I thought it might be time for a cookbook book club update. We took a break over the summer as Mardi spends eight weeks in France at that time each year, and obviously wasn’t around to participate. Jenn and I both had vacations planned for different weeks of the summer as well, so a hiatus was in order until we all returned to town.
Our reunion happened last Friday, when we gathered at Mardi’s home for a French-inspired dinner courtesy of Jacques Pepin. After a two-month break we had much to chat about over dinner, and although the food was mighty tasty, I dare say the conversation was even better.
Jenn was in charge of the appetizer, and she treated us to a garlicky cherry tomato and bread gratin. The oversized cubes of bread were doused with garlic and Parmesan and made the most flavourful croutons I’ve tasted. As you know, I’m not fond of tomatoes, but when prepared this way, I was able to eat around them and enjoyed the seasoned bread bits. Mardi and Jenn certainly seemed to enjoy the complete dish and as they were eating I felt certain that I could replicate the recipe another time, and use mushrooms in place of the tomatoes.
Mardi made the main course, which is always the responsibility of the person that hosts our gathering. She chose Jacques’ African-style chicken with couscous. The dish was simple, the flavours bright and although she felt like the main course needed more sauce (I don’t disagree), I also liked it the way it was. I can see this dish as an excellent weeknight dinner option, especially in the fall or winter, when there isn’t a lot of time available to get something comforting and filling on the table. We watched Mardi whip this up as we were chatting and I feel confident I could do the same for a quick family meal.
My contribution to our dinner was the dessert, and I’m not going to lie, we all devoured it. Based on Pepin’s plum galette, I made a peach version, and this was easily one of the best desserts I produced this summer. Mardi raved about it, as did her husband, and I encourage you to whip one up if you looking for a late summer sweet to serve this month. In fact, it was so good that I made it for a second time that same weekend so Rob could have some. A non-dessert eater, he went through two plates worth before he decided he’d had enough. It really is that good. When I took it to the cookbook book club dinner, I also made a French vanilla bean ice cream to go with it. Rich and eggy, it was a delicious complement to the plate. For Rob’s version, I served it with lightly sweetened whipped cream which worked just as well.
We’re skipping over September as we’re all busy this month and will be meeting again in October to cook a dinner based on the Smitten Kitchen cookbook. I can’t wait! Tell me, are you in book club? Would you ever organize a cookbook book club or want to be part of one? If so, what book would you most want to cook from?
Jacques Pepin's Peach and Plum Galette
The oringinal headnote for this recipe states that this dessert is a staple in Jacques Pepin's home, and I can see why. I've made the recipe twice in less than a week and everyone loves it. While he chose to use plums in his original recipe, I used peaches the first time, and a mixture of both peaches and plums the second. Both versions were exceptional. I think this would also be outstanding with apples, and you can be sure I'll be trying that variation later this month.
For the pastry:
- 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- ¾ cups cold salted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 1/3 cup ice water
For the filling:
- 1/4 cup + 1/3 cup sugar
- 3 tablespoons ground hazlenuts or almonds
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 1/2 pounds large peaches and/or plums—halved, pitted and cut into 1/2-inch wedges
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small bits
- 1/2 cup apricot preserves, warmed and strained, if chunky
To make the pastry, put the flour and butter in a food processor and process for 5 seconds; the butter should still be in pieces. Add the ice water and process for 5 seconds longer, just until the dough comes together; the butter should still be visible. Remove the dough from the processor and gather it into a ball. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into a 16” circle. Drape the dough over the rolling pin and transfer it to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Chill the dough until firm, about 20 minutes. Preheat the oven to 400°.
To make the filling, combine ¼ cup of the sugar with the ground almonds and flour in a small mixing bowl. Spread this mixture evenly over the dough to within 2 inches of the edge. Arrange the peach/pulm wedges on top and dot with the butter. Sprinkle all but 1 teaspoon of the remaining 1/3 cup sugar over the fruit. Fold the edge of the dough up over the peaches/plums to create a 2-inch border. (If the dough feels cold and firm, wait for a few minutes until it softens to prevent it from cracking.) Sprinkle the border with the reserved 1 teaspoon of sugar.
Bake the galette in the middle of the oven for 45-50 minutes, or until the fruit is very soft and the crust is richly browned. Evenly brush the warmed preserves over the hot fruit. Let the galette cool to room temperature before serving.