Results tagged olive oil from David Lebovitz

Fried Halloumi Cheese

Halloumi cheese recipe

When I was in Beirut, I stayed at a hotel with amazing breakfasts. Although I’m not one that likes to inflict myself on the public in the early hours of the day (when I’m not exactly at my best), the breakfasts with their freshly baked Arabic bread and za’atar-filled croissants helped me make the transition from my blissful slumber, and through that difficult period where I’m going to have to realize that at some point I’m going to have to start interacting with others.

Halloumi cheese recipe

Yet just as fast as I got accustomed to those lovely morning treats, I moved to another hotel where those lovely breakfasts were pulled out from under me. The place was fine, but let’s just say the breakfast offerings weren’t quite as enticing. (As much as I’d love to tote around a coffee machine or other apparatus when I travel, my dream is to show up at a hotel and find an in-room espresso machine ready and waiting.)

Halloumi cheese recipe

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A Visit to Abu Kassem Za’atar Farm

za'atar pita

One thing you learn quickly if you travel to, or somehow explore otherwise, the various cuisines of the Middle East, is that every country, and seemingly…every single person, has their own idea of what za’atar is. And they’re very (very) attached to it. So much so that a chef in a restaurant in Jerusalem rolled up his sleeve to show me a tattoo of what he told me was hyssop, a name for an herb that’s used in some places to make Za’atar, one of the world’s great seasonings.

fresh za'atar

Za’atar consists of herbs, sesame, and sumac, varying them by proportions depending on culture and country. But I can say that Abu Kassem of Za’atar Zawtar makes the best za’atar I’ve ever tasted, anywhere.

fresh za'atar plant

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Grilled Vegetables with Za’atar Vinaigrette

za'atar vinaigrette

There’s a big difference between lucky and fortunate. Luck is a winning lottery ticket blowing in your window. Fortunate means that you’ve taken the initiative and done something. And because of it, there was a positive outcome. So I would probably say that I was lucky because my mother was a good cook but it’s debatable whether I am lucky, or fortunate, because my partner is a good cook as well.

squash and eggplant

Before dinner a few weeks ago, I’d grilled off some vegetable beforehand and left them in a plat à four (baking dish) on the counter, ready for dinner. Right before we were to eat, I asked him to make a dressing for them, and went about the rest of my business, finishing up the prep for the rest of dinner before realizing what he’d done.

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Roasted Tomato Soup with Corn Salsa

roasted tomato soup

If I read one more recipe that begins with saying that the recipe is the perfect way to use up the overload of summer tomatoes, I’m going to scream. Okay, in deference to my neighbors, I won’t. But to me, there is no such thing as having too many tomatoes. That’s just crazy-talk.

We don’t have the overload of great tomatoes in Paris that folks have elsewhere, like when I was in Agen last year and the markets were full of them, or in San Francisco or New York, where market tables are heaped with them in all colors, shapes, and sizes. So I’m over-the-moon when I find good tomatoes and use them carefully because they’re so precious.

corn salsa

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Kale Chips

kale chips

It’s arguable whether Paris is a “cutting edge” city. With a rich culinary tradition, change comes slowly (and sometimes requires a little coaxing), and the arrival of kale is no exception.

Although we can now get kale sporadically in Paris, thanks to The Kale Project, I was fortunate when a friend came to Paris bearing the fruits (or leaves) of crinkly denseness. In a “be careful what you wish for” moment, I’d overdosed on kale when it became available at my ruche, because I just couldn’t help myself from buying any and all of it, fearing I’d never see it again. Yet as much as I like it, it was a bit of a hard-sell with Parisian friends who weren’t as enthused about the tough, rugged greens sautéed in garlic and chili flakes, as I was.

kale for kale chips

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Labneh

labneh 1

I have always loved Middle Eastern foods. The fresh vegetables, the liberal use of herbs and seasonings, including a touch of spiciness at times, and the casual way of eating that the food encourages. Meze is the term that’s used to define all the “little plates” that get brought out to begin in a meal, served in little bowls often with pools of olive oil in the middle, waiting to be sopped up with soft pita or other flatbreads.

When I wrote about the Lebanese meze I’d had on a trip to the Middle East, I didn’t realize that a number of people were all that interested in what vegetables went into it. (But who can blame them? I wanted to remake it, too.) Like a lot of those foods, people aren’t necessarily following recipes – they’re following their nose, and yup, you got it – they cook by taste.

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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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Lebanese Meze

labne with olive oil

The Lebanese are real “snackers”, a point brought home by Mazen Hajjar, the owner of 961, Lebanon’s first (and only) craft brewery that told me if I went into someone’s home in Lebanon and they offered a drink – but no bowl of nuts or seeds, “You should go…just get up and leave immediately.”

961 beer in Lebanon

Fortunately I never had to, because true to his word, each and every place in Lebanon where I was offered a drink, a generous bowl of bzoorat – some tasty combination of peanuts, hazelnuts, pistachios, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, etc. – were offered. And I always seemed to have my hand in a dish of them.

arak White Lady (gin cointreau lemon juice)

So it’s no surprise I went nuts, so to speak, at Al Rifai, considered one of the best nut roasters in Beirut. When I walked in, I was immediately drawn to the glowing glass and stainless-steel bins, radiating with the heat coming off the piles of freshly roasted nuts.

nuts

I picked up a few bags to bring home and it’s fun to choose your own from the dozens of nuts and seeds they offer. Some are plain, other spiced or glazed. And it’s fun to mix ‘em up. Showing true Lebanese hospitality, as I selected each one, the woman at the counter plunked down a little bowl of them for me to snack on while weighing and filling my bags. Good thing they didn’t weigh me on the way out, because I’m pretty sure I ate as much as I bought.

nuts, pistachios, etc

And now, I’m officially just as hooked as the Lebanese are. So it was a good thing Al Rifai has a large kiosk at the airport where I stocked up on even more bzoorat, along with all the locals, who also wanted to be as certain as I that we would have plenty of nuts and seeds while outside of the country. (Either that, or they were also looking for a way to pass their time when their plane got delayed for nine hours, too – oof.)

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