Draw Me A Fridge: Alexandre Cammas

Alexandre Cammas
Photography by Dustin Aksland.

For this new installment of our Draw Me A Fridge series (read about it here), Alexia spoke with Alexandre Cammas. (Interview conducted in French and translated by us.)

Food writer Alexandre Cammas is the creator of Le Fooding, a guide that helps you find the latest restaurants to get a great meal anywhere in France, and also organizes events in France and beyond. The Fooding 2013 guide can be ordered on the website.

What are your fridge staples?

Yogurts, eggs, compotes, cheeses, cured meats from Italy, Spain and Aveyron*, and plenty of leftovers for an impromptu meal.

In the freezer, I store good bread (in case I run out of fresh) and frozen pizzas from Enzo Pizza, a dodgy-looking pizzeria in my neighborhood that sells excellent homemade frozen pizzas. (I got the tip from Bertrand, the chef of bistro Les Papilles.) I also keep frozen homemade tomato sauce for an easy pasta dinner, ice cubes and olives for a summer Ricard, and bottles of San Pellegrino throughout the year.

Do you handle the grocery shopping yourself? How often and where do you go?

I go shopping on the weekend in my neighborhood with my family, mostly around rue Daguerre**. I buy meat from Hugo Desnoyer every now and then (it’s expensive!) and bread from the former Moisan bakery. There is also a fine cheese shop, an Italian deli (the lasagna is especially tasty) and a good fishmonger on the same street.

What is the most surprising thing in, or about your fridge?

The terrible mess that’s in there! You’re likely to find things gone bad in teeny-tiny shrink-wrapped containers that have been forgotten in the back. Also surprising: how bad it smells when there’s a slice of Appenzeller cheese in there. Even under a glass dome, the smell just grabs you!

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Parents who Cook: Diana Abu-Jaber

Gracie and Diana
Gracie and Diana.

Parents Who Cook is a Q&A series in which I ask my guests about how their cooking has changed after kids entered the picture, and pick their brains on their best strategies to cook with little ones underfoot.

Birds of ParadiseDiana Abu-Jaber is an American writer of Jordanian origin who has authored four novels — the latest is Birds of Paradise — and a memoir titled The Language of Baklava, in which she explores the story of her family through the foods of her childhood. She has a marvelous way with words and a real gift for bringing characters to life, and the cooking and baking scenes in her books reveal a true appreciation for the craft.

I have been in touch with Diana for a few years — the magic of social media! — and since she has a young daughter, I jumped at the chance to invite her as a guest on the Parents Who Cook series.

Diana is currently working on a follow-up book to her memoir, of which she says, “The new one picks up where Baklava leaves off, at the point where I’m about to embark on a path to becoming a writer, and mentors and advisors keep telling me: you can be a writer or a parent, but you can’t be both. It’s about struggling with hard decisions, economic realities, the intersections of food, family, and art.” (I can’t tell you how excited I am about it.) You can follow her on twitter.

Can you tell us a few words about your daughter? Age, name, temperament?

Gracie is 4 years old. We call her the Wild One, but really she’s a cupcake.

Did having a child change the way you cook?

I’m less spontaneous, but also less careless in my approach to cooking. I spend more time thinking about ingredients, reading labels, considering approaches. I’d love for her to develop good, bold eating habits, but I realize that one has to be realistic about kids’ tastes.

Do you remember what it was like to cook with a newborn? Any tips or saving grace for new parents going through that phase?

I remember that when my parents or friends unexpectedly showed up at our door with meals it was like light breaking from heaven. If you know someone with a newborn, run out right now and buy them a roasted chicken! It’s so hard to manage day-to-day chores and errands with a little baby. Getting groceries (much less preparing them) seemed monumental.

My husband and I relied on a sort of core repertoire of basic dishes that lent themselves to leftovers: lots of easy cuts of meat — pork loin, lamb chops — simple pastas like carbonara, stews, chilis. Sometimes we just scrounged — scrambled eggs, tuna salad — or grazed on ingredients, a little paté, a little cheese, a little salami. Usually one of us would feed the baby while the other would cut up food and feed the spouse.

Over time, have you developed staple dishes or strategies that make it possible to prepare a meal and keep the kid happy at the same time?

Yes — all the dishes in the previous answer. Chicken Marbella, coq au vin. Also, I pay attention to my daughter’s preferences and try to always have those basic ingredients in the house: certain cheeses, nuts, beans, tahini sauce, ham, fruits, etc.

Stock up on tons of fruit — especially berries — and always have heavy cream on hand. She’ll eat any fruit if it’s got even the smallest dab of whipped cream on it. We usually make a double batch of dough for pizza once a week and keep half in the freezer. Same for cookies: bake half, freeze half. Often I’ll just bake a few cookies for her treat.

We’re also fortunate to have a good growing climate here in Florida, so I try to take advantage of that and keep a garden. We grow a selection of herbs and have coconut, key lime, and mango trees. It’s a lot easier (and less expensive) if you don’t have to run to the store for every handful of mint.

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Parents Who Cook: Aran Goyoaga

Aran and kids
Aran with Jon and Miren, photographed by Marcus Nilsson.

Parents Who Cook is a Q&A series in which I ask my guests about how their cooking has changed after kids entered the picture, and pick their brains on their best strategies to cook with little ones underfoot.

Aran Goyoaga is the talented baker, stylist, photographer, and writer behind the gorgeous blog Cannelle & Vanille. She was born and raised in the Spanish Basque country, and now lives in Florida with her husband and two children.

She and I have been in touch for years, and I was delighted to finally meet her in person over lunch when she came to Paris last year, on her way home from teaching one of her workshops in Dordogne.

Aran has recently released her first cookbook, Small Plates and Sweet Treats, an inspired collection of seasonal, gluten-free recipes, and it is a pleasure to have her as a guest in the Parents Who Cook series.

Can you tell us a few words about your children? Ages, names, temperaments?

I am the mother of a boy, Jon, and a girl, Miren.

Jon, 6, is very emotional, kind, thoughtful, inquisitive (he is a Cancer) and Miren, 3, is spontaneous, independent, and social (she is a Scorpio). They are both very creative as well and love spending time together.

Did having children change the way you cook?

I am sure in a way it made me adapt certain recipes to accommodate their preferences and the textures they were eating at different times in their lives, but overall I would say that the way I cook hasn’t changed much.

Do you remember what it was like to cook with a newborn? Any tips or saving grace for new parents going through that phase?

I am not sure I should reveal this, but when Jon was a newborn, I used to carry him in a sling everywhere. It was the only way he liked to be held (and sleep). So I kept him in the sling while I cooked. I have to admit those first weeks of his life are a bit hazy in my mind today, but I remember cooking very simply.

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Mochi Truffles

Mochi Truffles

This is a good time of year to reflect upon one’s blessings, and among the very many things I feel grateful for is the way this blog connects me with remarkable people whose path I might never have crossed otherwise.

Case in point: Colins Kawai, the marketing director of the University of Hawaii Press, but also an artisan chocolatier and the founder of Choco Le’a (“chocolate pleasures”), a small chocolate company based in Hawaii that he started to raise funds for charities and non-profits around the world.

I met Colins and his wife Joan when they visited Paris in November: Colins and I had exchanged a few emails, and he had told me about his company, which does mostly catering for weddings and other receptions, and about the truffles he makes for those events, garnished with such exotic flavors as lilikoi (passionfruit), haupia (coconut creme), or lychee liqueur.

We arranged to meet at the Salon du Chocolat, the Henri Le Roux stall serving as our rendezvous. We chatted for a little while, and Colins and Joan handed me a few boxes of their truffles, which they had, amazingly, hand-carried from Hawaii for me, along with a few other gifts, including the most adorable onigiri-pattern bib for Milan.

Maxence and I enjoyed the chocolates a great deal (read: we inhaled them), and the ones I was most taken with were the mochi truffles, which came in four flavors: plain, strawberry, honeydew (my favorite), and orange.

I adore mochi in all its forms, as evidenced by my posts on the strawberry daifuku mochi and the warabi mochi, but this was the first time I’d witnessed its encounter with chocolate. I have since researched the subject, and while I’ve found many instances of chocolate truffles wrapped in mochi — delicious too, I’m sure — I haven’t found references to truffles with a piece of mochi inside.

Curious to know more about this novel treat, I asked Colins to answer a few questions.

Mochi Truffles

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Parents Who Cook: Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs

Amanda and Addie
Amanda and Addie, photographed by Sarah Shatz.

Parents Who Cook is a Q&A series in which I ask my guests about cooking with little ones underfoot. If you think of people you’d like to see interviewed as part of this series — especially fathers! — your suggestions are welcome.

I have long admired Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs for founding the Food52 website, and developing it with such savvy over the past three years. Originally created as a way to crowd-source a cookbook, it is now a remarkably rich website with lots of smart features, and a vibrant community of cooks.

The first Food52 cookbook came out last year, and the second volume, also crowd-sourced and edited with great care, has just been released.

Amanda and Merrill are both mothers, and I am delighted to welcome them as my first guests on the Parents Who Cook series.

Can you tell us a few words about your kids? Ages, names, temperaments?

M: Our daughter Clara is almost eleven months old. She has seven teeth and is determined to start walking. We think she’s learned her first word (hi), although it could just be a random sound she’s making. Clara is a really good-tempered baby and very social, but on the rare occasion that she’s unhappy or tired, she lets us know it!

A: We have twins, Walker and Addie, and they’re six. They’re losing their baby teeth, which they’re very excited about. Walker is methodical, competitive, and snuggly. Addie is social, a daydreamer, and willing to be amused.

Clara, photographed by James Ransom.

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