On October 19, 2015 the library’s cookbook club met for dinner with David Lebovitz’s, My Paris Kitchen: Recipes & Stories published in 2014 by Ten Speed Press.
The title of this book might make you think of Julia Child and her recipes and tales of French cooking, but inside you will find a different France, a France of the 21st century—one in which culinary culture has shifted to incorporate ingredients from around the world. David gives us some insight into the shifting culture on page 3 of his introduction. “Paris is a diverse city and, like the rest of France, it is struggling to hang on to whatever it is that makes it resolutely “French” in the face of globalization. When I sat down to write this book about cooking in Paris today, I honestly wasn’t sure what “Parisian food” was. And pondered if French cuisine was even still relevant.”
The recipes inside My Paris Kitchen explore the impacts of globalization through Hummus (p. 60), Spiced Meatballs with Sriracha Sauce (p. 74), Lemon-Pistachio Israeli Couscous (p. 237), and Gazpacho with Herbed Goat Cheese Toasts (p. 121), but also include such classics of French cuisine like French Onion Soup (p.118), Croque-Monsieur (p. 137), and Buche De Noel (p. 319).
I chose this cookbook for our club meeting because I’d checked it out of the library last fall and cooked two of its recipes that I’d become smitten with—Green Beans with Snail Butter (p. 222) and Steak with Mustard Butter and French Fries (p. 206). These recipes made me hungry to learn what else an American in Paris has to share about his culinary encounters across the Atlantic.
Overall, club members were wowed by the presentation of our prepared recipes, and most importantly, the taste! While many agreed they wouldn’t want to hang out with David (his writing style can be a bit off-putting or maybe we just didn’t appreciate his sense of humor) his recipes outshine his likability and might just make us forget to not invite him to dinner.
My Paris Kitchen has a more traditional recipe organization, compared to our last two cookbook reviews. It starts with Appetizers, then First Courses, Main Courses, Sides, Desserts, and ends with a chapter titled, Pantry, with recipes to make Mayonnaise (p.331), Creme Fraiche (p. 327), and Clarified Butter (p. 327), all things a proper French kitchen will need to survive.
My Paris Kitchen was named one of the top 10 cookbooks of the year in 2014 by The Los Angeles Times, Amazon, National Public Radio (NPR), Serious Eats, The Chicago Tribune, Eat Your Books, The Splendid Table, and The Washington Post.
Club Rating: 3.8
“Recipes were well written with accurate descriptions of ingredients and clear directions. Essays were a very interesting insight on life and cooking in Paris.” –M.H.
“Love the flavors of the recipes, but my experience following the recipes was not positive.” –A.C.
“The recipes were difficult to replicate. Perhaps Chef could not think like a home cook.” –A.W.
“Directions needed to be more explicit.” –M.C.
“Loved the process he went through to get to his version of the recipes!” –L.W.
“Very eclectic—I owned the book and didn’t realize this until I read it again for this meeting!” –T.H.
8 said they would recommend the cookbook to a friend, while 4 would not. Only 5 had heard of David Lebovitz before, mostly from his blog or his other books like The Sweet Life in Paris.
David began working in restaurants at the age of sixteen and eventually ended up at Chez Panisse in Berkeley (much like one of our other cookbook writers, Deborah Madison). He spent thirteen years in the kitchens at Chez Panisse, most notably as a baker, before leaving in 1999 to write books.
After leaving Chez Panisse, he launched his website (davidlebovitz.com) to coincide with the release of his first book, Room for Dessert. He wanted the site to be a place to share recipes and stories, and in 2004, with his move to Paris, he turned the site into an official blog.
While living in California, he was named one of the Top Five Pastry Chefs in the Bay Area by the San Francisco Chronicle and has been featured in Bon Appétit, Chocolatier, Cooking Light, Food+Wine, Cook’s Illustrated, The Los Angeles Times, Newsweek, Travel and Leisure, The New York Times, People, Saveur, Sunset, and USA Today.
David is the author of seven books, including, The Sweet Life in Paris, chronicling his move to Paris and acclimating to Parisian life, and features about fifty recipes. The book was a finalist for the International Association of Culinary Professionals Literary Award. He has lived in Paris for over 10 years.
spiced meatballs with sriracha sauce p. 74
leeks with mustard-bacon vinaigrette p. 88
gazpacho with herbed goat cheese toasts p. 121
grated carrot salad p. 123
fried ham and cheese sandwich p. 137
shakshuka p. 154
belgian beef stew with beer and spice bread p. 198
butternut squash crumble p. 215
french lentil salad with goat cheese and walnuts p. 233
lemon pistachio Israeli couscous p. 237
wheat berry salad with radicchio, root vegetables, and pomegranate p. 240
chocolate chip, hazelnut, and dried sour cherry fougasse p. 266
madeleines p. 274
paris-paris (eclairs) p. 285