Périgord Walnuts

This summer, Maxence and I took a little more time off than we usually do, and the three and a […]

  • 5
  • August 20, 2014
Minimalist Kit for the Traveling Cook

I am going to be traveling this month, doing some simple cooking in a couple of rented kitchens, and I’ve […]

  • 36
  • August 6, 2014
Artichoke rosettes with olive oil, as served at L'Arpège and shared on Alain Passard's twitter feed.

Some of my favorite finds and reads for this month: ~ Food quotes, illustrated. ~ Change your life one password […]

  • 1
  • July 29, 2014
Easy Olive Oil Tart Crust

As much as I love a good short crust pastry and as simple as it is to make (really, it […]

  • 143
  • Favorite
  • May 26, 2009
Muhammara

Sometimes, when I have a minute, I sit back and think about the world of food, how vast it is, […]

  • 67
  • Favorite
  • December 5, 2007
Granola Bars

I think of myself as a seasoned granola maker — see my Basic Granola Formula, my Macadamia Maple Granola, my […]

  • 35
  • Favorite
  • July 9, 2013

How To Open a Walnut Without a Nutcraker

This summer, Maxence and I took a little more time off than we usually do, and the three and a half weeks (three! and a half! weeks!) we afforded ourselves allowed us to embark on a mini-Tour de France to visit with friends and family: from Franche-Comté to the Vosges in the East of the country, then all sails South toward the Périgord, the Pyrenees, Toulouse, and finally Provence.

We ate like kings, as can be expected, and our luggage got heavier and heavier at every stop as we loaded up with various local treats.

The Périgord walnut wasn’t the least of them: about halfway through our trip, we happened upon La Maison de la noix, a shop entirely devoted to the brainy nut. In addition to all the walnut spreads and jams and terrines and cakes one could dream of, I loved that they sold four varieties of walnuts that you could sample — using their cool low-tech nutcracker — and compare.

“Oh, but you can just use any old knife,” she said, and proceeded to show me how, with a deft twist of the blade and very little force, she could tame the toughest walnut.

Most people think of the walnut as being a single thing — a walnut is a walnut is a walnut — but examining and tasting just these four side by side showed how wrong that is, as each displayed a different size and shape, and a different flavor profile, too. The one we liked best was the Lara, a jumbo walnut with a sweet, delicate flavor and very little bitterness. We filled up a big bag and went on our merry way, excited to share them with our friends at the mountain house we were renting together on the Ariège side of the Pyrenees.

But, as you might remember from my minimalist cooking kit, a nutcracker wasn’t part of my traveling arsenal, and the house kitchen — which was otherwise much better endowed than I’d feared — didn’t have one either.

When I shared my dismay with my friend Marie-Laure, she replied, “Oh, but you can just use any old knife!” and proceeded to show me how, with a deft twist of the blade and very little force, she could tame the toughest walnut.

Slip the tip of a knife at the seam

Continue reading »

Minimalist Kit for the Traveling Cook

I am going to be traveling this month, doing some simple cooking in a couple of rented kitchens, and I’ve had enough hair-pulling experiences with crappy, dull knives and flimsy plastic spatulas to be stashing a few key utensils in my luggage this time.

Because I am also traveling with a toddler who needs his own minimalist traveling kit — including such essentials as a firetruck and a stuffed donkey — I really need to make my kit as trim as possible, and have elected to bring along:

~ My paring knife, freshly sharpened: rented kitchens are notoriously lacking in this regard, and since half of cooking is cutting, trimming, slicing, dicing, chopping, and paring, this qualifies as an absolute must-bring. I will be following this tip on how to wrap knives for traveling.

~ My vegetable peeler because, again, anything that’s supposed to be sharp is going to be dull in a rented house, and a dull vegetable peeler is worse than no vegetable peeler at all. Also, a good vegetable peeler allows you to cut vegetables into tagliatelle and papardelle to make all kinds of pretty summer salads such as this zucchini noodle salad.

~ A pair of locking tongs because it’s rare (especially in France) to find it in a home cook’s utensil drawer, yet I rely on it heavily for handling ingredients, for stovetop cooking, and for grilling. As a bonus, it doubles up as a toy for the toddler, who uses it to catch imaginary fish.

~ My Earlywood scraper made of bloodwood, sturdy and smooth with a thin and sharp edge, and a fantastic multipurpose tool that can be used for stirring, cutting, lifting, and scraping. I have written about Brad Bernhart’s handcrafted utensils before, and they’ve become cherished items in my kitchen that get used every single day (including his latest creation, the adorable coffee scoop, which I use daily to serve my paleo granola).

Continue reading »

August 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 August is a picture of this marvelously quenching, easy, no-cook gazpacho that I recommend you make with the ripest and most beautiful tomatoes you will find this month.

Instructions to get your calendar are below.

Continue reading »

July Favorites

Artichoke rosettes with olive oil, as served at L'Arpège and shared on Alain Passard's twitter feed.

Artichoke rosettes with olive oil, as served at L'Arpège and shared on Alain Passard's twitter feed.

Some of my favorite finds and reads for this month:

~ Food quotes, illustrated.

~ Change your life one password at a time.

~ An artist from Nantes, in the West of France, is stenciling the names of wild plants growing on sidewalks.

~ How Andrew Hyde hosted 138 dinner parties in one year — such an inspiring perspective.

~ My interview on Gourmandize US.

~ About Alain Passard’s Twitter account and how his assistants shoot the gorgeous pictures for it (in French).

~ Planning to eat your way around Paris this month? Check out this list of what’s open and what’s not.

~ The 2014 edition of the sustainable seafood guide for French food professionals has been released. (The poster is a good cheat sheet.)

~ A delectable look at Goodnight Moon.

~ Nine questions you should ask yourself to unclutter your recipe collection. Plus: how to make the most of your cookbooks.

What about you, any memorable link to share this month?

58 Ways to Use Cucumbers

The summertime often means a glut of cucumbers, or at least it does for me and my weekly vegetable basket. If you are in the same cucumber boat and in a bit of a rut with them, I have compiled this list of recipes and ideas for you and me to draw from.

As always with these lists, I am grateful to my inspired readers on Twitter and Facebook who contributed their own favorites!

Choose smaller cucumbers, smooth and evenly colored, that feel firm throughout — when they get older, they go soft at the tips so that’s a good thing to check. I find that the varieties I get from my grower or from the organic store don’t have a hint of bitterness, so I always keep the peel on, but that’s up to you — peeling in alternate stripes is a pretty compromise.

And if the varieties you have access to are indeed bitter, some people recommend cutting off the stem end of the cucumber and rubbing the cut surfaces together vigorously until a slimy froth comes out: wipe it away and, supposedly, all bitterness is gone.

Cucumber pairings

- Cucumber + tomato
- Cucumber + feta cheese
- Cucumber + red onion
- Cucumber + vinegar
- Cucumber + herbs (esp. mint, dill, basil, chervil, chives, cilantro)
- Cucumber + garlic
- Cucumber + sesame
- Cucumber + seaweed
- Cucumber + yogurt or cream
- Cucumber + avocado
- Cucumber + fish and shellfish (esp. crab, tuna, and anchovies)

Cucumber salads

- Bite-size cucumbers and tomatoes with red onion and feta, sprinkled with balsamic vinegar.
- With baby spinach, strawberries, and cubed feta coated with Herbes de Provence.
- Panzanella (Italian bread salad).
- Peel and dice cucumbers about 2 cm (1/2 inch), add diced tomato, avocado and slivered red onion. Serve with fresh greens and a light dressing.
- Greek salad.
- Salade niçoise (though some say that’s out of the question).
- Tzaziki.
- Cucumbers and sour cream, the Polish version of tzatziki.
- Sweet and sour cucumbers with fresh dill.
- Thinly sliced with a lemony vinaigrette, sprinkled with poppy or sesame seeds.
- Thinly shaved slices of cucumber and red radish, with vinegar mixed with half a teaspoon of brown sugar and fresh red chilies.
- Toss with still-warm roasted fennel and a dressing made with mashed roasted garlic, lemon juice, olive oil and plenty of parsley.
- Ottolenghi’s cucumber salad with smashed garlic and ginger, or the one with chili, sugar, rapeseed oil and poppy seeds.
- Crab and cucumber salad.
- With lime and Tajin, Mexican-style.

Asian-style cucumber salads

- Thinly sliced or match-stick-sliced cucumbers with seaweed flakes, rice vinegar, sesame oil, and toasted sesame (pictured below).
- Chopped cucumbers tossed with shredded shiso leaves, pitted and chopped umeboshi (sour plums), and a dressing made with soy sauce and juice of a citrus like yuzu.
- Malay cucumber and pineapple salad, with vinegar, sugar, and chilies.
- Use a vegetable peeler to slice the cucumber into long ribbons, then toss lightly with a simple dressing of rice vinegar and neutral-flavored oil (3 to 1 or so), salt and pepper, and a dash of red pepper or garlic to give it a little kick. Prettier than the usual half-moons, and a great side for peppery or Asian-influenced grilled meats or fish.
- Spicy thai cucumber salad.
- Oi-sobagi, or spicy stuffed cucumber kimchi.
- Raita.
- Lebanese Fattoush salad

Cucumber Salad with Sesame and Seaweed

Cucumber Salad with Sesame and Seaweed

Continue reading »

Get the newsletter

Receive a free monthly email with a digest of recent entries, plus exclusive inspiration and special announcements. You can also choose to be notified of every new post.