The Secret Ingredient (Sesame) Part III: Sweet Sesame Brittle

RECIPE: Sweet Sesame Brittle
Sweet Sesame Brittle

Sweet Sesame Brittle

Get the whole story at Serious Eats.

The last two weeks of sesame have focused on the savory side of the seed. But I promised it was a versatile ingredient, and I aim to deliver this week with a simple, do-it-yourself version of sweet sesame brittle.

Growing up, we always had sweet sesame around the house. My mother is an addict. She always has a bag of what is labeled “sesame crunch,” sesame seeds solidified with almonds in hard honey caramel, frozen as if in amber. The candy is hard, and one bite sends splintered seeds and burnt sugar all over you; it sticks to your teeth, and it is exotic and satisfying and feels somehow healthier than, say, a Jolly Rancher.

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Categories: Desserts, Eat, Recipes, Series, The Secret Ingredient, Vegetarian

French in a Flash: Brie and Brown Sugar Tartine

RECIPE: Brie and Brown Sugar Tartines
Brie and Brown Sugar Tartine

Brie and Brown Sugar Tartine

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Necessity is the mother of invention. And my necessity is most often a 4 o’clock bout of starvation. First, there’s the rumble, a deep growling thunder inevitably rolling up from deep inside my stomach. Then I rummage—through my bag, in the back of the freezer, through the pantry, all in hope of the perfect weapon. It was on such one late afternoon quest to silence the hunger within that I discovered this recipe.

Tartines are French open-faced sandwiches. What recommends them most is their bread-to-topping ratio. Often, a slice of good Poilâne bread is spread lightly with soft, country butter, and topped with a simple single layer of smoked salmon, saumon fumé, or a salami, like Rosette de Lyon. Good bread, highlighted with an excellent accent. C’est tout. Et ça suffit.

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Categories: 15 Minutes, Appetizers & Hors D’Oeuvres, Bread & Butter, Breakfast & Brunch, Cheap, Easy, Eat, For a Crowd, French in a Flash, Individual, Recipes, Sandwiches, Series, Vegetarian

All the Pretty Little Paris Meals

Chocolate Ice Cream and Raspberry-Rose Sorbet from Berthillon

Chocolate Ice Cream and Raspberry-Rose Sorbet from Berthillon

I just got back from a weekend in Paris–breathless! It seems a touch self-indulgent, and I certainly hope I don’t make any readers smug and miserable, but I had to share with you what I ate:


  • Warm white asparagus with vinaigrette and baguette, with French onion soup on rue de Buci
  • A fresh galette sarrasin made before my eyes and stuffed with only shredded Gruyère from L’Avant Comptoir
  • Lobster salad with chiffonade preserved lemon peel, purple potato chips, sucrine lettuce, avocado, and haricots verts remoulade was followed by a seasonal assiette de legumes, a little pot of creamy brebis with honey, and a vanilla pot de creme, my favorite, at Le Comptoir. And a requisite carafe de vin blanc.

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Categories: Paris, Voyages

French in a Flash: The Best Lentil Soup with Thyme and Bacon

RECIPE: Lentil Soup with Bacon and Thyme

Lentil Soup

Lentil Soup with Thyme and Bacon

I love lentil soup. No other soup could ever take its place in my heart–not even the alluring scent and oozing hat on classic and decadent French Onion. And the position of the lentil in French cuisine, omnipresent and peasant-hearty, yet refined and delicate, has send me on a several year quest for my perfect lentil soup recipe.

Lentils are served differently in France than they are in the States. Rarely in America do we see lentils in any incarnation other than lentil soup, where in France they are served much as we serve potatoes: a hearty helping next to a seared side of salmon, instead of our standard mashed, or whole in salads, as we might make a potato salad, or add potatoes to bulk up a hearty salad of greens. Lentils are ubiquitous and cheap, but also extremely traditional. So traditional, that France even has its unique lentil variety: du Puy, which are smaller, darker, and resolutely firmer than our standard brown any-old lentil.

In this soup, I have finally found my perfect match, my soul-in-a-bowl mate. I begin with a touch of sweet butter, and a bit of bacon, because rare is the French vegetable soup, ironically, that begins without either. Next, I add both our standard American lentil and the du Puy lentil, a duet that I find enhances and complicates the texture of the soup. The brown lentil softens, and thickens, while the du Puy lentil holds its shape with tenacity after the steady simmer. Shallots, carrots, and celery sweeten and infuse the broth, and above all, earthy, woodsy, resiny thyme give the salt-of-the-earth depth to the whole thing. I can’t eat just one bowl. I absolutely lose control. And while most women wouldn’t share their loved one, I’m willing to go, as we wink en famille, “à la française.”

Click here for my lentil soup recipe.

And here is a catalog of all French in a Flash stories for James Beard Award-winning Serious Eats.

Lentil Soup with Bacon and Thyme
serves 4

Lentil SoupIngredients

  • 1 tablespoon butter

  • 2 slices thick cut bacon, cut into lardoons (matchsticks)

  • 1 medium carrot, finely diced

  • 1 large shallot, finely diced

  • 1 small celery stalk, finely diced

  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed and whole

  • 5 stems thyme

  • 3/4 cup du Puy lentils

  • 3/4 cup regular lentils

  • 8 cups liquid (water or vegetable stock or a mixture of the two)


Be sure to rinse your lentils, and check for any stones.


  1. Melt the butter in a stock pot, and add the bacon. Sauté on medium heat for 4 to 5 minutes.

  2. Add the carrot, shallot, celery, and garlic, and sauté on medium heat for 5 minutes.

  3. Add the lentils, thyme, and stock or water, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover the soup, and simmer for 35 to 45 minutes, or until the lentils are tender.

  4. I like to blend part of the soup to slightly thicken it, but that is up to taste. If so, remove the thyme stems and the whole garlic cloves and discard, and use an immersion blender until desired consistency is reached.

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Categories: 60 Minutes, Cheap, Easy, Eat, French in a Flash, Recipes, Series, Soup, Soup & Salad

The Secret Ingredient (Sesame) Part II: Sesame Tenderloin Skewers

RECIPE: Sesame Tenderloin Skewers with Asian Dipping Sauce


Sesame Tenderloin Skewers

Sesame Tenderloin Skewers

Get the whole story at Serious Eats.

The sesame is a flowering plant grown in tropical regions. From the plant hang pods which house the tiny seeds we know and love. In my quest for sesame knowledge, I came across many an ancient legend surrounding the sesame seed, but from all sources, it seems the most revered sesame output is sesame oil.

The oil comes in two varieties, so disparate it seems unfair the only distinguishing factor is the “toasted” scribbled on the label of one variety and not the other. Bringing home the wrong sesame oil can be a great disappointment, as only the burnished amber toasted variety has the smoky, nutty aroma and flavor so distinctive to Asian cuisine.

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Categories: Appetizers & Hors D’Oeuvres, Eat, For a Crowd, Recipes, Series, The Secret Ingredient

The Secret Ingredient (Sesame) Part I: Super Sesame Hummus

RECIPE: Super Sesame Hummus
Super Sesame Hummus

Super Sesame Hummus

Get the whole story at Serious Eats.

No secret ingredient to date has offered the opportunities of the sesame seed. It is a globetrotter, appearing on hamburger buns in California and bagels in New York. From halvah in North Africa to oil in India. In dim sum in China; on sushi in Japan. Its applications are sweet and savory. It is a ubiquitous culinary confetti, nutty and fragrant and substantial. Comfort food, in a way, to the whole world.

From a gastronomic perspective, sesame also comes in a variety of preparations. First, raw and white. Then white and toasted. Black sesame seeds are the mysterious brunette to the more common blond. Sesame paste, known as tahini, is found in jars in raw and toasted varieties. And sesame oil, too, comes in raw and toasted iterations. And while raw sesame products are known for their healthy properties, the toasted variations recall that sensory nuttiness and exotic fragrance for which the seeds have become world famous.

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Categories: 15 Minutes, Appetizers & Hors D’Oeuvres, Eat, For a Crowd, Recipes, Series, The Secret Ingredient, Vegetarian

French in a Flash: Quatre Épices Candied Nuts

RECIPE: Quatre Épices Candied Nuts

Quatre Épices Candied Nuts

Quatre Épices Candied Nuts

Be sure to check out this week’s French in a Flash column over on Serious Eats for one of my favorite recipes: Quatre Épices Candied Nuts. Some of you may remember the fresh almond trees from my Papiers Provence from last summer. Those almonds and the famed French walnuts get coated in a sweet amber of brittle sugar, salt, and quatre épices, a medieval-tasting blend of black pepper with sweet spices cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove. There is some contention over the cinnamon, which is often swapped in favor of ginger, but I prefer the cinnamon with the nuts. Last time I made these I cracked all the brittle into shards, and put them in a big jar. The next time I knew, it was all gone. Poof! Like magic.

Quatre Épices Candied Nuts

Quatre Epices Candied NutsIngredients

  • 1 cup sugar

  • 1 1/4 cups water

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves

  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

  • 1 cup roasted, salted almonds

  • 1 1/2 cups walnut halves


In a nonstick pan, combine the sugar and the water. Bring to a boil. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and spray with nonstick cooking spray.

When the water and sugar mixture begins to turn slightly golden, add the salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and black pepper. Stir in the almonds and the walnuts so that everything is combined.

Lower the heat to medium, adjusting the heat as necessary to keep the caramel from burning, and keep turning the nuts continuously until the water and sugar have reduced to a thick syrup that coats the nuts. At this point, the mixture will be golden brown.

Using a silicone spatula, spoon the nuts onto the prepared lined and lightly greased baking sheet. Spread them in a single layer, and leave to cool complete. Do NOT touch the hot nuts, as boiling sugar will burn.

When the candied nuts have completely cooled, separate them with your hands, and sneak at least one handful for yourself before sealing them away in an airtight jar to be plundered by everyone else.

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Categories: Appetizers & Hors D’Oeuvres, Desserts, Eat, For a Crowd, French in a Flash, Recipes, Series, Vegetarian