The blogger Clotilde Dusoulier (www.chocolateandzucchini.com), now on her third book, is not a vegetarian. But as a resident of Paris, and onetime San Franciscan, she loves vegetables in that romantic, no-holds-barred way that's not surprising to encounter among those who live around well-stocked urban farmers' markets.
In "The French Market Cookbook: Vegetarian Recipes From My Parisian Kitchen," blanch-roasted new potatoes (the smaller the better), come out appealingly wrinkly and golden. A green bean salad, colorful with red rice, secretly holds almond butter for a clingy, creamy lemony dressing, and crunch from chopped almonds. Herbal eggplant tabbouleh is a variation on the traditional cucumber-and-tomato version. The eggplant is a good flavor sponge, though the skin gets in the way of surrendering to the experience.
Three recipes make use of an olive oil crust (Dusoulier likes her crusts a lot) that comes together quickly, but bakes up with an unyielding texture that did not improve as I became more accustomed to making it. A tomato mustard tart is very wet, saturated with tomatoes. I'm not sure you can write a recipe that gives consistent results using halved tomatoes given how much they vary in size. Rosemary scented and piping hot, Corsican turnovers enclose a squash filling that puts to shame the attractive but tough crust. And a mushroom and chive quiche, eggy and earthy, benefits from the usual dab of Dijon with a subtle dose of paprika.
I had irregular results from a delicious-sounding peach, almond, and cardamom clafoutis (a sort of baked fruit custard). Using less than the 2¼ pounds of peaches called for nearly overflowed the baking dish and the custard needed at least an hour in the oven, rather than the 30 to 40 minutes in the recipe.
But Dusoulier's vegetable sides and soups are hard to improve upon. Vinaigrette for a dish of silken, melted leeks gets a bit of body from crumbled, hard-cooked egg. Squash soup, often a dull fall staple, borrows the earthy, almost rye-like flavor of celery root for complexity and depth. And a cauliflower gratin takes on the sunny yellow color of turmeric and gets its layered texture from hazelnuts and breadcrumbs.
In the ingredient lists, you can skip the "fine sea salt" and "unrefined blond evaporated cane juice" (I used ordinary salt and sugar). But the big question is, what if you can't find produce as gorgeous as Dusoulier's? Well, your results may vary. The author herself cautions readers to stay away from well-traveled industrial vegetables that, used in this book, would leave you wondering what all the fuss is about. But at their best, these recipes achieve a simple elegance that underscores, without overwhelming, the natural perfection of seasonal ingredients.
T. Susan Chang can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.