French Tomato Tart

This week I saw the first promise of tomato season. A few brightly colored cherry specimens were brought home from the local market, as well as the more standard varieties. I was down in Gascony visiting my friend Kate Hill, and her photographer friend Tim Clinch was there preparing to lead a photography workshop. Looking for something tempting and colorful, tomatoes seemed the obvious choice…

tomato tart

This week I saw the first promise of tomato season. A few brightly colored cherry specimens were brought home from the local market, as well as the more standard varieties. I was down in Gascony visiting my friend Kate Hill, and her photographer friend Tim Clinch was there preparing to lead a photography workshop. Looking for something tempting and colorful, tomatoes seemed the obvious choice to be willing subjects for pictures, and for dinner.

cherry tomatoes erika

In addition to the profusion of flowers plucked from the lush garden by the canal du Midi, the tomatoes had their moment in front of the camera. But once the participants stopped clicking, we grabbed them and put them where they rightfully belong: In the kitchen.

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“World’s Best” Mac & Cheese

I don’t know about you, but there are a few things I need to get off my chest. One is that I can’t think of any time when I don’t want Mac & Cheese. And two, long before the advent of the internet recipe (and food blogs), words like “world’s best” weren’t considered clickbait. They were a declaration by magazines, newspapers, and cookbooks that whatever…

I don’t know about you, but there are a few things I need to get off my chest. One is that I can’t think of any time when I don’t want Mac & Cheese. And two, long before the advent of the internet recipe (and food blogs), words like “world’s best” weren’t considered clickbait. They were a declaration by magazines, newspapers, and cookbooks that whatever dish that was being presented really was the best version they came up with.

Back in the day, when you said it, you meant it. (Even if, as everybody knows, there isn’t just one “best” way to cook or bake anything. Whatever exists, there’s always something that comes along that’s better, cheaper, faster, slower, etc.) But nowadays recipe headlines scream “Life-Changing Cauliflower,” or “Help! I can’t stop eating these Oreo-stuffed Red Velvet cupcakes,” or my least-favorite, “Top Ten Brownie Recipes…According to Amazon Reviews.” I’ve eaten a few life-changing foods in my life, and I’m not stuffing anything into something else and deep-frying it (unless it’s fried chicken stuffed with more fried chicken), nor do I have a lot of faith in a curated selection of anonymous online reviews.

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Poule au pot

  King Henry IV of France promised “a chicken in every pot every Sunday” to the French back in the 17th century and things haven’t changed much since then. Chicken remains a classic French Sunday meal, as the lines for roast chickens prove at the markets and butcher shops on the weekends will attest to. People in France eat chicken on other days of the…

 

King Henry IV of France promised “a chicken in every pot every Sunday” to the French back in the 17th century and things haven’t changed much since then. Chicken remains a classic French Sunday meal, as the lines for roast chickens prove at the markets and butcher shops on the weekends will attest to.

People in France eat chicken on other days of the week but some consider it a second-place meat and for years beef was seen as the most luxurious and healthy choice. My first housecleaner told me that I needed to eat beef on more than one occasion, to be healthy. In recent years beef consumption has been falling in France, but I often choose chicken over beef, which Romain teases me about, saying it’s très américan to order it so often at restaurants, and sometimes call me le chicken man. But when I made this Poule au pot for him recently (at home, so he was happy), he said it was the best he’s ever had. And as you can tell, he’s a tough customer.

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Panisse recipe

Way back in 2008, probably before some of you were born, I posted a recipe for Panisses, chickpea flour fritters. They weren’t so well known outside of the south of France, and even in Paris, people don’t really know what they are. So it was fun introducing these Mediterranean specialties to a wider audience, even if some readers were scratching their heads as to how…

Way back in 2008, probably before some of you were born, I posted a recipe for Panisses, chickpea flour fritters. They weren’t so well known outside of the south of France, and even in Paris, people don’t really know what they are. So it was fun introducing these Mediterranean specialties to a wider audience, even if some readers were scratching their heads as to how to get the main ingredient; chickpea flour.
Nowadays, with gluten-free baking more popular, chickpea flour is easy to get and a recent trip to Marseille, where they’re sold at seaside stands (like the one above), prompted me to make them at home again, and update the recipe with additional tips I picked up.

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Rabbit Pasta with Green Olives, Fennel, and Preserved Lemons

Some people don’t like generalizations, but, well…that’s a generalization too, isn’t it? However, you sometimes need to paint a picture in broad strokes. And differences which are specific to certain cultures are interesting, which is why many of us travel, to experience them. (It’s also what makes us all delightfully different.) Most don’t come out of thin air, and often contain a kernel of truth,…

Some people don’t like generalizations, but, well…that’s a generalization too, isn’t it? However, you sometimes need to paint a picture in broad strokes. And differences which are specific to certain cultures are interesting, which is why many of us travel, to experience them. (It’s also what makes us all delightfully different.) Most don’t come out of thin air, and often contain a kernel of truth, although I’ve heard some doozies from people in various corners of the world about their perceptions of others.

One generalization that I’ve experienced, which has been confirmed by other Americans who have French partners or spouses, is that we’ve had things said to use that are rather…abrupt, or would be considered borderline insultant back in the States. If you read L’Appart, you may recall dear Romain saying to me probably the worst thing that you can say to a man, whereas I thought the obstetrician did a pretty good job with what he had to work with down there, and I’ve never had any other complaints from partners. But his best friend is half French, half American, so he sort of grew up experiencing some of our good aspects, and some of our…uh, eccentricities, so I can just laugh that stuff off.

Well, most of the time.

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Seedy Furikake Crackers

I’ve been out and about, here and there, but one thing that seems to follow me around is furikake. “What? A Japanese seaweed-based condiment?” you might say. While I do tend to tote French salted butter, fleur de sel, and Dijon mustard along with me on my travels, I’ve always loved furikake as well, and find myself craving it more and more these days. In…

I’ve been out and about, here and there, but one thing that seems to follow me around is furikake. “What? A Japanese seaweed-based condiment?” you might say. While I do tend to tote French salted butter, fleur de sel, and Dijon mustard along with me on my travels, I’ve always loved furikake as well, and find myself craving it more and more these days. In all honestly, I get a little antsy when I don’t have some around, which happened last time I tried to restock in Paris and couldn’t find any.

There are different types of furikake. Some contain bonito (fish flakes) or dried shrimp, and others have bits of desiccated egg. Some are relatively mellow and others have a pleasant funk to them. In the last few years, “funky” has been a dicey word to describe certain foods, but to me, at the risk of cancellation, funky isn’t a bad thing. Some of my favorite foods, like fish sauce, kimchi, and Camembert could be described as “funky” (just as songs like Funky Nassau, Uptown Funk, and Play That Funky Music use “funky” to complement, and compliment, their respective subjects) so I’m fine with having a funky-friendly blog.

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Tahdig

Ever since I heard of Tahdig, I’ve loved it, even though I’d never tried it. The idea of a plate of rice with a brittle, crackly crown appealed to me. It wasn’t until I was in Dubai with my friend Anissa Helou where she ordered a plate of just the crunchy shards of rice, I made a statement that it may have been the best…

Ever since I heard of Tahdig, I’ve loved it, even though I’d never tried it. The idea of a plate of rice with a brittle, crackly crown appealed to me. It wasn’t until I was in Dubai with my friend Anissa Helou where she ordered a plate of just the crunchy shards of rice, I made a statement that it may have been the best thing I ever ate. There’s nothing wrong with speaking in superlatives, which is hard not to do about Tahdig. Enthusiasm is a good thing. It’s taken me over ten years to try making it at home, but I finally did. And I’m happy to report that now, I can have Tahdig whenever I want. And so can you.

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Spiced Kefta

Persian food, like many of the foods from a region that’s often broadly referred to as the Middle East, takes cues from a variety of influences and cultures as people traverse borders and bring their delicious foods with them. Which is why the food in America is so diverse; people have gifted us with foods from their homelands, such as tacos, sushi, pizza, beer, and…

Persian food, like many of the foods from a region that’s often broadly referred to as the Middle East, takes cues from a variety of influences and cultures as people traverse borders and bring their delicious foods with them. Which is why the food in America is so diverse; people have gifted us with foods from their homelands, such as tacos, sushi, pizza, beer, and bagels. Similarly, France has been blessed to have beans for cassoulet, chocolat chaud (hot chocolate), and croissants.

As a cook, I like dipping into various cuisines and cultures and lately, I’ve been working on Tahdig, a Persian rice dish that’s cooked on the stovetop until the bottom gets crusty, which can take an hour or longer, and requires some patience. Once done, you take a leap of faith and turn it out onto a plate so the crispy part (the tahdig) forms a golden, crackly crown on top of a bed of fragrant, saffron-infused rice…if you do it right.

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Brined, Roast Pork

I’m often asked what my favorite cookbooks are and invariably I pull out a copy of The Zuni Cafe Cookbook by Judy Rodgers. It’s one of those rare books where you learn something from every sentence on every page, and in every recipe that you make from it. Judy was an amazing cook and whatever she made was unusually good, in spite of its (seemingly)…

I’m often asked what my favorite cookbooks are and invariably I pull out a copy of The Zuni Cafe Cookbook by Judy Rodgers. It’s one of those rare books where you learn something from every sentence on every page, and in every recipe that you make from it. Judy was an amazing cook and whatever she made was unusually good, in spite of its (seemingly) relative simplicity, ranging from the lightest ricotta gnocchi you’ll ever have to the legendary Zuni roast chicken, which was worth the one-hour wait after you ordered it at the restaurant. It gave you plenty of time to have a margarita, a pile of shoestring fries, and a classic Caesar Salad. (Fun fact: I worked at Zuni Cafe when I first moved to San Francisco and made a lot of Caesar Salads, which, if I may be so bold, were excellent and the recipe is in the book.)

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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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