Meera Sodha's Caramelized Onion Ramen

Caramelized Onion Ramen

It is 4:24 pm and by some small miracle, I currently find myself alone in our apartment. Max and Bruno left a little while ago to trudge through the snow to the pharmacy and drugstore. Hugo is in the courtyard playing in the snow. He can't stay away from it, he's bewitched by it. It's dystopian to think about how novel a truly cold winter is for our little Berliner, when the very cold winters of our childhoods in Berlin were practically a defining feature of the experience of growing up here. But wait, I'm getting away from things. I am home alone.


First I blasted music, just to feel something. Then I drank a cup of scalding hot tea and burned my mouth. Now I'm sitting here by the radiator, trying to write. A child outside is screaming bloody murder at her father for making her play in the snow and although I usually barely register the noise of children who don't belong to me, this one is making me want to howl out the window. We're all losing our minds a little, yes?

Where was I. Home alone. You all. This soup.

Oooh, this soup. It comes from East by Meera Sodha. One of the best cookbooks I own. Every recipe I've tried has been delicious and complex, but also easy and fun and interesting. If you follow me elsewhere, you may be sick of hearing me wax on about it. I'm sort of sick of me going on about it! But it really is an amazing collection. It has taught me so much and broadened my pantry immeasurably. My cooking is better for owning the book, my diet more varied. The recipes are all vegetarian or vegan, Asian-inspired and simple to make.

Meera's recipes are a study in the masterful layering of flavors, and this soup is a perfect example. You start by caramelizing onions (I got impatient and moved on after 20 minutes and my soup was still staggeringly delicious), to which then add stock and cooking wine and soy sauce and miso. Taste the broth and kapow, it'll blow you away. Best of all, your work is now mostly done! All you have to do is cook your noodles, drop them into the deep brown soup along with some greens (I used Napa cabbage) and a jammy egg (she recommends a soy egg, which requires a little advance planning), and sit down to eat.

You'll feel like you're eating restaurant food, which is the highest praise I can give food right now, because I am so sick of my own cooking and my dinner staples and if I could, I would just order in dinner from a different restaurant every day, but I can't, so instead I depend on cookbooks to give me a glimmer of the outside world.

Which cookbooks are you leaning on to give you that sense that the world is still out there, awaiting us? I love a good cookbook chat, so have at it.

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

Caramelized Onion Ramen
Serves 4
Print this recipe!

Vegetable oil
3 large onions, peeled and finely sliced
3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely sliced
½ tsp salt
1 bird's eye chile, finely sliced
6 cups/1½ liters vegetable stock
2 tablespoons Chinese rice wine
1½ tablespoons light soy sauce
1 tablespoon brown rice miso
Salt and black pepper
7 ounces/200 grams ramen noodles (I used gluten-free buckwheat noodles)
7 ounces/200g leafy greens like gai lan or choi sum, or Napa cabbage, cut into 6cm pieces
Chile crisp, to serve
4 7-minute eggs or soy eggs

1. In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, warm 5 tablespoons of oil over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic and salt to the pan, stir to coat in the oil, then cook for 8 to 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and continue to cook for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring every five minutes. The onions will gradually start to caramelize and color. Eventually they'll start breaking down into a soft, sweet, caramel-colored paste.

2. Add the chile, if using, and stock to the pan, bring to a boil, then turn the heat down to a simmer and add the rice wine, soy and miso, stirring well to combine. Taste, adjust the seasoning, then turn off the heat.

3. Cook the noodles according to the packet instructions, then drain, refresh under cold water and stir in a little oil to keep them from sticking together.

4. Cook the greens just before serving. Bring the broth up to a boil, drop in the greens and cook for a minute or two, until just tender.

5. Divide the noodles between four bowls and ladle the broth over the top, making sure to share out the greens evenly. Halve the eggs, if using, and place two halves on each serving. Drizzle over the chile oil, if using, and serve.

Lidia Bastianich's Rice and Potato Soup with Parmesan

Rice and Potato Soup with Parmesan

I just have one question for you today. ARE YOU SAVING THE RINDS OF YOUR PARMESAN CHEESE?

Sorry if that's a little loud, but I just really need to make sure that all of you have gotten the Parmesan rind memo, okay?

I'll try and calm down now. Alright.

Now, have I told you about my freezer? (Okay, fine, two questions.) There are many, many things that I love about living in Europe. But I'll tell you one something: European freezers are not one of them. They are A LOT to get used to and by A LOT I mean not much at all. I have shoe boxes larger than my freezer. Not even kidding!


My freezer. It is the home of a few forlorn Chinese dumplings, some tortillas purchased in Boston in 2019 (sob), a couple of boxes of frozen veg, my KitchenAid ice cream attachment (wheee! It was one of my birthday presents in December and it is brilliant) and about 15 foil-wrapped Parmesan rinds. We go through a lot of Parmesan cheese in this house, as it must top almost every plate of spaghetti (not Hugo's, though, who loathes melted cheese in all forms yes I'm talking grilled cheese and gratins and lasagne and nachos and PIZZA why God whyyyyyyyyyy) and because it is the only cheese that the boys will eat thin slivers of, after dinner, like sophisticated little creatures destined for a life of pleasure and harmony.

Every time we get to the end of a wedge of cheese (and I mean the very end, we're talking just a few millimeters), I wrap them up in a piece of aluminum foil and throw them into the freezer. This way, the next time I make soup, I know I have a little umami flavor bomb just waiting to be pulled into active duty. Straight from the freezer, I unwrap the rind, plop it into the pot of broth and let it do its magic.

As it simmers away in that pot of soup, the rind miraculously continues giving up huge amounts of flavor, enough to scent the house and make your soup taste very, very good. Then there is the added bonus that the rind is entirely edible. As it cooks, it softens and mellows. Upon serving the soup, you can fish out the rind and, depending on the size, either share it with your fellow diners or eat it all yourself, a very well-earned cook's snack.

My mother and I love the rind and always share it. My husband and children do not (it's a textural thing, as it's a little rubbery, which is pleasing to some and not to all), so I get to eat it all myself.

Now, on to this particular soup. It comes from the way back, dusty depths of this very blog, having first been published in November of 2005, when baby Wednesday Chef was just a few months old. A wee bairn! It comes from Lidia Bastianich, grande dame of New York Italian cooking, and it features the absolutely wonderful pairing of potatoes and rice, which will strike some of you as too much starch! and others as just enough. I am firmly in the there is no such thing as too much starch camp and so this soup is one of my very favorites.

It is nourishing and a balm, to make and to eat, and you can, as with Rachel's squash and rice soup, play with the amount of liquid you use to make a looser or stewier soup. If you err on the side of stewy, and there are leftovers, they will cool into risotto, which will please (no, let's be real, may please) the children in your home. The parsley, I feel, is essential because it brings a bit of brightness and the faintest touch of acidity to the soup, balancing out the flavors nicely. If your children are the kind to fall over in a dead faint at the sight of something green in their soup COUGH COUGH, leave it out of the pot and just sprinkle it on your own portion.

One of the oddities of a life in food blogging is the fact that you have the pleasure of eating so many delicious meals that rarely get made again, because there are so many other recipes to get to. This is hardly a hardship, though Max has been known to beg me to remember certain dishes while he's eating them. I'm happy to say that this recipe is one of those rare ones that comes around again and again, lamination-worthy, as I have been known to say. These beloved favorites now have their very own category over there in the sidebar on the right.

Eagle-eyed readers may notice that the categories in general have been cleaned up and clarified a bit, so that now you can quickly navigate your way to quick weeknight dinners, vegetarian main dishes or gluten-free recipes. I hope this helps you navigate all the good food available here. In fact, in the coming weeks, I'll be featuring other favorites that I first wrote about long ago, but that I feel deserve some fresh sunlight and a little love.

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

Rice and Potato Soup with Parmesan
Serves 6
Print this recipe!

3 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium carrots, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
4 to 5 medium-sized potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/3-inch cubes
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 cup long-grain or arborio rice
8 cups hot vegetable or chicken stock, plus more if desired
2 2-inch-squares Parmesan rind
1 fresh or dried bay leaf 
A handful chopped flat-leaf parsley

1. In a deep, heavy 4- to 5-quart pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the carrots and celery, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 3-5 minutes. Add the potatoes and stir to combine. Add the tomato paste and stir well to coat the vegetables. 

2. Add the rice, broth, cheese rinds and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, stirring well, then lower the heat and simmer, covered, for about 18-20 minutes. Check the seasoning. If you'd like a looser soup, add a little more broth. Remove from the heat, discard the bay leaf and stir in the parsley. Remove the rinds, cut into pieces and distribute among the serving plates. Ladle the soup on top and serve.

Hetty McKinnon's Tomato and Egg Drop Noodle Soup

Hetty McKinnon's Tomato and Egg Drop Noodle Soup

Good morning! The sun came out today. Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr. is president. Kamala Devi Harris is vice president. We stayed up late watching the various festivities and the virtual inaugural parade across America, which was far more moving than I expected. Our country, so broken in so many ways, still has so much energy and power, so much beauty and diversity. Don't underestimate what power that holds to the rest of the world. My Max, who grew up idolizing the United States, had his illusions broken over the past four years. His despair over the destruction of the country he had always believed in so much was almost painful to witness. To a child growing up in a divided Germany, Americans were saviors, protectors, benevolent and cool. America was always the land of possibility and enterprise and diversity and energy. Resplendent in its soft power, so often derided and misunderstood by the ill-intentioned or simply ignorant.

To be sure, that disillusionment was also necessary. To realize that the famed American experiment was meant for some but not for all, that its kindness and justice is extended to some but not to all, must be understood, grappled with by all of us. And fixed. Peeling back the layers to reveal the truth is both painful and necessary. It simply must be done.

But last night, as we watched Harris and Biden take their vows in the place so desecrated by violence and ugliness just weeks before, as we watched Amanda Gorman soar with her words, as we saw Majorettes and skateboarders, Native Americans and old ladies with walkers twirl and dance and kick, I could feel some of our trust being restored. It was good to be reminded all day long of just how colorful and beautiful our country can be. I kept breaking into tears and goosebumps.

Today, I feel hungover on nerves, jumpy and slightly frantic. It is so easy to sink into cynicism and dread, despite everything. After all, the road ahead looks hard and bumpy and there is so much to repair. I want to share this poem by Clint Smith that I came across this week that resonates so powerfully today:

When people say, “we have made it through worse before”
— Clint Smith

all I hear is the wind slapping against the gravestones
of those who did not make it, those who did not
survive to see the confetti fall from the sky, those who

did not live to watch the parade roll down the street.
I have grown accustomed to a lifetime of aphorisms
meant to assuage my fears, pithy sayings meant to

convey that everything ends up fine in the end. There is no
solace in rearranging language to make a different word
tell the same lie. Sometimes the moral arc of the universe

does not bend in a direction that will comfort us.
Sometimes it bends in ways we don’t expect & there are
people who fall off in the process. Please, dear reader,

do not say I am hopeless, I believe there is a better future
to fight for, I simply accept the possibility that I may not
live to see it. I have grown weary of telling myself lies

that I might one day begin to believe. We are not all left
standing after the war has ended. Some of us have
become ghosts by the time the dust has settled.

But I also want to revel in the moment. It's important to hold still and remember: This time a good man won over a malevolent one. A Jewish man and a Black man are Georgia's newest senators. We have our first female vice president who is both Black and Asian. Multiculturalism is being represented at the highest level and that matters.

It matters

Hetty McKinnon's Tomato and Egg Drop Noodle Soup Pot

And yes, I have another soup. I didn't plan this, I swear. If it is only just occurring to me now, at the age of 43, that January is a month for soups, then so be it.

A standard in Chinese kitchens, the recipe for this sweet-salty delight comes from Hetty McKinnon. I've tried a few variations on this soup recently, and this one has pleased me the most. You use the holy trinity of onion, garlic and ginger to enrich a simple base made of tomatoes and broth, then pour in beaten eggs to make long silky ribbons (in the photos, my eggs look rather a little curdled, because I mistakenly whisked them in). Sugar flavors the broth as well as soy sauce, and although I reduced the amount of sugar from the original, I wouldn't skip it.  A whorl of silky noodles completes the soup (I used pleasingly slippery rice noodles, though wheat ones are recommended). Then comes the best part, the dotting and drizzling on top of sauces and oils that form into little pools, and a pretty scattering of thinly sliced scallion.

The soup is a joy to eat, slurping with abandon, your mouth gently, sweetly afire. And somehow it feels quite fitting to pair this soup with this new day. It originated elsewhere, but is surely as at home in the United States as it is in Hong Kong.

Tomato and Egg Drop Noodle Soup
Print this recipe!
Serves 4
Note: The original recipe calls for 12 ounces of wheat noodles, which you cook in plenty of salted boiling water and divide among serving bowls, before topping with the finished soup. I used a slightly lesser amount of rice noodles, which I simply soaked in hot water and added to the pot just before serving.

1 small yellow or red onion
2 garlic cloves
1 1-inch piece ginger
1 scallion
8 ounces rice noodles
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth or water
4 large eggs
Salt to taste
Pinch of freshly ground white pepper
2 tablespoons light or dark brown sugar or granulated sugar
Toasted sesame oil or chili oil
Soy sauce, for serving

  1. If using rice noodles, place them in a large bowl and cover with hot water, then set aside. If using wheat noodles, cook them in plenty of salted boiling water.

  2. While the noodles are soaking or cooking, prep the vegetables. Peel the onion, halve, and thinly slice into half-moons. Smash and peel the garlic cloves, then finely chop. Scrape skin from ginger with a knife or spoon. Thinly slice ginger; stack slices two at a time and cut into matchsticks. Line up matchsticks and cut crosswise into tiny squares. Finely chop the scallion; set aside for serving.

  3. Heat the vegetable oil in a large pot over medium-high. Add onion and cook, stirring constantly, until soft and golden, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and ginger and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the diced tomatoes and broth or water to pot. Reduce heat to medium, cover pot with a lid, and cook broth until flavors have come together, 10–15 minutes.

  4. Meanwhile, whisk the eggs together with a teaspoon of salt and a pinch of freshly ground white pepper in a large measuring glass or a small bowl with a lip.

  5. Uncover broth and stir in the sugar, then add another pinch of salt salt. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired. The broth should be slightly sweet and a little tart.

  6. Increase heat to medium-high and bring broth to a boil. Very slowly trickle beaten eggs into soup (no need to stir). Cook eggs until set, 30–60 seconds from when you start pouring. Remove soup from heat. The egg doesn’t need to be totally cooked through—it will continue to cook in the residual heat of the broth. Place the rice noodles in the pot, stir well and serve immediately. (If using wheat noodles, rinse them under running water to loosen, then divide them among the four plates before topping with the soup.) Top each plate with toasted sesame oil or chili oil and soy sauce to taste, and sprinkle with reserved scallions.

Rachel Roddy's Squash and Rice Soup

Squash and rice soup

There are a few soups that I have made so many times, I can cook them with my eyes closed. Minestrone, for example, a jumble of fridge and freezer veg, flavored with a Parmesan rind, as comforting and soothing as cuddling under a cashmere blanket on a sofa.  Or a smooth, silky purée of carrots and fennel, as pleasing to children, for whom I top it with crunchy croutons, as it is to adults, whose portions I dollop with crème fraîche and sprinkle with sumac. Then there's stick-to-your-ribs potato soup (check My Berlin Kitchen for the recipe) or lentil soup, studded with smoked ham, that I make when I have to produce a sturdy dinner, but I'm low on energy and grasping at straws.

I've been making these soups for twenty years now, and in the case of minestrone and potato or lentil soup, I've been eating them for forty years. As much as I am addicted to trying new recipes, reading new food writers' work and discovering new cultures through cookbooks, it is a tonic to know that, at the tips of my fingers, at the bottom of my subconscious, these one-pot meals await me and will really never let me down.

In recent years, I discovered a few soups that I fell in love with immediately, but none that I've made so frequently that it can be added to my little Rolodex of eyes-closed soups. Until this pumpkin and rice soup from Rachel Roddy strolled into my life, that is. Since first discovering it in the fall, I've made it so often that I no longer need the recipe, which I believe may be a record (for my frequently distracted and slightly enfeebled brain). It's as simple as they come, built on the classic soffritto, bulked out with cubed squash, thickened with silky grains of risotto rice, and given rich flavoring from Parmesan.

Whilst making it again and again, I adapted it to my needs, using Hokkaido squash rather than butternut, so that you can skip the peeling step and shorten the cooking time (plus, I find Hokkaido to be the sweetest, creamiest squash, the one that is easiest to love), and adding a Parmesan rind to amplify the savory flavor and give the cook a delectably chewy little treat. If not watched carefully at the end, the soup can quickly turn into a sort of soupy risotto, which is not a bad thing, per se. But if you're hoping for a slightly looser soup, be sure to add more water or stock at the end.

And here's the highest praise I've got: when I make this soup, my children run into the kitchen, telling me how good it smells. I smile because it smells like my mother's house, like Italy, like home. It tastes like it too.

In other news, dear readers, I've started a newsletter! It's called Letter from Berlin and it aims to fill the space between this blog and my Instagram account. If you'd like to subscribe, and I so hope you do, click here.

Squash and Rice Soup
Serves 4
Print the recipe!

A small lump of butter
A glug of olive oil, plus more for serving
1 medium onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 stick celery, diced
Salt and black pepper
About 1/3 of a small Hokkaido squash (approx. 400g), cubed
1 liter/4 cups vegetable or chicken stock, or water
180g/1 cup arborio or vialone nano rice
1 piece of Parmesan rind
Grated Parmesan
Hot red pepper flakes (optional)

1. In a large pot, heat the butter, olive oil, onion, carrot, celery and a pinch of salt, frying gently until the vegetables start to become translucent.

2. Add the squash and stir for a minute, then add the rice and stir well. Add the stock and the Parmesan rind, bring to a boil, then reduce, cover and let simmer for about 17 minutes. The squash should be soft and the rice should be cooked. You may need to add more stock or water. Taste for seasoning.

3. Serve, topping with grated Parmesan, a drizzle of olive oil and/or hot red pepper flakes.

Nigel Slater's Spiced Red Lentil Soup

You may already be in the process of cooking your lentil soup for New Year's Day, but in case you haven't decided on one yet, may I be so bold as to suggest this one? It comes from Nigel Slater's wonderful book, The Christmas Chronicles, the only Christmas-themed book I've ever owned. Reading it in the quiet, stolen moments of December is swiftly becoming a tradition and it is as interesting (did you know that old-fashioned lametta is still made of silver plate in Tyrol?) as it is inspiring (daydreaming about a life in which you can spend each winter in Japan is not a terrible way to get through a pandemic). It makes more sense to read it in November, so you can prepare for all the wonderful things you'll do once Christmas rolls around, but this year I read it in the sleepy week between Christmas and New Year and it was also very nice to think about next year's Christmas, when things will hopefully look quite different.

Nigel says that the soup is styled, flavor-wise, after Indian rasam, which I've only ever seen as the thin, fiery broth that comes served with dosa or uttapam in South Indian restaurants. But this soup is thicker and more nourishing and stands alone very well on its own, no lacy thin fermented rice pancake alongside required. We made the quantity indicated in the book, but could have easily doubled it because it's the kind of soup that will have everyone wanting seconds (even our picky Bruno asked for more) and leftovers of it will be more than welcome. So use the recipe below if you want only a starter portion for four people and double it if it's your only dish. (The original has you make a spice paste, grinding whole spices and hauling out the food processor for ginger and garlic. I went the lazy route and streamlined things with no great detriment to the results. And I tripled the amount of tamarind concentrate, because I love its plummy, sour flavor.)

It feels so good to write here again. There were long stretches of time this past year where I basically came around to accepting the idea of this blog going dark once and for all. But it always felt weird and wrong. I miss writing here so much, having this space to play in. After feeling so trapped and stuck, both figuratively and literally, over the past 10 months, knowing that I can come here and feel free is very, very nice. I don't make New Year's resolutions anymore and haven't in years. But I very much believe in starting the year as you mean it to continue.

So see you again soon, I hope. And Happy New Year!

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

Spiced Red Lentil Soup                                                          
Serves 4
Print the recipe!

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
2 cloves garlic
A thumb-sized piece of ginger, peeled
3/4 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 14-ounce/400 gram can peeled tomatoes
175 grams red lentils
2-3 tablespoons tamarind concentrate
Fresh cilantro, stemmed and washed

1. Put the olive oil in a pot over medium heat. Add the cumin seeds and mustard seeds and cook, stirring, until they start to become fragrant.

2. Press the garlic through a garlic press and add to the pot, then grate in the fresh ginger. Cook, stirring, for another minute, then add the salt, pepper, cayenne, the tomatoes and 2 tablespoons of tamarind concentrate. Stir to combine, cook for just a minute, then add the lentils and stir. Fill the tomato can with water twice, and add to the pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce the flame, cover the pot and simmer until the lentils are soft, about 20 minutes.

3. Puree half the soup with a hand-held blender. Taste and add the remaining tamarind, if desired, and season with more salt and pepper to taste. Serve topped with cilantro leaves.

Melissa Clark's Pork and Black Bean Chili

Melissa Clark Pork and Black Bean Chili


It's me.

I know. It's been, like, 8 months.

(Insert chagrined grin emoji.)

I nearly shut this thing down. No, really. But I couldn't pull the trigger! So here I am again. I missed you guys.

What's been going on? Well, Bruno turned two. Hugo learned how to read and write. In many ways, things are just fine. In other ways, though, the past year has been really difficult. Just life, you know? Nothing spectacular or out-of-the-ordinary. Mothering two young children, noodling forward in a marriage, trying to figure out my career, dealing with money issues...but to top it all off, I've recently been diagnosed with a string of stress-related health problems. I knew something was off last year already, but couldn't put my finger on it. This year, so far, my body has been telling me in no uncertain terms to spend a little more time saying no, putting myself first and finding peace.

Easier said than done! yelled a million mothers in exasperation as she skulked off to a corner to use her phone to meditate. (Insert eye roll emoji.)

It's been scary and humbling and also kind of nuts to witness my body manifest a lot of the crap that I do not do a good job of managing. And I'm kind of overwhelmed at how much willpower it takes to take care of myself. I feel like I'm a total champ at taking care of other people, so it's doubly weird to realize that I'm really failing at me. I'm sort of embarrassed by that. I'm also embarrassed about this paragraph! Let's move on.

Feeding the children has pretty much become a shit show. Hugo has the appetite of a small bird. Bruno is incredibly picky. (The only green thing he eats are spicy olives.) (THE ONLY GREEN THING.) (SPICY.) (MOTHERLOVING.) (OLIVES.) Every once in a blue moon, I throw my hands up and make alphabet noodle soup with a bouillon cube because it's Hugo's favorite thing to eat (insert exploding head emoji) and because Bruno will usually eat it too. But most of the time, I cook the food I want to eat (within reason, people) and then there's a lot of whining and uneaten food and smoke comes out of my ears and no matter what I've made, the meal always ends with Bruno eating chunks of Parmesan cheese.

Because, surrender!

(I read that in a lovely cookbook called Repertoire by Jessica Battilana - in a headnote about newborns and surviving and fattoush salad - last spring and spontaneously burst into tears because it was so profound and wise and right and also WTF why are children so difficult? I sometimes debate going around my house and taping pieces of paper with SURRENDER written on them to the walls. You know, just to remind me.)

Last year, I also discovered this chili from Melissa Clark's most recent cookbook called DINNER: Changing the Game (via Whoorl, but I can't remember in what context) and there were a few brief, shining evenings in which the children and Max and I all enjoyed eating it. Since then, Bruno has decided that ground meat is for the dogs and Hugo hates stew, but Max and I continue to think that this is an exceptionally delicious chili. (It's also a delight to make, which seems important if you derive some modicum joy from cooking, as most of us here do? I hope?) It has sage and beer in it, plus cheddar on top, and it's just really satisfying and wonderful. I'd call it my favorite chili.

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

Melissa Clark's Pork and Black Bean Chili
From Dinner: Changing the Game
Serves 4 to 6

2 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, diced
1 red pepper, diced
1 pound ground pork (or turkey)
2 tsp kosher salt, plus more if needed
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tbsp minced fresh sage
1 tbsp chili powder, plus more if needed
2 minced garlic cloves
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
2 15-ounce cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup lager (like Negra Modelo)
Grated cheddar or sour cream, for serving (optional)
Lime wedges, for serving

1. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium high heat. Add the onion and pepper; cook, stirring, until the vegetables have softened and lightly browned, about 7  minutes. Add the pork and cook, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, until it is cooked, about 7 minutes. Stir in the salt, pepper, oregano, sage, chili powder and garlic and cook for 1 minute.

2. Add the tomatoes and their liquid, the black beans and the beer. Stir and bring the mixture to a boil. Then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the mixture is slightly thickened, 30 to 40 minutes. Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed. Serve topped with grated cheese (or sour cream) and with the lime.

Aglaia Kremezi's Warm Yogurt Soup with Grains and Greens

Warm Yogurt Soup with Grains and Greens

Another soup, I know, but you're going to want to know about this one for the warm days of spring and summer. I got the recipe from Aglaia Kremezi's Mediterranean Vegetarian Feasts, which was published almost two years ago, but which I only got my hands on last week when Aglaia came to Berlin to launch the book. Aglaia lives on Kea, in the Greek Cyclades, is the author of several books on Greek cuisine and, together with her husband Costas, runs dreamy-sounding cooking vacations. Bucket list alert!

Mediterranean Vegetarian Feasts is a really thoughtful assembly of recipes not just from Greece and Italy, but also Turkey, France, the Balkans, and the Middle East. But it's also a very personal book, full of Aglaia's favorite recipes collected over the years, like the stuffed vegetables she grew up with as well as the simple loaf of bread she and Costas eat every day. I can already tell it's going to become one of those books I just keep in the kitchen so that I can cook from it all the time.

The first recipe that I made from the book was this Turkish yogurt soup that's thickened with rice and cornstarch and streaked with soft leafy greens. The soup is traditionally made with Swiss chard, but on our Saturday morning market run, I found some nice-looking baby spinach to use instead. Just about 30 minutes after getting home, lunch was ready to be served. I know that for some, the sound of "warm yogurt soup" will not be appealing, but please trust me - it's delicious. The dried mint, pepper flakes and olive oil drizzle give the light, creamy soup liveliness and pep. The cornstarch and rice helps give it body, and the water-thinned yogurt base is just the right level of sour. It's so refreshing. I served it with nice sourdough bread and a big salad to eat afterwards and we were all very happy. Well, "we" the adults. Hugo refused to even try the soup, but we found out afterwards that he had a fever. He gets a pass!

I've been loving our Saturday routines recently. I wrote a little bit about it on Instagram. Our weekends used to feel scattered and grumpy. But since instituting this new rhythm - market, playground, cooked lunch at home in the dining room, not the kitchen - things have changed rather dramatically. Things run more smoothly, we all feel calmer, saner and happier. Funny how such a seemingly small thing can have such impact. Do you have any routines or weekly traditions that you feel have helped your family harmony? I'd really love to know.

Aglaia Kremezi's Warm Yogurt Soup with Grains and Greens
Adapted from Mediterranean Vegetarian Feasts
Serves 3 to 4

1 bunch Swiss chard or several bunches spinach or baby spinach
1/3 cup olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 onion, chopped
3 scallions, white and most of green parts, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup/50g white rice or 1 cup/160g cooked wheat berries or pearl barley
1 cup white wine
5 cups water
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 cups/480ml plain yogurt (not Greek)
Freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons dried mint
Crushed red pepper flakes

1. Wash and trim the chard. Cut the leaves from the stems. Chop the stems into bite-sized pieces. If using, spinach, wash and chop. If using baby spinach, wash.

2. Heat the olive oil in a medium pot over medium heat. Add the onion and scallions and sauté for 3 minutes. Add the chard stems, if using, and sauté for 5 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for another minute or two. Add the rice or wheat berries/barley, stir well, then add the wine and water. Add salt to taste, bring to a boil, and reduce to medium-low. Cook for 10 minutes. Add the chard leaves or spinach/baby spinach. Simmer for another 5 to 10 minutes, until the greens are very tender. Remove from the heat.

3. In a small bowl, whisk the cornstarch with 3 tablespoons of cold water. In a medium bowl, whisk the yogurt with the cornstarch slurry. While whisking, pour in a ladleful of hot soup. Slowly add 2 to 3 more ladlefuls of soup, whisking until the yogurt mixture is pretty hot. Pour it back into the soup pot, return to low heat and cook, stirring, until it almost boils. Add black pepper and the dried mint. Let stand for 5 to 10 minutes.

4. Serve, drizzling each bowl with a bit of olive oil, and sprinkling with red pepper.