A few years ago, a good friend who has sadly moved away, was kind enough to take me to Restaurant Le Meurice for dinner. The first memory of walking into the done-up dining room was the way the waiters brought her an Hermès stool for her purse, which was an Hermès Kelly bag. The second memory I have, was shortly after when we sat down and they asked if we wanted apéritifs. I’d heard about the house apéritif they were serving back then, which was famous, so I ordered one.
Results tagged vegetables from David Lebovitz
When I met Maya Marom in Tel Aviv, she handed me a box of spices and flavorings, which meant that when I returned home, I could recreate many of the wonderful dishes that I enjoyed there. The best things I had in my travels were the salads loaded with fresh vegetables, which are served at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and are especially welcome when the temperature climbs in the summertime.
Maya was born in Arizona, but moved to Israel when she was three months old. She is a self-taught cook and baker, and has a gorgeous blog, Bazekalim as well as self-publishing her own food magazine. When she invited me over for lunch, she prepared what’s known as Israeli salad in her country; a finely chopped mixture of raw vegetables doused in a lively dressing with a typically Israeli flourish of lots of fresh herbs, chopped and mixed in at the last minute. She also adds toasted seeds and nuts, which gives the salad even more crunch.
I love fresh, brightly flavored salads like these, and she was kind enough to share it in a guest post. It can be varied to use whatever fresh vegetables are available where you live. Thanks Maya! – David
Israel is a land of immigrants. While most of my friends were born here, their grandparents were born in places like Iraq, Russia, Yemen, Morocco, Poland, or even Romania – like mine. So it’s not uncommon for dinner tables to include a mix of Lebanese, Italian, and Bulgarian cuisine, all at once. Everyone will happily mix everything in their plate, and will make a point of explaining to you how authentic their grandmother’s food is, and how it is better than yours.
As 2011 draws to a close, I look at the stack of books that I’ve collected on my bookshelf (and piled up on my floor…and beside my bed, and stacked in my kitchen…) and wonder how I’m going to cook and bake from them all. I just can’t help it, though—I love cookbooks. And these are the books that I couldn’t resist tackling in 2011, although a few are filled with bookmarks intended for future dinners and desserts, and blog posts. Some are traditional books bound with nice paper, filled with recipes, others are food-related books; memoirs and remembrances. And there are a few entries I’ve chosen that push the boundaries of traditional text, electronically and otherwise.
This year, I found myself drawn to cookbooks with a story to tell, not just mere collections of recipes. Books with a distinct point of view by an author, and essays which took me beyond the page and into their lives, which veered in some rather compelling directions. A few of the books were chef’s memoirs, which I did include even though they don’t have recipes. But something about them added to the canon of cookery books I have and referenced cooking in ways I wasn’t expecting.
Because I live abroad and have limited storage space (and deliveries can be a challenge), I wasn’t able to procure all the books that I wanted to. But this year saw a big uptick in publishers – and readers – jumping onto the e-book bandwagon. While not everyone wants to cook from a computer screen, one advantage is that foreign cookbooks, or out-of-print titles, may have new lives and can downloaded anywhere in the world within seconds.
It’s interesting reading some of the talk regarding if the internet is ready to replace cookbooks. Sure, there are people furiously clicking around wherever they can for a chocolate cake recipe. And there are hundreds of thousands of chocolate cake recipes that you can find using a search engine. But to me, that’s not enough. When I want to spend my precious time and funds making something to eat, I don’t want to merely find a recipe. There’s nothing compelling about a downloadable list of ingredients. It just leaves me cold. I want the author or writer to tell me about the recipe, what inspired them to create it, or how it came about.
I want to know why someone chose that recipe, what twists they gave it, what made the cake or casserole they were making so special to them that they wanted to share it. Was it an unusual ingredient? Did they like the description they read of it elsewhere? Were they inquisitive about how a root vegetable from their garden could make its way into a chocolate cake?
I was a big fan of Ottolenghi even before I stepped into one of their restaurants. When I got a copy of Yotam Ottolenghi’s first book, I was blown away by the photographs of gorgeous dishes, heaped with generous amounts of fresh chopped herbs, irregularly cut vegetables often seared and caramelized, and roasted, juicy meats accented with citrus or unexpected spices, usually with a Middle Eastern bent. The bold, big flavors came bounding through the pages and appealed to me as both a diner and a cook.
Americans have a reputation for not eating very well which is disputed by the fact that whenever I have a group of guests come to Paris, everyone is always craving fresh vegetables. Another interesting paradox is that portions in America are huge, yet Americans who come to France (where the portions are more reasonable) find themselves quickly full when dining out. And after a couple of days, they start begging away from heartier fare in search of a big bowl or plate of vegetables or a large salad, one with lots of vegetables in it.
People and restaurants in Paris don’t eat or serve raw vegetables much, except in les crudités – usually a trio of simple salads of grated carrots, celery remoulade, wedges of tomatoes, cucumbers, or sometimes even some beets tossed in dressing. Which aren’t technically raw (unless they’re grated), but sticklers are welcome to raise a fuss with the locals if they so desire. But with everyone on le régime (a diet) around here, you’d think vegetables would be more popular.
When I was in Nice a few months ago with my friends Adam and Matt, I wanted to show them some of the more unusual local specialties, ones you wouldn’t come across unless you were actually in a certain region. French cooking is very regional, which is why you won’t find bouillabaisse in Paris or all that many macarons in Nice. And a lot of people visiting a certain town or city might not be familiar with some of the more unusual things that are only available there, like Socca or Panisses, simply because no one would think about eating them outside of the area where they originated.
In case you’re wondering, you can’t make a Tourte de blettes without Swiss chard (blettes). For one thing, if you did, then it wouldn’t be Swiss chard tart. So get that notion out of your head right now. And believe me, if you can’t find chard, I feel your pain. One fine morning at the market, I bought my big, beautiful bunch of chard from a big pile at the market to make this tart.
About a year ago, I was having supper in a friend’s apartment and everything we ate was simple, and tasted really good. He’d lived on a farm near Toulouse for many years, where he worked for one of France’s agricultural organizations. Now he lives in Paris and I was surprised when he told me that the onions we were eating on the tart he’d made were from a panier, or a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) box.
He gets a weekly panier from Les Paniers du Val de Loire. I kept hemming and hawing, thinking how nice it was to shop at my local market and pick out everything myself. But I finally signed up a couple of weeks ago, and got my first panier yesterday.
Living in San Francisco and working closely with a lot of farmers and small-producers in my restaurant career, I have a weakness for hard-working small producers who are trying to do the right thing. I remember a woman showing up at our back door with a box of amazing French butter pears, asking us if she planted more trees, would we would buy them? (We took a bite and said that we’d take any and all that she wanted to bring us, a promise we made good on.) I remember an organic dairy sending us their first samples, and customer reaction made us realize that people weren’t ready for the strong taste of farm-fresh dairy products.
And there was Mr. Hadsell, a frail old man who could barely walk, who’d open the kitchen screen door and shuffle inside, balancing a few flats of just-picked raspberries from his backyard. You could feel the warmth of the sun radiating from each basket of plump, perfect berries. Those were the best raspberries I ever had in my life and I hope the lucky customers that got them felt the same.
But elsewhere, it can be an uphill battle to find just-picked, fresh produce, even in a country with strong ties to its agricultural traditions, like France.