Results tagged cooking from David Lebovitz

Some Thoughts on French Cuisine

France Map

French cuisine is, once again, a popular topic of discussion these days. Actually, anything controversial about France seems to foster a lot of heated debates. On one side are the folks decrying French-bashing, complaining that the French are unfairly picked on. Then there are the others who eat up books about how superior the French are, because they are better at parenting, they miraculously stay thin, they don’t have plastic surgery, everyone enjoys months of vacations, and Paris is a magical place where love, fashion, and fine food, flourish on the cobbled streets of the city. The truth, of course, lies somewhere in between and, like any where, there is the great, the ordinary, and a bit of the not-so-good. I want to play the referee but there’s usually a bit of truth in most compliments and criticisms, and the reality is more complicated.

French cuisine gets its share of praise and criticism, some deserved, some not. One truth I’ve learned after living here for over a decade is that people really like to eat. The outdoor markets are crowded, lines snake out the door at bakeries, and cafés and restaurants are packed – even on Tuesday evenings – in spite of la crise (the economic crisis).

But what is French cuisine? Traditionally, cuisine du potager (cooking from the garden) or cuisine du marché (cooking from the daily market) were the foundations of French cuisine. Cuisine du potager was born out of economic and common sense; you cooked and ate what was closest to where you lived. Part of it was out of necessity (there was no Chinese garlic or avocados from Peru way-back-when), but mostly because the food was either free, picked from your own garden, or grown nearby. So you were always eating seasonally and locally. In France, you were cooking and eating local products; fresh cream, butter, and cheeses made in your region, peas from your garden, eggs from the neighbor’s chicken coop, and bread from the village bakery.

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How to Prepare and Cook Artichokes

artichokes

It’s fresh artichoke season and I’m finding them piled up at my local market, practically tumbling off the stands. Last week, I stood there, putting one after the other in my market basket, where I took them home to admire the beauties on my kitchen counter. But they’re not just pretty to look at; artichokes are great in salads, risotto, pastas, and even on open-face sandwiches with a spread of fresh cream cheese and herbs.

Artichokes are not hard to prepare but they do take a bit of determination, which is why they’re most often eaten whole, and steamed. However there are those times when you want to treat yourself to just the artichoke hearts. And when the prices drop at the markets, and they’re in abundance, I don’t mind spending a little time preparing them.

Artichokes will brown almost the moment you slice into them, so you need to make an acidulated water to slip them into when you’re done trimming each artichoke. (They’ll still darken, but not as significantly as if you didn’t use acidulated water. And once cooked, the discoloration should disappear.) Be prepared for lots of leaves to toss out, and if you have a compost bucket, you’ll be making it very happy. Almost as happy as you’ll be when you find yourself with a pan of freshly cooked artichokes, seasoned with olive oil, garlic, and a scattering of fresh herbs.

Preparing Artichokes

2 lemons
4 cups (1 l) cold water
8 medium, or 6 large artichokes (about 3-pounds, 1,3 kg)

fresh artichoke

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Masterpieces of French Cuisine

Masterpieces of French Cuisine

When I moved to France a number of years ago, the hardest things to part with were my cookbooks. (And San Francisco burritos.) Some I shipped ahead – which, as readers of my Paris book know, I’m still waiting for today. Some got boxed and put in storage, and the rest were sold or given away. One of my favorite books of all time was brought to my attention by a woman who ate in the kitchen at Chez Panisse a few times a week. Back then, it wasn’t trendy to be seated where the cooks were working, which are now called “chefs tables” and they’ve become so popular that restaurants actually put tables frequently in the kitchens and guests can reserve them. She just preferred to be back in the kitchen with us, rather than with the rest of the diners.

breton broiled lobster

Since we all liked her a lot, and not just because she regularly brought us in French pastries and Belgian chocolates, but because she was a lot of fun. She held court at that table for perhaps a decade and she even entered through the kitchen door when dining with us because she wanted to be “part of the gang.” She loved to eat everything, especially lobster and frais des bois (or anything with butter, really), but she had a soft spot for pastries and her table was next to where I worked, so I spent a lot of time talking about food with her. Knowing I liked cookbooks, one day she brought me in a copy of a large-format cookbook from her collection to read – Masterpieces of French Cuisine.

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“Green” Nonstick Cookware

fried egg

One of the great joys about having a blog is that your Inbox fills up daily with pitches for everything from chocolate shows in Pennsylvania (hello? I live in France…) to Superbowl Sunday and Forth of July article ideas (hello? I live in France…) There are quite a few products that I would laugh at if they weren’t so silly, and to be honest, my apartment is so overloaded with stuff that you couldn’t fit a stick of gum in here.

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My Mortar and Pestle

Mortar & Pestle

A long, long time ago, I remember an article in a food magazine where they asked a bunch of chefs and cookbook authors what their favorite piece of cookware was. But no one asked me.

There were all these smiling faces of happy cooks and writers, presumably whisking things up in their kitchens, chopping away at chocolate and toasted nuts, and spinning salads around and around and around. And talking about it!

Why no one bothered to ask me is anyone’s guess.

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8 Tips for Choosing and Using Olive Oil

Olive Oil Tasting

A recent post on Marinated Feta elicited some interesting comments and questions about olive oil. Here’s a few tips that I follow when buying, using, and storing oil:

1. Keep olive oil out of the light.

I know you’ve spent a lot of money on your oil and you want to look at all those pretty labels lined up on your countertop. But too bad; it’s one of the absolute worst things you can do to oil. Light destroys olive oil, and other specialty oils as well, so stow it away. Nothing destroys olive oil faster than light. Except heat.

2. Keep olive oil away from heat.

That means don’t store your olive oil on that shelf above your stove, even though that’s where it’s handy. Keep it away from sunlight as well. It’s best not to store olive oil in the refrigerator. If you do, when you take it out the condensation can dilute the oil and cause it to spoil quicker.

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