Results tagged Ottolenghi from David Lebovitz

q & a

Rocky Road

I just returned from a four-week book tour where I met a lot of people. Everyone was incredibly nice and it was a treat, although because of the nature of the events, it wasn’t possible to spend lots of one-on-one time with anyone – including myself. However, I tried to answer as many questions as possible. The most frequently asked questions were; “Where have you been?” “Where are you going?” and, curiously, “When you are leaving?” I’ll assume the last one was people just being polite. (I hope!)

Another popular question was about mes bonnes adresses in Paris, or favorite places to eat. While I update the list on the My Paris page regularly, and there are more complete descriptions in the Paris restaurant category on the site, I suspect people thought I was holding out on them. (I swear, I’m not! – well, maybe one or two…but I have my reasons…) I was also interested in how many people were coming to Paris in the near future, which may explain the rise in airfares this summer, which are preventing us from going to Cape Cod and having a lobster, steamer clam, beer, and corn-on-the-cob fest.

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Eating Around London

London Beef

I never really “got” London. It was always this hulking city that I struggled to navigate, overwhelmingly large, with a subway system that seemed like a tangle of routes and directions that I just couldn’t unravel. But part of it is my fault as I never really spent a lot of time trying to figure it out. I just accepted defeat early on. So this time, I decided to walk from one side of the city to the other, to get a feel for it. And I have a London-sized callous on my foot, but it was worth it. I got to see the neighborhoods and the districts while I wandered and stopped in cafes and coffee shops, and just sat and watched snippets of everyday life in London. And now, I “get” it. London is pretty fun – and delicious.

Spending nearly a week there gave me some time to make a few discoveries – finding some new places, and revisiting some old favorites. Such as the pastries at Ottolenghi in Islington and a trip to Neal’s Yard (where they happily hand out samples, which – of course, makes you powerless to resist buying slabs of – well, everything), all accompanied by a pleasant friendliness and efficiency.

pear cakes at Ottolenghi

And I even mastered the Tube (subway) and managed not to get lost during the entire time that I was there, which is a first for me. All of it is – as the French like to say are (although they should probably tweak it a bit, to comply with grammatical rules) – “So British!”, such as black cab drivers opening the door for you with a peppy greeting, and getting dairy delivered in glass bottles for a spot of milk in your morning coffee.

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Orange Syrup Cake with Candied Oranges

orange cake zest

I bought my trusty zester in 1983, back when no one had heard of rasp-type zesters, which are now a lot more popular than their old-fangled counterparts. I got mine in 1983 when I started working at Chez Panisse and the cook training me on my first shift told me that I needed four essential items; a chef’s knife, a paring knife, a bread knife, and a zester.

candied orange recipe

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Shakshuka

Shakshuka

I’ve been meaning to get into the Shakshuka groove ever since I had it for breakfast at Nopi in London, and on my trip to Israel, where this North African dish wowed me – and my taste buds – every morning. Although various versions abound, the most widely known Shakshuka involves eggs softly cooked in a hot skillet of spiced tomato sauce. I’ve had plenty of spicy foods in my life, but the complex seasoning in the sauces that I’ve tasted in the ones I had lingered with me for months afterward, and I had no choice but to make it at home. (Or move to London – or North Africa.)

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Nopi, in London

scone and doughnut

I was a big fan of Ottolenghi even before I stepped into one of their restaurants. When I got a copy of Yotam Ottolenghi’s first book, I was blown away by the photographs of gorgeous dishes, heaped with generous amounts of fresh chopped herbs, irregularly cut vegetables often seared and caramelized, and roasted, juicy meats accented with citrus or unexpected spices, usually with a Middle Eastern bent. The bold, big flavors came bounding through the pages and appealed to me as both a diner and a cook.

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Merce and the Muse, and Mary

brocolli salad straws

[UPDATE: Both of these places have closed.)

One of the curious things that’s happening right now in the Paris food scene is a spate of what I consider ‘anglo’-style cafés opening up in various smaller neighborhoods. There are a few that have been around for a while. But in the past year, casual restaurants that sell leafy salads, made with just-cooked fresh vegetables and greens, house made soups, hand-held desserts like individual carrot cakes and les muffins, fresh fruit juices, and coffee made with care and attention, have been giving the normal lunch of choice for harried Parisians, les sandwiches—including the good ones from the local bakeries, as well as those from the unfortunately popular Subway sandwich shops that are rapidly invading France—a run for their money.

sandwich merce muse

Places like Bob’s Juice Bar, Cococook, Bread and Roses, and Rose Bakery are all packed at lunchtime not with homesick Brits or Americans, but Parisians.

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Six New Cookbooks I’ve Just Got to Have

Prior to my trip back to the states this week, I just put in my order for some new cookbooks to schlep back with me. Because of limited space chez David, I have to be somewhat selective about which books I get, since there’s only so many things I can squeeze in around here.

These are the six that made the cut, although I’ll probably see a few more that I can’t resist.

God help the baggage handlers, if I do.

platteroffigs.jpg

1. This is the book that so many, including me, have been waiting for: A Platter of Figs and Other Recipes, the new book by David Tanis. For those of you who don’t know him, David was and is a chef at Chez Panisse, and was there when I started way-back-when.

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Chocolate-Dipped Florentine Recipe

chocolate-dipped florentines

Living in Paris, it isn’t always very interesting watching television, which I sometimes like to do during dinner. Sure there’s some great French channels, but I’m kinda lazy when I’m eating and prefer the English-language ones, which usually means CNN International.

So I often find myself flipping through cookbooks while I dine, glazing over the text and scanning the glossy photos. But when I came across this one, for Florentines, I stopped and bookmarked it right away. I’m always attracted to anything nutty, crispy, salty, or caramelized, and this recipe had them all. Of course, using ingredients that I usually have on hand doesn’t hurt a recipe in the popularity department around here, either.

sliced almondspowdered sugar

Crisp, caramelized almonds, just a few ingredients, and a wide swath of dark chocolate underneath. I ask you…what doesn’t this recipe have going for it? The recipe comes from Ottolenghi, a London-based restaurant that, frankly, I hadn’t heard of. But this cookbook is really gorgeous and makes me almost want to blitz across the channel and check it out. (Damn the exchange rate!) I have a lot of cookbooks and this one truly stands out. And when I saw the jumbo stack of Florentines stacked up on one of its pages, I couldn’t wait to share the recipe.

The book is full of other interesting, and compelling recipes. There’s one for Kosheri, a side dish made with lentils, rice, and vermicelli, that I’m dying to try. There’s a twice-baked Chocolate Fudge Cake that’s up the next time I have guests for dinner.

pre-baked Florentines

These crispy Florentines are super-simple to make, requiring just a few ingredients mixed together and baked. Who doesn’t love that? The authors mentioned that it’d be permissible to slather one side with melted chocolate, like traditional Florentines. The cookies were indeed fantastic without it—but it’d be a shame to pass up an opportunity to put chocolate on something now, wouldn’t it?

florentines

Chocolate-Dipped Florentines
20-25 cookies

Adapted from Ottolenghi: The Cookbook (Ten Speed)

I cut the original recipe in half since I wanted smaller cookies, but otherwise followed the recipe pretty closely. I added a few grains of salt, but thought I knew better and tried using a small metal spatula to spread the Florentines. But their suggested fork method worked better. You can put the cookies pretty close to each other on the baking sheet as they don’t spread during baking.

  • 1 large egg white, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup (50g) powdered sugar
  • 1 3/4 cup (130g) blanched sliced almonds
  • a good pinch of flaky sea salt
  • grated zest of half an orange*, preferably unsprayed

1. Preheat the oven to 300F (150C).

2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and brush very lightly with neutral vegetable oil.

3. In a bowl, mix together all the ingredients.

4. Keep a small bowl of cold water and a fork near where you’re working.

5. Dip your hand in the cold water before lifting each portion of almonds, and place heaping tablespoon-sized mounds of the batter evenly spaced on the prepared baking sheet.

6. Once you’ve covered the baking sheet, dip the fork in cold water to flatten the cookies as much as possible. Try to avoid having many gaps between the almonds.

7. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until the cookies are golden brown. Exact time will vary based on how large your cookies are. The authors recommend lifting the bottom of one with a metal spatula to check and see if they’re cooked through. If they’re not brown across the top and bottom, they won’t be agreeably crispy.

8. Let cookies cool, then lift with a thin metal spatula and place them on a cooling rack until crisp. Continue baking all the cookies on the same baking sheet. (I found no need to re-oil it between uses.)

Store Florentines in an airtight container until ready to serve.

To Coat the Cookies with Chocolate

To coat one side with chocolate, melt a few ounces of chopped bittersweet or semisweet chocolate in a clean, dry bowl, stirring until smooth. Use a brush or metal spatula to coat the underside of each cookie with a thin layer of chocolate. Let cool in a cool place or the refrigerator until firm. Once firm, store Florentines in an airtight container at room temperature.

More Recipe Notes:

  • You can temper the chocolate if you’re not going to eat them within a relatively short period of time, if you want to avoid the chocolate ‘blooming’. Or just dip and cool them a few hours before serving time.

  • *I didn’t have any orange zest so added a few drops of orange oil, which worked perfectly.

  • When Twittering, I realized that these cookies are gluten-free.

  • Heidi did a beautiful post with photographs featuring Ottolenghi’s Red Rice and Quinoa Recipe.

  • Visit the Ottolenghi website for more recipes and information about the restaurant.

  • I’d planned to test baking the Florentines using my silicone baking mat, but had such good success with parchment paper I didn’t want to take any chances. If you do try it, let me know how they come out.