Cookbook Review: 'Cuisine Niçoise' and peaches and cream tart

There's nothing like French comfort food; well-flavored with fresh ingredients and made with precision and care. 'Cuisine Niçoise,' by Hillary Davis, celebrates simple ingredients and the cooking of the French Riviera. 

Laura Edwins/The Christian Science Monitor
This tart tastes great fresh out of the oven, but also reheats well.
'Cuisine Niçoise,' by Hillary Davis (239 pp., Gibbs Smith, $40)

Cuisine Niçoise, a new cookbook by food journalist and cooking instructor, Hillary Davis, brings together the simplest of ingredients like citrus, mushrooms, and olives in mouth-watering dishes, such as orange, black olive, and gorgonzola salad; clam and mushroom sauce; and peach tart (see recipe below).

While some of the recipes in "Cuisine Niçoise," are a little aspirational or time-intensive for a home cook of my skill level, the book has a section of easy weeknight-dinners and a chapter on pastas, risotto, and pizza, featuring some of my favorite comfort foods; roast chicken, mussels, and ravioli. Ms. Davis' idea of cooking a big batch of pasta with three sauces for a "pasta party" sounds to me like the makings of a fantastic girls'-night in.

Davis' recipes, based on 11 years of living and cooking on the French Riviera, are accompanied by Steven Rothfeld's beautiful photos of colorful French villas, seaside cafes, and, of course, the dishes themselves. The book is a pleasure to flip through sitting at a kitchen table with a cup of tea, and maybe even a warm slice of Madame's peaches and cream tart.

I often struggle with pastry dough, but thankfully the crumbly crust for this tart is simply pressed into the pan, taking any chilling, rolling, or fear of overworking out of the equation. I sliced seven small peaches, and found I had more than enough, even with the peaches layered very closely together. The egg and cream custard puts this tart over the top, and reheats well the next day.

Madame's peaches and cream tart
Reprinted with permission from "Cuisine Niçoise" by Hillary Davis
Serves 8

1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature

2 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 cup sugar, divided, plus 2 tablespoons

7 peaches, unpeeled, sliced thickly or quartered 

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon almond extract

1 cup heavy cream

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Butter and flour a 9-inch pie plate or a tart pan with a removable bottom. 

2. In a bowl, beat the butter until fluffy. Add the flour and 1/4 cup sugar, and work with your hands until it comes together into a dough. Press dough into the pie plate or tart pan. 

3. Lay the peaches, cut side up, in a decorative pattern in the pie plate. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup sugar. 

4. Bake at 400 degrees F., for 20 minutes.

5. Beat the eggs with 1 tablespoon sugar and vanilla and almond extracts. Whisk in the heavy cream and pour all on top of the peaches. Sprinkle with remaining 1 tablespoon sugar and return to the oven. Bake for 30 minutes, until the top is golden brown. Allow to cool and set before serving.

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