Somewhere in my travels this weekend, I ended up at a bookstore and was browsing the sale section – and when I saw a huge, beautiful book with the title French Desserts, I immediately walked to the cash register with it. Hey – that’s two of my favorite things right there in one title.
And it really is beautifully done – the focus is on the simpler dishes that people make for themselves at home rather than the fantastical things you’d find in a patisserie. There are cakes and tarts and such, but instead of elaborate things like a religieuse or a canele, anything where I’d have to wrestle with piping bags, they have simple fruit tarts or plain cakes or puddings. It’s exactly the way I like to cook – just pick good ingredients and get out of their way.
And I have some extra time after work and a lot of rhubarb and strawberries, and that means I can make something for my book club tomorrow – and that something will be the strawberry-rhubarb crisp bar cookies from the Smitten Kitchen, something I discovered a year ago. They’re almost perfect – just sweet enough to feel that you’re having a real treat, but low enough in added sugar that you can get away with telling yourself that they make an acceptable breakfast food. (I ate my way through one batch last week all on my own.)
I also have some lemon-verbena herb-spiked sugar syrup in the fridge, from when I was trying to cut back my lemon verbena plant; it gives lemonade an extra kick. And I’ve just finished a glass.
So, I am now about to enter my kitchen, where I will make the strawberry bars, and then make a shrimp and noodle salad to chill in the fridge while I stir up some strawberry-laced blancmange and a French take on a chocolate panna cotta.
Yes, this is as life should be.