All the news that's fit to eat from Ann Mah (winter 2012)
Newsletter / Winter 2012


Bonne année, mes amis!

I hope this newsletter finds you rested from the holidays, and looking forward to a new year filled with many good meals and absorbing books, shared with all the people you love. I'm just back from Southern California, where I enjoyed traditional (to me) holiday bright sun and blue skies while celebrating Christmas with my family. Though I'm currently struggling to keep my eyes open (jet leg is a cruel companion), the thought of all the wonderful food I ate and cooked there -- everything from curried chick peas to chocolate cake -- continues to energize me. (Sort of -- as I wrote that sentence, I got so tired, I had to put my head down on my desk for a nap; I now have marks on my face.)

Italian edition

As they say in Italy, ciao! I had molto opportunities to improve my Italian food vocabulary, when I visited Rome last month to promote the Italian edition of my novel, Kitchen Chinese. I can't even pretend to be blasé about it -- it was one of the coolest things that's ever happened to me. The Italian version is pictured above -- doesn't it look all effortlessly sleek? I was thrilled to present my book at the Più Libre, Più Liberi book fair, where my head spun from giving bilingual interviews (people chattering in English in my left ear, and Italian in my right). My dynamic Italian publisher, 66thand2nd, really pulled out all the stops, even producing a special recipe pamphlet, called Cucina e Dintorni, un anno di ricette di Ann Mah. I'm so proud that, along with noodles, dumplings, the Silk Road and Marco Polo, Kitchen Chinese is now another link between Italy and China!

News on my new book

Meanwhile, things are simmering (ha ha) with my new book, Mastering the Art of French Eating. I've had a busy fall traveling hither and yon throughout France doing research (which, as you know, is really just an excuse to eat). I've dined on choucroute with an Alsatian cooking club (the median age was about 75), sidestepped boozy lunch invitations in Burgundy from British wine merchants with a glint in their eye, and chased herds of dairy cows in Aveyron. The manuscript is due in April, so I have a few more months to fritter away on Facebook and Twitter before I start to panic (kidding!). Viking will publish the book in the spring of 2013. I discovered some bonnes adresses, which I've included at the bottom of this message, in case you're interested.


A few articles

This fall, I wrote an article on cooking schools in Europe, which appeared in the New York Times in October. I was also excited to discover a nap bar in Paris, and to share my thoughts on food, cooking and writing with a few blogs, including My French Life, Reading is Fashionable, and Writerhead. I also enjoyed reading...

Brussels -- The Chocolate Trail -- Bonbon enthusiast (and friend) Amy Thomas discovers three centuries of Belgian chocolate history in three days. Bonus: If you like the article, you'll love Amy's book, Paris, My Sweet, a sugared tale set in New York and Paris, which comes out in February.

True Grits -- Fascinating New Yorker piece on the revival of Southern cooking, down to the raising of heirloom grains and breeds of pork (subscriber only, but worth subscribing for).

The Physiology of Taste -- Brillat-Savarin's classic book of gastronomic philosophy remains as witty and insightful as when it was first published in 1825, right down to his shopping recommendation of Debauve & Gallais, a Parisian chocolate boutique still open today!

Meurtres à la Pomme d'Or -- I asked a French friend for book recommendations and he suggested Michèle Barrière's series of historical kitchen mysteries. I'm slowly reading (and loving) this one, which is set in 16th-century Montepellier and features an apothecary student who longs to be a chef. It's full of delightful culinary history and very readable French.

My new favorite vegetable: Escarole 

Granted, it's winter so there aren't a lot of greens in the market. But I can't stop buying and cooking giant, curly heads of escarole (called scarole in French). In Italy, I ate it sautéed with garlic, pine nuts, raisins and chili, a delicious, spicy-sweet combination that turned even me -- a declared raisin hater -- into a dried grape enthusiast. But my current favorite way to cook the faintly bitter lettuce is in bean soup, with lots of garlic and chili. It's a healthy, hearty recipe that's perfect for the new year.

Bean soup with escarole

1 lb dried beans (I like borlotti, because I find they soften more easily; white beans are also delicious)
3/4 head escarole, washed and cut into thin strips
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
6 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
4-5 small, whole dried chilis

Rinse and soak the beans overnight. Drain and transfer to a large pot, covering the beans with cold water, two inches above their surface. (After years of hard, uncooked beans, I've started using bottled water to soak and cook them. See this recent blog post, for more info.) Bring the beans to a boil, adjust the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally. Taste the beans after 1 hour for tenderness, continuing to simmer if they're still firm (mine always are). When the beans are cooked, add the shredded escarole leaves and more water (if necessary) until you have a thick, soupy consistency. Simmer for about 20 minutes, until the escarole is wilted and very tender.

Meanwhile, in a separate, small skillet, heat the olive oil and add the garlic. Cook, shaking the pan, until the garlic lightly browns. Add the chilis and continue to cook and shake until the garlic turns a deep, golden color. Add this mixture to the soup, stirring to combine. Pour a ladleful of soup into the skillet, swirl it around, and add it back to the pot. Taste and adjust seasonings. This soup tastes even better the second or third day.

À bientôt!

I leave you with a glamorous shot of Los Angeles, specifically, the new Getty villa, which I visited last week. I can't stop looking at it, mainly because it's spectacular, but also because my circadian rhythms long to be in California right now. Before I fall asleep on my desk again, I'm wishing you a very happy 2012, mes amis. Thank you for subscribing to my new newsletter, which I'll be sending out four times a year. I look forward to sharing another edition with you in April. Until then, please stop by my blog and Twitter to say hello. I love hearing from you!

Ann xxx


Epoisses cheese: In the photo above, it looks like two scoops of vanilla ice cream, but when Epoisses is ripe, it's practically a beverage. Made from cow's milk and washed in marc, it has a creamy, salty mild flavor (Napoléon was a big fan). I tucked into an especially delicious specimin at the restaurant Ma Cuisine in Beaune (passage Ste-Hélène).


Rino: Much ink has been spilled over this small restaurant in the 11th but chef/owner Giovanni Passerini continues to cook his heart out. He doesn't get everything right, but his successes -- like the smoked fish tortellini in a dashi broth pictured above -- are delicate and refreshing (46 rue Trousseau, 11e).


Tarte flambée: I visited Alsace to research choucroute, but I couldn't stop eating flammenkueche, or tarte flambée, a type of Alsatian pizza spread with crème fraîche, and sprinkled with bacon. Located located in the village of Pfulgriesheim, about 20 minutes from Strasbourg, L'Aigle (22 rue Principale) is worth a detour for what many locals consider the region's best.


Pizza rosso: One of my favorite snacks is pizza rosso, covered with tomato sauce, and baked in a wood-burning oven untl crisp and chewy. Every local has her favorite. Thanks to Elizabeth Minchilli's amazing Eat Rome app, I was able to wander and explore fornos (ovens) like Roscioli (Via dei Chiavari, 34), pictured above.
Copyright © 2012 Ann Mah, food and travel writer, All rights reserved.
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