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June 2009 COTM: Elizabeth David Classics


As posted elsewhere, Jacquilynne, the CH Community Manager, asked me to help put up these threads for foxyfairy since people are chomping at the bit to get started!

Here is some information about how COTM works, in case you're joining in for the first time (along with links to all past COTM winners): http://www.chow.com/cookbook_of_the_m...

So, welcome to Elizabeth David Classics, which includes these three books by Elizabeth David:

A Book of Mediterranean Food [M
]French Country Cooking [F]
Summer Cooking [S]

You may wish to bookmark this thread for future reference, as it contains links to all the other threads for this book. We will use this thread for general commentary, recipe planning, links, discussion of the various introductory chapters that don't contain recipes, etc.

And here is the previous thread about Elizabeth David Classics, where posters have begun discussing it: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/618666

Since there are a number of different editions and some posters have the individual books, please post the abbreviations for the books as listed above (M, F, and S), and the name of the recipe, as well as any modifications you made to the recipe. That way posters can then look up the recipe in the index of whichever book they have.

I've organized the chapters into categories in the way that made the most sense to me, and in threads where I've lumped in, or broken up a chapter, I'll make sure to mention which chapters from which books, or which kinds of recipes from which chapter belong on that thread. Fortunately, many of them are obvious!

Here are the links for the threads for the full length recipe reviews:

Hors d’oeuvres & Salads


Eggs, Cold Foods & Luncheon Dishes


Savoury Tarts, Pasta, Rice, Polenta and Their Ilk



Poultry & Game

Sweets, Jams, Jellies & Other Preserves


Please post about recipes from the sections entitled Buffet Foods, Picnics, Improvised Cooking, Luncheon, Supper & Family Dishes, and Substantial Dishes in whichever thread makes the most sense given the dish.

Thanks for participating!

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  1. Here's a link to a thread that might be helpful this month - The US and the UK: Divided by a Common (Culinary) Language.


    Oh - and I wanted to add, particularly for posters to whom COTM is relatively new, do post here on this thread if you have questions about ingredients, etc. We've done a couple of British books in the past, so it shouldn't be hard to get help. The same goes for measurements.

    1. I haven't got the book with me - does anyone know which section chicken liver paté is in? I made the version in Summer Cooking.

      3 Replies
        1. re: greedygirl

          Hi GG,,,, the pate is in the Hors d'Oeuvre and Salads section... in the Summer book.

        2. I happened to see an old rerun of Gordon Ramsey's F Word yesterday and during the show there was a dessert challenge between Ramsey and chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. Each chef described the chocolate tart he was going to make and when it was Fearnley-Whittinstall's turn he said he was using an Elizabeth David flourless recipe which contained ground almonds. I haven't been able to find the recipe yet, though.

          Once more we see Ms. David's influence.

          6 Replies
          1. re: Gio

            Hi Gio,
            Here is a link to the flourless cake - I remembered seeing it the other day when I was trying to find recipes online. I haven't tried the recipe yet.


            1. re: tartetatin

              Good Morning tartetatin! Thank you so much for the recipe. It certainly looks easy enough. DH will love it ...but oy vey! The calories. 504 a slice. LOL

              1. re: Gio

                504 calories?! Okay, I would just have it as one of my meals - lol. Kind of like when I eat ice cream and popcorn for dinner. I still want to try this recipe, calories be damned!

                1. re: Gio

                  This is my favorite flourless chocolate cake recipe of all time. Everybody loves it. It's very chocolate-y but not too. Dead easy to make. Have used walnuts, hazelnuts, and pistachios instead of almonds in it. With almonds and pistachios I add a drop of almond extract (almond essence) to bring out the nut flavor. Calories be damned.

              2. re: Gio

                I think it's in French Provincial Cooking - another great book that I got in a secondhand store for about a pound.

              3. I found a recipe for Ratatouille en Salade online from Elizabeth's Summer Cooking but I'm not sure if it is under Hors d’oeuvres & Salads or Vegetables in the actual book. Can anyone tell me please so I can post in the appropriate section? Oh, and same question regarding her Pesto recipe (I don't have an actual copy of Summer Cooking so have been looking for recipes online) - Savoury Tarts, Pasta, Rice, Polenta and Their Ilk or Sauces? Thanks!

                5 Replies
                1. re: always_eating

                  Ratatouille en Salade = Hors d'Oeuvre and Salads [S]
                  Pesto = Eggs (goes with the Gnocchi recipe on the preceeding page.)[S]

                  1. re: Gio

                    I double checked - not that I don't believe you, of course, but b/c is makes me realize how arbitrary some of this is. So, if it is ok w/ Foxy Fairy for me to suggest this, perhaps if there is something like a pesto sauce, that most of us intuitively would think belongs under sauces and/or say Pasta etc. here, why not go ahead and post it in the "designated" thread, and then, if one feels like it, posts links on the "intuitive" threads. Does that make ANY sense?!

                    1. re: MMRuth

                      Total sense. I think we all understand that with the nature of this month's stuff, there is going to be some confusion. Just post where it makes the most sense, and people will eventually find it (or pass along the info that it is somewhere else).

                      1. re: LulusMom

                        Considering how confused my initial reporting was I have to agree with both of you!! BTW MM.... Calling it "intuitive" is brilliant! I would have said CRS.

                        1. re: Gio

                          Intuitive it is! And actually, now that you mentioned the book has the pesto recipe with the gnocchi recipe, since I only made the pesto (though would love to see the gnocchi recipe - must google) by itself, I think I will put it under Sauce.

                2. There's a widely-held belief these days I think that ED is better to read than to cook from, probably because of the lack of precise instructions and pictures. I will admit that this was somewhat my view and I'd never actually cooked from any of my Elizabeth David books.

                  I'm so glad that we picked her as COTM! Everything I've made so far has been a revelation in terms of flavour and also the ease of the recipes. Plus you get to enjoy the elegance of her writing and sharp sense of humour. This is going to be a great month.

                  I would also urge anyone who's enjoying these books to get a copy of French Provincial Cooking, which is quite simply hilarious, but with great recipes. "Denise, the only able-bodied daughter, was the greediest girl I had ever seen. She worked as secretary to a world-famous Parisian surgeon and came home every day to the midday meal ... Munching through two helpings of everything she would entertain us to gruesome details of the operations performed by her employer." Or the view of the writer Colette on truffles: "If I can't have too many truffles, I'll do without truffles."

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: greedygirl

                    The notes in the back of the book are absolutely hysterical as well. Being a geeky lawyer, I read them - and she has some choice words to say about nouvelle cuisine and its practioners!

                  2. I'm not sure which book I got this tip from - or if it was even one of these three books, but, thanks to E. David, I have finally found a method for storing fresh herbs that works for me. After going to the farmer's market three weeks ago now, I lined a glass storage container with paper towels, put oregano and marjoram in the bottom, put in another layer of paper towels and added tarragon and thyme, and then one more layer of paper towel and a large bunch of parsley. One more paper towel on top, and then I put the lid on. If any of the bunches had rubberbands around them, I removed them. As I used some of the herbs, I picked off any leaves that seemed to be getting a little moist, and have replaced the paper towels once or twice. The fresh herbs are still fresh. I'm amazed!

                    I'm not sure if this would work with basil, but I'm going to try it next. I really hate spending as much money as I often do throwing out fresh herbs that have gone bad, and this method really seems to work.

                    25 Replies
                    1. re: MMRuth

                      I hate the waste of tossing old herbs too. Thanks so much for passing this along.

                      1. re: MMRuth

                        Does the container need to be glass, do you think?

                        1. re: greedygirl

                          I think she did recommend glass specifically, though at the time she wrote about this, it could be that there was not a proliferation of plastic storage containers. I've switched over all of my storage containers for the fridge etc. to glass pretty much, and have been really happy with them.

                          I'll try to find what she wrote about this.

                        2. re: MMRuth

                          Thanks for sharing! I'm sure this is a dumb question, but is there a particular order to the layering of the herbs?


                          1. re: The Dairy Queen

                            There was no particular order to my layering, though I did sort of try to put like with like - ie, the oregano and the marjoram together. Don't recall ED saying anything about the order either.

                          2. re: MMRuth

                            Good tip!
                            In my experience, basil does not like to be in the refrigerator -- think: cut flower. Put in a vase/glass jar, etc with water, cut the ends to freshen, and display on your kitchen counter. I've kept bunches and bunches this way for over a week, cutting ends occasionally and changing the water.

                            Also, I find parsley keeps best treating as a plant -- cut the ends, stick in a jar, removing rubber band (I use a measuring cup), put in water and place a plastic bag loosely over all (doesn't have to be air-tight -- I use the bag from the produce aisle). Change the water occasionally; any leaves in the water will rot and make the water yucky (a technical term)

                            1. re: NYchowcook

                              We do the same with parsley except that we do refrigerate it and don't put a plastic bag over it. It lasts at least a week this way. IMO, cilantro is most problamatic -- I haven't figured out a way to prolong its life...

                              1. re: roxlet

                                Oops, yes, I do refrigerate parsley.
                                Not basil, though.

                            2. re: MMRuth

                              OK so I just bought a glass container which was on sale in the local department store (pyrex, actually) and I'm going to give this a go. I will let you know how I get on. Currently in there - rosemary, thyme, parsley and coriander.

                              1. re: greedygirl

                                I think that coriander is our cilantro, so I will be interested to hear if it works for that. BTW, does the coriander come with the roots on as the cilantro does here?

                                1. re: roxlet

                                  I think I put cilantro/coriander in when I started this - on the top layer. My logic was that cilantro (as parsley often is) when I buy tends to retain a bit more moisture than some of the other herbs and so I didn't want it touching the herbs in the other layers.

                                  Wonder if this would be better split off to another thread?

                                  1. re: MMRuth

                                    MM - did you wash the herbs anf dry them before storing them this new way?

                                    1. re: Gio

                                      I did not. And, I just found the information. It's in Summer Cooking, in the Chapter "Fresh Herbs", in the section entitled "To Keep Fresh Herbs". She actually refers to Tupperware like products, and did not suggest using paper towels, which I use. I just pretty much have glass storage containers these days, so that is what I used. She also mentions that parsley, basil and tarragon keep well this way. I'll try basil next, and report back.

                                      1. re: MMRuth

                                        Many thanks MM.. You have no idea how many different ways I have tried to keep herbs fresh beyond a few days. During the summer I don't really mind since most of what I need is growing in the garden... but during the other months.... well, you know.

                                        I'm still plowing my way through the different books and readily admit I have not read all the introductions of each entry. I must begin to read *Everything.*

                                    2. re: MMRuth

                                      I realize this is a bit of a late reply, but I thought I'd share my cilantro storing advice. I have great success wrapping the cut stems in a slightly damp paper towel and storing them in a ziploc bag. I've kept cilantro fresh for 2-3 weeks this way. Works well for parsley, too.

                                  2. re: MMRuth

                                    Well - it's now about five weeks. The fresh oregano and marjoram bought five weeks ago is still doing quite well, albeit with some brown leaves that I've been removing. I've not wasted ANY herbs during this time. I've done oregano. marjoram, tarragon, thyme, chives, mint and parsley. Still haven't tried it with basil.

                                    1. re: MMRuth

                                      OK - a little more than five weeks after I purchased these, this is what the marjoram and oregano looks like, after I removed the browned leaves (and used about the same amount in a dish I'm making now).

                                      1. re: MMRuth

                                        Wow! That's pretty amazing! Thanks for sharing your experiment with us.


                                        1. re: MMRuth

                                          this is SO exciting. I am a chowhound on a budget and I just can't splurge on fresh herbs again and again... and it's maddening to watch them turn yucky after just a few days. So I will try this. I do not have glass storage containers but it seems like it would be worth the investment. Or, did we decide if we think plastic would work?

                                          Were the paper towels dampened, MMRuth? or dry?

                                          1. re: foxy fairy

                                            I used dry paper towels. And, ED talks about using Tupperware, so I assume that plastic would work just fine. Good luck!

                                            1. re: MMRuth

                                              Weirdly, I can find no mention of her method of storing herbs at all in my copy of Summer Cooking.

                                              1. re: greedygirl

                                                Did you see this above - "It's in Summer Cooking, in the Chapter "Fresh Herbs", in the section entitled "To Keep Fresh Herbs". " Do you have a section in that chapter called "To Dry and Store Herbs"?

                                                If you did already, then that is a mystery!

                                                1. re: MMRuth

                                                  I've read that chapter twice - and no sign of it in my edition. A mystery indeed.

                                      2. The only ED book I own is a English Yeast Cookery one, so intrigued by all the excitement about her books, I dragged it down and took a look at it. It seems to me that there is a lot to read but not a lot in the way of specific instructions. It seems to be quite historical, but I am not sure that I would really feel comfortable cooking bread from it. It is very vague. Granted, I only perused the book quickly, but I am wondering if anyone who has any of the other books also has this one and can say if this is typical. BTW, I saw many of her books on used abebooks.com and alibris.com for $1 plus shipping...

                                        10 Replies
                                        1. re: roxlet

                                          I'd say many of the recipes are vague and assume a certain basic familiarity with cooking, but as long as one goes into it knowing that you'll have to think for yourself a bit, taste and trust your own instincts, it's quite possible to cook from these books.

                                          1. re: David A. Goldfarb

                                            Yes, but this one reads almost as an historical treatise on English bread! I'm curious as to whether you've seen this one. As far as cooking goes, that is the method I ususally use -- testing, tasting and using recipes as suggestions and guides. I have no problem with that. This bread book goes beyond that, IMO.

                                            1. re: roxlet

                                              It is a historical treatise as well as a recipe book. Bread techniques are mostly pretty simple. I think I would be comfortable cooking from David's bread book, tho I have to say I have owned it for 30 years and never done so, the major barrier being availability of some of the flours she uses here. That may no longer be the case - King Arthur was not shipping when I first got this book..

                                              1. re: roxlet

                                                I don't have the Bread one but MMRuth does, I think.

                                                As I said above, there is a general perception that ED is good to read but not to cook from. As regards the COTM books, I've discovered that this just isn't the case. All her dishes have been simple but very tasty and it's pretty easy to follow her directions if you have a little experience in the kitchen. I've been cooking up a storm!

                                                1. re: roxlet

                                                  I agree with you - her later books - the bread one and the one on ices - are much more historical and very well researched. A friend of mine in the US taught himself to bake using the bread book. I haven't seen the ices one yet, so I don't know to what extent there are recipes, though I assume it has some. These books were actually her last two books, though a number of anthologies have been published since she died.

                                                  Her earlier books are quite different, I think. Yes, they are good reads, and there is a lot less historical/sociological background. The first book (Mediterranean) was based on her experiences just before and during WWII, during which time she lived in Italy, Greece and Egypt. The other two in "Classics" are the 2nd and 4th books she wrote, with the Italian one coming in between. In the case of both FCC and the Italian book, she travelled quite extensively in France and Italy, gathering recipes, eating, exploring markets etc.

                                                  I've now cooked from the first four books, as well as the Christmas book that was published in the U.S. last December or so, and have really enjoyed almost everything I've cooked. As David, above, writes, the recipes do assume a certain amount of previous experience, and what I am particularly enjoying about them is the fact that one does have to think for oneself and trust one's own instincts. In a report on one recipe, someone mentioned that the recipe didn't call for salt & pepper. I suspect that many of her recipes don't but assume that you will season as appropriate and needed.

                                                  Hope this helps!

                                                  1. re: MMRuth

                                                    I'm intrigued and I will pick up some of her earlier books. jen kalb, I agree with you about the flours she refers to. This book is actually my husband's and I think that when I first read it, ED's discussion of things like "strong" flour, etc., were meaningless to me. This is actually only the 2nd time in over 25 years that I've looked through it, and I am more intrigued now than I was then, though I'm still not sure I'm inclinded to bake from it at the moment! Her cookery books might be a different story!

                                                    1. re: MMRuth

                                                      The ices book has no recipes. It's strictly a scholarly social history about the background, fashions, and development of using ice in the kitchen and the making of ices and ice creams from the sixteenth century onward.

                                                2. re: roxlet

                                                  It's (English Bread that is) very interesting as a historical treatise and the recipes work. Her hot cross bun recipe is my standard. The bread with cooked rice in it is unusual and makes excellent toast (the highest calling for bread, in my opinion).
                                                  (This was the first book ever I had someone bring back for me from a trip to England ca. 1977, by the way - it was out in the UK but not in the US yet and I could NOT wait to get my hands on it.)
                                                  I wasn't taken with Harvest of the Cold Months. Her intgerests took a much more scholarly turn in her later years it would seem.

                                                  1. re: buttertart

                                                    Well, it's certainly interesting to read and we got a laugh from some of the descriptions -- like of an oatcake of some sort that is damp when you finish cooking it, but you hang it up indoors until it dries. The image of these cakes on a clothesline type contraption really made me laugh, as well as the idea that something hung to dry in a Scottish cottage of who-knows-when might actually every dry! I would think it would get damper and damper!

                                                  2. re: roxlet

                                                    I'm sorry I missed this thread when it was being written and experimented with. English Yeast Cookery is a work of absolute genius. The recipes are sound and the list of "bread lumineries" who've been powerfully influenced by it is a long one and includes Peter Reinhart. Read the history, by all means - but don't be intimidated by the recipes. They're terrific.

                                                  3. I just wanted to mention that, one of the things that I've enjoyed v. much so far is that I can buy ingredients that look appealing, particularly at the farmers' market, and then find David recipes that call for them. While I have very much enjoyed some of the months that called for v. specific ingredients a priori, this is a nice break from that.

                                                    2 Replies
                                                    1. re: MMRuth

                                                      That's exactly what I'm liking too. I'm finding it much easier to use up my veg box ingredients as a result.

                                                      1. re: MMRuth

                                                        Yes, this fits my normal mode of cooking, which is more to find something good in the market and then figure out what to do with it than to start from a book and then go shopping.

                                                      2. I have Elizabeth David's "An Omelet and a Glass of Wine". It's a terrific book. This is an exciting project you've started.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: Virginia Girl

                                                          Virginia Girl: Welcome to Davidmania! Feel free to join in as the books are in almost all libraries. My copies of the 3 books we've chosen are well-worn and at least 40 years old.

                                                        2. I finally got my copy of "Summer Cooking" from the library and I have to admit that for me it looks more like a book to read than to cook from. I'm sure it's a failing on my part but I am used to recipes with specific measurements and instructions.

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: NYCkaren

                                                            Well don't be afraid to jump into that book and surprise even yourself. I've cooked a bunch of recipes from Summer Cooking and had no difficulty with directions and amounts. As others have said, it's a pleasure to look into any of the current COTMs and find a recipe to accommodate whatever you have on hand.

                                                            After all, NYC, you've been cooking along for some time now. You have experience in the kitchen....