Bedtime Stories, Suppertime Dreams
I like to imagine that the real estate a cookbook occupies on the shelves is the best indication of where it stands in the cook's headspace (incidentally, the very reason I love peeking at other people's shelves - the hows and whys are always as fascinating as the whats). In this instance, when it eventually makes it out of the bedroom, prime realty - I've already made space next to my much-beloved cluster of Alice Waters' classics, Chez Panisse Cooking and Chez Panisse Menu Cookbook.
Below, culled from the pages of Sunday Suppers at Lucques I've excitedly flagged as must-cook (and what a vast number they are!), a simple but immensely satisfying supper menu.
Kabocha & Fennel Soup with Crème Fraîche and Candied Pumpkin Seeds
I knew I had to make this soup as soon as I read the recipe, using as it does two of my favourite vegetables - kabocha squash (or Japanese pumpkin, which possesses a beautifully rich, dense and buttery-textured flesh), and fennel, roasted in the oven to intensify their natural sweetness before being added to the soup pot. The spicy candied pumpkin seeds (coated in sugar, paprika, cumin, cinnamon and cayenne) - very moreish in an exotic bar mix sort of fashion - are a genius finishing touch to the creamy soup.
Here, brining for 24 hours before grilling transforms your typically lean pork chop and makes all the difference - that is, if you like it deeply flavoured and succulent, each bite bursting with meaty juice.
Flecked with juniper berries, allspice, fennel seeds, cloves, bay and thyme - herbs and spices which have a terrific affinity with pork - the aromatic wet cure permeates the meat with a savouriness that's almost sausage-like in flavour.
I had picked up the kurobota loin chops and kabocha from the local Japanese supermarket, so sweet potato-wise, decided to go with satsuma-imo (or Japanese sweet potato, which can range in colour from pale yellow to rusty red). The chunks are tossed with brown sugar and browned butter - both of which enhance the vegetable's inherent nutty flavour - before being roasted with sage and thyme. Finally, when done, crisped snippets of bacon and baby spinach are mixed through.
As for the Catalan romesco, I had made a large batch of this piquant tomato, chilli, garlic, hazelnut and olive oil condiment as it keeps fairly well for a fortnight or so. Besides being gorgeous with grilled or roasted meats and fish, this endlessly versatile Tarragona specialty is also great as a dip, as a dressing for vegetables, spread in sandwiches or simply dolloped atop a fried egg or wedges of tortilla - in other words, it works with just about anything.
Meringues "Closerie des Lilas" with Vanilla Ice Cream, Chocolate Sauce & Toasted Almonds
This is modelled after the Coupe Hemingway hailing from the Left Bank's most infamous bohemian haunt - besides Ernest Hemingway, the likes of Gertrude Stein, Alice B. Toklas, and Henry James have passed through its fabled doors. The best part about this timeless dessert (apart from its classic combination of flavours and impeccable literary credentials, of course)? I typically have vanilla bean ice cream and chocolate sauce handy (as for the meringues, I find the making of therapeutic...so any excuse, really) - so this was a real cinch.