One of the compelling things about food blogs is how they bring together people from all over the world. Cooking and eating is something we all have in common, no matter where we are from. Blogs have globalized cooking, erasing borders and boundaries. And I’ve enjoyed learning more about other people’s food and cooking, and meeting them as well.
Things have changed over the past few years, but a little over a decade ago, “link rolls” listed maybe a half-dozen blogs, and people would excitedly add new ones as they learned about them. One that stood out was Cafe Fernando, written by Cenk Sonmëzsoy. He started like most of us – sharing what he was eating and cooking, but eventually became known for his gorgeous photography, too.
I, and other readers of Cafe Fernando, weren’t the only ones who noticed him. Cenk got a publishing deal and spent six years working on his book, which was in Turkish. I was at a dinner party recently with some Turkish people who had non-Turkish spouses, and both sides agreed that Turkish is one of the most difficult languages to learn.
When I saw his book, I didn’t need to know any Turkish (although I...
I spent much of the fall and winter running around, while a pile of cookbooks waited patiently for me to cook from them. Now that I’m back in the saddle, and in the kitchen, I’m getting around to some of the many recipes that I’ve bookmarked. One of the first that caught my eye was the “Pizza beans” in Smitten Kitchen Every Day.
It also goes by the adult name, “Tomato and Gigante Bean Bake,” but since Deb Perelman, of Smitten Kitchen, has two kids, calling them “pizza” made them more alluring than “bean bake.” Me? I need no excuse to simmer up a pot of beans, especially in the winter, when I am looking for any excuse to keep the oven fires burning.Continue Reading Giant Bean Gratin...
On January 10, I’ll be in conversation with Beth Kracklauer of the Wall Street Journal discussing L’appart and signing books at White Whale Books in Pittsburgh, PA. The event starts at 7pm and is free, but the store requests people RSVP so they know how many people to expect. (They prefer guests purchase the book at the shop for the signing, which is nice for the store, but if you’ve got a previously purchased book, they’re okay with your bringing it.)
In conjunction with the Philadelphia book event, Context Travel is giving away a trip to Paris! Included is a 3-night stay at a hotel and spa, a private half-day tour with one of their expert guides, and a travel stipend. For more details and to enter, visit their website.
[Next month I’ll be at WHSmith in Paris on February 8th. You’re welcome to RSVP at that link.]
I’ve been pondering what, if anything, I should close out the year with. In the past, I’ve written down my thoughts here, which I spent the last couple of days pondering. Reading and re-reading what I wrote, I realized that I couldn’t quite figure out what I wanted to say. And if I couldn’t figure it out, I didn’t feel like I should inflict that on you. But I knew one thing for sure: I had a lot of panettone on hand.
It’s been a great year in a lot of ways. The book I’d been working on for nearly two years came out, and a revised and updated cookbook that’s turning ten years old in March will be released in the spring. I also got to spend time with family members that I haven’t seen in a while. And doing so in 90ºF weather, in November, ain’t bad either.
Continue Reading Panettone French Toast...
I’m somewhat of a grump about bread pudding. It’s not that I don’t like it, but to me, bread pudding is something you eat at home, like fruit salad. I don’t need someone cutting up a bowl of fruit for me nor do I need someone tearing up leftover bread and serving it forth. Bread pudding is home cooking fare, but if you want to go out and shell out some big bucks for a bowl, that’s fine with me. But once you taste this one, I doubt you’ll find a better one anywhere.
Continue Reading Panettone Bread Pudding...
The great thing about writing a single-subject cookbook is that you really get to explore one specific topic, which involves not just sharing what you already know, but what you’ve learned about the subject. When people ask me how I can tell if a cookbook is good, I say that if I read the headnotes and the author talks about the process they went through the get to the recipe, from testing various ingredients to discussing what worked (and sometimes, what didn’t), you get a sense of how thoughtfully the recipes were put together.
I’ve been a fan of Alice Medrich for years and her most recent book, Flavor Flours, tackles the subject of using different kinds of flour to create a new palette of flavors in desserts. Like Good to the Grain, Alice found that replacing wheat flour with other kinds flour yields results that often surpass their wheat-based counterparts.
Continue Reading Sorghum Ice Cream with Sorghum Peanut Brittle...
I’ve always had an affinity for whole grains. I use all-purpose flour frequently in baking, but I like the hearty taste of whole-grains, such as whole-wheat flour in croissants and polenta in crisp topping, in spite of regular surveillance by the authenticity police. My argument back is that most things, like croissants and baguettes, were likely made with flour that was closer to whole grain flour than the refined flour that’s used today. So adding whole-grains to pastries may make them taste closer to the original versions, than the ones we make today.
In addition to winning an argument, chocolate chip cookies get a win from the addition from what are now called “alternative” flours, such as buckwheat flour, which is popular in France due to it being an essential ingredient in French traditional dishes like kig ha farz and galettes (buckwheat crêpes). Since I always have a sack on hand, when writing my book, L’appart, I dipped into my bag of farine de sarrasin, also called blé noir, or black flour, to come up with a recipe for buckwheat chocolate cookies that I can’t stop making…and eating.
Continue Reading Buckwheat Chocolate Chip Cookies...
One my favorites, of all French pastries, is the financier. Enriched with nuts, and moistened with butter, almost every bakery you go into has them. They come in different sizes, shapes, and even flavors; almond is the most popular, but you’ll sometimes come across financiers made with ground hazelnuts or pistachios. I like them all. There are a few theories how this mini-gâteau got its curious name.
One is that, traditionally, they’re baked in small, rectangular molds. Once baked and unmolded, the little cakes resemble bars of gold. Another is that even adults in France are known to indulge in an afternoon sweet stop at their local bakery, for their goûter. Because people who work in the financial industry normally wear nice outfits or suits, something that’s neat to eat is appreciated, so they can stay presentable when heading back to the office.
I don’t have to worry about that, nor has anything come out of my oven turned to gold. (Quelle dommage!) But when I found myself with some leftover brown butter from infusing it in bourbon for Brown Butter Old Fashioneds, since I...
I’ll be riding the rails (or the glamorous bus) to Philadelphia for an event on January 12 at 7pm, at Barnes & Noble in Rittenhouse Square with my friends from Context Travel, who are offering a special Paris trip giveaway.
Continue Reading Upcoming L’appart Events and Paris Trip Giveaway...
Before I left for my book tour, I put a few blog posts in the queue. But just a reminder to the rest of you, who are probably a little more organized than I am, that if you want to find something in your “cloud” later, you need to make sure you put it in there in the first place. D’oh!
So while those posts haven’t made into the stratosphere, I took a dive into my archives and found a down-to-earth trove of Thanksgiving recipes to tide you over. These are tried-and-true treats from my repertoire, things I make over and over again, year after year, and I think you’ll like them too.
Start the holidays off right with this tangy shrub, a vinegar-berry elixir that’s great mixed with sparkling water for a non-boozy libation, or as a base for a bourbon-fueled cocktail. I’ve given options for both, which should please everybody at your holiday fête.
Continue Reading Thanksgiving Recipes...
To celebrate the release of L’appart, and as a Thanksgiving week treat, Le Creuset is giving away a five-piece Signature set in Flame (my favorite color!) to a lucky reader. This Signature set includes a 5.5-quart Dutch oven and a 1 3/4-quart saucepan with lids, plus a 9-inch skillet.
You might remember my visit to the Le Creuset factory and foundry in France, where I stood and watched as metal was melted down and poured into molds. A few hours later, after a being glazed and baked to perfection, a gleaming pot would emerge. And now, you can have not one, not two…but three pieces of this iconic French cookware, that are truly built to last. (That’s coming from someone with a cherished collection of vintage pieces, carefully culled, mixed in with my newer ones.)
It’s that time of year again. And that only means one thing: time to start thinking about the holiday baking. In Paris, bakery windows fill up with Bûches de Noël (Yule log cakes) and bourriches (wooden crates) of oysters are piled up at the markets. The chocolate shops are crammed with people, buying multiple boxes as gifts, and people splurge on caviar and Champagne, one of the few things that go on sale in France during the holidays.
One thing you don’t see is the use of pumpkin in desserts. A tart or pie (or ice cream) made of squash might sound funny, especially to non-Americans, but helps to remember that pumpkins, and other squash, are technically fruit. One could also point out the classic Swiss Chard Tart from Provence (which is in a whole other category), and Melanzane al cioccolato, eggplant with chocolate sauce, which I like. (Which one could argue is good because it’s smothered in dark chocolate.) But I don’t think everything goes with chocolate: A friend tried the hot chocolate with oysters at a famed chocolate shop in Paris, and after her description, I wasn’t rushing over there to try a cup.
To get that last image out of...
Life throws you a lot of curveballs. I used to say (and still do), “If you want to be comfortable, stay home.” And that’s where I wanted to be when I decided to buy an apartment in Paris. Long-time readers will probably remember the posts about the process, as I searched like a madman for a vintage factory lamp for my kitchen, as we drove across France for a French sink (that curiously, I learned aren’t readily available in France), and how when my ceiling was finally in place, I felt grounded, as if I was almost home.
Or so I thought. As a local architect told me when I was done (or when I thought I was done, see page 315), “90% of the renovations have major problems. The other 10% of the people are lying.” I had no idea what I was getting into at the time, and looking back, I’m still trying to figure how what happened, happened. But now that all is said and done, the stories of before, during, and after, are told in
A stalwart of the “old guard” of classic Paris bistros has been revived. The reliable Rôtisserie du Beaujolais, across the street from the Seine, had been remodeled and refreshed as Rôtisserie d’Argent, the new name giving a nod to its famous cousin just across the street, the Tour d’Argent.
The Michelin-starred restaurant is a few centuries old, and it’s evolved into a mini-empire, composed of the grand restaurant, the casual rôtisserie, and Le Boulanger de la Tour, where breads are baked for both restaurants, and some of the pastries served at the rôtisserie are assembled.
I happened to be walking by one day and decided to stop into the bakery, where I picked up a palmier to take over to the bridge and eat, while watching the boats linger on the Seine. Two of my favorite activities in Paris. (Watching boats and eating pastries.) It was spectacular. (It also got 3572 likes on Instagram, so I wasn’t the only one who shared that opinion of it.) I wanted one of the well-cooked ones, and asked them to fish around the pastry case, until they grabbed the one that had my name on it. It was so good that I decided to...
Yotam Ottolenghi seems to be everyone’s favorite cookbook author. After meeting him, he became mine, too. (But if I could stay in your top ten, that’d be appreciated.) His previous books focused on the savory side of Middle Eastern cooking, but Yotam was a pastry chef prior to being a restaurant co-owner (with Sami Tamimi) and cookbook author, and anyone who’s walked into one of his restaurants or cafés in London is wowed by the stunning cakes and sweets lined up on the counters.
This time, he shares the spotlight with Australian pastry chef Helen Goh, who met Yotam long before he became well-known, and their decade of collaborating resulted in Sweet, a baking book filled with exciting and sometimes unexpected ingredients used in brownies, cakes, and cookies. Which is why when I hit page 130, I stopped turning the pages, and headed into my kitchen.
Continue Reading Beet and Ginger Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting...
I was a sucker for soft-serve ice cream when I was a kid. The machine that made those swirly cones at Carvel mesmerized me, as well as on the Mister Softee truck, although they didn’t drive around our neighborhood when I was a kid. (Those were the days of the Good Humor truck.) That was how I discovered sprinkles, which we called jimmies in New England, as well as a popsicle covered with lots and lots of sweet, shredded coconut, which I think at the time cost 35¢, and was the most expensive thing on the metal menu posted on the back of the truck.
But I later got hooked on the crispy shell coating that was used to coat soft serve ice cream cones as well. I didn’t quite know how they were able to upend a cone of ice cream and dip it into the vat of glossy chocolate, or what made it harden, but I later found out those sprinkles (or jimmies) that I loved so much, contained shellac, which comes from bugs. Neither deterred me,...
While visiting friends in the countryside toward the end of the summer (…is it over already?), I met a woman who grew the most lovely little lettuces, which she sold at the local market. Which was basically a table with several baskets of her stunning greens sitting on it. If you haven’t had eaten lettuce just a few minutes (or even hours) out of the ground, you don’t know what you’re missing.
I, myself, had forgotten about how good fresh lettuce and greens are, until I reached into the pile we bought and tasted the spiciest, most peppery arugula I’ve had in years. She also had mustard greens, which aren’t as celebrated in France as other types of lettuce, perhaps due to their forceful flavor. (Although Dijon mustard is wildly popular, so not sure why the greens aren’t.) But I filled an especially big bag with as many of the mustard greens as I thought I could use, and brought them back to our friend’s kitchen.
Greens that are popular in Paris are spinach and Swiss chard, which you can find...
Abruptly, it’s fall. The weather turned brisk this week, and I’m starting to wonder which box my scarves and gloves are in? When I lived in San Francisco, where the weather is notoriously fickle, the joke was that the only way to tell what season it is, is to hit the market.
True, not everybody is concerned with seasonality. I was recently asked during a television debate in France if eating well, and local, was expensive, which is a common belief in many places. Usually when things are in season, and when they’re at their peak, that’s when they are most reasonable. Being not only frugal, but as someone who enjoys good food, I do my best to shop when things are in season, and use my nose to let me know what’s good. That’s why it’s above our mouths; so we don’t eat anything bad.
Continue Reading Fall at the Market in Paris...
When I walked into Ibrik café the other day and sat down in the upstairs dining room, I saw this scenario next to me. After spending the morning rummaging through an unruly restaurant supply salvage yard out in the suburbs (I didn’t buy anything, but they gave me three cake pans as a gift), it was nice to sit somewhere that was clean, organized, and dry.
It made me so happy that I thought it’d make a nice picture, too. Two women were dining at the table, and I avoid taking pictures of people without asking, especially if I plan to put it on my blog. I once was at an event and snapped a picture that included a couple, who quickly waved their hands furiously in front of their faces, “…Non, NON….we’re not married to each other!”
But I’ve used the general reluctance regarding photos to my advantage, as it’s a good way to clear a path on a busy sidewalk in Paris: Hold your smartphone up in front of you as if you are filming. (Although I should also add that it’s probably an equally good way of getting your phone swiped.) Being a café, I asked the women if I...