I love my cookbook collection. Over the years I’ve amassed quite a few. They sit on my shelves, dog-eared and stained with butter, olive oil, flour and other ingredients.
But I love technology, too, and the novel ways in which we can learn cooking tips and follow recipes.
So I was excited to dive into award-winning French Chef Laurent Gras’ first cookbook:
My Provence from Alta Editions
This interactive e-book is amazing for so many reasons.
watch videos of Chef Gras explaining a certain technique
see gorgeous photos of step-by-step instructions
click on recipes in the table of contents rather than leaf through a book
click on photos to get to a recipe
email the recipe
find out what equipment you need
and even share your own rendition of a recipe
Although you probably love your cookbook collection, this digital cookbook book from Alta Editions takes cookbooks into an entirely different realm, one that makes learning how to cook well clear, easy and fun.
I highly recommend it if you want to learn some French techniques in the kitchen.
You can access the book for $9.95 by clicking My Provence.
“My Father’s Chickpea Salad”
Courtesy of Laurent Gras: My Provence
What Chef Gras says about the salad
At home, my father always made this chickpea salad. He loved going to the market on Saturday mornings to select the perfect ingredients for the salad. Besides the chickpeas, there are only two other main components: fennel and goat cheese. At the market, he picked fennel that was young and green with a pronounced anise flavor. Rolled in ash and aged for a month in Roman caves, Saint Maure was the goat cheese he preferred. He sliced the cheese and added it to the salad just before serving. The key to making such a simple dish well is to taste and adjust the seasoning several times while you are preparing it. Although I’ve eaten it hundreds of times, I never tire of this salad.
For the Chickpeas
1/2 pound (250 g) dried chickpeas
About 2 quarts (2 l) mineral water, filtered water, or tap water
For the Salad
2 bulbs of fennel
1/3 cup (80 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
Juice of 1 lemon
1 bunch watercress
1 head frisée or curly endive
4 sprigs fresh dill
1/2 pound (250 g) Saint-Maure, aged 3 to 4 weeks, or other flavorful goat cheese rolled in ash
Prepare the chickpeas ahead of time
One day prior to serving the salad, cover the chickpeas with at least two inches of cold water. Add 4 teaspoons (20 g) sea salt and let sit overnight at room temperature. Drain and rinse the chickpeas before cooking. Place the drained, soaked chickpeas in a pot and cover with mineral or tap water. Bring to a boil, turn down the heat, and simmer for 1 hour. Using a perforated spoon, skim the froth that forms at the surface of the water. Season the chickpeas with fine salt when they are soft. Let cool to room temperature in the cooking water. Drain.
Make the salad
Remove the outside layers of the fennel, which are usually not as tender as the center layers or “heart.” Reserve the outer pieces for another use. You should have about a little less than 1/2 pound (200 g) of fennel hearts. Split the fennel lengthwise and wash under cold, running water. Pat dry. Slice the fennel very thinly with a sharp knife or mandolin. Place the slices in the serving dish and season with the olive oil, sea salt, and freshly ground black pepper. Squeeze the lemon juice over and toss the fennel. Taste to adjust the seasoning. Add the cooked chickpeas and toss well. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour to allow the chickpeas to absorb the seasoning.
Pick over the watercress, keeping the leaves attached to the stem to form small tips. Wash the watercress carefully in a bowl of water. Drain in a pasta strainer and pat dry. Set aside until needed.
Cut the bottom of the core of the frisée and remove the dark green outer leaves, leaving only the yellow leaves of the center. Split the biggest yellow leaves in half with your hands. Wash in a bowl of water. Spin dry. Set aside until needed. Wash and dry the dill. Pick the leaves off the stems. Set aside.
Using a knife dipped in warm water and wiped dry, slice the Saint-Maure into thin slices.
Add the frisée, watercress, and dill to the chickpeas and fennel, and toss, being careful not to damage the leaves. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Transfer to a serving platter and evenly distribute the cheese throughout the salad.