What We're Cooking Now

What We're Cooking Now - My Paris Kitchen by David Lebovitz

Sunday, August 3, 2014

We all love watching Lynn on TV. She seems to be such an approachable, fun loving woman who takes such joy out of sourcing, cooking and inevitably feeding those who love her. A few of us have also enjoyed wonderful meals at Ruby Watchco (her Toronto restaurant).

That's what makes this review so hard for us to write.

Let's start with the positives-the book is beautiful, and filled with wonderful photography. Most recipes contain easy to find ingredients and sound generally appealing.  There were some gems in the bunch of reciepes we tested-her recipe for curry sauce (p 118), her recipe for Mince & Tatties (p161), and Coq au Vin (p153) were great.

What frustrated us the most was that many of the recipes lacked sufficient instruction and technique (ex. p61 calls for 4 cloves of roasted garlic but there are no instructions for how to roast garlic;  the jams and jellies section provides no instructions on how to "process jars;"  p102 says to use a 4 pound chicken cut into 8 pieces with no instructions on how to cut a chicken). From an editing standpoint, we found chapters had curious titles with little to no introduction and there were too many pages that were unnumbered, which made finding anything from the index difficult. 

We also found that a few recipe names were inaccurate - on p204, the Curried Lentils actually contain no curry spices at all - instead it uses Ras al Hanout (a middle eastern spice blend, but decidedly NOT a curry).  On p82 Indian Spiced Lentil Salad-also has NO Indian spices. Strange. On page p198 her whipped potatoes are not,  you guessed it, whipped at all-they are in fact put through a ricer.  

On another curious editing note, we found the photographs were not always accurate reflections of the dishes. The photo of the salad on p80 has tomatoes and red onions but neither ingredient is called for in the recipe; the photo of Maple Cranberry Walnut Granola, p6,  shows way more walnuts than called for in the recipe;  and p160 shows celery not called for in the recipe and sliced carrots rather than diced as directed in recipe.

Now let's move onto the recipes themselves.


This section has no introduction but included a wide range of brunch type items.  None of us have a high powered blender (a la Vitamix) so could not make many of the smoothies.

Smoothies & Juices

Green Machine (p3)
A good solid green juice.

Maple Cranberry Walnut Granola (p6)
Decent granola, but not as pictured.  This recipe is but one example of pictures not reflecting the outcome of the recipe.  In the picture, all 1/4 cup of the walnuts are in one bowl!  You will want to stir more than once or you'll have burnt edges!

Vanilla & Tropical Fruit Granola (p7)

I enjoyed this recipe.  It was my first time making granola, and I think that I will refer to this method if I try again.  I found the fruit a little sweet, so would play with the suggestions until I found one more to my liking.  I did note that there was no instruction on how to chop (if at all) the dried fruit—I settled on a small dice, and roughly chopped the macadamia nuts

Jams and Jellies
Blueberry Lemon Jam (p9)

Blueberries, sugar and lemon zest
Very easy as jams go. Nothing complicated about this. The lemon elevates the blueberries to a very special place. However, despite following every instruction given (and being an experienced jam maker)...my jam did not set. It is quite runny, so I'll likely use it as a dessert topping rather than a jam.

Vanilla Grapefruit Marmalade (p10)
Oh my! This was an epic fail. The marmalade was SO bitter--absolutely inedible. I searched the internet on what to do with a bitter marmalade, and learned that a tiny bit of salt can mitigate the bitterness. It did work to a certain extent, but I could not imagine eating or serving this to anyone. Ever. My take-away: a tragic waste of precious vanilla beans.

Breakfast Toppers

Lemon Thyme Honey (p13)

Kristi:  I initially thought the suggestion of flavouring honey was interesting, so I made both on the same day.  Easy enough to do, but I didn’t care for either result.  Both are still sitting in my pantry, having used very little.  I need to get around to scraping those into the garbage.

Sandra: I am not a honey person, but I liked the flavour and it was very easy.

Breakfast Bakery

Banana Nut Bread (p26)

Deb: I was eager to try this because of the addition of ground ginger.  I've never seen this in banana bread.  The bread was easy to assemble.  It took 15 minutes longer than recommended cooking time, though, and the foil tent was required from 40 minutes.  Even with it, the outside browned more than I would have liked.  I think this was due to volume of sugar with bananas.  I'd cut back on the sugar for sure.  I think 1/4 cup is her go to for walnuts.  As the picture shows, the walnuts in this banana bread were almost imperceptible.  

Kristi: I omitted the walnuts (only ¼ cup) as we have allergies, and had terrific results.  While delicious, I found the streusel topping to be excessive.  While I’d make again, I still prefer Trish Magwood’s recipe from In My Mother’s Kitchen.

Cheddar Jalapeno Biscuits (p29)

This was my first example of where the proportions given in this book are way out.  What I turned out onto my floured counter was the consistency of muffin batter, so kneading was out of the question.  I ultimately had to add almost an entire extra cup of flour to achieve an appropriate texture.  With that addition, the biscuits baked nicely and were well received in our family.  One additional comment is that the recipe says to brush with an egg wash, but nowhere is there any instruction on what that actually is or how to do it.

Cranberry Scones (p30)
These scones tasted lovely, although they were more akin to shortbread than scones.  the recipe has no eggs.  And there was no chance that the dough was going to come together with the proportions given.  I added two extra tablespoons of cream, and ended up with a reasonable product.  Note as per biscuits, an egg wash is suggested without any instructions.

Green Eggs and Ham (p35)
This egg recipe was fast and easy and appealed to the whole family.  I liked that it had spinach in it, and no added cream or milk.  It had an appealing texture.  My only slight disappointment was throwing out the spinach and olive oil that exceeded the suggested 1/4 cup.  I'm not sure it would have adversely affected the dish to have simply included it all and saved the waste.  I also found the baking time for the prosciutto was way too long.


This section related to all things salad including a range of dressings and toppings. There were no stand out dressings among the ones I tried, and they all made way too much for home use.  For example, the buttermilk basil ranch dressing recipe yields almost 2 cups and must be used within 3 days!  (As a result, I didn't try that one.)

Brown Derby Vinaigrette (p60)
This is a decent basic pub vinaigrette - easy to prepare with ingredients I had round the house.  Like every other dressing recipe I tried, it made over 2 cups, so it's a good thing the kids liked it in chopped salad because they'll see it again, and again, and again...

Green Goddess Dressing with Shallot & Herbs (p61)
Deb:  Tastes like green goddess.  Easy to make.  VERY thick.  Would have liked instructions on how long it will keep.

Kristi: This was the day that I couldn’t find a ripe avocado and I strongly dislike dill so omitted these two items, but I really enjoyed!  I really liked the idea of blanching sugar snap peas and asparagus for a salad, and have been doing this often now.

Roasted Garlic & Anchovy Vinaigrette (p61)
This is another proportion mystery.  The ratio of oil to acid is 6:1 rather than the usual 3:1.  As such, much of the flavour - of anchovy and lemon in particular - was lost.  I really wanted to like it because I love the ingredients, but I would cut way back on the oil if I were ever to make it again.  Also, when a recipe makes 2 1/2 cups of vinaigrette, it would be helpful to know how long it might keep.

Green Goddess Dressing w Shallots & Herbs (pg 61)—although note that this page is not numbered

I couldn’t find a ripe avocado, but it was still delicious.  I’d make again.  Although seems to me that I’ve seen this recipe before.

Pistachio Lemon Vinaigrette (p61)
I could not bring myself to add the pistachios to this vinaigrette until must prior to serving.   I did not want the nuts to lose their crunch.  Delicious vinaigrette – but it yields way too much for making just one salad.

Brown Butter Croutons (p64)
Good!  Even better when sprinkled with Maldon Salt.  

Crispy Prosciutto Crackling (p65)
Prosciutto for 15 minutes at 375 = burnt bacon.  This would be quite nice if cooked for perhaps half the time.
Salad Toppers
Bloody Mary Shrimp Salad (p72)
YUM! This was so delish! Zesty! and I really liked the celery leaves. I've never eaten them raw before. I would say that the Mayo mixture is completely unnecessary. It actually felt like it detracted from the salad. I actually prepared it on skewers for a cocktail party-really fun way to present this salad.

Salt-Baked Pear Salad with Goat Cheese & Pistachios (p76)

We all enjoyed this salad, but were also all in agreement-it was just too sweet.This recipe calls for the Pistachio Lemon Vinaigrette and the Lemon Thyme Honey.  This is NOT a salad you just throw together.  The recipe fairly warns that you should prepare the pears well in advance.  The honey also needs to be prepared in advance (72 hours).  The result was a beautiful looking fall/winter salad that tasted wonderful.   I question whether the salt-baking added any flavour to the pears, but there was a nice cinnamon aroma while they were baking.  The cheese and sour cream mixture under the greens provided a nice contrast in taste and texture.  I would make this again (with adaptations).

Chopped Salad with Crispy Salami (p81)
I made a variation of this salad so I could try the Brown Derby Vinaigrette.  I served it deconstructed - tossed the greens with dressing and then let everyone top with their own favourite chopped salad toppers.  Kids have asked that we have "mom's salad bar dinner" regularly.  That's a win!  

In the Oven
Creamy Mushroom & Spinach Lasagna (p88)

This was the most disappointing recipe that I tried, and considering the time and expense put into this dish, it was awful to have to throw it into the garbage after sampling a small piece.  There was far too much Béchamel sauce which completely overwhelmed the dish.  Far too rich! 

Also noted that it called for 225g of buffalo mozzarella, and this commonly comes in a 125g container—would have been fine with one container’s worth.  Simply too rich to enjoy.

Salt-Baked Fish with Aromatics (p93)
I chose sea bream for this recipe.  The presentation was a fail, but it tasted wonderful!   It was moist and delicate.  I had the fishmonger gut and clean the fish for me and preparing the salt was simple. The BIG issue with this salt-treatment is determining whether it is cooked or not. 

The recipe says to “bake for 25 minutes, or until cooked through”.  How can you tell if the fish is cooked when covered by a salt crust?  At the 25 minute mark, the salt crust was still a little soft and mushy on the top, so of course we did not get the pleasure of “walloping the shell crust” to crack it open for the big “reveal”.  Not a risk worth taking for company and too much of a bother for everyday cooking fish and I am not really convinced that the “aromatics” had anything to do with the fish tasting so good.   I am giving the fish all the credit.

Rib Roast with Horseradish Salt Crust (pg  oh wait, no page number for this one)

Kristi:  This rib roast was cooked perfectly, but it didn’t produce any jus!  The salt absorbed all of the drippings, so nothing left to make a sauce which was very disappointing.  We couldn’t taste much of the horseradish or other seasonings in the meat.  Think a simply cooked prime rib with jus and fresh horseradish would have been a better option.

Or she could have suggested that I make a demi-glace from the veal stock recipe on page—wait, there’s no page number for that either, but it’s in there under stocks.  It did pair very well with the Popovers on pg 221, but she didn’t suggest this.

Sandra: The roast was delicious but does a rib roast really need all this fuss?  I didn’t really taste the Dijon that was slathered on under the salt crust, or the horseradish, thyme and rosemary that was mixed into the salt.   It was fun to try, but I felt that this was trying too hard to be special and did not contribute much to the overall flavour or texture of the roast.   The biggest draw back, was the salt crust absorbed the juices from the meat!   I didn’t have drippings in the pan to make Yorkshire Pudding.

Chicken with Lots of Cloves of Garlic (p102)

Deb:  Cut chicken into 8 pieces?  How?  Thank goodness for Ian Knauer's youtube video as this was my first time. Ian Knaur's advice on how to cut up a chicken 

The garlic was starting to burn after 3 minutes, rather than the called for 6 minutes, and there was no instruction given on how to mash it into the sauce.  It did not fully integrate into the sauce as I'd expected.  This recipe was published in the Montreal Gazette on February 4, 2014, and indicated you could make it all ahead of time up to the baking, cover and refrigerate, then bring to room temperature and bake.  This makes it a useful entertaining dish and this is how I prepared it.

Sandra: The title doesn’t lie, nor does the intro.  Wonderful aroma, easy, no brainer.  Good comfort food for causal winter Sunday family dinner.

In A Pan
Chicken Curry (p118)
Deb:  I've shared this curry sauce recipe with everyone, including on my recipe blog.  It is the perfect pub curry sauce, and I like that you can make a big batch and freeze half.  It is easy to prepare.  That said, the actual chicken curry part of this recipe is not a keeper.  The carrots and celery were a curious choice, and tellingly the do not appear in the (yet another) inaccurate accompanying photo.  The called for 4 cups of sauce for 1lb of chicken is wayyyy too much sauce.  (And the sauce recipe makes about 5 cups so if you follow her recipe, you have only 1 cup leftover for freezing.). I now use 1/2 the sauce for 1lb chicken.  I'd add potatoes to the curry.  I've also used the sauce with tofu for the vegetarian child.  Yum!

Sandra:  Very tasty.  My first curry, so hard to judge.  Tasted even better next day as left overs.

Bonnie: I make a batch of this and freeze it in individual portion sizes. Easy to add chickpeas and with the addition of some hearty brown rice, a quick meal is in the bag...or enjoy it as we did at our dinner...served along with some warm pita bread. Delish!

In A Pan

Pasta Carbonara p(121)


I was a bit put off by the use of 3/4 of a Cup of heavy cream in this recipe. I have made Carbonara many times, and have never used cream before...it's kind of unnecessary--that being said, this was still a very tasty, rich, and comforting dish.

Fast Ginger Chili Pork with Asian Greens (p122)
Bonnie:  Oh I so wanted to like this dish-it incorporated so many elements I love-all those lovely Asian flavours, silky pork, crunchy boo chou... But ultimately it was like 'soy sauce soup'. The sauce was so loose--and could really have used with a cornstarch slurry to thicken the sauce. It still would have been too heavy on the soy, but at least the sauce would have coated the meat and veg better.

Kristi: Disgusting.  I love pork stir-fry with bok choy, but the abundance of orange juice killed this.

Adodo-Rubbed Rib-Eye Steak with Green Chilli Aioli (p129)
Were can I begin.
 Let's go step by step:
Adobo Dry Rub
1)The Rub:  Actually fun to make and very good but be warned--this makes a LOT of dry rub...and the recipe only requires 2 tablespoons. I would recommend making only 1/2 of the dry rub, and even then you'll have a lot left over.

2) Green Chili Aioli: Lynn calls for 4 large cloves of garlic, roasted and peeled, and 1 large poblano pepper roasted, peeled and seeded, but there are no instructions anywhere in the book on how to do either of those tasks.
I had to refer to the internet for instructions. After all that garlic and poblano roasting, all those yummy sounding ingredients...the end result of this aioli was just meh. I was pretty and fresh looking, but I was disappointed with the flavour.

3)  Lynn gives directions to cook the meat either inside on a grill rack or on a BBQ...at time of recipe testing, it's February in Toronto and our BBQ is buried under feet of snow, so we chose to cook this steak on an grill rack on our gas stove.
Adhering to her specs exactly (bone-in rib-eye 1 1/2" thick, total weight 1 1/4 lb we cooked it as she instructed, but the meat was TOTALLY raw. I like my meat on the medium rare side...but this was blue.  We cooked it for an additional 2 minutes per side, allowed it to rest and it was lovely.

In A Pot
Mom's Split Pea Soup with Ham Hocks (p141)
Super easy and super good!  Comfort food.

Coq au Vin p155 (p153)

For me, this was the one take away recipe in the whole book. I will make this again. It is a multi-step recipe, but the results are wonderful. A great thing to have in your repertoire especially for those chilly winter evenings.

Stout-Braised Beef Stew (p158)
No problem.  Delicious.

Mince & Tatties (p161)
Easy, tasty Scottish comfort food.  Other than the fact that the photo again shows ingredients not as listed (and the addition of 3tbsp of fat), I will absolutely make this again on a cold winter night.  Yummy!

On The Grill
Chili Lime Salt (p167)
I made this on a Saturday in January, but since there was no suggestion on how to use it, it sat on our shelf unused for a full month after it was past its prime.  Made far too much for a single family to use in a month.  I imagine that it would have been good on fresh corn, but since this wasn’t in season, and my imagination wasn’t running wild, I was stuck and wasted my expensive salt on this recipe.

My Dad's Steak Marinade (p171)
I normally don’t marinade steaks, but I did like this, especially on Portobello mushrooms

Maple Mustard BBQ Salmon (p173)
Great—good week night recipe!  I found it interesting that you cooked the glaze first.

Dad's Steak with Red Wine Butter & Portobello Mushrooms (p184)
Great—we especially liked the mushrooms.  The red wine butter was a little excessive, but still tasty.

On The Side
Whipped Potatoes (p198)
Deb:  Why are they called whipped potatoes when they are either put through a ricer or mashed?  Who cares.  They are fantastic.  I almost held back on the cream/milk/butter mixture because I thought the mashed potatoes were already a soft enough consistency, but I'm so glad I added it all.  Yum!  Comforting mashed potatoes.  Make sure not to over cook the potatoes!

These potatoes were fine.  There is nothing to say about them.  Pages 198 and 199 were devoted to potatoes 4 ways.  In a book this size, I would have liked to have seen a bit more imagination instead of 4 actual recipes for  potatoes that were no different from what most of us usually make already, without a recipe.

Thyme & Garlic Roasted Potatoes (p199)
Very simple, very good. Cutting the potatoes so thinly makes for a very crispy bite.

Espelette-Roasted Butternut Squash (p209)
I had a tough time finding Espelette pepper – luckily Bonnie lives across the road and has everything in her pantry.  Very simple.  Went well with the rib roast beef.

Charred Broccoli with Lemon Garlic Butter p211

Bonnie:  I really liked this and so did my daughter. Her exact words? "Never thought I'd say this...but I LOVE broccoli!" The charred flavour was delish...I must make note of the butter though. It is delish, but I could easily see making this dish without the butter. And in fact I have since the original test meal...several times, with just olive oil, salt and lemon zest. It has become a family favourite.


Sandra:  I had never roasted or charred broccoli before, now I can’t stop.  Everyone in my family enjoyed it more than steamed broccoli.  As for the lemon garlic butter – of course it is amazing, the combination of those 3 ingredients is always a hit and I thought paired very well with broccoli.  I would use the sauce only as a special occasion or to win a non-broccoli eater over to the green side. 

Prosciutto Wrapped Asparagus, p. 218

This was the Lynn Let Down recipe for me.  This is the perfect example of too much fat.  The recipe calls for the prosciutto wrapped asparagus to be pan fried in olive oil.  They turned into a greasy mess, as did the stove top.  My plan was to serve these as apps, however, after they had been cooked the colour turned dull and ugly and certainly did not look very appetizing.   This is a great taste combo.  My tips for adapting this recipe:  1.  Cut the prosciutto lengthwise, so that you only use ½ a slice per asparagus piece.  This way the prosciutto does not overpower the asparagus, particularly if the asparagus is thin.  2.  Bake it at 400 degrees, for about 10 min.  Turn over halfway.  Timing depends on the size of your asparagus.   Wrapped ahead of time and then baked in the oven turns these into really easy fun finger food that everyone seems to love.

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon (pg 213)

Deb:  Simple recipe, good results.  Still prefer our go-to recipe of shredded Brussels Sprouts, or GP’s caramelized Brussels Sprouts recipe.  Another example where the same picture appeared in back-to-back pages. 

Sandra: Again, using bacon is like cheating.  It will always taste good.  However, maybe the bacon I used was too lean, as I found the skillet a little too dry to nicely sauté the sprouts.  Otherwise, no problems here if you can handle the extra fat and salt.

Yorkshire Puddings (pg 221)
Kristi:  LOVED these.  Made twice with excellent results both times.  While the recipe did call for the batter to be set aside, didn’t recommend a resting time like other recipes I’ve read.  Find that its best if made several hours in advance.

Sandra: I made the Yorkshires to serve with the rib roast.  They were sky high.  The only problem I had was that because I was doing the salt crust, the drippings from the meat were very scant.  I followed Lynn’s direction and used vegetable oil.  It turned out fine, but would have rather did as my mother always does, went to the fridge for bacon drippings leftover from the morning.

Kale with Sweet & Smoky Mustard, p. 212
There is not much to say about this recipe.  It was very easy and tasted good.  

Eat, Drink, and Get Happy

The Pitchin' In (p224)

Quite sweet, and the carrot puree was overpowering—that is, when you follow the recipe.  The carrot puree is supposed to yield 8 tbsps of puree from a single, magical carrot.  So when I made it again, I made it with three carrots and actually had enough for all four drinks.  But it was better the first time when there was just a dash of the puree. 

The NYC Bicycle (p228)
Nice and refreshing.  Will make again this summer!

3G's (p228)
Good.  Sweet, like all of the cocktails that I tried (and most of the recipes), and definitely a strong ginger taste.  But interesting.

Bubbles (p232)
I do agree, “it’s all you need”.  Still my favourite cocktail.

Strawberry Melon Sangria (p235)

Good.  I made the night before—easy for a party.

Warm Spiced Olives p237
Excellent-I really liked the combination of the two types of citrus and all of the fresh herbs. This is perfect for a cocktail party. Or if you are my hubby, perfect for an afternoon snack.

Classic Deviled Eggs p242

These were as promised--the classic deviled egg. I would have liked a bit more acidity-perhaps using Greek Yogurt rather than mayo might achieve this. They were good. Not great.

Chips & Caramelized Onion Dip p245
I served this at a cocktail party I had for 30 grown ups and 10 kids. The chips got gobbled up. The dip? hardly touched. The first thing you taste is lemon--and then just bland nothingness. It was a waste of good ingredients, I am sorry to say.

Shrimp with Prosciutto, Lemon & Chili p250
This was very tasty-we made it as a main along with the Charred Broccoli on page 211. Like the broccoli, this was really good--but in my opinion, had too much butter.

Baked Brie with Fruit and Nut Honey (p253)
I thought this was gross!  But my guests ate all of it anyway, so they may disagree.  I thought it was ridiculous to add a full cup of honey on the cheese—a drizzle would have been more appropriate.  

Parmesan Truffled Popcorn (p257)
I love truffles so this recipe called out to me.  The popcorn popping instructions worked beautifully - every kernel popped.  Sadly, however, the cheese and chives didn't stick to the popcorn and mostly found their way to the bottom of the bowl.  I would have preferred a bit more truffle oil.  Overall, however, a mouthful containing all of the ingredients was very tasty indeed.  It's a good blend and I'll likely make it again.

Chickpea Hummus (p258)
Super easy, straightforward hummus perfect for school lunches.  It's definitely tinned chickpea hummus - with that grainier texture than when you use dried chickpeas.  I'll use this recipe when quick is required, but I much prefer the taste of Ottolenghi's version.  Again, instructions on how long it will keep would have been helpful.
Lynn Crawford's Humus
Ottolenghi's AMAZING Humus

Parmesan Shortbread (p259)
Good.  But recipe wasn’t very precise. 
After 12 minutes, still weren’t golden, so broiled them for about 2 minutes.  I also found it necessary to sprinkle with Maldon Salt.  I found that when I cut the log, they smushed—I’ve heard the suggestion of cutting with dental floss which probably would have allowed them to keep their shape better.

Sweet Dreams
Blueberry Buckle (p270)
Kristi:  Great coffee cake—especially delicious warm, but still good several days later.  I will keep making this dessert.

Butterscotch Pudding (287)
Kristi:  I didn’t like this pudding at all, but my partner did.  I thought it tasted quite a bit like crème caramel, which is not a favourite of mine.  I found it too rich to eat.

Sandra:  My favourite thing in the book.  I had 5 egg yolks left from the salt crust that I didn’t know what to do with.  This recipe fit the bill.  It used ordinary ingredients that you will have on hand and it was very easy.  If you like butterscotch, you will LOVE this.

Chocolate Tart with Salted Caramel Sauce (p290)
I was initially very impressed at how easily the tart shell came together for me—I’ve had little success with pastry.  But then I was most upset when the pastry started to burn around 15 minutes as suggested. 

Baking this shell for about 10 minutes would have been more appropriate.  Again, I wondered whether I could make this the night before or if the crust would become too soggy.  I made it in the morning, and it was fine.  The salted caramel sauce however didn’t flow!  Once I poured some on a piece, it set up to the plate!  Not a successful recipe.

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