Results tagged butter from David Lebovitz

Orange-Glazed Polenta Cake

Orange-glazed polenta cake

Apparently I’m not the only one who loves polenta cake. The Italians like it so much that it’s called Amor Polenta. Which means “Polenta Love.”

Well, at least that’s what I thought it meant, because amour in French means “love.” And I assumed that it was the same in Italian. (Another reason for finally getting on that life-long ambition to live in Italy and learn Italian.) But for now, checking in an Italian dictionary, I found out that “amor” means “sake.” (As in, for the purpose of.) So I’m not sure how it got its name, but this cake makes a pretty good argument for the sake of whisking polenta into a cake.

Orange-glazed polenta cake

I’m one of those people who is completely crazy for anything with cornmeal, from corn bread to even a kind of kooky polenta ice cream that I’m sure no one else has ever made, because I used a completely obscure polenta that very, very few people can get their hands on. But I felt compelled to make it, for the sake of using up a little bag of that polenta that I had.

Orange-glazed polenta cake

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Meyer Lemon Curd and Lemon Tart

lemon curd tart recipe

There’s been an anglo-wave sweeping across Paris the past few years, and the latest to excite Parisians has been the return of Marks & Spencer. Their last store in France closed over a decade ago and after a lot of speculation, and anticipation, they’re back. Their initial rentrée was a shop on the Champs-Elysées, which gives more room to clothes than it does to the food. I’ve never heard anyone say they missed the selection of clothes that were available, but a lot of people – French and otherwise – got a little misty eyed over the loss of the availability of scones, le cheddar (pronounced ched-aire), streaky bacon, Chicken Tikka Masala and, my favorite, the crumpets. Since then, they’ve gone on to open specialty food stores in various neighborhoods, to great success.

On British import that’s hard to explain is “curd,” which doesn’t quite translate into something that sounds like it would be tasty, even in English. Explanations tend to bring up notions of curdled custards, lumpy messes floating in a cloudy broth. But in spite of the connotations the word brings up, French people like lemon curd as much as Americans, and British, and I am sure someone else will point out that others like it, too. So let’s just agree that everybody loves lemon curd. (Okay, there are probably some people who don’t like lemon curd. But I’ve not met anyone yet.)

Lemon tart and curd recipe

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Cornbread with Harissa Butter

Cornbread recipe with harissa butter

One of my friends who also has a food blog told me that she likes the posts where I cobble together ingredients in Paris to make something American. After spending countless hours roaming the city in search of this and that, it’s something that is actually fun for me to do, too. I like nothing better than prowling around and discovering ethnic épiceries (often around Belleville and the Marché d’Aligre), where I always come home with a variety of curiosities, in addition to what I was originally looking for. Some are still in the back of my cabinets, like still-sealed coconut concentrate from Vietnam (which looks similar to molasses, and probably tastes amazing), and the bag of Fritos, which an American friend who was staying in my apartment spied, and threatened to open – and eat. But didn’t

Four years later – yup, the coconut concentrate is still in my baking cabinet, and the Fritos are still uneaten, along with a bag mahlab, the fragrant kernels of Mediterranean cherry pits, a dried-out stalk of candied angelica, which I had to buy since I searched far and wide for fresh angelica in France (even in the region where candied angelica is made) and no one knew where – or what – fresh angelica was (thus ending my ability to spin a story, and a recipe, out of that one). I have a tin sack of سبع بهارات, a Lebanese blend of seven spices that has no occidental equivalent that I can think of. There is a small box of handmade chocolate from Oaxaca that has been calling my name ever since the start of hot chocolate season. And just added to my roster are six juicy, plump Meyer lemons that were hand-delivered, and are begging to be made into something that exploits their unique, sweet-citrusy character.

bacon

While I love to play around with these things in baking, it’s hard to share any recipes because not everything is available everywhere. And while the internet fills a lot of gaps in global availability, there are no substitutes for a number of things. Fortunately cornmeal is something that is readily available not just in America, but is used in the cuisines of India, Sri Lanka, and Italy, as well as Central and South America. And a few months back, I was happy to find a bag of cornmeal in a shop VT Cash & Carry, up in the lively Indian quartier of Paris.

The French have a different relationship to corn than Americans. It’s native to us so we use it often, in a variety of guises – mostly fresh, but also dried and ground. But other cultures have cornmeal-based specialties. Lest you think the French don’t ever use cornmeal, think again, mes amis.

Cornbread recipe

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Cranberry Raisin Pie

Cranberry Raisin Pie recipe

At first, I thought that I was a little late to the party, posting a cranberry recipe after Thanksgiving had passed. Then I realized that now may be the actual best time to post a cranberry recipe since after Thanksgiving there is usually a glut of cranberries on the market, and prices drop after the Thanksgiving. Well, at least in America.

Cranberry Raisin Pie

I was fortunate because although you can find fresh cranberries in Paris around Thanksgiving (for les Américains, and with a little searching), they’re very costly. And even after the fête, they don’t discount them since the sellers don’t quite realize that the stress of having to find fresh cranberries is not longer an issue once Thanksgiving has passed. And most of us tend to forget about them. However I love cranberries and hoard them whenever I find them at a reasonable price.

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How to Line a Baking Pan with Aluminum Foil

Salty, Deep-Dark Chocolate Brownies

One of the best ways to ensure that baked goods will come out of a pan, especially sweet treats that tend to have sticky edges, it to line a baking pan with aluminum foil. Bar cookies and brownies are very good candidates for baking in foil-lined pans. I recommend using the heaviest aluminum foil you can find as the flimsy stuff tears easily. Here’s how I do it:

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Endive and Ham Gratin

Endive and Ham Gratin Recipe-7

I’ve had a lot of visitors this season and everyone, of course, wanted me to pick a restaurant where to meet up. It was great to see so many long-lost friends, but since it was two meals a day for a couple of weeks, my “idea list” began to run dry. And while I have a bunch of places that I personally want to try, most visitors don’t want to “try out a new place” (and for some reason, no one wants to go out for pizza…), so rather than risk a so-so meal, they wanted me to pick something tried-and-true. Which I suppose is fair enough.

Endive and Ham Gratin

But after a while, I was tapped out. It got to the point where I had lunch one day at one place, then returned to their partner restaurant across the street for dinner a few hours later that same night. And I also learned that there’s only so much restaurant food you can eat. I used to wonder why food critics complained about their jobs, having to eat all the time. Yet by the end of my guest stints, I was starting to wave the white flag of surrender myself.

Endive and Ham Gratin

I did have a little break and went to a French friend’s home for lunch one day, and knowing both of us were pretty busy, and eating a little too much lately, we left the decision to whatever we felt that we’d be in the mood for that day. Then that day arrived, and neither of us could decide. At her suggestion, and in deference to our waistlines, and our pocketbooks (or in my case, my wallet), she invited me over for soup.

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Helene’s Brownies

helene chocolate brownie recipe_-5

The French do a lot of baked goods very well. if you’ve been to Paris, you don’t need me to tell you that with over 1300 bakeries in Paris, it’s not hard to find a pastry or baked good on every block that will be more satisfying than you can imagine.

One of the rare baked goods that the French haven’t quite mastered are les brownies. If you see them in bakeries and try one, you’ll find they’re often on the pas humid side. I’m not sure why, because they’re simple to make, and don’t require any special techniques: You just stir everything together, scrape the batter into a pan, and bake them. The only astuce (cooking tip) is that it’s important to watch them like a hawk, taking them out of the oven at the point where they’re still going to be soft and crémeux à l’intérieur.

Hélène's Chocolate Brownie Recipe

In August, we were visiting some friends who live on an organic farm in the Poitou-Charentes, and after dinner, Hélène, presented us with a large tart-like creation that looked like a big, flat chocolate cake that she’d baked up in between her other chores. I was told they were les brownies, but hers were different. In addition to a little bit of coconut that was added, which gave them a slightly elusive tropical flavor, they were moist and uber-chocolaty. I couldn’t keep myself away from them.

Hélène's Chocolate Brownie Recipe

The French don’t usually snack with the same fervor that Americans do (Romain’s father was once shocked to learn that I ate between meals), but I spend a good part of my day picking at any and all desserts that are within arm’s reach. And when everyone else was out in the fields down on the farm, weeding and working on hedges, I stayed back in the house, reading in a comfy chair — and found myself circling back around and around the pan of brownies, cutting off une lichette (a sliver), to help myself.

Hélène's Chocolate Brownie Recipe

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Apricot and Cherry Tart with Marzipan Topping

Apricot Cherry Marzipan tart_-7

I once told a crowd that I was preparing a dessert for, that I don’t like sweet things. I didn’t realize it would get such a big laugh – so I guess I should have worked on the delivery of that line a little bit beforehand. But I had to explain that I like things on the tangy and tart side, which is what happens to fresh apricots when baked. While they are great fresh, when cooked, the flesh takes on the puckery characteristics of the skin, which is my favorite part of the fruit (hmm, maybe there’s a market for apricot skins?) – and makes them even more spectacular-tasting in pies and tarts.

Apricot Cherry Marzipan tart recipe

While apricots are in season right now here in France, I’m doing my best to use as many of them as possible; skin, flesh, and even the kernels. But I’m not the only one. I had a lovely apricot tart at Chambelland (gluten-free bakery) recently, a treat from the baker, who wanted to know what I thought of it. It was great – and honestly, better than many of the regular apricot tarts around town.

Apricot Cherry Marzipan tart recipe-3

When I was got up to leave, and he asked me my thoughts, I was reaching to think of other things to do to an apricot tart, since we Americans like to do whatever we can to dial things up, adding flavors and textures to a dish, whereas the French seem to like things more singular, and are happy to have a pristine, little apricot tart, just as is.

Apricot Cherry Marzipan tart recipe-2

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