Green Romesco Sauce

I recently tweeted about my recipe for muhammara, this sumptuous Middle-Eastern dip of roasted bell peppers and walnuts that I […]

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  • September 10, 2014
The heirloom tomatoes I've been feasting on all month.

Some of my favorite finds and reads for this month: ~ What’s new on the Paris restaurant scene this fall, […]

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  • August 29, 2014
Crème Caramel

Caramel custard was a mainstay of my mother’s dessert repertoire when I was growing up. We referred to it by […]

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  • September 3, 2014
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Green Romesco Sauce

I recently tweeted about my recipe for muhammara, this sumptuous Middle-Eastern dip of roasted bell peppers and walnuts that I wish more cooks knew about. This prompted Pami Hoggatt, of A Crust Eaten, to remark that it looked similar to Spanish romesco sauce.

Salsa Romesco is most commonly a sauce of roasted peppers, mixed together with nuts, olive oil, and vinegar.

I was very pleased that she did, for romesco sauce had somehow flown below my radar all this time and I was delighted to make its acquaintance: a Spanish specialty from Catalonia, salsa romesco can take on various guises, textures and flavorings, but it is most commonly a sauce of roasted peppers mixed together with nuts, olive oil, and vinegar. Different recipes will add different ingredients to that basic formula, but that’s the gist of it.

Pami pointed me to the recipe that she herself uses, and coincidentally, right around the same time The Kitchn ran a cute tiny video for what they appropriately call their “happy sauce”, which is in fact a romesco sauce.

I happened to have a collection of tiny bell peppers in various shades of yellow, green, and black-eye green sitting in my fridge, and it didn’t take long for me to enroll them into this wonderful green romesco sauce.

Small bell peppers

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Crème Caramel

Caramel custard was a mainstay of my mother’s dessert repertoire when I was growing up. We referred to it by its common French name crème renversée — flipped custard — because of the way you serve it, upside down: this way the layer of caramel that was spread across the bottom of the pan finds itself on top, and the delicious sauce can run down the sides and pool onto the serving plate.

The layer of caramel that was spread across the bottom of the pan finds itself on top, and the delicious sauce can run down the sides and pool onto the serving plate.

I am so partial to my mother’s recipe that I never ever order crème caramel when dining out, because I know it will fall short. Her version isn’t overly sweet, and it has the simple flavors of childhood — milk, eggs, vanilla. The silken, slippery consistency feels fresh and clean, though my favorite part is actually the lightly nubby “skin” that develops at the surface of the custard, where it was exposed to the oven’s heat.

Since the ingredients list is so straightforward, use the best ones you can: now would be a fine time to use your neighbor’s backyard eggs, that farm-fresh milk you get from the greenmarket, and the fat, waxy vanilla bean you’ve been saving for a special occasion.

My mother makes crème caramel in a single pan — a repurposed charlotte mold if you must know — for the whole family to share, but I usually cook it in ramekins instead: individual containers look fancier when we have guests, and if it’s just us, they make it easier to handle servings and leftovers.

Crème Caramel

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September 2014 Desktop Calendar

At the beginning of every month in 2014, I am offering a new wallpaper to apply on the desktop of your computer, with a food-related picture and a calendar of the current month.

As a new feature this year, the desktop calendar is available in two versions: a US-friendly version that features Sunday as the first day of the week, and a French version (shown above) that complies with international standards, featuring Monday as the first day of the week.

Our calendar for September is a picture of zucchini, and I probably don’t need to tell you how I feel about those. You can check out some of my favorite zucchini recipes, but this summer I’ve also been roasting them a lot when it wasn’t too hot out: cut the zucchini into big cubes, spread out on a rimmed baking sheet, drizzle generously with good olive oil and sprinkle with salt, and roast at 200°C (400°F) for half an hour. With some chopped chipotle almonds and fresh herbs on top, it is simple yet very tasty.

Instructions to get your calendar are below.

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August Favorites

The heirloom tomatoes I've been feasting on all month.

The heirloom tomatoes I've been feasting on all month.

Some of my favorite finds and reads for this month:

~ What’s new on the Paris restaurant scene this fall, as told by Le Figaroscope, Le Fooding via Les Echos, and A Tabula (in French).

~ Ever wondered what a poaching egg might look like from underwater?

~ I discussed food blogging with Food & Wine editor Kristin Donnelly.

~ I am very tempted to make this peanut sauce for my late-summer noodle needs.

~ My friend Adam says you should never serve these ten foods at a dinner party. Which ones to you agree or disagree with?

~ Yes, it matters what kind of onion you use!

~ Party-leaving etiquette: do you say goodbye or leave quietly? (In French, leaving quietly is called filer à l’anglaise, making an English exit.)

~ Inspired by this great-sounding pairing: cucumbers with verbena and matcha green tea. Another one to add to my 58 Ways to Use Cucumbers.

~ Are these nut-hugging bear cookies too adorable to eat?

~ Fifteen chefs share what they’ve learned by cooking at the French Laundry.

~ The most common cooking mistakes (and how to avoid them).

~ A clever metro map to locate the best bars in Paris, and another for tea lovers.

Green Bean and Nectarine Salad with Spicy Gomasio

I grew up eating haricots verts steamed to army green softness and served warm, with a bit of butter and freshly chopped parsley, usually as a side to roast chicken for Sunday lunch. After coming home from the greenmarket — with or without me tagging along — my mother would call across the apartment, “Il y a des haricots verts à éplucher !” (There are green beans to trim!)

My father, my sister and I would then pop out of our respective bedrooms and office to gather on the floor around the coffee table where a tray awaited, with a big pile of untrimmed beans and a colander to collect them once trimmed. It was understood that us kids could be excused from this if we had a big test to study for, but we seldom used that Get Out of Jail Free card, welcoming instead the opportunity to take a break and chat as our fingers busied themselves.

Green beans pair beautifully with summer fruit (“What grows together goes together”) and I love them topped with finely diced cantaloupe, or thinly sliced peaches and nectarines.

Looking back, I realize we could have cut down the workload in half by trimming the only end that actually needs trimming — that would be the stem end, the wispy tail is in fact harmless — but trimming both ends allowed us to thoroughly de-string the beans along each side, which counts for something.

In my own kitchen I mostly find myself eating green beans cold, in zesty salads such as this one. Green beans pair beautifully with summer fruit (“What grows together goes together”), and I love them topped with finely diced cantaloupe (it’s been such a fabulous year for French melons!) or thinly sliced peaches and nectarines, which I’ve come to like best white.

My salad had a “green” element and a “sweet” element, and to create a more complete balance of flavor with “nutty” and “savory” notes, I decided to throw together a batch of homemade gomasio — a Japanese condiment of toasted sesame ground with sea salt — to which I added ground chipotle pepper for an extra kick. It is very easy to make at home and incomparably more flavorful than anything you can buy at the store.

Spicy Gomasio

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