Recently in Uncategorized category

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…

Why I Don’t Hate Starbucks

David

I remember in the 80s, back in the dark age of coffee, when traveling through the United States, it was impossible to get a decent cup almost anywhere you went. Or heaven’s forbid, something as wildly exotic as a cappuccino or espresso. I wasn’t a coffee snob, but simply discovered good coffee early on when I was in college back in those days, because the restaurant I worked in was one of those rare places that carried coffee from a local roaster. (The owner was of Scandinavian descent and insisted on good, strong, dark coffee. So I got used to drinking that.) I don’t remember if local roasters were all that common back in the 1980s, but I don’t think so. And back then, unless you made coffee at home, you were pretty much not going to find a decent cup of coffee in America unless you went to an Italian café. People pretty much settled for diner-style drip coffee or something brewed up in a broiling-hot urn.

Continue Reading Why I Don’t Hate Starbucks…

How I Eat

poulet roti

For some reason, people are obsessed with what I eat and weigh and I get a lot of messages that say things like “How do you stay so thin?” or “How can you eat all that amazing food and stay in shape?” It’s not really something that I’m all that concerned about and not something I pay all that much attention to. And as much as I’d like to, I don’t start the day gorging on platters of croissants, then spend the rest of day wolfing down cakes, pastries, and chocolates. People come in different shapes and sizes. I know people who eat well and exercise, that are not necessarily svelte, and I know people who eat whatever they want and are rail-thin. (And according to CDC calculations, I’m overweight.) And I try to make it a point not to preach about how to eat, but just present recipes that I like, which are how I eat and feed guests.

Because I live in France, there’s a fascination with the French “diet” as well, and I frequently get asked about how they miraculously manage to keep the weight off while seemingly enjoying all the rich food in France. A few hints: They don’t snack between meals, portions are smaller, they smoke, diet sodas are popular, and they don’t delight in “extreme eating.” However that’s changing as well in France and they’re catching up to their friends across the Atlantic in terms of putting on the pounds – or kilos.

Continue Reading How I Eat…

Blog Notes / Links / Misc

Misc. thoughts, notes, and links from around the web…


Links

I recently read several excellent articles online about food writing. So much has changed in the last few years, and like most mediums, newspapers, magazines, blogs, and websites continue to evolve.

How to Blog
The editor of Boing Boing discusses the current state of blogging and offers a fresh perspective and tips.

Advice from Every Angle
Seasoned food writer Amanda Hesser assesses the current state of food writing.

How to Blog About Food
A good compendium of tips for new, emerging, and aspiring food bloggers.

Food Blogging
An article I wrote last year with some of my own ideas and advice on the topic.

Are Food Blogs Over?
Adam Roberts talks about the saturation of food blogs and offers insights.

Paris’s Best Croissants
On another note, I took a little ‘croissant quest’ for Travel and Leisure magazine, sleuthing out places in Paris for the best croissant. I veered off the usual path and hit the Right Bank, mentioning a few lesser-known addresses.


Paris & Switzerland Chocolate and Gastronomy Tour in June

We have two spaces left on my upcoming Paris and Switzerland Chocolate and Gastronomy Tour in June (due to a last-minute cancellation.) Requirements are that you must be able to consume large quantities of chocolate and caramel, reasonable amounts of butter and cheese, wine (as necessary), and plenty of charcuterie. If you fit this description and are interested in coming – or want more information – there’s a link on my Tours page for getting in touch with the contact person.


Comments

There’s a trend to use external commenting systems on blogs but I’m not sure I like the idea of folks having to log-in elsewhere to participate in the discussion. Discussions, tips, advice, and commentary of various sorts are welcome but you must leave a verifiable e-mail address (which isn’t made public, or shared), as noted in my comment policy. I may be revisiting using another system in the future that can be integrated into the site. But for now, I prefer to keep it as is.


Links to Services I’m Using

Dropbox
I was trying to figure out an easy way to move documents and pictures from my computer to mobile devices, and friends recommended Dropbox. It’s very easy to use and the basic version is free. You can also share documents and stuff with others on it as well.

Flipboard
If you have an iPad or iPhone, this application turns your device into a virtual magazine, allowing you to choose from sites (including mine), social networks, newspapers, and magazines, which Flipboard organizes into a magazine-like format.

Rue La La
One of my tour guests turned me on to Rue La La when I was eying her Tumi suitcase, so I joined and in addition to suitcases, I keep seeing amazing deals on everything from Le Creuset and Staub cookware, to KitchenAid mixers and Cuisinart food processors. The prices are great, but you have to act fast.

(Note: Membership in Rue La La is by invitation only. You can use that link as an invitation and Rue La La provides me with credit toward my own future luggage. But membership is free.)