Results tagged Herbs from David Lebovitz

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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Herbed Ricotta Tart

ricotta tart

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?

sauteed bunch of allium

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.

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Creamy Feta-Red Wine Vinegar Salad Dressing

feta dressing

When I was a newbie, someone in the cookbook biz once told me that if a cookbook has one great recipe in it, it’s totally worth it. And I agree with that. I have a mountain of cookbooks, and most have plenty of tempting recipes but I’ve only made one thing from many of them. But those that do make the cut become standards—or what we call “go to” recipes.

One such cookbook was the Joy of Cooking, which was re-published with great fanfare (and some undeserved derision) in 1997. I remember a blurb on the book jacket from a previous edition, by a bride who swore she toted the book along when she moved abroad. Which I didn’t, although I was hardly a blushing bride. So at least I have an excuse.

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