Cookbooks showcase Jewish authors’ passion for French cuisine

“Around My French Table:  More Than 300 Recipes From My Home To Yours” by Dorie Greenspan

Ellen F. Harris, Special to the Light

Dining in Paris transformed the careers of two American Jewish women:  Dorie Greenspan and Ina Garten.

Greenspan was working toward a doctorate in gerontology 30 years ago when she had an epiphany over a strawberry tartlet in Paris.  She took every cooking class she could, and interviewed French chefs and farmers about their cuisine.  She worked for and has written with some of the biggest names in French cooking – Julia Child, Pierre Herme and Daniel Boulud.  Greenspan, who now lives part of the year in Paris’ Left Bank, has published her ninth book, “Around My French Table:  More Than 300 Recipes From My Home To Yours” (Houghton, Mifflin, Harcourt, $40).  It is a sumptuous gift to readers with lush photographs of the food. 

Garten was the budget analyst in nuclear energy in the Carter White House when she fell in love with French cuisine.  She began cooking for friends, then left Washington for the Hamptons where she bought the Barefoot Contessa food shop.  Armed with an MBA, but with no professional training, she branded herself with the shop’s name, using it on her Food Network show, her magazine columns and box mixes, and her seven stunning books.  Her latest is “Barefoot Contessa How Easy Is That? Fabulous Recipes & Easy Tips,” (Clarkson Potter, $35).  Many of the photographs feature her as the star.  Like Greenspan, she, too, owns an apartment in Paris.

Both cookbooks have hit the New York Times bestseller list with Garten holding steady at the top slot on “Advice Hardcover.” Both books are more than a compilation of recipes; Greenspan and Garten want you to enjoy cooking and baking as much as they do.

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Greenspan’s “French Table” is the best French cookbook I’ve ever used and the most accessible.  Her recipes have a homey soul.  These are family favorites from her French friends, some of whom happen to be famous.  Her Paris Mushroom Soup is a must try and easy. 

She becomes your tour guide to the larger French culture.  It’s as if she is standing in your kitchen with her pixie haircut and gentle smile offering nuggets of advice.  For example, “Taking Garlic Down A Notch,” or how to produce the “Swirl-ins” beloved by Gallic diners.  

Despite her success, Greenspan is humble.  She tells how she cried when she learned she would be working again with the same team of photographer and stylists as she did on her superb “Baking: From My House To Yours.” (My husband’s favorite desert in the world is her French Lemon Tart from “Baking.”)

Best of all, Greenspan liberates the home cook from the tyranny of the printed page.  She writes, “I always feel that when I send a recipe out into the world, I’m asking you to be my partner in making it, and I love this about cookbookery.  I trust your judgment, and you should, too.”

If Greenspan is your mentor, Garten is your good-natured neighbor with her glossy bob and apple cheeks telling you to lose the perfectionism.  An advocate of simplicity in entertaining, she eschews fancy place settings and writes of taking a classic and “adding a twist.” and “turning up the heat”?  Having made French Onion Soup for decades, I can’t wait to try her Onion & Fennel Soup Gratin.   Her Ultimate Grilled Cheese is the best.  Her Chicken With Shallots produced a dish worthy of a fine French restaurant.

Garten gives a little something extra.  She says her Jeffrey’s Roast Chicken (named for her beloved husband) is a riff on “Engagement Chicken.”  So called because every time a young woman at Glamour magazine makes it for her boyfriend, he proposes.  She exudes, “How wonderful is that?  That’s the best reason I ever heard of to roast a chicken!”

Her upscale fans identify with this smart and funny woman, making her a big star. Garten stands with her good friend Nora Ephron on the December cover of Town & Country magazine.   Then there’s her good friend, Martha Stewart.

Check out her show and see why she is so popular.  Garten has established an empire. Greenspan will always have Paris.


Paris Mushroom Soup from “From My French Table To Yours”

Serves 6


2 Tbs. unsalted butter

1 1/2 large onions, coarsely chopped

3 large garlic cloves, split, germ removed & coarsely chopped

salt & freshly ground white pepper

1 1/2 lbs. white button mushrooms, cleaned, trimmed & sliced

1/3 cup dry white wine

2 parsley sprigs

1 rosemary sprig

6 cups chicken broth or water with 4 reg. sized bouillon cubes

Melt 1 tablespoon of button in a large Dutch oven or soup pot over low heat.

Toss in the onions and garlic, season with salt and white pepper, and cook, stirring often, for about 5 mintues, until the vegetables are soft.   Add the mushrooms and remaining tablespoons of butter, raise the heat to medium, and cook, continuing to stir, for another 3 minutes or so, until the mushrooms release their liquid.  Increase the heat to high and cook until almost all of the liquid evaporates.  Pour in the wine and let it boil until it, too, almost evaporates.

Toss the herbs into the pot, add the broth or water (and the bouillon cubes, if you’re using them), and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat, cover the pot almost completely, and cook at a gentle simmer for 20 minutes.  If you can, pull out the rosemary sprig (it will have lost its leaves.)

Working in small batches in a blender or food processor, puree the soup until it is very smooth; or use an immersion blender… Taste for salt and pepper.  Pour the soup back into the pot and heat it gently — it shouldn’t boil, but it should be very hot.


6 large white mushrooms, wiped clean & trimmed

1 scallion, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced (optional)

2 Tbs. minced fresh parsley

1 Tbs. minced fresh chives

salt & freshly ground white pepper

Creme fraiche, for serving (optional)

Divide the mushrooms, scallions (if using) parsley, and chives among the 6 soup plates or bowls; season slightly with salt and white pepper.  Ladle the soup into the bowls, and top each with a dollop of cre

me fraiche, if desired.