Summer in France means a lot of things in France. En masse vacations, a blissfully empty Paris, price increases (which notoriously happen during August, when everyone is out of town – of course), and vide-greniers and brocantes, known elsewhere as flea markets, where people sell all kinds of things. If you’re lucky enough to take a trip to the countryside, the brocantes are amazing. But some small towns in France also have little antique shops that are always worth poking around in. And when your other half has a station wagon, well, the possibilities are endless. (And sometimes voluminous!)
Results tagged strawberries from David Lebovitz
One of the things about the French that’s pretty well-known is that they certainly enjoy their wine. While statistics point to declining sales and consumption, I’d still dare to say that wine plays a very important role in French culture, as well as an integral part of its cuisine. And for that second one, I’m especially grateful.
I like wine, and being from California – and working in restaurants all of my life – I’m certainly no stranger to the pleasures of “the grape.” But even though wine has been simplified in America to boost consumption, such as wines with fruit-flavorings (I guess ‘grape-flavored’ wine isn’t enticing enough), there still is a bit of elitism associated with le vin. Yet in France, wine is no big deal and the wine aisle at the supermarket is just as big, if not bigger, than the mustard, coffee, paper towel, vinegar, sterilized milk, pasta, cereal, baby food, jam, and rice cake aisles – combined. It even threatens the yogurt selection in terms of scope, variety, and flavors.
While they’re working on my kitchen, I had no idea how much I would miss cooking. It’s not just because cooking and baking are what I do work-wise, but the ritual of going to the market in Paris and buying whatever catches my eye has become an integral part of my life. When I see lemons from Provence with their leaves attached or the first shiny-crimson strawberries of spring, it’s hard to not stop and buy some when I know I could (or should) be at home making a tangy lemon tart or fixing myself a nice bowl of berries for breakfast in the morning.
Since I don’t even have a whisk at the moment (even though I have about ten stored somewhere in all my boxes…) I went out and bought one just to make something, because I was going a little berserk. Proving that you don’t need an arsenal of fancy equipment – or even a whole bunch of hard-to-get ingredients – I decided to whip up a batch of frothy sabayon to spoon over some strawberries I picked up at the Barbès market.
In Paris, a city full of spectacular pastry shops, it really takes something major to grab me by the shoulders and shake me to attention. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the other ones, but when you see something as jaw-dropping as the pastries at Café Pouchkine, you can’t help but stop and stand at full attention.
When I worked as a baker in California, we’d get three flats of fraises des bois (“strawberries of the woods”, or wild strawberries) for a few precious weeks in the summer, cultivated by a woman who lived about an hour north of San Francisco. Each intensely flavored berry, no bigger than the tip of a pencil eraser, had to be hand-picked and took someone nearly an hour to collect one basket’s worth of them. I don’t remember the exact price of each basket that we paid (was it $6 ?), but they were expensive back in the 80s. Added to that, you must use fraises the bois the same day you get them because they break down pretty quickly, and by the next day, it’s too late to serve them fresh. A few times when I drove up there to pick them up, the heady smell of the tiny, wild strawberries in my car drove me nearly insane.
(I’d often stop on the way home from work really late at night to pick up some local barbecue, and that had the same effect. More than once, I’d have to pull over the grab a rib because the smell driving home was driving me out of my mind, which – I guess – seems to be a theme in my life…the losing my mind part, not just the driving around with food in the car business.)
I was scrolling through Twitter recently and one of the folks that I follow mentioned “Strawberry Vodka.” Normally fruit-flavored vodka wouldn’t interest me, I was happy to hear about a simple recipe and technique from Sean Timberlake of Punk Domestics, and since it was strawberry season and my market was bursting with fresh berries, I decided to give it a go.
I made it myself the following day and it was quick, and wonderful. The flavor of the vodka is like drinking syrupy berries in their prime with a kick of alcohol in the aftermath, and it could not be easier to make. It makes a great summer drink; just add an ice cube or two, and you’re ready to sip! I asked Sean if he’d like to write it up as a guest post to share, and he happily agreed. Thanks for sharing, Sean… – David
by Sean Timberlake of Punk Domestics
Vodka infusions were my gateway drug to DIY (Do-It-Yourself) food. And once I had been bitten by the cooking bug, I discovered ways of imparting flavors into bland, neutral vodka to produce something utterly new. The technique is almost the opposite of cooking: When you cook, the magic ingredient is heat. With infusions and liqueurs, the magic ingredient is time.
I was thinking of having “If you change the ingredients in a recipe, results will vary” tattooed on my forehead, but there wasn’t enough room. (Although if my hairline keeps receding at this rapid pace, it may happen sooner than you think.) When I used to teach classes, folks were always wanting to tinker with recipes, especially ice cream, replacing the cream with what-have-you. Or to replace the sugar with something else. I’m not sure why, because I spend an inordinate amount of my life developing and testing recipes to get them just right.
Unless I’ve personally tested it, it’s pretty hard to give my nod of approval and tell what will and what won’t work in recipes, especially when it comes to swapping out sweeteners and dairy products since their counterparts behave quite differently than one might think. Ice cream, of course, depends on cream to give it that particular texture and flavor. But I do like and use non-dairy alternatives at home on occasion and saw no reason why I couldn’t churn up a batch of ice cream without a drop of dairy.
Do you know what media training is? If you don’t, it’s when they teach people to behave on television and radio. They work with politicians, business executives, and, of course, in this day and age, they work with a lot people (and I mean, a lot…) that are involved in corporate and celebrity crisis control. But there’s a special group of media trainers that teach you how to cook on television, which is trickier than just sitting there getting grilled by Stephen Colbert, I’m sure of that.
Cooking on tv is much harder, because instead of just sitting there having a casual chat, you need to be fielding all sorts of goofy questions at the same time as measuring out and explaining fourteen different ingredients to the weatherman, wondering where that damn spatula is and how you’re going to fold egg whites without one, cursing yourself because you forgot to turn off your cell which is vibrating like mad in your back pocket, trying to get the name of the book you’re supposed to be promoting into the conversation when the seriously-skinny host only wants to talk about her diet, and watching out of the corner of your eye because the camera crew is impatiently waiting for you to finish so they can pounce on your brownies.
About ten years ago I had media training, a one-on-one weekend where it was just me and the media trainer—who basically yelled at me for 48 hours, non-stop.
In fact, I think he blew out my left eardrum.