It is October here in Le Perche. Everyone is enjoying the last rays of sunshine, but mainly we all gather around our vegetable garden — picking up the last tomatoes, a few green peppers, and the remaining basil — to make pesto for winter.
My refrigerator is packed with tomatoes, small and large (a profusion this year, more than a household could possibly consume), plums, and cassis. The apple crop has also been plentiful. I have called everyone I know in my village, asking if they would like some of my harvest. All of them declined: they all had the same problem. So I bought a freezer — and turned to Edith Grandjean‘s just-published cookbook, Ma Cuisine du Jardin (Editions Oest France 2009).
Edith Grandjean lives nearby in Le Perche. Her vegetable garden and her orchard are legendary. She is the only person in Le Perche who has managed to grow sweet onions. (That is, her onions would make a Vidalia taste sour.)
Her book is so well written that if your French is still the French of your 11th grade French class, it is worth reading it, dictionary or no. (If your French has slipped, then pray for an American publisher to pick it up soon.)
Edith starts with when and how to pick your fruit and vegetables. She then proceeds with very clearly written cooking instructions. Finally, if (like me) you have a bumper harvest, she tells you how to preserve them for the winter.
The recipes are in alphabetic order. My eye caught a recipe for a Swiss chard Tart that looked delicious and a Green Risotto that even my son Tomas (who is a champion risotto maker) would appreciate. I adored her Petits Flans de broccoli with a parsley cream that made me dream of my next dinner party.
There is a chapter on herbs, how to use them, and how to preserve them. Other chapters follow on soups, hors d’oeuvres, and vegetables — everything you have ever tried to grow. Finally, there is a chapter on fruit.
This book is for both experienced and inexperienced cooks — for anyone who loves to cook. At the end of each recipe, there is a small note called “Astuce” (“trick”) for the novice (if the recipe fails) and one for the experience cook (if you has a question about time or flavor).
Here is a delicate fresh dessert soup:
RECIPE: Dessert Soup with Strawberries and Fresh Thyme
Ingredients (Serves 4):
1 pound fresh strawberries (hulled)
4 sprigs if thyme (use only leaves)
4 tablespoons sugar
4 cups rich, fruity, red wine
Place wine in small saucepan, bring to boil, remove from heat, and light wine to burn off the alcohol (carefully). Place saucepan back on range over low flame; add sugar and thyme leaves slowly. Simmer until wine reduces by half. Remove from heat; cool at room temperature. Place strawberries in salad bowl, strain wine with fine sieve, and pour over strawberries. Refrigerate 2-3 hours. Serve with creme fraiche.
(From Edith Grandjean’s Ma Cuisine du Jardin