Authors: Clotilde Dusoulier
Also by Clotilde Dusoulier
Chocolate & Zucchini
Adventures in Paris
Copyright © 2013 by Clotilde Dusoulier
Recipe photographs copyright © 2013 by Françoise Nicol
Paris and market photographs copyright © 2013 by Emilie Guelpa
All rights reserved.
Published in the United States by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.
CLARKSON POTTER is a trademark and POTTER with colophon is a registered trademark of Random House, Inc.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is available upon request.
Paperback ISBN: 978-0-307-98482-1
Front cover photography © Maridav (background) and ingwervanille (food)
Food styling by Virginie Michelin
who came along for the ride
ABOUT THIS BOOK
ABOUT THIS BOOK
à propos de ce livre
I am a resolutely vegetable-oriented cook. I grew up in a family in which the seasonality of produce was such a cause for celebration that we made a wish every time we ate the first cherry, or the first pear or grape, of the season. To this day, the ebb and flow of the seasons moves me, and nothing makes my heart flutter like the first, and the last, of any fruit or vegetable.
Ever since I started to cook in my early twenties, having freshly moved out of my parents’ house in Paris to work in California, meal planning has always begun with the question, “What’s in the vegetable bin?” or “What looks good at the farmers’ market?”
Gradually, over the past few years, meat and fish have become a smaller part of the equation as my combined interests in food, health, and the environment have led me to adopt a flexitarian diet: one that is predominantly vegetarian, with limited use of dairy products, and only occasional consumption of meat and fish.
It is not an easy stance to assume in France.
In classic French cuisine, as for most French home cooks, animal protein remains the foundation on which a meal is constructed; take it away and everything collapses.
But there is a lot more to French food than classic French cuisine; there is regional cooking, too, as developed over the centuries in each of France’s provinces. These diverse cuisines reflect the typical peasant diet, high in plant-based foods and resourceful about using the local bounty, which varies widely, a function of different climates and geographical constraints.
Fortunately, a new generation of French chefs is devoting an increasing amount of attention to the vegetables they cook with; some of them care so much they’ve started their own vegetable gardens to follow their produce from seed to plate. And as other cooks and eaters are choosing to distance themselves from the domination of animal protein and explore alternatives, we are all coming to the same realization: This way of eating is not a limitation but rather a broadening of our food horizon, prompting us to discover new flavors and techniques.
In this book I offer my take on the love affair between French cuisine and vegetables. The colorful seasonal dishes I feature draw upon the regional French repertoire, borrow ideas from restaurant meals I’ve enjoyed, and combine them with my own inspirations, sparked by appetite or opportunity.
Whatever your food philosophy, whether you’re an omnivore, a “lessmeatarian” (a term coined by writer Mark Bittman), a flexitarian, a vegetarian, or a vegan, I hope you’ll grab an apron, join me by the stove, and help me chop some herbs as I tell you about these dishes.
HOW TO SHOP FOR PRODUCE
If you work with glowingly fresh, seasonally grown produce, the cooking process will feel natural and effortless and you’ll be rewarded with vibrant flavors and appetizing looks. That’s a promise.
If, on the other hand, you make do with mass-cultivated produce that’s been grown out of season, pumped with chemicals, picked before it’s had a chance to ripen, and driven or flown in refrigerated containers for a great distance, no amount of cooking skills can fix that situation.
That’s why learning how to cook should really begin with learning how to shop.
First identify the best source of produce available to you. If you have access to a farmer’s market or a community-supported agriculture (CSA) delivery service, or if you’re able to grow some of your own produce, you’re in luck. If not, it is worth exploring different grocery stores in your area to see which stock the freshest produce. Don’t hesitate to express your wishes to the store manager; it may not change the situation overnight, but at least you’ll have done your part.
About the use (or overuse) of cheese
It’s not hard to come up with hearty meatless dishes that are made substantial by simply slapping on a hefty dose of cheesy goodness. But it is not a creative way to envision a plant-based meal nor is it desirable from a nutritional perspective, so I have chosen to highlight recipes that go easy on the cheese.
Whatever the source, the key to shopping for produce is to avoid going with a list that you follow rigidly. Instead, go with your eyes and mind wide open and let yourself be surprised and seduced by the ingredients. Browse around, see what looks good and fresh and vibrant, and pick that up. Once you’re home, you’ll figure out how best to prepare it.
Throughout the book I’ve included advice on how to select specific vegetables. Even if you feel you’re an inexperienced produce shopper, you’ll soon learn to trust your sight and your touch. Think of selecting flowers at the florist: You can tell the difference between a recently cut, glowingly fresh peony and one that’s a few days old, its petals fraying at the edges, its head lolling to the side. Right? Well, it’s not so different here: Seek out vegetables that look perky and alert, with intense colors and no discolored or soft spots.
There is one nonnegotiable caveat, whether or not you shop intuitively: You need to buy a combination of produce that keeps and produce that doesn’t. If you go on a weekly produce run, which is ideal, you should aim to buy two to three days’ worth of fragile vegetables and fill the rest of your basket with sturdier ones that will last until the end of the week at least.
Neglecting this rule leads directly to the feelings of guilt and despair that seize all of us when we open the fridge only to be faced with moldy arugula and limp carrots.
Depending on how many times you guesstimate you’ll eat at home over the next week, you’ll want to mix and match among the following groups of produce:
Fragile (use within two days): artichokes, asparagus, berries, cherries, fava beans, figs, green beans, green peas, leafy fresh herbs, melon (if ripe), mushrooms, scallions, small salad leaves, Swiss chard leaves
Somewhat sturdy (use within four days to a week, checking them daily): apricots, bell peppers, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cucumber, eggplant, endives, fennel, grapes, heads of lettuce, kiwifruit, kohlrabi, nectarines, peaches, pears, plums, quinces, radishes, shell beans, spinach, Swiss chard stalks, summer squash
Sturdy (use within two weeks): apples, beets, cabbages, carrots, celery, celery root, citrus fruits, ginger, Jerusalem artichokes, parsnips, potatoes, rutabagas, salsify, tomatoes, turnips, winter squash
Long storage (use within a few months): dried fruits, garlic, nuts, onions, shallots
CREATING VEGETABLE-FOCUSED MEALS
Variety is key in creating any dish or planning a menu. For optimal satisfaction, you want to juxtapose different types of flavors (sweet, salty, tart, meaty, savory, bitter, grassy, nutty, acidic, caramelized, woody, smoky, earthy…) and textures (soft, crisp, creamy, slippery, chewy, crunchy, tender, grainy, fluffy…). You also want to highlight foods of different colors and alternate between the cooked and the raw, the warm and the cold, the comforting and the unusual, so a dish never falls into monotony.
These principles are true under any circumstances and, with a little experience, cooks follow them intuitively. But you should keep them at the forefront of your mind if you’ve recently made the switch to working with more vegetables and other plant-based ingredients; you’ll have to learn to re-create those pleasing variations using a different set of tools.
The recipes in this book are all built this way; I invite you to tag along and discover the exciting possibilities that the vegetable realm offers.
As tender greens and waxy pods pile up on market stalls, all I want to do is prop my basket open and let young and sprightly things tumble in. Spring is the season of effortless inspiration in the kitchen.
But spring in Paris comes in fits and starts, the weather alternating between golden days and chilly dips. And so my spring repertoire offers the kind of bright dishes I crave on promisingly sunny days, when it feels like winter has truly departed, and also comforting ones to lean into when it turns out the season’s influence lingers still.
Regardless of where my recipes fall in this dichotomy, they’re a celebration of the produce of spring, from the pop of pea pods to the snap of asparagus—and the uncontainable excitement their appearance brings.
PRODUCE TO PLAY WITH IN THE SPRING
Artichokes • Asparagus • Beets • Carrots • Dandelions • Fava beans • Garlic • Green peas • Kohlrabi • Lettuce • Mâche • Morels • New potatoes • Onions • Radishes • Rhubarb • Scallions • Sorrel • Spinach • Strawberries • Swiss chard • Turnips • Watercress
Avocado and Radish Mini-Tartines
AVOCADO AND RADISH MINI-TARTINES
Mini-tartines radis et avocat
SERVES 4 TO 6
The classic French way of eating radishes, and the way I’ve eaten them since childhood, is as an hors d’oeuvre: You trim the radishes, leaving a short tuft of stem as a little handle to pick them up, and serve them with chilled salted butter and fresh baguette.
The combination of radish, butter, salt, and bread seems like it can’t be improved upon, except perhaps if you replace the butter with avocado, which I think of as vegetable butter. For these quick mini-tartines, I season the avocado with lemon juice, cumin, and salt, mash it onto slim slices of baguette, and scatter paper-thin slices of pink radishes on top, like oversized confetti. Bright in color and flavor, they’re a favorite spring nibble to accompany an early evening drink at my house.
2 avocados (each about 7 ounces / 200 g)
½ teaspoon fine sea salt, plus more for sprinkling
Freshly ground black pepper
Hot sauce (optional)
A bunch or two of small pink or red radishes (about 24 small), trimmed
1. Scoop the avocado flesh into a bowl. Add the lemon juice, cumin, and salt and season with pepper and hot sauce (if using). Mash the avocado roughly to get a slightly chunky texture. Taste and adjust the seasoning; it should be so zesty you have to resist eating the whole bowl with a spoon.
2. Slice the baguette at an angle into ½-inch / 1 cm slices and spread the slices with the mashed avocado.
3. Using a mandoline slicer or very sharp knife, slice the radishes crosswise into paper-thin rounds. Scatter on top of the avocado, sprinkle with a touch more salt, and serve.
Very Green Salad
VERY GREEN SALAD
Salade toute verte
Spring is the season I most closely associate with the color green—and the irresistible craving for it on my plate. I am especially fond of combining different shades of green in salads such as this one: the baby green of a romaine lettuce, the peppy green of fresh peas, and the darker emerald of asparagus, all punctuated by bright flecks of leafy herbs.
The only exception to the color scheme here is the addition of hazelnuts, which bring a welcome toasty crunch, and roasted new potatoes, which turn this salad into a full meal.
The naming of the salad is a nostalgic nod to Le Délicabar, the much-missed restaurant once housed in Le Bon Marché, a department store in Paris, which offered an array of color-themed salads on its menu: salade toute violette, salade toute orange, and salade toute blanche, among other vegetable-focused dishes.
1 pound / 450 g green asparagus
Fine sea salt
1⅓ cups / 200 g shelled green peas, fresh or frozen
1 tablespoon cold-pressed hazelnut oil or untoasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon neutral-tasting oil, such as grapeseed or safflower
1 cup / 20 g chopped fresh chervil or cilantro leaves
½ recipe Blanch-Roasted New Potatoes, slightly warm
½ cup / 60 g hazelnuts, toasted and roughly chopped
1. Trim the bottom of the asparagus stalks, just to remove the woody part. Cut the stalks at an angle into ½-inch / 1 cm slices, leaving the tips whole.