Spiced Chickpea I turned 28 on Monday. In the days before, there had been a buzz around our house: on multiple occasions, Raquelle would send me a text to announce her arrival, something like: About to come inside the house! Close your eyes so I can put away one of your gifts! Not wanting to spoil the surprise, I would shut my eyes and engage in a brief meditation on materialism, or the origin of joy. It should come as no surprise that, more than once, as I sat there with my legs crossed and my eyes closed, I heard not the opening and closing of the closet, but rather the refrigerator door. In our house, we don’t often give gifts that will stand the test of time, the ones that will decorate our wrists until we’re grey, or hang around in the bottom of our dressers until we’ve outgrown them. We give gifts that are not wrapped in bright colors or festooned with great big bows. Ours are wrapped in butcher paper, or held tightly under glass and cork. Ours grace the table, not the back of the closet.On Monday morning, I was woken early. Raquelle had to teach her classes in the city and she wanted to share breakfast with me. It felt a little like Christmas morning, walking down the stairs in my pajamas, my eyes heavy with sleep, the windows still covered with the darkness of the night. The table was filled with smoked salmon and capers, thinly sliced red onion and crème fraiche, and great big pieces of warm toast. After breakfast, Raquelle cleared the table and set down a few sheets of paper in front of me. She left without saying what it was, and at first my eyes struggled to see in the dim light of the kitchen.IMG_2500There on the page were letters written to me from my mother and father, my brother and sisters, my closest friends. It was a sort of out-of-body experience, all of these great souls with whom I connect to the world, speaking to me at once, wishing me well. I spent the rest of the morning and afternoon thinking of them.IMG_2508_1I sat at the Café Festival, had a coffee and watched the people, and the pigeons, and the trees. Not long after, my coffee had gone cold. I paid the bill and left. My birthday gifts too, neatly wrapped and stored in the fridge, would meet the same end: they’d be eaten, or spoiled, or trashed. This is a great lesson to me. Especially on a birthday, a chance I have to consider my entry into this body and this life. And, morbid as it may sound, a chance to consider my exit. A life is a very beautiful and fleeting thing. I don’t know how many more times I’ll put on my watch or admire the way my coat hugs my shoulders. But a table filled with good things doesn’t ask me to look forward. It allows me to be here, comfortably seated.IMG_2518That evening, after Raquelle had returned home from work, we sat down to a table filled with good things. There was homemade bread, a cheese plate with gruyere, morbier, brie, and croquet, sliced and cured ham, the most beautiful red and white radishes, seared foie gras served with a fig-rosé reduction, cold Crémant, an Absinthe cake, and a bottle of good Kentucky Bourbon. Even before we began to eat, I was already full.

Because there is no recipe for happiness, I’ll share with you something more practical, something that you can certainly create in your own kitchen. Of all the things we ate for my birthday dinner, there were two dishes in the running for the tastiest bite. One was the foie gras that was seared and served with a little rosé and fig jam that had been reduced down until it became sweet and syrupy. The other was what you see here: a richly spiced sort of stew that was made with fried chickpeas and garlic, blistered tomatoes, and fresh celery tops. It was spiced with fried cumin, oregano and smoked paprika. And just as so many of the most satisfying dishes are made, this one was thrown together without too much consideration. But it was so delicious, and warming, and perfect for a cold Fall night that I had to share it with you. Alternatively, you could throw this into a food processor at the last minute for a warm and spicy chickpea-tomato hummus to be slathered on charred bread with lots of olive oil and black pepper. Here’s the recipe:Spiced ChickpeasSmoky Chickpea-Tomato Stew with Celery Tops (serves 3-4)


1 lb cooked chickpeas

1 lb cherry tomatoes

4 cloves garlic, minced

Olive oil

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

1 tbsp whole cumin, coarsely chopped

1 tsp fresh-ground black pepper

3 tsp smoked paprika(it’s crucial to use ‘smoked’ paprika in this case)

1 tsp dried oregano

1 cup sliced celery tops



To start, heat a large pan on medium heat. When the pan is hot, pour in about 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and then the cherry tomatoes. They should sizzle and pop and blister slightly. You can put a lid or a pop screen over them to prevent splattering. After about 5 minutes of cooking, lower the heat to medium and let the tomatoes cook for another 15 minutes. Keep an eye on them so that they don’t burn too much.

Meanwhile, heat another pan on medium-high heat. Add the coarsely chopped cumin and the black pepper to the dry pan and let it toast for a minute or so. Add about 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Once it’s good and hot, add the chickpeas to the pan. They will sizzle and they should crisp up slightly. Let them cook for about 10 minutes. In the last 5 minutes, add the minced garlic and the oregano and the smoked paprika.

After the tomatoes have cooked for about 20 minutes, add the chickpeas, the apple cider vinegar, and salt to taste. Let it simmer for another 5 or 10 minutes. You could also continue to let this stew. It will only improve with time.

At the moment when you’re ready to eat, chop the celery tops and scatter them over the stew.



Dark-Chocolate Raspberry PuddingI’m not much of a sweets guy. In fact, when given the choice, I always pick savory over sweet. In the hours after dinner, when most people romanticize about a warm piece of apple pie, I’m thinking about french fries and mayonnaise. But that’s not to say that I don’t like sweets at all. I’m just picky. That’s probably why I don’t post too many recipes for desserts on this here blog. Sure, I’ve done pumpkin pie, salted butter chocolate chip cookies, and a spectacular raspberry-fig tarte, but that’s about it.   A couple nights ago, my wife decided that she was going to make a very classic, very French chocolate pudding. My memories of pudding took me back to playgrounds and field trip sack lunches, where I’d wolf down the gloppy, starchy stuff and wish for another Capri-Sun to wash it all down. Knowing that the version she planned to make would be altogether different (and way better), I was excited and intrigued. But about an hour later, we found ourselves staring over a bowl of grainy chocolate and wondering how we were going to whip a couple egg whites into stiff peaks by hand. The chocolate, sensitive to rapid change in temperature, had been placed over a double boiler for too long and had seized up into a giant ball. It’s safe to say that a more thorough reading of the recipe would have helped. I must point out, though, that Raquelle is a great cook. And she’s a fantastic vegan baker. In fact, she is hailed by her friends to be a sorceress when it comes to coconut milk, avocado, and maca powder. The French kitchen, however, in all its eggy/milky/fatty goodness, behaves very differently. It’s no wonder things didn’t turn out quite right. IMG_2357_1Yesterday, I thought we’d waited long enough; that even though it had been only a day since defeat, we should give it another shot. Raquelle had other obligations and left me to it alone. I took a moment to consider how I might improve upon a basic chocolate pudding. I had all kinds of ideas. There was one that I had planned on calling an “Old Fashioned” Chocolate Pudding. I would have substituted bourbon whiskey for the water, added macerated cherries, and orange zest to the whipped cream. And if Bourbon were not so damned expensive here in France, I probably would have made that. My other idea is what you see here: a pudding made with dark chocolate, sweet raspberries, and topped with a coconut milk whipped cream. It tastes as dreamy as it sounds, and as I type these very words, there’s a big bowl of it propped up on my lap, nearly gone. But, you know, I don’t really care for sweets, right?IMG_2338_1IMG_2361_1Dark Chocolate-Raspberry Pudding with Coconut Cream (serves 4)


2 eggs, room temp

170 g high-quality dark chocolate, chopped

60 grams water, room temp

40 g sugar

1 cup fresh raspberries

60 g butter(room temp), chopped

sea salt

1 can coconut milk, well chilled



Begin by pouring the raspberries and about a tablespoon of water into a small saucepan on medium-low heat. Let the raspberries cook and condense for about ten minutes. Once they’ve condense, let them cool.

Meanwhile, separate the whites and the yolks of the eggs. Using a hand mixer, beat the whites until they form soft peaks.

In a separate bowl, add the chopped chocolate, the water, the butter, sugar, and a pinch of salt. Use a double-boiler to slowly heat the chocolate until it melts. Be sure to stir it slowly and continuously. If you don’t have a double boiler, not to worry. You can simply heat some water in a small saucepan and place a slightly larger pan on top of it. Once the chocolate mixture has melted and is completely homogenous, slowly stir in raspberries, followed by the two egg yolks. Then, slowly fold in the beaten egg whites. The idea of folding is to combine without destroying the aeration of the whipped egg whites. Be sure, however, that you do not leave any streaks of the beaten whites. Once combined, cover the pudding with plastic wrap and let it cool in the fridge for about two hours.

While the pudding cools, you can make the coconut cream. Be sure that you are using canned coconut milk that has been kept refrigerated. This will ensure that the fat has risen to the top. Open the can of coconut milk and scoop out the rich fatty  stuff on the top. Leave behind the water at the bottom. To prepare it, use a whisk and beat it until it comes to your desired consistency. As I’m not a big fan of very sweet things, I choose to keep the coconut cream simple, without any added sugars. I won’t tell you how to serve this, as I’m sure you can figure it out. But I certainly wouldn’t mind if you decided to enjoy this with a sip of fine Kentucky Bourbon.

Cheers.Dark Chocolate-Raspberry Pudding

Roasted Broccoli with GrapesHere in Aix, I’m still in awe of the number of food-related businesses that stud the narrow, cobble-stoned streets. Along with all manner of restaurants, you’ll find bakeries, fromageries, and butcher shops; little stores devoted entirely to tea, or exotic spices. It would not be a figure of speech to say that, standing on our terrace, I could lob a stone over the roof and hit a Japanese restaurant, a vietnamese place, a super-good pizzeria, or a classic brasserie. In fact, I did a little research on Google Maps to find that within 5 minutes walking distance (walking distance!), there are over 60 restaurants, bars, and cafes.

Just yesterday, I was on my morning walk to the market. In the hours before noon, the city is pretty quiet. The freshly-cleaned streets glisten with cold water and most days it’s just me and the pigeons. But this morning felt different. I could hear a dull commotion a few blocks down. When I turned the corner, I could see a large truck filled with what looked like recording equipment. Several men were unloading the truck and moving things into our favorite cheese shop. At first glance, I worried that a news crew had discovered some grisly secret beneath the giants wheels of cheese. My primary concern was that we could no longer count on them for the most perfectly ripe morbier. Our cheese toasts will never be the same! I thought. But as I got closer, I could see that there in the middle of the stacks of cheese was a tiny table, outfitted with two chairs. On top, there was a single rose. Outside the shop, there was a woman working on a prop, a giant black sign whereupon she was painting the word “Cremerie.” It was a film set. Alas! I would do my cheese shopping elsewhere. But first, the market.Roasted Broccoli with GrapesOur first couple weeks here were financially wreckless, which meant that today, I was on a mission to exercise some restraint. I eyed the various stalls of produce to find very fresh, very beautiful bunches of broccoli. And it was cheap. What’s more, I had been wanting to make a big dish of roasted broccoli, with fresh garlic, lemon, and lots of black pepper. I had considered studding it with raisins for some sweetness. But the market doesn’t have raisins. And just as that moment, as I began to consider the word for raisins in French (raisins sec), I had a better idea. The french call raisins ‘dried grapes.’ And they call grapes, well, ‘raisins.’ Here, nearly lost in translation, I stumbled upon something delicious. Roasted Broccoli with GrapesIn a moment, I had swooped up a great big handful of grapes, a wedge of parmesan from down the road, and I found myself back in my kitchen, anxiously at work, ready to make something good.Roasted Broccoli with GrapesI would make a dish with crispy roasted broccoli, the edges beginning to brown. There would be earthy black pepper and cider vinegar for brightness. It would be flecked with minced garlic, studded with sweet muscat grapes, and once out of the oven, I would top it with ripe and crumbly parmesan cheese and a few pockets of hot chili oil. It would be perfect. And it was.

Spicy Roasted Broccoli with Muscat Grapes and Parmesan(serves 2)


1 large bunch of broccoli

1 cup of muscat grapes(or another sweet grape)

2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 tbsp apple cider vinegar

3 tbsps of good parmesan cheese, crumbled

hot chili oil, to taste

black pepper and salt, to taste


Preheat your oven to 460 F. Chop off the broccoli florets, leaving some of the stem. Place the broccoli onto a large sheet pan and evenly distribute the grapes and the chopped garlic. Season it with salt, pepper, and the 1 tbsp of apple cider vinegar. Place it in the oven to cook for about 25 minutes. Let it cook long enough that the florets begin to crisp up and to turn brown. This is essential! Once cooked, remove the broccoli and plate it up. Top each plate generously with parmesan, more black pepper, and some hot chili oil. Rejoice.roasted broccoli with grapes


Whole-Wheat TagliatelleWhether we choose to admit it or not, the days of summer are gone. Pool parties are a distant memory; no more is the air filled with the scent of char-grilled burgers and Banana Boat tanning lotion, and the carefree flip-flopping of open-toed shoes has hushed. Some may find this to be a disappointment. But not me. This means I can finally open my windows, finally take a long stroll without being drenched in sweat, finally have un café a la terrasse and actually enjoy it. Even more, in these next few weeks, we exist in a very special part of the year: without a hard freeze, summer’s last fruits have found their way to the table alongside more hardy vegetables, like squash, broccoli, kale, and chard. If you are one who cooks with the seasons, this might seem like a bit of quandary, trying to come up with dishes that incorporate produce from summer and fall. But don’t fear: as a general rule, the best way to bring together various ingredients is to cook them with some sort of grain or pasta. In doing so, diverse vegetables are no longer incompatible partners; rather, they provide interest and excitement to whatever pasta or grain they’re cooked along with.whole-wheat tagliatellebutternut squashYou could certainly make this dish using store-bought dry wheat pasta, and it would be just fine. But I’ve never been a fan of wheat pasta. In fact, it seems like a kind of oxymoron, like pizza without cheese or sugar-free chocolate. A big part of why I love pasta is its starchy, creamy, comforting texture. This is exactly why I never buy wheat pasta–because it’s devoid of this wonderfully creamy quality. In recent weeks, however, I’ve been experimenting with all kinds of homemade pasta. There was a stellar summer lasagna I made, layered with thick slices of provencal tomatoes, fresh basil, gruyere, and parmesan. It was enormous, and after eating on it for about a week, my wife made a request for a more ‘healthy’ pasta. I often grumble over these requests, but in truth, if left to my own devices, I would be a very fat, very sad man. And in trying to honor her request, homemade whole-wheat tagliatelle was born.whole-wheat tagliatelleI hope that by this point, you know me well enough to be sure that I would not post a recipe that I myself do not believe to be absolutely delicious. But you might be wondering why this wheat pasta is any different from the rest. Here’s the deal. The pasta you buy at the store, be it white or wheat, is made with flour and water. Most fresh pastas, however, are made with egg. It’s no surprise that an egg can provide a richness and creaminess that water alone cannot. It’s this addition of egg that nearly solves the whole-wheat pasta problem. That, and a bit of olive oil. Now, is it identical to a big bowl of fettucine made from white flour(or semolina)? No. Of course not. It does, however, have some very lovely qualities to it. Namely, it has a pleasing chewiness that makes you want to go back for more and a subtle earthiness that pairs well with bright flavors like tomato or lemon. If this is, in fact, your first rodeo, you could always start with a classic and make this first. But if you feel game, let’s go.

whole-wheat tagliatelleWhole-Wheat Tagliatelle with Butternut, Chard, and Cherry Tomato Sauce(serves 4)


2 lbs cherry tomatoes

1 large bunch of chard

1 medium-sized butternut squash, chopped

1 yellow onion, diced

6 cloves garlic, minced

hot chili oil, to taste

for the pasta:

200 g whole wheat flour

2 large eggs, room temperature

2 tsp olive oil


Start by assembling your ingredients for the pasta. In a large bowl, or on a clean countertop, pour in the wheat flour and make a well in the center. Separately, mix up your eggs and the olive oil with a fork and then pour them into the well. With a clean hand, integrate the flour, a little at a time, to the egg and oil. It will take a little time and toward the end, it will probably seem too dry, as if the remaining flour will not be able to mix in. But continue to work with it until all the flour has been incorporated. At this point, you will have a shaggy dough that needs to be made more supple. This can be done by kneading the dough. For about 5 whole minutes, knead the dough on a clean work surface. As you knead it, you should notice that it becomes more and more smooth. When the ball of pasta dough begins to resemble that of the picture above, wrap it in plastic and leave it to rest on the counter for one hour(or up to a few hours).

While the pasta rests, we’ll make our sauce, and prepare the chard and the butternut squash. To start, pour a good glug of olive oil into a wide pan and turn the heat to high. When the pan is hot, pour in the cherry tomatoes. They will sizzle and spit–all good signs. Let them cook on high heat for about 10 minutes, taking care that they do not scorch(a little charring is good, however). After about ten minutes, turn the heat to medium high and add the minced garlic and the chopped yellow onion. Give it a good bit of salt and fresh cracked pepper and let it cook on medium heat while you prepare the butternut. This sauce will continue to cook as you prepare the butternut, the chard, and the pasta.

To prepare the butternut, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut the butternut down the middle, scoop out the seeds(which you can roast and season with savory indian spices!), and cut off the outer skin. Chop the butternut into bite-sized pieces and place them on a wide sheet pan. Give them a good bit of olive oil, salt, and pepper, and let them cook for about 20 minutes, or until they are good to the tooth and slightly browned.

While they cook, prepare the chard. Heat a very large pot of salted water until it comes to a boil. While it heats, remove any thick pieces of stalk from the chard, but keep some for texture and chew. Chop the chard into ribbons and give it a good rinse. When the salted water boils, throw in the chard, cover it briefly, and cook just until the chard wilts (about 2 minutes). Remove the cooked chard, rinse it under cool water, and set it aside for later use.

Once the hour of resting is up, it’s time to roll out the pasta. Begin by cutting the disc of dough into four equal pieces. Lightly flour your work surface and, using a rolling pin, gradually roll out the dough. Flour lightly as you go, so that the pasta doesn’t stick and then tear. If you want nice long tagliatelle, don’t worry about the width of the piece of dough that you are rolling out. Instead, roll it out as long as you can. For me, this meant that each quarter of pasta dough could be rolled out to a nearly-30-inch rectangle. This is not a breeze, and it requires that you bear down with your weight onto the rolling pin while slowly rolling outward, but you can do it! If you lose your mojo and try to settle for thick whole-wheat pasta, you will likely not be pleased. The result will be coarse strands of pasta that are too thick to be moistened by the water in which they will boil. So, with that in mind, hang in there! Once this rectangle has been rolled out long, flour it well and fold it over onto itself into it becomes a neat little folded pasta package measuring about 4 or 5 inches long. Flour the top of this folded package and take care not to press it down at all. Instead, with a sharp knife, cut the length of the pasta so that it is about 1/8 of an inch wide. Once completed, gently loosen these strands with a little more flour. These should now unfold into separate pieces of tagliatelle the length of the initial rectangle of dough you rolled out. Place these aside on a dry plate and continue with the other three pieces of dough. When you’re finished, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. From here, the process moves quickly.

When the water boils, throw in the pasta and crank up the heat on the pan of cherry tomato sauce to high. The pasta should cook for two minutes. After two minutes, strain the pasta and pour it into the pan of cherry tomato sauce. Give it a good mix and let the pasta and the sauce cook together for one more minute. Finally, pour the pasta-sauce mixture into a large mixing bowl and throw in the butternut squash and the chard. Season with a little more salt and pepper to taste, and hit it with a little hot chili oil. Careful, the stuff is hot.



Raspberry-Fig TartIn the weeks leading up to our move, while I was practicing my French, I would often play out scenarios in my head of what it would be like to connect with locals in another language. In my imagination, I would walk through the outdoor markets, a scarf expertly draped over my shoulders, with a kind smile and a keen eye for the best products. I would share a joke with the cheesemonger, make a comment about the weather to the old woman selling root vegetables. I would appear to any and to all, a quick study–like someone who had been speaking French for years. And in reality, in those first few interactions upon our arrival, I still held firmly to this idea: that the best way to learn a language is to act like an expert.

Friends, I was wrong. In my first few interactions, I garbled my way through the simplest of sentences. And to make things worse, those listening couldn’t look upon me with pity. How could they? After all, despite my ineptitude, I was speaking to them as if it were easy for me, as if they should be capable of understanding the nuance of everything I said. So I have taken time to reconsider. And what I’ve decided is that a language learner is best off acting like a child: affable, curious, honest, and respectful. If I’m kind and respectful, even if someone doesn’t understand a lick of what I said, they’re much more likely to try to understand me, to give me a second chance, maybe. In the past few days, this new approach has served me well.raspberries These days, when I go to the market, I smile. I speak slowly. I say monsieur and madame. If I don’t know a word, I tell them so. I tell them I’m searching for something that’s kinda like this and a little like that. And more often than not, they give me a short French lesson, teach me a new word or two. So it’s working. I’m even getting to know some of the vendors at the market. There’s the older lady who sells all manner of produce and is always complaining about something. I ask her how she’s doing and she tells me that her foot hurts. Or that she’s tired. Or that’s she’s too hot. She’s a funny lady, and she’s the first vendor I seek out for tomatoes and figs. In a stall adjacent to hers is an older fellow, whom Raquelle and I affectionately call “The Berry Man.” The Berry Man is always impeccably dressed. He wears crisp trousers and pressed shirts. His white hair is always fixed with a neat part. He stands at attention, his hands folded in front of him, his kind eyes cast downward. His table is small and neatly arranged. Upon it, berries are displayed like jewels. And for good reason. It was their brilliance and luxury that led to a dessert like this.Raspberry-Fig Tarteraspberry-fig tarte

Raspberry-Fig Tart with Crème Fraîche (serves 6 human people; or 2 unreasonably gluttonous monsters)


for the crust-

125 g white flour

two hearty pinches of salt

20 g sugar

70 g butter, cubed and well-chilled

1/2 egg, beaten (reserve the other half for an egg wash)

2 tsp ice water

for the filling-

1o oz figs, finely chopped(set aside 1 fig to be used later)

5 oz fresh raspberries

2 oz sugar

zest of 1 lemon

juice of 1/2 lemon

for serving-

4 oz Crème Fraîche

1 tbsp honey


Begin by cubing the butter, placing it in a bowl, and setting it in the freezer to chill for 10 minutes. Then beat the egg, separate it in half, and put it in the fridge. Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl, pour in the flour, sugar, and salt. When the butter is chilled, add it to the flour and, using a pastry cutter or your hands, quickly mix the butter into the dough. Be sure to do this quickly so that the butter does not melt into the dough. When you begin to see bits of butter and flour the size of a grain of rice, pour in the egg and the 2 tsps of ice water. Mix with your hands just until the dough comes together. Do not over-mix. Quickly form the dough into a disc, wrap it in plastic wrap, and place it in the fridge for 1 hour.

While the dough chills, pour the finely chopped figs, lemon juice and zest, and the sugar into a small saucepan and turn the heat to medium. Stir regularly. Once the mixture begins to boil, lower the heat to just above a simmer and let it cook for half an hour. The mixture should condense over time. After half an hour, pour the fig mixture into a bowl and chill it for another half hour.

Preheat the oven 375 degrees. Once the dough has chilled, remove it from the fridge, flour it lightly, and roll it out to a circle that is 10″ in diameter. Place the dough on a parchment-lined sheet tray and put it back into the fridge for ten minutes. After ten minutes, place the sheet tray on the counter and fill the center with the cooled fig mixture. Leave about an inch of dough on the outsides of the circle to fold over as a crust. Take the remaining fig that was not used in the cooked mixture and slice it into 6 pieces. Place these sliced figs on top of the fig mixture. Next, place the raspberries on top of the figs. Gently fold over the outsides of the dough so that a crust is created. Gently pinch and crimp the wrinkles of the dough to ensure that the filling will not spill out during baking. Generously cover the outer crust with the reserved egg wash. Don’t be afraid to be liberal with it. Place the tarte into the oven and let it cook for 45 minutes. The filling should bubble and the crust should be deeply bronzed. Once baked, let the tarte cool for an hour or more. This will give the filling time to set up completely.

When you’re ready to serve the tarte, mix the Crème Fraîche and honey and spoon a large portion over each piece. Enjoy.raspberry-fig tarte

Bread SteakUntil now, I have never had the experience of living(really living) in a culture so vastly different from my own. I’ve travelled, sure. There were 5 weeks in Berlin on a Fulbright Scholarship some years back; there were a couple days in Paris. But for the first time, I’m beginning to see how an experience that once felt like a vacation, an unreal and hazy dream, can become a lifestyle.  And with any lifestyle comes the monotony of life, the day-to-day; there are dishes to be done, trash to be taken out, bills that need to be paid. And I’m sure that you’re thinking: yes, but your trash is filled with all manner of evidence that points to your charmed life–emptied bottles of Cotes du Rhone, the rind of perfectly ripe Tomme de Savoie. And if you made such a point, I wouldn’t argue with you. Well, maybe, just a little. I’ll save most of the philosophizing for another time, but for now I’ll just say this: when we hope to derive our happiness from the things we eat and drink, or from the way the light drips off the tops of buildings on quiet mornings, or from the prospect of a perfect peach, we will be let down every single time. Few could ever claim a life of complete peace and endless contentment. But I wouldn’t guess that those few, if you asked them for their secret, would tell you in a whisper that they attribute it all to plates of charcuterie and expensive chocolates.  I mean, haven’t you too ever been upset in a fine restaurant?  Or haven’t you ever happily sipped awful wine among good friends? At best, what we eat and drink is a sort of cherry on top of our cake of contentment.Bread Steak I hope I haven’t let you down, spoiled your dreams of spending ten months living vicariously in the south of France. We can still do that together–but I just had to be honest, had to say what I’d never read about in any guide book, or ever seen on any episodes of Bourdain.

It makes sense that, just around the time I was beginning to consider what it might mean to live here long-term, Raquelle and I would venture out of the city to have a 3-hour lunch with a 91-year-old Provencal man named “Lolo.” If anyone could show me how to find my way here in France, it would be a supra-octogenarian who had spent his life in the sun, tending to his olive groves, raising his chickens and geese, and cooking and serving perfect strangers for decades.LoloWe arrived in Les Baux de Provence in the afternoon. The sun was strong, but it was tempered by constant breeze. We took a bus as far as we could. But when the roads narrowed, we took to our feet, passing old vineyards and Greco-Roman ruins that appeared to have been built yesterday.  Along the way, just before we made it to Lolo’s house was the Saint Paul Asylum, the very place where Vincent Van Gogh painted the view of the night sky from his window. This real-life metaphor was not lost on me: that just a stone’s throw from an asylum was a little piece of heaven; that perhaps these two states of mind are not so far from one another. “Much madness is divinest sense,” Dickinson would say.Lolo's KitchenWhen we made it to Lolo’s place, we were welcomed with a spread of briny olives and cold Ricard. The geese craned their long necks, wondering what all the fuss was about. And for nearly three hours, we were served course after course of good simple food, glass after glass of local wine, followed by a dish of brightly colored plums. When it was all finished, Lolo retreated to the inside of his house, understandably tired from all his hard work. I poked around the rooms, admiring their character and age, the walls of cold smooth stone. It was more like a museum, this troglodytic house, built into the side of a mountain, with a deed so old it was signed with the stamp of Louis XIV. At just the moment when I seemed to forget that this place was someone’s sanctuary, someone’s home, I was startled by Lolo, sitting in a chair in the corner of a back room. I felt inclined to say something, maybe even apologize for invading his space. “Merci beaucoup, Monsieur,” I said. He didn’t look up and he didn’t answer. He was tired. Tired as a man should be after 91 years of hard work and toil. He rubbed his hands over his face and through his hair and he stared off blankly toward the wall. After some seconds passed, still without an answer, I left him there to be alone.

I don’t know how long Lolo will keep this going. The fact that he is up and about in any capacity seems a miracle to me. I must say that I’m glad I got to have this experience–a chance to spend an afternoon with someone who has learned how to live gracefully, at ease, in a way that seems effortless and simple. The next day, my head buzzing with all of these thoughts, I went to the market with the goal of making something simple and effortless, something Lolo might appreciate.figsThis dish, much like the one I posted last week, is another celebration of place. It’s free of being fussy or technical. Instead, it’s a dish that’s all about the goodness of simple things. And it’s the kind of food that, if you’re not in the best of spirits or if you’ve lost your way, might guide you back into the light, might tell you that everything is gonna be ok.grilled vegetables

Bread Steak with Summer’s Last Crop (serves 2)


1 large, very ripe tomato, chopped finely, juice reserved

1 small eggplant

1 red pepper

2 small zucchini (or 1 large)


2 or 3 ripe figs

1 loaf of good crusty bread

4 large anchovies, packed in olive oil(sardine-style)

2 cloves of fresh garlic, minced

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Olive oil

salt and pepper, to taste


To begin, fire up the grill or place a dry skillet on high heat. Meanwhile, coat the eggplant, zucchini, and red pepper with a little olive oil. Once the grill or pan is hot, place these vegetables down and let them char heavily on both sides. While they char, slice your tomato, making sure to keep all the juices that leak out. Place the tomato in a bowl, along with a squeeze of lemon juice, chopped garlic, some olive oil, black pepper, and a good bit of salt. Chop the parsley and add it to the tomato mixture. As the salt works on the tomatoes, it will begin to pull out more of the liquid, so that it becomes almost like a fresh, cold soup.

Once the vegetables have been well-charred on both sides, remove them from the heat to cool. Once cool, chop them finely and keep them separated. Additionally, prepare thin slices of the fig and set aside. Slice two 2-inch thick pieces of bread, drizzle them on both sides with olive oil, and place them under the broiler to toast up nice and dark.

Once the bread has been toasted, get two large bowls ready. Divide the tomato mixture into the two bowls. Place one slice of bread in the middle of each bowl, atop the tomato mixture. Surround the bread with the chopped, grilled zucchini, red pepper, eggplant, and the figs. Place the anchovies on top of the bread. Then, give the plate a final seasoning with more salt and pepper, another squeeze of fresh lemon, a good glug of olive oil, and perhaps a few drops of tabasco sauce. This dish, to me, is the best way to make the most of the last of what summer has to offer.




When you arrive in France, you will, no doubt, be very tired. You will not have slept a wink on the plane. You will wish for a hot shower, a chance to lie flat on your back, and 12-15 hours of uninterrupted sleep. Everything will feel like a strange dream. But your hosts will greet you with a kiss on both your cheeks and they will seat you on their terrace for a coffee and a croissant and they will introduce you to their handsome cat, Nikos. You will struggle desperately with the language. You will smile and laugh when you believe it is appropriate, and in the event that a comment is sent in your direction, you will hope and pray, first, that you understood it and, second, that you can formulate some response without sounding like a person who is either functionally delayed or whose mouth has been stuffed with gauze. You will be invited to dinner. Wine will be served outside, as the sun goes down and the air begins to cool. When the bottle is finished, there will be dinner–a steaming dish of pasta with stewed eggplant, tomato, pork, and herbs. More wine. Then dessert–a tender cake covered with all manner of the sweetest fruit, fruits you’ve never seen before. After dinner, you will be led to the den for another coffee (sans caffeine, s’il te plait). You will be handed an old guitar that once belonged to a greek poet and you will be asked to play and sing. You will play and you will sing. Your hosts will smile. You will then say goodbye. You will walk with your wife through cobblestone streets, flanked by 400-year old buildings and gothic cathedrals, in a darkness that is interrupted only by the soft glow of a few street lights. You will step into your well-appointed apartment and you will sleep a heavy sleep. When you wake in the morning, you will come to know that this is no dream. You will come to know that this is your reality: one year in Provence.

Or, at least, that has been my experience. aioli

It’s hard to believe, but it’s been nearly three months since I last posted a recipe to Bread+Bourbon. Before summer began, I had made plans to post two times a week, to go on long walks, to play my guitar. But the days, instead, were spent moving out of our apartment, frantically trying to learn French, getting up at 4 in the morning to work at a bakery, and fighting for nearly two months with the French Consulate and other organizations to get our visas(I will spare you all the infuriating details). But we’re here now! I’d like to make a promise to each and every one of you that I will post, at least, one recipe each week. And if I break this promise, I will give you a full refund of the zero dollars you pay me each month to view this blog.

To get things started off, here’s a recipe for a uniquely Provençal dish. This is the kind of thing that good, country French people have been making for hundreds of years. Even in the worst of times, one could count on a few potatoes, a carrot, some green beans, and a piece of fish. And in an area where olive oil has always been cheap and abundant, it made sense to feature it prominently. In fact, the entire dish is named after the oil-based sauce that goes with it. It’s called aïoli. And you should make it.provence seafood


Aïoli (serves 2)


6-7 small potatoes(about the size of a ping-pong ball)

A handful of green beans(haricots verts, if you can find them)

2-3 medium carrots

2 eggs

a small piece of firm-fleshed fish(cod works perfectly)

lemon wedges

for the sauce:

1 egg yolk

a mild olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tbsp dijon mustard

salt, to taste


To start, you’re gonna make an aioli. This is a rich, creamy, emulsified sauce–basically, the grandfather of mayonnaise. Start by pouring one egg yolk into a bowl. With a whisk in hand, pour in just a few drops of olive oil and stir gently, without ceasing. Once you see that there is no standing oil in the bowl, add in a few more drops of oil. Again, be sure that you do not stop stirring when you pour in more oil. As you continue, the sauce will begin to thicken. Continue this process until the sauce becomes so thick that it will adhere to the whisk without dripping off. Once you’ve reached this stage, add in the dijon, the garlic, and salt to taste. I must tell you that I also added two dashed of Tabasco sauce, which is, as I’m sure you would imagine, not in any way traditional. But you won’t regret it. Cover the sauce and place it into the refrigerator for later. aioli

To continue, fill two large pots with water, adding a generous amount of salt only to one of them, and letting the water come to a boil. While you wait, prep your vegetables. Snip the ends of the green beans, cut the potatoes in half, and cut the carrots length-wise into three or four pieces. When the water comes to a bowl, throw the potatoes into the salted water, and put two of the eggs into the non-salted water. Let the eggs cook for 7 and a half minutes. Once the time is up, remove them from the water and put them into a bowl of ice water.

Meanwhile, check the potatoes now and again. You want them to be pleasant to the tooth, but not mushy. Once cooked, remove them from the water with a slotted spoon and set them aside to dry. Place the carrots into the pot that once held the potatoes. After two minutes of cooking, throw in the green beans. Be sure to check them for doneness. Once done, drain them.

Meanwhile,  heat a pan with oil on medium-high heat. Once hot, salt both sides of the fish and place it into the pan. Let it cook for about 5 minutes on each side. While you wait, peel the eggs. Once done, you’re ready to plate it. Arrange everything on a plate and put the sauce in the middle. Open a bottle of rose, cut some crusty bread, pretend you’re a French person. That’s what I always do.aioli on the terrace

Grilled Peaches

Summer has begun. At least in my book. On May 29th, shortly before noon, some 400 students left the school building for the last time this school year. And somewhere in the deep recesses of my brain, as students were filed onto fading yellow buses, Alice Cooper began to sing. This was a big event, some 540 days in the making.

Three years ago, I stepped into a middle school classroom for the first time. My hands trembled slightly as I wrote my name on the board. My voice, on the edge of a quaver, was affectedly deep. But the students did not laugh. They didn’t make me to feel like an amateur. Instead, they showed me that I shouldn’t be afraid of them. They showed me, in their own quiet way, that what they really wanted was someone to listen to them, someone to care for them, someone who could (if it were possible) understand them. I knew then that we had a lot in common. I could go on and on in this melodramatic tone. I could pour another glass of wine, keep writing about all the lives I’ve impacted, and just cry it out in front of my computer screen–but I won’t do that to you. What I will tell you, instead, is that this stage of my life has come to an end (at least for now). This Fall, I will not step back into the classroom. Instead, I will fly over the great-wide Atlantic ocean, and I will make my home in Aix-en-Provence, France for 10 months with my wife. That’s right: I’ll be taking this blog on the road. I’m sure that the kitchen in our new place will be small and perhaps not as useful as what we have now, but we’ll make it work. In searching for an apartment in Aix, I have learned that an oven is a kind of luxury and that most kitchens outfitted with one are termed “une cuisine Americaine.” But whatever the case and whatever the state of our petite cuisine, you can expect lots of delicious recipes and photography. And you can also expect that I’ll be putting to use the abundant and myriad produce that Southern France has to offer.Local Peaches

But until then, we’ll be spending the summer here in the South, where the weather has warmed and the peaches have sweetened. Recently, here in Tennessee, it seems like every little produce stand is exuberantly extolling the virtues of their peaches. Naturally, it was only a matter of time before I swooped up a few and put them to good use. Since we last spoke, I’ve been using coriander seeds quite a lot in my kitchen. I love them for the aromatic and fruity perfume they give to other ingredients. And recently, it was pure serendipity when I happened to be eating some homemade pickles(laced with coriander seeds) and spread a bit of peach jam onto a piece of toast. The lingering perfume from the coriander seeds mixed with the bright sweetness of the peaches and I knew that these two ingredients would make a perfect marriage. After some tinkering, I came up with this most refreshing summer salad–the kind of thing that would be delicious on a warm evening, paired with a well-balanced witbier.grilled peaches

Grilled Peach Salad with Feta and Coriander (serves 2)


2 large, very ripe peaches

2 oz good sheep’s milk feta

2 tbsp sugar

2 tbsp water

1 teaspoon whole coriander seeds

2 tbsp sherry vinegar

About 2 tsps local honey

Good olive oil

black pepper, to taste


Begin by heating a lightly greased pan on medium-high heat. Meanwhile,  slice the peaches in half and remove the pit, doing your best to preserve their shape. Once halved, place the peaches (flesh-side down) into the very hot pan. Let the peaches cook until they become charred on the outside. Once well-charred, place the peaches on a plate and put them into the freezer to cool. As the peaches cool, warm the 2 tablespoons of sugar and 2 tablespoons of water in a pan just until the sugar dissolves. Add to this the coriander seeds and the sherry vinegar. Place this in a small bowl in the freezer to quickly cool.

When the peaches are very cool (but not frozen), remove them from the freezer and cut them into thirds. Arrange them on a large plate, charred-side up. Drizzle the peaches with honey, dress them lightly with the sherry sugar mixture and dot each peach with a few coriander seeds. Arrange the crumbled feta in small pockets surrounding the peaches, drizzle the peaches with olive oil, and season them with a little black pepper. Summer is served.

Buttermilk Fried ChickenThough my family might argue with me, I don’t believe any one of us are authoritative keepers of the secrets of Southern food (though the half-finished glass of bourbon in front of me might suggest otherwise). You see, when we say that we’re from the “south,” we really mean that we’re from Texas, which is a whole different kind of south than Alabama, or Tennessee, or Kentucky. Up until we moved to Lawrenceburg, Kentucky, our sense of “southern” food was something more like Chili con Carne. There were neither chitlin’s, nor fried okra, nor Chow Chow on our table. And so, I had to fumble along with my mother and siblings to get a handle on what southern food was all about.

I still don’t think that I “get” southern food. I mean, I love it just as much as anyone else, but I don’t have the sense that I could rustle up a southern meal with little effort. I figured I’d take it one dish at a time. Where better to start than buttermilk fried chicken, right? Regardless of the result, I knew that I would end up with a piece of chicken with something vaguely crispy on the outside(and that ain’t so bad).Buttermilk Fried ChickenI wish I could tell you that I sought counsel from some old Southern lady named Agatha or Agnes for the secret to this recipe, but to do so would be a lie. When I first made this buttermilk fried chicken, it was for my mother-in-law’s wedding. I foolishly told her that it’d be no problem, that I’d done it before, that it was old hat. And so, frantically, just days before the ceremony, I googled fried chicken recipes and was sent to Bon Appetit. Of course, I didn’t let on that I was indeed a dilletante, a fledgling neophyte who had little idea of what I was doing.Buttermilk Fried Chicken, SouthernBut when it was all said and done and we sat down to the table, the result was something otherworldly. All I could do was smile and act as if I knew that it would taste so delicious.

My wife recently returned from a visit to her mother’s and the trip got me thinking about that meal of fried chicken, biscuits, roasted vegetables, and bourbon. Luck would have it that a good friend, in all his magnanimity, recently gifted me with a bottle of Basil Hayden’s bourbon after I invited him over for a small dinner party. The pairing was perfect, and the bourbon continues to flow as I write this entry. All is well here.Buttermilk Fried Chicken, Southern

Buttermilk Fried Chicken (Adapted from Bon Appetit)

1 tablespoons kosher salt

2 teaspoons plus 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper

1 1/2 teaspoons paprika

3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

3 lb. chicken thighs and drumsticks

1 cup buttermilk

1 large egg

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon cornstarch

Canola oil (for frying)

Mix all spices and season the chicken. Place chicken in a medium bowl, cover, and chill for one hour or overnight. Let chicken stand covered at room temperature for 1 hour. Whisk buttermilk, egg, and 1/2 cup water in a medium bowl. Whisk flour, cornstarch, remaining 1 Tbsp. salt, and remaining 1 Tbsp. pepper.

Pour oil into a cast-iron skillet or other non-stick pan to a depth of 3/4″. Heat over medium-high heat. If you have a thermometer, it should read 350 degrees. Meanwhile, set a wire rack inside a large rimmed baking sheet.

Working with 1 piece at a time (use 1 hand for wet ingredients and the other for dry ingredients), dip chicken in buttermilk mixture. Dredge in flour mixture.Place 3 to 5 pieces of chicken into the skillet. Fry the chicken, making sure to turn it every 2-3 minutes until skin is deep golden brown. This should take about 10 minutes for wings and 12 minutes for thighs.

Remove chicken from the skillet and let it cool and drain on a wire rack.

Enjoy, y’all!

Okra, PicklesIn recent years, pickles have had a sort of renaissance. For a while, nothing seemed more au courant than a big plate of vinegared veggies(except maybe cruelty-free hand soap or paying $30 to have your face shaved). It became indubitably clear that these briny morsels were having a moment when Fred and Carrie of Portlandia, the authority on all that is obnoxiously trendy, filmed and aired a sketch entitled “We can Pickle That!” In it, the moustached and optimistic Bryce Shivers and his twinkly partner Lisa Eversman declare that “everything should be pickled”: eggs, ice cream cones, dead birds, even plastic CD cases. Though restaurants are not serving anything as eccentric as pickled iced cream or pickled plastic, there are indeed some relatively strange things happening with pickles. One such oddity is Peppermint Pickles, where pickled cucumbers are stuffed with peppermint candy. Or Koolickles, where cucumbers are thrown into a big jar with vinegar and a few packets of kool-aid.bay leaves, pickles, corianderTruth be told, pickles have secured and kept a place on the global table for good reason. Archaeologists believe the Mesopotamians were pickling vegetables around 2500 BCE. And why wouldn’t they? Pickles are easily and cheaply prepared, they last forever, and their varieties are endless(well, almost). All of this, of course, is to say that you too should be pickling. And what better place to start than with this recipe for Pickled Okra that will take you no more than 10 minutes of time in the kitchen?okra, picklesquick-pickled okra, okra, pickles

Quick-Pickled Okra(makes 1 jar of pickles)


1 cup white vinegar

1 cup water

2 tsps salt

1 tbsp sugar

3 large garlic cloves, minced

2 tsps whole black peppercorns

2 tsps whole coriander seeds

3 large bay leaves

2 cups small okra

To start, place the vinegar, water, salt, and sugar into a saucepan and bring it to a boil. Once the brine begins to boil, add the peppercorns, garlic, coriander, bay, and okra and cook for one minute. After a minute, turn off the heat, quickly remove the okra and pack it tightly into a glass jar. Pour the brine over the okra until they are completely submerged. Screw the lid onto the glass jar and place it into the fridge. Let the pickles sit overnight. Because these are quick-pickled with vinegar and not cured, the pickles should kept no longer than about a week–However, I don’t imagine you’ll have trouble finishing them off in a day or two. Enjoy.