Results tagged spices from David Lebovitz

Hot Mulled Wine – Vin chaud

Hot Mulled Wine

Yes, it’s winter in Paris. And while the temperature drops, folks move inside the cafés to escape the cold, except the hearty smokers, who are seemingly immune to the chill outside while they puff away on les terrasses. And while we’re all bundled up, shivering on the sidewalks as we go about our days, on café chalkboards are scrawled the words: Vin chaud.

Vin chaud (hot mulled wine) is somewhat of an anomaly in a country where wine is revered, as the idea of “heated wine”, infused with spices, is a curious paradox. I was never big on the idea myself, and preferred my wine straight up (except for rosé, on ice), but during the bitingly cold winter in Paris, I can see the appeal of the warm soothing drink, tinged with the spices of winter.

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Spice ID?

cranberries, pistachios, garlic

Before I went to Israel, I was introduced by my friend Paule to some wonderful spices and seasoning mixtures, which a friend of hers who lives in Tel Aviv brought to her. When I popped the lid off the first one, I wasn’t prepared for the overwhelming aromas, some familiar – dill and garlic, and others with unidentifiable seeds and spices.

She shared some of them with me, and I liberally sprinkled them over eggplant dips and marinated chicken with the dill mixture. Which, of course, depleted my stock. So when I went to Israel, I was hoping to restock my stashes but didn’t come across them in the travels. I had a hard time explaining what they were when folks asked me what I was looking for. And I don’t mean to be dramatic, but I think they changed my life.

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Raita

cucumber-tomato raita

There’s a pretty interesting Indian community in Paris and I’ve taken to walking around areas in Paris like La Chapelle and rue du Faubourg Saint-Denis, poking my nose into noisy restaurants and trying to figure out what those colorful and oddly shaped fruits and vegetables at the produces stalls are. There’s all sorts of stuff in those shops and I’m particularly taken with something that’s green and leafy – about one meter (about 3 feet) long – that I can’t figure out what anyone would do with it, let along try to navigate getting it home through the sometimes difficult to navigate sidewalks of Paris. But I’m too timid to ask.

But I was not too timid to accept an invitation into the kitchen of Beena Paradin, who heard my plight as I’ve been trying to recreate Indian dishes at home, with ups and downs. On the downs, it feels like there’s something I seem to be missing; the liberal spicing, perhaps. Or the “feeling” one must absorb when trying dishes from another culture, which usually involves letting go of our notions of how food should be seasoned and spiced, and adapting to a completely foreign way of cooking.

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Chili with Chocolate

chili

I used to wait tables in a vegetarian restaurant many, many years ago, and one of the items on the menu was Cashew Chili. I would say about one-third of the customers would look at the menu, then look up at me, and ask – “Are there really cashews in the Cashew Chili?”

rancho gordo beans

It was hard to respond to that. Although the answer “Yes” seemed pretty obvious (at least to me), it was hard to say “Yes, the Cashew Chili really does have cashews in it” without sounding like a wise-ass. Thinking about it now, I probably could have come back with a more interesting retort and I guess should think of another one for this chili recipe, because it is made with beans, and likely to raise some hackles.

cooked beans for chili recipe

Therefore, I would like to officially recognize that real Texas Chili does not have beans in it.

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Baking Ingredients and Substitutions

salt & vanilla

Because the question comes up from time to time, I thought I’d answer some questions about making substitutions in my recipes, and swapping out or deleting ingredients.

The short answer is: Ingredients are added to recipes for a specific purpose and there is a reason that they are there. When you substitute or swap out ingredients, results will vary and won’t be the same as mine.

Some may work, and others won’t. And I can’t comment on results unless I’ve tried it myself. The most common request is folks who want to reduce the sugar or fat in a recipe, but in most instances, people are not happy with the final results. So unless you have health issues such as allergies and intolerances, it’s best to stick with the recipe.

One recent change that’s occurred in home baking is the proliferation of “premium” products, such as “European-style” butter, stronger flour (with more protein and gluten), high percentage chocolate, and instant yeast. Using products such as these can alter results and it’s simply not possible to write a recipe that includes variations for each kind of product that might be available in the diverse geographical regions of the world. So it’s up to you to use your best judgement and alter a recipe as necessary, to compensate for the variation in products. (You may wish to consult the manufacturer directly to get further directions on using their product.)

Realizing that people have various dislikes and dietary needs, here are some guidelines you might find useful when using my recipes on the site or in my Books. If you’re looking for more comprehensive information about baking ingredient substitutions, I’ve provided links at the end where you can find answers. Do remember that these are general guidelines and are not applicable to each and every recipe that exists. Home bakers are encouraged to experiment—especially those on restricted or special diets, because they’re often best educated on how to modify recipes to meet their particular dietary needs.

Spices

Spices are interchangeable in recipes. When I come up with spice amounts, they are to my personal taste and that which I think others will like. Reducing 2 teaspoons of cinnamon to 1 teaspoon won’t alter the way a cake or cookie turns out, but it won’t have the same oomph as the ones I did. However not everyone likes, say, cloves or other spices. So if you see a spice in a recipe you don’t like, you can omit it and perhaps dial up one of the other spices or flavors to compensate.

Gluten and Flours

In recipes that call for flour, I mean all-purpose flour. If I mean cake or bread flour, that will be noted. I’m not an expert on gluten-free baking and there are others who are so can’t advise about substitutions with specialty flours. King Arthur carries a gluten-free baking flour that they advise is a good swap for wheat flour. I haven’t used it so can’t confirm, but people who bake gluten-free likely have their own techniques for substituting wheat flour if you don’t wish to use a gluten-free flour mix, such as:

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Cherries in Red Wine Syrup

cherry compote

Where did the time go? I wanted to get one quick cherry recipe in before the season ended because I’m always scouting for ways to extend the unfairly short fresh cherry season. Plus I had some red wine leftover from another cooking project, a bulging sack of ripe cherries that the vendors were practically begging me to take off their hands (I know…it was kind of freaking me out, too), and a desire to make them last as long as I can.

So here’s how they ended up: in a compote that’s incredibly easy to make with the spiciness of red wine, a touch of vinegar to add a little je ne sais quoi, and a few minutes of stovetop cooking to transform them into sticky-sweet orbs with the concentrated flavor of summer cherries.

sugared cherries

The good thing is that at the end of the season, they are practically giving away cherries at my market and if you’ve got the time to pit ‘em, then more cherries for you wait as a reward.

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Stollen

stollen sliced & ready

I rarely make bread for reasons that should be obvious: it’s hard to justify spending the day at home mixing, kneading, and baking bread when you live in a city where there’s likely at least four very good bakeries within a two block radius. Unless, of course, it’s the middle of winter and the idea of braving 0º temperatures is less-than-appealing.

stollen dough in mixer stollen ingredients

Before the deep-chill set in this week, the previous week I was going to my dentist, and stopped in at the nearby Kayser bakery* (one might say I chose my dentist based on the proximity to that bakery, but I’ll deny it), and they were selling their terrific Stollen, which they make for the holidays. The small loaves cost only €3, which makes them, in my opinion, the best bargain in Paris.

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Pain d’épices Recipe

pain d'epice

It’s tough call, but I’d have to say that Flo Braker is my favorite baker in the world. Having known her for a few decades, I can’t think of another baker that I like more. And I won’t apologize to any other bakers out there, because I think they’d pretty much agree with me. When I was writing my first book, I remember leafing through her book, The Simple Art of Perfect Baking, amazed how this gorgeous, elegant woman had made cake-making such a seemingly simple affair. I was in awe.

Eventually I was lucky to meet Flo in person when we were wrapping boxes of chocolates and candies for a big benefit that Chez Panisse was organizing and we hit it off immediately.

So much so, that when my mother passed away, Flo called and said just two words to me: “You’re adopted.”

(Although she way rather coy when pressed for a move-in date….)

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