Not long ago I was admiring The Bonne Femme Cookbook by author Wini Moranville, when I was approached to review a copy by the good folks at The Harvard Common Press. Thrilled, I jumped at the chance, as I heard such wonderful news traveling through the airwaves about the content, and I love Provence as well as French cuisine.
After fully reading and earmarking all of the recipes that I plan to try, I am here to tell you, The Bonne Femme Cookbook:Simple, Splendid Food That French Women Cook Everyday, is top shelf! By this I mean, living literally on my top cookbook shelf!
Where some judge liquors by what is placed on the top shelf, I judge my cookbooks as such. I collect cookbooks, and also review them, so I have many. They are categorized in my own strange way, but only the elite, and my most favorite make it to the top shelf in my cookbook pantry, and The Bonne Femme ranks that high!
An authentic French cookbook, The Bonne Femme’s recipes are not fussy, but are a perfected method of cooking that allows the home cook to take part in the real way French families eat today. It is user-friendly, which is very important in many fast paced life-styles, and a book that will be reached for time and time again. Though the title is based on French housewives and the way they cook, the book is accessible to all, and I do not feel by any means sexist.
The author writes,” Most French women don’t spend all day at the market or in their kitchens, any more than most of us do. And yet they still manage to bring fresh, life-enhancing food to the table night after night.”
The emphasis is on easy techniques, and speedy preparation, with Moranville drawing on years of travels and life in France, thus bringing the reader a wealth of up-to-date French recipes and invaluable tips.
The book is fresh, hip, and offers 250 recipes that focus on simple, clean ingredients prepared well.
I loved the way that wine suggestions were included, along with helpful shortcuts in the book, and how the sidebars were full of colorful anecdotes. I also adored the way the book was bound and pressed, as well as the lovely illustrations by Nishon Akgulian.
Since I was cooking for myself on the evening I reviewed The Bonne Femme, as my family were all busy with other activities, I chose to dive into the recipes by starting with something that sounded good to me, Oeufs Dur Mayonnaise—hard-boiled eggs with mayonnaise. In the South we love our deviled eggs, so I knew that I was going to like this french version.
photo: courtesy of the bonne femme
As I nibbled away, I made myself an apertif called Kir, in which crème de casis, cognac, and champagne are used. I think Moranville’s chapter on cocktails is a brilliant addition to the cookbook!
Next, I decided to make the Belgian Endive Salad with Walnuts and Blue Cheese. I slightly toasted the walnuts prior to tossing the salad with a simple dressing of walnut oil, fresh lemon, ground sea-salt and pepper to taste. I picked up a french baguette at the market, and enjoyed a piece with some of my favorite ocheese creamery butter.
Last, I wanted to finish my meal with a classic french soup, most often served as an appetizer course, but can be a main with sandwiches or crudites, as mentioned in the book.The Silky and Light Potato Soup was soul nourishing and satisfyingly French inspired! I hear the Taragon Chicken should be next on my menu!
What I found is that French cooking can be incorporated into every day American life, and what more are we hoping for when cooking for our families or even when cooking for one than a little joie de vivre in each bite?
Recipe: Oeufs Dur Mayonnaise
Makes 4 servings
- 4 hard-boiled eggs, cut in half
- 2 tablespoons good-quality bottled mayonnaise
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons snipped fresh parsley, chives, tarragon, or chervil, or a combination
- 4 leaves butterhead lettuce
- 8 cornichons, drained
- 8 imported black olives, such as Niçoise or Kalamata
- Cut the eggs in half lengthwise. In a small bowl, combine the mayonnaise, mustard, lemon juice and herb(s).
- Arrange two leaves butterhead lettuce on each of 4 plates. Top each plate with 1 hard-boiled egg (halved), 2 cornichons, and 2 olives. Dollop a little of the mayonnaise mixture atop the eggs.
- Serve as directed when you’re in the mood to eat in courses–consider this a stand-in for the usual and ubiquitous first-course tossed salad.
- Serve as an easier-than-devilled eggs appetizer. Cut a small patch from uncut side of each egg half to prevent then from rolling around on a platter. Arrange eggs on a large platter; dollop with flavored mayonnaise. Serve the cornichons and olives in separate bowls on the platter.
- Add the mayonnaise-dolloped eggs to a platter meats and cheeses and serve alongside a few select salads for patio dinner in summer.
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