Simplicity from a Monastery Kitchen, Brother Victor-Antoine d'Avila-Latourrette

220 pages; Color, Sketches, no Photography

Broadway Books, 2001

Reviewed by Connie Spiros for Good Cooking
November, 2001

Simplicity from a Monastery Kitchen

The word simplicity used by author Brother Victor-Antoine in the title of this, his fourth cookbook, quite accurately sums up the recipes within. The idea behind this book is truly to encourage a simple life through simple, wholesome food. Brother Victor-Antoine had great success with his other cookbooks, each promoting this concept of simple living through simple cooking. Most of the recipes have fewer than 5 or 6 main ingredients, and take very little time to prepare. In his introduction, and the section called "how to use this cookbook", Brother Victor offers his personal thoughts on the importance of simplicity, as a means for finding true harmony in life. His comments on cooking follow this same philosophy, by encouraging the reader to allow the true flavors of the ingredients to express themselves in the finished product. 

The book is organized by menu category and features an extensive selection of vegetarian items, focusing on fresh garden ingredients. There are a few recipes which seem rather exotic in their combinations of flavors, but for the most part, the simple preparations outlined led to a simple outcome. In his introduction, Brother Victor suggests the reader experiment with additional seasonings as needed to enhance the basic flavors of the ingredients. The two vegetarian recipes prepared by this reviewer, (Eggplant and Potato Casserole, and Parsnip Orange Flavor Puree) were in the category of needing a bit of additional seasonings, but the Dauphin Easy Apple Soufflé, was very good and as the title implies, very easy. 

One interesting and perhaps surprising angle arose from reading this cookbook highlighting simplicity. Brother Victor's French heritage becomes quite evident as the reader will find an extensive sauce section offering more than 30 recipes for a wide variety of sauces.

Unfortunately, the book design also follows the concept of simplicity, and has no photos or illustrations of the food, but throughout the recipes, there is a sprinkling of some very interesting quotes, following the theme of the simple life. 

If you are looking for a book that focuses on the simple elements of cooking, with great attention paid to the importance of the freshness, quality and simplicity of the underlying ingredients, Brother Victor-Antoine has written such a book.

Eggplant and Potato Casserole p.64

Parsnip Orange Flavor Puree, p. 108

Dauphin Easy Apple Soufflé, p. 210

Good Cooking found Brother Victor's Recipes to be creative, well-balanced and not overdone with ingredients. Try His Oeufs Cocotte au Pistou, "Eggs Cocotte in Pesto Sauce" on Page 38! 

Parsnip Orange Flavor Puree

14 good-size parsnips, scrubbed
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup orange juice
3 tablespoons butter
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
Finely chopped fresh parsley, as garnish 

 

4-6 Servings

1. Cut the parsnips in thin slices and place them in a large saucepan filled with water. Over medium heat bring the water to a boil, cover the saucepan, and cook the parsnips for about a hall hour. Drain and allow to cool
2. Puree the parsnips evenly with a masher, or pass them through a sieve. Place the pureed parsnips back into the saucepan. Add the heavy cream and orange juice. Cook over low-medium heat, stirring constantly until most of the liquid is absorbed by the puree.
3. Add the butter, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Blend the ingredients well and serve hot. If you prepare it ahead of time, butter thoroughly an ovenproof dish, put the puree into it, and keep it warm in a preheated 200 degree oven until ready to serve. Just before serving sprinkle some finely chopped parsley on the top as a garnish.


Dauphin Easy Apple Souffle

 

4-6 Servings

4 Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored, and sliced 
1/2 cup sugar, plus 4 tablespoons 
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3 eggs, separated
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup white all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3 tablespoons Calvados liqueur 

I. Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter thoroughly a long baking dish. Arrange the apple slices evenly over the surface of the dish. Sprinkle 4 tablespoons of the sugar and the cinnamon over the apples.
2. Place the egg yolks in a blender, add the milk, and whirl thoroughly. Add the remaining 1/2 cup sugar and the rest of the ingredients, except the egg whites, and whirl some more until well blended.
3. Beat the egg whites stiff with a mixer and fold them into the egg yolk mixture with a spatula. Spread it over the entire top of the apples. Place the dish in the oven and bake for about 35-40 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve hot.