Results tagged cherries from David Lebovitz

Cherry Compote

Fresh Cherry Compote recipe

I think I have something wrong with me. I seem to be afflicted with a particular malady that forces me to buy way too many summer fruits when they’re in season. It gets particularly dire when faced with apricots and cherries, two fruits whose seasons are much shorter than the others. The first fresh apricots I saw were back in upstate New York, around the 1980s, and I’d never seen them before. Someone brought us a basket of the tender, squishy little orange fruits to the restaurant that I worked at, and I remember being completely taken off guard, as the only apricots I’d ever seen were the dried ones. And while I loved the crinkly dried specimens, those fresh beauties with a red blush were a whole other taste entirely.

Fresh Cherry Compote recipe

Then, when I moved to California, I discovered how abundant fresh apricots are (or can be), as they are in France. But no matter how abundant – or not – cherries are when the season is in full swing, I always consider them extra-special fruits and give a prominent place in my kitchen. At the beginning of the season, they’re incredibly expensive and rarely good. Then, as the season moves along, they start showing up in larger mounds at the market, and the prices get gentler, coaxing me to buy as many as I can heft.

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How to Make Chocolate Bars

When I took pastry courses a number of years ago here in France and in Belgium, I tended to want to focus on the chocolate classes because – well…gosh darn it, I love it so much. We’ve become the best of friends over the years and I am never far from my bin of chocolate that I buy in bulk. (Although at some point, someone is going to have to do an intervention.) But I like cooking and creating with chocolate just as much as I do eating it and homemade chocolate bars are simple and wonderful gifts. And if entertaining at home, it nice to bring out a homemade tablet that you’ve made yourself to serve with after-dinner coffee or glasses of Armagnac or Cognac.

professional chocolate molds

The good thing is that you don’t need fancy – or expensive – chocolate molds to make chocolate bars at home. I have a stack of polycarbonate ones from my professional days of yore. But anything made of plastic will do. Since I can’t bring myself to throw away anything that might be reused, I pulled out a stack of cream cheese containers that are neat little rectangles and I used those this time around.

cream cheese containers

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Jerusalem

hummus in Jerusalem

I shouldn’t have been surprised when I was talking to someone at the airport, just after my arrival in Israel, who had asked me what I was doing in her country.

fried dough in syrup

When I told her I was there to learn about the cuisine – by eating it, her eyes lit up, and she said – “Whenever I leave Israel, after my family, the thing I miss the most is the food.” And after one week, I could see why. I was missing it, too, the moment I stepped off the plane and returned home. In fact, my home kitchen has become a mini hummus factory, churning out batch-after-batch of hummus. And it lasts just about as fast as I can scoop it onto pita bread.

falafelspice mixes
old jerusalemhummus

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Gâteau de Savoie

cherries and savoy cake

The last copy of The Auberge of the Flowering Hearth that I had, I’d lent to a good friend who was excited about starting a career in cooking at a local culinary school. I don’t know another book that captures precisely everything I love about cooking, written by a man truly passionate about his subject, and I though he’d like to read it, as it’s been very influential to me as a cook. Then I moved and never got it back. But it was the one time in my life that I was happy someone else had become the owner of one my books, because it’s one that cooks of our current generation have likely forgotten about, or never heard of in the first place.

Fortunately last summer when I was in New York, I went to browse the shelves at the great cookbook store – Kitchen Arts and Letters – and saw a brand-new copy, and picked it up. It’s one of those rare books that I can read over and over and over again, and never get tired of, so I can’t imagine not having it on my shelf to pull out whenever I want. And re-reading it again, in France, reminds me of how Roy Andries de Groot, the author, was so perfectly able to capture a place, and time. L’Auberge de l’Atre Fleuri was a rustic mountain inn run by two women, Mademoiselle Ray and Mademoiselle Vivette, who had the kind of place we all dream about happening upon, but no longer exists. The two women were dedicated not just to splendid cooking, but were fastidious about using the bounty of the mountain-walled valley, and the fields, lakes, and forests, that were guarded by those towering mountains.

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Recchiuti’s Asphalt Jungle Mix

Recchiuti asphalt jungle mix

Michael Recchiuti was recently here in Paris for a few weeks, visiting, and eating his way around town. Because he’s a chocolatier (from San Francisco), of course, he concentrated on chocolate. Interestingly I couldn’t remember how we met, but he recalled the event pretty well.

Apparently a group of us had been invited to Robert Steinberg’s kitchen, since he was working on developing ScharffenBerger chocolate. Along with me and Michael, Harold McGee was there, as well as a few other local pastry types. Although I vaguely remember this (so I reserve the right to dispute it at a later date), Michael said that I arrived for the chocolate tasting and discussion with a bag filled with my very own plastic containers and proceeded to unload and open them, each containing a recipe I was working on for my chocolate book, asking the various pastry chefs and food professionals sitting around the table for their opinions.

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Cherries in Red Wine Syrup

cherry compote

Where did the time go? I wanted to get one quick cherry recipe in before the season ended because I’m always scouting for ways to extend the unfairly short fresh cherry season. Plus I had some red wine leftover from another cooking project, a bulging sack of ripe cherries that the vendors were practically begging me to take off their hands (I know…it was kind of freaking me out, too), and a desire to make them last as long as I can.

So here’s how they ended up: in a compote that’s incredibly easy to make with the spiciness of red wine, a touch of vinegar to add a little je ne sais quoi, and a few minutes of stovetop cooking to transform them into sticky-sweet orbs with the concentrated flavor of summer cherries.

sugared cherries

The good thing is that at the end of the season, they are practically giving away cherries at my market and if you’ve got the time to pit ‘em, then more cherries for you wait as a reward.

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Kirsch

handful of cherries

If I had to name five items that are obligatory in my baking repertoire, after The Big Four (sugar, butter, flour, and eggs), a bottle of kirsch is essential for me, right up there with vanilla, vying for numéro 5. A few drops of kirsch highlights and augments the flavor of peaches, nectarines, plums, and every kind of berry imaginable. And since it’s summer and all those fruits are ever-present in my kitchen, my slender bottle of kirsch hasn’t been returned to its perch on the liquor shelf since the first strawberries arrived a month ago.

A good bottle of kirsch runs about $40 (750ml) in the United States, although smaller bottles are less expensive. Why is it so darned pricey? Because it takes about 20-30 pounds of fruit to make a bottle of kirsch (also called kirschwasser). So even though I think I got a D- in high school math, it doesn’t take an honor student to calculate that 20 or 30 pounds of cherries, at let’s say…I dunno, $2/pound, makes that bottle suddenly seems like not such a bad deal after all.

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White Chocolate & Sour Cherry Scones

sconesopenvertical

The year was 1999 and my first book had come out and was nominated for one of those terribly-important cookbook awards. During the dinner and awards presentation, everyone thought I was a shoe-in and so I was seated right up in front, sharing a table with Graham Kerr, Claudia Rodin, some woman from Sweden (I had no idea who she was; the only Swedish women I’ve committed to memory are the ladies of Abba, I’m afraid)—and, gulp, Julia Child.

It was nice to be considered, but the real reason I wanted to win was because Alice Medrich was presenting the award in my category and I quickly thought of something that I wanted to say about her. When I was starting out as a baker, I used to step into her shop, Cocolat in Berkeley, on my way to work and get a truffle or a wedge of cake, which I would devour before beginning my own baking shift. And I credit her for introducing me, and a lot of other Americans, to the pleasures of fine chocolate.

white chocolate for scones

Unfortunately I didn’t win and the following year, I was relegated to the rear of the room, back with rest of the riff-raff.

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