my constant return to these and since NY and the nearest Café Habana is not exactly round the corner one has to come up with an approximation of the original. Continue reading

Fig tart – tarte aux figues


Look for the German recipe at the end; Deutsches Rezept am Ende

Figs are abundant and at their absolute best right now. Here, dark purple figs from Turkey with their ruby red interior dominate the fruit displays and this cake, while Black Mission figs were my preferred choice when living in CA – naturally. Figs can either be very bland with woolly flesh or wonderfully sweet, ripe & bursting with flavour. And exactly those with a dark red jewel heart must be seeked out for this super easy & tasty tart, that can be thrown together in seconds. Most of the few ingredients might already be in your fridge and larder or can be stocked easily for an instant fruity cake fix. Continue reading

Corn-tomato-basil salad



Recipe in German at the end of this post / Das Rezept gibt es auch auf Deutsch, siehe unten.



Jenny Rosenstrach is quite stern about having this salad, no excuses. And boy, is she right! Everything is in season: sun-ripened tomatoes, the sweet corn is fresh & local and many times just pinched picked of the stalk, the dark green basil overwhelmingly fragrant. These prime ingredients only need a little dressing of oil & I think a squeeze of lime. At the utmost, perhaps a pinch of chilli for a spicy kick but that’s it and you’ve got a wonderful summer salad, a refreshing side Continue reading

Lemony giant beans with fennel & dill

Lemony giant beans with fennel & dill


Do you feel you get stuck sometimes and feel that even your absolute favourite vegetable dishes are still, well, loved, but you could do with a change or something new? It is the exact same feeling, that you get looking at your wardrobe and sigh and sigh and… One new thing that mixes up everything, turns things around, allows new combinations and suddenly: all shines in a new light, looks bright & fresh and the world is right as rain again.

These giant beans, fennel & lemon wedges with tons of dill offer a total different taste and unusual combination of ingredients (honey with dill). Definitely something to get you out of your vegetable or side dish rut: brilliant on its own, though I imagine it a great companion to grilled mackerel, rouget (red mullet), too. We had it with lamb, which was the reason I tried it in the first place. The ingredients made me think of the cuisines of Greece, Turkey, Persia, Israel and lamb chops came to my mind (luckily I had just bought some that day in the Kleinmarkthalle – what a coincidence). We loved it and this dish has claimed its place in our rota of quick go-to suppers or sides.

Lemony giant beans & fennel with dill

Serves two as a side dish, adapted from Heidi Swanson; I changed the quantities, added more sauce, lemon & dill)

1 fennel bulb
1 tablespoon olive oil
half a lemon, thoroughly washed and cut into wedges
1 teaspoon honey
¼ cup of white wine
1 small tin (220g) of cooked giant white beans (Fagioli “Bianchi di Spagna”)
1 ladle of chicken broth or vegetable stock (approximately ¾ cup)
½ cup of roughly chopped dill
Cut the fennel in halves, turn those onto the cut sides and slice the bulb into 1cm (less then 1/2 inch) thin wedges. Heat the oil in a frying or braising pan over medium heat, throw in the fennel and leave to brown undisturbed for a while (2 minutes or longer) then add the lemon wedges brown for another 2 minutes. Season with salt, add honey & wine for the sauce, let it reduce for a minute, then pour in the stock and warm the beans in it for approximately 5 minutes. Sprinkle with dill to serve. As Heidi says, the beans are great at any temperature – we enjoyed them as a warm side to our grilled lamb.


Zitronen-Riesenbohnen & Fenchel mit Dill

Für zwei Portionen, adaptiert von Heidi Swanson

1 Fenchelknolle
1 EL Olivenöl
eine halbe Zitrone, gründlich gewaschen und in Spalten geschnitten
1 TL Honig
60ml Weißwein
1 kleine Dose (220g) weiße Riesenbohnen (Fagioli „Bianchi di Spagna“)
1 Kelle Hühner- oder Gemüsebrühe (ca. 180ml)
½ Tasse oder eine große Handvoll grob gehackter Dill

Den Fenchel halbieren, auf die Schnittflächen legen und in 1cm dicke Spalten schneiden. Das Olivenöl in einer Pfanne oder einem niedrigen Schmortopf bei mittlerer Hitze erhitzen, den Fenchel hineinstreuen und ohne Rühren für ca. 2 Minuten oder länger bräunen. Dann die Zitronenspalten hinzugeben und alles für mindestens weitere 2 Minuten Farbe annehmen lassen. Salzen, Honig & Wein für die Sauce einrühren, eine knappe Minute reduzieren lassen, dann die Brühe hineingießen und darin die Bohnen erwärmen (ca. 5 Minuten). Mit Dill bestreuen und servieren. Das Gericht schmeckt bei jeder Temperatur: heiß, warm, Zimmertemperatur; allein oder als Beilage zu Fisch (mhm: gegrillet Makrelen oder Rotbarben sind bestimmt toll) oder Fleisch: uns haben diese aromatischen Zitronen-Bohnen besonders gut warm zu gegrillten Lammkoteletts geschmeckt.

Meyer lemon risotto with green asparagus

Meyer lemon risotto with green asparagus









Even before our container arrived at our new Sunnyvale house, I had bought an orange & a lemon tree for the terrace. Without even knowing that this was a special lemon variety I had chosen a Meyer lemon tree and went on experimenting. Easy in a place like California where ingredient choice is limitless and all my favourite things like artichokes, green asparagus & (the outside of Europe extremely rare) white asparagus, tiny potatoes, mesclun & the latest fashionable greens are at your fingertips. And so this risotto came about and it is still one of our most loved recipes & the top-of-the-heap of the lemon trials. Green asparagus is incorporated in the Meyer lemony (zest & juice) risotto and the tasty tips that would fall to pieces if they were in it are seared in a pan to add another texture and flavour to the dish. Upgrade the creamy-ness with grated Parmigiano (no need to add a ton of butter) and you have a wonderful (vegetarian) supper. Add extra shavings of cheese or a few slices of Parma ham for an impressive dinner version.

I might have lamented already the comparative cheapness of green asparagus in the States when faced with the gingerly harvested & accordingly priced bunches of the first local green asparagus but this risotto is sooo worth it.


What do I do if I don’t have a Meyer lemon? If you can’t get Meyer lemons where you live (not that easy outside the U.S. and even the trees are hard to find in Europe), just mix the juices and the zest (separately) of both an organic lemon & organic mandarin/tangerine/clementine to get to an approximation of the warm lemony taste without the extreme sourness as I have done here, too.

Deutsches Rezept unten.



Meyer lemon risotto with green asparagus risotto
for 2

1.5l good stock (chicken or vegetable), you may not need all of it
1lb or 500g green asparagus
olive oil
1 knob of butter
1 shallot, minced
1 small glass of white wine (about 100-150ml, preferably a crisp & slightly acidic Riesling)
170g risotto rice (Carnaroli or Arborio)
juice and zest of 1 Meyer lemon
50g Parmigiano reggiano

Bring the stock to a slow simmer and keep it this way next to the designated risotto pot. Prep the asparagus: peel the hard skin of the lower third of the asparagus spear, cut into 1.5 cm pieces until you reach the upper third with the tip and put those aside. If you have thin & thicker asparagus, cut up the thicker ones and leave the thin ones for frying. While you are cooking the risotto, slowly fry the asparagus tips or thin spears in medium hot pan with a little olive oil until browned.
For the risotto melt the butter over medium heat, sweat the minced shallot until translucent then add the risotto rice. Stir for about 3 minutes or so until the rice grains show a shiny shimmer, deglaze with a generous splash of white wine and when the rice has absorbed it add a ladle of stock. Stir from time to time and add more stock each time the previous ladle has been absorbed. You might not need to use all the stock but better safe than sorry.
Do not let the risotto get completely dry, always add the stock when the rice still seems to be quite moist. Try the rice a few times: it should still have some bite before you add the asparagus pieces (depending on your rice this might take about 15-20 minutes). Stir in the small asparagus pieces & Meyer lemon zest and cook for another 5-7 minutes not forgetting pouring in the stock at intervals. Finally round of the risotto with the parmesan, season with Meyer lemon juice to taste (I use the whole) and possibly a little salt right before the end. Serve with the pan-fried asparagus on top. If you have a little Parma ham on your hand, add a few slices for an equally good combination & even more luxurious plate.



Risotto mit Meyer Zitronen & grünem Spargel
für 2 Personen

1,5l gute Brühe (Hühner- oder Gemüsebrühe)
1 Pfund grüner Spargel
ein Stückchen Butter
1 Schalotte, fein gewürfelt
1 kleines Glas Weißwein (100-150ml, Riesling oder ein anderer Wein mit angenehm frischer Säure)
170g Risottoreis (Carnaroli oder Arborio)
Saft und abgeriebene Schale einer Meyer Zitrone (alternativ Mischung aus Zitrone & Clementine)
50g Parmigiano Reggiano

Zuerst die Brühe zum Kochen bringen, neben dem designierten Risottotopf platzieren und auf kleiner Flamme leise weiter köcheln lassen. Dann den Spargel vorbereiten: die Enden schälen um die holzige dicke Haut zu entfernen und die Stangen bis zum obersten Drittel in 1,5 cm große Stückchen schneiden. Das Spitzenstück ganz lassen und beiseite legen. Sollte man dünne und dicke Stangen haben, dann die dünnsten ganz lassen und die dickeren aufschneiden. Während das Risotto kocht, ein wenig Olivenöl in einer Pfanne über mittlerer Hitze erwärmen und die Spargelspitzen darin rundherum langsam anbraten.
Für das Risotto die Butter in einem Topf mittlerer Größe bei leichter bis mittlerer Hitze schmelzen lassen und die Schalotten darin glasig andünsten, sie sollten keine Farbe annehmen. Den Risottoreis hinzugeben und für ein paar Minuten anschwitzen bis der Reis schimmert, dann mit dem Weißwein ablöschen. Wenn beinahe die gesamte Flüssigkeit verdampft ist, eine Kelle Brühe hinzugeben. Ab und zu umrühren und immer wieder die Brühe kellenweise hinzugeben – der Reis sollte niemals trocken werden. Gelegentlich probieren und wenn der Reis noch etwas Biß hat (das dauert ca. 15-20 Minuten, kommt auf den Reis etc. an) die Spargelstückchen & die Zitronenschale unterrühren und die letzten 5-7 Minuten mitgaren. Abschließend den Parmesan hinzugeben und mit Zitronensaft & Salz abschmecken. Mit den gebratenen Spargelspitzen servieren. Falls etwas Parmaschinken zur Hand ist, passt der auch ganz wunderbar dazu.

Chipotle barbeque pulled pork sandwich


Juicy, slow-cooked pork, shredded and doused with a quick improvised or customized chipotle barbeque sauce (or use a good store-bought one instead) in a buttered sandwich, white bread or a soft bun, please, just this once. For me, this is quite high-ranking on the ultimate comfort food list. It reminds me of the first encounter of something called Oaxaca pulled pork sandwich, obtained one day after shopping when plagued by pangs of hunger from a Saveway’s food counter and I am not so sure how authentic Oaxacan it was though it was so juicy, yummy, savoury, saucy, well, find out for yourself, here is the result of our own experiments. Oh, dear, I forgot to brag, this one was in the Guardian, too.
German Version below / Deutsches Rezept (s.u.)



Pulled pork

1.5kg (3.5 lbs) piece of pork shoulder (deboned & without skin)
2 onions, roughly chopped (cut into a few large pieces)
4-5 garlic cloves, peeled
3 peperoncini or small milder chiles
1½ teaspoons dried oregano
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2½ teaspoons coarse sea salt
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
3 tablespoons tomato puree
1 litre (a little more than 1 quart) chicken stock
good barbeque sauce (= not too sweet & as natural as you can get) or make your own (see below for a quick recipe using the cooking liquor)

Preheat the oven to 170°C or 340° F.
Place the pork shoulder into a Dutch oven, add the onions, garlic, herbs & spices, tomato paste and the stock. Pour enough water into the pot to just about cover the meat. Bring slowly to a boil over medium heat, close the cast iron pot with the lid and heave it into the oven. Reduce the temperature to 150°C or 300° F, leave the pork (turning it every hour,) to cook in its braising liquid for about 3-4 hours until the meat is fork tender.

Remove from the pot from the oven, take the meat out of its cooking liquid, leave to drain & cool for a few minutes, then pull the meat into pieces. Add barbeque sauce & some of the cooking liquor., adjust the seasoning to your taste. Use more liquor for a thinner sauce: you want something rather thin like a gravy consistency to lightly coat the meat but not smother it in tons of sauce, at least that’s my take here.

Chipotle barbeque sauce:

Reserved cooking liquor with all the bits in (bay leaf removed & leave to cool a bit to remove excess fat)
2 chipotles en adobo with juice
250ml or 1 cup of ketchup
1 tablespoon tomato puree / paste
1 teaspoon molasses

Concentrate the reserved & previously degreased cooking liquor: cook over medium to high heat to reduce it to about half the amount. Strain to catch most of the soft vegetable bits, keep the liquid. Add the chipotle chiles, ketchup, tomato paste, molasses and a little bit of the liquid to the soft vegetables and puree with a blender (handheld or fixed) to a spicy, smoky and not to sweet barbeque sauce.

Serve in a buttered bun or sandwich, a taco, a burrito, add to stew, on top of vegetables & rice…

deutsches Rezept: Chipotle barbeque Pulled pork

1,5kg Schweineschulter ohne Knochen und Schwarte
2 Zwiebeln, in große Stücke geschnitten
4-5 Knoblauchzehen, geschält
3 Peperoncini oder andere kleine getrocknete Chilischoten
1½ TL getrockneter Oregano
1 Lorbeerblatt
1 EL gemahlener Kreuzkümmel
2½ TL grobes Meersalz
1 EL schwarze Pfefferkörner
3 EL Tomatenpüree
1 Liter Brühe (Hühner, Kalbs- oder Gemüsebrühe)
gute Barbecue Sauce (nicht zu süß & so natürlich wie möglich) oder selbstgemacht (Rezept s. u.)

Backofen auf 170°C vorheizen.
Die Schweineschulter in eine gusseiserne Kasserolle geben, die Zwiebeln, Knoblauch, Kräuter & Gewürze sowie das Tomatenpüree und die Brühe hinzugeben, dann mit Wasser auffüllen bis das Fleisch eben bedeckt ist. Bei mittlerer Hitze zum Kochen bringen, den Deckel auflegen und in den Ofen hieven. Die Temperatur auf 150°C reduzieren und die Schweineschulter für 3-4 Stunden kochen/backen (jede Stunde wenden) bis das Fleisch so zart ist, dass es auseinander fällt.

Das Fleisch aus der Kochflüssigkeit (aufbewahren!) nehmen, abtropfen und –kühlen lassen, dann mit den Fingern zerpflücken. Mit Barbequesauce und ein wenig von der Kochflüssigkeit vermischen (das Ziel ist eine dünnere Sauce, die das Fleisch nur etwas saftiger macht und nicht ertränkt), abschmecken und zwischen gebutterten Kastenweißbrotscheiben, Toast oder Brötchen servieren. Schmeckt auch gut zu Reis, im Taco, Burrito etc. etc.

Chipotle barbeque sauce:

Kochflüssigkeit mit allem Drum & Dran (Lorbeerblatt entfernt & nach dem Abkühlen entfettet)
2 chipotle chiles en adobo mit ein wenig Sauce
250ml Ketchup
1 EL Tomatenpüree
1 TL Molasse

Die reservierte & entfettete Kochflüssigkeit bei mittlerer bis starker Hitze bis auf die Hälfte einkochen lassen, dann durch ein Sieb gießen, die Flüssigkeit auffangen und die weichen Gemüse mit den Chipotles, Ketchup, Tomatenpüree & Molasse pürieren, mit der Flüssigkeit bis zur gewünschten Konsistenz auffüllen & verrühren.

Sonoma chicken salad

Sonoma chicken salad by the james kitchen
Sonoma chicken salad, a photo by the james kitchen on Flickr.


And what to do with all the chicken leftovers? If you haven’t got any, you might want to cook an extra chicken (or grill some breasts) just for this chicken salad. I do not know anything about the origin of the name, several other recipes by this moniker use grapes which is quite logic since Sonoma is of course the beautiful wine country in California. Anyway, we used to buy the salad at Trader Joe’s (Whole Foods has a different version though for me the honey is a bit much) when we used to live in the Bay Area and the name stuck.

Sweet cranberries and pecans add a taste of the States, savoury celery brings crunch and the admittedly rich but tart & fruity dressing unites all of these flavours. Great with a few raw vegetables on the side to pick at, it unfolds its potential as prime picnic fare. Especially, when served with soft, dark malted bread and all the California sights at your doorstep to choose for lovely picnic spots (not that I ever took food into the big National Parks, the idea of wild bears ripping the roof of the car like the lid of a tin of sardines freaked me out quite a bit…).

Since we are about 5681.515 miles away right now we had to come up with our own recipe for this salad to transport us back to the balmy weather (Sunnyvale, says it all, I think), the toasted-wood smell of Redwood trees & the crescendo of strong waves crashing onto the beach at Half Moon Bay and our favourite, less crowded spot at Montara. As I said, this is great picnic fare and if you are in the area, here are a few suggestions for hikes & great scenic drives.

If you are further away (something like 5681.515 miles but who is counting), pack your hamper, crank up the underfloor heating and unfold your blanket. That this salad goes very well with a lovely white wine from Sonoma goes without saying.


Sonoma chicken salad
serves 6
The measurements are a little on the vague side here since most of the ingredients are to your own preferences and it is best to find your own mix: if you prefer pecans to cranberries, add more of those and fewer of these. My advice is though to go for roughly the same quantities with a little more chicken and celery.

Cold leftover chicken or cold grilled chicken breasts (around 450g or 1 lb)
2 handfuls dried cranberries, unsweetened
pineapple juice
3-4 celery ribs, diced
2-3 handfuls whole pecans
½ cup (ca. 120ml) mayonnaise (add less or more to taste or substitute a part by sour cream or yoghurt, if you want to make it a little less rich)
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons poppy seeds
salt & pepper

Macerate the cranberries in pineapple juice for about 20 to 30 minutes until they have plumped up a little. Keep the juice for the dressing. Pick over the carcass of your leftover chicken or chop the grilled breasts into bite-sized pieces. Add them to a bowl along with the cranberries, celery and pecans. Make the dressing by combining mayonnaise, cider vinegar (see if you need a little less or more depending on the kind of mayonnaise you are using, the sauce should have a tart apple-y taste), some of the reserved pineapple juice, poppy seeds and season with salt & pepper. You want to have quite a runny dressing for the chicken and other ingredients will suck up quite a lot of liquid while the salad rests. Mix with the chicken & co. and let the salad rest for about 1 to 2 hours for the flavours to meld & mingle. Adjust the seasoning and add some more pineapple juice if necessary. There is of course a lot of tasting required while the salad rests, naturally.


Auf deutsch: Sonoma Hühnchensalat
für 6 Personen, lecker für ein Picknick im Freien oder auch im Wohnzimmer.
Die Mengen der Zutaten variieren, man kann die Mischung nach eigenem Geschmack gestalten, so z.B. wenn man lieber Pekannüsse als Cranberries mag, nimmt man davon mehr und vom anderen weniger. Ich versuche ungefähr nach Augenmaß gleiche Mengen zu nehmen, aber ein wenig mehr Huhn und Bleichsellerie hinzuzugeben.

Kaltes Hühnchen oder gegrillte Hühnchenbrust (ca. 450g)
2 Handvoll getrocknete Cranberries, ungesüßt wenn möglich
3-4 Stangen Bleichsellerie, in Würfel geschnitten
2-3 Handvoll ganze Pekannüsse
½ Tasse (120ml) gute Mayonnaise (weniger oder mehr nach Geschmack, man kann auch einen Teil durch saure Sahne oder Yoghurt ersetzen um das Dressing etwas weniger reichhaltig zu machen, ich würde keine light-Produkte verwenden)
1 EL Apfelessig
2 EL Mohnsamen
Salz & Pfeffer

Die getrockneten Cranberries für ca. 20 bis 30 Minuten in Ananassaft einweichen, den Saft aufbewahren. Hühnerfleisch von der Karkasse ablösen falls Sie etwas vom Brathähnchen oder Suppenhuhn übrighaben oder die gegrillte Hünchenbrust in mundgerechte Stückchen schneiden und zusammen mit dem Bleichsellerie, den Cranberries und den Pekannüssen in eine Schüssel geben. Aus der Mayonnaise, dem Essig (mehr oder weniger Essig hinzugeben je nachdem was für eine Mayonnaise verwendet wird, das Dressing sollte schon etwas Apfelgeschmack und Säure haben), etwas von dem Ananassaft, dem Mohn sowie Salz & Pfeffer eine relativ flüssige Salatsauce herstellen, da die Zutaten einige Flüssigkeit aufsaugen werden. Die Sauce mit Huhn & Co. mischen und für ca. 1-2 Stunden ruhen lassen, damit sich die verschiedenen Geschmäcker miteinander verbinden können. Dann abschmecken und wenn erforderlich noch etwas mehr Ananassaft hinzugeben. Natürlich ist es absolut notwendig, daß der Salat während der Ruhezeit regelmäßig probiert wird – dies nur falls Sie jemand fragt.