Culinary artisan David Wood had me at dessert.
“This may be a bit of an oxymoron since some people, God help them, don’t eat dessert every day – a missed opportunity to be sure, but perhaps not altogether surprising given the barrage of warnings about fat, sugar and white flour,” writes Wood.
“Disappointing though, because dinner without dessert has no form; it’s just a single course with a focus on nourishment. Including even the simplest dessert in a normal week day dinner elevates the experience – and cook, above all, is about how food can enhance the experience.”
These words begin the chapter in David Wood: Cooking with Friends ($34.95, Whitecap/Fitzhenry & Whiteside , Whitecap) titled Everyday Desserts, which includes recipes such as chocolate mousse, fruit clafouti and lemon possets.
Other chapters include breakfast, soup, pasta and risotto, salad, before dinner, salads and a variety of meats, among other chapters.
For those who read cookbooks like regular books, there is a fair amount of information in the introduction including what Wood would spend extra money on to ensure he had great raw materials to start (including vinegar for salad dressing, Parmesan cheese and tomatoes in winter). Each chapter offers information about the importance of slowing down and preparing recipes found on the following pages and each recipe offers tips or information about what you are making or the ingredients used.
The recipes look fairly straightforward to make with ingredients that are easy to find.
While it’s a nice-looking book with lots of white space, my biggest complaint is the lack of pictures. In my opinion, every recipe in a cookbook should include full-colour recipes. The photos that are included are beautiful and delicious looking.
Singapore Shrimp Noodle Salad
Polenta and mushroom
Cashew-Breaded Pork tenderloin with Bitter Greens
Spiced Pears in Red Wine
Pear and Ginger Galette
7 oz (210 g) unsalted butter, divided
1 1/2 cups (360 ml) all-purpose flour
1/3 cup (80 ml) granulated sugar
1/2 tsp (2 ml) salt
1 egg yolk plus 1 extra for glazing the pastry (optional)
2 to 3 tbsp (30 to 45 ml) cold water
3 lb (1.4 kg) pears
1/2 cup (125 ml) sugar
3 tbsp (45 ml) ginger (preserved or crystallized), chopped in small chunks
This is a rustic tart, baked free-form on a cookie sheet, using a shorter and more melt-in-the-mouth pastry than might work in a conventional tart. The pears are softened in butter and sugar before baking.
Measure 5 oz (150 g) butter and put it in the freezer, in one piece, for 30 minutes or more.
Whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. In a cup, whisk the egg yolk and cold water until well blended, and set aside.
On the coarse side of a box grater, grate the frozen butter into the flour. Mix together with your fingers, sprinkle the egg and water over it, and mix again: it should be barely moist and quite crumbly.
Tip the pastry onto a work surface and, with the heel of your hand, smear it across the surface. It will take about eight pushes to spread all of it. Gather it into a ball, working it gently with your hands to bring it together; add a little more water if it needs it to form a ball. Wrap it in plastic and set aside at room temperature for up to 3 hours (refrigerate if longer).
Peel the pears and cut them in half lengthwise. With a melon baller, remove the core from each half, and trim away any hard parts around the stem and the bud with a small knife.
Melt the other 2 oz (60 g) butter (should equal about 1/4 cup [60 ml] once melted) and 1/2 cup (125 ml) sugar in a large frying pan over low heat.
Cut each half-pear lengthwise into 1/4-inch (6 mm) slices, then add them to the frying pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the juices run and the pears are almost tender, adding water as needed to stop the sugar browning. When softened, turn up the heat to medium, add the chopped ginger, and stir gently until the juices are thick and syrupy—you only need enough juice to moisten the pears. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
Preheat the oven to 375 F (190 C).
On a well-floured board, roll out the pastry about 3/16 of an inch (5 mm) thick and 16 inches (40 cm) across – it does not matter if the circle is not round or its edges are rough. Line a baking sheet with parchment, roll the dough around your rolling pin and unroll in the centre of the paper.
Arrange the pears in the middle of the pastry, in a circle about 10 inches (25 cm) across, leaving a pastry border all around. Lift a point on the edge of the pastry up and over the pears toward the centre. Continue round the perimeter, folding the outside toward the centre, each fold covering part of the previous one. It will take six or eight folds until all of the pastry has been folded in, leaving a circle of uncovered pears in the centre. You can give the pastry a nice gloss by glazing it with an egg yolk mixed with 1 tbsp (15 ml) water.
Bake in the middle of the heated oven for 25 to 30 minutes. When the pastry is nicely browned, remove from the oven and leave to cool for at least 30 minutes. Serve with lightly whipped cream, crème fraîche, or plain Greek yogurt (or any mixture of these).
A copy of this book was provided by Whitecap/Fitzhenry for an honest review.
The opinions are my own.