Results tagged Herbs from David Lebovitz

Tabbouleh

Tabbouleh

Much of what gets called Tabbouleh bears little resemblance to what Lebanese Tabbouleh is. When I moved to France and began eating in traditional Lebanese restaurants, I was served bowls heaped with fresh herbs, a few tomato chunks, and very, very few bits of bulgur (cracked wheat.) Unlike what is served as Tabbouleh in many places – which is often a bowl heaped with bulgur with a few tomatoes and bits of parsley and mint flecks in it – the cracked wheat is meant to be more of a garnish, and I’ve come to love traditional Lebanese Tabbouleh, which is a green, herbal salad with a touch of spices.

Anissa Helou is a highly acclaimed cookbook author and culinary guide, who I was fortunate to visit the market in Sharjah with, and I asked her to share her recipe for Tabbouleh in this guest post by her. Literally, right after I tossed in the dressing, I could not stop eating it. You will flip out when you try this. -David

Tabbouleh

by Anissa Helou

It’s not summer yet but I have just bought my first good tomatoes, a variety called Marmonde, large and ridged with a green tinge running through the top which faded within a couple of days. The texture of this variety is firm without being hard, and they don’t go mushy as they ripen making them ideal for Tabbouleh, where you need firm but ripe tomatoes.

parsley for Tabbouleh

Tabbouleh has now gone truly global but before the world discovered and adopted it, it was one of very few dishes that the Lebanese could claim as their own – there has been a tussle for the last few years between Israel and Lebanon as to who owns tabbouleh!

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Baked Apricot Bars

chocolate frosted cake renato of baked

I’d been planning for this trip for years, ever since I first laid my hands on a copy of Baked, the cookbook. Quite a few baking books come out and a lot are really good, but this one spoke to me. I mean, each and every dessert sounded like something I not only wanted to bake, but wanted to eat. As in right away.

As I read through the pages, I have to say that I fell in love with everything in there, from the Baked brownies to the Sweet and Salty Chocolate Cake. With those swirls and swirls of shiny, dark chocolate, I just wanted to dive right into that cake headfirst. And I know this might get me into a little trouble, but I found I had a sweet spot for the authors as well.

cupcakes at Baked

I was entranced because Renato Poliafito and Matt Lewis of Baked share with me a similar sensibility about desserts: we seem to agree that forceful, dynamic flavors, trump elaborate presentations, and prefer to let just a few great ingredients shine. Unfortunately it took me about a year after I read their book (and an interesting bus ride from Manhattan) to get there, but it was worth the wait.

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Sharjah Market

coconuts

I have a really dumb habit of always wearing flip-flops, or similar sandal-style shoes, then discovering that I have to do something really precarious a little while later. I remember scaling down rocky cliffs at beaches and almost killing myself, as well as assorted other idiocies attempted with rubber-clad feet. Really, it’s amazing I’m still alive.

market in Sharjah ripening dates

Like the flowing robes, sandals are part of the uniform in many Middle Eastern counties, so I took advantage of the warm weather (and freedom from packing all those socks), and donned sandals when we headed towards the market in the Emirate of Sharjah.

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Potimarron (Roasted Pumpkin)

potimarron slices

I won’t lie to you; fall is a very difficult time of year for us bakers. It’s not that I don’t like apples, pears, quince, and apples and pears, but it’s always sad to see summer fruits like peaches, nectarines and the line-up of strawberry baskets disappear from the markets. And I know I’m not the only one to see stone fruits go, as there’s even a variety of peach called “Last Chance” that gives you fair notice that it’s truly the end of the line.

I was lamenting the end of summer (and fall, apparently, judging from abrupt arrival of our brisk weather) to a French friend who said that fall was all about l’espoir, which struck me as kind of odd since ‘hope’ isn’t a topic that’s often on the agenda around here.

romain with potimarron potimarron slices

In France, big, hulking pumpkins (potirons) are sold at the outdoor markets. No one would think of buying a whole one—if you made a big circle with your arms, you can get a pretty good idea of how big they are. (And besides, one would not fit in my elevator with me. I can barely get in there with my always bulging market basket as it is.)

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Rungis

rungis lamb chops

During the 1960s, when Paris going through a fit of modernization, it was decided that Les Halles, the grand market that had been in the center of Paris for over a thousand years (in various guises), was going to be finally torn down and the merchants would be moved to a place well outside of the perimeter of Paris.

Reasons given were that the old market lacked hygienic facilities and was creating traffic problems (this was when it was famously declared that Paris would become more car-friendly, and highways were built through, and under, the city) and the food merchants from Les Halles either went out of business or moved en masse to Rungis, which officially opened in 1969. The grand pavillon was cleared quickly, then the building was razed and the old market disappeared from the city forever.

rungis market men

The shopping mall that stands in its place now is a blight to Paris, and part of a long, undending conversation about what to do with the ugly error that was erected in its place; an underground shopping center which is avoided by most Parisians as much as possible.

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Farro Salad with Tomatoes, Mushrooms and Basil

tomatoes mushrooms

In August, most of the businesses in Paris shut down while a vast number of people take their annual holiday vacations. And in case you think that’s a grammatical error, in French one says les vacances, in the plural. So if you have a problem with that, I would tell you to take it up with them yourself, but right now most of them are unavailable at the moment.

It sounds odd, but I know several business in America that follow the same model of shutting down for a few weeks so everyone can go on holiday at the same time, negating the need for constantly changing schedules the rest of the year to adapt to everyone’s particular vacations. (Although I am awaiting the results of a medical test and it would have been nice of the doctor to let me know that he was leaving for three weeks.)

Bread bakeries, which are an integral part of French life, also close up shop for two- to four weeks. But each shop plans their vacation(s?) in conjunction with the neighboring bakeries, by law, and posts those locations on their door so you can always be assured of fresh bread no matter what neighborhood you live in.

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Bistro Bummer

Au Petit Riche

Always on the lookout for classic French bistros, a friend and I recently stopped at Au Petit Riche. I’d eaten there before and found the food decent, but I remember the company a little better than the food. I was dazzled by the stunning interior and the conversation, which should have been a tip off since I rarely forget anything I eat that’s good.

Many Americans have become more astute about dining and want to know where the ingredients are from, how they are handled, what part of the animal they’re getting. It’s part of the farmer’s market movement, as well as a number of folks striving to eat locally or at least show some concern for where and how their foodstuffs are raised.

And there’s also the do-it-yourself movement, where everything from upstart ice cream shops are opening, and of course the bean-to-bar movement, where every step of the process is carefully tended to. In general, the French don’t ask those questions because France has always been a deeply agricultural country, with close ties to their terroir. When dining with friends from the states in Paris, I know they’d be disappointed to find frozen green beans with their steak, or boiled white rice heaped on a salade Niçoise. So I am always careful to steer them away from some of the classic bistros on their lists, ones they may have eaten at a decade ago, or that a friend recommended.

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Israeli Couscous with Butternut Squash & Preserved Lemons

Israeli Couscous

When I started this site, I had forums, where people could chat and post messages. Before we took it down (because my brain was about to implode), one of the burning questions on there was this: Is couscous pasta?

My contention was that it wasn’t, since it wasn’t a ‘paste’ (or as the French would say, un pâte), which is what I believe—in my limited intelligence—that pasta is.

On the other hand, perhaps it is pasta, because couscous is flour mixed with water, then rolled until little granules form. Theoretically, then, it is a paste before it’s broken down into little bits. Which makes me wonder if kig ha farz is pasta, too? (Although back then, no one would have know what that was, so it wouldn’t have bolstered my argument.)

flat leaf parsley

Then, to make matters even more complicated, there’s Israeli couscous, whose springy, chewy texture wouldn’t raise an eyebrow if someone called it pasta.

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