Results tagged olive oil from David Lebovitz

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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Nutty Magdalenas

Magdalena

I have two confessions to make. The first is that I have a terrible tendency to wander around my place, looking for something to eat. It starts the moment I wake up, and no leftover cake or cookie is safe. And continues throughout the day as I forage and wander around, eating handfuls of nuts, chocolate chips, fruits and berries, or whatever else I can get my hands one.

The other confession is that few years ago, I was in the states at a cookbook store, and I picked up one of the books on cupcakes. When the sales clerk told me how many copies it had sold, they had to send someone running down the aisle to catch the eyeballs that had fallen out of my head.

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Things I’m Liking…

cassolets

Les cassoles

I love my everyday bowls, which were gifts from my friend Kate who lives in Gascony. They’re from a semi-local potter which makes cassoles, the bowls for preparing Cassoulet. But I’ve loved these little fellas forever and use ‘em for my daily soup and noodle bowls. I’ve posted pictures of them on the site and folks have asked me where oh where they can find them. (Here’s one site.) But because they’re somewhat fragile to ship, and rather heavy, you might want to consider hauling them back from France yourself if you don’t live here*. However I came across them at the J’Go stand in the Marché Saint Germain des Près in the 6th. If you want them, and are coming to Paris – bring bubble wrap! (And some extra cash; they’re €24 each.)

chocolate with salt and olive oilArbequina olive oil

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White Bean Dip

white bean dip recipe

I can’t believe that after all these years, I’ve never made white bean dip. I’ve made dips with eggplant, chickpeas, eggplant again, and even weeds, if you can believe it. I don’t know, it always seemed like it would be too plain, or ho-hum. A mound of puréed beans? No thanks.

haricots tarbais - white bean dip

But boy, was I wrong. First up, of course, are the beans. There are good beans and there are not-so-good beans. The good ones are fresh and buttery tasting. The not-great ones are old and stale. Who knew that dried beans went bad? Dried beans generally have a shelf life of about one year and if you’ve ever tried to cook up a batch of dried beans and they’ve remained stubbornly tough, it’s usually because they’ve been hanging around too long.

I had a bag in my pantry since, well, I can’t remember when I bought them. So as we say in the restaurants business, “Use ‘em or lose ‘em” – so if you’ve got some beans in your pantry that you keep pushing aside, as I was (to reach for the chocolate) now is the time to get ‘em soaking, folks.

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The Best Way to Use Up Leftover Bread

brushing olive oil

I’ve been on a bread-making bender lately, experimenting with various types of loaves. While testing recipes makes me learn a lot about how things work (and what doesn’t!), I’ve been facing an onslaught of bread. Since I’m having guests over tonight, and I just made a few trays, I thought I’d share my favorite way to use up leftover bread.

This isn’t great for using up leftover white bread, or anything fine-textured. But for country-style loaves, sourdough, or baguettes, it can’t be beat. Grainy breads work well, too.

olive oil - bread

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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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