Cook and the Gardener: A Year of Recipes and Writings from the French Countryside

Cook and the Gardener: A Year of Recipes and Writings from the French Countryside

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Overview

The unique, award-winning cookbook—a collection of seasonal recipes from a traditional French garden.


Winner of the Best Book on France by a Non-French Writer Award at the Versailles Cookbook Fair; finalist for the Julia Child Award, the Gourmet Magazine Award, and "Best Cookbook of the Year" sponsored by IACP; and nominated in the international category of the KitchenAid Book Awards of the James Beard Foundation Awards.


A unique blend of stylish cookbook and earthy garden story, here is a collection of 250 recipes derived from a centuries-old French kitchen garden. The stunning debut of a lively new culinary voice, The Cook and the Gardener chronicles a year in the life of the walled kitchen garden at Chateau du Fey and its taciturn, resourceful, charmingly sly peasant caretaker. Using the fruits and vegetables harvested from Monsieur Milbert's garden, Amanda Hesser creates four seasons of recipes tied ineluctably to the land and the all-but-forgotten practices upheld by Milbert. Hesser's sublimely simple recipes—each with accessible ingredients and clear notes and instructions—also tell a story. They are a month-by-month record of the ingredients available to her, so that this cookbook also serves as an almanac for cooks. Special "Basics" sections at the opening of each season lay the culinary groundwork for the recipes that follow. Tips on how to buy, store, and prepare particular vegetables, fruits, and herbs are presented in margin notes to recipes. By bringing the kitchen closer to the garden, The Cook and the Gardener gives home cooks a new understanding of the produce they have on hand, whether from the supermarket, the farmer's market, or their own gardens. At the same time, it captures the quirky customs and wily wisdom of a vanishing way of life in provincial France.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780393046687
Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 03/01/1999
Edition description: 1st Edition
Pages: 632
Product dimensions: 9.20(w) x 7.52(h) x 1.42(d)

About the Author

Amanda Hesser, co-founder and CEO of Food52, is the author of the award-winning The Essential New York Times Cookbook, Cooking for Mr. Latte, and The Cook and the Gardener, as well as the editor of the essay collection Eat, Memory. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, Tad Friend, and their two children.

Kate Gridley is an artist and illustrator. She lives in Vermont.

Read an Excerpt




Chapter One


Spring Basics


Spring Stock


Basics on Onions, Shallots, and Garlic


The Leek' Unsung Cousin


The Bouquet Garni


Trimming, Washing, and Storing


Leafy Greens


Rhubarb-Ginger Preserves


Simple Bread Starter


White Dough


Whole Wheat Dough


Pâte Sucrée (Sweet Pie Pastry)


Pâte Brisée (Butter Pastry)


Spring Stock


Believe it or not, butchers do still have bones for sale. They usually keep them in the back and are sure to give you a funny look when you request them, but they'll get used to you. Supermarkets have them too. I think of stock as a seasoning, something I have on hand to enrich sauces or to smooth out any rough edges of a stew, soup, or braised dish. It is easy to make and then yours to play with. This stock is light but zingy, thanks to the lemon peel. It harmonizes with any of the spring dishes, but don't feel guilty if you don't have time to make it; store-bought veal or chicken stock works just fine.


MAKES 1 1/2 - 2 Q U A R T S S T O C K


3 pounds veal or beef bones
Water to cover bones plus 4 quarts water, divided
1 bay leaf
3 branches rosemary
2 strips lemon peel (about 2 incheslong), made with a vegetable peeler
1 leek, trimmed, cut in half lengthwise, and washed
1 onion (unpeeled), cut in half through the root
4 cloves garlic
5 black peppercorns


1. If the butcher hasn't already done so, break up the bones with a cleaver, cutting open the joints so they will release their gelatinous marrow while cooking. Place the bones in a large pot, cover with water, and bring to a boil. As the water comes to a boil, you will see why I've added this extra step; to bring to the surface the green-gray scum released when the bones are exposed to heat. When the water is almost to a boil, drain the water and rinse out the pot, then add the bones back to the clean pot.


2. Add the bay leaf, rosemary, and lemon peel to the pot with the leek, onion, garlic, and peppercorns. Cover with 4 quarts of water and heat, uncovered, until bubbles begin finding their way to the surface—this usually begins on the edges. Never let your stock come to a full boil or it will be irreversibly cloudy. For a crystal-clear stock, turn down the heat once the stock begins to percolate, and simmer extremely gently for about 4 hours, or until reduced by half. Do not stir. Strain through a fine-meshed strainer into a bowl and let cool before refrigerating. Skim off any fat before using. If you find there is a lot of gelatinous substance with the fat, great! It means you've boiled the stock long enough for the bones to release their gelatin—do not skim it off. The gelatin will give body to your dishes.


3. Before being used in any of the recipes, it is a good idea to heat the stock to the boiling point and then simply keep it warm until needed. You'll find this speeds recipes like soups because it is less of a temperature shock to the base ingredients you cooked before adding the stock and will take less time to come back to a boil.


Storing stock This stock can be stored in a covered container for up to 1 week in the refrigerator. With this much stock, however, it's unlikely that you'll use it all in one week. It's better to freeze it in useful amounts, such as quarts. This can be done in plastic freezer containers or zip-lock freezer bags, which should all be labeled and dated. Stock will keep for up to 6 months in the freezer.

To defrost stock, set the container or the bag (in a bowl in case of leakage) in the refrigerator overnight.


Basics on Onions, Shallots, and Garlic


It was very nice of the Liliaceae family, to which onions, shallots, leeks, chives, and garlic all belong, to provide us with such variety. The members of this family range from strong and pungent to sweet and mellow and come in corresponding sizes—the pungent ones small, the sweet ones generally large. There are very few savory Western dishes I can think of that don't contain at least one of the three bulbous alliums: onions, shallots, or garlic.


All alliums are slow-growing. For this reason, Monsieur Milbert sets his onions, shallots, and garlic in drills against the south-facing wall so they get plenty of warmth from the sun. This helps them mature as quickly as possible. The onions and shallots are ready for harvesting in the summer, the garlic the following spring. There is a saying that shallots are to be planted on the shortest day of the year and harvested on the longest.


Because you cannot see whether the bulbs are fully developed or not, Monsieur Milbert waits until the green shoots aboveground wither and fall over. This means the bulb is finished growing. (French gardeners used to place a stone on top of the green shoot, thinking that it would help fatten the roots.)


Then he does what gardeners have been doing for centuries. Versailles gardener Jean-Baptiste de La Quintinie offered instructions that mirror Monsieur Milbert's procedures:


Take your Onions out of the Ground as soon as their Stems begin to dry, and let them lie ten or twelve days a drying in the Air, before you lay them up in your Granary, or some other dry place, or else bind them up in Ropes, because otherwise they would ferment and rot, if they were laid up before they were dry.


Once they are harvested, the flavor of onions, shallots, and garlic intensifies with age.


This is especially important to take into consideration when cooking with the members of this family. If I call for two onions but you can hardly keep your eyes open while you're peeling them, it might be a good idea to cut down on the amount, or you may soak onion slices in cold water for a few minutes to leach out some of the strong odor. The root's flavor should never overwhelm.


Onions


Nicholas Culpeper, a seventeenth-century herbalist, claimed, "It hath been held by divers country people a great preservative against infection, to eat Onions fasting with bread and salt." He also wrote that onions increase appetite and thirst and "help the biting of a mad dog, and other venomous creatures." These may be absurd claims by today's standards, but the idea that foods can be used as curatives and preventatives is far from dead—as the Portuguese housekeeper at the château, Madame Maria proved to me. She is a Latin woman full of elevated emotions—and her tastes are equally hearty. When the onions are fresh, she eats a raw one for lunch. Holding it in her hand, she cuts it into quarters, not all the way through, but so it opens like a flower. She sprinkles the cut sides with salt, then closes it up and squeezes it in her thick hands so the salt is absorbed. Then she eats it plain. She says it's good for the heart. I say she must have a loving husband.


Monsieur Milbert plants his onions in February, so, by the time summer rolls around and the days are sunny and long, they are developed enough for the bulbs to begin bulging. They never bulge too much, which could be due, in part, to the resistant, rock-infested soil in the garden. His onions are small and yellow. I buy others from the market, where there are crates of baby onions, both red and yellow varieties, at most times of the year.


In most of the recipes I call for yellow onions, among the most pungent of all. It is almost always eaten cooked, as is the boiling onion, whereas its sweeter, soft-scented cousins like the red onion, Walla Walla, and Vidalia, are often eaten raw.


Buying onions Most people shop for onions as they do for milk or eggs: without much notice. But a bad or strong onion can easily wreck a dish. So look for yellow onions with a variegated copper polish to their skin, and feel them (each and every one, if they are in a netted sack) to check their firmness. Soft spots indicate internal rotting, which may be due to age, transport, or worse, bugs. An onion that's soft all around will be pithy like an old orange and won't get satiny when simmered slowly in butter. Often these onions pale in flavor, which pretty much defeats the purpose of using an onion. As with all produce, it is preferable to buy onions by the piece rather than in sacks.


Storing Take care when storing onions. Humidity will encourage rotting, and warmth will cause the onions to sprout. Onions like to be kept in the same atmosphere they grew in: dark and dry. Storing them in a wooden crate (e.g., a wine crate) in a cool basement is usually easiest. Yellow onions stored like this should keep for 6 to 8 months. Other varieties, such as white or red onions, dry out more quickly and should be used sooner. If any of them begin to sprout, use them up. Cut the onion in half and remove the green sprout before slicing or dicing the onion.


Preparing onions


Peeling The most difficult part of dealing with onions is peeling them. It's important to use a good sharp knife made of stainless steel. Carbon knives react with onions, and the cut surfaces will turn gray. To peel an onion, you should first trim the hairy root end, slicing off the wiry tuft to reveal the flat white disk where the layers began bulging beneath the ground. Do not cut off too much or you will expose the layers of the onion, making it more difficult to slice later, as the layers will have a tendency to separate and slide over one another. Then slice off the stem end just where the onion's flesh comes to a point. To remove the skin, make a shallow incision from the root to the stem end, pry up the skin on one side of the incision and pull, turning the onion so the skin comes off in one piece. This may take a few tries to perfect.


As for the crying issue, the method I find most effective is to breathe through the mouth. When cutting, it is natural to tilt the head down and concentrate, breathing through the nose, which is linked directly to your tear ducts. Breathing through the mouth leads the onion vapors down into your lungs and away from your eyes. If an onion is really pungent and you wish to use it in a salad, you can either slice it smaller so no one gets a mouthful of onion, soak the sliced/chopped/diced onion for 10 to 15 minutes in a bowl of cold water, or rub the pieces with a little salt, let sit for 10 minutes and then squeeze out any excess juices to diffuse the onion's bite. Drain. Rinse the onion and spin in a salad spinner (if the pieces are large enough) to drain off any excess water.


Slicing Cut the onion in half lengthwise (for a shallot, simply separate the lobes). To slice, lay each half (or lobe), flat side down, on a cutting board and use a large chef's knife to slice from stem to root as thinly as possible.


Dicing or chopping. First, trim the stem and root ends, making sure you don't cut off the root completely or the layers will fall apart as you're dicing. Second comes the most important thing you need to do when cutting an unwieldy round shape:Tame it by cutting it in half through the root so you can lay it fiat on the cut side. With an onion, this is very straightforward. But with a shallot, you have two lobes that together form one oval shallot. Separate the lobes. They should join at a fiat surface. If it is not completely flat, cut it fiat.


To dice a half, lay it on its flat side with the root end opposite your cutting arm. Use your best small sharp knife and start to slice vertically near the root end without slicing through it. Make thin, even slices down and through to the stem end. The root end holds the onion or shallot half together, so even with lots of slices, it will not fall apart. Press down on the top of the sliced bulb half, and cut horizontal slices into it parallel to the board, this time cutting from the stem end back toward, but not through, the root end. Two slices are usually all you need for a medium-size dice, but you can cut more for a smaller dice. Be sure to cut these slices the same thickness as the vertical slices so the finished pieces will all be square.


Now, turn the half 90 degrees and hold it together as you slice it crosswise, parallel to the stem and root ends. Make the slices the same width as the vertical and horizontal slices and work from the stem to the root end. When you get to the root end, slice as closely as possible to it without making it dangerous for your fingers holding onto it. Save the root and any scraps to flavor stocks or sauces, where they will get strained out. Repeat this process with each bulb half.


Use the same method for mincing, only cut each slice thinner.


Notes

~ If recipe instructions call for 1/4-inch dice, make all your slices 1/4 inch thick. For 1/2-inch dice, make the slices 1/2 inch thick, and so on. If instructions call for "roughly chopped" onion, that means about 1/2-inch dice, but it does not need to be perfect and neat. "Minced" refers to dice that are made as small as possible (slices less than 1/4 inch thick).

~ Never use a food processor to chop or slice an onion or it will turn bitter.

~ When you're all done slicing, dicing, and chopping, you will probably want to remove the onion odor from your hands. Rinse your hands with cold water and rub them with a lemon half to neutralize the odor. Or, if you have a stainless-steel sink, rub your hands on the metal to neutralize the odor.


Shallots


Shallots grow in pairs. Two lobes, shaped like oversized garlic cloves with flat sides that fit together, grow attached at the root. Then a skin forms from this root and covers both lobes, holding them together snugly. So when a recipe calls for one shallot, does it mean the whole shallot with both lobes or just one of the lobes? I don't have an answer, but for the recipes in this book, I have clarified this matter by calling for shallot lobes and giving the number of lobes desired.


There are three main shallot varieties on the market. One is very large, about the size of a chicken drumstick, as reflected in its French name, cuisse de poulet. Another is medium sized, about the size of a small lemon. The smallest one is more the size of a lime. My recipes were tested with shallots the size of limes. I like them better; they are more solid, they are easier to slice and chop, and their flavor is less bitter.


Shopping for shallots If you cannot get shallots, you can substitute onions. One quarter of a small yellow onion is about equal to one shallot lobe.


Shop for shallots carefully. Look for those sold loose. They are likely to be cheaper and you will be less subject to getting rotten ones concealed by a plastic sack. Shallots tend to get dry and pithy with storage, so feel them to see that they are good and firm. Store shallots exactly as you would onions: in a cool, dark, and dry place.


Garlic


The warning signs have long been there. Eleanour Sinclaire Rohde, an early twentieth century garden writer who was an enthusiast about most vegetables, wasn't so sure about garlic: "... it is doubtful whether it will ever become popular amongst the northern races on account of its appalling odour."


Pliny told us to plant garlic when the moon was below the horizon and gather it when it was in conjunction in order to reduce its odor. Regardless of the moon, a wet climate will make garlic strong. Pliny also taught us how the Greeks ate beets after garlic to get rid of the objectionable smell. Early French gardeners planted garlic with olive pits to soften its odor and sometimes with cloves in the belief that the head of garlic would smell of cloves. The great English gardener, John Evelyn, advised us how to avoid garlic's "intolerable rankness." He wrote, "To be sure, 'tis not for Ladies Palats, nor those who court them, farther than to permit a light touch on the Dish, with a Clove thereof, much better supply'd by the gentler Roccombo."


But today we eat it like it's going out of style. And maybe it will, but it doesn't seem likely for the moment.


Heads and cloves Garlic grows in heads, and each head is made up of many plump, curved cloves, which cling together at the root and then spread out, tapering in at the top to form a spade-shaped bulb. The cloves mesh together tightly, like artichoke petals, and can be peeled off in much the same manner. (Another method for separating garlic cloves is to place the head stem-side down on a cutting board and press down on the head with your palm.) Holding together this network of cloves are several layers of skin, like that of an onion, only much more papery when dry. Some recipes call for a head of garlic, but most call for cloves.


Garlic is harvested in springtime, and if you can buy it fresh, it will be firm and moist, with almost spongy skin. Garlic is at its best when fresh.


There are two basic garlic varieties available to us. Heads of garlic with a pure white skin tend to be the most pungent. Others have larger heads with white-and-violet variegated skin. These are usually milder, but they don't keep as well. For the recipes in this book, I used the milder, variegated variety.


[Shopping for garlic Shopping for garlic entails the same standards for both the white- and purple-skinned varieties. Always buy heads of garlic; never buy loose or peeled cloves—they will likely be dry and bitter. Feel the heads; they should be firm and heavy for their size. Garlic with papery skin is fine, but keep an eye out for black spots, which could mean it is moldy. Garlic is tough to store. It needs a cool, dry environment and plenty of air. Garlic pots with holes in them are good for home storage. Garlic will keep for several months; you should know, however, that it will become more and more sulfurous with age. If it begins to sprout, get rid of it or plant the cloves.


Peeling garlic Lay the flat side of a chef's knife on top of a clove of garlic and bang firmly down on it with the side of your fist. This cracks the skin and makes it easy to remove with a small paring knife.


Using garlic Garlic's contributions permutate depending on how you cut the clove. As with shallots and onions, always use a stainless-steel knife.


Crushing garlic extracts all its vital juices and spreads its flavor in a dish without it being visible. The best way to crush garlic to a fine paste is to peel and halve the clove, then lay the flat side of a chef's knife on top of one clove half and pound down on the knife with your fist to crush it. You may sprinkle a little fine salt over the partly crushed clove, then use the cutting edge of the knife to crush the bits of clove fine by pressing down and dragging them in small movements across the cutting board. The salt works like sandpaper, helping to break the clove down into a pulp. You can also do this without the salt. It will crush fine—the salt is just a little trick. Garlic crushed like this can be added to salad dressing, mayonnaise, and vegetable sautés (at the end), or you can mix it with herbs to rub on meats for roasting and grilling.


To slice a clove, use a small, sharp knife to thinly slice each clove lengthwise from end to end. Usually, sliced garlic is added to the oil or butter as it's heating for a sauté and then is removed. Otherwise the garlic will burn before the dish is finished. And burned garlic is bitter. Or sliced garlic may be added to a sauté at the end, when there is still plenty of time to spread its scent. If you are simmering something, heating the garlic with butter or oil is fine because of the low temperature.


Mincing garlic cloves takes some skill. You have to hold onto the clove while you cut it, which is much more difficult than you might imagine. See Onions for dicing instructions—mincing is the same thing but with much tinier pieces. If you have trouble, just crush the clove following the instructions above.


Cloves can be used whole as well. Add peeled cloves to stews to mellow and diffuse the potent aroma in the cooking liquid. Rub whole cloves in salad bowls, gratin dishes, or sauté pans to scent them with garlic, a practice noted in. France as far back as the sixteenth century. Rub the cloves on the inside of a dish as you would butter a baking pan. Whole cloves can also be roasted or fried with their skins on or off. When roasting meats like lamb or beef, stud the meat with garlic: Cut the cloves lengthwise in two or three slivers, then cut small slits in the meat and press the slivers into the meat. When making stock, I often cut a head of garlic in half across the cloves and add the two halves to flavor the stock.

Table of Contents

Introduction9
General Cooking Notes23
PART I Spring
Spring Basics30
March57
April91
May127
PART II Summer
Summer Basics160
June199
July243
August291
PART III Autumn
Autumn Basics330
September351
October391
November433
PART IV Winter
Winter Basics474
December483
January527
February565
Afterword604
Acknowledgments605
Selected Bibliography606
Index607

What People are Saying About This

Susan Herrmann Loomis

The Cook and the Gardener offers a bright, charming approach which uplifts the French tradition of the potager above its usual realm. Ms. Hesser definitely sees the best in situations as she explores the crops, the seasons, the recipes and the gardener who ties them all together.
&151; (Susan Herrmann Loomis, author of The French Farmhouse Cookbook)

Nancy Harmon Jenkins

It's an all too facile observation to say that Amanda Hesser writes beautifully and from the heart. I think I love her writing more for what she doesn't say than for what she does. She has a rare gift, a sense of tact and restraint, that simultaneously pulls us into the story and sets boundaries beyond which we dare not tread. Thus, Monsieur Milbert, her crotchety old gardener, is a real person, a three-dimensional, flesh-and-blood portrait, not a colorful postcard-size caricature.

I am fully persuaded that...if there's anyone writing about food in America today who might someday inherit M.F.K. Fisher's status, it's Amanda Hesser.
&151; (Nancy Harmon Jenkins, author of The Mediterranean Diet Cookbook and The Flavors of Puglia)

Patricia Wells

With her warm, engaging style, Amanda Hesser guides us through the seasons of a French garden, cultivating our own enthusiasm and respect for the farmer's labors, the cook's complicity.
&151; (Patricia Wells, author of The Food Lover's Guide to Paris)

Recipe

Creamy Leeks and Tarragon on Toast

The leeks of last season still sit in the ground, thick, and sweetened from age and frost, not from the sun's rays. The starch in leeks converts to sugar as it gets old. As the days get warmer in the spring, the leeks begin to harden, bracing themselves for their final bolt toward the sky, when they will produce a pretty topiary ball of flowers, which ultimately turns to seed. It looks like a great overgrown puffball, reaching a final height of five feet or more.

Here I used the sweet old leeks in a way that salvages what flavor they have left. (If the core of the leek has hardened, the leeks are too old to use.) The leeks are bound with cream and soft goat's milk cheese, then scented with the anise-flavor of tarragon and mounded on toast rubbed with garlic. Perfect for an appetizer or light lunch paired with a salad or soup.

SERVES 4

2 medium leeks, trimmed, cut in half lengthwise and washed

2 tablespoons butter

Coarse or kosher salt

1/3 cup heavy cream

1/4 cup soft goat's milk cheese (usually sold as logs in vacuum-packed plastic), with rind (if there is one) removed, and broken into small pea-size pieces

2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves (about 6 sprigs)

1-1/2 tablespoons chopped tarragon leaves (about 4-5 branches)

Freshly ground black pepper

4 slices crusty bread, toasted in the oven

1 clove garlic

1. Slice the leeks crosswise to make 1/4-inch half-moons. Melt the butter in a large saute pan. Add the leek and cook over low heat so it softens but does not color. Once the leek is meltingly soft (8 to 10 minutes), turn up the heat to high to cook off excess liquid, 1 to 2 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low and pour in the cream. Reduce to thicken, about 1 minute. Add the goat's milk cheese and stir until it is melted and the mixture is well bound. Add the parsley and tarragon and season to taste with pepper. Remove from the heat and set aside but keep warm.

2. Rub the slices of bread with the garlic clove. Mound the leeks on the toast and serve.


----------------------

Grilled Lamb Chops with Warm Tomato-Mint Vinaigrette

SERVES 4

Special Equipment: Grill

Warm Tomato-Mint Vinaigrette:

1-1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1-1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

Coarse or kosher salt

4-1/2 tablespoons best-quality olive oil

1 large very ripe tomato, peeled, seeded, and chopped fine

3 sprigs mint, leaves stripped and left whole

12 lamb chops (about 1 - 1-1/4 inches thick)

Coarse or kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1. Heat the grill. The cooking rack should be about 5 or 6 inches from the charcoal or wood.

2. While it heats, make the vinaigrette: In a small bowl combine the vinegar, mustard, and salt and whisk until the mustard is broken up and the salt has dissolved. Then slowly add the olive oil, first a few drops at a time, then in a slow, steady stream, whisking constantly to emulsify the dressing. Combine the dressing and tomato in a small saucepan and warm over low heat. You want it to warm just enough to bring out all the flavor in the tomato. Keep warm while you grill the lamb chops.

3. Place the chops on the heated grill and let color, 4 to 5 minutes. Using tongs turn the chops and color the other side, another 4 to 5 minutes. If you like your lamb medium to well done, grill them 1 to 2 minutes more on each side.

4. Remove the chops to a serving plate and season them with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Whisk the warm vinaigrette to re-emulsify it, then add the mint leaves. Spoon the vinaigrette over the chops and serve immediately. If, for some reason, you wish to hold this, make sure you don't add the mint until serving, or it will turn black. Another interesting way to serve this is to make a bed of spicy greens, such as arugula and mustard, on the serving plate, then lay the lamb chops on top of them. The juices from the lamb and the vinaigrette will dress and lightly wilt the greens as the dish is carried to the table.

Note: If you don't have a grill, the lamb chops may also be broiled. Heat the broiler. Place the lamb chops on a rack 3 to 4 inches from the heating element and broil 3 to 5 minutes on each side.


--------------------

Carrot and Bay Leaf Salad

This is a year-round salad. The ribbons of carrot curl and tangle together, wrapping around the fragrance of the garlic and bay. Note that this salad needs at least 8 hours to marinate.

SERVES 4

6-8 medium carrots (about 3/4 - 1 pound), trimmed and peeled

Sea salt

2 bay leaves

1 clove garlic

Coarse or kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

About 1/3 cup good-quality olive oil

1. Fill a medium saucepan with water, season with salt, and bring the water to a boil. Meanwhile, prepare the carrots: Pinching the wide end of a carrot between your fingers or holding it down with a fork, use a vegetable peeler to peel along the length of the carrot from the wide end to the narrow end -- you'll get more out of the carrot by peeling in this direction. Peel one strip, then turn the carrot over so it has a flat side to rest on and peel from the other side. You will end up with long wide strips, which should be thin enough to wrap around your thumb without snapping. Continue peeling until you can no longer make nice wide strips. Save the stub of carrot for stock. Peel all of the carrots in this manner.

2. When the water comes to a full boil, pile the carrot strips into the water in handfuls and stir so that they all fit in the water. Bring the water back to a boil and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until the carrot strips have relaxed slightly but are still crisp (they should just break when pinched); their color should intensify.

3. Have a bowl of cold water ready. Drain the carrots and plunge them into the cold water to stop the cooking. Drain again, then lay the strips loosely on a dish towel so they dry thoroughly. If they are at all wet when it's time to pour the oil over them, they will repel the oil.

4. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the carrots, bay leaves, and garlic. Taste a carrot. If you put enough sea salt in the boiling water, you will not need to season them any further, but if not, season with both salt and freshly ground black pepper. Pour the olive oil over them and toss gently to mix.

5. Press the carrots down so they are compacted together and well dressed with oil. Press a piece of plastic wrap down onto them. Refrigerate and let marinate for at least 8 hours. Before serving, let the salad sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes so the olive oil loosens up. Then toss to mix once more and taste for seasoning. Transfer to a serving bowl and use a fork to lift and fluff the ribbons of carrot. Discard the garlic. The bay leaves, however, should be made visible -- for "eye appeal." If you are lucky enough to have a bay tree, why not arrange the salad on top of a bed of bay leaves on a simple flat white plate?


-------------

Crisp Rhubarb Preserve

Rhubarb multiplies easily and can grow to mammoth proportions. The root of the plant is log-shaped, and from this log, several plants can shoot up each year.

Then, just when you're not looking, the rhubarb will bolt to seed, lifting its thick trunk high above the plant and releasing a shag of seed pods, which resemble miniature cross sections of an apple. Eventually, the ribs, which are used for cooking, wane and become pithy, marking the end to rhubarb's season.

This recipe was adapted from one created by Anne Willan and used at the Ecole de Cuisine La Varenne. It can be made without the berry leaves.

SERVES 4

1 pound rhubarb stalks, peeled and sliced thin

1/2 cup white wine

1 cup sugar, or more if needed

4-5 boysenberry leaves

4-5 strawberry leaves

4-5 raspberry leaves

1 bag Ceylon tea

1 pint strawberries, washed, hulled,and halved (see note)

Vanilla ice cream (optional)

1. Place the rhubarb in a large heatproof bowl. Bring 1 cup of water, the wine, and the sugar to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Then turn off the heat. Add the berry leaves and tea and let infuse for 15 minutes. Bring back to a boil and strain over the rhubarb. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap to contain the heat and to create a hermetic atmosphere in which the rhubarb can absorb the flavors of the infusion. Let cool, then refrigerate for at least 8 hours, to crisp the rhubarb and allow it to imbibe the flavors further.

2. Before serving taste the syrup, adding more sugar if desired, and the strawberries. Ladle into tall parfait glasses or small flat bowls. If serving with ice cream, place one scoop in each glass and ladle the rhubarb over it.

Note: Strawberries may not yet be in season; in this case, either omit them, or if you have fruit preserved in alcohol (e.g., raspberries eau-de-vie) from the previous year, substitute these.



These recipes may be reproduced with the following credit: Recipe(s) from The Cook and the Gardener by Amanda Hesser (W.W. Norton; March 22, 1999; $32.50/hardcover)

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Cook and the Gardener: A Year of Recipes and Writings from the French Countryside 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Talbin on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Amanda Hesser's The Cook and the Gardener: A Year of Recipes and Writings from the French Countryside describes her year of working as a chef at a chateau in the Burgundy region of France. While at the chateau, Hesser works closely with the gruff and taciturn gardener, Monsieur Milbert. M. Milbert, along with his aging wife Madame Milbert, are of an older generation of French kitchen gardeners whose lives ebb and flow with the movement of the seasons. Hesser comes to the chateau as a young American cook who wants to know everything about where her food is coming from. At the beginning of their relationship, M. Milbert is quite gruff and short with her, but as she eventually wins him over with work in the garden and gifts of homemade bread and jam, he and his wife Madame Milbert tell Hesser more and more about the traditional ways of Burgundy's rural life.The book is structured to follow the seasons and combines Hesser's observations about food, the garden and life in the French countryside with recipes for French country/bistro food - food that highlights the seasonal produce that is coming from M. Milbert's garden. Hesser is an extremely good writer, and the sections written about the garden and anecdotes about the recipes are quite nice. However, I would say that - in the end - this is more cookbook than anything else, and that is where I'll be shelving here in my house. It is certainly not a gardening book, as Hesser is not a gardener and rarely imparts any of M. Milbert's garden wisdom.As a cookbook, I do not particularly like the structure the book takes on. I only have one other cookbook structured with the seasons (The Silver Palette Good Times Cookbook), and I find I rarely use it. I would much rather have the traditional cookbook groupings (meat, poultry, vegetables, etc.) in a "working" book - I want to be able to compare various recipes for chicken before choosing one. But, even given that, I found several recipes in The Cook and the Gardener that I hope to try soon: Braised Chicken with Scallion Puree, Grilled Lamb Chops with Warm Tomato-Mint Vinaigrette, Fresh Corn-and-Cilantro Salad, Chicken Roasted with Oranges, Rosemary and Bay Leaves.One other thing I appreciated in The Cook and the Gardener was the number of recipes for preserves that Hesser included. I love to make preserves, and I find most cookbooks that focus on garden produce forget about the abundance of fruit there is in the summer. And I would love to try Madame Milbert's recipe for Cassis (blackberry liqueur, and the base for Kir and Kir Royale) which is included in the book.Overall, while it's structure as a cookbook is somewhat lacking, this was a pleasant book to read - especially in the dead of winter.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I love the way she wrote this. The stories are sweet and the recipes are wonderful!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was VERY disappointing! It's terrible!!! I LOVED Cooking for Mr. Latte-it's my favorite cookbook! I was anxious to read Ms. Hesser's first book, based on her experiences cooking in a French villa. How delicious does that sound? Well, I have no desire to try any of her recipes (they aren't as glamorous as those in Mr. Latte) and who the heck cares about her relationship with some old gardener? Please don't waste your money on this book. Check it out from your library if you have insomnia. I couldn't get past the third chapter in this book!