Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Bedtime Stories, Suppertime Dreams

Post-dinner, tucked under the duvet, a pile of new cookbooks to delve into, a mug of steaming camomile tisane on the bedside table, dreams of what to sup on brewing - there are few things I find quite as enjoyable. Top of the pile as of late? Suzanne Goin's Sunday Suppers at Lucques, a gorgeous book with recipes for food that, as Alice Waters says in her glowing foreword, "is truly a creation, in the best sense of the word, but lacks any haughtiness". While arranged into three-course menus and organized by season, Goin urges the reader to "feel free to mix and match the dishes according to your own tastes and cravings", which of course is most likely the way most would use the book. And this is one book destined to be used - annotated on, dog-earred, stained, and actually, really, pleasurably, cooked from.

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.

Cured Pork Chops with Sweet Potatoes, Bacon, and Romesco

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 any excuse, really) - so this was a real cinch.


Blogger Anna (Morsels and Musings) said...

beautiful photos as always. i love your mugs/pots for the soup. kitsch and very fashionable at the moment. they remind me of le creuset's cherry red range.

the cured pork looks good. i like the idea of the wet marinade, especially if it produces a very strong flavour. tasty!

2:08 pm, June 21, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love your soup pots - i nearly bought these tiny ones but opted for 1 bigger pot instead. Which just reminds me, i haven't used in ages!

The soup and pork sounds really tasty. You got me really hungry now... and it's only 09:02 in the morning!

4:09 pm, June 21, 2006  
Blogger Annette Tan said...

That soup looks impeccably comforting. I too have flagged so many pages from Arabesque and Bittersweet that I haven't yet started on French or Sherry Yard! So many recipes, so little time. Where did you get juniper berries from?

5:17 pm, June 21, 2006  
Blogger gagatka79 said...

I wuold never fall asleep going to bed with all these cookbooks. But I can see they really bring you inspiration. As always I die for your dessert:)

5:24 pm, June 21, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi J,

I just purchased this book and am as in love with it as you are. I was impressed by the quality and directness of the book as a whole, and the recipes individually. No artifice, no fancy maneouvres that amount to nothing, must incredible food.

Your efforts are delicious!

9:55 pm, June 21, 2006  
Blogger Krithika said...

First time visitor. You have a great blog with amazing photos.

10:17 pm, June 21, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Isn't Goin's book wonderful? I wisely ordered it just before we left for Jamaica, so that it would be waiting for me on return. I haven't made anything from it yet, but your gorgeous recipe picks will definitely be bookmarked. Let me know if you have anything else from it to recommend - when it comes to cookbooks I trust your opinions completely!

10:58 pm, June 21, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your food shots look amazing! If you're interested, you should sell them at a stock footage site like

11:32 pm, June 21, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi J. What a treat indeed that is! I cannot but look at a list of cookbooks to acquire that gets longer and longer! Gorgeous meal in display you made!

9:26 am, June 22, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i'm going hungry..

5:03 pm, June 22, 2006  
Blogger nika said...

I love your shots.. beautiful food vignettes along the way!


9:10 pm, June 22, 2006  
Blogger shaz said...

oh man.. its just amazing how you capture the essence of the food thru your lens.

11:00 am, June 23, 2006  
Blogger susan said...

yay lucques recipes! i love the cured pork and the sweet potatoes with the romesco. and yes it is so good on a spanish tortilla. on an egg sandwich. on roasted, crumbled and browned yukon golds. that book is a gem. and of course your beautiful photography makes it that much more exciting for me to read this post! :)

12:34 pm, June 23, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The cured pork chops with sweet potatoes look so juicy. I should definitely try to brine the meat before grilling the next time.

7:18 pm, June 23, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Joycelyn, I wish someone would make this lovely meal for me - all of them look so comforting and delicious. Although butternut squash here isn't too bad, I still miss kabocha ;) Thank you for the beautiful post.

4:15 am, June 24, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

well i miss this page but blogging and internet are luxury these days but....this soup is wonderful

first time i made a pumpkin soup, with pumpkin seeds and creme fraiche... my crew mate said shalimar you remind me of my mother
(i feel old) no he said "your earthy cooking is so motherly" oh well....

out of topic speaking of macaroons for the past months i have tried and tested every patisserie in town and in cannes....well i now have my favourite

still in france off to sicily next week then capri

5:14 am, June 24, 2006  
Blogger FooDcrazEE said...

just looking at ur picture makes me salivate.....gosh

1:45 pm, June 25, 2006  
Blogger Michelle said...

Ah-ha! An excuse to use those juniper berries I've been "hoarding!" I love the idea of prime real estate for cookbooks, and I always secretly check out a host's bookshelves for new ideas and to learn more about them. Darn you, though, for giving me another cookbook to yearn for simply because I know such beautiful things can come from it! Amazing pictures, Jocelyn!

5:04 am, June 27, 2006  
Blogger Edith said...

came to know about your blog through the Sat article. Now I am drooling all over. Awesome pictures you have and all so beautifully taken. Keep it up.

1:42 pm, June 27, 2006  
Blogger cucina testa rossa said...

my goodness, these pictures are spectacular! my friends live next door to closerie des lilas so we go there frequently. there are little plaques on the bar where hemingway, et al, sat.

2:05 am, June 28, 2006  
Blogger Julie said...

Thank you for this post on the Suzanne Goin book. I have now heard enough glowing words about it, that I must buy it myself. I've recently discovered your blog, and I'm enjoying it tremendously. Are you a professional chef? Where do you find the time? Sorry, I'm just a bit curious.

3:17 am, June 28, 2006  

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