I’m one of those people that really craves bitter greens. And France is a funny place because on one hand, radicchio (trevise), frisée, arugula, and Belgian endive are found easily. The more sturdy greens – like kale and broccoli rabe, are frequently absent, although I did recently hear an Italian vendor at the market explaining to a baffled patron what broccoli raab was. He told her it was “…the foie gras of Portugal”, which wasn’t quite how I would phrase it, but I admired how he customized his sales technique appropriate to his clientele.
Results tagged olive oil from David Lebovitz
When I was in Nice a few months ago with my friends Adam and Matt, I wanted to show them some of the more unusual local specialties, ones you wouldn’t come across unless you were actually in a certain region. French cooking is very regional, which is why you won’t find bouillabaisse in Paris or all that many macarons in Nice. And a lot of people visiting a certain town or city might not be familiar with some of the more unusual things that are only available there, like Socca or Panisses, simply because no one would think about eating them outside of the area where they originated.
In case you’re wondering, you can’t make a Tourte de blettes without Swiss chard (blettes). For one thing, if you did, then it wouldn’t be Swiss chard tart. So get that notion out of your head right now. And believe me, if you can’t find chard, I feel your pain. One fine morning at the market, I bought my big, beautiful bunch of chard from a big pile at the market to make this tart.
Being bakers, we struck up a friendship and she gave me a copy of her gorgeous book, Dolce Italiano. And after we had dessert and coffee together, we ambled the streets of New York City a little and made plans to meet in Rome, where she was moving to work on her second book. Unfortunately we didn’t get to have our Roman holiday, but I often thumb through her book and dream about how much fun we would have had lapping our way through the gelaterias of Rome and eating all those pastries with little sips of Italian espresso in between bites.
After my recent lament about the state of bistros in Paris, where I noted that the wine bars in Paris often had the best food, when my friend Rochelle who owns Chefwear was in town this week, I wanted to go somewhere casual, where we’d be assured of good, honest food.
So we agreed to meet at Le Garde Robe, one of my favorite wine bars in Paris, which serves mostly natural wines. Another plus are the charcuterie and cheeses they serve by the plate (€12 for a platter of each, or you can get one mixed), which make a great accompaniment to the wines. Each wooden board arrives in front of you resplendent, and is a great way to sample some of the top-quality meats and fromages from France, and beyond.
Another thing about Le Garde Robe is that the fun spills into the street. I’ve spent a few late evenings perched on a stool outside with friends, laughing and drinking until way past my bedtime. And the staff often becomes ‘creative’ when using parked cars and trucks to help them out. (Can you imagine the driver’s reaction in America if they came out and saw a board leaning against their car?)
There were various responses on my Strawberry ice cream recipe, requesting a retraction of the moniker ice “cream” since it didn’t have cream in it. And a respected food writer pointed out that pumpkin was obligatory in Soupe au Pistou. I, too, know that folks will sometimes call something hot ‘chocolate’ even though it was made with cocoa powder instead of chocolate. And have been served fried onion rings that were actually broken circles, not neat, closed rounds of onions. And don’t get me started on thinly sliced fruit being called carpaccio.
So I have seen the error of my ways, and you’ll be happy to know that I slavishly followed the recipe for classic Salade Niçoise, as espoused by Jacques Médecin in his book Cuisine Niçoise. (Not this one.) Which everyone in Provence agrees gets the last word on cuisine from their region.
For example, once can not put grilled or seared tuna on the salad and call it a salade Niçoise. Canned tuna or anchovies are acceptable, but not both. And he cautions “”…never, never, I beg you, include boiled potato or any other boiled vegetable in your salade niçoise.”
I was having drinks at a friend’s house last night, who is a cuistot, the French slang for a cook. I don’t think you’d say cuistat for a woman, but whatever you want to call us, the conversation pretty much stayed on one topic: Food. We talked literally for hours while we drank brisk sauvignon blanc and picked apart an amazing wedge of 30 month-old Comté cheese from a giant wedge on a cutting block positioned strategically between us.
For some reason, the conversation turned to food intolerances and allergies, which aren’t all that well-known in France. I’ve never been invited to a dinner party at a French person’s house and quizzed about what I don’t eat in advance. (Although since being served squid once, I’ve learned to be pro-active so it doesn’t happen again.) Yes, there is a growing consciousness about various food intolerances, although there isn’t a large-scale comprehension about many of the various diets and regimes out there.
Some friends from California were surprised when they went to a vegetarian restaurant in Paris recently and there weren’t any vegetables on the menu. And I’ve heard from numerous people who’ve told waiters that they didn’t eat meat, and were offered foie gras instead, since that wasn’t considered “meat.”
I’m always surprised when people say that they don’t have time to cook. I mean, aside from reproducing, physiologically, we don’t really exist on this earth for any other reason. (Unless someone knows something that they’re not telling me.) Feeding ourselves is really our most basic human need.
Now if someone said, “I don’t have time to clean up afterward”, then I can totally relate. I spend at least 40% of my life standing in front of a sink, washing dishes. When people ask if they can come and help me test recipes, I always say, “Bring rubber gloves!” And that’s the last I hear from them.
This is one of my very favorite go-to dinners. It’s incredibly easy and there are hardly any dishes to wash; just toss chicken pieces in olive oil, vinegar, soy sauce, and shallots in a baking dish. Season with salt and pepper, and pop it in the oven.
Last summer, Romain went to stay at a place in the French countryside with a large, semi-wild potager, a vegetable garden, which the people who lived there fed themselves from. They let weeds grown, didn’t spray pesticides on anything, and they ate most of the food as close to raw as they could. During his stay, he called me and said that he never felt better in his life, and that he wanted to eat like that when he returned home to Paris.
One doesn’t think of people in Paris munching on wheat berries and whole grains, but it is possible, especially because there are a few rather decent natural food chains here, as well as some smaller stores, too.