As you all know, John and I love the fresh flavors of French cuisine. Working our way through Dorie Greenspan’s Around my French Table over the course of the past 4 1/2 years, we’ve learned some wonderful techniques and flavor combinations. So, when Skyhorse Publishing invited me to review Maria Zihammou’s French Bistro, I couldn’t resist.
The first thing I noticed about this book is how beautiful it is! Reading through Maria’s book is like taking a mini-vacation. And it’s not just the photographs that are beautiful – Maria is just gorgeous! Her joie de vivre and passion jump right off the page. She’s the type of person I would love to have as a friend.
Like a classic French bistro, this book captures the highlights and romanticism of French cuisine, offering unpretentious, well-made recipes. Rustic flair and simple ingredients are the hallmarks of Zihammou’s creations, which range from classic French dishes to modern twists on regional cuisines. Highlights include: oysters au gratin with garlic butter; buttery crepes with lemon sugar; chicken with lavender honey and lemon sauce; mango sorbet with pineapple, caramel, and sea salt; sole with butter sauce and butter-fried capers; pain bagna filled with tuna salad, vegetables, olives, and Dijon; and much more. – Press release
Although I tabbed several recipes to try, I selected the Tarte au Citron (Lemon Tart) when my mother showed up at my house with a bagful of lemons from her tree. I love lemon tarts and was intrigued by this one because it has a creamy filling rather than a lemon curd one. The pastry comes together quickly, and easily. The pastry turned out perfectly and was, indeed, a melt-in-your-mouth type of shortbread. I loved the texture of the filling but it was a little tart for me. This was quickly amended with a sprinkling of powdered sugar and fresh blackberries. I do think I would add 1/4 additional cup sugar the next time. One other thing, for some reason, my crust rose during the second baking which caused the filling to crack when it settled. This don’t interfere with the flavor at all, but it wasn’t very pretty.
- 7 tbsp (100 g) butter, room temperature
- 1½ cups (350 g) wheat flour
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 tbsp powdered sugar
- 1 tbsp cold water
- 5 eggs, preferable organic
- 4 organic lemons
- ½ cup (100 ml) whipping cream
- ½ cup (100 ml) granulated sugar
- Powdered sugar , for decorating
- Whipped cream, for serving, optionally
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
- Start by making the dough.
- Mix the butter, flour, egg yolk, powdered sugar, and water.
- Knead together with a light touch to form a smooth dough.
- Press out the dough in a spring-form (or tart) pan, about 9 inches (24 cm) in diameter.
- Pre-bake the crust for about 10 minutes until it's lightly golden in color.
- Take it out and let it cool.
- Meanwhile make the filling:
- Whisk together the eggs in a bowl.
- Squeeze the juice from the lemons, and grate 1 tsbp of lemon zest into the bowl.
- Add the whipping cream and sugar, then whisk thoroughly.
- Fill the cooled crust with the lemon
Here is my friend, David’s review of this cookbook at Cocoa and Lavender. He tried the Poulet Bonne Femme – Chicken Stew with Apple Cider and Cream.
If you’re feeling like a beautiful culinary tour of France, all you have to do is open this book! It’s just lovely.