A few weeks ago I got a copy of Quiches, Kugels and Couscous: My Search for Jewish Cooking in France, the latest in a series of wonderful cookbooks by Joan Nathan that explore Jewish culture and cuisine around the world. Joan is coming to Austin soon to discuss Quiche, Kugels and Couscous at a brunch hosted by the Dell Jewish Community Center on November 14th as part of their Austin Jewish Book Fair. (More details here.)
As the title suggests, Quiche… describes the evolution of Jewish home cooking in France. It includes a huge selection of recipes that each call for unprocessed, seasonal ingredients, and the narrative portions are a pleasure to read. There are some color photographs in the book, but no tablescapes or over-the-top styling in the way. I am gradually working my way through the book, starting with the easiest recipes first and moving towards more complex entries as I become more familiar with them. (I’ve read the book cover to cover twice, and now I’m on lap three.)
My favorite dish so far is a simple lettuce salad with vinaigrette dressing. I love this recipe because it utilizes ingredients that are always in my pantry or crisper, and because it makes radishes taste wonderful. (This is quite a feat, in my opinion.) I’ve made this several times and, although the book tells me to whisk the ingredients together in a salad bowl, I prefer to use a blender so that my arms don’t get so tired.
Lettuce with Classic Vinaigrette (serves 4)
from Quiches, Kugels and Couscous: My Search for Jewish Cooking in France by Joan Nathan, published by Knopf, 2010.
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
a few grinds of pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon sugar or honey
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
Leaves of 1 head of lettuce
2-4 radishes, sliced as thin as possible
Wash lettuce and dry gently with a salad spinner or kitchen towel. Slice radishes. Set aside. Combine all remaining ingredients in a blender. Pulse until oil is emulsified and garlic and shallots are minced completely. Pour dressing into a bowl and gently place the lettuce leaves on top. Toss the salad, and garnish with sliced radishes to taste.
If you’re considering attending the brunch with Joan Nathan in Austin, I recommend reading Lisa is Cooking’s recent interview with Joan and Alice Water’s insightful review of the book on Amazon.com. You can also get a sample of Joan’s writing style and some recipes from the book in this great article she wrote for Tablet Magazine. Bon appetit!
*My copy of this cookbook was supplied free of charge by Knopf Publishing.