I’d assumed it would take at least a year of clotted cream and scones to break me in as a local Londoner, but I’ve acclimated with a scarce 6 months of consumption! I’ve yet to go near blood sausage (aka black pudding – misnomer of the century) and Scotch eggs petrify me, but it turns out that neither are a prerequisite. I’m able to call London my home – and enjoy doing so, might I add – despite feeling no attachment to the local cuisine. Color me surprised.
I’ve entered Phase 2 of life in London, which poses a stark contrast to the awkward “getting to know you”-type discomfort of Phase 1. I went back to Florida for a week in September, which was the tail end of Phase 1. I was nervous I wouldn’t want to return to the land that is pre-30 Rock and sans-Skippy, but I was excited to return. That was mostly due to the food orgy I partake in each time I go home – and this time was no different – but nevertheless. Speaking of said food orgy, my family and I made homemade pizzas one night. I re-created an old favorite from a pizza place in NYC. I made a brussels sprouts, pancetta and rock salt pizza. Phenom.
2 cups brussels sprouts,thinly sliced
1/4 lb pancetta, thinly sliced
1 ball mozzarella di bufala, torn into chunks
1/4 c parmesan cheese, grated
2 tsp Kosher rock salt
black pepper, to taste
olive oil, to taste
You start by pre-heating the oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit, and roll out the pizza dough on a lightly floured surface. Dust cornmeal on top of a pizza stone and stretch the dough on top. Cook pancetta in a skillet for a few minutes until slightly crispy, and then drain on paper towels. Add the toppings in no particular order, finishing the pizza with a drizzle of olive oil and a generous handful of the salt. Bake for about 12-15 minutes or until it gets slightly browned. SO damn good.
That was the first time I cooked with pancetta, and I vowed not to make it my last. I ran right back to London and made this adorable recipe from Epicurious, Salad of Grilled Asparagus with Taleggio cheese and Seranno ham. Standing in for the ham was pancetta’s saltier and arguably more enjoyable cousin, Prosciutto.
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 large shallot, finely chopped
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 pounds asparagus, trimmed
6 1/4-inch-thick slices Taleggio cheese or Fontina cheese (about 6 ounces)
1 5-ounce bag mixed baby greens
6 thin slices serrano ham or prosciutto
3 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
You start by preheating the oven to 200 degrees Celsius. In a small bowl, whisk together the balsamic vinegar, shallot and sugar until sugar dissolves. Gradually whisk in oil. Season dressing with salt and pepper.
Arrange asparagus on rimmed baking sheet and drizzle with 2 tablespoons dressing. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and grill in cast-iron skillet until crisp-tender, turning occasionally, about 6 minutes. The recipe actually wanted me to do this on a grill, but since I’ve yet to make that purchase I figured the skillet would suffice. Return asparagus to the baking sheet and drizzle with additional 1/3 cup dressing; top with cheese. Bake until cheese melts, about 5 minutes. Place greens in large bowl. Add 1/4 cup dressing and toss to coat. Serve the asparagus on the plate and arrange greens alongside. Drape ham over greens. Sprinkle pine nuts over salads. Serve with remaining dressing.
This young Jew’s Tour de Ham (if you will) continued a week later when I decided to make Warm Winter Greens that I found on my trusty Whole Foods recipe app. I was feeling detox-y when I found the recipe, but was hopped up on my recent ham discovery. In a moment of detox-betrayal, I added the prosciutto that the recipe allowed.
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 bunch greens, roughly chopped
1 head red cabbage, cored and roughly chopped
2 tablespoons oil-packed capers, drained
12 Kalamata olives, pitted and sliced
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3 tablespoons dried currants
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (optional)
Juice of 1 lemon
3 tablespoons toasted pine nuts, walnuts, hazelnuts or pecans
1 tablespoon orange zest
3 slices prosciutto, chopped
1/2 cup plain dried bread crumbs
1/4 cup chopped fresh thyme
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons whole milk
1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano
1/4 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound ground lamb
6 large slices prosciutto, sliced medium-thin (for wrapping the burgers)
1/4 cup olive oil
Fresh basil leaves, for topping each burger
Remove the burgers from the pan and place on a serving platter or individual plates. Top each burger with 2 to 3 basil leaves and a sun-dried tomato. These came out just beautiful and tasted even better. And so concludes my Tour de Ham! What a delightful tour it was..