Tartiflette

One French dish I’ve not made is Tartiflette. It’s one of those things that you tuck into after a day of skiing down alps, which I did once with a family of expert skiers, realizing too late that my intermediate-level of skiing was no match for my friends, who pointed their skis straight down the top of the alps and took off. I tried my…

One French dish I’ve not made is Tartiflette. It’s one of those things that you tuck into after a day of skiing down alps, which I did once with a family of expert skiers, realizing too late that my intermediate-level of skiing was no match for my friends, who pointed their skis straight down the top of the alps and took off. I tried my best to keep up, but in spite of the spectacular scenery (and dizzying heights), I realized my talents were better in the kitchen than on slopes, especially compared to a French family of élite-level skiers.

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Spicy Mushroom Lasagna

When the very first Ottolenghi book came out, I had no idea what this mysterious restaurant, or person, was. But I was immediately captivated by the spectacular salads, cakes, vegetables, flatbreads, and more piled up on tables at Ottolenghi. The pictures in the book had a vibrancy that I’d not seen in any other cookbook before; mounds of vibrant-green fresh herbs piled atop salads, charred…

When the very first Ottolenghi book came out, I had no idea what this mysterious restaurant, or person, was. But I was immediately captivated by the spectacular salads, cakes, vegetables, flatbreads, and more piled up on tables at Ottolenghi. The pictures in the book had a vibrancy that I’d not seen in any other cookbook before; mounds of vibrant-green fresh herbs piled atop salads, charred vegetables and lavish use of tahini (which I narrowly once thought was only used to make hummus), and plum-marzipan cakes with the rosy, glistening fruit juices sliding off the top and pooling at the bottom. Wow.

We’ve since seen that style in plenty of other books, but the Ottolenghi books continue to evolve and each one marks another evolution in Yotam Ottolenghi’s cooking. And even when you don’t think he could come up with another great idea, he does.

Flavor is Yotam Ottlenghi’s latest book which he’s written with Ixta Belfrage. The title refers to the concept of the book, which is about how (and which) ingredients can be used to amplify flavors when cooking and baking. Ixta had a multicultural upbringing and she’s brought references and flavors from around the world in this book, which includes this Spicy Mushroom Lasagna. The recipe features dried and fresh mushrooms, as well as dried chiles, likely influenced by Mexico where she spent time with her grandfather, who lived there. The photo of it in the book made me want to make it. So I did!

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La Buvette Terrine

It amuses me when people talk about snooty people sitting around, leisurely eating pâté, because pâté is rustic, country fare, not considered fancy in France. While pâté can have a pastry-type crust (pâté en croûte) and some are a little fancier than others, the cousins of pâté, terrines, are truly down-to-earth. They can be baked in a special mold (you can come across them at…

It amuses me when people talk about snooty people sitting around, leisurely eating pâté, because pâté is rustic, country fare, not considered fancy in France. While pâté can have a pastry-type crust (pâté en croûte) and some are a little fancier than others, the cousins of pâté, terrines, are truly down-to-earth. They can be baked in a special mold (you can come across them at French flea markets for around 5 bucks, like the one I used here), they can also be baked in any ovenproof bowl, which I did with this terrine. So there’s no excuse not to sit around and eat pâté, or terrine, all day. And not only is this one incredibly easy, it’s also one of the best terrines I’ve ever had.

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Turkey in White Wine Sauce

Being a baker, braising wasn’t something I did a lot of. I also didn’t cook a lot of meat or poultry. Actually, I didn’t cook much at home as I ate most of my meals on the fly when working in restaurants. (I was also going to say that when I lived in California, I tended to grill as much as I could on my…

Being a baker, braising wasn’t something I did a lot of. I also didn’t cook a lot of meat or poultry. Actually, I didn’t cook much at home as I ate most of my meals on the fly when working in restaurants. (I was also going to say that when I lived in California, I tended to grill as much as I could on my patio but someone sent me a rather pointed message to stop talking about living in California…so I guess I should work on that.) It wasn’t until I came to France, which has a plethora of butchers and volaillers (poultry sellers), that I started branching out from my usual fall-back meals from when I was a professional baker and line cook in San Francisco (if that woman is reading this…sorry!), which included chips & salsa, bbq from Flint’s in Oakland, or a burger at The Smokehouse.

Another thing that happened when I no longer had to work in the evening was that I began to have people over for dinner. But I’ve learned in France not to make something that needs to be served at a precise time. That’s because it’s considered impolite to arrive on time. If you do, you’ll surprise your hosts which I did recently when I was invited to someone’s place for dinner who I didn’t know. I arrived 15 minutes after the time I was told, and I was the only one there, except for the host, who was surprised to see my standing in his doorway. And it was a somewhat uncomfortable twenty minutes I spent making small talk, and watching him put the last-minute preparations on things while I just stood there like a dope. Oops.

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Cheese Souffle

The word soufflé used to strike terror in the heart of cooks far and wide. I never got that memo, though, and one of the first things I ever baked was a chocolate soufflé when I was less than sixteen years old, from my mother’s copy of The Settlement Cookbook, the 1951 edition. The ingredient list is pretty concise; looking at the book now, there…

The word soufflé used to strike terror in the heart of cooks far and wide. I never got that memo, though, and one of the first things I ever baked was a chocolate soufflé when I was less than sixteen years old, from my mother’s copy of The Settlement Cookbook, the 1951 edition. The ingredient list is pretty concise; looking at the book now, there are two chocolate soufflé recipes in it – one with four ingredients and the other with six.

The author explains how to put the soufflés together with only four or five concise sentences. There are no mixing bowl or baking dish sizes given, and chocolate is just listed as “chocolate.” There’s no mention of whether it’s bittersweet, semisweet, or unsweetened chocolate. (There are also no substitutions for any ingredients offered, and storage instructions weren’t included, presumably because people just figured that out for themselves.) It’s fascinating how times have changed in terms of how recipes are written today.

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Croque monsieur

France has been creeping (or bursting, in some cases) out of lockdown. As of May 11th, people can come and go without carrying a written permission slip. The outdoor markets, hairdressers, and other types of shops have reopened, under the advisement of the health ministry, who is encouraging people to wear masks and practice social distancing, keeping 1 meter (3-feet) apart from others. Some stores…

France has been creeping (or bursting, in some cases) out of lockdown. As of May 11th, people can come and go without carrying a written permission slip. The outdoor markets, hairdressers, and other types of shops have reopened, under the advisement of the health ministry, who is encouraging people to wear masks and practice social distancing, keeping 1 meter (3-feet) apart from others. Some stores (and people) have been strict about this, while others remain cavalier.

No one quite knows where this is going, with many proclaiming “It’s over!” while I’m remaining prudent. But on June 2nd, restaurants and cafés may be allowed to reopen.

While everyone waits, some restaurants in Paris have started serving food-to-go, either to pick up sur place, or be delivered. We’ve had food delivery services for a number of years, which are popular, but their offerings lean heavily on burgers, poke bowls, and bagel sandwiches, which aren’t very inspiring to me. In response to the virus, better-quality restaurants have gotten on the bandwagon and even my local French bistro is serving la cuisine française for pick-up…although bringing home a Steak-frites and Frisée salad in a box isn’t quite the same as sitting inside with a carafe of vin rouge.

For the record, I would love it if restaurants were allowed to put tables on the sidewalks and squares, distanced apart, which clients from any of the nearby restaurants would be allowed to use. (And while we’re at it, and since it’s my fantasy, let’s make the tables no-smoking, too.) Diners could still interact and remain “together,” as if they were inside, but if restaurants can only operate at half-capacity, most dining rooms are just too small and the profit margins are just too tight to make a go if it if they can only fill half of those seats.

In other news, I know a lot of you out there have been making your own bread. And I can’t think of a better use for it than to make yourself a Croque monsieur.

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Roast Chicken with Caramelized Shallots

I used to be one of those that was surprised when people said, “I don’t have time to cook.” To me, cooking and shopping for ingredients, which take the better parts of my days, has always been a pleasure for me rather than a burden. However, now I get it. Making dinner after a long day at work can be a challenge. In France, people…

I used to be one of those that was surprised when people said, “I don’t have time to cook.” To me, cooking and shopping for ingredients, which take the better parts of my days, has always been a pleasure for me rather than a burden. However, now I get it. Making dinner after a long day at work can be a challenge. In France, people don’t get home from work until 7 or 7:30pm, and not everyone wants to put on a kitchen apron when they get home and get moving on dinner.

Even during the lockdown, when we found ourselves having more time around the house, I was busier than ever. It was a challenge tracking down ingredients, and cooking all the time led to lots of dishes. I was also doing my best not to let anything go to waste, which meant that instead of tossing radish leaves, I made radish leaf soup. A bag of lemons that started looking past their prime became jars of lemon curd. And a compunction to update older blog posts (and photos) as I revisited them during the lockdown, from French Chocolate Mousse Cake and Carrot Salad to Cosmopolitans, it’s no wonder after the lockdown ended, I felt like I needed a vacation!

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Tomato and Chickpea Shakshuka

I usually keep a few canned things on hand. Sardines, tuna, and tomatoes, are constants you’ll find in my cupboards. I also have oddities that I’m not sure what I’ll use them for, but keep them around anyways, like smoked sugar, butterscotch chips, coffee-flavored salt, Vietnamese coconut syrup, and a kit someone gave me for making queso blanco which does, indeed, work. I’ve discovered the…

I usually keep a few canned things on hand. Sardines, tuna, and tomatoes, are constants you’ll find in my cupboards. I also have oddities that I’m not sure what I’ll use them for, but keep them around anyways, like smoked sugar, butterscotch chips, coffee-flavored salt, Vietnamese coconut syrup, and a kit someone gave me for making queso blanco which does, indeed, work.

I’ve discovered the joy and deliciousness of fresh dried chickpeas, which sounds like an oxymoron. But most dried chickpeas are old and not as delicious as when you buy dried chickpeas from a local source, which are fresher and better-tasting. However canned chickpeas will certainly do in a pinch, or if you’re in a hurry, and I have a few tins in my larder for “just in case” moments, like this one, when I wanted to make a hearty version of Shakshuka.

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Citrus Risotto

I was joking with someone the other day, who was making Judy Rodgers’ Pickled Red Onions. Judy was the chef and owner of Zuni Café in San Francisco and published one of the best books on cooking that has ever been written: The Zuni Café Cookbook. Like a number of her recipes, the method for pickling her famous red onions they serve on the Zuni…

I was joking with someone the other day, who was making Judy Rodgers’ Pickled Red Onions. Judy was the chef and owner of Zuni Café in San Francisco and published one of the best books on cooking that has ever been written: The Zuni Café Cookbook. Like a number of her recipes, the method for pickling her famous red onions they serve on the Zuni burgers, seems convoluted and requires what seems like a bunch of unnecessary steps. But like most of Judy’s recipes, the joke is on anyone who doubts her recipes, whose results are always spot-on. (I posted an easier pickled red onion recipe a while afterward, for those that don’t have the stamina to make hers.) One of her famous quotes about her cooking was, “Stop, think, there must be a harder way.”

This unusual combination of citrus and cooked rice prompted the cooks at her restaurant to question her sanity when she put it on the menu, but it’s really wonderful and a breeze to make. It requires just a short list of ingredients and pairs perfectly, with everything from grilled fish and shrimp, to seasonal vegetables like asparagus, peas or fava beans. But it shines just as brightly on its own, too.

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Cassoulet Toast

I’m a big fan of traditional Cassoulet. And I’m not alone; a repeated question I get is “Where can I get a good cassoulet in Paris?” The short answer is: To the Southwest of France. Sure, one can pick up a jar of Cassoulet from Castelnaudary, or make it, which I sometimes do. For those who want to tackle the project, there’s a recipe in…

I’m a big fan of traditional Cassoulet. And I’m not alone; a repeated question I get is “Where can I get a good cassoulet in Paris?” The short answer is: To the Southwest of France. Sure, one can pick up a jar of Cassoulet from Castelnaudary, or make it, which I sometimes do. For those who want to tackle the project, there’s a recipe in My Paris Kitchen. But not everyone wants to spend a few days gathering ingredients and sauteeing and simmering them together, then baking, then reheating the behemoth in their oven.

While it’s one of my top favorite dishes in the French food canon, sometimes I don’t want to wait, and remain wary of the jar. So when I saw a recipe for Cassoulet Toast in Open Kitchen: Inspired Food for Casual Gatherings, I was intrigued enough to give it a try. Cookbook author Susan Spungen is one of the top food stylists (she famously styled the food for Eat, Pray, Love and the Julie & Julia film), who noted in the headnote of the recipe that she originally wanted to include a Cassoulet recipe in her book, but decided it was too formidable to hoist on home cooks, so came up with a recipe that captures the flavors that we love about cassoulet; the rich, velvety beans, the caramelized aromatics, and the tender duck confit, all on a slice of crisp, country-style bread.

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