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November 2023 Newsletter
You don’t need me to tell you that it’s been a tough month. I mentioned in my post, La rentrée, about our summer trip to Jerusalem that there was a palpable tension you could feel in the city, a city divided by religion, language, culture, and walls and fences, and the melting pot boiled over.
I’ve had to re-write this newsletter a few times as everything is unfolding and changing rapidly, and it was time to hit the Send button. People were asking me to chime in (on both sides), and I know from experience that no matter what one says, it’s fuel for debate. I’m not certain the problems are going to be resolved in Instagram comments or on Twitter. (I still can’t call it X, sorry.)
There’s a lot to digest, and it’s hard to know what to say when so much is incomprehensible. I’ve had very meaningful discussions with friends and acquaintances who aren’t necessarily on the same side, but other points of view are helpful. If we don’t hear them, how will we grow and change? So I’ve been reading a lot of well-balanced articles and listening to those who are closely impacted.
Bakers have become especially important, and aid workers work furiously to get flour and grains to people in need. Bread used to be called the staff of life, so if you’re looking for a place to help, the World Central Kitchen is an impartial organization whose mission is just to feed people in need. Period.
Here at home, I’ve been taking a fresh look at my spices and seasonings, which come from all over the world, and all reside together in my kitchen. If only we humans could do the same.
Just outside of my kitchen, this is the second year we’ve had a garden, which is bigger than our apartment. Paris isn’t the ideal growing climate for a number of things, but I had luck growing jalapeño peppers, ending up with a handful of them. Not sure if that’s a win or not, but they looked so beautiful on the vines that it was hard to cut them down.
If you leave them on the vines longer, they’ll eventually turn red and get hotter, which was news to me. I ended up pickling them (recipe here) with carrots and onions and plan to use them during the chilly winter that’s just around the corner, when I make Mexican food to heat things up.
Oddly, the Espelette peppers I grew, which are not known for being spicy (they rank 4 on a scale of 1 to 10), ended up being very, very hot. The little piece I tasted burned the heck out of my mouth, which even chugging a glass of milk couldn’t quell.
So with those, I made fermented chile sauce from one of the less-involved recipes that I found online, which I can’t find the link to. But there are some out there that are a little more involved, and if I plant Espelette peppers next year, I might give one of those a try. However, since the final price for the little half-bottle of hot sauce I made (which is about 1/2 cup, 120ml) probably ended up costing me about $125 in time and labor, I may just stick to buying hot sauce in the future. Hot sauce isn’t exactly a go-to condiment in France, so any ideas for what to do with some very, very hot sauce, I’m all ears…
Our cherry tomatoes are finally at the end of the season. Last spring, I searched for Sungolds and Sweet 100s in France, which are really good cherry tomatoes that I’ve had in the U.S. These ended up being fine, but not mind-blowing, so am not sure about their true provenance.
Last year the plants Romain got at the hardware store in Paris gave us tons of cherry tomatoes, and I harvested the green cherry tomatoes that were hanging on at the end of the season to make two jars of Green Tomato-Apple Chutney. But I’m learning that gardening in Paris is also about patience, as you wait and see what works, and what doesn’t.
The few kiwifruits that did appear never got bigger than grapes, and a friend who’s a master gardener told me that we need to find a male kiwifruit tree to fertilize her. So next year I need to play matchmaker, although the word arbre (tree) is masculine in French, so I need to find the word for a female tree. Arbra?
And fig season ended with a dud. 98% of the figs were gobbled up by the birds, although my friend Alison from Abricot bar in Paris came by and clipped some fig leaves to make fig leaf margaritas for her bar, which sounds good to me. And the Meyer lemons (above) are starting to ripen, so I hope to have a dozen of those to brighten things up a little around here now that daylight saving time has descended upon us. I’m already looking forward to next spring, when we can set our clocks ahead, and perhaps the world will be a better place by then, for all.
Some Paris Books by Friends
Happy that some friends have new books out, or in the works…
I just finished The French Ingredient by Jane Bertch about how she created a French cooking school in Paris as an American. It wasn’t her career path, and she weathered everything from grêves and gilets (strikes and yellow vest protests) to viruses, voisins (neighbors), and volcanos. It’s insightful, funny, and…here’s a spoiler: I’m in the book! It’s available for pre-order now.
Emily Gaudichon, a mom of three who works with me, wrote a new children’s book: The Parisian ABCs, with charming illustrations by Sarah Vesperini. It’s a light-hearted, family-friendly look at daily life in Paris, which begins with A for Apéro: mom and dad’s favorite time of the day.
Although we’ve never met, I’ve been an admirer and fan of François-Régis Gaudry, who hosts a popular radio program in France about food and is the author of Let’s Eat France, one of the best—and certainly the most fun—books about French cuisine that I own.
His latest book is Let’s Eat Paris, which clocks in at 400 pages, with stories about everything that’s ever been edible in Paris, including the bread bed Lionel Poilâne baked for Salvador Dalí and where to get the best Jambon beurre sandwich and croissant in Paris, as well as recipes for Tarte Bourdaloue, Pot-au-feu, French onion soup, Financiers, and more French favorites.
Another book that’s available for pre-order is Niçoise by Rosa Jackson, owner of Les Petits Farçis cooking school in Nice. I begged her to write this book since no one knows Niçoise cuisine like Rosa, and I’m happy to say, she’s written a wonderful cookbook that captures the joy and flavors of the sun-drenched south of France.
Links I’m Liking
Friend and cookbook author Casey Elsass says his favorite meal in Paris is—um, a hot dog…and he was a vegetarian when I met him. (Bon Appétit)
A Sri Lankan baker won the award for baking the best baguette in Paris this year but isn’t interested in citizenship. (NYT/article unlocked)
Want to give baguettes a go at home?shows how to make baguettes…and makes it look easy. (The Boy Who Bakes)
…and just to make things more confusing, now there’s baking salt. (Eater via)
Looking for French Picon Amer in America? Forthave Spirits created THREE, a golden bitter liqueur fortified with caramelized oranges, elderflowers, and rose hips. Perfect to use in a Brooklyn cocktail. (via Brad Thomas Parsons at)
French bakers have been told to lower the salt in their baguettes. (INDO+NY)
A three-hour cassoulet? Yes! with a recipe via
Favorite Winter Recipes
No need to fret about what fruit is in season. Bananas are available year-round and make an impressively bronzed topping for Caramelized Banana Cake. The cake wows when it’s brought to the table. And no one would complain if there was a scoop of cinnamon ice cream alongside.
I learned the Cuban secret to Black Bean Soup, which ended up being a game-changer. This hearty soup warms the soul with gentle spices and a little heat from fresh chiles, although in my case, I’m going to use my homemade pickled ones this year. The special ingredient will have your guests asking for seconds…and for the recipe.
The secret to rich, delicious Parisian Hot Chocolate is not cream. (A recent viral video of someone making “French” hot chocolate had cream in it, and the fellow was called out for essentially making ganache. Even the powdered Angelina mix instructions say to use milk or hot water.) I’m not here to shame anybody, but the secret to great hot chocolate is dark bittersweet chocolate. So there.
One of the most popular recipes in my repertoire, the Persimmon Bread adapted from James Beard, uses pulpy persimmons, the fruit that no one knows what to do with. There are plenty of persimmons at the markets in Paris at the moment, and I’m getting ready to make loaves of this very (very) popular bread to hand out as gifts, and a few to enjoy ourselves.
Someone got a smackdown (from Martha herself) when they tried to dis Martha Stewart for posting a video of making chocolate-free S’mores. (…I know, this newsletter is turning into a recap of online controversies.) I know better than to mess with Martha, but I do put chocolate in my S’mores Ice Cream, along with toasted marshmallows, a ripple of fudge sauce, and spiced crackers or cookies. It’s all my favorite things in one, or two…or three delicious scoops.
Winter means saying sayonara to summer vegetables and salads. In France, it means saying Bonjour! to pâtés and terrines. Traditionally made to conserve and sustain, it’s nice to have a terrine on hand for an impromptu lunch, or you can build an apéro dînatoire (aperitif dinner) around one, such as this La Buvette Terrine, from the famed wine bar in Paris. I like to serve it with something tangy to brighten things up. Fig chutney or cranberry chutney are both viable running mates.
Yes, Thanksgiving is coming up.
I’ve got a slew of recipes for the holiday. including Chocolate Pecan Pie, Chocolate-Ginger Slab Pie, Bourbon-Ginger Pecan Pie, Cranberry Shrub and Cranberry Cocktail (satisfying those who don’t drink, and those who do), Maple Pumpkin Flan, my favorite Spicy Nut and Pretzel Mix, Gougères, Cranberry Sauce with Red Wine and Figs, Cranberry Sauce with Candied Oranges, Quick (vegan) Mincemeat. Cranberry Upside Down Cake, and Cranberry-Raisin Pie. And yes, Pumpkin Pie and Pumpkin Cheesecake (with Pecan Praline Sauce), too.
You can also bookmark this page=> Thanksgiving Recipes, where I rounded up some of my most popular recipes for the holidays.
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