Category Archives: my paris kitchen

Kitchen Imperfection {CtBF}


Based on the multitude of blogs in Internet land, it’s easy to feel inadequate in the kitchen.  So many bloggers project an image of detailed menu planning, access to picture-perfect locally grown seasonal ingredients, and impeccable housekeeping.  I realize it could be illusion, but it highlights my own reality of day-to-day (sometimes last minute) meal planning, a clean but “lived in” kitchen, and the ever-present feeling of trying to catch up.

True confessions: being part of a cooking group like Cook the Book Fridays, I like that the various recipe selections eliminate a decision to be made, though I’m always losing track of the schedule.  My lack of pre-planning means that I often don’t think about how to incorporate these recipes into our meals in a logical way.

This week’s recipe for French Lentil Salad with Goat Cheese and Walnuts is a side dish that could go with almost anything.  I adore lentils, especially the tiny French lentils.  If you take care not to overcook them, they are perfect in a salad.  I’ve made lentil salads similar to David Lebovitz’s recipe from My Paris Kitchen, but there are a few takeaways that I particularly liked with this recipe.  For example, I usually add raw crunchy vegetables (i.e. carrots, celery, and red onion).  In this recipe, they are added the pot of lentils for the last few minutes of cooking.  The veggies retain their crunch but the brief cooking softens them ever so slightly for a texture that feels just right.  Minced shallots in the dressing add an extra oniony note. The toasted walnuts were also a delicious touch.

While the goat cheese was complementary to the flavors, I think I might have liked the salad more without it.  It would keep a little better too.  Goat cheese is also the only ingredients that isn’t reliably on-hand in my fridge, allowing this to be made on a whim.  Overall, this is a nice version of lentil salad that I might make again.

To see what my friends thought of the lentil salad, check their links here.  To make it yourself, the lentil salad can be found on page 233 of My Paris Kitchen or The Splendid Table’s website.

Speaking of lack of planning, I also made the Hummus that my friends made a couple of weeks ago.  I made it on time, but didn’t have a chance to write a post about it.  Wow!  I’ve been making hummus for decades, but there is something about this recipe that takes it to a new level.  It could be the ridiculous step of peeling the chickpeas, which sounds extraordinarily fussy.  I’ve been reading that peeling them results in a silkier texture, but it’s time-consuming.  I used canned beans (related to lack of planning) so I talked myself into the peeling step.  It turned out to be easier than I thought.  And the hummus turned out extra creamy.  I did have to add at least half a cup of liquid to move it beyond pasty, but I was thrilled with the end result.  David’s recipe had many suggestions for adorning the hummus.  I sprinkled my bowl with sumac and toasted pumpkin seeds and the all-important glug of olive oil.  This is hands-down the best hummus I’ve made at home.  At some point, I’ll try it with home-cooked chickpeas.  In the meantime, I stocked up on cans of chickpeas to make more.

To see what my friends thought of the hummus, check their links here.  The hummus recipe is on page 60 of My Paris Kitchen.  A similar recipe can be found on David Lebovitz’s blog.

I want to add a special shout out to my dear friend Katie of Prof Who Cooks who keeps Cook the Book Fridays moving along.  It’s her birthday today!  Help me wish her a very happy day!

 

Staff of Life {CtBF}

I love making bread.  Over the past few years, it has gradually become part of my weekly kitchen routine.  My bread strategy is firmly in the “no knead” territory, making it long on rising time but super short on effort.  Initially, I was hooked by the Jim Lahey recipe made popular by Mark Bittman. Last summer, on a trip to Vermont, I couldn’t resist a detour to the King Arthur Store, where I bought a sourdough starter.  That sparked a new avenue of bread experiments.

This week’s recipe for Cook the Book Fridays is David Lebovitz’s Multigrain Bread, which resembles the loaves he buys in Paris.  This loaf is neither no-knead nor slow-rising, but I always like learning new things, so gave it a try.

This loaf has several good things going for it:

#1 It’s relatively fast. I mixed up the starter right before bedtime.  Initially it looked unpromising, but overnight the starter rose into a bubbly brew.

Before

After

#2 The combination of seeds mixed into the dough was delicious. Flaxseed, millet, poppy seeds, sunflower seeds, and chopped pumpkin seeds.  Yum!

#3 As with my usual routine, this loaf is baked in a Dutch oven (I used a stoneware bread dome) which produces a perfect artisan-like crust.

#4 The technique for scoring the top of the loaf with a pair of scissors was easy, attractive, and effective. I’ll be reusing this new trick on future loaves.

On the other hand, I question the recipe’s name.  Multigrain?  It’s made with mostly bread flour with a small amount of whole wheat.  That’s two grains, but in my book, that’s hardly multigrain.  Maybe he meant to call it Multiseed Bread?

This plain bread dough was easy enough to knead because I let the stand mixer do the work.  After I added the seeds, the dough wasn’t quite sticky enough to absorb them.  I ended up adding a few tablespoons of water which helped.  I would recommend adding the seeds when the other ingredients are added to the starter and knead it all in one go.

I typically bake a loaf this size at 500F for one hour (in a preheated bread dome).  I questioned the directions for 30 minutes at 450F.  In previously recipes from My Paris Kitchen, I’ve noticed that extra baking time is often required.  My oven must run cooler than David’s.  I opted to set the oven temp to 500F.  After 30 minutes, it was not done.  I let it go another 15 minutes.  The internal temperature said it was done, though I might have liked a darker crust.

In the end, I liked this bread.  It had a nice crumb and toasts well.  Would I make it again?  Perhaps if I didn’t have the time to make my usual favorites.  I really enjoyed the seed mixture so I’ll try adding that combo to a no-knead or sourdough loaf in the future.  Lots of lessons learned with this recipe.

To see what other members of Cook the Book Fridays thought of this recipe, check out their links here.  You can find the recipe here at Fine Cooking or on page 241 of David Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen.