After a long entertaining dry spell, we decided it was finally time to clean up the place and have some people over for supper. I think it was the lovely spring weather that put us in the mood. We love to entertain, but when we're super busy we kind of forget about it. We forget how much fun it is to plan a simple menu, cook up some delicious food, and share it with friends.
In my ever-so-lucky job at CBC radio, I get the chance to test-drive lots of cookbooks. We took some inspiration for our two recent soirees from one I received recently and another I reviewed last fall: Giada At Home by Giada de Laurentiis, and French Taste by Laura Calder.
I've never used a cookbook by Giada, though I've watched her show a few times on the Food Network and mostly been impressed by the size of her cleavage. But this cookbook is good. Simple recipes and a nice style. A few too many family photos for my taste, though.
Laura Calder's French Taste is fast becoming one of our favourite cookbooks. I loved this when I reviewed it, and we're still loving it. Confession: I never used to like Laura when I watched her show. She seemed kind of uppity. But when I interviewed her she was the sweetest thing, and I quickly became converted. I love that this book has little essays on the importance of shopping well, of eating with friends, and other civilized things. She's a charmer, and her recipes are great too. She brings a chic elegance to French food that has nothing stuffy or staid about it.
Pea Pesto from Giada
Our cookbook collection has probably doubled in the past year and a half (through CBC and my own buying), and now I find myself with books on the shelf that I've barely used. This week I'm beginning our menu planning more vigorously, and I'm going to try to use some of the books I don't know very well. Up next: Michael Smith's Chef at Home, Nigella Express, and We Eat Together by Julianna Mimande and Gabe Wong.
Olive and Pistachio Tartine
Adapted from French Food at Home by Laura Calder
This is is the easiest thing in the world but so satisfying, and it was one of the most popular things on the table the night we made it. I always forget how much I like olives and this is a great way to remind yourself.
All you do is take about a cup of black or kalamata olives, pit them (or do the smart thing and buy them pitted), chop them up into small pieces, and mix them with a few tablespoons olive oil, a few teaspoons of chopped thyme, zest from about half a lemon and a little lemon juice to taste. Season with ground black pepper, and that’s it! Spread onto rounds of crisped baguette and sprinkle with chopped pistachios – the combination is so perfect. This is basically a very simple version of olive tapenade, and if you wanted a smoother mixture you could easily blitz it through a food processor or crush it in a mortar and pestle. Really, you could season olives any number of ways and they would be delicious, so experiment and see what tastes good.