There was a time when you couldn’t go out to eat at a restaurant without being offered a creme caramel for dessert. They were as ubiquitous as molten chocolate cakes and their spiritual custard cousin, crème brûlée. Then they just disappeared into the dark of night along with the rest of classic French cooking. I hadn’t thought about them much until I wrote “French Cooking For Beginners“, my new cookbook just released today (yes, a shameless plug). I was writing the recipe for crème brûlée and trying to please my editor who thought no one would buy a propane torch to caramelize the sugar. I thought about changing the entry to creme caramel because it is similar in many ways to a good crème brûlée and doesn’t require a torch. …
Last night I posted a picture of an Apple Creme Brulee tart, or what essentially could be called the love child of a creme brulee and an apple tart. The response was so overwhelming that I thought about publishing the recipe in a new book: How To Get Fat(ter) During a Quarantine: 75 Delicious Recipes to Stress Eat To. Perhaps a little dark gallows humor that I hope offends no one. Humor and eating are my coping mechanisms for all the stress of losing a job and the world crumbling around me….
It’s the beginning of January, which means that you probably have made a few New Year’s Eve Resolutions and if statistics are correct – you probably broke a few already too. Don’t despair – You are in good company. Of the 45% of all Americans that make a New Year’s resolution, only 8% actually keep them. Predictably most are health-related: resolutions to lose weight, stop drinking alcohol, quit smoking. God knows in years past I have made quite a few as well. I have an escape clause for those of you that made a resolution to eat healthier and want to remain in the elite 8%. It comes in the form of an easy, super moist, gluten-free chocolate cake. This chocolate cake will allow you to keep all your New Years’ resolutions and satisfy your sweet tooth all in one tasty bite….
Vacherins are among my most favorite desserts both to eat and to make. They are quite simple: three layers of meringue usually sandwiching a vanilla ice cream and a sorbet. In this version, I made a tarragon frozen yogurt and strawberry sorbet. Sometimes simple and homey just tastes better….
Ok, everyone, I have a quick and easy recipe for you to try this weekend that is designed to lift you out of the ‘end of winter dreariness’ and straight into the rum-tinged warm tropical breezes of summer. Today I am going to teach you how to make Caramelized Pineapple with Vanilla and Rum Sauce. The perfect ‘Happy Ending’ to a great homecooked weekend meal….
This recipe is a slight variation of Christopher Kimball’s insanely delicious orange – anise bundt cake recipe that appeared recently in his magazine ‘Milk Street’. I was so blown away by the flavor, texture, and lightness I began experimenting to suit my tastes. My seven-year-old Beau suggested adding chocolate chips so I did. This cake has now become a family favorite….
Have you ever looked at a favorite cookbook for years, perhaps even decades, and never noticed a recipe in it? Yesterday I was leafing through a Gui Gedda cookbook (Cooking School Provence) and came across his recipe for ‘Tatin de Poires’, or as I renamed it ‘Pear Tarte Tatin Coffee Cake’. I can’t believe I never noticed it, it’s a beautiful cake that is extremely simple to prepare.
The Pear Tree of my Youth
Every Fall I make at least one pear and almond galette from the giant pear tree growing in my front yard. The galettes appearance always marks the transition in my head between the ratatouille, pastis and rosés excesses of summertime and the true beginnings of Fall, at least my Fall, and it’s well rooted in my past.
I can still remember with great fondness visiting a gregarious French relative who owned a farm in rural Southwestern France. It was early Fall and he had just foraged for cepes. I remember with surprising clarity his worn leather boots and even the musty smells of an old barn filled with fresh cut hay as he cooked a wonderful Omelette aux cèpes, à la persillade for lunch. 45 years later and I still salivate as I reminisce about tucking into it; the combination of creamy eggs contrasted by crispy bits of garlic, herbs, and mushrooms cooked in golden goose fat.
For dessert, his wife prepared a scrumptious pear and almond galette made from perfectly ripe pears picked that morning from a fruit tree in their yard. There is something timeless and perfect about the combination of almonds and pears that works on so many levels, like textural contrasts of crunchy and soft or the classic salty and sweet marriage. The memory of this day has lingered in my soul since it happened so long ago. The comfort of the warm galette with sweet pears and crunchy almonds is the true sign that Fall is here.
It’s sad to say, but Summer 2018 is coming to a quick close. Just before I stash my leftover rose bottles and put the pastis up till next summer, I wanted to make one last summery dish to enjoy – lemon verbena ice cream with fresh raspberries. Lemon verbena is an herb I grow every single year and use quite a bit of, or at least have the fantasy of using quite a bit of. The smell is intoxicating and is probably the main reason I grow it. I usually end up making desserts with it, but as friend Jo Ellis Holland reminded me just a few moments ago on Facebook, it is quite good in savory dishes as well.
I have to be brutally honest here, I am not a huge rhubarb fan. To be blunt, I could do without it for the rest of my life. Then, the other day, I was surfing the internet and came across a picture perfect rhubarb tart that stole my heart and captured my dreams. I became utterly hypnotized by the shot from Jo Harrington, a self described ‘longtime London foodie challenged to bake the perfect pie.’ If you look up her site you will see quite possibly the most amazing collection of pies ever made. In the same moment, I felt both worthless as a pie maker and speechless in wonder of her patient handiwork with dough. Trust me, until you have tried to replicate it yourself you will never realize the amount of work involved. My sincere compliments to her skill set.
Do you remember that wonderful feeling of being a small child on a family camping trip when your dad built a giant bonfire and you got to toast your own s’mores? The ritual began with tramping through the woods, gathering small branches and downed tree limbs to build your fire. The anticipation building fiddling with your s’more stick waiting for darkness to come. The climax reached as the first campfire sparks raced towards an incredibly starry sky. That magic moment when your marshmallow burst into flames and your first s’more was ready to eat. It was as much a rite of summer as eating wild blackberries milkshakes and swimming in Lake Michigan. …
Here’s a great project to tackle this weekend with your child; make yummy chocolate profiteroles stuffed with ice cream, then drizzle with caramel and hot chocolate sauce. It’s a fun activity with many little steps for a child to participate in, no matter their age.
This Thanksgiving, I wanted to make an Apple Brown Betty, a dessert I hadn’t made in years – ok really decades. It’s a simple recipe that utilizes old scraps of bread, apples, sugar, and seasonings. It’s ideal for the holidays because it only takes seconds to prep, not too long to bake, and tastes great. My version is based on the 1896 classic American cookbook, The New Fannie Farmer.
Give it a try this weekend, and be sure to snap a picture and hashtag #pistouandpastis – we love to see your creativity on social media!
Do you want a fun, edible project to tackle this weekend? Then try making these delicious chocolate eclairs for your family. They are only slightly harder than making basic brownies, only because there are three components to prep instead of one. You will need a few tools like sil pats, pastry bags and star tips to make this. There are plenty of stores like Michaels or Sur La Table where these easy to find items can be located if you do not have them already. The results will be worth any frustrations you may experience….
For father’s day, I made a very simple summer time dessert utilizing two of my favorite flavors, lemon and strawberries. It was the combination of two basic pastry components, Pierre Herme’s delicious lemon curd and a basic panna cotta recipe enhanced with a touch of zested lemon. I wanted to share this quick recipe with everyone. Sometimes simplicity is hard to beat.
Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns. ~ George Eliot
For those of us who revel in the sensuality of life, Fall is a wonderfully bountiful time of year. The trees adorned in vibrant autumn hues of deep reds and golden yellows are a feast for the eyes. A refreshing crispness fills the air, stimulating our appetites for heartier, more comforting dishes. Much needed rains replenish aquifers and awaken the slumbering mushroom spores. Soon chanterelles, boletes and matsutake will poke their curious heads through the forest humus. Coho salmon get nature’s signal and begin their runs up several rivers in the Olympic Peninsula to spawn. Perhaps the most exciting harbinger are Mountain Rose Apples, the red fleshed apple that tastes just like a strawberry Jolly Rancher.
Time just passes by too quickly. Maybe I am getting too old. One season is gone and another arrives before I am fully ready for it. It seemed like only yesterday I was sauteing spring’s flowering kales and broccoli rabes with chili flakes, garlic slivers and olive oil. Now summer is here. For many parts of the country, the first perfect tomato eaten warm with salt in your your or that impossibly juicy peach signifies summer’s presence. In the Pacific Northwest it is July’s arrival of wild huckleberries. Extremely juicy and reminiscent of a blueberry except with a more intense sweet, tart flavor. They are hand picked high in the Cascade mountains and can range from a deep bluish black to purple to a bright firetruck red. A very versatile fruit used both in savory dishes and a wide range of desserts like clafoutis, cobbler, milkshakes and pancakes. You can eat them raw, pickled or cooked. Of all the ways, I like them baked in a traditional clafoutis which is somewhere between a pudding and a custard. They are quick and simple to make. Baking them in France is like making cobbler….
Liet and I once stood picking and eating salmonberries, trying to find words to describe their somewhat caramellike flavor, when two elderly men came down the dirt road behind us. They, too, had been berrypicking, and they proudly displayed the fruits of their labors. These included salmonberries in three colors with bright bits of green fern enhancing their fresh look. – Time Life Books, ‘American Cooking, The Northwest’
My mother is a wonderful baker. From an early age she instilled in me a love and passion for fresh fruit tarts. More often than not, apples were the preferred medium. At 85, her caramelized apple tart (tarte tatin) rivals anything any Michelin starred chef could ever hope to conjure. She made dough unapologetically, with the same certainty an artist feels knowing the exact shape of a statue long before the marble was ever chiseled. Every unmeasured step, deliberately repeated methodically. She too had learned the secrets at her grandmother’s apron strings. Carefully mixing small cubes of ice cold butter into the mound of flour and sugar. Pressing hard with the heels of her hands till the mound resembled a coarse corn meal. Adding just the perfect amount of chilled water to insure it would ball. Her hands repeated these same moves for so many decades she no longer had to think. Tart making is an art learned by practice. I am sharing the same experiences with my five year old son Beaumont. This morning we wrestled with the dew covered thorny bushes that protected a hidden cache of sweet salmonberries. Carefully we pulled them one by one, periodically stealing one into our mouths thinking the other wasn’t watching. I envisioned my mother smiling; knowing what she had so devotedly learned would continue long past her final breath. She had done her job. Le feu sacre was safe for one more generation.
“The early bird gets the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.” ~ Willie Nelson
I apologize for apparently having fallen off the edge of the Earth for the past month or so. I returned from the Alsace Wine Festival and jumped directly into an overloaded frying pan that included an intense business trip to Japan checking out wagyu farms and a full-on company rebranding. As a consequence, I have had little time to think, let alone write so I am sharing two quick ricotta fritter recipes that are easy to make and taste amazing….
Donuts. Is there anything they can’t do? — Matt Groening
Northern California may be my favorite area in America. In a lot of ways, the picturesque Anderson Valley of Mendocino County reminds me of the South of France and Italy. The sun-kissed rocky hills and foggy valley floor are home to thousands of acres of grape vines, small organic farms and herds of goats and sheep. Its bucolic small towns nestled among towering redwoods and craggy coastlines bathed in the golden California sunshine are a photographer’s wet dream.
Like Peter Mayle’s semi-biographical series ‘A Year in Provence’, Mendocino boasts a unique rhythm governed by its own cast of colorful characters. Artists, musicians, farmers, brewers, and vintners mixed with old hippies and pot farmers shape and enrich the colorful tapestry woven by a strong sustainable, organic, and fiercely independent fabric.