Results tagged baguette from David Lebovitz

At the Market: Bitter Turnips and Smoked Garlic

figs

I regularly visit the outdoors markets in Paris to do my shopping. It’s a lot nicer than the supermarket and I’ve gotten to know many of the vendors personally. Last Friday I took a lovely journalist from Poland through the market, who was writing a story about me and my new book. And I thought I’d be fun to take her shopping with me.

bitter turnip

She asked me a lot of questions as I blazed through the market, where I dialed in on some fresh figs immediately. Worried that the fragile beauties would get smushed in my bag, I made a mental note to go back and get some. The best market tip I can give is to see what everyone has, then go back, and get what you want. But another is not to go with any expectations, because what might be available in abundance one day, will (invariably) be gone a few days later when you go back to get it. So I stock up when I see things things, like the ripe ‘n ready black figs, shown up above.

baguette and smoked garlic

The ones that were syrupy and sticky-soft got eaten fresh, right away. A few others were roasted in the oven with some white wine, honey, and a few branches of fresh thyme.

I also bought a magnificent head of lettuce, since I eat a lot of salads. And even though I had plenty of cheese at home – as usual – while introducing her the women who sell the stellar cheeses that I’m fortunate to have so close by, I was powerless to resist the artisanal goat cheeses, each wrapped in a chestnut leaf. And into my basket one of those went.

cherry tomatoes

She asked me about root vegetables, which are having a renaissance in France, so I took her to the stand that specializes in les légumes racines. I’d gotten bear’s garlic from that vendor last year (and, of course, when I went to get more a few days later, it was nowhere to be seen), and while perusing her colorful radishes and beets, I noticed a basket holding tresses of ail fumé, or smoked garlic.

smoked garlic

Parisians aren’t know for the abundant use of smoky flavors. So it’s a little surprising to see smoked garlic at the markets. This specimen that came home with me hailed from the north of France and a little research led to me learn that they’re Ail fumé d’Arleux, which have been in production for over four hundred years. Smoking was originally a way to preserve the garlic. Before refrigeration, people would store foods in their chimneys (including cheese), which would help preserve it, as well as lend a smoky taste. So why not garlic?

tart dough

tart dough

tart dough

The most notable dish using smoked garlic is soupe à l’ail d’Arleux; a simple soup of smoked garlic, potatoes, carrots, and thyme, sometimes topped with grated cheese or crème fraîche – you can find some recipes here and here, in English.

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Five Books on French Cuisine

The Whole Fromage

The Whole Fromage

Look, I like cheese a lot. But didn’t think I could get into an entire book on the subject. And as I read the first few paragraphs of The Whole Fromage, my suspicions were almost confirmed and I was considering putting it down because, like cheese (which I’m surrounded by on a daily basis – and I’m not complaining!), a well-edited selection is usually my preferred way to enjoy it. Fortunately I kept going and found myself completely absorbed in the book on les fromage, the subject of Kathe Lison’s obsession. And her book is a series of interesting essays as she traveled around France, visiting cheese producers, from the mountains of the Jura to the caves of Roquefort.

It’s hard to write about cheese because the scents and flavors that come to mind, used to describe the taste and smell of les fromages, aren’t often very appealing; barnyards, cattle pens, rotting milk, and the laundry bin in men’s locker rooms after the big game, often come to mind. But Kathe Lison visited some of the most intriguing cheese regions in France – from Langres to Beaufort, and recounts her visits cheese caves, curd tastings, meetings with artisan cheese producers, and an occasional brush with a cranky character or two.

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In Praise of Sesame Baguettes

baguette and butter

I suppose I’m doing all those things the diet-police are advising against – namely having fat and carbohydrates for breakfast in lieu of “healthier” options, like having a bowl of kale-flecked quinoa or downing a cilantro smoothie. But as much as I like fruits and vegetables (and herbs), the only thing I am able to face first thing in the morning is something a little less threatening – namely bread, salted butter, and coffee. And that’s all.

For a while I was adding a swipe of chestnut or buckwheat honey to my butter-smeared morning ritual, but since deciding that one seemed to be fighting the other on my plate (and who wants to referee their breakfast?), salted butter won out over the honey. Which has also been easier since I’ve been getting regular deliveries of salted butter from Normandy (thanks Jennifer!), which is so good that adding anything to it, like honey or jam, is the equivalent of putting herbs in a perfectly good smoothie.

Years ago I wrote about my crack baguette, the bread that I could never get enough of. Whose disappearance I still haven’t recovered from, even though it’s been probably five years since it was mercilessly snatched from my breakfast plate. At one point, someone tried to pin the demise of the bakery on me, for not giving up their address. (Because like cable television and mobile phone service in France, if something is working for you, you don’t touch it. You leave it alone.) But since living in a culture of c’est pas ma faute, I think I could hardly be blamed when the elderly couple that ran the bakery finally decided on retirement. And believe me, if I had sway over who could retire, I’d be working on that list at this very moment.

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The Best Way to Use Up Leftover Bread

brushing olive oil

I’ve been on a bread-making bender lately, experimenting with various types of loaves. While testing recipes makes me learn a lot about how things work (and what doesn’t!), I’ve been facing an onslaught of bread. Since I’m having guests over tonight, and I just made a few trays, I thought I’d share my favorite way to use up leftover bread.

This isn’t great for using up leftover white bread, or anything fine-textured. But for country-style loaves, sourdough, or baguettes, it can’t be beat. Grainy breads work well, too.

olive oil - bread

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How to Find a Good Baguette in Paris

Baguette

There are a lot of people who come to Paris and can’t wait to get their hands on one of the amazing baguettes that are packed in baskets and lined up on flour-dusted bakery counters seemingly on just every street corner. (And people still ask me why I moved here?) Well I have good news and bad news for you – there are plenty of great baguettes in Paris, and unfortunately a few not-so-great ones out there as well.

BaguetteBaguette
BaguetteBaguette

You just can’t assume that every bakery makes great bread, just like not all wine companies make great wine or all restaurants serve good food. Paris is a large city with lots of bakeries of various quality. And in Paris, a baguette generally isn’t something worthy of great adulation or bread that someone would take two métros to buy – a baguette is simply part of everyday life and something you’d pick up on your way home from work for dinner. And they come in all different sizes, shapes, dimensions, and colors.

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Restaurant Alain Ducasse

Uncharacteristically, I’ll spare you the specifics, but I need to catch up on about 147 hours of sleep. And while we’re at it, I could use a hug. And since the former isn’t necessarily easy to come by here, as is the latter, I was embrassé by dinner at Alain Ducasse restaurant. While it’s been tempting to remove the “sweet life” byline from my header until things return to normal, since one of the sweeter sides of Paris is an occasional foray into fine dining, I dusted off my lone, non-dusty outfit, and rode the métro to a swankier part of town.

When I was in Monaco and I went to visit the chefs and the kitchen at Alain Ducasse’s restaurant, Louis XV, the pastry chef asked if I could possibly stay and taste their lovely desserts. Unfortunately I had to catch a ride back to Paris because I didn’t want to miss, well..nothing – I couldn’t stay. Then a few weeks later, a lovely invitation to his Paris restaurant arrived in my mailbox and I cleaned myself up, then headed into the aquarium.

waiter at Alain Ducasse Alain Ducasse restaurant

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Kouign Amann at Le Grenier à Pain

Kouign Amann pastry

Today is election day in France, and la République has the choice of re-electing the current President, or ushering in a new one. For people who usually have a lot of opinions, my French friends aren’t all that enthused about either one of the fellows. One is hoping to come into office, promising to represent Changement, and the other came into office five years ago, vowing changement, too. Sound familiar?

The polls opened at 8am and the only change I was feeling was in my pocket, as I roamed the streets looking for a baguette. However instead of the buttery, yeasty aromas wafting forth from my usual arsenal of boulangeries, none were open. It wasn’t because it was election day, it just happened that every one I hit had the shades down and the door shuttered closed for various reasons.

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La baguette

baguette

Some time ago I switched my allegiance to grainy bread. Perhaps it was because I was thinking, “If I’m going to eat all this bread around here, I should at least be eating grainy bread.” Or perhaps I got bored with the one-note flavors of white bread, and began enjoying the fuller flavors of whole grain loaves. But over the last few weeks, while I’ve been in between kitchens (and toasters), I now wake up each morning with the sole goal of scoring a fresh baguette for breakfast.

I’m often asked what I would miss about Paris when I’m not here, and although you can pretty much get anything you want nowadays anywhere in the world (thank you, internet…well, I think…), the bread in Paris is still pretty great. Not every bakery makes a good baguette, but when you get a perfect specimen, one that crunches audibly when you bite through the crust and the inside has a creamy color and a slight tang from a bit of levain – save for a swipe of good butter or a bit of cheese – anything else is simply unnecessary.

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