This week the kids started school again*. Again. Strangely enough they were happy about it and so was I. Not because the house is quieter (and besides it’s not really that quiet with a 2-year-old and a newborn and loads of dogs), not because I’ve grown tired of summer and am now longing for autumn colors and mushrooms and chilly morning walks. Not because I need an excuse to buy a winter coat or because I’ve had too many tomatoes or because Christmas can’t come soon enough.
When I write this blog the words leave my head and I never really meet them again. I don’t reread my old blog posts for some reason. This means I may often repeat myself or even worse, contradict myself. There is no fact checking department in my brain. What’s happening then and there just falls onto the page or into the pot and then I move on until I have a new feeling or recipe to share. Even if it’s sometimes and old familiar feeling or the same exact feeling I had at the same exact time the year before.
I have this feeling that last year around the same time I wrote that everything was perfect. That this was the best season of all. That’s how I feel now, the glow of summer is still on my cheeks and the cheeks of my children. The tomato plants in the garden may be slowly winding down but they still have a few good crates of fruits left in them. The figs are out in force this week, the pumpkins are on the horizon. The weather is still great.
In other words: there is a lot to be happy about. But for me, this year, there is an added sense of excitement and anticipation in the air. Around the same time last year our pop-up restaurant here at 1 rue de Loudenne was in its final days, early in September we closed the doors for the last time, the little team went their separate ways. All that was left were recipes and memories and stories badly arranged in my head. Soon they got restless and cramped up there (I have a rather small head) and found their way onto the page – although not as soon as my editor would have liked (deadlines are not my forte). It’s all been coming to life, piece by piece, recipe by recipe over the course of the last year. But this summer things went silent. It was the period when the book is out of your hands, there is nothing more you can do, only wait. I’m not good at waiting.
As I am writing this I’m anxiously waiting for a first copy that’s ready (my editor says it’s stunning – her words) and was sent to me yesterday. Now it’s 5 o’clock and I think it won’t come today, a little disappointing but tomorrow it’s Friday and maybe that’s an even better day to receive it. At least that’s what I’m telling myself.
The question is, can I have Champagne tonight as consolation or do I have to wait for tomorrow’s celebration?
The book is coming out on October 25th, which is a little bit further away than tomorrow night I admit, and so I wanted to share two more recipes from the book that I think are very appropriate for this magical season of late summer, early fall.
Soon the last tomato will leave the stage, a stage already filling with gorgeous apples. Right now is the rare, beautiful season when we can enjoy them both.
*The kids may be happy about going back to school because with all the chores their father gives them in the summer in the vegetable garden, with the dogs and puppies and in our monstrously big house – school may seem like a vacation – at least that’s my theory 🙂
serves 4 to 6
For the last two years we have been growing our own tomatoes in the little vegetable garden down the road from our house. We have experimented with several different varieties: small cherry tomatoes for my veal stew and for casual bruschetta, ripe green and yellow tomatoes that are great in salads. But my favorite is the deep red, meaty, coeur de boeuf that tastes so much better than anything you can buy in stores. I love slicing a big juicy one, giving it a generous glug of good olive oil, sprinkling it with fleur de sel, and savoring it. They also make excellent gazpacho. While I used to make gazpacho with cucumbers and peppers in addition to the tomatoes, when you have really, really good tomatoes, you don’t need anything more, only a little bread for substance and some garlic to spice everything up.
FOR THE GARNISH
½ cup / 120 ml heavy cream
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
12 thin slices baguette
fine sea salt
FOR THE SOUP
1 ½ cups / 115 g crumbled stale white bread
2 pounds / 900 g very ripe tomatoes, diced
2 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
2/3 cup / 150 ml extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon piment d’espelette or mild chile powder, for serving
MAKE THE GARNISH. In a small bowl, whisk together the cream and minced garlic. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour. Just before serving, pass the cream through a fine-mesh sieve, pressing on the garlic to release all its flavor.
In a large sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat and cook the slices of bread until golden, about 30 seconds per side. Drain the croutons on a paper towel. Season with salt.
MAKE THE SOUP. Soak the bread in a bowl of cool water for 10 minutes, then drain, and squeeze out as much water as possible.
In a large bowl, combine the bread, tomatoes, garlic cloves, olive oil, and vinegar and season with salt and pepper. Purée the mixture, preferably using an immersion blender, until you have a smooth and velvety mixture. Pass the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve, then cover and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 1 hour.
If you didn’t read my last post, or have simply forgotten, we are offering a cute little kitchen notebook to those of you who already have or will order the cookbook before it comes out next month. I have noticed during the workshops that people like writing down their own notes and explanations and experiences with the recipes and while I have nothing against writing in the cookbook itself, sometimes you just need more space. Besides, it’s neater.
Anyone who preorders the book before October 25th will get a special, pocket-sized notebook for keeping notes and planning meals.
To receive the notebook all you have to do is sign up here and provide proof that you have preordered French Country Cooking. The many who have already preordered the book are of course also eligible for the notebook.
‘French Country Cooking‘ available for preorder at:
And for Canada
Baked Apples with Spéculoos
Spéculoos are simple, tasty, spiced cookies you can find almost everywhere in various versions and different levels of quality. I’ve always liked to play around with them, include them in tarts and desserts. They go very well with pears, apples, and plums; in summer I like to make a plum tart with a spéculoos-crusted base. In the months leading up to Christmas, we have so many apples around the house that I like to put them to use, often in tarts but also on their own, which I find is a chic way to serve them. This is a humble, uncomplicated dessert, perfect for the days before Christmas, when you have no time to make an elaborate recipe but are aching for a little sweet something to round off a meal.
6 ½ tablespoons / 90 g unsalted butter
8 spéculoos cookies
¼ cup / 50 g sugar
Preheat the oven to 400°F / 200°C.
Slice off the top part of the apples, making a little “hat,” and core the apples, leaving a little of the bottom intact. Put the apples in a baking dish and stick about 1 teaspoon of butter into the center of each. Crumble a spéculoos cookie into each one and divide the remaining butter among the apples, dabbing it on top of the cookie. Sprinkle the sugar over the apples and top the apples with their “hats.”
Transfer the dish to the oven and bake until the apples are golden and tender, about 25 minutes. Serve immediately.