Persimmon Margaritas

Persimmon margarita

A few years ago, I had a major emergency. To you it might not seem like one, but it was springtime and I was finishing a book and needed to retest the recipe for Persimmon Cake because I wanted to give it one last go before it went to the printer. Persimmons are fall fruits and it’s impossible to find them outside of their season. And as much as I searched and searched and searched, there were none to be found.

Persimmon margaritas

So I started keeping an emergency bag of persimmon puree in my freezer at all times. I don’t know why, because I haven’t had a persimmon emergency since them (but heck, ya never know!) But when I pulled open my freezer lately and saw that it had become a frightening mélange of plastic bags whose labels had fallen off, ice cubes that had landed in the back of the shelves (with some misc. crumbs) – and – of course – just out of arms reach, scraps of things like tomato paste and bacon cubes, bits and pieces of cakes (I think) and pâté (I think), and bread ends, (probably) I decided to put an end to the madness once and for all, and do a massive clean-out.

Persimmon margaritas

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Restaurant le Meurice

bread at Le Meurice

A few years ago, a good friend who has sadly moved away, was kind enough to take me to Restaurant Le Meurice for dinner. The first memory of walking into the done-up dining room was the way the waiters brought her an Hermès stool for her purse, which was an Hermès Kelly bag. The second memory I have, was shortly after when we sat down and they asked if we wanted apéritifs. I’d heard about the house apéritif they were serving back then, which was famous, so I ordered one.

Restaurant Le Meurice

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Cranberry Sauce with Red Wine and Figs

Cranberry Sauce

People often ask me what Parisians do for Thanksgiving. And while many French holidays are celebrated in America, Thanksgiving is one that doesn’t cross the Atlantic.

I’ve done a Thanksgiving dinner for friends and it takes quite a bit of time to find and assemble all the ingredients. And although a few stores that cater to American expats stock everything, it’s more fun to make fresh pumpkin puree for pies, break up a pain au levain for stuffing, and to get a free-range French turkey – which I found out that many poultry sellers with rotisseries will pop it on their spit-roaster for you, which is a boon for those in Paris with dinky ovens.

Cranberry Sauce

And, if I may be so bold, Thanksgiving is a holiday where we spend eating food that doesn’t especially appeal to people outside of the United States. The French eat pumpkins, but roasted, and not in dessert. (Nor with marshmallows!) The French version of stuffing, or farce is mostly meat, with a bit of seasonings to round out the flavor. And flour-thickened brown gravy isn’t quite the same as sauce au jus de volaille.

Cranberry Sauce

So while we Americans love all that stuff for nostalgic reasons, people in France don’t have that same set of references we do, and most seem to politely “appreciate” it, but I don’t know any French people who hoard molasses or stuffing mix, or spend the few months prior to November downloading Thanksgiving recipes.

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Cinnamon Ice Cream

Cinnamon ice cream recipe

My favorite thing that I bought this year is this old battered gelato dish, which was my score at a street market in Palermo. It was sitting there all by its lonesome, and there I was, to give it a happy home – it was kismet. (Or maybe it’s called something else in Italian, but I’m just happy I stumbled across such a fabulous find for only €2.)

So I’ve been trying to use it at much as possible. But since I only got one, that means I have to share. Which is pretty much a good thing when it comes to desserts anyways, as few of us can eat a whole cake, pie, or quart of ice cream.

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Chicken Basteeya

Basteeya

When I went to get the chicken to make my bisteeya, I wanted to follow the recipe to a T. So I went to the butcher to get a precise amount of chicken in grams. Since I wasn’t sure what one chicken thigh weighed, I took a guess that I might need 3 or 4 thighs. Judging from the reactions I get when ordering things by weight, they don’t get a lot of recipe-testers or cookbook authors shopping at my butcher shop. When the butcher put the poulet fermier thighs on the scale to show me, I wavered, thinking that the quantity looked a bit stingy and perhaps I should get a few extra. Then I started thinking (which often gets me into extra-trouble), “Well, since I’m here, I may as well get a few more.”

Chicken

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Modica (Sicily)

Cannoli

The good news about my trip to Sicily is that it wasn’t all eating almond cookies and cannoli, looking for parking spaces in Palermo (and paying one of the fellows lurking about to keep an eye on the car), gorging on fresh ricotta, and wiping and everything you possible can in generous drizzles of the amazing olive oil produced there.

There was “pasta” – made from almond paste, a plate that’d fool even those with sharper eyes than I. We had the aforementioned spleen sandwiches, which I was relieved to hear were not made from pancreas, and we ate salumi (charcuterie) because it was so good that it would have felt like a crime not to. (And I didn’t want to get into trouble in Sicily, if you know what I mean.) Since I only had one week on the island – two days of which were travel days, and two other days were dedicated to work that landed in my Inbox right before the trip – we managed to make the time for a quick trip to Modica.

Sicily pictures-76

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Italian Almond Cookies

Italian almond cookie recipe

From day 1, I was instantly smitten with the almond cookies I had in Sicily. Most cafes I went to in Sicily served a variety of sweets to choose from, to go along with coffee – and it’s probably a good thing that cafés in France don’t, because otherwise they’d have to force me out of there with a crowbar.

Italian Almond Cookies

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Sicily

Sicily

I’ve been living in what is arguably the center of Europe for a while now (and I’m certain someone will get out their ruler and argue that technically, I don’t actually reside in the precise center of the continent – but let’s just go with that for the sake of the story), I don’t visit other countries as often as I’d like. It’s so easy to just stay home, not worry about airline tickets, packing, making sure you bring enough socks and don’t forget shaving cream, getting to the airport on time, the stress of unpacking everything to pass through security, and being herded onto, then cooped up in, a tight plane for a few hours in a seat that’s just barely big enough to hold a small child.

persimmons

The reward, however, is arriving somewhere, leaving the airport, and realizing you’re somewhere magnificent. Even if you have to nearly blow-up like a smoldering Sicilian volcano to get there.

Sicily

Sicily has been at the top of my list for a while now, but by the end of fall, less folks want to travel there. And because it’s not a popular winter destination, airlines heavily reduce their flights to Sicily and I had to do some sleuthing around to find out which one would actually take us there.

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