Happy Birthday Jacques Pépin!
Rather than a gift for him, there is a gift from him: Heart & Soul in the Kitchen (Houghton Mifflin 2015) the companion book to his latest PBS show, Jacques Pepin: Hear & Soul.
As always, Jacques Pépin is the consummate teacher. He has somehow gotten even better at sharing recipes that most readers will want to learn and make over and over again:
Creation in the kitchen, for me, means constantly improving the familiar, tweaking and whittling my recipes over the years in a never-ending process of making them better and reducing complication until I arrive at their essential qualities. The result is really tasty food that I (and you) can make as quickly and easily as possible. (p. 2)
He has written a good cookbook to capture the simplicity and clarity of thought he applies to achieving great flavor without getting bogged down in unnecessary steps or ingredients. Home cooks, whether practice or novice would be wise to pay attention to Jacques.
He starts off with a classic Cannellini Bean Dip (p. 10) dressed up like humus with a swirl of olive oil and paprika to great affect in the photography by Tom Hopkins Studio. Jacques’ advice? Always have canned beans in your pantry to whip up an hors d’oeuvre when guest drop by for a glass of wine. The other dishes are equally easy, like Goat Cheese Tostadas with sun-dried tomatoes.
Better keep a bag of tostadas next to those beans for use in Salmon Tostadas (p. 35)! There are more sophisticated hors d’oeuvres like Shrimp Gougeres Provencal (p. 28), Pressed Caviar Canapés (p. 37), and Tuna Mascarpone Cream (p. 39). If you have time for it, then make Duck Liver Mousse with Apples (p. 67). The recipes range from very simple to very sophisticated. And they show influences of his French roots, his American career, and his Latina wife.
Flip through Heart & Soul in the Kitchen on a cool autumn day, and you might decide to make Rack of Lamb with Spice Crust (p. 235) or a lighter Baked Rabbit with Mustard Crust (p. 230), along with Eggplant-Tomato Gratin (p. 216) with the last of the summer tomatoes, or Asparagus Topped with Bread Crumbs and Egg (p. 298). For dessert, what about a light Sabayon with Madeira and Grapes (p. 404) or Coffee Panna Cotta (p. 406) or for real decadence, Chocolate Soufflés (p. 412)? It’s so easy to put together memorable meals from this one cookbook.
Jacques: Please do not stop writing cookbooks and inventing and perfecting in the kitchen.