Delicious cookbook reading and a gorgeous French vegetarian recipe to to prove it!

In my last post, I looked at all sorts of wonderful new cookbooks worthy of reading this spring, from a cookbook by a Hawaiian chef to a book by an amazing pastry chef to a book from the oldest restaurant in the country (so old, they served George Washington!) to a book with recipes from countries as diverse as Finland and Italy.

And, of course, I included two recipes, one for these gorgeous lentils and another for cinnamon and cardamon buns (can't you just smell how wonderful that would be fresh out of the oven).

In my next post, I'm looking at vegetarian and vegan cookbooks along with a book that just has great vegetable recipes (just in time to take advantage of the farmer's market).

But today, ah today, we are going to look at cookbooks that focus on cooking not from these shores. As in, think Japanese noodles and French breakfasts and, well, don't let me spoil the surprise.

Europe's master chefs
The weight alone tells you there is tons of material in there. And, with all that content, you would be safe to guess there is bound to be something, something for us almost vegetarians.

And you'd be right.

With contributions from more than 100 European master chefs and pastry chefs from countries including Portugal, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, Greece, Spain, and Great Britain, there is an amazing selection of recipes. Such as the very pretty salad of fresh herbs. The vegetables with porcini mushrooms. And the elegant macadamia torte.

Now, these are not the recipes you make everyday but, rather, recipes for a special occasion. So they tend to be fairly involved. But, for a special occasion this could be an especially good book to have on hand because, not only does it provide clear step-by-step instructions but it also has pictures so you can really see what you are supposed to be creating.

And that's half the battle when cooking, isn't it?

A table in the tarn: Living, eating, and cooking in rural France
by Orlando Murrin

Part biography and part cookbook, this is pure fascination about how a British journalist and cook moved, with his partner to southwest France to open a gourmet bed and breakfast with his partner in southwestern France.

So this is a triple whammy: Great story, beautiful pictures (how can they be otherwise when they are of the French countryside?), and gorgeous recipes. Such as tarte tatin of Belgin endive, fresh spatzle, and limoncello.

You know, I spent a chunk of one summer between semesters at university overseas, and somehow missed France. I think that is an oversight that needs to be addressed. Now! Don't you agree?

However, if you can't quite manage to tear yourself away from the daily grind, I do have a vegetarian recipe, below, so you can at least get a taste.

Takashi's noodles
by Takashi Yagahashi

Of course, right after France, I will have to go to Japan, if only to eat the noodles. And what heavenly noodles I understand they are.

But, in the meantime, I'll make my own. And I have just the book to help me learn how to do everything from ramen and soba to udon, somen, and a whole range of other types of Asian noodles. But, fascinating as learning how to make noodles is, what really grabbed my attention was the backstory for each noodle type, from when and where to use it and the regional background of all.

While there are all sorts of recipes to tell you what to do with your wonderful noodles, including medley of Japanese mushrooms with orecchiette, because most of them contain meat, you will either have to adapt them (and I often do) or simply buy this book just for the amazing insight into the world of noodles.

Vegetarian recipe: Twice-Baked Garlic Soufflés
For the soufflés
5 tbsp butter
1 head of fresh garlic, trimmed and chopped roughly, or 5 cloves dried garlic, papery skins removed, chopped
1/2 tsp vinegar
1 cup milk
3 tbsp all-purpose flour
leaves from a couple of sprigs of thyme
1 cup grated Cantal, Comté or Cheddar cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
4 large eggs, separated

For Serving
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
seasoning, nutmeg, extra Parmesan, a few bread crumbs

Melt 1 tbsp of the butter and add the garlic, 1/4 tsp salt, pepper to taste, 3/4 cup water and the vinegar. Simmer covered for 10 minutes, then uncover and boil till the water has evaporated.

Heat the remaining butter and stir in the flour and thyme. Cook for a minute, then make a white sauce by gradually stirring in the garlic milk till thick. Transfer to a big bowl, add the grated cheese, three-quarters of the Parmesan, then the egg yolks. Set aside.

Heat the oven to 350°F. Butter the individual soufflé dishes and dust the sides with the remaining Parmesan; if you have any left over, stir into the sauce. Set in a roasting pan and put a kettle on to boil.

Beat egg whites till firm but not dry. Fold half into the soufflé base, then add the rest. Spoon into the dishes (fill them almost to the top), pour boiling water into the pan to one-third of the depth of the dishes and bake for 20-25 minutes, till puffed and cooked through. Remove from oven and leave to cool—they will sink.

When cool, run a knife round the edge to loosen each soufflé, gently upend on to your hand, then put the right way up on one big dish or 6 gratin dishes. (You can make the soufflés a day ahead, or even freeze them. Make sure they are at room temperature before the second baking.)

To serve, set your oven to 400°F (375°F convection). Mix the cream with salt and pepper, grated nutmeg and Parmesan or other cheese. Pour over the soufflés to cover completely, then if you wish sprinkle with bread crumbs. Bake for 10-15 minutes, till golden and the sauce bubbling. They will gently re-puff.