January 2016 Newsletter Yes, I remembered to change the date today to 2016. So happy new year, or bonne fin d'année to all. (In France, you wish Happ

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January 2016 Newsletter

pics cheese and bread

Yes, I remembered to change the date today to 2016. So happy new year, or bonne fin d'année to all. (In France, you wish Happy New Year after December 31st.) It's been unseasonably warm in Paris which was fine with me, for a while. But I miss the cooler weather, when people head indoors - and, yup, you have an excuse to eat richer foods like Mimolette cheese (above), an aged beauty that I couldn't resist from the women who sell cheese at my market, who were happy to lop off that nice hunk for me.

January is also the season for Galette de rois, a Kings Cake made of puff pastry and filled with frangipan. In parts of France, they often make a yeasted ring-version studded with candied fruits. But I have to say, I'm partial to the puff pastry ones and am heading over to Sabah, one of my favorite stops for nuts and dried fruits in Paris, to get ground almonds for the filling.

mortar and pestle-2

I was delighted that the New York Times featured me, and my mortar and pestle, in a recent story: For David Lebovitz, a Mortar and Pestle Trumps Any Gadget. I do have knives, a blender, a stand mixer, and a food processor in my kitchen, but it's that granite mortar and pestle that is always within arm's reach.

I have a collection of vintage French porcelain ones that are lovely, but the Thai number I have (above) is the one I use often. I picked it up over a decade ago in the 13th, one of the Chinatowns in Paris, and lugged it all the way home on the crowded métro. That was a challenge - thank goodness that thing is indestructable!

A few people asked me, "How do you clean it?" on social media, which gave me pause as several others responded that you should never wash it with soap, and treat it like a delicate utensil. I was surprised because my mortar is granite, a hard rock from the ground that faces the elements - wind, rain, sleet, and hail, and I doubt people go up in the quarries and cover up all the granite to protect it from water and so forth in inclement weather : )

hummus recipe-4

There's no reason to treat your mortar and pestle like a hallowed jewel. Chill, folks. I use my mortar and pestle for everything from pounding out a batch of fig tapenade to grinding coarse French grey salt into smaller crystals. Speaking of salt, I recently Snapchatted a French appetizer spread recipe and discussed the different kinds of salts that I use, and why. (If you want to follow me on Snapchat, I'm at davidlebovitz.)

It sounds a little funny to go on and on about something as simple as salt, but as a cook, it's something I reach for dozens of times a day when I'm cooking and I'm passionate about which one(s) I use. But in case people think sea salt is "fancy," the one I use costs about €1,50 per pound and that bag lasts me probably a year.

Speaking of cooking, I've got a few recipes on the docket for the blog coming up, including chewy chocolate chip bars, a Middle Eastern-based chocolate recipe, and a beguiling cocktail suggested by a reader that is going on permanent rotation in 2016. The first one I had knocked me for a loop, but like the French do, I'm going to practice modération in 2016. Well, at least for January. And we'll see how it goes from there...

- David


Two Terrific Paris Dining Addresses

2 cygnes wine bar

Two places I'm mentioning this month couldn't be more different. The first is Aux Deux Cygnes (36, rue Keller, 11th) wine bar. This sweet little wine spot features natural wines, which admittedly, are more challenging to drink that standard wines. Often made without yeast or sulfites, they can be "wild" and unpredictable. But they can be interesting, too - if you have an open mind - and are a welcome break from traditional wines.

2 cygnes

We had a warm welcome by the server and were offered a taste of the wines available by the glass before they actually filled the glass, which was a nice touch. We started with a natural French sparkling wine before moving on to trying a few others. But what sets Aux Deux Cygnes apart from other wine bars in Paris is that the small plates on offer have a Vietnamese bent and incorporate the flavors of Vietnamese cooking.

We had a lovely rillettes of hake (fish) with peanuts and herb salad (€10, at right), tender beef cheeks braissed with carrots, Thai basil, and star anise (€12), which the chef told me was her mother's recipe - which is why it was so good! - and a salad of roasted beets marinated in ginger, sherry vinegar, mint, and tahini. All were excellent.

Half of the assiettes à partager (sharing plates) were vegetarian/vegan, and all were priced between €7,50 - €12...and let me tell you, it was nice to go a wine bar with as vegetarian friend and be able to order something other than a plate of cheeses, which they do offer as well. I really liked this casual, off-beat address, and will be back for more nibbling and sipping.

Daniel Rose restaurant

So many people come to Paris in search of classic French cooking and are disappointed that a number of the traditional bistros have seen better days. The interiors may be lovely, but the food leaves something to be desired. La Bourse et La Vie (12 rue Vivienne, 2nd) is the newest restaurant from Daniel Rose, who turned the ship in another direction in Paris dining by opening Spring, offering a fresh, vivid, and modern menu that took cues from French cuisine, and become a big hit. The restaurant grew and moved to more upscale quarters, but La Bourse et La Vie sticks to traditional cuisine française.

I had a lovely dinner with good friends, starting the Normandy oysters gratinées(€14, above, right), while a friend attacked 3 massive slabs of foie gras with onion marmalade (€15). I was the only one at the table who didn't order the Steak frites (€26) with salad tossed with anchovy vinaigrette but was engrossed in my Pot-au-feu de veau (€28, above, lower left), which started with a crusty disk of tête de veau, then continued with me picking through a copper pot brought to the table of tender veal sliced, a bone full of marrow, with carrots, turnips and plenty of fresh herbs.

The meal was great, but what really brought the table to a halt was the crème caramel (€6), which was perfect - not too sweet, rich with vanilla bean, and served icy-cold. We also shared a tarte Tatin (€9) which came out warm with a runny pool of crème liquide, which also got devoured along with complimentary glasses of Calvados, before we headed out happy...and full.


Favorite Posts from My Blog

Mint pesto recipe-5

Some favorite recipes and posts from last month:

-A video visit to chocolatier Jacques Genin in Paris. Join me behind the scenes with the chef at one of Paris' most exquisite pastry and chocolate boutiques.

-A big bunch of mint was the inspiration for a batch of mint pesto, which got served on Christmas Day for dinner chez moi, with roasted leg of lamb. Leftovers were excellent tossed with fresh pasta.

-Chicken in red wine vinegar is a French bistro classic, and a simple one-pan supper.

-This cream cheese topped beauty was one of the best cheesecakes I've ever had. I made it in New York and it beat anything I found elsewhere in the boroughs.

-Although a little late for gift-giving, my year-end Things I'm Liking post featured things, from a couple of cookbooks to a quirky cord-catcher, that caught my attention in 2015.

I've also updated a few classic recipes in my archives:

-A classic Italian fruitcake with a hint of spices, lots of chocolate, nuts and dried fruit, Panforte lasts long after the holidays, even in my house. (Where anything edible is fair game, 24/7.)

-I love hummus and have been making it since the hippy-dippy days of the 80's. (And somewhere, I have the pictures of me back then with crazy hair and bell bottoms to prove it!) I now make a more refined version, which is featured in my book, My Paris Kitchen, but this version of hummus is also a winner.

-Cheesecake and brownies come together in cheesecake brownies. These deep-dark chocolate-based treats have a thick layer of tangy cheesecake swirled on top. You'll love 'em.

See you next month...

- David

My Paris Kitchen hi res
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