The array of sleek appliances is what you might expect from someone who has worked for years in restaurants and the food media: two stand mixers, a blender, a food processor, an ice-cream maker, an espresso machine.Yet the most trusted gadget in David Lebovitz’s spacious kitchen has no knobs, buttons or electrical cord: a large mortar and pestle made of granite.“It’s one of my favorite things,” said Lebovitz, 56, a best-selling cookbook author and a pioneer of food blogging. “It’s nice to be reminded that it takes a little bit of moxie to make something.”A dessert specialist who has his own pastry app, Lebovitz left a long career in restaurant kitchens for food writing in the late 1990s. In his apartment kitchen, where he tests recipes, he keeps a close watch on his creations by working with his stone tools.“When you make pesto, you’re smooshing it, you’re really grinding it, you’re seeing what’s happening,” he said, demonstrating (in a moment when he wasn’t cradling the mortar protectively in two hands) how to twist the pestle against the rough bowl of the mortar, making a sound like a brick being nudged along the floor.His blog, davidlebovitz.com, is known for its quirky, straight-shooting stories about food and Paris, where he lives. His observations are neither sentimental nor caustic: One day he wrote about the meringues that clogged his toilet when he tried to flush them; on another, he mentioned that his French partner, Romain, is too talkative early in the morning.Lebovitz started his site in 1999, before WordPress, Twitter or Facebook. His latest cookbook, “My Paris Kitchen,” was published in 2014, and he is working on his eighth book.A native of West Hartford, Connecticut, he earned a film degree from Ithaca College and began cooking at Cabbagetown Cafe, a nearby vegetarian restaurant, now closed, where almost all machines were banned from the kitchen. He learned to use a mortar and pestle at Chez Panisse, the seminal farm-to-table restaurant in Berkeley, California, where he was a pastry cook for 13 years.Lebovitz moved to Paris in 2004 on a whim, arriving with little luggage and renting a small apartment in the Bastille neighborhood. He quickly hit the streets in search of cookware. “One of the things I couldn’t live without was a mortar and pestle,” he said.Today, it gets a workout several times a week — for crushing spices or salts, pounding garlic for aioli or grinding caramelized nuts into praline paste. “You can’t really make tapenade or pesto without it,” he said. “You can make it in a food processor, but it’s not the same. Food processors chop things, whereas a mortar and pestle makes a paste. It emulsifies it.”The work can be tiring, he said, but it pays its way: “You can make lots of appetizers. You can make main courses. You can grind hummus, make Middle Eastern food, French food. There’s probably American food you can make in here, but I can’t think of any right now.”© 2015 New York Times News Service
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