E Bar

July 28, 2014

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Friendships and food are a funny thing, especially when they’re tightly linked to a particular place. Primo’s on McKinney Avenue was, for more than a decade or so I guess, where I met everyone at one time or another. I went there for first dates and anniversaries. To celebrate birthdays. To mourn deaths. For no reason at all.

The salsa was reliable and spicy. The guac, always fresh. And the margaritas, limey and strong.

The truth is, I forgot about Primo’s while I was in Paris, and when it closed, it had been so long since I’d been there, I barely felt a pang of sadness. Out of sight, I guess.

But being back in Dallas for the summer means spending time with friends I’ve not seen much in years, so when my pal Marissa said E Bar was the new Primo’s, under a new name and new location — it’s owned by Eddie Cervantes, who sold Primo’s in 2008 — off we went on a balmy 100-degree day to share a light snack of beef fajita nachos. Just like we used to.

The beer was cold and still served in small glasses, and even the tortilla chips were the same as the ones they used to serve at Primo’s. It’s funny the things you remember.

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Homemade Hummus

July 24, 2014

DSC_1850I’m as DIY as the next gal, and I used to make my own hummus, but sometime in the 90s, when you could find it anywhere, I stopped. I started buying the ready-made stuff. That was probably several hundred dollars of hummus ago.

This hit me, the wasted money on hummus, particularly hard last week, when the security guard at Orly Airport swiped my teensy 250 gram container that had never been opened (about 9 ounces) and there I was, left without a snack for the journey to Madrid, then Miami, and then, to Texas (I know. Please don’t ask).

I’d just spent 5 euros and some change on this hummus at the Monop in Paris, and I was fine with that because I figured it would be an easy, fun thing to eat on the plane. I even packed pita. But my hummus was tossed in the trash, along with so many equally threatening bottles of water that my fellow travelers had forgotten to remove from their carry-ons.

For me, the Orly incident was the last straw. I vowed to stop paying so much for puréed chickpeas and go back to making my own.

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It is, as you might imagine, not a big deal to make. Nor is it expensive. I paid $1.35 for a 1-pound sack of dried chickpeas and about $6 for a 1-pound jar of tahini, which should yield about 10 batches, give or take.

But it is not quick. You must plan ahead. You must soak those suckers overnight with a whole bunch of water and then boil them up for about an hour the next day. Then – and here comes the fun part — you’ll want to pinch off the “skins,” if, that is, you want the smoothest and creamiest of all hummuses.

It takes some time.

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Besides the stuff itself, the other factor that’s key to my enjoyment of hummus is a thin pita, one that’s fresh and pliable and able to be torn and toasted. I like my pita crisp.

I found some. Right here in Dallas. Well, actually Richardson. Sara’s Market & Bakery has fresh-baked pita in two sizes every day. I paid $1 for a package of six, which is exactly what I was paying for pita in Paris — and this Sara makes Paris-worthy pita, if that makes any sense at all to anyone (but me).

Sara’s Market is a full grocery store that stocks all sorts of Middle Eastern and Arabic staples, from dates and date paste (which I bought) to couscous and an enormous variety of olives, teas, and dried peas, beans, and grains. There’s also a small butcher shop here — most of the meats in the case are Texas-raised lamb.

For years, my yoga studio in Paris was located in Belleville, a mostly North African neighborhood, and I shopped the market after class two times a week, and often popped into the adjacent stores for dried dates and nuts and buttermilk (lait ribot). I bought fragrant bundles of mint and cilantro for 50 centimes apiece, and staples like carrots, celery and onions, which I carried home to the other side of town, where grocery prices are much higher.

Until I’m back in Paris, I’ll be shopping at Sara’s.

As strange as it may sound, going to Sara’s Market & Bakery in Richardson feels like home.

Homemade Hummus

Makes about 3 cups

  •          1 pound of dried chickpeas
  •          a pinch of baking soda
  •          3 tablespoons of olive oil
  •          3 heaping tablespoons of tahini (sesame seed paste)
  •          2 tablespoons of lemon juice, plus zest of 1/2 of a lemon
  •          1 clove of garlic
  •          ½ to 1 teaspoon of salt

1. Soak the chickpeas overnight with a pinch of baking soda added to the water.

2. When ready to cook the chickpeas, rinse them and put them in a large pot and add just enough water to cover them. Bring them to a boil and let them boil for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until most of the skins have started to come off and the peas are soft to the touch. Rinse them in cold water, remove the rest of the skins by pinching their little noses (the pointy ends), and pushing the chickpeas out.

3. Put 2 cups of the naked chickpeas (don’t look!) into your food processor along with the rest of the ingredients and purée until it’s smooth and creamy. Taste as you go (I like my hummus slightly lemony, which is why I add zest as well as juice) but hold back on adding too much extra garlic or salt, since these flavors will intensify in the fridge. Refrigerate your hummus for an hour or so before serving. I like to serve mine with an additional swirl of olive oil on top and a few extra chickpeas.

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Salad 1-2-3

July 21, 2014

Or Jetlag Salad, if you prefer. When I’m thrown back in time seven time zones, as I was last week, I need something that’s healthy — and super-quick to put together. You need: 1. Rotisserie chicken 2. Arugula 3. Croutons (in this case, ones made from Eric Kayser olive bread that I brought back in […]

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Nanashi

July 14, 2014

I may or may not have been in a certain shop in the Marais the other day just to see if perhaps the leopard ankle boots I’d spotted in the window in April (and tried on) gone on sale. And I may have tried them on (again). When I found out the price (60 percent […]

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10 Things I Love About Spain

July 6, 2014

I’ve just spent a week and a half in Spain, which began with a brief visit to Seville and ending with nearly a full week in Madrid. I’ve been to Spain a few times before, but not for this long…which now seems far too short. I’m already plotting my next trip back. Here are some […]

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Seville: Tapas and Tio Pepe

July 1, 2014

It is always a good idea when in Spain to eat jamon Iberico de bellota, the ham that comes from the pata negra (black foot) pigs, who, by the way, are also black all over — which is in part why the meat is so dark, along with the acorns (bellota) that these free-ranging in […]

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Potato Salad with Chimichurri

June 17, 2014

A wonderful mistake, this was. I’d been working up a menu for an upcoming Cowgirl Chef column for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram on an after-the-fireworks Fourth of July party, and I had my other components all figured out, recipes written, tested and photographed — Red Snapper Ceviche with Tortilla Chips, Flap Steak Sandwiches with Onion […]

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Texas Peaches

June 11, 2014

Besides the availability of tacos on practically every street corner in Dallas, one of the things I missed about Texas every summer while in Paris was the peaches. I like to cut them up and mix them up with Greek yogurt (or now, the Noosa plain one, which I’m totally addicted to) and muesli and […]

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Tabbouleh

May 7, 2014

If you’re detecting a theme here, yes, I’m definitely into making Middle Eastern food right now. I ate so much of it in Paris last month and it’s been just the thing to throw together quickly as the days have been getting longer and warmer. I’ve never been a huge tabbouleh fan — until now. […]

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Le Mini Tour: Brocantes, Bistros and Baguettes

April 28, 2014

Oh how I love the food markets in Paris on the weekends…and my favorite flea market at Porte de Vanves! Because you asked for it, I’m launching a mini version of my Brocantes, Bistros and Baguettes tours in Paris, which will replace the more intense three and four-day tours. The idea is to share my […]

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