It's always excited to see someone realize their dreams. Pick up their courage, their doubts, their talent and creativity and just go for it. I got excited when Beatrice announced she was writing a cookbook and I got even more excited when I finally held in my hands. "La Tartine Gourmande, Recipes For An Inspired Life" was no doubt a labor of love for Beatrice. It shows. From the colorful imagery to the detailed recipes, one can tell she did put a lot of care and perfectionism into her first cookbook.
I have Bea met once before on a press trip and it was a delight to see that the book matches the person in real life. Deeply French, but also very much in love with the flavors and aesthetics of other countries she visited. The book achieves what I look for most times in cookbooks: it reads like a novel with prose and anecdotes and at the same time it serves the purpose at hand, giving you plenty of recipes and creative ideas for casual to sophisticated plates.
The book is divided in two major parts; one where Bea goes through core recipes used in various chapters, as well as covering the flours, sugars and utensils she favors. The other parts covers all the recipes, from breakfasts to picnic, to casual lunches with friends, to sophisticated or simple dinners. One thing I really appreciated in Bea's writing is the fluidity of the recipe writing as well as the simple yet to the point style of the headnotes.
If you are familiar with Bea's blog, the book is indeed, its perfect extension. Recipes that are simple to make, full or flavors and leaving you inspired to go create more of your own. I made 3 batches of these Chocolate Financiers in the span of a week. They disappeared as fast as I was pulling them out of the oven. (Recipe for the financiers after the jump)
Bea was kind enough to answer a little fun interview I prepared so you could get to know her better. For more descriptions and excerpts from her book, you can check her amazon author page, here.
1/ Which person in your life influenced your cooking the most?
My mother. No doubt. I learned by her side. But in many ways too, it's my upbringing in France. And the fact that I come from a family where there's always been a clear passion for food, home cooking, and making someone happy with a meal. My brother and sister-in-law whom I am very close to love to cook and eat--like my mother, they keep an amazing vegetable garden to feed our crave for homegrown foods. Whenever I am in France, we spend a lot of time cooking together. Talking about food. So I know that it's really us all, as a family, that rooted this love for food inside me. And the way I cook.
2/ Which culinary traditions or family habits have you kept from France?
The fact that I cannot skip lunch. Ever ;-) I am so French in that way. Lunch is cooked and needs to be a sit down meal during which I leave work and other things I am doing behind--to enjoy my meal. And it does not matter if I will have that meal alone. Everyone deserves that treat. As a family, Lulu, P. and I always eat together. Sharing our meals is a very important time of our day. Lulu is only 3 but she understands and loves it.
When I look at the dishes I make, no doubt, my cooking is French in essence. But I don't perhaps cook what most people think of as French cuisine. I like to reinvent classics, which connects me to my roots and the foods that I loved to eat as a child. And then I personalize them to my taste and the influences my cooking gained from traveling and living in different countries. So in the end, it's French but with a twist and exotic touches. I am curious about food, so I also like to constantly try new ingredients and build recipes around them.
At home, we always cared how food was presented on a plate. And we also always made sure that our meals were balanced in nutrition as well as in texture--hence I will always eat something cooked with something raw (ie there will always be salad that accompanies my meals). I think these definitely explain why I love to play with food the way I do. I like to make a dish pop onto a plate, looking light and colorful. And not overly complicated. I believe that we eat with our eyes first. I believe that what makes a great meal is quality ingredients, attention--and the rest follows naturally. That's the way I was brought up to think about food.
3/ If stranded on a deserted island, which of the following would you miss the most?
- spice and/or herb
vegetable: carrots from my mother's garden
fruit: I'd say I'd miss the taste of a wild strawberry. So concentrated. So delicious and unique.
herbs: parsley, coriander, chervil
4/ What is your favorite meal to cook for a romantic dinner "a deux"?
Not sure. It changes all the time since my creative flow keeps coming. I know there'd be chocolate somewhere during the meal (hello Molten chocolate cakes!). And we'd have a stunning looking refreshing appetizer, most likely a dressed-up salad or a verrine, with tons of zest (grapefruit, orange or lime), avocado and crab meat. As a main, I could easily imagine a creamy red kuri squash risotto finished with truffle oil and served with clams cooked in white wine, garlic and .fresh herbs.
5/ Favorite word? Least favorite word? Favorite color? Two things you can't stop eating lately?
Favorite word: Maman....it's filled with so many meanings and special things for me.
Least favorite words: Dépêche toi! (hurry up!) I hate when I have to rush....
Favorite color: That's a hard one as I love most of them. Right now, I'd say red as I can see myself buying a lot of fabrics, bowls and home textiles with different hues of red on them. I also also love spring green and turquoise blue.
Two things I can't stop eating right now: fine slices of apples enjoyed with pecans and honeycomb; coconut milk tapioca pudding with stewed fruit.
Bea and her publisher were also very kind to share two copies with two readers. To enter the giveaways for a copy of "La Tartine Gourmande, Recipes For An Inspired Life" - all you have to do is leave a comment (no anonymous, one entry per person) on this post between Monday March 5th and Thursday March 8th, midnight EST. You must claim your prize within 48 hours or two other winners will be picked. I know this sounds harsh but many enter, I announce winners and prizes stay unclaimed for months and/or are never claimed which is not fair to the other participants who really do care about a gift.
Disclosure: I was sent a copy of the book by the publisher. All images (except the book cover) and opinions are my own.
Chocolate Financiers, slightly modified from La Tartine Gourmande:
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup almond meal
2 tablespoons millet flour
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
A pinch of sea salt
1/3 cup powdered sugar
4 large egg whites (beaten slightly)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350F, position a rack in the middle and line the inside of 10 muffin tins with wrappers.
In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat and cook until it starts to turn brown and smells smells like hazelnuts, between 8 to 10 minutes. Let cool slightly.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the almond meal, millet flour, cocoa powder, salt, and sugar. Mix until blended. On low speed, beat in the egg whites.
Add the butter and vanilla and mix for another 30 seconds.
Divide the batter evenly between the muffin tins and bake the financiers for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted near the middle comes out clean. Let cool and dust with more cocoa powder if desired.