dill: 4 posts

White Acacia and Cucumber Salad : Edible Flowers

While mimosa makes me think of the last days of winter in Provence, white acacia flowers evoke late spring. It’s not only the sweet scent that appeals to me, but also the taste. Beignets de fleurs d’acacia, acacia flower fritters, are a seasonal treat, a crisp confection dusted with powdered sugar. The acacia season is fleeting, but it overlaps with that of rose de mai, so when I visit Grasse for the harvest, I try to time it to taste the beignets.

What I call white acacia is really a black locust tree (robinia pseudoacacia), a common plant in both Europe and the United States, blooming in April-May, depending on the region. I’ll continue calling it white acacia, because that’s the name most familiar to me–and besides, it’s prettier. Whatever you call it, it’s edible, and the flowers taste like sugar snap peas, but sweeter and more delicate. Since it’s an invasive plant, one might as well forage for it and eat it.

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Georgian Chicken Stew with Tomatoes and Herbs : Chakhokhbili

Before the tomato season ends I would like to share a recipe for chakhokhbili, a Georgian chicken stew. It’s a dish that tastes and smells of summer, and I try to make it as often as I can during the months when ripe tomatoes are available. The idea is to cook chicken with onions and towards the end add almost twice its weight in tomatoes and herbs. The tomatoes are cooked only to soften them, which gives the stew a bright, sunny flavor. Few other preparations showcase the simple ingredients–chicken and tomatoes–to such advantage. And if you haven’t cooked Georgian food before, I urge you to start with this recipe and be ready to be dazzled.

Georgia is a country of about four million people wedged between Russia, Turkey, Armenia, and Azerbaijan. In my travels through Georgia it never failed to amaze me how such a small country could produce so many outstanding writers, artists, sculptors and dancers, from painter Niko Pirosmani and poet Tizian Tabidze to ballerina Nina Ananiashvili and choreographer George Balanchine. Today, however, I want to give you a taste of the famed Georgian cuisine, because it’s a heritage worthy of being enshrined by UNESCO, along with Georgia’s unique polyphonic singing.

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Green Salad with Egg and Dill Dressing : Summer

Among the many things that perfumery and cuisine have in common is their ability to take you back into the past. A whiff, a taste, and you’re in another time and place. My Proustian madeleine was a  green salad my grandmother put together when we suddenly discovered that our lettuce patch was about to be overgrown. Since wasting food is a cardinal sin in our household, I was sent to pick the lettuce and herbs, while my grandmother boiled eggs and whipped a simple sour cream dressing. The combination of dill’s spicy licorice, tart cream and slightly bitter greens was refreshing, but it also reminded me of my childhood so poignantly that for a while I sat with my fork mid-motion.

green salad20 years later

Among my grandmother’s large repertoire, salads never played a big role. Depending on the season, we always had a large plate of fresh vegetables on the table–cucumbers sprinkled with salt, sliced tomatoes, radishes or spring onions, but the salad was hardly more than slivered cabbage tossed with parsley, dill and toasted sunflower seed oil. Green salad wasn’t even considered food fit for humans, and I vividly recall my great-grandmother pointing to a pile of lettuce and saying that only during the famine of the 1930s would she eat that “green nonsense.”

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Hot and Spicy Cranberry Sauce

Thanksgiving is when I miss the US the most. While life in Belgium goes on as usual, my friends and family back home are buying sweet potatoes, roasting turkeys and preparing for a long weekend of indulgence. Our oven here is so small that it wouldn’t even fit a turkey. Come to think of it, I haven’t even seen a whole turkey in stores. Cranberries, on the other hand, start showing up around the beginning of October. They are usually imported from North America, and the selection ranges from organic and handpicked (and priced accordingly) to the conventional Ocean Spray brand.

I love cranberries so much that I buy several bags at once and freeze whatever I can’t immediately use. Their exuberant tartness and hint of bitterness make them an interesting component in tarts, jams and sauces. My grandmother’s pickled cabbage is liberally studded with these shiny red berries– after pickling they become even more mouthpuckeringly tart but also quite addictive. She even uses them in desserts to make a whipped semolina and cranberry porridge that feels like a light mousse and is a relative of the Finnish dish called vispipuuro.

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