Results tagged polenta from David Lebovitz

RAP Épicerie

RAP Italian Epicerie

Due to our closeness to Italy, it’s fairly easy to find an Italian épicerie in almost any Parisian neighborhood. (Although locating an authentic Italian espresso is a little more elusive.) I’m fortunate because there are two excellent Italian épiceries (speciality food shops) close to where I live, but most of the places get their items from a distributor, which means the selection is somewhat narrow. Few places have farro, and I’ve never seen anyone selling farina polenta taragna, the mix of polenta and buckwheat that I first had in the mountains above Milan, and I’d never seen it anywhere outside of Italy. (So I’ve been making my own.)

RAP Italian Epicerie

That’s not a complaint – it’s great to be able to find Sicilian salumi and pasta from Tuscany. And Cooperative Latte Cisternino, an excellent Italian dairy cooperative, is a terrific place for Italian cheeses and other products. (Although they always seem to be closed when I go there.)

RAP Italian Epicerie

But artisanal products, items from small producers, are a little more challenging to find. So I was charmed when my friend Terresa and I took a field trip to discover RAP, which offers rarely seen Italian foods, imported directly by Alessandra Pierini, who curates the selection in her jammed-to-the-rafters shop in the 9th arrondissement.

RAP Italian Epicerie

I haven’t seen such a varied and curious selection of products all together outside of Italy since, well – ever. (Eataly, eat your heart out.) Granted RAP is tiny; imagine if someone pushed eight phone booths together, and you’ll get some idea of its size.

RAP Italian Epicerie

Yet I was incredibly excited to be surrounded by shelves and shelves holding many of the foods I love from Italy, including unusual chocolates, citron soda, and pure, unadulterated pistachio spreads, which were in danger of being eclipsed by things that I’d never seen or tasted.

RAP Italian Epicerie

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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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Simple Polenta

polenta

I’ve been a busy boy the last few weeks, hunkering down finishing a project that’s I’m working on night-and-day. And unfortunately, it’s not even allowed me time to go to the market to do much food shopping. Quelle horreur! So I’ve been raiding my freezer (which is actually a good thing…) and rummaging through my cabinets in search of things that I can sustain myself on.

red corn polenta

I had a couple of bags of beautiful stone-ground polenta that I got in Gascony last fall and decided that I’d cook up a big batch to keep on hand. When I lived in California, I ate a lot of polenta because I am a major fan of anything and everything with cornmeal. It’s not as common here and while you can find it in most supermarkets, it’s often the instant variety. And while some people say it’s pretty good, I tried it once and it’s like comparing mashed potatoes made with those powdery dried flakes that come in a box with mashed potatoes made from real, honest-to-goodness potatoes. To me, there’s just no comparison.

fresh herbs for polenta

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Milan

Italian Breakfast

Even though it’s just next door, every time I go to Italy, I wonder why I don’t go more often. Before I moved to Europe, I used to wonder why Europeans didn’t travel to other countries more often. And now I’m one of them. I think it’s because just to go anywhere, whether it’s a 45 minutes flight or a 4.5 hour flight, you still need to schlep to the airport, arrive in a new city, find your bearings, and by the time you’ve finally figured out most of the good places to go, it’s time to head home.

babas

It also doesn’t help that when I returned from this trip, two airlines were striking at Charles de Gaulle airport, the RER train was closed for some unexpected (and unexplained) reason, prompting a few thousand of us to be bused to a deserted train station in the middle of nowhere, to wait in the cold pre-winter air until a train showed up nearly an hour-and-a-half later, well after midnight, making the trip from the Paris airport back to the city (which is a mere 23 km, or 14 miles), nearly four hours – or three times longer than the flight to Milan.

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Cotogna Restaurant

beef tenderloin at cotogna cotogna pizza maker

I’m going to get this out of the way right off the bat: I worked with Mike Tusk at Chez Panisse – he was a cook upstairs in the café and I was downstairs in the pastry department, and although I knew he was a good cook, I was blown away the first time I ate at his restaurant, Quince.

Quince restaurant in San Francisco warm ricotta with figs

I went there shortly after it opened, when it was in a residential neighborhood in San Francisco. The kitchen was nice and rather large if I recall, and he explained to me that he was figuring out how to do everything that he wanted to do in that space. I had dinner later that week in the dining room, which is run by his wife, Lindsay, and was really delighted at the wonderful meal I had, especially the pasta dishes.

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Holiday Recipes

snowman cake

In my recent winter newsletter, I sent out a list of some of my favorite recipes that are great candidates for the holidays. Here I compiled more recipes from the site for sweets and treats that I hope will make your holidays a little happier.

Nibbles & Drinks

The Best Holiday Nut and Pretzel Mix: This it the best snack I know of to go with festive drinks. I can’t get enough of it. Make this for your next cocktail gathering!

Spritz: Want a holiday drink that’s lighter than a cocktail, and more festive? Try pouring a Spritz (or two) this year for guests.

Roasted Squash: Could this recipe be any easier? Oven-roasted slices of squash, which you can customize with different herbs and spices. Leftovers are great cubed and tossed in a salad of winter greens with toasted pecans and dried cranberries.

Sardine Pâté: Silky fish pâté is great spread on toasts with flutes of sparkling Champagne.

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Cornmeal Cookies (Zaletti)

cornmeal cookies blog

If I had to name one food that I couldn’t live without, chocolate would be right up there. Salted butter is on that short list, too. Seeded bagels, California dried apricots, black and white cookies, osetra caviar (if money, and sustainability, were no object), lobster rolls, French fries, and really good fried chicken would also be on that list. Not as fancy as some of those things, but just as good, another thing that I can never seem to get enough of is crunchy cornmeal.

And the good thing is that I live next to Italy, so whenever I pop over and visit my neighbors, I always bring back not only good coffee by the kilo, but as much polenta as I can jam into my suitcase as well.

cornmeal cookie dough

A few years ago I was shamed into only using stone-ground cornmeal, but the locals seem to have taken to instant polenta, which I was told wasn’t bad by a well-respected chef. That’s what is widely available here, but I just couldn’t bring myself to agree when I tried it for myself.

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Polenta Ice Cream (Gelato di polenta)

Technically this gelato isn’t ‘polenta’ ice cream, but it’s made with corn flour. But when I was in Torino, Italy last year, a local gelateria was making what they were billing as a ‘polenta’ gelato, using farina bóna.

So if you want to argue with an Italian chef, you’re welcome to. After tangling with puzzling bureaucratic paperwork for a disproportionately-large chunk of my days lately, I’m happy to just accept what people say, and no longer question the how’s and why’s. (Like when I got a customs bill for an unsolicited delivery last week that had a tax on the tax. To preserve my sanity, I’ve stopped trying to make sense of those kinds of things anymore.)

Plus “Flour Ice Cream”, somehow doesn’t have the same appeal.

ice cream and cherrries

I was happy, at long last, to get around the making gelato from this unusual ingredient that I picked up during the Slow Food event I’d attended. Unlike the derision* that similar events like this draw elsewhere (which was why I always avoided going), Monsieur Skeptic went with an unusually-open mind and was thrilled to discover so many unusual and nearly-extinct food products that the Slow Food Foundation is working to keep alive.

farina bona stirring

Farina bóna is deeply-roasted corn, ground into flour, which was produced in villages, such as Vergeletto, in Switzerland, which had just 90 inhabitants.

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