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I was breezing through BHV the other Saturday, the worst of all possible days to hit Paris’ multi-floored, one-stop shop for everything from toilet plungers to wine-making equipment (naturellement), 300 euro Le Creuset Dutch ovens, Yves Delorme sheets and the latest Chanel lipstick (Think Home Depot, Target, and Neiman’s, rolled all into one very cramped place. No, wait — add Container Store, MJ Designs, and Border’s, too.).

On this particular day, I was looking for plastic boxes to store my ever-expanding collection of blue-and-white, but I got distracted by the book department; in particular, the table with new cookbooks.

I saw the fun drawings of crabs, fish, chicken and Swiss chard before I saw the title, “Nature,” and way before I saw the name on top of that, which was no other than France’s most well-known chef, Alain Ducasse, who’s built a humongous global restaurant empire (Benoit, Spoon, Alain Ducasse at Plaza Athenee, etc.), and recently gave a culinary face-lift to the restaurant that sits in the city’s most famous landmark, Le Jules Verne.

I flipped open the book, and was immediately taken in by the beautiful photography, and the cute drawings and repartee between Ducasse and Paule Neyrat, the dietician who helped put the book together (or who put the book together, and then Alain’s name was put on top – it’s hard to tell). But what I loved most were the simple, healthy recipes, with a strong emphasis on grains, veggies and fish.

I’ve got to set Alain straight on guacamole (Olive oil? Green onions?), but I think that he’s spot on with his tapenade recipe, which I made the other day. So easy! Isn’t tapenade one of the best things ever? ¬†You cut up a baguette, open the wine, and you’ve got such a perfect little appetizery kind of snack. Is doubly good with a bit of fresh chevre smeared on the toast first, if you want to get extra fancy. Perfect to pack for your spring picnics.

I followed his recipe exactly, except I used Kalamata olives instead of Nicoise, simply because I had them on hand. It takes, oh, about 5 minutes to whip this up. No need to ever, ever buy that stuff in the jar again. Plus, it’s so much nicer when you make it yourself, because you can keep it sort of chunky and rustic. I like that.

PS. I’m going to try to start writing these recipes with European measurements as well as American, because the folks that I’ve surveyed seem to be split right down the middle on whether they’d like to see grams vs ounces. I’ll round up or down where it makes sense.


150 grams (about 5 oz) black olives, such as Nicoise or Kalamata

1 clove garlic, minced

5 leaves basil, chopped

1 teaspoon capers

10 cl (3.38 oz or about 1/3 cup) olive oil

1 anchovy filet

Either chop everything by hand, or do this the cowgirl way: put the garlic in your baby food processor and pulse a few times. Now add everything else, and pulse only until the olives are in small bits. You want this chunky and country-style, not a puree.

Cowgirl Tip: Try using a cherry pitter to pop the seeds out of the olives. Tres cool!