French cookbooks and a Canadian vegetarian recipe for a Québécois tart

Just in case you missed my last post, this week and last I have decided to review some of the amazing cookbooks hitting stores these days and posting unique vegetarian recipes I find along the way.

Last time, I looked at two surprisingly easy French cookbooks. I also posted a gorgeous recipe for a totally decadent boozy, vegetarian French chocolate mousse perfect for holiday entertaining.

Today, I’ll look at three more cookbooks and I’ve even got an almost vegetarian recipe from a famous chef because everyone knows you can never have enough recipes.

A Taste of Provence

What a sweet little book this is, with its wealth of rich pictures and fascinating information on southern France. A history book meets travel guide meets culinary exploration, this book covers topics as incredibly diverse as the herbs of Provence and almond cultivation to Provencal cheeses, how to make nougat, and the salt harvest. And, along the way, this book wanders through towns and regions such as Avignon, Marseille, and Monaco enjoying such treats as the Toulon market, Cotes de Provence vineyards, and a Lourmarin bakery.

And, scattered throughout the book (and of most interest to us) are some lovely vegetarian recipes such as pistou (basil paste), ratatouille, and the gorgeous strawberries with vanilla olive oil and crystalized jasmine.

Culinaria France
Another gorgeous book is Culinaria France, part of the Culinaria Series of titles. Broader in scope than A Taste of Provence (this book, after all, looks at all of France, not just the southern region), Culinaria France is one of those books that invite you to while away a Sunday afternoon in heady daydreams of truffles and wines.

Much like A Taste of Provence, Culinaria France looks at everything from towns and regions to history and regional wines (of course) and foods from champagne and butter to baguettes and honey. And, as with A Taste of Provence, Culinaria France includes recipes.

Now, I quite enjoyed flipping through both books, but I did notice a lot of overlap in the recipes. This is how I realized this. See, first, I was flipping through A Taste of Provence when I noticed the recipe for duck breast fillet in lavendar honey. I adore lavendar, so don’t you think a honey made with this flower would be incredible? Then, when, I was flipping though Culinaria France I tripped across a recipe for breast of duck in lavendar honey. No big deal right? Lots of people have the same recipe, right? Sure. Except everything from the oven temperature to the ingredients, down to the last teaspoon, are exactly the same.

So here’s my advice: If you are interested in France and French food, get one book or the other. And put the money your save in your travel jar.

Au Pied de Cochon
At first, I was not going to include this book. I mean, after all, it stands for everything, absolutely everything, vegetarians are against. But, but, but, I kept coming back to it. Because, as deeply horrifying as this meat-eating book is to vegetarians, it is equally glorious for food lovers.

Horrifying because this book is an exuberant, almost frenetic, ride through the relentlessly meat-based gluttony. But glorious, because it has an unabashed delight in the pleasure of food. An unabashed delight I would love, just love, to find in a vegetarian book.

So let me tell you about the book and you can decide for yourself if you want to see it.

Au Pied de Cochon is a renown Montreal-based restaurant with almost Grateful Dead-like cult status earned from the wanton indulgence in meat and fat and fat and meat. What makes the book based on this restaurant special is the jumbled, enthusiastic, joyous infusion of everything from gorgeous photographs and illustrations in the style of the underground comics of the 1960s to anecdotes, proclamations, testimonials, and even essays among the fifty or so recipes.

All of which give this cookbook meets art book a wonderfully wild, totally out-of-control, and fiercely independent take on food and life.

Yes, I found some of the pictures very disturbing. I also found damn few recipes I would even consider making. So if you are a sensitive soul, please don’t pick up this book. But, yes, I also found the artwork exhilarating and the philosophy extraordinary. So if you’re up for a roller coaster ride, dive in and soak up the fun, but leave the horror behind.

And if you do want to try a recipe, here’s one of the few vegetarian recipes in the book.
Vegetarian Maple Tart
1 recipe pie dough
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups maple syrup
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

Bring the maple syrup and cream to a boil in a saucepan. Melt the butter in the mixture and then stir in the flour until incorporated. Let cool.

Roll out the pie dough and cut out two rounds to line the bottoms of two 8-inch tart molds.

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Cook the empty tart shells for approximately 15 minutes, or until golden.

Combine the eggs with the maple mixture while it is still warm. Divide the mixture into the two tart shells. Continue cooking at 300 F for 20 to 25 minutes.

The tart is cooked when the filling has set in the center and there is a slight bubbling at the edge of the mold.