Month: March 2011


On dealing with nudity, hazelnut praline, and life in France – David Lebovitz

David Lebovitz lives a food-lover’s dream in Paris. His site is full of personal stories, incredible recipes, impromptu foodie tours, and insight into the blogging world. His gorgeous photography will make you hungry for brown bread ice cream, salted butter caramels, and strawberries turned into frozen yogurt. And that’s just the beginning. With David you can pick your poison. Want candied bacon ice cream? You’re in luck – he’s posted a recipe for it. Too tame? How about a scoop of absinthe ice cream? With recipes like that, you can imagine that he has a great sense of humor – which, I promise you, he does. As the accomplished author of The Sweet Life in Paris, Ready for Dessert, The Great Book of Chocolate, and more (check out his online store to see all his titles) – I thought you would enjoy hearing his thoughts on food, travel, and cooking. 1. What advice to you have for someone just learning to cook “foreign” food? Get advice from the locals. When I moved to France, I had no …

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Artisan French Bread (or diary of a bread-aholic)

Makes about 3 loaves My toes curled when I took my first bite of French bread – a baguette, still warm from the oven. Even years later – hundreds of baguettes later – I could not understand how my French friend, Julie, was able to restrict herself to one slice with dinner. Her entire family was that way – they’d had good bread their entire lives. I was unable to be so moderate. Entire baguettes could disappear into my belly in an afternoon. I gained 15 pounds living in Paris, around the skinniest girls in the world. In college I wrote a hundred pages all about the history of artisan bread in France. I was obsessed. The good news is I learned how to make pretty awesome bread at home. It takes 3 days, but each step is easy. There are two things which make French bread so amazing. 1) Flavor: Mixing the yeast with a little flour and water ahead of time gives a big flavor boost. This is called a poolish or preferment. Slow and cool yeast …

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Menu: France

The look on Ava’s face says it all – a child is never too young to help… to play in the kitchen… to experience the magic of food. Dear readers, thank you for reading.  You came, you voted, and now… without further ado, I present your French menu, sampler style. Thank you for making my belly happy and taking me on a journey back to Paris. Yesterday I laughed and cried. Looking forward to the rest of the week. Teardrop Onion Soup (French Onion Soup) [Recipe] This classic Parisian soup is made with little more than wine, water, and onions. We took our cue from Paris’ own Cordon Bleu and left out the beef stock. Instead, a little flour and butter gets mixed in for richness and texture. Fresh thyme adds depth, while a crusty crouton covered with a thin coating of gruyère makes everyone happy. Ratatouille [Recipe] Provençal vegetable stew made with eggplant, zucchini, sweet bell peppers, onions, tomatoes, and a healthy dose of olive oil. Enjoy it hot or cold. Artisan French Bread …

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About the food of France

I moved to Paris when I was 13, just weeks after my brother died. He was a year and a half older than me. His death was sudden and I was a mess. Paris was not so much a new chapter, as an entirely new book in my life. I wasn’t yet ready for hope, but the distraction of a foreign country proved perfect. When I stepped off the plane I was tired.  The air was thick and heavy and the cold stone of the surrounding buildings was grey, grey, grey. My French-speaking aunt greeted me with what else, but a cow’s tongue fresh from the meat market. She sliced it thinly and offered me a piece. “You must be hungry,” she said with a smile. I was taught to be polite and, so, politely, I declined. I blamed jet lag and fatigue but embarrassment took over. I went to bed and slept for 15 hours. Not even two weeks later, at a glamorous wedding, I faced my second food Adventure – the rarest piece of …

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Monday Meal Review: Finland

THE SCENE Rather abruptly, Ava threw up. She was in her room, but we could hear her all the way in the kitchen. Keith called out in a panic: “Sash, could you … come here?” I excused myself from our guests, bracing for what I knew would be a gruesome sight. Little did I know… Blueberries. Were. Everywhere. Ava, strangely enough, didn’t seem bothered in the slightest. She played with her baby doll while Keith and I scrubbed. Five minutes later I went back to the kitchen and assured Ruby and her husband, Nivantha, that things were totally fine. Of course the weren’t, but I what else was I supposed to say? That’s what hostesses who grab random strangers off the street do! Understandably, Ruby and her husband weren’t quite buying it and, out of politeness (and I’m sure a little self-preservation), they left. Finland was most definitely not to blame. Ava had systematically refused the mustard dill sauce and her cup of blueberry milk.  She wouldn’t even look at the rutabaga. The only thing she had …

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Maple-Glazed Rutabaga

Serves 2-4 You could glaze a hub cap and I’d eat it. The key is to make the glazed item tantalizingly sweet – leave a little mystery. I’m not into savory foods swimming in syrup. This Finnish recipe shows lovely restraint, striking a delicate balance. In fact, shortly after I took my first bite I decided to make this recipe as often as possible for the rest of my life. Rutabagas come from around northern Central Europe. Maple syrup and butter give the root the most addictive flavor and it makes a great side dish for salmon or roast chicken. A total eye opener. The technique would be lovely with any carb – carrots, potatoes, butternut squash – or even a hearty blend of them all. Ingredients: 2 lbs rutabaga (about 3 average rutabagas), peeled and cubed 4 Tbsp butter (1/2 stick) 1/8 cup maple syrup salt pepper Method: Dearest readers, meet the mighty rutabaga. Often passed up in the supermarket. Rarely grown at home. A gnarly thing of beauty. You’ll need to peel it and …

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Scandanavian Mustard & Dill Sauce

Makes about 1 1/2 cups Mustard-lovers unite. This tangy, spicy Scandinavian recipe goes great with meaty salmon. Take the time to buy really excellent mustard – the spicier the better. If you have leftovers try spreading a little on a sandwich. That’s what I did! Ingredients: 3/4 cup (7 oz) spicy dijon mustard 1 1/2 ounces fresh dill, stems removed and chopped (about 1 cup) 1/8 cup vinegar 1 tsp salt 1 1/2 tsp sugar 3/4 cup oil Method: First things first. Start a small herb garden and grow a mound of dill. You’ll be glad you did because this recipe calls for a lot. About 2 of those insanely expensive plastic containers the supermarkets carry. Once you have your dill, take the stems off. The chop it up nice and fine. Measure out the spiciest-mustard-you-can-find into a small bowl. I used a true Dijon, but take a gander in local specialty shops. I’m sure you’ll find something just as lovely. Add the vinegar. Mr Picky and I are so different. At this point he pinched …

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Finnish Blueberry Milk

Makes about 1 1/2 quarts The Finns are a healthy bunch. Between foraging for berries and milking cows, it is no wonder that they also enjoy slurping blueberry milk – an antioxidant rich powerhouse of a drink. Not to mention – it’s blue – an underutilized color in cooking. Pretty cool in my book. This recipe is adapted from The Best of Finnish Cooking. They used half as much milk than I did – which would make a thicker and much bluer mixture. Play around and see what works for you. Ingredients: 1 pint blueberries 1 quart milk 1-3 Tbsp sugar 1-2 cups ice Method: If you have the time, I highly recommend milking a cow for this recipe. There weren’t any available this weekend, so I had to use the old standby – supermarket cow. Whole milk is best. Borrow a small child to help make this recipe. Miss Ava ate more blueberries than she added to the blender, so – if you do – be sure to buy extra. Splash on the milk. …

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Oh Mämmi, do I have to?

Finns greet Easter with a goopy, black as tar dish called mämmi. If that’s not enough to entice you, let me see if I can adequately describe the flavor. It’s been described as a cross between Guinness and shoe paste. Even with such a distinct look and taste, mämmi is a tradition held seriously enough to warrant protection from the European Union. Making mämmi is no joke – first you mix rye flour with bitter orange peel, a hint of sweetener, and a few other ingredients. Boiling water gets mixed in and you slowly bake it in a warm oven. Slowly… as in for three hours. Then it has to be whipped until cool. Then it has to sit for a few days. I think there’s some repetition of steps in there somewhere. Finally, and most commonly, it gets served with a splash of cream and a bit of sugar. Phew. If grandma goes to the trouble to make you a batch of mämmi, you had better eat it with a smile – goup and …

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Cardamom Sweet Bread | Pulla

Makes 1 giant loaf (or as many smaller shapes as you’d like) Pulla is the ultimate Finnish bread dough. Feeling sad? Shape it into a teardrop. Feeling confused? Twist the heck out of it. Feeling like Pippi Longstocking? Braid it! Feeling creative? Shape it into men, women and children. Feeling pregnant? Just make little buns, baby! There’s also plenty of choice in regard to flavorings. Pulla always tastes of glorious cardamom. After that? You can leave it plain or fill it. Sweeten life up with a bit of brown sugar, butter, and spices (that’s what we opted for in this recipe), or get things movin’ with some prune filling. You can even fill it after baking with a bit of jam and whipped cream. Usually this is assembled “hamburger style” with a bun sliced in half and whipped cream gilding the outer edges of a jam-burger. What to expect: No matter how you handle it, pulla should not be anywhere as sweet as a cinnamon roll. The soft, rich dough is quite a bit more …

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Menu: Finland

I always wince a little when I tell a native about the food I chose to represent their country. I wait for the hammer to drop – for them to tell me “no one eats that food!” Or “good job stereotyping my country!” When I met Ruby, my new half-Finnish friend, I had already been to the grocery store and purchased what I needed for this menu. The thought of changing plans exhausted me. When she asked me what I was making, I almost didn’t tell her. I almost ran away. For some reason I didn’t. I got lots of excited nods, especially when I got to the Pulla. Oh, what a relief.  But my luck changed when I got to the blueberry milk. She shook her head slowly. I panicked. My mind raced – what could I make instead? Thankfully her mother stepped in to clear things up. Blueberry milk really is authentic. It’s just not something that she had growing up in her house. Phew, crisis averted. Funny how localized food can be, …

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About the food of Finland

This past Saturday, while at a baby dance class – in between pretending to be a turtle and an elephant, I met a woman. Her name is Ruby and she’s half Finnish. To be fair, I had no idea she was Finnish and it isn’t why I started talking to her. Of course, once I found out her origins, I immediately took her home to cook with me. Mr Picky was okay with it – as long as he got to eat. While we cooked, Ruby told me lots of neat things about Finland (did you know they are one of the healthiest countries in the world?), but she didn’t tell me that it is home to the world’s largest ice castle. Or about Rudolph. You know, that cute glow-nosed creature from your childhood? Well, head to Finland and you just might meet him – on your plate. This arctic country has made an art out of reindeer stew, served piping hot with a bit of lingonberry jam on the side. Perhaps Ruby didn’t share …

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