I chanced upon the author Gintare Marcel when I found her blog, which is worth a visit. Gintare was born in Lithuania, she now lives in Switzerland and The Netherlands with her French husband. This is Gintare’s fourth cookbook and the first one in English. Below this review you will find a sample recipe from the book, so you can “try before you buy”. All photographs and the recipe in this article are reproduced with the kind permission of the author.
L’art de la Table
I do find the title a little egotistical and perhaps “My taste of the Mediterranean” might have better described the contents of this book. Never the less this cookbook still has many things going for it. And just like a good menu, a cookbook’s recipes should entice the reader into a quandary making it hard to choose which recipe to try first.
The recipes are not overly complicated and yet there are some great creative ideas, worth trying.
Besides the recipes, Gintare shows another creative side with her wonderful atmospheric photography that sets the scene and draws you in, as do her little vignettes spreading sunshine to the pages.
I also like the loose relaxed format that helps to give the book a Mediterranean feel.
As part of my review process, I often ask 1-2 trusted foodie friends to also give me their opinions, and I do this without offering mine. The interesting results concurred with my initial supposition, that a good cookbook should leave you wanting to try more than one thing. My sister told me she really liked the stews, my other friend said they were really attracted to the dessert recipes. As for me, I liked recipes in every section of the book. The presentation isn’t as good as you’d expect from a professional chef but perhaps because of that it makes them all the more achievable.
I did email the author with a few follow-up questions to verify her quantities, such as the 2 Tablespoons of chopped fresh rosemary in the pastry of the Pear Orange and Rosemary Tart. Gintare, assured me that the amount was correct in her reply saying, “I do fancy bold flavours and I think that a lot of Rosemary works very well in this particular tart, really the pushing savoury notes, so the measurement are correct, there are 2 Tablespoons of Rosemary in the crust.”
This only made me more inclined to try this recipe for myself which I did this past Sunday. The sweet pastry base has a savoury hint of rosemary, but I was surprised that it was not too much. It married very well with the pears and orange custard to make a delightful dessert.
In all my cookbook reviews, I include a sample recipe so my readers can try for themselves. Recipes that I have tried and feel happy with recommending, but making that choice from L’art de la Table was proving difficult.
Should I choose the Pearl Barley and Roasted Carrot Salad? Or the Chicken Drumsticks with Roasted Garlic and Cauliflower Mash? Or even Moules Frites with Shrimp Bisque? In the end after more umming and erring, I decided to share the Pear Orange and Rosemary Tart. I believe we will see and read more from Gintare Marcel, you can get the book here.
Pear Orange and Rosemary Tart by Gintare Marcel
There is a distinctive sweetness to the air that tags on the tail of each passing mistral in Provence. At the height of summer, when the sun is mighty and the air thick and intoxicatingly sweet with the scent of blooming rosemary, each breath feels like a taste of sunshine. When, in winter, the cold creeps in and the sun forgets to visit us as often, I make this tart to breathe light and warmth into the house and to reminisce on far-off sunny days.
Time| 1-hour Servings| 4
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 tbsp chopped rosemary
2 conference pears
15g/1 tbsp butter
2 oranges, juice only
1½ tbsp honey
250 ml/1 cup whole milk
2 oranges, zest only
40 g/¼ cup minus 1 tbsp light brown sugar
Combine the butter with the flour, sugar and salt in the food processor.
Pulse everything for about 10 seconds until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
Add the finely chopped rosemary, then beaten egg and continue pulsing until the dough starts to stick together. Remove the dough from the food processor, transfer onto a working surface and press it together using the palms of your hands, but do not knead it. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and leave it to rest in a fridge for at least 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F.
Roll out the pastry and press it into a 24 cm/9½ inch tart base. Leave in the fridge to rest for at least 20 minutes.
Take it out and prick the bottom of the tart in a few spots with a fork. Place a sheet of baking paper on top of the pastry and fill the form with beans or baking weights to prevent the pastry from rising and bake for 15 minutes.
After 15 minutes remove the baking paper and the beans or baking weights and continue to bake for another 10 minutes.
Peel the pears, halve and core. Melt the butter in a pan, add the pears cut-side down and cook them for a few minutes on a medium-high heat, turning them every now and then.
Add the orange juice and honey, cover partially, and let everything simmer for 10-15 minutes, turning occasionally until the liquid has turned to caramel and the pears are fully coated. Let them cool a little
To make the custard, heat the milk with the orange zest until almost bubbling then set aside to infuse for about 10 minutes. Strain and simmer again.
Beat the eggs with the sugar, then pour in the milk while stirring vigorously.
Slice the pears and arrange them in the tart base. Skim the foam off the
custard, then pour it on top of the pears and bake for about 25 minutes, depending on the oven.