When Apollo2, a recipe book full of creations by chef Giovanni Apollo, arrived in my mailbox in the fall, I couldn’t put it down. It was beautiful. The photography mesmerizing. Every page sent my mouth watering. I honestly flipped through it barely noticing the recipes. I was so fixated on the the scrumptious food porn. This is a recipe book that you leave out on your coffee table to tease your guests. Which is what I did.
A few days later my Mum visited for tea. Naturally, she reached for the book. Flipping through it, she gave me a running commentary of everything she liked about it. I don’t think I heard a single negative comment. Oddly, the first thing she mentioned was not the photography but how simple the recipes looked, followed by how well organized she found the book.
Apollo2 is organized by ingredient. Don’t look for the traditional sections for appetizers, mains, sides and sweets. Rhubarb Tiramisu appears beside a Raw Rhubarb Salad with Maple, and Mediterranean Stuffed Calamari beside a Blueberry Mascarpone Mousse with Basil and Lemon. (Is your mouth watering yet?) In all thirty ingredients take centre stage. The same number as his first book in the series, simply titled Apollo. The back of the book still has a traditional index.
Unlike his first book which featured ingredients most home cooks would be familiar with, Apollo2 showcases some ingredients that probably don’t appear regularly in people’s cooking repertoires, for example game birds and game meat, duck, rabbit, sweetbreads, frogs legs, foie gras, and even tofu. That’s not to say that some staples aren’t included. There are sections for blueberries, pineapple, cucumber, beetroot, fennel, onions and many great vegetables; but the protein-based recipes are decidedly adventurous for the average cook.
That shouldn’t deter people though. As my Mum noted, none of the recipes look complicated. They simply look delicious. I tried three recipes out of the book. Each one was a success and I was happily amazed at how easy they were.
The other thing we both liked were the wine and beer suggestions that accompanied most recipes. Occasionally, he even recommends a cider. The recommendations take some of the wine-pairing guesswork out of using the recipes for a dinner party. Brilliant! I can’t comment how well the wine-pairings match, however.
The first recipe I tested was a spinach and ricotta quiche, which I have since gone on to adopt as my base quiche recipe of choice, substituting leeks and blue cheese, mushrooms, and other ingredients for the spinach. I’ve also used light ricotta cheese without noticeable loss of flavour. Les Editions Transcontinental gave me permission to translate and publish the recipe (see below). What I love about it is it’s simplicity and versatility.
After the success of the first recipe, I got brave and tried the guinea fowl cooked in cider with chervil. I’d picked up a guinea fowl at a market over the summer and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to use it. The hardest part of the recipe was cutting up the bird into eight pieces. The rest was simplicity itself. (Although I admit, I did not strain the applesauce as directed.) Perfect for easy night of entertaining.
The last recipe I tried was a leek gratin with blue cheese and hazelnuts. I would never have considered adding hazelnuts to leeks and blue cheese, but it worked! I served it as a main course with a salad. It would also work as a side dish.
Overall, this is a great recipe book full of creative ideas. It uses a lot of local ingredients and unprocessed food, and has great photography. I’m even tempted to go and buy the first book in the series now. The only drawback is that Apollo2 sometimes assumes a level of knowledge of culinary terms that is beyond the average home cook, but probably within the range of its target audience or just about anyone who regularly watches the Food Network. It’s also only available in French at the moment.
In a nutshell, I’d buy Apollo2 for a someone who loves to cook and experiment with ingredients, but who likes to keep it simple or not fuss over fiddly recipes.
Spinach and Ricotta Quiche
Quiche aux épinards et à la ricotta
Serves :8 as an entree, 4 as a main course
Preparation: 15 minutes
Refrigeration: 15 Minutes
Cooking time: 50 minutes
- 3/4 lb pastry, homemade or store-bought
- 2 cups fresh spinach
- 1 Tbs butter
- 1 cup ricotta
- 3 eggs
- 1/4 grated Parmesan cheese
- salt and pepper to taste
Roll out the pastry and press it into a deep 8″ quiche pan. Refrigerate for 15 minutes. Then precook the pastry shell at 350F for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, remove the thick stems from the spinach, and wash and dry it. Melt the butter in a pan on the stove top. Add the spinach and stir-fry for about 4 minutes. Remove the spinach from the heat and press out the liquid.
In a bowl, vigorously mix together the drained spinach, ricotta and eggs. Add the Parmesan. Salt and pepper to taste. Pour the mixture into the baked pastry shell.
Bake in a preheated oven at 325F for 40 minutes.
Wine accompaniment: Pinot blanc, France (Alsace). Often rich, strong and balanced, this style of wine will delightfully stimulate your tastebuds on your very first sip.