Refrigerators in the kitchens of most Parisian apartments may be small, but they're definitely mighty, especially in the case of cookbook author and food blogger David Lebovitz. After stints as a cook at fabled Northern California restaurants including Zuni Café and Chez Panisse, Lebovitz moved to France in 2004, where he's since written several cookbooks, including 2014's My Paris Kitchen, which covers everything from Coq au vin to duck fat cookies. Lebovitz, who also runs his popular blog DavidLebovitz.com, is currently working on another cookbook, due out next year, which means he's been focused on lots of recipe testing. ("Hence the mess," he says of his fridge, though that "mess" looks pretty amazing to us; see below). Here, some highlights of the staples in Lebovitz's fridge right now.
It's not just any old butter. This version comes from Brittany, a coastal region in Northwest France that's famous for the stuff. "I use it on my morning toast. I’ve also been baking with it more and more, in pastries and cakes, like they do in Brittany. We’ve all been told for so long to only use unsalted butter, but the quality of salted butter has really improved, and I’ve been experimenting with it quite a bit," he explains. "The late chef Judy Rodgers [of Zuni Café] used salted butter for her puff pastry, and it was some of the best puff pastry I’ve ever had."
Green olive and basil tapenade
Lebovitz included his recipe for this spread in My Paris Kitchen and swears it's super easy to whip up. "I like having this handy as it goes well on little toasts with early evening drinks, but it also nice spread on a sandwich."
Lebovitz uses the almighty egg a lot and made the switch to free-range a few years back. "I saw some videos and news programs in France and America about how battery chickens are raised and decided that I would pay a little more – in spite of how many eggs I crack through – and use eggs from free-range chickens."
Sheep's milk fromage blanc
"The yogurt aisle in France is justly famous, although it’s become overwhelmed with lots of 'flavored' options, with everything from strawberry and kiwi to pistachio macaron and salted butter caramel-flavored yogurts. I reach for fromage blanc, the slightly milder, more unctuous cousin of yogurt."
Amora Dijon mustard
"No French refrigerator is without a bottle or jar of Dijon mustard. I do use artisan brands of Dijon, like Maille and Faillot, but there is a specific taste of Amora that I crave on sandwiches."
French breakfast radishes
"Even though they’re not called 'breakfast' radishes in France, and no one eats radishes for breakfast here, I always have a bunch or two of the red-and-white-hued radishes on hand for snacks during the day," he says. And they come in handy in the evenings too, when Lebovitz serves them with apéritifs before dinner along with a little dish of fleur de sel (French sea salt) or a smear of soft, salted butter.
Portuguese Vinho Verde
He often drinks rosé in the summer, but switches it out for this light Portuguese wine when he wants a change. "It’s slightly spritzy and lower in alcohol," according to Lebovitz. "However, I do have two bottles of rosé in the lower drawer ... as back up."
The former pastry chef is currently perfecting a recipe for Kouign Amann, a flaky, puffy layered pastry which got its name from the Breton words for "cake" and "butter." The circular stainless steel accessories have been part of the experiment. ""I’ve been playing around with muffin tins versus tart rings and have made the sugary, buttery (salted!) pastries every day this week. I think I’ve got them just right, and people will have to wait for my next book to find out how they turned out."
Parmigiano Reggiano and Sardinian Pecorino
Lebovitz recently served as a judge at this year's Genova Pesto World Championship and when he began posting photos from the event on social media, he found himself dealing with some pesky pesto sticklers. "The authenticity police are particularly vigilant online these days. Fortunately we were cleared of all charges by using the 'officially recognized' (D.O.P.) products that pesto should have," he says. As for what those are exactly: "Ligurian basil, olive oil, sea salt from Sicily (for those concerned about authenticity, yes, it was from Trapani), and these two cheeses, which I bought to bring home and make pesto for the rest of the summer. I won’t be able to get Ligurian basil (which was shipped for the event), so I’ll keep quiet about it … online anyway."
Fever-Tree Tonic Water: "I rediscovered gin and tonics last year in Ireland, around the same time I discovered this excellent tonic water," he says of the carbonated botanical-flavored beverage made by the UK-based company Fever-Tree. "Once I tasted this aromatic tonic water, I can’t go back to the big plastic bottles of tonic water."
David Lebovitz's well-stocked Parisian fridge.
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