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.