Results tagged jam from David Lebovitz

Caramelized Pineapple

Caramelized Pineapple

One fruit that’s always in season is pineapple, and the spiky beauties really help to brighten up winter, especially when you’ve had your fill of apples and pears. I like eating fresh pineapple after a meal because not only is it refreshing, but it has a pleasant acidity that tends to make me feel good about eating it. Although not local (we wish! because that would mean a tropical beach nearby…), pineapples are always available at the markets in Paris. You can get regular pineapples, sometimes called “Red Spanish” or “Cayenne” pineapples in the world of pineapples (although I think that second variety might give spice-averse locals pause), and there are also slender, smaller Victoria pineapples, that are much sweeter, although yield less edible flesh. (In the United States, there are Tahitian pineapples, which have similar characteristics.

I was reading Baking Chez Moi, Dorie Greenspan’s comprehensive, and deliciously readable book, about French home baking, and she notes that Parisians don’t bake the way Americans do. Americans bake to relax or as a hobby – in France, it’s something you do because, well…you need a dessert. They don’t make a big fuss about it or are all that concerned about appearances. I think people know they can’t compete with the professional pastry shop on the corner, so they’re just content to make what they feel will be fine for their guests. And in my experience, French people are always appreciative of homemade desserts, since so many people do go to the corner pâtisserie.

Bonne maman orange marmalade

No one expects to go to a dinner party and find a spectacular cake for dessert, unless it was picked up at the local pastry shop. And there’s certainly no shame in that. People often ask me about how Parisians make macarons or baguettes or croissants, and I answer that no one makes those in Paris since you can buy them, good-quality ones, almost anywhere. Like charcuterie, they leave it up to the experts. French home bakers also tend to rely on reliable, tried-and-true desserts, always having a few in their repertoire, often passed down from their mothers – or in the case of chocolate mousse, the most famous recipe in France is on the back of the Nestlé chocolate baking bar package, sold in le supermarché.

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Konza Kiffi: Sicilian Agricultural Estate

cucunci capers

Well, that was quite a day! After a much-delayed plane ride to Pantelleria, an island off the coast of Sicily (it’s technically Sicily, but — let’s hold off on that discussion for another day…), I was told to be prepared to be seduced by the place. But it didn’t hit me until day #4.

harvesting oregano

We’d spent yesterday morning watching people harvest capers (…more on that in a later post), and tasting wine. Then had a below-average lunch, which was barely mitigated by the restaurant’s setting, just on the edge of the ocean. After a heaping plate of wan pasta, all I wanted to do was head back at the home where I’m staying, where there was a hammock waiting for me.

oregano

But my friend Giovanni said to me, “Daveed – it’s going to be very special.” And when a Sicilian talks with such gravity it’s best to listen.

pantelleria

So we found ourselves after lunch, driving on a winding street, high above a spectacular blue lake with the ocean in the background, with rows of grapes and oregano baking in the hot Sicilian (or Pantellerian) sun.

oregano in sicily

The welcome we had from Giancarlo and Cristian Lo Pinto, the two brothers who own the farm, was as warm as the sun.

oregano harvest

With the wind in our hair — well, in one of my traveling companion’s hair —

anissa

— we found ourselves in a field surrounded by massive bunches of oregano, offering an aroma as strong as the fields of za’atar in Lebanon: a powerful, astringent scent that bordered on medicinal. Although lots of oregano grows in Sicily, locals tend to use it dried. And here was where the best of it came from.

oregano field

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Kumquat Marmalade

kumquat marmalade recipe

I’ve been on a marmalade bender lately. Well, it’s actually been for the last few weeks. Winter, of course, is marmalade season and the markets in Paris are heaped with citrus: Corsican clementines, pretty yellow bergamots, hefty pink grapefruits from Florida (although some infer appellations from elsewhere – namely, the Louvre), leafy lemons from Nice, and lots and lots of oranges.

Kumquat marmalade

The stands are so piled up that it’s not uncommon to be walking down the aisle and have an orange roll off of the piles and land on your foot. (Which is why it is a good idea to wash any fruit before you use it.) This means I’ve got so many jars of marmalade, that when my friend Luisa stopped by and saw the jars piled on top of a shelf in my bedroom, she said “I’ve doing the same thing ” at her apartment in Berlin. Sometimes I think jam-making could be classified as an epidemic and if so, there’s ample evidence that I’m ready for an intervention.

kumquat marmalade recipe

While kumquats were once classified with their look-alike citrus brethren and sistern (admittedly, it can be hard to tell as it’s difficult to get a look under their navels), they are now placed in another genus category (Fortunella), even though they share many characteristics of citrus fruits.

Kumquat marmalade

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Black Currant Jam

blackcurrant jam recipe

Someone recently asked me why I do what I do. More specifically, what compelled me. They were particularly focused on how I was likely most concerned with the finished product, asking me if that was my goal when I cooked and baked. I thought about it for a bit, and realized that the goal has very little to do with it; I like picking through lugs of fruits and berries with my hands, melting chocolate and butter until the mixture is smooth, the smell of folding toasted nuts into a cake batter, and lifting a batch of just-churned ice cream out of the machine and alternating the layers with ribbons of glossy chocolate swirl.

black currant jam

I do, however, have a rather particular thing for scoping out fruit and berries whenever I find them growing and using them to their best advantage. Most of the time, they end up in jams and jellies, especially since I recently returned to the trees which I found overloaded with wild plums a few years ago (which the owners had hacked down to their nubs the following year), which were now gloriously heavy with multicolored fruits of unbelievable goodness. And I spent a good afternoon plucking out the pits and making jam, and a nice tart out of them. Fait accompli!

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Food Gifts to Bring French People from America

Dandelion chocolate

Even though globalization has made things pretty available everywhere, and things like Speculoos spread and Fleur de sel can now be found in America, it hasn’t always worked quite the same the other way around. Some American things haven’t made it across the Atlantic and people often think that Americans subsist on junk food because at the stores that cater to expats, and in the “American aisle” at the supermarket, there are things like Strawberry Fluff (which I keep explaining to them that that’s something I’ve never seen in America), boxed macaroni & cheese, caramel-flavored microwave popcorn, bottled salad dressings, and powdered cheesecake mix, which I think I find scarier than they do.

And while there’s nothing wrong with a pour of ranch dressing or a Fluffernutter every now and then (although hold the strawberry-flavor..), those are not exactly the best that America has to offer. I often get asked by folks in the states what kind of things people from America they should bring to their French friends or hosts. And while it’s tempting to bring them something amusing like chocolate cake mix or boxed macaroni and cheese, they don’t see the same humor mixed with nostalgia in them that we do. (And yup, they have boxed cake mixes here too, so they’re not novel.) Peanut butter is also dicey; while we in America devour it, many French folks have an aversion to the flavor of it. Space is also at a premium so while it’s fun to think how delighted they would be to get a 2-gallon drum of “French” salad dressing or red licorice whips from the warehouse store, you’re probably better off devoting that luggage space to something that they’ll actually use and eat.

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French Honey

french honey

I had to put a moratorium on jam-making this year because I realized I had enough jam to last a normal person, who doesn’t have a French partner, at least ten years. (I’m not naming any names, but one Frenchman in particular can go through half a jar at one breakfast alone.) But one thing I can’t make is honey, in spite of the fact that I am certainly capable of giving a nasty sting every once in a while. It wasn’t until I moved to France that I fell in love with the stuff.

When I led tours, I’d bring guests to honey shops and people would just kind of look around – or look over me, perhaps wondering when we were getting to the chocolate – as I started to explain fabulous wonders of French honey. And am not sure how convincing I was, but since I have a captive audience here (don’t touch that mouse!), as well as a cabinet-full of the stuff, I decided that as I started to clean out my honey larder, I’d also come clean about my love for the stuff.

Various honeys are said to have various properties. I don’t sit down to breakfast and think about all the polyhydroxy phenols and bioflavonoids, or how my body is going through phagocytosis or endocytosis while I eat my toast and sip my orange juice and wonder how the heck I’m going to make it through another day. (And I have nothing against polyhydroxy pheols or phagocytosis, it’s just that they’re not popular topics at my breakfast table.) On the whole, I eat pretty healthy stuff and am not one to think about the health benefits of food. I don’t need justification, ie: antioxidants, to eat chocolate. I just eat it – and thinking that you’re going to get healthy from eating cheesecake because you put a tablet of vitamin C in it is kind of ridiculous, if you ask me. So geez, just eat!

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Medlar Jelly

medlar jelly

As I continue my foraging across the Île-de-France in search of free fruit, which so far has included wild plums and elderberries, I finally chanced upon medlars.

medlar

One of the goofiest fruits I’ve ever come across, they’re a member of the rose family and are prepared similar to rose hips, or backside-scratchers, which doesn’t make me want to eat them. And my trusty fruit-searching sidekick made a snide remark about their bilious taste.

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Eggplant Jam

eggplant jam recipe blog

The words “eggplant” and “jam” together might throw you, but if you stop to consider that eggplant – like tomatoes and squash – are botanically fruits, the idea doesn’t seem all that far-fetched. (Although there are plenty of fruits I wouldn’t advise flavoring with garlic.)

I’ve been on a kick, exploring and enjoying flavors of the Middle East lately. And to take my mind of my rapidly escalating olive oil budget, I was leafing through one of my favorite books, From Tapas to Meze by Joanne Weir, and came across this jam. I’m a big fan of eggplants, which is a good thing since they frequently show up in foods of the Middle East, as well as in dishes of their neighbors in North Africa. And even though I could happily eat my way through all of those countries, luckily in Paris, they’re abundantly available here as well.

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