Food & Garden
Fusion Food & A Seasonal Spring Recipe by Detox Life
“In Buddhist iconography, Avalokiteśvara, the bodhisattva of compassion for all Buddhas, is sometimes portrayed as having an eye in the middle of each palm. This eye is said to heal all suffering and distress. I like to place that image with me when I enter my cooking space. I want that eye to be in my hand when I cook, connecting heart to hand to heal yes, but also to make something beautiful to eat.”
Johanna Ljunggren @detoxlife
“In this time and age, with the climate-disrupting and mental health dwindling, we need to rethink our relationship to food and eating. There is no one size fits all.”
My first memory of cooking was when I was visiting my grandparents in Sweden. During most of my childhood, my family lived in different countries where my father worked. I had lived on 4 continents before moving to Sweden as a 12-year-old. The summer holidays were spent connecting with grandparents and Swedish nature.
One of the neighbor’s daughters had an iron stove – a mini version. We would place fire in the belly of the oven in the form of candles. In small iron pots and pans, we would make raspberry jam with pancakes and a weird combination of dill potato chips and water, potato chip broth. My grandfather grew marigolds and nasturtiums that we would pair with salad from the garden. It was a combination of playing and exploring tastes and something that felt like investigating now in the grown-up world.
Who is the genius – The tomato cutter or the master chef?
My husband likes to tell me a story of when he was a guest at our Italian friend Francesco’s birthday before my time. One of the guests at this Tuscan party was Frank’s friend, a sailor who used to cut his tomatoes while managing the sea’s movements on his boat. He picked a tomato fresh from the vine and proceeded to place the sun-warmed heart shape in the cup of his hand, cutting tiny slivers of red lush with a lethally sharp knife. The tomato was served on a plate with a drizzle of olive oil, sea salt and a glass of Tuscan red.
My best savoring memory is grilled sardines fresh from the sea in the port of Essaouira, Marrocco. Green tomatoes, salt, lime, fresh flatbread served on an old newspaper with corn beer—the minarets signing prayer love songs while the birds circled the port. The place is romantically linked to stories about Jimi Hendrix. Allegedly he was inspired to write “Castles made of Sand” when staying here. Truth be told the tune was released before his short stay here, but it makes a good story.
“The problem with recipes and rules is that they hinder us from seeing our true potential to heal when we connect to what nature or the situation has to give us.”
When did fusion food become confusing food?
These memories show how simple it can be to cook when you let the places and ingredients inspire you instead of religiously following recipes or rules. I respect the master chefs; they can be very inspiring; the dedication it must take to get those stars, recognition and be loved by the harsh critics is admirable. However, I find their cooking hard to digest without a healthy dose of humbleness from their side.
A couple of years ago, when I was hired by a Stockholm restaurant to help them with a greener approach to the breakfast being served. My mission was to present the smoothies and juices in something else then the regular takeaway single-use plastic setup. Using what we had, I made colorful combos in wine, cocktail and shot glasses. I called them psychedelic glasses partially because of how they look, and I was also jokingly referring to how a health nut almost addictively can treat a diet like drug abuse. One morning a very famous chef stopped by, and I overheard him say to my colleague, “It looks like shit in a glass.”
If there is one thing I dislike in my cooking space, it’s judgment.
I guess he never had that experience of tasting something green and creamy with cinnamon hitting your side palette, and just when you get bored of that, you find that cherry bomb hidden secret buried with some crunchy granola in the heart of it all. Top it off with some seasonal berries, herbs or flowers – what could go wrong. I used kombucha as the liquid to give the smoothie that bubbly, almost champagne feeling; it was fun, sensual, and alive.
In the book No Recipe Cooking as Spiritual Practice by Edward Espe Brown, he writes how the element you have as a dominant in you will affect how you cook. I am fire.
“An animated fire woman was asked what she found engaging about cooking. Quiet on the surface, she flashed up brightly: “The colors! The flavors! The textures! What a creative process dreaming up what to do, trying things out, experiencing what’s exciting and stimulating.” No argument with that. Completely brilliant: see, smell, taste, touch, experience, bring together! Connecting passionately with others through food, to craft the sensuality of the world into a meal.”
Well, that’s me, and the thing is, in this time and age, with the climate-disrupting and mental health dwindling, we need to rethink our relationship to food and eating. There is no one size fits all.
We need self-exploration. We need different cultures and heritage; to inspire us equally, and most of all, we need an open mind. The problem with recipes and rules is that they hinder us from seeing our true potential to heal when we connect to what nature or the situation has to give us. Let go of your mind, work your head down to your heart and hands. Whatever comes your way, be it a can, dehydrated, frozen or fresh peas, you need to learn how to work them with the same vigor.
In one of these images, I am sewing fig leaves on a string to be sun-dried before I make fig leaf oil. This process might be impossible to follow, but leafy herbal oils make any salad or soup pop. If you do not have a fig tree close by, you can use broad parsley, dill, basil, or tarragon.
Joahanna’s Spring quiche.
Frozen pie crust
4 dl of grated cheese
1 dl of sour cream
3/4 tsp of salt
1 tsp black pepper
Preserved tomatoes (or fresh)
We are in-between seasons, and I just happened to have the last of my preserved tomatoes in the fridge.
Instead of using ham or the vegetarian version mushrooms, I pop the tomatoes in the quiche. If you’ve ever had raclette, you know how tasty cheese is with pickles. You can make your homemade pie crust if you prefer.
Preheat the oven to 225°C, whisk the cheese, eggs and sour cream with the salt and pepper. Add the tomatoes to the cheese batter, pour into the pie crust and place the pie in the middle of the oven for 30-40 minutes. Cut the fresh asparagus lengthwise and place it in a bowl of ice water. When the quiche is done, let it chill before you dress it with the asparagus.
Serve with a salad, tarragon oil, chilled white wine, or rosebud lemonade.
1 pot of fresh tarragon
250 ml of vegetable oil of choice
1 tsp of sugar
Mix the ingredients until the oil is entirely green, strain through the finest sieve to clarify. Keep the oil in the fridge.