Melissa Clark's Roasted Fish with Sweet Peppers

Melissa Clark's Roasted Fish with Sweet Peppers

Hello, hello!

I am sitting at my dining table eating a cold blueberry pancake leftover from yesterday's celebratory breakfast. Celebratory because it marked the end of an unexpected quarantine triggered by the fact that we sat very close to someone infected with Covid-19 on one of our flights home from Italy two weeks ago and the boys, being unvaccinated, were therefore classified as close contacts. Wait. Two weeks? That makes me laugh. Italy feels like it was months ago. Something about being stuck indoors with two little boys who very much would rather be in Kita and school will make 11 days feel like 11 weeks, right?

Anyway, the best news is, of course, that we all tested negative at the end of the quarantine. Today, in the pouring rain, Hugo set off for school with his six pounds of brand-new notebooks and freshly sharpened pencils (the pleasure I got from getting his stuff ready!) and art supplies and a new supply of ink cartridges for his fountain pen. Bruno zipped happily off to Kita, snack box under his arm. We are home alone now, Max in his office, me in the aforementioned dining room and it is very quiet which is what I've longed for, but I cannot help but feel like this is just a fleeting moment of normalcy and I don't quite know what to do with this weird, unpleasant mix of relief and dread.

Parents Are Not Okay about sums it up, yes? Yes.

Anyway. I know that I very much left you hanging with my promise to share lots of delicious food from Italy and I'm sorry about that. Italy this year was...not always easy. It was uncomfortably hot a lot of the time, I was trying to squeeze in work whenever I could and there were quite a bit of parenting difficulties which cast a pall over the holidays. Cooking was an afterthought most days. Which is very easy to do in a place where everything you buy at the market tastes like the sweetest, juiciest version of itself. Upon reentry to Berlin, it felt like I had to relearn how to put food on the table all over again.

I'm not quite back to actually looking up recipes and following them, but while I get there, I wanted to tell you about this slam dunk from Melissa Clark that I made in May when I was in Boston. My parents live not far from a wonderful fish store called Captain Marden's which was such a treat for me. In Berlin, I cook almost exclusively with frozen or canned fish. Fresh fish is a wild and rare exception. With fish as fresh as it was from Captain Marden's, you can get away with barely doing anything to the fish before eating. But if you follow this recipe, you'll be so, so happy you did.

This is a sheet-pan dinner, so it's easy, but there are a few elements to it. First, you roast a tangle of sliced bell peppers until they're starting to get soft and silky. Then you scrape them out of the way and put white fish fillets in the center of the pan, topped with thyme and olives. While this roasts, you make a sort of short-cut salsa verde with parsley, garlic, oil and vinegar. The salsa verde is served with the fish and peppers. (We ate the fish and peppers with boiled potatoes if my memory serves me, but rice would be nice too.) The whole thing was very satisfying and delicious and easy to execute. And just the thing to make when you're feeling slightly incompetent, but in dire need of something special. 

Sound familiar? I'm feeling extremely incompetent these days, like I'm failing at most things in my life. Motherhood, work, being a functioning human. Everything feels difficult, impossible, really, and when I lift my head from my own stupidly privileged situation, the scope of suffering elsewhere is nearly unbearable to contemplate. I know a lot of other people are feeling this way too. If you are, consider this my sympathetic fist bump. 

Melissa Clark's Roasted Fish with Sweet Peppers
Serves 4 to 5

1 small bunch lemon thyme or regular thyme
1 ½ pounds hake fillets
Fine sea salt and black pepper
3 large bell peppers, preferably 1 red, 1 orange and 1 yellow, thinly sliced
4 ½ tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
¼ cup pitted, sliced black or green olives, or a combination
1 teaspoon sherry vinegar, plus more to taste
1 garlic clove, grated
1 cup loosely packed Italian parsley leaves, chopped

1. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Pull 1 tablespoon thyme leaves off the bunch and finely chop.

2. Season fish all over with a large pinch or two of salt and pepper and rub with chopped thyme leaves. Let rest at room temperature while you prepare peppers.

3. Spread peppers on a rimmed sheet pan, and toss with 1 1/2 tablespoons oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt and the black pepper to taste. Top peppers with the remaining thyme sprigs. Roast, tossing occasionally, until peppers are softened and golden at the edges, 15 to 20 minutes.

4. Increase oven temperature to 500 degrees. Push peppers to the edges of the pan, clearing a space in the center. Lay fish out on that empty space and drizzle with oil. Scatter olives over the top of fish and peppers. Roast until fish turns opaque and is just cooked through, 6 to 10 minutes.

5. Meanwhile, make a vinaigrette by combining vinegar, garlic and a pinch of salt in a bowl. Whisk in remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil, then whisk in parsley. Taste and add more salt or vinegar, or both, if needed. Serve fish and peppers drizzled with vinaigrette.


Joshua McFadden's Zucchini Salad with Tomatoes, Peanuts, Basil, Mint and Spicy Fish-Sauce Sauce

Joshua McFadden Zucchini Salad

Berlin public schools let out for summer last week and the city emptied out almost immediately. The streets feel empty and quiet now, parking spots abound, rush hour is muted, the air is thick with the scent of the blossoming linden trees. The smell, heavily floral and intoxicating, hangs in our apartment too, the windows yanked open day after day in the hopes of catching a faint breeze. Hugo's school closes for summer tomorrow and next week the boys and I leave for Italy, where the heat has already scorched the grass yellow and my mother awaits us. 

I am desperate to be there, itching with anticipation, actually, after having skipped our annual trip last year in an attempt to regain my sanity a little and write. These days, I feel different. I want to soak up every minute with the children, hold them close, watch them flourish in their happiest place, wild mint crunching under their feet, skin salted from the sea. I cannot wait to be where I feel most free and held, listening to the cicadas sawing away from morning til night, eating meal after meal of drippy melons and tomatoes, the rituals of summer anchoring us so firmly to that place. 

Until we leave, my calendar is filled with dinner dates and lunches and a picnic and celebrations of birthdays and anniversaries. We fling our arms around each other again in greeting and to say goodbye, promising more time together when everyone's back again in August. It feels delicious and indulgent and restorative and frightening and wonderful; totally banal and strange as hell at the same time. We weren't allowed to hug for so long. Is it safe? Meanwhile, tomorrow I will have a rising fourth grader and a little one with just one year left in Kita. It is nearly July. Wasn't it just January? Time is flying. Carpe diem.

The heat means that we mostly eat things I barely have to cook. Melon and ham, tomato and mozzarella, beans and tuna, peaches gulped down over the sink. The other day, I made a wonderful salad from Joshua McFadden's Six Seasons of wafer-thin zucchini and a whole array of cherry tomatoes, roasted peanuts and spicy fish sauce. I'm not the biggest fan of raw zucchini - I really love its velvety softness once boiled - but here, the zucchini is cut so thin and then salted and left to rest for a while. The zucchini slices are silky and nicely sweet against the fiery, lusty sauce, the crunch of the peanuts, the fruity burst of the tomatoes. This is the perfect salad to be piled high into a plate and eaten for a meal on hot summer nights when appetites are low, but the belly growls and is in need of satisfaction. 

Note: This post includes affiliate links and I may earn a commission if you purchase through them, at no cost to you. I use affiliate links only for products I love and companies I trust. Thank you.

Zucchini Salad with Tomatoes, Peanuts, Basil, Mint and Spicy Fish-Sauce Sauce
Serves 4
Adapted from Six Seasons

3-4 medium firm zucchini
Salt
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup salted roasted peanuts, roughly chopped
1 bunch scallions, sliced on a sharp angle and soaked in ice water for 20 minutes
1 small handful basil leaves
1 small handful mint leaves
1/4 cup Spicy Fish-Sauce Sauce (recipe follows)

1. Using a mandoline or a very sharp knife, slice or cut the zucchini into thin slices, either lengthwise or crosswise. Toss the zucchini with a teaspoon of salt and place in a colander to draw out moisture for 30 minutes. Then blot the zucchini with a paper towel to remove moisture and excess salt. Place in serving bowl.

2. Add the tomatoes, peanuts, drained scallions, basil and mint. Pour over the spicy fish-sauce sauce. Taste and correct seasoning. Serve immediately. 

Spicy Fish-Sauce Sauce
Makes about 1 1/4 cups

1/4 cup seeded, deribbed and minced fresh hot chiles (mix of colors, if possible)
4 large garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup fish sauce
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup white wine or rice vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar

Stir everything together in a small bowl until the sugar has dissolved. The sauce will keep in a bowl in the fridge for up to 2 months.


Grace Young's Stir-Fried Iceberg Lettuce

Stir-Fried Iceberg Lettuce

Hello, good people! It is a beautiful June day. I am drinking a glass of Apfelschorle (which is the German term for when you mix fizzy mineral water with apple juice) and it is being cooled by the most beautiful ice cubes that I make using this mold, bringing me untold amounts of joy each time I pop out a perfectly beveled little cube. Mercury is retrograde until the end of the month and thus we have been gnashing our teeth for a week straight about all the various things that have gone haywire (to name only a few: broken brake lights on one car, a busted tire on another, a child who insisted on shoving a CD into the delicate CD player mouth of a 16-year-old audio appliance while a CD while already was playing inside of it whyyyyyy), but the fine weather and good humor and fancy ice cubes go a long way in soothing the blow.

Besides, one thing Mercury Retrograde apparently doesn't affect is cooking, thank the moon and stars! 

The most revelatory dish I made this week was this big old pan of hot lettuce. Yes! I know that some of you will look at those words, "hot" and "lettuce", and sail right on by. But wait! Don't go just yet! Cooked lettuce is amazing and just happens to a staple in both Italian and Chinese cooking, so you know it has to be good. And it is! (Besides, I'm just messing with you. Stir-fried iceberg sounds so much sexier than hot lettuce.)

I don't ever eat iceberg lettuce. I don't ever buy it. (Though the excellent comments on this post are all you ever need if you are iceberg curious and need some ideas.) In fact, I stopped eating salad greens entirely a few years ago because I have a hard time digesting them raw. But when I got this big box of vegetables delivered a few weeks ago, a big old head of iceberg lettuce was in the box too. I let in languish in the fridge until this week and the outermost layers had to be removed. The inner leaves and core were still fresh and sweet and crunchy. 

It was just the thing to use in this recipe I'd been saving for...that one day I found myself in possession of iceberg lettuce. You chop up the lettuce into biggish chunks, and fry garlic slices and scallions in oil. Then you add the lettuce chunks to the pan and stir-fry them for just a minute. Then in goes the magic concoction of equal parts soy sauce, sesame oil and rice wine (plus sugar and pepper). You cook the lettuce, stirring well so that the sauce coats every piece, and a minute later your meal is done. Pile it in a plate with some rice alongside and you've got my ideal dinner. Sweet and savory, silky and toothsome. It is so delicious and satisfying, not usually what you'd think to describe a head of iceberg lettuce, amirite? 

The recipe comes from this cookbook and Grace Young says you can use other vegetables in this exact preparation with great results. I'm going to do baby boy chop (ed: This is the funniest autocorrect of my entire life, so I'm leaving it, but obviously I meant to write bok choy!) next and then maybe romaine. Ooh. And iceberg again, too, of course!

Note: This post includes affiliate links and I may earn a commission if you purchase through them, at no cost to you. I use affiliate links only for products I love and companies I trust. Thank you.

Grace Young Stir-Fried Iceberg Lettuce
Serves 2
Note: You can, instead of iceberg, use romaine lettuce, spinach, watercress, baby bok choy, asparagus, snow peas and snap peas. 

1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon rice wine or dry sherry
3/4 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground white or black pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons peanut oil or other neutral oil
4 scallions, cut on the diagonal into 1-inch pieces
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced or smashed
Half a medium head iceberg lettuce, cored, outermost leaves discarded, inner leaves torn into 4-inch wide pieces (or substitute 12 ounces of other vegetables)
Kosher salt, to taste

1. In a small bowl, combine soy sauce, sesame oil, rice wine or sherry, sugar, and pepper; set sauce aside.

2. Heat a wok or 12-inch skillet over high heat. Add peanut oil, half of the scallions (including all of the white and light green pieces), and garlic and cook until garlic is golden, about 5 seconds. Add lettuce and stir-fry until lettuce softens slightly, about 1 minute. Drizzle in sauce and cook until lettuce is just coated with the sauce, about 1 minute. Season with salt, divide between 4 bowls while lettuce is just tender and still bright green, and garnish with remaining scallions.


Ottolenghi's Zucchini with Harissa and Lemon

Harissa Zucchini

A few days after arriving back in Berlin, I was sent a huge crate of produce by Fresh Fruit Germany. Every single piece of produce was in perfect condition and with so much flavor! It was the perfect welcome back to my kitchen after nearly four weeks away. Cooking my way through the crate was so much more fun than first picking out a recipe, then going grocery shopping, then getting started in the kitchen. Instead, I had to quickly come up with ways to use up all the eggplant, zucchini, cucumbers, lettuce, potatoes and leeks (just to name a few) that were in peak condition and wouldn't last long otherwise.

I made frittata with peppers, potatoes and prosciutto from Six Seasons. I made Alison Roman's potato and leek soup with sour cream and vinegar (and yes, I left out the dill and the soup was still stellar). I made cucumber raita and Greek salad and bean salad and pasta alla Norma. But the dish that surprised and pleased us the most was this marvelous bowl of soft zucchini dressed with preserved lemons and rose harissa. The recipe comes from Ottolenghi's latest book Ottolenghi Flavor

I cut a few corners, as I almost always do with Ottolenghi recipes. I used far less oil, just cooked the garlic for a minute or two, then added the zucchini without removing the garlic. Also I skipped the basil because we didn't have any (though I'm sure it would be even more delicious with basil). This recipe makes a pretty sizable amount of zucchini, and I fully anticipated having leftovers. But I didn't anticipate Hugo falling in love with it and eating the largest portion! He was fully obsessed. I was pretty amazed, since it's not just rather spicy, but also rather complex, between the chile, the preserved lemon and the rose harissa. But Hugo couldn't get enough. Three helpings, if I remember correctly, and then it was all gone and I was promising to make it again soon.

Note: This post includes affiliate links and I may earn a commission if you purchase through them, at no cost to you. I use affiliate links only for products I love and companies I trust. Thank you.

Ottolenghi's Zucchini with Harissa and Lemon
Serves 4
Adapted from Ottolenghi Flavor

2 tablespoons olive oil 
4 garlic cloves, finely sliced
1 tablespoon rose harissa
1 red chile, finely chopped
½ preserved lemon, finely chopped, discarding any seeds
1½ tablespoons lemon juice
1 kilo zucchini, finely sliced (about 3 good-sized zucchini)
Generous handful basil leaves, roughly torn, optional
Salt

1. Place a large, non-stick sauté pan over medium-high heat with the oil and garlic. Gently fry for a couple minutes, stirring often, until soft, golden and aromatic. Don’t let the garlic become browned or crisp, so turn the heat down if necessary. 

2. Add the zucchini and 1¼ teaspoons of salt. Cook for 18 minutes, stirring often, until the zucchini are very soft, but are still mostly holding their shape (you don’t want them to brown, so turn the heat down if necessary).

3. While the zucchini are cooking, stir the harissa, chile, preserved lemon and lemon juice together in a serving bowl. Set aside

4. When the zucchini are done, stir through half the basil, if using, and transfer to a bowl. Toss the zucchini with the dressing and taste for seasoning. Before serving, finish with the remaining basil, if using. 


Andy Baraghani's Ground Meat Stir-Fry with Korean Rice Cakes

Ground Beef Stir-Fry with Korean Rice Cakes

Bruno and I went to our favorite Asian grocery store the other day and I was able to kill at least 30 minutes (amateur, I know) by letting him pull the wheeled shopping basket and peer into every single (!) freezer case and stare at all the bottles of chili sauce and all the bags of rice flour and ask me a million questions about frozen dumplings and frozen anchovies and frozen edamame in his funny little mix of German and English. I lost him a few times and always ended up finding him transfixed in front of a display of rice crackers or wasabi peas or a silvery array of Capri Suns right at his eye level. ("What's daaaat," he whispered in awe.)

Reader, I bought him a Capri Sun because I am not a monster.

I also bought kimchi and two kinds of rice and mirin and Shaoxing wine and a sushi rolling mat and green curry paste. And refrigerated Korean rice cakes, which I love so much. In the annals of memorable meals I've had in this life is a lunchtime feast eaten at a Korean restaurant in suburban Los Angeles in the long-gone spring of 2009. I was in L.A. for work and the friend I was staying with took me to this place that he'd heard was one of the best Korean restaurants in the city. I've never seen so much food on one table for lunch and all of it was, indeed, sublime, especially this one dish, a bubbling, rust-colored stew that had fresh rice cakes snipped into it by a briskly efficient waitress.

Sigh. Sunshine. Los Angeles. Restaurants. Friends. Airplanes. Newness. Noodling down the freeway in a rental car with a sunroof all by myself.

As much as I love Korean rice cakes, I'm still trying to figure out how I should best use them up at home. (I beg you for inspiration, please, dear readers!) The other night, I made this easy little ground meat stir-fry from Bon Appétit, which was tasty and quick (the kids refused to touch it because they are maniacs, but it's actually very child-friendly). You soak the rice cakes in some water while you fry ground meat (I only had beef, though I think pork would be better here and it's what was called for in the original) until it's browned and crispy (big chunks preferable). Then you add the soaked rice cakes, ginger, garlic and scallions and cook, stirring vigorously and frequently, lest the rice cakes glue to the pan (I used a cast-iron pan, nonstick would have probably been better). At the end you stir in some butter, soy and sesame oil for flavor. The whole thing goes very quickly and is a satisfying little meal.

(The eagle-eyed among you will note the tiny cubes of zucchini in the pan - I had one perfect zucchini in the fridge and I thought I'd make this a one-pot meal by adding it to the mix. Also, I made the dish with more meat than in the original recipe and I liked the ratio, so that's what's in the recipe below. I think a handful of bean sprouts might be nice here too.)

But today I can't stop thinking that what I really want to make next with my remaining rice cakes is, cough, real Korean food, not the Bon Appétit-ized version. Readers, what are your favorite Korean cookbooks?

Ground Meat Stir-Fry with Korean Rice Cakes
Serves 4
Print this recipe!

8 ounces/225 grams Korean rice cakes
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 lb/455 grams ground pork, chicken or beef
1 thumb-sized piece ginger, peeled, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
5 scallions, white and pale green parts only, thinly sliced
Salt, freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

1. Place rice cakes in a medium bowl and pour in cold water to cover. Let soak 10 minutes. Drain, rinse, and pat dry.

2. Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Add ground meat and cook, undisturbed, until browned underneath, about 2 minutes. Break up with a wooden spoon or a spatula and continue to cook, stirring and breaking into large pieces, until browned all over but still pink in places, about 2 minutes more. Add rice cakes, ginger, garlic, and half of scallions; season with salt and plenty of pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until meat is cooked through and rice cakes are browned in spots, about 4 minutes. If pan looks a bit dry at any point, pour in a little more oil. Remove pan from heat; add butter, soy sauce, and sesame oil and toss to coat.

3. Transfer mixture to a platter and top with remaining scallions.


Easiest Instant Pot Risotto

Easiest Instant Pot Risotto

This is an unapologetic ode to my Instant Pot, which I love and adore. I bought it used several years ago and yes, it did take some time to get over my initial fears of figuring it out, but once I started understanding how to best put it to use, I fell hard and fast. Yes, people, you can be a hardcore home cook and also love the Instant Pot! Loving to cook does not exclude loving the Instant Pot!

What I think is essential is figuring out how you personally will get the most use out of it. What might be important to me will not necessarily be as important to you. For example, I love the Instant Pot for making chicken broth. It's easier than cooking it on the stove and it results in a more flavorful broth, plus it's quicker. I also love it for cooking rice, as I've mentioned before. And braised meat and palak paneer, among other Indian recipes. (This book by Sarah Copeland is an absolutely wonderful must-have if you have an Instant Pot.) But the most important thing for me is Instant Pot risotto. I'll literally never make risotto on the stove top again.

Not only does risotto in the Instant Pot take a fraction of the time to make, but you barely even have to stir it. PLUS,  you're guaranteed the most perfect texture every time. It's magic and absolutely worth the price of the pot. (We eat risotto at least once a week and it is one of those rare meals that everyone loves and I don't even bother serving anything else with it, so it's easy as pie for me.) The first time I made IP risotto, we'd spent the afternoon at the playground and came home just at dinnertime. The children were hangry, as, frankly, was I, and I had prepared nothing for dinner. There was a moment of panic and then I pivoted to making this risotto and when I had a hot, perfect dinner on the table less than 15 minutes later, I felt like I could have bench-pressed a car.

I used a recipe from The Kitchn to get my head around quantities and time, but my risotto is more vegetable-forward and less cheese-centric. I usually make risotto with a box of frozen peas, but sometimes I'll use a medium zucchini, finely diced (as I did here). You can, of course, go nuts and use both! Or you could skip both and just add saffron to make risotto Milanese! (Add the saffron with the broth.) You can use fancy homemade broth, or store-bought boxed broth, or even just water with some bouillon cubes, which is what I usually do. (I use Italian Star cubes that I buy in bulk in Italy or at the Italian wholesaler here in Berlin.) If you have white wine, use it. If you don't (I rarely do), just substitute more water/broth. It's a very riffable base recipe and I love it so much I've committed it to memory.

Instant Pot Risotto

This is what the risotto looks like immediately after removing the lid. You have to then quickly give it a good stir, add the grated cheese and stir again. And then you have to serve it right away - risotto must be eaten hot hot hot, just like pasta, or the texture changes and it goes all wrong.

IP Risotto

Okay, now I'm very curious: What are your reasons for loving your Instant Pot?

Note: This post includes affiliate links and I may earn a commission if you purchase through them, at no cost to you. I use affiliate links only for products I love and companies I trust. Thank you.

Easiest Instant Pot Risotto
Serves 4
Print this recipe!

4 cups (950 ml) low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth or water with two bouillon cubes
2 tablespoons olive oil or butter
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cups (400 grams) risotto rice
1/2 cup (120 ml) white wine, optional (if not using, add an additional 1/2 cup broth)
1 box frozen peas or 1 medium zucchini, finely diced
1/2 cup (45 grams) finely grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper, to taste

1. Warm the broth or water. Set aside.

2. Set the Instant Pot to SAUTÉ and pour the oil (or the butter, if using) into the pot. Add the finely chopped onion and sauté until fragrant and translucent, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the rice and stir to coat every grain with fat. Cook, stirring, for another minute or two.

3. If using the wine, add and stir well. Cook until most of the wine has evaporated. If not, proceed directly to Step 4.

4. Turn off the SAUTÉ function. Add the warmed broth and stir in the frozen peas or diced zucchini. Cover the Instant Pot and set it to MANUAL, HIGH, and dial the time to 5 minutes. The Instant Pot will take about 3 minutes to come to pressure.

5. When the 5 minutes are over, immediately release the pressure using a QUICK release. Remove the lid. Add the grated cheese, stir well, season to taste, and serve immediately.


Ottolenghi's Pea Fritters with Za'atar and Feta

Ottolenghi's Pea Fritters with Feta and Za'atar

 A quick, quick dispatch from over here because it's 5:06 pm and my mother, who kindly agreed to watch Bruno so I could work for a few hours, is leaving soon. Yes, Bruno's home again from Kita, which is supposed to be closed to all but essential workers. (It's not, though; there are plenty of people sending their kids who most definitely are not essential workers, but don't be surprised, the pamphlet explaining the exceptions runs more than 30 pages long, TELL ME ABOUT THAT FAMED GERMAN EFFICIENCY AGAIN WHY DON'T YOU.) After two weeks of spring break, Hugo's back at school for his 2 1/4 hours of daily learning and I'm back to chauffeuring him and taking care of Bruno full-time and it's only Monday and I'm already ready for hara-kiri, LET'S TALK ABOUT SOMETHING ELSE SO I DON'T CHEW MY FACE OFF.

Fritters! PEA fritters! From the excellent pages of Ottolenghi Simple, which is the ONLY Ottolenghi book you truly need, in my extremely humble opinion. (Fine, you can have Jerusalem and if you bake, Sweet too, but Simple is truly what it promises - excellent, fast and - for Ottolenghi - simple recipes that will knock your socks off almost every time.) I've had my eyes on these pea fritters ever since getting the book years ago, but for whatever reason (fear of frying?) didn't make them until Saturday night. DO NOT REPEAT MY MISTAKE AND WAIT TO MAKE THESE. Make them right away! Today! Tomorrow! For no reason! They're so easy and SO delicious and...fun? I hate calling food fun, but these actually are fun? I mean, frozen peas! Blitzed into rubble! Mixed with za'atar and feta and mint and some baking powder/flour to help them puff and aerate! Fun!

They are an actual delight and when eaten hot from the plate, with lemon squeezed over, and a glass of cold white wine to wash them down, like an actual civilized person who still holds the potential to entertain something like a sexy aperitivo hour, may even hold the power to transport you from your miserable existence into an alternate reality for a brief, tongue-singeing moment. I AM NOT OVERSELLING THESE, I SWEAR.

One final note: If you have eaters at your table who do not like feta (ASK ME HOW I KNOW), you can leave out the feta and these babies will still be absolutely wonderfully delicious. Your mystical transportation may become somewhat more...limited in its scope, but it's still worth going for it.

Note: This post includes affiliate links and I may earn a commission if you purchase through them, at no cost to you. I use affiliate links only for products I love and companies I trust. Thank you.

Pea Fritters with Za'atar and Feta
Makes 25 - 30 fritters
Adapted from Ottolenghi Simple
Print this recipe!

500 grams (1 lb 2 oz) frozen peas, defrosted
120 grams (4 1/2 oz) ricotta
3 eggs, beaten
Finely grated zest of 1 large lemon
Salt and black pepper
3 tablespoons za’atar
100 grams (2/3 cup) all purpose flour (or gluten-free flour)
1½ teaspoons baking powder
20 grams (small handful) mint leaves, finely shredded
200 grams (7 oz) feta, broken into 2cm pieces
800ml (3 cups) sunflower oil, for frying

1. Put the peas in a food processor and pulse until roughly crushed, then transfer to a large bowl. Add the ricotta, eggs, lemon zest (reserve the lemon, cut into wedges for serving), three-quarters of a teaspoon of salt and a good grind of pepper, and mix well. Add the za’atar, flour and baking powder, mix until just combined, then gently fold in the mint and feta, so it doesn’t break up.

2. Pour the oil into a medium saucepan on a medium-high heat. Once hot, use two dessert spoons to scoop up balls of the fritter mixture: they won’t be uniform in shape, but should each be about 4cm wide. You should be able to fry about six or seven at a time: carefully lower them into the oil and fry for three to four minutes, turning them once, until cooked through and golden-brown. (If the fritters are cooking too quickly, reduce the temperature, so they cook right through to the middle.) Once done, lift the cooked fritters from the hot oil with a slotted spoon, transfer to a plate lined with kitchen paper and serve immediately or keep warm in an oven.

3. Repeat with the remaining fritters, and serve warm with lemon wedges alongside.