By noon yesterday, the temperature in my apartment was nearly 100ºF (38ºC) and with the sun bearing down full force on the entire city, and so few trees to provide any shade, it was the first scorching day of summer in Paris. Having lived in temperate San Francisco for much of my life, I was used to days that were always moderate; winter and summer weather could be nearly identical and one never had to do the seasonal ritual of the shifting of clothes when one season ended and another one began.
Results tagged rice from David Lebovitz
It’s kind of funny because the two times I went out with two different French friends for Mexican food this week, they practically wiped the table clean. Both said after eating, “Daveed…j’ai encore faim.” (“I’m still hungry.”)
The first time was at Cactus, where my friend (who I am pretty sure has .5% body fat) wolfed down his burrito and the aforementioned declaration of hunger, proceeded to order three additional tacos and eat them in rapid procession, then eat dessert as well – plus a handful of chocolates he had stashed in his pocket.
When I was a teenager, we made a trip to Los Angeles and a family friend took us to a Japanese restaurant. I remember it well, because I was going through that phase where you’re willing to do things on a dare, not because you’re keenly interested in new experiences, but because you want to show off that you’re not afraid of taking on a few dares. And I remember some of my family flipping out a little when we were presented with a big, shiny wooden board covered with raw strips of fish, lined up in neat rows, ready to be eaten just as is.
Because part of my youthful folly of trying the be daring and ‘different’ was using chopsticks to eat everything (as if just being myself wasn’t enough…), I was also happy to be able to show off my mastery with les baguettes, as they’re called in French. And I was going to fearlessly eat raw fish with them.
I don’t remember what I ate exactly, but I do remember that trepidation of my first bite, and seeing a few people at the table squirm as I chewed and swallowed the first of those cold, slippery slices of fish. Of course, sushi is now considered normal fare in many countries and you can buy it in supermarkets, airports, and even in the frozen food section. And I’ve been in pretty remote towns in both the United States and in France, and have passed restaurants serving sushi, or les sushis.
During the few decades between that first bite of fish that I had, and now, our collective international hunger for seafood has grown, so much so that many popular varieties of fish used for sushi are on the brink of disappearing. French president Nicolas Sarkozy attempted to ban bluefin tuna but an organization of French fishermen and other groups successfully stopped the ban. So in spite of its tenuous position, if you go to a fish market this morning, you’ll see glistening on ice, big, meaty, shiny-red triangles of that unfortunately delicious bluefin tuna along with many other species that are not considered responsible.
A few top French chefs have taken bluefish tuna off their menus, in their upscale restaurants, but the ‘fast-food’ style sushi restaurants that have invaded Paris are invariably packed at lunchtime. Sometimes visitors are surprised to see so many sushi take-out places, which seems to be vying in Paris with the banks and boulangeries for storefront dominance. But like people in cities elsewhere, the locals are looking for something quick, inexpensive, and healthy for lunch. Parisians, mostly the younger crowd, have embraced these quick sushi joints, which normally have just three kinds of sushi: bluefin tuna (thon rouge), shrimp, and salmon, which are considered some of the least sustainable types of fish and seafood you can consume.
Like so many others, long after that first experience with poisson cru (raw fish) back in California, I’ve developed a deep fondness for sushi and sashimi. But as the news and scientists report about disappearing species, I can’t shake that deeply ingrained “Bay Area Guilt”, as I call it, about trying to be vert and have a difficult time sitting down to a meal and eating something that’s on the verge of extinction.
(Which is why I will also get up and walk to the other side of my apartment to recycle a postage stamp-size scrap of paper rather than toss it into the trash can under my desk or I’ll carry around a used métro ticket in my pocket for weeks until I get to a place to recycle it.)
Being a good foot soldier, still to this day, I’ve dialed down drinking bottled water as much as possible, and I’ve seriously curtailed my consumption of fish. But when I walked by Matsuri, a chain of sushi bars in France a few months back, and saw the sign outside that they were serving another kind of tuna, I decided to check it out with Meg of Paris by Mouth.
The sushi at Matsuri arrive to diners via a motorized conveyor belt. So for hard-core sushi fans, this isn’t a place to go to discover the skills of a well-trained, inventive sushi chef. I normally wince when I see floating boats and other gimmicks in sushi bars, but so be it. And it was nice to see a laminated card on each table, talking about the sushi éthique, the sustainability of the scallops and albacore tuna that they serve in place of bluefin tuna (thon rouge).
The sushi wasn’t knocking our chausettes off, but it was encouraging to see and to eat sushi that you didn’t have to worry too much about enjoying. (Most of the varieties are on the WWF’s—avec moderation seafood list.)
As mentioned, I’m suspicious of places were the sushi goes around and around and around (and around) on a conveyor belt. But the staff seemed to be putting just the right amount of things out and I didn’t see many of the small plates taking multiple tours around the dining room. Although Matsuri is a small chain of restaurants, the sushi is made there and most of the standard small rolls and sashimi rolled by were familiar favorites.
However we were seated about two-thirds of the way down the conveyor belt and the three fellows just to our left, and the woman with two small kids just before them, seemed to have an uncanny knack for reaching for what we were oogling just before we got our crack at it. So if you go, try to get a seat closer to the open kitchen, where the sushi comes out, for best selection.
Still, I like when restaurants run out of food, and it’s fine when it doesn’t necessarily come out super-fast, which often is a good indication that it’s prepared fresh and with care. Running low (or out) of things means they’re not stockpiling.
For all the fresh fish consumed in France, including salmon tartare, which has become a staple on each and every trendy bistro menu, it’s interesting that only a few decent sushi bars have opened in Paris. But as much as folks grouse about chain restaurants, it’s gratifying to see one leading the way in France, showing that you can serve sustainable food at approachable prices. It’s a trend that I hope to see more of.
36, rue de Richelieu (1st)
Tél: 01 42 61 05 73
(With each dish priced between €2 and €5, with two mugs of hot green tea, our lunch was €36. Matsuri has various restaurants and take-away shops in Paris and other French cities, as well as Geneva.)
The Sustainable Seafood Dilemna (Chocolate & Zucchini)
Pour Une Pêche Durable (French WWF seafood guide)
Europe’s Appetite for Seafood Propels Illegal Trade (New York Times)
Always on the lookout for classic French bistros, a friend and I recently stopped at Au Petit Riche. I’d eaten there before and found the food decent, but I remember the company a little better than the food. I was dazzled by the stunning interior and the conversation, which should have been a tip off since I rarely forget anything I eat that’s good.
Many Americans have become more astute about dining and want to know where the ingredients are from, how they are handled, what part of the animal they’re getting. It’s part of the farmer’s market movement, as well as a number of folks striving to eat locally or at least show some concern for where and how their foodstuffs are raised.
And there’s also the do-it-yourself movement, where everything from upstart ice cream shops are opening, and of course the bean-to-bar movement, where every step of the process is carefully tended to. In general, the French don’t ask those questions because France has always been a deeply agricultural country, with close ties to their terroir. When dining with friends from the states in Paris, I know they’d be disappointed to find frozen green beans with their steak, or boiled white rice heaped on a salade Niçoise. So I am always careful to steer them away from some of the classic bistros on their lists, ones they may have eaten at a decade ago, or that a friend recommended.
Today, I’ve had gelato for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And as I write this, it’s only 3pm in the afternoon.
It all started on this bright Sunday morning, when I made the onerous hike up to Prati, to Fatamorgana for their daring, wildly-flavored gelati. If you weren’t looking for the place, you’d probably keep going. But being the trooper that I am, in the blazing heat, I pushed past the crowds at the Vatican and trudged upwards toward my goal.
To say the walk was worth it is putting it mildly. This compact address scoops up some of the most astounding gelato I’ve tasted. I wasn’t quite sure what to order, as there were literally three kinds of frozen zabaglione and nearly ten various riffs on cioccolata.
I decided to go for it and had Kentucky, flavored with chocolate and tobacco, ricotta-coconut, and pure zabaglione. When I took my cup outside and spooned in my first bite, I almost started crying. In fact, I did cry a bit—it was so good.
When I read about the ActiFry Fryer, a machine that uses new cooking technology to create crisp fries and other foods with virtually no oil, I immediately wanted one.
Normally I’m not one to hop on the bandwagon and rush out and get a new gadget, especially when my apartment is bursting at the seams and if I put one more thing on my kitchen counter, I’m going to wind up cooking on the ceiling.
So I sent a message to a friend who works with the company and she arranged to have an ActiFry machine sent to me, not expecting or in exchange for a review, but because I’m a wonderful person worthy of low-fat frites.
I went out and bought a sack of potatoes, then came home, plugged in my ActiFry, and made a big batch of French fries with just a spoonful of oil.
I followed the instructions, peeling then cutting the potatoes into bâtons, rinsing them, drying them thoroughly before putting them in the machine. Then the user adds one tablespoon of oil, closes the lid, and sets the timer for thirty minutes.
Every few minutes, I peered into the machine, and nothing much seemed to be happening – at first. The potatoes were being stirred by the revolving arm, very, very slowly.
And as the machine turned, skeptical me was surprised as the sticks of potato soon turned a golden-brown color. And after stopping the machine to pluck one out, a sprinkle of salt was all that was needed, and I had to admit the French fry was very good, somewhat mottled, but crisp!
So next on the docket were Korean chicken wings, which were a success as well.
A few pros and cons of this machine:
The pros of this machine are that you can make crisp, fried foods with just one tablespoon of oil or fat, and that the machine does what it says it does: crisp-fried food with a minimum of oil or fat. Or mess: the machine comes apart easily so the non-motorized parts can go in the dishwasher.
The cons are that the machine is not inexpensive (partially due to the fact that it’s made in France, rather than China, and there’s currently an unfavorable exchange rate) and although there are included recipes for curries and roasted meats, those tasks could be done using a standard stove or oven. And because of the cooking time and method, batter-fried foods like tempura likely won’t work in this machine. The ActiFry is also fairly large, about the size of a football helmet for a medium-size gorilla, and the parts, especially the metal non-stick pan, are thin and lacking in heft.
ActiFry (Official Tefal Website)
ActiFry Fryer (Amazon)
ActiFry Fryer (Amazon UK)
Making French Fries in an Actifry (Video of the process, in Dutch)
ActiFry Review (Gizmodo)
*Disclosure: This machine was sent to me by the company with no expectations or promise of a mention. I tested five different dishes with the ActiFry: chicken wings, two batches of French fries, and fried rice (which ended up like crispy sizzling rice—happily), and I was pleased with the results.
French supermarkets are funny places. In my book, I touched upon that touchy subject, as well as a few others. But let’s not get into that here; let’s just say that they’re not the best places to buy fresh produce. Which may explain the mystery of the liberal use of canned corn around here.
When I came back from a recent trip, on a late weekend afternoon, I had no choice but to go to my local supermarket to feed myself. I didn’t want to buy much, preferring to wait until I could go to my market the next day, but it was necessary to go and get a few provisions. In the produce aisle, I bypassed the sad bunches of wilted cilantro, I didn’t stop to pick up any yellowed, spring onions shipped from another hemisphere where it’s definitely not spring, nor was I particularly interested in Chinese apples.
But eventually I found what I wanted and headed to the checkout.
A few years ago at a culinary conference in the states, I met some eager-beaver folks from the International Rice Board, or something like that, who were there to promote rice consumption. I told them, point blank: “If you really, truly want to increase the consumption of rice, just send everyone a rice cooker.”
I loved mine, but unfortunately in Paris my kitchen is so small that I don’t have room for one. I guess I could get rid of my espresso maker, but really, that’s just not a possibility. (And every time I pass the panini grills at Darty I sigh in admiration…and keep walking.) So I’ve learned to make Asian-style rice in a regular saucepan, which is entirely possible.
Some of the information I gleaned from posts at My Korean Kitchen and this rice is perfect not just on its own, but to use for making fried rice. If you’ve ever tried fried rice and were confronted with a sticky disaster, the secrets is to always use day-old rice and separate the grains thoroughly with your fingers before frying it up.