Cooking, Field Notes

Summer Reading: French Cooking Edition

Take a page from the French and savor the summer with good books and good eats. We have collected a few of our favorite cookbooks that celebrate French cooking, eating, and reading. Bon appétit!

Simple French Food by Richard Olney
Originally published in 1974, Simple French Food has become a classic French cookbook. Richard Olney was an influential American food writer who brought the joys Provençal cooking to the American table. His promotion of local, seasonal ingredients influenced the food movement in California and inspired prominent chefs like Alice Waters, who keeps a copy of this book at Chez Panisse. Simple French Food is as much a work of literature as it as a cookbook. It deserves to become well-worn and cherished, in a kitchen cabinet or tucked away in the living room.

Simple French Food is a training manual for the dedicated home cook. Olney’s words flourish across the pages in deliberate and robust explanations. Appreciating his language is as important as the content of each dish. Within are recipes for braised fennel, squash gratin, crêpe batter, and marinated roast leg of lamb. Some recipes appear simpler than others, though they all maintain the integrity of the Provençal kitchen. An essential addition to any cookbook collection, this is a timeless classic of ingredient-driven cooking.

Tasting Paris by Clotilde Dusoulier
Tasting Paris is a snapshot of the contemporary Parisian foodscape. This modern cookbook offers 100 recipes to eat like a Parisian. Paris native Clotilde Dusoulier writes as if she is sharing a secret with the reader—each page offers advice for finding authenticity in a city notorious for tourist traps. Well-suited for the coffee table, this sizable book transports the reader to Paris through elegant photographs and stories. Tasting Paris is a gentle approach to French gastronomy that encourages you to cook like the locals do.

Dusoulier includes some classic French dishes such as brioche with café au lait for breakfast and duck magret for dinner. Less traditional (but no less delicious) is the potato chip and chive omelet, made famous by Michelin-starred chef Éric Frechon at the Saint-Lazare train station bistro. Even more impressive are the dishes from immigrant communities in the city. Among these are baghrir, Moroccan crumpets served with melted butter and honey, and Turkish lamb served over roasted eggplant and cheese sauce. Together, these recipes create a memorable and flavorful taste of Paris.


Le Picnic by Suzy Ashford
Le Picnic is a playful recipe book that elevates the average picnic to a sophisticated affair. It offers a spread of chic food for on-the-go excursions and afternoons in the sun. Suzy Ashford, an Australian writer and avid Francophile, brings whimsy to the packed lunch with impressive yet straightforward recipes. Le Picnic is both a practical guide for meal prepping and also an excuse to daydream of summer fun and frivolity.

Ashford categorizes her recipes into Le Snack, Food for Sharing, La Salade, Sweet Delights, and La Drink. Some standouts include baked savory figs with goat cheese and walnuts, comté and asparagus tart, salade Lyonnaise, and rosé granita. These recipes are perfect for summer entertaining, whether along the banks of the Seine, in your local park, or on your back patio. Crafting stylish picnic food is a delightful way to spend a summer day with friends.

Find these books and others in our French collection. Happy reading!

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