We got a tree, a Christmas tree, and it’s my first one–Rabbi Schlomo, plug your ears–and it’s making our apartment seem so festive. Somehow I thought getting a tree would be a big ordeal: with the lights and the stand and the balls and the baubles. But, actually, it was a totally easy process. On the advice of my friend John, we went to the Target in Eagle Rock where we stocked up on all the tree necessities (a tree skirt, to attract male trees; lights, balls, etc.) and then we bought a tree right outside at a pop-up tree farm. The tree came on a stand so we just carried it through the door, stood it up, and started wiring the lights. Voila. Now all we had to do was to have people over to enjoy the tree, which is why I spent some time figuring out the perfect December menu.
We’ll Always Have Paris: With Meals at Restaurant Miroir, Jacques Genin, Le 6 Paul Bert, Little Breizh, and Chez L’Ami Jean
I had a reason for not wanting to go to Paris, this trip, and it was both very stupid and very sweet. Namely, I love Paris so much, I didn’t want to go there again without Craig. Lest you forget, we’d gone together to the Edinburgh Film Festival, he left that Sunday for the Nantucket Film Festival, and I ducked down to London where I ate myself silly and saw lots of theater. I could’ve stayed there for the rest of the week, reconnecting with him in Munich (where I am now) for the Munich Film Festival, only our friends Mark and Diana were in Paris that same week and kept imploring me to come join them. “You’ve already been to Paris without Craig,” said Mark. “What’s the difference?” It was a powerful point. And so, before I knew it, I’d bought a one-way ticket for the Chunnel and figured I’d continue my way from Paris to Germany with a stop in Strasbourg, right on the border of France. When you see what I ate along the way, you’ll agree that this decision should’ve been a no-brainer right from the start.
Many moons ago, a man in Paris wrote me an e-mail and told me about his food blog with a link at the bottom. I clicked it dubiously–we food bloggers get e-mails like this all the time–only when I clicked, the blog it took me to was unusually impressive. More importantly, the man behind it wasn’t just some striving up-and-comer, he was the former pastry chef at Chez Panisse and the author of several books. His name, as you are all aware, was David Lebovitz and soon after that early exchange we became friends: I visited him in Paris, he visited me in New York. We figured out food blogging together. And then a funny thing happened: he become wildly famous. People line up around city blocks to meet him and the David who was relatively obscure ten years ago is now an international phenomenon. What’s so great about it is that David is so deserving of his success; he’s a terrific cook, yes, and a wonderful writer, but what makes people love him so much, I think, is his heart. You can feel it beating in all of his work–on his blog, in his recipes, even on Twitter–but never has it been better represented than it is in his new, absolutely stunning cookbook My Paris Kitchen. It’s the kind of cookbook you need to rush out and get right now.
I almost titled this post Salad Not-çoise because my starting point, with the recipe, was David Lebovitz’s blog post where he beautifully describes a salad–an authentic Niçoise–that is nothing like the one I ended up making. In fact, David might be horrified by the one I made, especially since he quotes Jacques Médecin, the authority on Provencal cuisine, as saying: “Never, never, I beg you, include boiled potato or any other boiled vegetable in your Salade Niçoise.” Shield your eyes, then, David and Monsieur Médecin. What you’re about to see may disturb you.
It’s time to admit that my love affair with chickpeas has gone too far. Not only did I post about making a big pot of chickpeas a week ago, and also a salad of roasted beets, carrots and chickpeas that week, I already have another chickpea dish to blog about coming up–one with tomatoes, basil and zucchini. I need to be stopped. But what’s this I see at my local fancy supermarket? A bag of chickpea flour? Chickpea FLOUR? Oh my, I think I need to buy this. I think I need to make something with this. CHICKPEA FLOUR. I’m sold.
I think this happened last Saturday, but let’s pretend it was Sunday because “Sunday Morning Kumquat Jam” sounds better than “Saturday Morning Kumquat Jam.” Having made my coffee, and contemplating breakfast, I stared at the leftover kumquats sitting in a mesh bag on my counter. They were starting to wrinkle a bit, losing their potency. I’d been snacking on them all week (when not using them to garnish cauliflower), popping whole kumquats into my mouth and puckering my lips at the ensuing sour squirt. You can even eat the seeds which I did enough times there may be a kumquat tree growing in my abdomen. I thought to myself, “These kumquats would make a mighty good jam because they’re so sour.” Then, before I knew what was happening, I started improvising a jam on the spot.
If you’ve ever seen “Fiddler On The Roof,” you probably know the term “yenta.” A yenta, in Yiddish, is a busybody, a meddler; in “Fiddler,” though, she’s a specific person, a matchmaker.
My whole life, I’ve always been something of a yenta. I love to get involved with people’s life decisions, telling people where to work, where to live, who to date. I’m kind of annoying that way. Which is why, over the years, I’ve pulled back a bit and let people lead the lives they want to lead, not getting too involved. And as far as matchmaking, occasionally I’ll set people up–I have some successes under my belt, some disasters too–though now I think I’m better off applying my skills to food: which is why I decided to pair pineapple upside-down cake with homemade toasted coconut ice cream.
I suppose I must really like a challenge because, on the night that I made the bouillabaisse, I also attempted a famously difficult dessert: Lindsey Shere’s Almond Tart.
Lindsey Shere, in case you don’t know, helped open Chez Panisse in 1971 and stayed there as pastry chef until 1998. I first heard about her famous almond tart on my trip to San Francisco in 2007; I think it was at a place called Jojo in Oakland, with my friends Derrick and Melissa, that I first heard tell about it. The word “legendary” might’ve been applied.