Home Made by Yvette Van Boven is the kind of book that makes you long for languid afternoons under the Provençal sun, brisk mornings shopping the markets of a cobblestoned street or strong coffee and pastries at a sidewalk café. The Dutch artist and café owner transports readers through pictures, recipes and a certain European laissez-faire.
Most chapters in Home Made begins with a story about a recipe and perhaps a photo or illustration. Several chapters--like those on jams, gnocchi, bread, and preserving meats--also include a photo spread of the step-by-step process. Van Boven includes a basic recipe, followed by a "Let's Get Going" section full of variations of that recipe.
There's a certain European sensibility to the book--not surprisingly, since Van Boven splits her time between Paris and Amsterdam, plus has spent time traveling throughout the continent. Flavor combinations include North African and Mediterranean influences along with recipes for terrines, risotto, and smoked fish and vegetables.
While I wouldn't call the recipes easy, some are simpler than others. The recipe for grilled zucchini Provençal style is a simple paragraph alongside a photo of a halved zucchini in a foil nest. Simply drizzle with olive oil and salt and pepper and let the heat of the grill do the rest. Other recipes are simple illustrations with just a few handwritten instructions alongside. And some recipes, like the one for frittatas --give you one recipe, then asides for other "filling" ideas. There are no sidebars and tips to lead less experienced cooks along however. So if your hollandaise sauce breaks when you are making the eggs benedict, you'll have to look elsewhere for troubleshooting tips.
There are chapters and recipes for less common, but terribly charming ideas and dishes such as building an outdoor grill, making your own flavored liqueurs and homemade doggy treats. Cute pictures of cats and dogs have found their way into Home Made, along with snapshots of life in the French countryside and the Netherlands. The index includes menu suggestions ranging from dinner for 12 to what to cook for a funeral.
While there are many meat recipes in the book, there are many vegetarian recipes as well. There are plenty of salads and soups, but also sides such as a warm butternut squash and potatoes with fresh sage, served warm out of the oven in the scooped out and baked squash shell. Salads include the robust and filling salads you may order at a bistro in Paris, such as lentil salad with grilled sausage, and salad with duck breasts.
Several recipes for desserts and sweet treats conclude the book, with step-by-step photos on making ice cream, chocolates and zabaglione. Desserts are clearly not an afterthought in Home Made. There's shortbread, tuiles, mini trifles, tiramisu, and pavlovas too. And lest you forget this is a European book, there is a recipe for homemade cheese, along with tips for putting together a cheese plate.