SUMMER READING: "Sunday Soup" by Betty Rosbottom, and "Chef" by Jaspreet Singh, and A Secret Garden in Paris
For me, one of the great pleasures of summer is having more time to cook, and the first thing I do when I'm a weekend guest at someone else's country house or I take up residence in a vacation rental is attack the cookbook shelf. Last summer, I spent ten days on the Greek island of Paros, and the magnificent house in which we stayed came with not only an amazingly well-equipped kitchen--the full battery of All-Clad cookware and Kitchen-Aid blender and mixer made me almost as wildly happy as the sweeping views view over the Mediterranean, but several shelves of Greek cookbooks, all of which I read cover to cover. My favorites were Modern Greek by Andy Harris, Real Greek by Theodore Kyriakou and Charles Campion, and The Food and Wine of Greece by Diane Kochilas, and the recipe for Greek wedding pasta (with chickpeas, spinach and feta) that I found in Real Greek has become a firm favorite.
This summer, my favorite cookbook is Sunday Soup, a beautifully illustrated volume with some sixty soup recipes by syndicated cooking columnist and frequent Bon Appetit contributor Betty Rosbottom. During her long career--she ran a cooking school in Columbus, Ohio, and now consults for another one in Western Massachusetts, where she currently lives, Rosbottom has developed a wonderfully companionable but flawlessly professional writing style, and she's a superb easygoing but very talented cook, too.
I came across this book at the country house of friends who have a pretty old farmhouse just outside of Provins in eastern France, and on a rainy afternoon while everyone else was napping upstairs, I decided that Rosbottom's French lentil soup with garlic sausage would be a perfect dinner and got to work. This easy and clearly explained recipe turned out beautifully and was a big hit later that day with a houseful of three tired children and three equally weary adults. With a green salad, a baguette, a cheese tray and an easily made rhubarb tart, we ate very well indeed.
The next day, the sun was back and we headed into Provins to go to the wonderful market there. Knowing that my hostess hates to cook, I volunteered to shop for Sunday lunch and dinner (one way of making sure you eat well), and after buying a butterflied leg of lamb to marinate all afternoon before grilling for dinner, I came across a stand that was selling canteloupe at 5 for 2 Euros and decided that we'd start with Rosbottom's Chilled Melon Soup. All I need was 2 medium canteloupes, 1 honeydew, some limes, sugar, a bunch of mint and a blender, so this was a snap decision for our first course, and served with fresh rosemary and country ham foccacia, it was a big hit (everyone loved the lamb and the wheatberry, tomato, basil, green onion and feta salad I made, too).
Returning home to Paris, I ordered several copies of this book--it's an ideal house gift--and am now looking forward to trying Rosbottom's Cold Weather Potato Chowder with Caraway Cheese and Creamy Stilton Soup with Sauteed Pears this Fall.
My two favorite kinds of shopping are for food and books, and there's nothing that's more fun than to load up on novels that will keep me company during an afternoon nap following a dip in the Mediterranean or, even better, keep me up all night nursing a glass of ouzo.
Since I'm going back to Paros in August, I did some avid book shopping in London a few weekends ago, and unfortunately, I've already finished Chef by Jaspreet Singh. This beautifully written novel by an Indo-Canadian is an ideal summer read for anyone who loves to eat and loves to cook, too. Set in the Kashmir region, it tells the moving and unexpected story of Kip, who works as chef to an Indian general who is stationed in this beautiful but troubled--India and Pakistan have been quarreling over the border here ever since the partition of Pakistan from India--region with tremendous grace and elegance, and it's a lot of fun that Indian cooking plays such a major role in the novel.
Anyone looking for a secret garden in which to spend a warm afternoon in Paris, might enjoy the beautiful gardens of the Musee Rodin in the 7th arrondissement, which are open to the public from Tuesday through Sunday, 10am-6pm, with an admission fee of one Euro.
Looking for a breathe of fresh air last week, I decided to hide away here for a couple of hours between appointments and was very pleasantly surprised by the charming summer-only cafe terrace that's shaded by huge chestnut trees. The cafe menu is simple but pleasant, with light dishes like a smoked salmon sandwich with horseradish cream and cucumbers, a goat cheese, tomato and basil tartine (open sandwich) on Max Poilane bread, and a very good chef's salad. It's hard to spend more than ten euros for lunch, and this is a perfect place for a timeout during a day of shopping or sight-seeing.
Cafe Terrace, Musee Rodin, 79 rue de Varenne, 7th, Metro: Varenne.