Books & Cookbooks

Lamb and Orange Khoresh Stew

Lamb and Orange Khoresh

A favorite from the archives, this post was originally published in April 2009.

I know little about Persian cuisine. I do know it is a multifaceted one, that its flavors are refined and its roots run deep, but I have never been to an Iranian restaurant nor an Iranian home — though now that I think about it, one of the Middle Eastern groceries we went to in California may have been Iranian — so this Persian stew (that’s what khoresh means) was a foray into uncharted territory for me.

And as far as forays go, this one was positively thrilling: I don’t think I’ve ever cooked a lamb stew so brightly flavored and so subtle.

Petits Larcins culinairesWhat prompted me to make it was a little book I recently bought, called Petits Larcins culinaires (“culinary petty thefts,” but it sounds better in French). It is written by a well-known and very likable figure of the Parisian food scene, Claude Deloffre. Claude has a passion for (and a crazy-extensive collection of) cookbooks, and for a few years she ran a specialized bookshop/gallery on rue Charlot, called FOOD*. In this book, her first, she writes about her lifelong relationship with cookbooks and the ones that have meant the most to her, and she shares a few recipes “stolen” — hence the title — from her favorite authors.

As any successful anthology will, this one makes you want to go out and buy each and every one of the books she evokes — were it a website, it would have an “Order All” button — and among the recipes I flagged to try, one of them sprung forward with particular force: it was this stew, on page 63, which Claude simply introduces under the name, Khoresh.

I wasn’t familiar with the term, but the recipe itself — a dish of lamb stewed in citrus juice, garnished with candied orange peel, mint, and pistachios — sung to me like a mermaid. We were to have Pascale and her husband David over for dinner a few days later, and there was now little doubt about what I would serve.

I altered the recipe just a bit — I used a little less sugar and butter, but more vegetables and more meat, as the amount given seemed insufficient for six, and I added saffron — but overall, I followed Claude’s lead, and found the process easy and pleasurable.

We are at the tail end of the citrus season and the first new carrots are appearing, so now is the ideal time to try this. And if it seems a little supererogatory to candy your own orange peel, I hope I can persuade you to do it anyway: the crisp, caramelized strands sit at the juncture between the sweet, the savory, and the bitter, thus summing up the different facets of this dish and acting as the perfect garnish.

* She eventually had to close it in late 2006; cookbook fanatics in Paris now turn to La Cocotte or La Librairie Gourmande to fill their needs.

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Banana Pecan Cake with Maple Glaze

Banana Pecan Cake with Maple Glaze

Among the countless blessings this blog has brought to my life is this one: I have met and become friends with a few cookbook authors.

They are delicious people to be around, naturally, and if I manage to fox my way into their house they may actually cook for me, but the invaluable bonus is that, once I’ve come to know and trust them, once I’ve witnessed how exacting they are, and how much pressure they submit themselves to in order to produce bulletproof recipes, I feel I can use their cookbooks with blind faith. I know I’m in good hands, and things had better work out because I know where they live.

One of my cookbook-writing friends is Marianne Magnier-Moreno, whom I met almost three years ago at Chocolate & Zucchini’s second anniversary party, and who wears many hats — recipe writer, journalist, translator, cheesecake maker, young mother, and significant other to a gifted painter.

Marianne has written a fantastic book called La Pâtisserie (Marabout), a baking manual that offers seventy recipes, with step-by-step pictures and detailed instructions. Step-by-step photography is nothing new in the world of cookbooks, but I’ve always thought it could make a book look dull. Not so here, where the shot-from-the-sky visuals and tasteful styling make each double-page an aesthetic treat.

I’ve only recently ordered this book and already a flurry of sticky tags mark the recipes I want to try. And since I had über-ripe bananas to use last week, the first one I played with was her recipe for banana nut bread, which I topped with a maple glaze, another one of Marianne’s recipes.

I did not make the cake as written. I substituted almond butter for part of the butter, and agave syrup for part of the sugar; I also lowered the amount of flour, added a little amber rum, and used pecans in place of walnuts.

Now, I know I just stated that I wanted to feel I could follow a cookbook’s directions with my eyes closed, but before you dismiss me as an illogical person, let me explain: I like to bake/cook things my own way, but in order to tweak a recipe, I need it to be rock-solid, otherwise it might not hold up to the tweaking.

But this one did, and brilliantly so. The crumb was moist and fluffy, the flavors multi-dimensional, and the overall sweetness was moderate, which left ample room for the maple glaze to step in and do its thing.

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Today Show Appearance

I was a guest on the Today Show* yesterday morning, and my segment is now available online, if you’d like to see me demo my Pear and Chocolate Cake-Tart, a recipe taken from Clotilde’s Edible Adventures in Paris.

(This was my second time on the show; read about last year’s segment here.)

* The Today Show is a national television show that’s broadcast live every morning in the US.

Clotilde’s Edible Adventures in Paris

Clotilde's Edible Adventures in Paris

It is with unmitigated joy that I announce the release of my new book today!

Clotilde’s Edible Adventures in Paris is a book on Paris restaurants and food shops, in which I share recommendations for my favorite spots — everything from neo bistros and salons de thé to bakeries, outdoor markets, wine shops, and much, much more, as they say — plus all you need to know to navigate the City of Light and Good Food, plus a dozen recipes.

The book is coming out in North America initially (pending the sale of foreign rights, it will be available as an import elsewhere), and I am about to leave on a book tour to promote it — please view the full list of booksigning events and see if you can come and say hi.

You can read more about the book, including reviews and excerpts, on the mini-site I’ve set up, and you should of course feel free to order your very own copy — no, really.

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Warm Hokkaido Squash and White Bean Salad

Salade Tiède de Potimarron et Haricots Blancs

[Warm Hokkaido Squash and White Bean Salad]

I write this from a café where I like to go and get some work done when I find it difficult to concentrate at home. Today, however, an unforeseen challenge has materialized on my path. Sitting a few tables from mine are two living clichés: a blond, middle-aged, French casting director and a young, craggy-bearded, khaki-vested film director from LA. They are in deep conversation about finding the perfect actress (dark-haired, curvaceous, Middle-Eastern-looking) for his next feature.

He’s cool as a cucumber, but she’s holding her end of the discussion in such a throaty, heavily accented voice that even Leonard Cohen in my earphones can’t white-noise it out. But, the eavesdropper in me must admit, the crux of the matter is that it’s all wildly entertaining — especially since I can hear the entire dialogue effortlessly, as I pull up the imdb pages of the actresses they’re considering.

But this is unrelated to the matter at hand. The matter at hand is this warm winter salad, which, come to think of it, is also curvaceous and Middle-Eastern-looking, but is booked all through 2010, sorry. It is loosely inspired by a recipe for pumpkin and chickpeas in a tahini dressing that appeared in Casa Moro, the middle panel of Sam Clark and Sam Clark’s cookbook triptych*.

The underlying concept of this dish stuck with me — winter squash and legumes! hello, luminous idea! — and I recreated it from memory** on Sunday night, using the potimarron I’d bought at the market the day before, white beans, almond butter (my jar of tahini has been residing in my neighbor’s fridge since New Year’s Eve, when he borrowed it to make hummus for the party), and a sprinkle of pinenuts for extra crunch.

The result is a down comforter of a salad, sweet without excess, and filling in a way that’s most welcome after a run in the park in late afternoon (i.e. when it is dark enough that toddlers have been dragged home, but not so dark that you trip on tree roots and abandoned toys).

I didn’t have any cilantro (I can’t find it at the market in the wintertime) and I’d already used up my weekly allotment of parsley, but if you have some sort of leafy herb on hand, the salad will enjoy the greenness of it.

~~~

* I kid you not: the husband and wife who own Moro really are called Sam(uel) Clark and Sam(antha) Clark, Clark being the latter’s maiden name. Ionesco would have loved it.

** To see a version that’s closer to the printed recipe, take a look at my friend Molly’s rendition.

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