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Tastes of France

Three recipes – an open-face sandwich, carrot soup, and chocolate custard – from new cookbook <i>La Tartine Gourmande</i>.

<b>CUSTOM-MADE</b> Almost all the cookbook’s recipes, including this <i>tartine</i>, are gluten-free or can be made with gluten-free bread, pasta, or flour. Photograph and styline by Beatrice Peltre

In November 2005, I started a food blog that I called La Tartine Gourmande: tartine (an open-faced sandwich commonly eaten in France), because I prepare and eat them so frequently, and gourmande (someone who enjoys food), because it defines me so well. And now, it is a cookbook. Whenever I walk into my kitchen, I am inspired to try new things and prepare more beautiful, healthy foods. I want my friends and family to taste and build memories around these foods, too. La Tartine Gourmande: Recipes for an Inspired Life is all about that. It’s a warm invitation for you to share in it, too.



Makes 4 Tartines

I remember making this tartine one winter day when I had a craving for melting cheese. In my fridge, I had leftover ricotta from a dish of lasagna and some mushrooms. I decided to improvise, letting my imagination and taste buds lead the way to what was going to become lunch. And that’s how I ended up with this delectable tartine, which I prepare with gluten-free bread and, on this day, enjoyed with a bowl of warm celeriac soup.

1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed

2 tablespoons walnuts

½ packed cup fresh flat-leaf parsley

Zest of ½ lemon, finely grated

Salt and pepper

3 tablespoons olive oil

4 tablespoons whole-milk ricotta cheese

1 cup thinly sliced crimini mushrooms

4 slices country bread

Dash of freshly grated nutmeg

1 ounce cheddar cheese, finely grated

For the walnut pesto, in the bowl of a food processor, combine the garlic, walnuts, parsley, lemon zest, and a pinch of salt, and pulse to chop finely. Add 2 tablespoons of the oil and continue to pulse until you have a paste. Transfer the paste to a bowl and combine with the ricotta; set aside.


For the mushrooms, in a frying pan, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium heat. Add the mushrooms, salt to taste, and saute until the mushrooms release their juices. Remove from heat and add pepper, to taste.

Preheat the broiler. Toast the bread and spread with the ricotta mixture. Top with the mushrooms, nutmeg, and grated cheese. Place the tartines under the broiler until the cheese melts, 2 to 3 minutes. Serve immediately.


Serves 4

I have a weakness for the sweetness of a carrot soup.

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 red onion, sliced

1 leek, white part only, finely chopped

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon fresh thyme, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 large tomato, blanched, peeled, seeded, and diced

1 tablespoon double-concentrated tomato paste

2 cups peeled and sliced carrots (4 to 5 carrots)

1 cup dried red lentils, rinsed

1 bay leaf

Salt and black pepper

¾ cup unsweetened coconut milk, or more to taste

Lime juice, to serve

Chopped cilantro, to serve

Crushed red pepper, to serve

In a large heavy pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the oil, then add the onion, leek, cumin, and thyme, and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring, until fragrant and the onion is soft. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the tomato and tomato paste and cook for 2 to 3 more minutes, until the tomato has softened. Add the carrots, lentils, 4 cups cold water, and the bay leaf, and salt and black pepper to taste. Cover and simmer for about 20 minutes, until the vegetables and lentils are soft.


Remove from the heat, discard the bay leaf, and transfer the soup to the bowl of a food processor; puree until smooth. Return the soup to the pot and stir in the coconut milk. Reheat and add more coconut milk and salt and black pepper, if necessary. Serve with a squeeze of lime juice and cilantro and crushed red pepper.


Serves 6

This attractive dessert is made for people like me and my husband, Philip, who cannot resist anything with words like “dark chocolate” and “custard.” Maybe you are one of those people, too?

½ cup granulated sugar

Canola oil, for 6 6-ounce ramekins

2¼ cups whole milk

1 vanilla bean, split open and seeds scraped out

5 green cardamom pods, crushed

3 ounces dark chocolate

3 large eggs

2 tablespoons blond cane sugar

Unsweetened cocoa powder, to dust

For the caramel, over medium heat, heat the granulated sugar and 2 tablespoons of cold water in a small pot. Swirl the pot so that the sugar absorbs the water. Bring to a boil, then simmer on medium heat – do not stir the sugar at this point, although you can swirl the pot occasionally – and watch the caramel develop. It will be ready when it’s golden in color, about 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat, add 1 tablespoon of hot water, and stir quickly. Pour the caramel into the oiled ramekins, making sure to coat the bottom and sides; set aside.


For the custard, preheat the oven to 300 degrees. In a pot over medium heat, combine the milk with the vanilla bean and seeds and cardamom pods and bring to a boil, making sure that the mixture doesn’t overflow the pot. When it boils, remove from heat and add the chocolate, whisking quickly so that the chocolate melts evenly. Cover and let it infuse for 20 minutes. Discard the vanilla bean and cardamom and, using a fine sieve, strain the chocolate milk mixture.

In the meantime, using a stand mixer, beat the eggs with the blond cane sugar for 1 minute. Pour in the chocolate milk mixture and stir quickly. With a spoon, remove any foam that might have formed at the surface. Divide the chocolate custard among the 6 caramel-filled ramekins and place them in a large shallow pan of warm water. Place the pan with the custards in the oven and cook for about 50 minutes. To see whether they are ready, jiggle the ramekins a little – the center of the cream should be almost set but not fully (they’ll finish setting once they cool). Remove the ramekins from the oven and let cool completely. Cover each ramekin with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a few hours or as long as overnight, until the custard is completely set.


To unmold the creme caramel easily, dip the ramekins in boiling water for 1 to 2 minutes, taking care not to let the water spill in. Run the blade of a knife between the custard and the edge of the ramekins. Turn onto a plate and serve immediately with dusted cocoa on top.


contributor Beatrice Peltre lives near Boston. Send comments to cooking@globe.com.