Friday, February 1, 2013

Breakfast of Champions: Pain au Chocolat by Mandy Jones

Most days I consume a quick breakfast at the speed of light; a banana, yogurt with fruit and granola, a cup of coffee from the Keurig.  I inhale it because I immediately have to race after my two year old who has managed to unravel every toilet paper roll in the house in 7 seconds flat.  That's what nearly every morning looks like.  But then there are mornings when I have time to bake lovely puff pastry goodness and enjoy an espresso or latte that took 15 steps to make with our DeLonghi espresso maker.   I feel like a champion when I can successfully complete a time consuming baking project like Pain au chocolat all while taking care of the most active 2 year old that never ever lets me rest.  Today, I had a rapid fire breakfast of a still-half-frozen waffle, but I dreamed of these amazing. buttery, light and flaky pastries I made recently.  Pain au Chocolate, you complete me!

Pain au Chocolat
Total Prep time: 5-8 hours (including mixing & rolling dough and time for dough to chill)
Bake time: 15 minutes
Yeilds: 1 dozen(depending on size)


3/4 cup milk, warmed
1 Tbsp. active dry yeast
1/3 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt

1 cup (1/2 lb.) unsalted butter, cold
1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup(ish) good-quality chocolate (chopped, chips or squares, halved – I used Bernard Callebaut semi-sweet drops)

In a large bowl, stir together the milk and yeast. Stir in the sugar, eggs and vanilla and mix well. Add a cup of the flour and the salt, then add the rest of the flour gradually, stirring until it’s incorporated. Knead the dough on a lightly floured countertop for about 5 minutes, until smooth. Transfer to a lightly floured baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap; chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, beat the butter and flour with an electric mixer for a couple minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl, until smooth. Set aside (don’t refrigerate).

When the dough has chilled, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and roll into a rectangle that is about 13″x18″ and 1/4″ thick. Spread the butter evenly over the right two-thirds of the dough. Fold the left third of the dough over, covering half the butter, then fold the right side over, as if you were folding a letter in thirds.  Cover the dough in plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes.

Put the dough back on the floured surface lengthwise, with the open sides to the left and right. Roll it out into another 13″x18″ rectangle, 1/4″ thick. Fold the left third over the middle, then the right third over the middle.  Chill the dough for another 30 minutes.
Roll, fold and chill the dough two more times, so that you’ve done it four times total. Cover and chill for at least 5 hours, or overnight. It can also be frozen at this point for up to 4 months.

To assemble the pain au chocolat, take the dough out of the fridge and roll it on a lightly floured surface to about 1/4″ thick.  Cut the dough into strips and then crosswise.  Place a small little pile of chocolate, or a chunk of it, along the middle of the pastry, roll the sides up and place each one seam-side down on an ungreased baking sheet. 

Preheat the oven to 400F. Bake the pain au chocolat for 15-17 minutes, until golden. (If they are larger, they may need more time.)  

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Chocolate Hazelnut Crepe Cake by Mandy Jones

From the time I was very young, crêpes were a staple breakfast food on the menu in our home. My favorite meal of the day was "breakfast for dinner". You know what I'm talking about...foregoing the oven roasted chicken or fresh pasta for a plate of fried eggs and toast with a greasy side of bacon or a simple bowl of cereal and milk. In our family we had crêpes with preserves and hand whipped cream for dinner often. I think my mother's crêpe recipe was embedded in her DNA, since she so effortlessly whisked up a batch of batter in no time at all. All we had to do was mention the word and soon we had a stack of perfect crêpes waiting to be rolled and stuffed into our faces. I'm thankful to have inherited this gene because I love making these delicate, lacy-edged treats for my family almost as much as I love eating them.

A few weeks ago a friend asked me to help her make a Crêpe cake. She received a new du Buyer blue steel pan for Christmas and had fallen madly in love with it, just as I did when I first got mine many years ago. Together we made a gorgeous cake layered with crêpes, toasted hazelnut pastry cream, and topped with a chocolate sauce and candied hazelnuts. It was so divine that I wanted needed to make it again! Stat!

Ok, fast forward to last night, I decided to tackle this cake knowing there were quite a few steps involved and I would likely be up very late finishing it. I had everything I needed but raw hazelnuts or filbert nuts as I've learned they're also called. Brian was sweet enough to stop at the market on his way home from work. He thought I needed 2.5 pounds of nuts, but luckily he called before checking out because I only needed 2.5 cups. Big difference, however, I could think of a million things to use those extra filberts for if he had purchased them. Oh, and I also needed a bottle of wine. For me. Not the cake. Like I said, good thing he called! :)

So, step one: Pour a glass of wine...

Once I was properly lubricated, I was ready to dive into whisking, mixing, melting, simmering and candying. I always try to use the best ingredients. I find it makes such a huge difference in the final product and I just don't like cutting corners when I bake. Once I discovered King Arthur Flour many moons ago, I haven't use any other brand.  I even recommend it to all of my students that take the Simply French cooking classes that I co-teach with my sister, Shawnie.  It's just a far superior flour than any other I've used before.  It's wonderful quality and always so consistent.  My point...use fine ingredients.  It really does matter.

The recipe (below) is rather long, so I'll give you a brief overview.  First you want to prepare your crepe batter.  It will need time to sit for a few hours or even over night if you have the time.  The key to amazing crepes is good quality flour and eggs.  A few months ago I was introduced to Pete & Gerry's Heirloom Eggs. They are so vibrant in flavor and color. Now I always have them in my fridge. Try them. You'll love them.

I love these Duralax Picardie prep bowls!  Christmas gift from my hubby.  Score!

Next you want to toast your hazelnuts and make the pastry cream. To toast, just place the nuts on a cookie sheet and bake at 350 for 10 mins.  Give them a shake halfway through for even toasting. I find that the easiest way to get the skin off the nuts after toasting is to take a handful and rub them together between your palms.  The skin flakes right off and fall onto the pan below.  Just like that!

Skinned and ready for the food processor.

The hazelnuts smell so amazing once they're chopped to oblivion in a food processor along with powdered sugar, a pinch of salt and a bit of hazelnut liqueur.

The pastry cream comes together quickly with your tempered egg yolks/cornstarch mixture, sugar, milk and processed hazelnuts.

I used an offset pastry spatula to spread the pastry cream between the layers of crepes.  Spread the cream across the cake evenly to keep a hump from forming in the middle of the cake.

It takes 1/4 cup of pastry cream between layers.  I used a measuring cup for consistency.

18 layers of hazelnut sweet goodness.

What?  There's one extra crepe?  Better not let it go to waste!

The chocolate icing is a cinch.  I've tried a few different methods and found that melting the chocolate first over a double boiler before pouring heavy cream over it yields a smoother texture without having to re-heat it later to melt any bits of chocolate that didn't fully melt before.

Once your icing is prepared, it's as easy as pouring it over the cake, topping it with candied hazelnuts and you're done!  This cake makes me so happy.  It's definitely a labor of love, but oh so worth it once you take your first bite. Don't be intimidated by its complexity. It's quite simple to make if you break it down into parts.  Take your time and enjoy the process.  Once the cake is finished and placed on the table, it will be gone before you can blink!

Chocolate Hazelnut Crepe Cake

Crepes (step 1)
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter - melted (I prefer to use clarified butter)
2 1/3 ups whole milk
6 large Pete & Gerry's Heirloom Eggs
1 1/2 cups King Arthur All-Purpose Flour
1/ teaspoons Kosher salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Melt butter.  In a large bowl whisk together eggs, milk, salt, flour, sugar and butter until smooth.  Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour or up to 2 days.  You can also use a blender to combine the ingredients.  To make crepes, pour 1/4 cups batter in a pre-heated crepe pan or skillet, which has been brushed with butter.   Swirl the batter until the pan is coated evenly.  Return to heat until the edges of the crepe become lacy and lift from the pan.  The bottom of the crepe will have browns slightly.  Gently flip and cook the other side for a few seconds.  Stack crepes and let cool until ready for assembly.

*I always have to throw the first crepe away (really, just eat it!) to prime the pan.

Hazelnut Pastry Cream (step 2)
1 1/3 cups toasted hazelnuts (skinned)
1 cup confectioners' sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons hazelnut liqueur (I used Frangelico)
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
3 1/4 cups whole milk
6 Tablespoons granulated sugar
5 egg yolks - Pete & Gerry's Heirloom Eggs
5 Tablespoons cornstarch
2 Tablespoons melted butter (I like to use clarified butter)

In a food processor, blend confectioners' sugar, liqueur, salt and hazelnuts until the consistency of a damp powder.  In a saucepan, heat milk, sugar and hazelnut powder to a simmer.  In a separate bowl combine egg yolks and cornstarch until smooth.  Temper the eggs using the heated milk mixture. Once the eggs are warm, whisk them into the pot with the milk mixture.  Bring the combined egg and milk mixture to a boil until it reaches the consistency of pudding.  Remove from heat and stir in melted butter.  Transfer to a bowl, cover the direct surface of the pastry creme with plastic wrap so a skin doesn't form, and refrigerate until completely chilled.

Candied Hazelnuts (step 3)
1/3 cup toasted hazelnuts skinned
1/2 cup granulated sugar
pinch of sea salt  (I use French grey salt)

Heat sugar and water until the sugar has melted and the liquid turns light brown. Add salt and hazelnuts.  Continue to cook until the color darkens slightly.  Remove from heat, remove nuts from pan and place on parchment paper to cool.   They will easily pull from the paper later.  Coarsely crush the nuts to sprinkle over the cake after the chocolate icing has been poured over.

Assembly (step 4)
Using a cake stand or cake plate, place one crepe in the center. Spoon 1/4 cup of the pastry creme onto the center of the crepe and spread evenly to almost the edges of the crepe.  Continue this pattern until you have used all of the crepes but one.  This last crepe will be the topmost layer before the chocolate icing is poured over.

Chocolate Icing (step 5)
5 ounces semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 Tablespoon hazelnut liqueur

Place chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Using a double boiler, melt chocolate chips until they are completely soft.  In a small saucepan, heat heavy cream and liqueur until simmering.  Pour heavy cream over the chocolate and stir until smooth.  Let cool until it thickens slightly.  Pour over layered crepe cake slowly and spread to edges if needed.  Top cake with crushed candied hazelnuts

*If the chocolate isn't fully melted, return to the double boiler heat just long enough to allow the rest of the chocolate to melt.  Melting the chocolate before mixing with heavy cream helps eliminate this issue.

Be sure to check out the "Baking with Love" Pinterest contest sponsored by Pete & Gerry's Heirloom Eggs and King Arthur Flour. Create a Pinterest board using your favorite recipes inspired from King Arthur Flour, Pete & Gerry's Organic Eggs and Heirloom Meals by Carole Murko for a chance to win some great prizes. #bakingwithlove

Sunday, January 20, 2013

French scientists work out how to pour the perfect glass of champagne, Daily Mail

The team tried out two methods of pouring bubbly, down the middle and down the side of the glass.
French scientists work out how to pour the perfect glass of champagne:   tilt the glass

They are, of course, experts on the best methods of Champagne production. And now it seems, the French are set on teaching the world another complex technique – how to pour it. Researchers in the heart of the Cham­pagne region claim to have shown the best way to keep the fizz in a glass of bubbly.  The secret, they say, is to tilt the glass and let the wine trickle gently down the side. Although the 'discovery' confirms what experienced bar tenders and drinkers have known for centuries, the researchers say it is the first time anyone has scientifically proven the correct method for dishing out the bubbly. Their study also confirms the importance of chilling champagne before serving to enhance its taste. Their report appears in ACS' bi-weekly Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

Gérard Liger-Belair and colleagues noted that tiny bubbles are the essence of fine champagnes and sparkling wines.

Scientists long have suspected that the act of pouring a glass of bubbly could have a big impact on gas levels in champagne and its quality. Past studies indicate that the bubbles — formed during the release of large amounts of dissolved carbon dioxide gas — help transfer the taste, aroma, and all-important 'mouth-feel' of champagne. But until now no scientific study had been carried out. The scientists studied carbon dioxide loss in champagne using two different pouring methods. One involved pouring champagne straight down the middle of a glass. The other involved pouring champagne down the side of an angled glass. They found that pouring champagne down the side preserved up to twice as much carbon dioxide in champagne than pouring down the middle — probably because the angled method was gentler. Research leader Gerard Liger-Belair said: 'Pouring champagne into a glass is far from having no consequences with regard to its dissolved CO2 concentration. 

'The angled, beer-like way of serving champagne was found to impact its concentration of dissolved CO2 significantly less.

'Moreover, the higher the Champagne temperature is, the higher its loss of dissolved carbon dioxide during the pouring process, which finally constitutes the first analytical proof that low temperatures prolong the drink's chill and help sit to retain its effervescence during the pouring process.' 
Last year, scientists discovered a chemical receptor hidden in the tongue's taste buds that responds to carbonated drinks such as sparkling wine, cola and fizzy water.The receptor was found on the taste cells that normally respond to sour food and drinks like lemon, vinegar and white wine. They also showed that cooler champagne temperatures  - ideally, 39 degrees Fahrenheit - help reduce carbon dioxide loss.  

Another 2009 study from German scientists revealed how Champagne gets its distinctive  flavor from its bubbles. They showed they were up to 30 times more flavor-enhancing chemicals in the bubbles than in the rest of the drink. Previously, many wine experts thought carbon dioxide in the bubbles give the wine an acidic bite and tingle - but did not contribute to its flavor. 

B.L.T. Tartines

It was a B.L.T. kinda day, so I opted to turn the traditional sandwich into a Frenchy open-faced edition. Yup- bacon, lettuce and tomato are definitely traditional ingredients. But in this case, the salad is served atop toasted bread with a light yogurt lemon dressing, rather than the typical slathering of mayonnaise.

In lieu of buying bread, I decided to make this beyond-simple "Slow and Easy Bread in a Pot" using Jacques Pepin's recipe included in this issue of Edible Columbus (Page 18-19. Sidebar: I wrote the article about Malabar Farm in this issue).  The bread requires only 4 ingredients to be mixed directly into a non-stick pot, let rise and bake. Did I mention the slow and easy part? This recipe literally takes five minutes to make-- if you don't count the 16 hours of rising and one hour of cooking. Mix 2 1/4 cups of tepid water (90 degrees-ish) with 1 teaspoon of quick rise yeast and a tablespoon of salt into a non-stick pot; one able to withstand 425 degrees in the oven. I used a 3.5 quart Le Creuset Dutch oven. 

Blend 4 cups of flour into the water until a sticky dough is formed. Cover and let the dough rise for an hour or so at room temperature. The dough should be bursting at the seams by this point. Scrape the dough off the lid/sides of pot, deflate the dough and reshape it into a ball. Place the lid back on the pot and pop it in the fridge for another 12-14 hours to finish proofing. I let it proof overnight. Zzzzz.....  

Seriously, that's it... when time came for baking, I deflated it once again and shaped it into a doughy ball, filling the bottom of the pot about 3 inches deep. This rivals the Provencal Ham and Cheese Bread as the easiest bread on earth.

Bake uncovered at 425 for about 45 minutes. If it looks sufficiently brown, then loosely cover with foil  and bake another 15 mins... VOILA... one hour & voila... home made bread in a pot. A simple recipe with endless variations. 

This made a rather large two-pound loaf, so I sliced the bread bruschetta style to top with the BLT salad. (I have since made this bread recipe a half dozen times. PERFECTION every time!)

From this point on, it took about 15 minutes to make the topping. Bacon. Check. Lettuce. Check. Tomatoes. Check (I tend to go light on the tomatoes for the husband's sake). In fact, I replaced the tomatoes in a smaller batch with cucumbers, which he really enjoyed.  Reminded me of the crunchy (BLC) cucumber sandwiches I made while living in England. 

You can see from the picture, this isn't a full-sized open faced sandwich, but rather small appetizer-sized portions. They had all the flavor one expects from a BLT, but seemed substantially lighter because of the dressing.  

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Galette, My Love

Braised Salmon; Potato and Parmasan Galettes; Spinach Goat Cheese Salad

Let me preface this by saying we were REALLY hungry when deciding what to make for dinner last night.

I've had my eye on a Salmon Gravlax with Potato Parmesan Galettes recipe for a while now, but my husband isn't a fan of raw fish, so we opted for Braised Salmon along with a different potato galette.

The salmon, braised in white wine and herbs, turned out moist with a mild flavor which we thoroughly enjoyed. Thankfully, the (wild caught) salmon was not overcooked, which I have a tendency to do. Unfortunately, I saved the overcooking for the galettes. 

"What's a galette?" you ask?  Good question. While living in Nice, I'd eaten all sorts of various-shaped, savory-filled shells referred to as galettes, including the popular buckwheat crepes. A galette is simply a free form cake/ shell/ crepe/ tart with 'stuff' in it.  Not fussy in form (or in definition).  Let's just say I've eaten plenty of galettes, but have never made one like this. I was rather curious about the recipe, but did not fret and remained ever-trusting of Patricia Wells's (my culinary heroine) guidance and fabulous descriptions of "how to."  I jumped right into shredding and blending and packing my potato mixture into what looked like hamburger patties. Unsure of how it would all pan out, they cooked beautifully!  ...and kept cooking, and cooking, and cooking. My distraction with part three of dinner (the spinach salad) resulted in a rather tough galette. The recipe calls for 3 minutes cooking per side. Next time, I shall obey. 

Note to self: Turn on timer as reminder to remove galettes from heat.
Oh well. They were edible. The problem here was the pilot and not the plane, but that's not to say we didn't eat every last bite. I like this recipe and am giddy to try it again this weekend. For some reason, my mind is associating this particular potato galette with breakfast; or serving it at brunch with a selections of meats and salad. It's way thicker than a potato pancake and denser than a quiche. Also, I envision variations on the cheese and herbs used in the recipe. I have a feeling this is going to become a standard at Chez Foy.

As will the third part of our meal- , it was a loose, deconstructed interpretation of Patricia's Bacon-Wrapped Goat Cheese recipe. I wish we had dandelion greens left over from the first round of making this salad, but they wilted and the store was out. We are very lucky to have a Giant Eagle Market District a mile away with decent produce this time of year. Opting for a spinach replacement (as the recipe permits), I threw the ingredients together into a free form salad, rather than  meticulously recreating the original recipe. It was a different kind of yummy! There's just something about goat cheese and bacon....

This dinner was a friendly reminder about portion control and that her cookbook's recipes are truly well balanced and proportioned for four (or in my case, 2 people). So, let's do the math...

   2 portions of 1 recipe
+ 2 portions of another 
+ 2 portions of another 
+ a few slices of sourdough bread
an extra trip to the gym. 

While laying exhausted, flat on my back at the end of this morning's yoga class... eyes closed... listening to the hum of the heater... the yogi instructed us to clear our minds. In all the calmness and serenity, all I could think a healthy Rancho Salad... NEXT UP! 

Chicken Salad w/Green Beans & Tahini-Lemon-Yogurt Dressing

It was a soup and salad kind of day, and we opted for an herby chicken salad, in which crunchy green beans take center stage. I LOVE THIS RECIPE. Ended up serving the chicken salad on Jacques Pepin's 'bread in a pot' recipe from an older issue of Edible Columbus (recipe: page 18-19; and I wrote the article about Malabar Farm on pages 30-31), alongside Cilantro-flecked Heirloom Tomato Soup, which had an ever so slight kick of pepper which complimented the chicken salad. 

Photo: Shawnie Kelley.  All rights reserved.
This colorful and tangy salad is packed with flavor, texture, and character. We eat green
beans several times a week when they are in season, and never get enough of their great
crunch, brilliant green color, and healthful, refreshing flavors.


3 tablespoons coarse sea salt
8 ounces green beans, trimmed at both ends and cut into 1- inch pieces
3 1/2 cups (about 1 pound) cubed cooked chicken (see page 197)
1 1/2 cups sliced celery (1/4- inch slices)
Tahini- Lemon- Yogurt Dressing and Dipping Sauce (page 332)
1/2 cup finely minced fresh cilantro or parsley leaves
Coarse, freshly ground black pepper

1. Prepare a large bowl of ice water.

2. Fill the pasta pot with 3 quarts of water and bring it to a rolling boil over high heat.
Add the salt and the beans and blanch until crisp- tender, about 5 minutes. (Cooking
time will vary according to the size and tenderness of the beans.) Immediately
remove the colander from the water, letting the water drain from the beans. Plunge
the beans into the ice water so they cool down as quickly as possible. (The beans will
Photo: Shawnie Kelley.  All rights reserved.
cool in 1 to 2 minutes. If you leave them longer, they will become soggy and begin
to lose flavor.) Drain the beans and wrap them in a thick kitchen towel to dry. (Store
the beans in the towel in the refrigerator for up to 4 hours.)
3. In a large bowl, combine the beans, chicken, and celery. Toss to blend. Add just
enough dressing to coat the ingredients lightly and evenly. Add the cilantro and toss
again. Taste for seasoning. At serving time, season with pepper.

WINE SUGGESTION: This salad calls for a slightly exotic wine. I never tire of the unique, spicy flavors and aromas of Austria’s flagship white wine, Grüner Veltliner.

Cilantro-Flecked Heirloom Tomato Soup

Certain soups are just as well considered a salad in liquid form... I will forever think of vegetable soups, gazpacho or pureed soups made from peas, squash or, in this case, heirloom tomatoes as salad. I made this soup for a small group of friends, along with Chicken Salad with Green Beans and Lemon Yogurt dressing sandwiches- another wonderful recipe from the Salad as a Meal cookbook.

In the summer months, I keep a batch of this soup on hand in the refrigerator, and I often sip a glassful for breakfast. Light, refreshing, and full of flavor, it hits the spot any time of the day. It matches beautifully with a salad as a meal made up of nothing but chunks of fresh garden tomatoes drizzled with a touch of Basil-Lemon Dressing (page 319). Yes, tomato soup with tomato salad. When they are ripe and ready, never too many tomatoes in my book!

1 1/2 pounds ripe heirloom tomatoes, cored and quartered (do not peel)
1/2 cup imported Italian tomato paste
2 teaspoons fine sea salt
1 teaspoon ground piment d’Espelette or other ground mild chile pepper
2 tablespoons best-quality sherry-wine vinegar
1 cup fresh cilantro leaves, plus extra for garnish (I use a variety of cilantro called Delfino)

Combine all the ingredients, except the extra cilantro leaves, in a a blender or a food processor. Add 1 2/3 cups water and puree to a smooth liquid. Taste for seasoning. The soup can be served immediately, but the flavors benefit from ripening for at least 3 hours and up to 24 hours, refrigerated. Serve in soup bowls, garnished with cilantro leaves. (Store without the garnish in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. Reblend at serving time.)

Food processor or blender? In most cases, the food processor and blender can be used interchangeably. But for many soups—especially those that are made in quantity, such as this tomato soup—I find the blender is more accommodating. Even large food processors tend to overflow with a larger volume of liquid. And while the food processor purees, the blender can turn soups into a thicker, emulsified liquid.

Selecting the best tomato paste: Be sure to read the ingredients label when purchasing tomato paste. Many domestic brands contain sugar and other sweeteners. Brands from Italy generally contain nothing but tomatoes and salt. In this recipe in particular, where a quantity of tomato paste is used, the pure version is a must.

My Culinary Hero(ine)-- by Shawnie Kelley

I love stories. Especially when they involve food and/or travel. In my opinion, a good cookbook MUST have a good story behind it.  If it doesn't, I lose interest in everything about it, including the recipes.  One thing I'm most fond about Patricia Wells's cookbooks is their readability. She's a fine story teller and goes to length to include the history or background of a dish. Her opening narratives are welcoming, as if she is having you to dinner, yet still read like fine prose. Not what one might expect from your average cookbook, but something I've come to appreciate and admire about hers.  
I've been enamored with Patricia Wells's cookbooks for the past decade. They've taught me a lot about technique and the reasons why it is important to do things certain ways. Some techniques stick, others... well, let's just say I'm not always good at following directions. But I'm getting better. The first of her books I purchased 14 or 15 years ago was Simply French. I love French cuisine, but let's face it. French cooking comes across rather intimidating, especially to novices.  Wells spent several years in the kitchen of the great, Michelin-laden Chef Joel Robuchon, translating his craft into recipes that can be used in "everyman's" kitchen. This everyman has used every one. Successfully and unsuccessfully. Simply French taught me the processes and principals of cooking, which help make complex recipes more approachable. I read this cookbook years before I ever owned a copy of Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. So to my mind, Patricia taught me to cook. I am presently revisiting this cookbook because my culinary skills have significantly evolved since I first bought it. Not to mention, I'm better at following recipes.  I'll probably end up blogging about this.
At Home in Provence, a collection of farmhouse recipes is indeed my favorite of her cookbooks. It squashes that idea that French food should be drowned in oil and heavy sauces. They can be, but not always. The cookbook is loaded with flavorful, aromatic, homey recipes and luscious photography. She also uses an occasional rebellious technique, as far as traditional French cooking goes. My kinda cooking!  Chapters are dedicated to pastas and salads and breads, proving that French cuisine can be relaxed, yet abundantly flavorful. This particular book inspired a series of classes my sister and I will teach this spring and summer at Upper Arlington's Lifelong Learning; one of the country's largest adult enrichment programs. View the link here, if you'd like to register.

One of the more recent additions to my cookbook collection is, Bistro Cooking, which was published way back in 1989 and contains 200+ recipes from bistros and small family run restaurants throughout France. It's a simple, well-written cookbook with recipes that exude the warmth and coziness brought to mind by the word "bistro." I embrace Wells's preference for hearty, homier recipes and this book does not disappoint. I'll be trying my hand at a ratatouille recipe this weekend. The first I'll be making since buying the cookbook, because I have been busy for the past month participating in a cookbook challenge celebrating Patricia Wells's book, Salad as a Meal. 

Like her other cookbooks, SAAM offers a fun, story-telling narrative with stories about each recipe, where they came from or a little about the region. Overall this cookbook's recipes show a huge range in the definition of salad, with which I wholeheartedly agree after making nearly twenty of them. When it comes to fabulous story- telling and darn good recipes Patricia Wells continues to be my culinary hero(ine)!!