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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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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