Dreaming about living – and eating – in Paris?
Instead of waiting for those dreams to come true, pick up David Lebovitz‘s My Paris Kitchen (Ten Speed 2014). You’ll get the views, the markets, and the food – which, with a little luck, you can make in your own kitchen. David writes about his personal cuisine – shaped by Northern California, travels, and the market- well illustrated by the photographs of Ed Anderson.
He starts with the kitchen:
As a former professional cook, I know that the most important person in the kitchen is the one who washes the dishes, and the sink is the hub of any and all activity. When I sat down to plan my kitchen in Paris, the only thing I knew for sure was that I wanted a sink that was big and generous enough to wash vegetables and large pots and pans in. I had visions of standing over one of those French farmhouse sinks, those gleaming porcelain beauties that you fill with water to take care of the aftermath of a good meal, or an afternoon of cooking. (p. 8)
It wasn’t easy finding that farmhouse sink, but David is persistent and manages to find one – picking up moules frites along the way. His stories, along with insights into recipes and eating in France make for a very readable cookbook. He covers ingredients, equipment, and the difference between how Americans and French write and follow recipes – all with equal clarity and perception.
The French start off a dinner party with a bite of something and a glass of wine or two. My Paris Kitchen has more then enough good recipes for appetizers to banish store bought, boring, tasteless nibbles. David’s Salted Olive Crisps (p. 42) do very nicely. It’s a quick soda bread made with toasted almonds and olives and herbes de Provence. You bake the bread, slice it, and then bake the slices so they become brown and crisp. More unusual, Buckwheat Rolls with Seaweed (p. 47) and Indian Cheese Bread (p. 50) are playful, salty snacks that are easy to make ahead of time, before guests arrive. Read the essay on Ice is Nice (as in the city) about trying new things, in this case rose wine served over ice with Pissaladiere, an onion, garlic, anchovy, and olive tart. It’s all about salty things served with refreshing alcoholic things (wine or beer) to encourage a good appetite and get a party going.
David is a baker, so the best recipes are ones involving his approach to French baking – whether its sweet or savory. There are several recipes for Madeleines, the wonderful buttery cakes that are best made at home and enjoyed warm. David writes quite a lot about achieving a hump – or not- and the joy of eating either version.
My Paris Kitchen is a great book to cart with you to your country house – or to offer up to your host. It is full of food and the joys of entertaining and being entertained – and even doing the dishes afterwards.