baking chez moiWith her groundbreaking bestseller Around My French Table , Dorie Greenspan changed the way we view French food. Now, in Baking Chez Moi , she explores the fascinating world of French desserts, bringing together a charmingly uncomplicated mix of contemporary recipes, including original creations based on traditional and regional specialties, and drawing on seasonal ingredients, market visits, and her travels throughout the country. Like the surprisingly easy chocolate loaf cake speckled with cubes of dark chocolate that have been melted, salted, and frozen, which she adapted from a French chef’s recipe, or the boozy, slow-roasted pineapple, a five-ingredient cinch that she got from her hairdresser, these recipes show the French knack for elegant simplicity. In fact, many are so radically easy that they defy our preconceptions: crackle-topped cream puffs, which are all the rage in Paris; custardy apple squares from Normandy; and an unbaked confection of corn flakes, dried cherries, almonds, and coconut that nearly every French woman knows.

Whether it’s classic lemon-glazed madeleines, a silky caramel tart, or “Les Whoopie Pies,” Dorie puts her own creative spin on each dish, guiding us with the friendly, reassuring directions that have won her legions of ardent fans. (description from publisher)

Bastille DayAnd you may be wondering how to commemorate this joyeux July 14th.  As all foodies know, no one takes more delight in their cuisine than the French. Why not check out Joanne Harris’ Chocolat? (in book or dvd format), a fable about the magical quality of chocolate. The film version is a sensual celebration of all forms of chocolate (and Johnny Depp).

A paperback copy of A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle was my constant companion on a trip through the Northeast, and became a scrapbook of sorts (stuffed with pamphlets, snack wrapper bookmarks and smeared with chocolate ice cream eaten in downtown Bar Harbor). Mayle loves his food so much, it’s impossible to feel guilty if you eat while reading his book.  The deep and abiding love of food and drink formed a bond with his Provencal neighbors – though their actions were often perplexing to him.

From Paris to the Moon is a more cerebral collection of essays, about a year in which Adam Gopnik moves from New York to Paris to immerse his family in the French language and way of life. He dissects cafe culture and the “crisis in French cuisine,” among many other things; what could be dry is instead a personal and fascinating insider’s view of an American in Paris.