The Apprentice by Jacques Pépin

There are three celebrity cooks  – Anthony Bourdain, Nigella Lawson and Emeril Lagasse – whom I love, but who are as much shrewd self-marketers as they are cooks. Then there are the three honest-to-God gourmet chefs whose writings have heavily influenced my own cooking and writing. Julia Child, the Goddess; Clarissa Dickson Wright, of Two Fat Ladies fame and an amazing food historian as she is a chef; and last but not least, my dearly beloved Jacques Pépin, who I remember watching on PBS as a little girl and being fascinated by how easy he made it all look.

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Jacques Pépin is my hero, for many reasons. He has had more than his share of trials and tribulations, and had to relearn many skills and reinvent himself many times. He survived a terrible car crash that could have permanently taken away his arm movement, and thus, his ability to cook. He has persevered to become the Grand Master of chefs in the world, and he continues to cook and learn and share.

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Many of his family memories and anecdotal stories are those that we can all relate to. He and his brothers learned to cook very early, working in their mother’s cafe, which served hearty buffet-style meals at what would be the equivalent of $1 today. I can’t even imagine having such deliciousness as a steak with frites for that amount!

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My favorite of his stories is when he goes to visit the late, great James Beard (of the Beard Foundation and one of the world’s great chefs) and is nearly kicked out for bringing him salmon baked in a rich, buttery sauce. Beard is in the hospital for angina, and so of course, what better for the heart than some butter! I laughed out loud reading this section.

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This beautiful crystal bowl was a Christmas gift from my dear and wonderful friend Richard. Had to show it off!

Peppered throughout the books are recipes that all have special meaning for Pepin, including his mother’s cheese souffle, her apple tart, a salad of dandelion greens, and what sounded to me like a plate of heaven – Ed Giobbi’s Primavera Pasta. Now, this recipe should by rights be made in the late summer when home-grown tomatoes are deeply red and ripe and bursting with flavor. But I figured, to hell with it. I found as good of quality tomatoes as I possibly could, let them ripen a few more days, and made this in the winter. And it was delicious, simple, and full of flavor.

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This gorgeous glass cutting board was another Christmas gift, this time from my beloved Aunt Sandy. Guess I was a good girl to get such great gifts! 

5 large, ripe beefsteak tomatoes
Handful of fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
Sea salt and ground pepper
2 tablespoons Meyer lemon olive oil (my flavor addition)
1 tablespoon finely grated garlic
1 pound farfalle (bowtie) pasta
Abundant boiling and salted water

Heat the water to boiling point, add a generous handful of salt, and cook the farfalle for 8 minutes, or until al dente, just cooked but still with a hint of firmness. Reserve a cupful of the pasta cooking water and set aside.

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Slice the tomatoes lengthwise and deseed them. Put them in a large bowl and add the salt and pepper. Stir and leave a few minutes.

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Add the garlic, then the chopped basil, and stir again to mix the flavors. Pour in the lemon olive oil, and give another good stir.

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Add the cooked pasta to the tomatoes in the bowl, stir, and then add in a bit of the hot cooking water. This helps the starches in the pasta emulsify and helps make a sauce.

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Serve hot, with generous handfuls of shaved Parmeggiano-Reggiano cheese. It’s truly delicious, strongly flavored but light and fragrant. I can imagine eating this in the south of France with a glass of rose wine with Chef Pepin himself. Wonderful!

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15 thoughts on “The Apprentice by Jacques Pépin

  1. I love Jacques Pépin, too. When my house was broken into last year, as near as I could tell only two books were taken (I have what’s pretty much a library downstairs plus several other bookcases around the house) were two books by Jacques Pépin. They were beautiful and I’m still pissed. I was just thinking about the Two Fat Ladies last night – I was watching an English cooking show on tv. But both of them have such an easy going, just do it, whatever, food is beautiful and don’t stress about it attitude. I think Jacques Pépin must be a very kind person. I like Tyler Florence for the same reason!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Well it was the weird things they took and did that were most upsetting! I can get over things like tvs and appliances but every time I think of Jacques Pepin now I get upset that some low life has it!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I love watching Jacques on PBS still! He’s on every now and then on Saturdays. I love listening to him talk about fish. He’s fascinating. I don’t even see Emeril anymore. Does he have a show still?

    I have to add this one and keep the recipe for in the future. 😘❤ Thanks so much for sharing this, Vanessa. Wonderful!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Jen! I don’t think I have seen Emeril anywhere except for reruns lately, but I do love the guy. Yeah, there is no comparison to Jacques Pepin. I think what drew me to this recipe was that the ingredients are so simple and fresh. You really can make this at any time of year, though obviously summer garden grown tomatoes are going to be best.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah, I kind of miss Emeril. I liked his enthusiasm. I still use his spaghetti squash recipe all the time, haha. 💖

        Yes to garden tomatoes! I can’t wait to grow this year. We sort of took a much needed break from gardening last year and didn’t get a huge harvest, but I can taste them already and hope to grow many varieties this year. 😁 Thanks for sharing these delicious recipes and posts! I’m always so inspired. 💖

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I appreciate that so much! And I’m thinking this recipe, with a name like Primavera, could have any combination of spring and summer vegetables, not just the tomatoes. Though I did enjoy the novelty of a tomato sauce that didn’t involve cooking. BAM!!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I agree that normally cooking tomatoes for a sauce would be my way to go. This actually was quite lovely. I do think it would be far better in the summer when you have lots of garden grown tomatoes. But I enjoyed it and so did everybody else. Let me know how it comes out for you if you do make it.


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