by Sybil PrattFebruary, 2003
French without fuss
"French food is a state of mind," says Laura Calder, an American writer who lives and cooks in Paris. It's about delighting in the kitchen, slowing down, savoring food it's about making food matter. The food that has come to matter to Ms. Calder is the home-cooked French food she has learned to make in her own Parisian kitchen. It's not surprising, then, that she's titled her new cookbook French Food At Home. Along with over 100 very appealing, very accessible dinner-focused recipes come very appealing Gallic gustatory attitudes. Preprandial treats are kept quite simple, allowing the cook to join the party. The idea here is to take a relaxing breath and tease the appetite, not trounce it. That can be done by heaping tangy Tapenade on toast or making real mayonnaise for the cruditÅ½s. The same goes for "civilizing" starters that ease the pace into dinner with a small plate of Orange Asparagus or ruby red Beet Stacks with a nugget of chevre. Dinner dishes come in two categories, "fairly fast" and "slightly slower." Perfectly perfumed Flounder in Parsley and basic bistro Tarragon Chicken can be on the table in under an hour. When time is not of the essence, you can settle into the joy of making hearty Anchovy Beef or a lovely Lamb Tagine. Add sides that enhance and a selection of simple sweet endings, and you'll be cooking in fluent French.