Tag Archives: At Home In Provence

Simple Fruit Tarts

24 Aug
tart

watercolor by Frances Newcombe

This post should actually be entitled Fruit Tarts for Dummies…  or rather, Fruit Tarts for A Dummy. Because, listen, if I can do this … I, me, someone with absolutely no patience for baking or dough or measuring exactly or any of that silliness… if I can do this, you can do this. And you will be so happy.

Fruit trees are one of the many benefits of living in Southern California. Not just fruit trees, but bountiful fruit trees that need very little upkeep. I am as bad at gardening as I am at baking (that patience issue) yet I have in my yard lemon trees, orange trees, apricot trees, a pomegranate tree, a kumquat tree, avocado trees, a macadamia nut tree and a glorious fig tree that goes crazy in season. Consequently, I’m always looking for ways to use the fruit.

IMG_2733 - Version 2

Prepping Fruit Tarts

I’ve written before about Patricia Wells, a chef whose writing and cooking had an incredible influence on my life. In her book At Home In Provence, there’s a gorgeous Apricot-Honey-Almond Tart you can also make with figs. It looked so incredible, and so easy, I had to give it a try. My first attempt turned out so well I kept making these tarts over the summer, in different variations, to master the tarts and see which fruits worked best. And so I give you below my slightly tweaked take on her recipe.

Did I mention how %@$# incredible they taste? Wow, are they wonderful. This recipe slays everyone by both beauty and taste. Anyone you serve the tart will have no idea how simple it is (and there’s no reason to let them know!) They’ll look at you like you had Patricia fed-ex the tart from her kitchen in France. Because it’s best served room temperature, it’s perfect not only for your home but to bring to a picnic or to a potluck. My goodness, these taste good. And they are light as well! While gorgeous, this tart is the opposite of a heavy, dense dessert. But you get all the pleasure just the same. 

Apricot Tart

apricot tart, right out of the oven

ONE NOTE: Hearty fruits such a stone fruits or figs are best with this recipe. The blueberry and raspberry versions I tried tasted great but those soft fruits started to break down into mush by the time they were finished cooking.

***!!! As an added treat this week, my beloved friend Frances Newcombe did some art for the post, including a downloadable PDF of the recipe – click here to download what you see below.

For the recipe and download, click here: Continue reading

Building Your Cookbook Library Vol. I

3 Oct

People keep asking which cookbooks they should buy. If you take a look at the photo below, you can see I am as good as person to ask as any! So I decided I would do a few posts about how to practically build your cookbook library.

It should be noted that the photo below was taken after I tossed over 50 cookbooks… and the books are stacked on these shelves two deep… and I am not showing the myriad cookbooks in various bookshelves all over the house… nor the two large drawers under the shelf in the photo that are filled to the brim.

shelf

a small part of my cookbook collection, 2 deep

It’s true, I have a cookbook addiction.

Not only are cookbooks worth buying because, well, you know, you can cook great food from them, the best cookbooks open up different parts of the world. Even better, the best cookbooks are not only about food but about exquisite and passionate writing. There are few things I love to read more than a chef writing vividly about their love for food and their approach to food. Reading cookbooks is a big de-stresser for me. I can get lost in them for hours.

For starters, we need to be semi-practical. I will later do another post about more exotic cookbooks. For this post, I want to recommend the books I return to over and over and over again. Each one has terrific recipes that are for the most part practical and simple, recipes you will make again and again. These books are all terrific references for anything you might need. If you have just these cookbooks I list in this post, and no other, you will enjoy years of amazing food.

FAVORITES

PW book

I’ve written before about a cookbook that changed my life, Patricia Wells at Home In Provence. Read the entire post to find out my experience with both this book and this wonderful woman. Know, however, that the book is filled with easy, glorious dishes that will transform your table and, additionally, your approach to cooking. If you can find a copy of the original book, cover shown above, I highly recommend it as it is a beautiful book. I am including a photo of the original copy of my book, which proves how much I return to it.

2pw book

I’ve used this book quite a bit…

Among many favorites in this book, Patricia’s Gratin Dauphinois recipe (potatoes au gratin) is a divine version I make for every holiday meal.

book

I also wrote lovingly about Suzanne Goin and her cornbread, the best ever invented. She, too, is a chef that changed how I thought about cooking and food. Her book Sunday Suppers at Lucques is filled with marvelous food I’ve cited many times before on this blog. Two standouts of many, many killer recipes are her Devil’s Chicken Thighs with Braised Leeks (you can simply make the leeks as well, they are great as is and are usually on my holiday table) and her Braised Beef Stew. Check this link for a few more recipes… the 5 recipes in the link are recipes I make all the time. The tart is a go-to I make constantly.

For the rest of my choices, click here ->>> Continue reading

A Cook/Book That Changed My Life

23 Mar

I grew up eating wonderful food. Both my parents were excellent cooks. Mom cooked most of the meals, but Dad was also very adept in the kitchen. Mom, in fact, said it was my father who taught her how to cook, after they were married, as she had little desire or use for cooking until she became a wife and it was forced upon her. Thankfully, she came to enjoy cooking immensely and was one hell of a great cook.

Both my grandmothers — my maternal Grandmother, “Honey” and my paternal grandmother, “Maw-Maw”, the pronunciation of which is difficult to get on paper — were also incredible cooks. I’m not sure my maternal grandfather, “Papa”, ever cooked, though like his grandson he sure enjoyed eating. Dad’s dad, “Paw-Paw”, also didn’t cook much but when he did, he shined. Among other things, he made a terrific and rather intense squirrel gumbo. Just watch out for the buckshot in the meat…

Our meals tended to be comprised of rich, heavy food. Deep dark gumbos, thickly layered casseroles, braised meats, vegetables laden with butter and cream. Eating vegetables light meant broiled or sauteed only in butter, minus cheese and/or cream. Dad’s side of the family tree is Cajun so we ate a lot of white rice, as opposed to potatoes and bread. To this day there are few things in the world better to me than white rice ladled with pan drippings from roasted meats. We ate loads of Tex-Mex as well. This was good food in the best sense of the word. It wasn’t the healthiest food, however, evidenced most effectively by my Dad’s sudden death, mid-sentence to my mom, of a heart attack at age 54.

I was 24 years old when Dad died. Blessed with his same genes, I realized I needed to at least try to eat healthier. Working post-college for ten years as a waiter in a terrific steak house didn’t make eating healthy easy. (Just wait for the waiting tables blog. Just you wait.) Besides, I didn’t really know how to eat healthy, or rather, how to eat healthy and still have the food taste good. This probably seems strange now but if you’re over 30, you might remember how different our thinking about food was at the time. Only ‘hippies’ were interested in farmer’s markets and organic produce.  We were still being told margarine was healthier than butter, for goodness sakes! Much of what we were told and taught about food for years now seems insane, so it might be hard to remember how blinded we were. For me, a bowl of Fettuccine Alfredo made with one stick of butter rather than two sticks of butter, and a slight cutting back on the cream, was healthy cooking.

One afternoon driving to the steakhouse, however, I heard a woman being interviewed on NPR about her new cookbook…

Click here for the rest of the post!