Some of my favorite recipes have come from David Lebovitz’s blog, but truthfully I have never cracked open one of his many books. I love the writing on his blog, and the food is always excellent. His Tomato Tart is my favorite way to use the best-of-summer tomatoes. David also has great Instagram stories. I love seeing the messy honesty of his recipe testing, antiquing, and exploring.
I read his cookbook cover to cover, because My Paris Kitchen is much more than lists of ingredients and instructions. His stories about traditions, dinner parties, lessons learned, and his life in France make the book worth reading, even without the recipes. After studying French during high school and college and doing a study abroad, France has had a special place in my heart. Lebovitz’s anecdotes about French culture brought back a lot of my special memories. My Paris Kitchen is worth reading, even if you don’t plan on cooking any of the recipes.
The cooking is a little advanced with a lot of specialty ingredients, but Lebovitz encourages readers to used their judgement and focus on intuition and senses rather than precisely following exact details. Which I did, liberally. It took me a while to pick the recipes I wanted to cook, but ultimately I ended up going for recipes that included ingredients I already had on hand to cut down on the shopping I’d have to do.
The Israeil Couscous has become a fast favorite for us, but I did have to make two major substitutions. While I always have plenty of lemons on hand, I have never preserved one. Rather than letting a lemon brine in salt for a week, I just used zest and extra salt. I’m sure it’s not as complex of a flavor, but it was still delicious. Next, I substituted walnuts for pistachios. Honestly, I just wasn’t going to shell any amount of pistachios, and I already had walnuts on hand. I am curious to try the recipe as Lebovitz intended, but I hope he would be proud of my ingenuity. And it turned out great. I have already made the salad again. I like to make it on a day off and bring it to work for lunch.
The chocolate mousse recipe has often been hailed as one of Lebovitz’s best. He recently demonstrated the recipe on Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street. During my time in France, I remember buying cups of Mousse au Chocolat from the grocery store. It was stocked near the yogurt in little plastic cups. It’s one of my favorite desserts and only takes a few ingredients. Honestly I don’t know why I never made it before. The hardest part is waiting for the mousse to set (it needs to sit for eight hours). Lebovitz’s version is way better than anything found in a plastic cup.
I have never made dry caramel before, and it was a little nerve wrecking. It took two tires to get it right, but the payoff was worth it. The caramel and salted butter made the chocolate mousse so much more interesting than it would have been as just a chocolate one. The mousse is so light in texture but extremely rich — an intense and delicious dessert. Eating the mousse was so indulgent, it was like eating chocolate frosting. Because it is so rich, a little goes a long way. We divided it into six portions but should have done eight.
I found that the recipes in My Paris Kitchen are better suited to special occasions and weekend projects than everyday cooking. Many of the recipes required specialty ingredients that would take some effort to hunt down. The food is also very indulgent -lots of fat, butter, cream, meat, cheese, etc – not foods I want to eat every day. Lebovitz tells a story with each recipe that compels the reader to try it out, no matter how complicated or expensive or caloric it might be.