bay leaf: 2 posts

Autumn in Brussels : Pork Loin with Peaches and Thyme

Autumn here in Belgium begins overnight. After the short interlude of an Indian summer, you wake up to an overcast, gray day and feel that the clouds are only a few inches above your head. The roses might still be in full bloom, the daytime temperature is still comfortable, but you already know that the rainy season is here. It’s telling that in the old Bruxellois dialect, there are numerous words for rain. It can be a delicate mist that looks innocuous but soaks you to the bone within minutes. It can be a lashing, cold rain that makes umbrellas obsolete, or it might just be a nagging drizzle that makes me feel sad for no particular reason and ponder the wisdom of bears that go into hibernation for the winter.

Since the winter here is nine months long, hibernation isn’t really an option. I’ve learned to do all of my chores on foot and shop at the open air markets which are run year round in each neighborhood, rain or shine. Brussels is made up of 19 communes, and if you love markets, you can explore different areas of the city based on your specific shopping needs. On Saturday, you can pour over the antique books at the market held at the Place du Sablon. On Sunday, you can buy spices and vegetables at the sprawling le Marché du Midi or walk along Rue de Brabant and feel as if you’re in Morocco. While les grandes surfaces (supermarkets) offer stiff competition, the vibrancy of the open air markets even on the dreariest of days is appealing.

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Lagman Uzbek Lamb and Noodle Soup Recipe

When cumin hits hot oil, the scent that rises up is complex and rich. It hovers above the sizzling pan as a warm cloud, woody, crisp, with sweet clove and leather undertones. Cumin has a natural affinity for meat, cruciferous vegetables, onions, garlic, and acidic vegetable-fruit like eggplant and tomato. It enhances their flavors, while retaining its own unique character. One of the ways to experience cumin’s nuances is try Central Asian food.

Lagman

One of my favorites is lagman, a lamb and vegetable noodle dish. Its one of several signature Uzbek dishes, along with plov (lavish rice and lamb pilaf,) samsa (tandoor baked savory pastries,) manty (steamed dumplings,) and kebabs. Its origins lie further east, however. Brought to Central Asia by the Uyghurs, Chinese speaking Muslims, this dish shares many similarities with East Asian noodle soups. Yet, the spice and herb combination makes it unique.

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