We are 3 friends who met while living in France, and bonded over our love of food and cooking, and it’s ability to bring people together. We are separated by distance now, Emma in Lisbon, Rose in Oaxaca, and myself in Los Angeles, but not much has changed. We are still obsessed with food and find every excuse to cook for our friends and family as a way of bringing everyone to the table and as a way of expressing our love for them.
While chatting over Zoom recently, we realized that even though physical distance separates us, our food philosophies span the gap. Simple, unfussy, and delicious food can be made anywhere. Each week, we will bring you 3 different recipes that are centered around the same ingredient. This week it is herbs, a constant presence in all of our fridges, but next week it will be something different. We’ll talk about that ingredient, if it is readily available where we are, and what we did with it.
Herbs are one of those constants in the fridge. I always keep a bunch of cilantro, dill, parsley and scallions washed and ready to go, as they never go to waste and can be added to just about any dish to brighten it up or blended together to make a vibrant, mega-flavorful sauce, like I’ve done here. Dill is an all time favorite of mine and I think it is underused. I chop dill for salads, add it to sauces, bake it on top of fish and love stirring it through warm grains, so it melts in with them and imparts it’s beautiful flavor.
This week at the farmers market, I bought a piece of shark, which before now, I’ve only eaten in restaurants. Because I wanted to make quite a bright, punchy sauce with herbs, I didn’t want to get a really delicate piece of fish that would get lost in the sauce. Shark has a similar texture and flavor profile to chicken or swordfish, making it the perfect fish to pair with a vibrant and bold sauce.
½ bunch parsley
½ tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon capers
¼ teaspoon salt
1 large clove garlic, peeled
¼ teaspoon chile flakes
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of ½ lemon
Olive oil, as needed
1 cup rice
1 cup black lentils
1 bunch dill, tough stems removed, chopped
Salt + pepper
Squeeze of lemon
Place all ingredients into a blender, adding enough olive oil so that the sauce blends into a smooth, pourable consistency.
Combine the rice and lentils in a pot with 3 cups of water. Bring the water to a simmer, cover the pot, and cook on low for 30-40 minutes until tender and completely cooked through.
While the rice and lentils are still warm, stir through the dill, a good glug of olive oil, salt, pepper and a squeeze of lemon.
Serve with a piece of grilled fish and a heavy drizzle of herby, green sauce.
We fly to New Zealand this weekend, and are trying to ‘eat the pantry’ as it were, so we don’t waste any food. There has been a big bag of black beans lying around, so I decided that will be our diet for the week (when we aren’t making the most of the aguachile and fish tacos at the beach). In terms of herbs, I had a little bit of coriander, some parsley stems, and some wonderful dried herbs—bay leaves and Mexican oregano. And delicious dried chilies.
The Mexican oregano is so fragrant, and almost minty. It adds a lovely freshness to the flavour profile—I hope I can find it back in New Zealand. I cheated a little and picked up an onion from a roadside stall on my way home from the beach.
I have been drinking the broth all day. It’s so velvety and smooth and moreish.I plan to serve the beans with rice, in tacos, and a salad with grilled corn and tomatoes.
900g dry black beans
4 liters water
1 head garlic, cut in half
Rinse beans well and remove any rocks or dirt. Place in a large pot with water to cover by a couple of inches. Add onion, garlic, lots of olive oil and a big handful of salt. Plus herbs, chilies and peppercorns. Bring a boil, and then reduce to a simmer. Cook until tender and delicious (2 1/2 – 3 hours). Add a little fresh lime juice at the end, and check seasoning to taste.
Allow to cool on the stovetop and sit in the cooking liquid for an hour or so, then remove herbs and aromatics etc.
Lisbon has a 1 pm COVID-19 curfew on Saturday’s, so I get up early. The sun rays are warming my face. So good! Sun in November! As a Swede you do get excited about those things. Never take the sun for granted.
Walking up the steep hills of Lisbon to reach the market, I am thinking about my favourite food stalls in Hanoi. The ones where I used to go for lunch break, each one specialised on one dish only: Phở, bánh xèo, bún bò nam bộ, bánh cuốn. The Vietnamese cuisine is so rich with subtle flavours – for me it’s the first thing that comes to mind when the main ingredient is herbs.
One of the market stalls has an offering of herbs that is outstanding, always seasonal. My head is full of flavours like mint, coriander and other Vietnamese fragrant leaves. Those thoughts disappear in an instant when I spot it: a box standing on the ground, by the side of the other herbs. I walk closer. It’s nettles. Urtigas!
My grandmother and I used to go out and forage nettles in early springtime. They are a sign of summer and life, breaking through the cold Swedish winter. There are two reasons to pick nettles before they get too big: one, the leaves “burn” and gives rashes after a while. Two, they tend to get bitter and a bit though in texture.
All I can think of is my grandmother’s nettle soup. The lady right next to me is surprised when she spots my bag of nettles: “Are you sure you are buying the right thing, menina?” Here in Portugal, only the older generation knows how to cook nettles. It’s them, and the Swede that has been doing it every year with her grandmother since she was 4 years old.
Prepare the nettles by taking off the leaves and blanching them in hot water.
Fry a generous amount of yellow onions and garlic in olive oil. Add the nettles, some japanese soy sauce, a splash of red wine and some balsamic vinegar and some oat milk. Let simmer for a while. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Top with a poached egg, a bunch of herbs (I used dill, mint and thyme) and chilli flakes. Serve with a good sourdough bread.