David Lebovitz has the kind of life any foodist would aspire to. Ten years ago, after a long career in the kitchen at San Francisco's Chez Panisse, he up and moved to Paris. And now, with one of the top food blogs on the web and a pile of books under his belt, he pretty much gets to live his food dream for a living.
With his latest, My Paris Kitchen, you can experience at least a bit of that life. This, Lebovitz's seventh book, is actually his first on savory cooking - five previous volumes covered dessert, including one on chocolate and another on ice cream, and although The Sweet Life in Paris includes plenty of non-dessert recipes, it's more memoir than cookbook.
The dishes in My Paris Kitchen are kind of exactly what you'd expect an expat food blogger and chef would make in, well, his Paris kitchen - lots of light and breezy recipes calling for fresh produce, along with classic French dishes, from cassoulet to two different types of madeleines.
But it's not a slavish dictionary of French cuisine. There are dishes reflecting contemporary Paris' multicultural makeup, like the Middle Eastern bread salad fattoush, and cauliflower roasted with the Egyptian nut-and-spice mixture dukkah, as well as nods to Lebovitz's homeland with a pair of barbecue-ish recipes: ribs with a spicy caramel-bourbon sauce, and a pulled pork braised with smoky ingredients instead of being smoked itself.
More than anything else, the theme feels like "stuff David Lebovitz likes to eat," which is reinforced by extensive head notes and short essays sprinkled throughout, telling stories about his grumpy local olive vendor, making gazpacho to combat 100-degree heat in an un-air-conditioned apartment and his inability to correctly pronounce the French word for "noodles."
With the summer's explosion of variety in fruits and vegetables coming on, this book's a perfect one to snag now. And this fennel, radish, orange and crab salad is a perfect taste of David Lebovitz's Paris.
Fennel, radish, orange and crab salad
From: My Paris Kitchen, by David Lebovitz
2 tsp. white wine vinegar
4 tsp. freshly squeezes lemon juice
3/4 tsp. sea salt or kosher salt
6 tbsp. mild-tasting olive oil
8 oz. lump crabmeat
1 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
Freshly ground black pepper
1 fennel bulb
2 navel or blood oranges
6 cups torn or sliced radicchio or Belgian endive, or picked watercress sprigs
10 radishes, thinly sliced
Flaky sea salt, to finish
1. Mix together the vinegar, lemon juice, and salt in a bowl. Stir in the olive oil until well combined. Toss the crabmeat and parsley leaves in the dressing, season with a few generous grinds of the peppermill, and set aside.
2. Trim the fronds off the fennel bulb and remove any tough outer layers. Cut the fennel bulb in half lengthwise and cut out the core. Slice the fennel as thinly as you possibly can, or shave it with a mandoline.
3. Cut the stem and opposite ends off the oranges. Place each orange, cut side down, on a cutting board. With a sharp paring or serrated knife, cut away the peel, using downward motions to match and maintain the curvature of the fruit. Take the knife and slice out suprêmes (sections) of the oranges, leaving the membranes behind.
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4. Arrange the salad leaves on four large plates (or a large serving platter). Scatter the shaved fennel over the salad leaves and tuck the orange segments and radishes in between the fennel and the salad leaves.
5. Distribute the crabmeat and parsley over the salads, spoon the remaining dressing over the salads, sprinkle with flaky sea salt, and serve.
Jason Horn has been obsessed with food since he learned the secret ingredient in his dad's chicken soup (he'll never tell) and obsessed with writing since he followed a high-school crush to a literary magazine meeting (it didn't work out). Follow him online at The Messy Epicure and on Twitter at @MessyEpicure. Want more Squid Ink? Follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook.