People often ask me, after taking a bite of a caramel in Paris: Why can’t they can’t get caramels that taste like that in America? Like bread – those kinds of wonderful foods are, indeed, available, but you need to know where to look. A while back I was in Los Angeles and a magazine had mentioned Little Flower Candy Company’s caramels. So I ran to a store in Silverlake that sold them, and they were really excellent. They could rival anything in Paris, In fact, they were better than quite a few caramels I’ve had around here. And I’ve had quite a few.
Results tagged dough from David Lebovitz
I was lucky to be at my friend Kate’s house and extensive fruit and vegetable gardens in the Lot a few weeks back, when the seasons were overlapping. The last of the red peaches were still clinging to the trees, while the branches of the nearby pear and fig trees were filled with wonderful fruit ripe for the picking – and baking. And I couldn’t resist spending my time wandering around the yard and gardens, picking what I could, doing some impromptu tasting, and enjoying some down-time in nature.
While I like fruit just as it is, there’s also something satisfying about rustling up a whole bunch of fruit that’s just free for the grabbing, and then making a dessert that uses plenty of them without a lot of fuss. After some peeling and the inevitable goofy chit-chat cooks like to do when doing rote work such as peeling apples, we headed to the kitchen counter where Kate rolled out dough she had quickly put together, and lined a deep baking dish (from her fabulous collection of local pottery, which – of course, I covet with my heart and soul…or what’s left of them) with it.
Because I worked as a baker for a good portion of my life, for some reason, people mistakenly get it into their heads that I worked early morning hours. But anyone that has spent any time with me in the morning knows I am one to be feared if forced to interact with others before noon. When I worked in the restaurant, my shifts actually began in mid-afternoon, and I would get home around 2am. Which to me, were my kinda hours.
However every once in a while, I would do my penance and be assigned to work the dreaded morning shift, which started at the challenging hour of 8am. Which meant I had to get up a lot earlier to make it to work on time. The regular kitchen staff got there at 6am, and by the time I arrived, they were all coffee’d up and in full-on work mode. And believe it or not, some of them were kind of cheery.
When I was in Nice a few months ago with my friends Adam and Matt, I wanted to show them some of the more unusual local specialties, ones you wouldn’t come across unless you were actually in a certain region. French cooking is very regional, which is why you won’t find bouillabaisse in Paris or all that many macarons in Nice. And a lot of people visiting a certain town or city might not be familiar with some of the more unusual things that are only available there, like Socca or Panisses, simply because no one would think about eating them outside of the area where they originated.
In case you’re wondering, you can’t make a Tourte de blettes without Swiss chard (blettes). For one thing, if you did, then it wouldn’t be Swiss chard tart. So get that notion out of your head right now. And believe me, if you can’t find chard, I feel your pain. One fine morning at the market, I bought my big, beautiful bunch of chard from a big pile at the market to make this tart.
This week I saw the first promise of tomato season. A few brightly colored cherry specimens were brought home from the local market, as well as the more standard varieties. I was down in Gascony visiting my friend Kate Hill, and her photographer friend Tim Clinch was there preparing to lead a photography workshop. Looking for something tempting and colorful, tomatoes seemed the obvious choice as willing subjects.
In addition to the profusion of flowers plucked from the lush garden by the canal du Midi, the tomatoes had their moment in front of the camera. But once the participants stopped clicking, we grabbed them and put them where they rightfully belong: In the kitchen.
When I got the opportunity to re-release my first two books, which had gone out of print, my publisher and I decided that they should be combined into one brand-new volume, Ready for Dessert, with new photos and more than a dozen new recipes added. So I made a master list of all the recipes, then chose my absolute favorites: the ones I’d found myself making over and over again during the years invariably rose to the top.
I had to choose le top du top, as they say in France. Then I sent the list to my editor, who worked for many years at a food magazine known for their exactitude and trying a recipe over and over and over again with every variation (a bit crazy, like me), and we went back and forth for a while, until we agreed on the ones for the final book.
I originally imagined I would sit down and cut and paste recipes, putting them in order, and maybe adding a few notes here and there. But as I scrolled through the recipes, many of which I hadn’t made in over a decade, I started reading through them more carefully. And soon I realized that I was not just making mental notes, but I was jumping up from my desk chair and heading to the kitchen, taking butter out of the refrigerator to soften, and running to the market to buy eggs by the flat.
Did you know that there is no such a thing as a Meyer lemon anymore? Well, at least not as we know them. Officially, they haven’t existed for about fifty years, when a virus attacked the Meyer lemon trees and they were banned in the United States.
Then in 1975, a new, “Improved” Meyer lemon tree was released that was virus-free, and people began planting them in backyards in America. And in Paris apartments, too. (More on that, later…)
Some think that the now-extinct Meyer lemons, and the new, Improved Meyer lemons, are a hybrid between oranges and lemons. But I’ve been told by my produce guru that no one is certain as to what the heck they are, exactly.
I don’t think I’ve ever made a savory tart, until now, which marks the mid-point in my life. And after this one, I’m wondering-what took me so long? I also sometimes lie awake at night and wonder if this really is the mid-point in my life. But that’s a whole nother post because it has nothing to do with baking. (Although that hasn’t stopped me before…)
Neuroses aside, this tart may look fancy, but it’s one of the simplest thing to make that you could imagine. True, it does require a bit of chopping and cooking, but there’s no mountains of long-cooked onions like pissaladière, it doesn’t call for an
artery-busting even-handed pour of cream, and it’s wonderful served warm or at room temperature. And it’s even better the next day, when the top gets crusty-brown during reheating. What’s not to like?
I made this tart on the spur of the moment after leafing through the excellent book, Local Flavors by Deborah Madison, which explores all of the magnificent produce from the diverse greenmarkets and small-scale farms spread out across America.