Everyday French cooking
In her second book, French Taste: Elegant Everyday Eating ($40, HarperCollins), Food Network celeb Laura Calder shares her love affair with French cuisine and straightforward approach to preparing it. Here are two recipes excerpted from her book, each of which would make a delicious first course on a fall menu.
"Thick and earthy soup like this is very tasty with a swirl of olive oil on top," says cookbook author and Food Network host Laura Calder. "I prefer to start with dried chickpeas because they taste best, but you can use canned if you're in a rush. This is very good food and as cheap as anything."
2 cups (300 g) dried chickpeas
1 medium onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 bay leaf
1 thyme sprig
Pinch cumin and paprika (optional)
Chicken stock or water
Salt and pepper
Excellent olive oil, for garnish
1 A day ahead, spill the chickpeas into a large bowl, cover generously with cold water, and soak overnight.
2 Drain the chickpeas. Put them in a large saucepan with the onion, garlic, bay leaf, thyme, and cumin and paprika (if using). Do not add salt. Add enough chicken stock to cover. Bring to the boil, cover, reduce heat, and simmer gently until very tender, about 40 minutes.
3 Pluck out the herbs. Blend the chickpeas until smooth. Strain (or put through a food mill) into the saucepan. Reheat, taste, and adjust the seasonings. Ladle into bowls, and garnish with a swirl of olive oil.
Makes 4 servings.
"This dish is so fast and lip-smacking, you can't go wrong," says Laura. "I learned it using unpeeled langoustines, but shrimp work if you prefer, as long as they start out raw. Usually, I serve sautéed fennel on the side, which signals "knife and fork," but the truth is I always end up diving into the shrimp with my fingers. There are times when bad manners just seem so . . . right."
Shrimp with Garlic and Basil Oil
24 jumbo tiger shrimp or langoustine tails, unpeeled
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 generous handfuls of shredded basil leaves
1/4 cup (60 mL) olive oil
1 Cut the shrimp in half lengthwise. Toss together with the garlic, basil, and olive oil. Cover, and let sit in the fridge for about an hour (or longer) to marinate. Remove half an hour before cooking.
2 Heat the oven to broil. Spread the tails over a baking sheet, cut side up, dribbling over any basil oil that stays behind in the bowl. Sprinkle over some salt, and broil 5 minutes or until the flesh is cooked. Serve.
Makes 4 servings.
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Excerpted from French Taste by Laura Calder. Copyright 2009 by HarperCollins Publishers Ltd. Excerpted with permission by HarperCollins Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.