Let’s stop kidding ourselves. Just like “muffin” is basically another word for cake, granola doesn’t have to be strictly “health food.” In fact, some granolas are so sweet they could easily qualify as candy. But since I tend to spend the better part of the day roaming around my apartment, sticking my hand in various boxes and jars of stuff to eat (some that qualify as health food, while other things that don’t quite fit that definition), I wanted to come up with a granola (called muesli, in French) that I didn’t feel so guilty about dipping my hand into throughout the day.
Results tagged recipe from David Lebovitz
When I take visitors through those big glass doors of the La Grande Épicerie in Paris, the first stop may very well be the spectacular pastry section, where fanciful cakes wrapped with ribbons of chocolate, or covered with a spun-sugar lattice topping, are proudly displayed in glass showcases like jewels.
In the corner, less obvious, are the sweets for le grignotages, or snacking. (Which they also call le snacking, in French.) Among the sugar-topped chouquettes and scalloped madeleines, are squares of candied almond-covered shortbread, called miella. Although they don’t grab your eye with the same intensity as the surrounding pastries, they are my favorite thing in the showcase and I am borderline addicted to them. When I point them out to people, they rarely show the same enthusiasm as I do, being more transfixed by the rows and rows of colorful macarons and glossy éclairs. “Tant pis” (tough sh*t, or more politely “too bad”) as they say – more for me!
Fortunately, I am able to limit my consumption to the occasional trips across Paris, when I feel the need to do some damage at the grandest culinary supermarket in town. Not that I need an excuse to go there, but it’s probably best I don’t have easy access to those caramelized almond-honey squares. (And the three aisles of chocolate bars.) Well, until now.
Someday, someone is going set up a camera in my place. At least I hope so. Because over the last three years, I can safely say that the craziest things have happened to me. I’ve often toyed with writing a book about it, but no one would believe me, and it would quickly get tossed into the fiction bin, dismissed as folly. Oddly, I’ve been finding comfort in the easy-listening music of James Taylor, who seems to understand what I am going through, as he gently reassures me that, indeed, all is okay – because I’ve got a friend.
In addition to JT, as I’ve taken to calling him, I also find security in Asian food. I’m not entirely comfortable with the term “comfort food,” but I have to admit that whenever something isn’t going the way I hope (or the way any sane person would hope), I am rejuvenated eating a bowl of bò bún (Vietnamese cold noodle bowls, as they’re called in France), or gai lan (Chinese broccoli). Perhaps because I come from San Francisco, where Asian food is seamlessly integrated into our culinary consciousness, a bowl of noodles or Asian greens makes me happy. (Although a well-timed pain au chocolat has a similar effect.)
I don’t regularly watch American cooking programs and competitions, although occasionally I come across them on TV here in France, dubbed (Version Française, or VF), which makes them less interesting to watch. And I don’t go to those cooking vacations where chefs come and cook for guests on tropical islands because, frankly, I’m never asked. (Although unbelievably, I did just get an email from a public relations person, which contained links and photos to one of those food festivals, asking me to write a post on my blog about it…even though I wasn’t there.)
So I decided to spare you a post with someone else’s photos about an event that I didn’t even go to. But while everyone else was frolicking on the beach sipping tiki cocktails with their favorite chefs, I was at home, reading. One thing that caught my eye in the newspaper was an article about Bobby Flay – who often appears on television and probably gets to go to those food festivals – regarding a new restaurant he is opening in New York after a hiatus from restaurant cooking.
Unlike writing about faux vacations, I was much more intrigued by a recipe for Chicken with Roquefort cheese that accompanied the article. So I went to the market and came home with a big hunk (unfortunately, not the guy from the Auvergne who sells sausages and terrines, with the dreamy smile..) of the blue-green veined cheese that happens to be the first AOC designated food in France.
(The AOC designation was enacted in 1925, and was meant to control and protect production and quality standards. See how much more important reading and researching is, rather than sitting at a bar by the ocean, drinking rum cocktails with warm sand under your feet?)
Some say that the French can be very narrow in their definitions of things, which is why traditional French cuisine can be so simple, yet spectacular; because the classics don’t get messed with. Other cuisines, however, do get modified to local tastes, like les brochettes de bœuf-fromage, or beef skewers with cheese, at les sushis restaurants, popcorn available as salty or sweet (!?), and while sandwiches stuffed with French fries may be a sandwich américain, I can’t say I’ve ever seen one in Amérique.
Americans spend a fair amount of time defending certain dishes, and some things are (or should be) rightly forbidden, like raisins in cole slaw and dried fruit in bagels, and others are debatable, like beans in chili, sugar or honey in cornbread. (But it’s okay to stop with those football-sized croissants.)
Beef is very popular in France. And it’s not just for the taste: on more than one occasion, I’ve been told I need to eat more red meat by folks concerned about my health. (I guess I need to look in the mirror more often.) I like a good steak every once in a while, and, fortunately for meat-lovers, there are butchers in every neighborhood in Paris. In fact, there are four within a two- or three-block radius of where I live, not to mention the few at my local outdoor market.
Being surrounded by so much viande, I need to keep my consumption in check so I reserve cooking beef at home for special occasions, rather than make it part of my daily diet. (Unlike chocolate.) What’s also widely available in Paris – and used extensively – are fresh herbs, particularly flat-leaf parsley and fresh mint, which are available in abundance. And it’s a rare day when I don’t return from the market with a big bunch of parsley.
I’ve been on a marmalade bender lately. Well, it’s actually been for the last few weeks. Winter, of course, is marmalade season and the markets in Paris are heaped with citrus: Corsican clementines, pretty yellow bergamots, hefty pink grapefruits from Florida (although some infer appellations from elsewhere – namely, the Louvre), leafy lemons from Nice, and lots and lots of oranges.
The stands are so piled up that it’s not uncommon to be walking down the aisle and have an orange roll off of the piles and land on your foot. (Which is why it is a good idea to wash any fruit before you use it.) This means I’ve got so many jars of marmalade, that when my friend Luisa stopped by and saw the jars piled on top of a shelf in my bedroom, she said “I’ve doing the same thing ” at her apartment in Berlin. Sometimes I think jam-making could be classified as an epidemic and if so, there’s ample evidence that I’m ready for an intervention.
While kumquats were once classified with their look-alike citrus brethren and sistern (admittedly, it can be hard to tell as it’s difficult to get a look under their navels), they are now placed in another genus category (Fortunella), even though they share many characteristics of citrus fruits.
Someone once asked me how I know when to give up on a recipe. Sometimes I realize after a few tries, that I should just forget about it. And others, like the tarte tropézienne in my next book, I made seventeen times until I got it just right. (Because I got a little crazy about getting it just right, including bringing slices around to local bakeries to get their opinions. Plus making a second trip to the bakery in the south of France where I had the one that inspired me to include it.) And the cake has four components, so multiply that times seventeen, but I still didn’t give up until I got it just right.
Speaking of my next book, I had a kind of funny idea (well, at least to me…) to end the book with a recipe that has been vexing me for ages: granola bars. And I would accompany my spectacular barre de müesli recipe with a triumphant story about how I was able to succeed in the face of multi-grain adversity, which somehow I could turn into a metaphor for my culinary life. (In that very special way that I do…which has editors scratching their heads as my writing curves from one completely different subject to eventually landing on another – which, if I/they have any luck, is on the recipe at hand.)
But after a whole other round of testing, as my deadline loomed – and I had depleted all the flacons d’avoine (oats) in the natural food stores of my neighborhood – I realized that it was time to give up my idea of including a naturally delicious dream bar, and move on with the rest of my life.
Then, one day, I had little peanut butter frosting leftover from a project, sitting in a bowl on the counter. And since we were taking a trip and I wanted to bake up something to take along to snack on, I mixed it up with some nuts, dried fruits, and whatever I had around – then pressed the whole shebang into a pan and baked it up. And you know what? Bingo! They were the best granola bars I’d ever had, hands down. C’est la verité.