Recently in Uncategorized category

Blog & Misc Notes

paris - winter

We’ve had a spate of nice weather here. A friend just told me that we’ve had the grayest winter in ten years. I’m not so sure, but it has been overcast since, well – October? September? … I actually haven’t minded it so much since I seem to have succumbed to the tristesse (sadness) of Paris that sweeps across the city in winter. We had a lovely snowstorm which for me was all-too-brief. But I’ve been keeping busy indoors and not minding the chilly winter as much as others have.

Today it was beautiful, with blue skies highlighting the buildings of Paris and silhouetting the still-barren trees. I went to lunch at a friend’s place that has two balconies, and it was nice to breathe in some fresh, cool air, rather than being coincé (trapped) inside. Afterward I took a pleasant walk along the canal Saint-Martin, then headed home to make dinner for some visiting friends. (Yikes, two big meals in one day?)

As always, it’s lot of fun having the blog and it’s great to interact with everyone. Thanks for reading it! Since spring is here, I’ve got a few general announcements and thoughts to pass on. Hope that for all of you the weather is cooperating and you’re taking some time to bask in the sunshine, or the snow – or whatever, wherever you are.

-Aside from a few goofs here and there, I’ve kept my word about issuing a monthly newsletter. Here’s the March issue. If you want to signup, you can do so here. Note that it’s an opt-in system and you will get an e-mail that will prompt you to confirm that you want to get it. You won’t get anything other than the newsletter, which will come once a month.

-A number of folks access the site on mobile devices. If you’re one of them, there is a mobile-friendly version of the site with a nifty icon for your phone. On your smartphone, when you point your browser to the site, on an iPhone, tap the icon with the little arrow in the box that will prompt you to “Add to Home Screen.” Then, voilà – you’ll have an icon on your phone. (I don’t have another smartphone because I can only afford one, and I am already surrounded by too much technology as it is. But I am sure there is some way to add it to other devices in a similar manner.)

Continue Reading Blog & Misc Notes…

Paris Booksigning and Get-Together

It’s that time of the year, folks. (No, not when I crawl out of my hibernation hole.) It’s the holiday season in Paris and I’m having a booksigning and get-together at La Cuisine cooking school. If you’re in town, stop in say hi!

There will be copies of Ready for Dessert, The Perfect Scoop, and The Sweet Life in Paris for sale, which I’m happy to personalize for you or for holiday gift-giving. Certain titles may be in limited supply, and you’re welcome to bring copies of books you already own.

I’ll be at the school Saturday, December 1st, from 4 to 6pm, which is located at 80, quai de l’Hôtel de Ville. Treats and so forth will be provided by the fine folks at La Cuisine.

Continue Reading Paris Booksigning and Get-Together…

Thanksgiving

soup

I’ve been rather buried in a mess of stuff this year, and, well…I didn’t get it together in time for Thanksgiving. There were no posts on how to roast the best turkey – although I’m kind of in the camp of just put the dang thing in the oven for a few hours, and stop worrying so much about it – it’s just turkey. Last year I worked with a dinky oven and we had around a dozen diverse people over for dinner, so I just cut it up and oven-braised the beast, and no one complained. I think people were just happy to have fun with each other and eat together. (The wine helped as well, no doubt.)

And there aren’t going to be any posts about what to do with turkey leftovers. Sorry, but it doesn’t get any better than turkey Tetrazzini.

Because I live in Paris, there’s no run-up to Thanksgiving. There are no supermarket ads imploring us to buy canned yams, marshmallows (I wish!), stuffing mixes, and discounted turkeys. My social media streams aren’t full of French food bloggers posting recipes and Thanksgiving tips. It’s just another day for them, and those of us who live here. Some folks are having dinners this weekend because it’s a “school night” so if you’re going to have a big dinner party, it’s better to do it on the weekend when folks don’t have to wake up early to go to work.

I’ve also been a bit preoccupied with the news of the storm on the east coast in America a few weeks ago, and this week, watching another sad chapter in a decades-long struggle. War never really solves anything – Europe is now unified and Americans and Vietnamese seem to be a-ok with each other. Unfortunately this situation seems unresolvable at the moment, but when a chef from one of the regions of conflict gave me a big hug after I told him how much I loved his cooking during a trip there, it made a certain someone who isn’t necessarily overly emotional well-up just thinking about it as he writes about it still, at this particular moment. Those five seconds were the highlight of the year for me.

(The other was that we got to see Anderson Cooper on CNN here in Europe this week.)

Continue Reading Thanksgiving…

How Precise Do Recipes Need to Be?

scale and measuring spoons

I’ve been doing a lot of work on recipes lately, and at the same time, thinking about the way recipe-writing has evolved, especially since the internet has taken a role in the process of cooking. At the same time, someone interviewed me about the difference between writing recipes for a cookbook versus a blog and I gave a somewhat long-winded answer (which I’m still editing before I send it back to them.) But the short answer is that when I started writing books, I had to envision who the readers would be. Julia Child wrote for Mastering the Art of French Cooking for Americans who had perhaps a little knowledge of French cooking but not a lot of access to the same ingredients. And she got it right.

When one writes a book proposal, the first thing a publisher wants to know is “Who is going to buy it?” So you sit down and think about the audience; The dedicated home baker? The weekend cook? The person who will tackle a forty-page recipe on making a loaf of bread? Someone with a tiny city kitchen? Then, when you write the book, you need to figure out what equipment people will – or won’t, have. Stand mixers, food processors, 12-quart Dutch ovens, 8-inch square cake pans, candy thermometers, bundt pans, and so forth, are all questions that pop up when working on recipes.

When I write a book, I assume a certain level or knowledge and/or commitment because people have made an effort to obtain the book. Writing for the internet is more interactive and I can write about subjects that are diverse and the interaction makes me think about the possibilities of a recipe. And I can see questions that might arise or need clarification in real-time. So both are interesting to me.

As one of many recipe writers out there, we all want people to have good results. So I spend a good amount of time testing recipes over-and-over, using various ingredients and techniques, then refining and revisiting them over the course of working on the book (or blog post), until I’m satisfied that it works just like I want it to. Then, because of the long publication period for a book, I have time to step back from a recipe, then usually revisit it later again.

Continue Reading How Precise Do Recipes Need to Be?…

ma cuisine

stovetop

Nowhere is remodeling for the faint of heart and although I did, indeed, learn plenty of new words to expand my French vocabulary, along with a few other things that I won’t recount here, let’s just say that if I ever this take on this kind of project again, I’ll do things a little lot differently. The best advice I could pass on was given to me by a French friend – “Be more French, less American” – which you are welcome to interpret any way you want.

cocoa and powdered sugar work area (with peanut butter)

At the beginning of the project, an American friend said, “Please don’t write a book about remodeling in France.” So I promised her I wouldn’t. Which is probably a good thing as no one would believe most of it – and then there’s that pesky issue of the happy ending that we’re still working on : 0

Because Paris is an old city with a lot of history, it’s a challenge to do something that doesn’t work against the city. Modernism hasn’t always been good to Paris (ie: Les Halles), so I went for a very basic kitchen, not in any particular style, but something that was utilitarian first and foremost: I spent most of my life in restaurant kitchens and those are places where I seem to be the most at “home”, not in places with custom wood paneling and fancy design elements. Since light is at a premium in Paris, I went with white cabinets, stainless-steel handles and appliances (although I kept the black, well-used gas stovetop that was there), and wood, for warmth.

I didn’t follow any of the rules. I didn’t read up on where to put the refrigerator in relation to the sink. I didn’t think about work areas, work flow, triangles, circles, squares, rectangles, or tetrahedrons.

Continue Reading ma cuisine…

Spice ID?

cranberries, pistachios, garlic

Before I went to Israel, I was introduced by my friend Paule to some wonderful spices and seasoning mixtures, which a friend of hers who lives in Tel Aviv brought to her. When I popped the lid off the first one, I wasn’t prepared for the overwhelming aromas, some familiar – dill and garlic, and others with unidentifiable seeds and spices.

She shared some of them with me, and I liberally sprinkled them over eggplant dips and marinated chicken with the dill mixture. Which, of course, depleted my stock. So when I went to Israel, I was hoping to restock my stashes but didn’t come across them in the travels. I had a hard time explaining what they were when folks asked me what I was looking for. And I don’t mean to be dramatic, but I think they changed my life.

Continue Reading Spice ID?…

Paris Booksigning: This Saturday, July 14th

I’m doing a little booksigning this Saturday at La Cuisine cooking school in Paris. It’s going to be an informal affair and if you’d like to come and get a book signed, this is your chance.

There will be copies of Ready for Dessert, The Perfect Scoop, and The Sweet Life in Paris and I’ll be at the school, from 5:30 to 7:30pm, which is located at 80, quai de l’Hôtel de Ville. You can get a map, and more information, at the Facebook event page.

Happy Bastille Day!

Savora

sandwich

For a current trip I’m taking, to avoid airport food, I made a sandwich. Since I was en-route to Israel, I though it best to avoid my usual jambon fromage and make a turkey sandwich with cornichons, cheese, egg, and mustard.

I’m not a condiment guy; I much prefer regular mustard than something jazzed up with a lot of flavorings. And I’m not big on mayonnaise either. Sure, it’s a great moistener. But is it really better than an immodest swipe of butter? (Or some mashed up fresh goat cheese?) I always hear about all these new sandwich spreads and so forth, and I guess I’m kind of boring because none of those things with honey or sun-dried tomatoes or anything “Ranch”-style sound all that interesting to me.

I’ll stick with keeping my sweets for dessert, thanks. Sun-dried tomatoes should probably stay back in 1986, and although I haven’t lived in a ranch, if I ever did, because of all the exercise I was getting working the fields and herding cattle, I would not be eating sandwiches or salads with bottled dressing. I’d be chowing down on bbq ribs and fried chicken, for sure.

Continue Reading Savora…