This classic, easy-to-make, irresistible French dessert is yours to customize

Three servings of chocolate mousse, served in glass tumblers, topped with whipped cream and cacao nibs

The first time I had chocolate mousse was when I was five or six years old and my dad took me out to lunch — just the two of us — at a fancy French restaurant. I don’t know what the restaurant was called, but it was on the same plot of land in Los Angeles where Eataly now stands, in Century City. The restaurant was cozy, dark, and — to my five-year-old mind — terribly elegant. I wore white gloves.

I don’t remember most of what we ate, only…

Custardy, bacony, buttery-crusted and warm, it’s a treat you’ll love to make — and eat.

Quiche Lorraine, with eggs, cream, bacon, onion and Gruyère / Photo by Leslie Brenner

For many cooks, making a quiche is a big deal. That’s not the way it’s seen in France, where it’s considered a simple, everyday dish. Really!

“Nothing fancy; I’m just making a quiche,” is the way a friend will issue a casual dinner or lunch invite. Often there will be more than one kind. The friend never seems to have broken a sweat.

That’s why when we set out to develop a recipe for quintessential quiche Lorraine, we wanted to keep things quick and simple…

Greece’s most famous dish has a curious history that may explain why it’s not easy to find a great version. Happily, we’ve got a recipe for you.

A slice of moussaka is lifted out of its baking dish.

A great Greek moussaka — the layered gratin of eggplant, potato, lamb-tomato sauce and cheesy béchamel — is about as delicious as Mediterranean-inflected comfort food gets.

“Moussaka is the urban cosmopolitan showpiece of lamb-and-eggplant combinations, a pairing as fundamental to Middle and Near Eastern cuisines as pasta and tomatoes are to Italy and potatoes and cream to the French,” wrote Anya von Bremzen in her 2004 book The Greatest Dishes: Around the World in 80 Recipes.

Yet Greece’s most famous dish has gotten weirdly short shrift in our love affair with Eastern Mediterranean cooking. …

Dana Cowin, founder of Giving Broadly and Speaking Broadly

Strange as it may seem, Dana Cowin — who led Food & Wine magazine for 21 years as editor in chief, and who has been one of the most influential people in food in America this century — does not count her skills in the kitchen among her strengths.

“I’ll be honest,” she famously wrote in the introduction to her 2014 cookbook Mastering My Mistakes in the Kitchen, “I am not a great cook.”

So how does someone who has long been devoted to eating well manage to put excellent food on the table every night for her family during…

Let’s evolve, shall we?

A woman carrying a white plastic bag walks by Paris restaurant JeanneA at night. The restaurant has sidewalk tables.
Jeanne A, a restaurant in Paris, pre-pandemic | by Leslie Brenner

I wonder if any of us fully fathom what the implosion of restaurants during the coronavirus pandemic means for our culture.

From where I sit — to be literal, on an avocado green sofa on the second floor of a townhouse in a moderately affluent urban-residential neighborhood in Dallas — it feels like the world is divided.

Half of it thinks (or dreams or hopes or imagines) that restaurant culture and life as we know it is on its way back. A good many of the people who think this way are my friends and former…

Because it’s so important in Black American cooking, it’s a great time to discover its virtues.

Fresh okra pods are spread on a brown basket.
Fresh okra is at peak season in late summer and early fall | Photo by Leslie Brenner

Last September, Leah Penniman, a food sovereignty activist and author of Farming While Black, gave a talk at Harvard Divinity School on “African Diasporic Wisdom for Farming and Food Justice.” In it, she reportedly told the story of her great, great grandmother. About to be kidnapped from her home in West Africa, she made a “really audacious and courageous decision” to gather the seeds of okra and other crops and braid them into her hair.

“They knew that wherever they were going,” Penniman explained…

Travel centered around eating may become a thing of the past — at least for a while. A mid-September road trip provides an eerie glimpse of the future.

Night sky in Buena Vista, CO | Photo by Leslie Brenner

My husband Thierry and I are just back from a 6-day road trip to Colorado — our first getaway during pandemic. It was wonderful to be away — from the unrelenting and oppressive Dallas heat, from a world’s worth of worries, from our claustrophobic routine. Mountains and streams and fresh air and lots of hiking were fabulously restorative.

And so, in a way, was experiencing a new kind of travel — one in which it doesn’t matter so much what we’re going to eat, so long as there’s something to eat. The treatment of food and dining as cultural, gastronomic…

With the publication of her first cookbook, popular blogger Mely Martínez is now everyone’s abuelita.

‘The Mexican Home Kitchen’ cookbook, shown on a bamboo cutting board with fresh chiles, garlic, thyme and a carrot
Photo by Leslie Brenner

The more it goes, the more I cook, the more I’m interested in cookbooks that let you learn the basics of a cuisine by cooking dishes that real people cook at home. …

What sandos and Japanese potato salad tell us about food, culture and authenticity

Japanese potato salad | Photo by Leslie Brenner

Last month, circumstances collided in my imagination and my kitchen, causing me to develop a fascination with an unlikely dish: Japanese potato salad. Partly it was because the pandemic had me craving potatoes (comfort carbs) and therefore potato salad in general was top-of-mind. …

Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley’s cookbook is a delicious journey into Palestine.

Photo by Leslie Brenner

My cookbook shelves are lined with hundreds of earnest volumes filled with culturally faithful recipes for legions of traditional dishes. Usually the recipes work and the dishes are correct, often they’re pretty good, occasionally they’re very good. But rarely, when cooked as written, are they so delicious that they make me want to cry.

Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley’s Falastin: A Cookbook, which Ten Speed Press published last month, is bursting with recipes from Palastine that do just that.

Because it’s described in the headnote as “the hugely…

Leslie Brenner

James Beard Award-winning journalist, author, cook and consultant, Leslie is founder of

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