February Favorites

A chart by Chasing Delicious's Russell van Kraayenburg, reproduced with permission.

A chart by Chasing Delicious's Russell van Kraayenburg, reproduced with permission.

A few of my favorite finds and reads for February:

~ About the word “just” and whether to prune it from your communications.

~ Paris restaurateurs (finally!) decide to do some recycling (in French).

~ The science behind fonts and how they make you feel.

~ The best temperatures and uses for common cooking oils, one of several gorgeous info-charts by Russell van Kraayenburg — also available as a print for your kitchen!

~ A biochemistry start-up is working to find a plant-based replacement for the eggs that are used in processed foods.

~ My article on five-ingredient desserts is published in the new issue of Vegetarian Times, and in it you’ll find the recipes for my mango pistachio cardamom ice cream, my lemon almond soufflés, my apple and date crisps, and my pear and lavender charlottes. Do give them a try and report back!

~ Chef Peter Nilsson leaves his Parisian Gazzetta to return to Stockholm.

~ Client feedback turned into posters.

~ Dried persimmons, homemade.

~ What career should you really have? (I got “writer”, so I assume the algorithm works okay.)

~ Misunderstanding orange juice as a healthful drink.

~ March 4 is Mardi Gras, and in France the occasion is often celebrated by making crêpes, so whip up a quick batter and enjoy!

Any favorites of your own to share this month?

How To Transport Your Knives

When I went out and got my knives sharpened recently, I had to solve the question of how to transport them safely, and my intuitive idea was to roll them up in a kitchen towel.

When the guy at the shop handed them back to me to take home a week later, I was pleased to hear him say that this was the best method. I also noticed his fold was a lot neater than mine, so I thought I would share it with you.

Naturally, if you’re a traveling cook who has to carry knives around frequently*, it might make sense to buy a special carrying case such as this knife roll, but if you’re only transporting them a few times a year to cook at a friend’s house or to get your blades sharpened, you can definitely save the money and use a simple kitchen towel.

The trick, as you’ll see in the animation below, is to pick one of your thicker kitchen towels, and to fold it so that the tips of the blades push against a double layer of fabric, so they won’t just slice through.

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Caramelized Apple Tarte Fine

Tarte fine caramélisée aux pommes

When I wrote about my enthusiasm for quick and easy puff pastry last week, I promised I would soon share the apple tarte fine I made with it, and that day has come.

A tarte fine — literally, “thin tart” — is a classic type of French tart assembled on a flat disk of puff pastry, with no raised borders. This means it requires no tart pan, a trait that will no doubt appeal to the minimalists and the ill-equipped.

The trick to a perfectly caramelized crust is to butter and sugar the parchment paper you will bake it on.

It is a type of tart I’ve always thought elegant for its understatedness. The filling is typically made up of just fruit, and moderate amounts of it, so as to remain super thin. And every bite is as much about the crust as it is about the filling, which makes it an ideal opportunity to showcase your new puff-pastry-making skills.

And indeed this recipe is a study in simplicity: a thin round of rough puff that caramelizes in the oven — the trick is to butter and sugar the parchment paper you will bake it on — to form a crisp, flaky, buttery frame for a rose-shaped arrangement of thinly sliced apples.

That’s it. Bake and serve.

It does just as well slightly warm or at room temperature, and you could also make it with pears if you wanted to, but the one thing I will advocate for is serving it on its own. No custard, no ice cream, no crème fraîche. Just the solo silhouette of the tarte fine on a plate.

Join the conversation!

Have you made or tasted a tarte fine before? Does the gorgeous simplicity of it appeal to you as much as it does to me?

Caramelized Apple Tarte Fine

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Rough Puff (Quick and Easy Puff Pastry)

This recipe changed my life, and I have Lucy Vanel to thank for it.

A few years ago, I bookmarked her fast feuilletage, an easy, fuss-free way of making puff pastry that did not involve rolling out the butter and enclosing it into a détrempe, nor did it confine you to the kitchen with incessant refrigeration steps.

A fuss-free puff pastry that does not confine you to the kitchen with incessant refrigeration steps.

Instead, her recipe merely has you cut the butter into the flour to form a rough dough, then do four rounds of rolling out, folding, and turning, like you would for a classic puff pastry, but without refrigerating the dough every time.

This means you can have a remarkably good, homemade puff pastry ready in, oh, fifteen minutes, without sacrificing flavor: four rounds are enough to create dozens* of layers of butter and flour — more random ones, yes, but just as effective — that will puff up gloriously in the oven and produce the flakiest texture.

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Spiced Carrot and Ground Beef Stir-Fry

During the winter months, the grower I get my weekly basket of vegetables from often includes bunches of small new carrots, not much larger than my middle finger, with the bright green tops still on.

Pretty, but a bit of a puzzle to me: the skin on those young carrots is so thin it doesn’t seem necessary to peel them, but they do have tiny fibrils shooting from all around their sides, and those I did not know how to handle. While I could scrape those off with the side of my blade, it felt finicky, and a disproportionate effort when compared to the amount of edible carrot I ended up with.

A lot of the carrot’s taste resides in its skin, so finding a way to keep it guarantees bold flavors.

Then, one day, I finally thought to ask Didier — that’s the name of the farmer — how he cleaned them. His response was quite liberating: “I just wash them, leaving a short section of the stem.” No scrubbing, no scraping, no peeling — it was simply a matter of removing any dirt or grit, without worrying about the fibrils that so disconcerted me.

It was all the permission I needed, and the dish I made the first time I prepped the carrots this way was so good it has practically become a weekly staple. A lot of the carrot’s taste resides in its skin, so finding a way to keep it guarantees a bold flavor.

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