"For dinner Mathilde made a tomato tart with fennel salad. She had bought the tomatoes at the market and they spilled juice onto the cutting board as she sliced them open. She always made her own crust and shaped it like a true pâtissier, leveling off the edges until it was flush against the mold. Beneath the tomatoes, she added a layer of parsley pesto and grated cheese."
Caramelized Pear Clafoutis
"The clafoutis sat on the table, the plate hot from the oven. Caramelized slices of pear hid beneath the custard, and the top was sprinkled with shards of toasted almonds. She scooped a portion into a bowl and placed it in front of me. Steam clouded the underside of my spoon. She started speaking almost immediately, as if we had known each other for years."
2 tablespoons salted butter, plus more for the pan
2 pears, peeled and cut into 1-inch slices
¼ cup sugar, plus 2 tablespoons
½ cup whole milk
½ cup heavy cream
½ cup (65g) all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt
¼ cup toasted almond slices
Confectioners’ sugar, for serving
Heat oven to 375ºF with rack in center. Generously butter an 8-inch square or 9-inch round baking pan.
Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a medium nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add pears, sprinkle with 2 tablespoons sugar, and stir to coat in sugar. Cook pears until starting to soften and turn golden, 6–8 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and let cool while you prepare the batter.
In a blender, combine remaining ¼ cup sugar, the milk, cream, eggs, flour, and salt. Blend until combined and frothy, about 1 minute.
Evenly distribute pear slices on the bottom of the pan. Drizzle melted butter and sugar over. Gently pour batter over pears. Bake clafoutis until just set and golden brown on the top, about 35 minutes. Allow to cool for a few minutes.
Just before serving, top with toasted almond slices and dust with confectioners’ sugar. Spoon into bowls while still warm or enjoy at room temperature.
Hot chocolate with buttered toast
"In this heat I would have preferred a bowl of cold cereal, but this was the sole indulgence she liked to offer me on the day of my birth. She made it with whole milk and a dash of cream, and pieces of dark chocolate. She set it on the table in front of me. One year wiser, she said. She watched me eat. I dipped a piece of buttered toast into the chocolate. Pools of salty grease collected on its surface."
1¼ cups whole milk
Dash of heavy cream (about 2 teaspoons)
¼ cup (35g/1.25 oz) finely chopped bittersweet chocolate
Piece of baguette, cut in half
Salted butter, for bread
Place milk and cream in a small pot over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and remove from heat. Add chocolate and whisk or stir with a wooden spoon until melted.
Toast baguette and thickly slather with salted butter. (Better if it’s cultured butter with visible salt crystals.) Pour hot chocolate into a small bowl or cup. Dip toasted bread in hot chocolate and eat, taking breaks to sip from the bowl. The butter will melt into the chocolate, gently flavoring its rich sweetness with salt.
Lettuce with Vinaigrette
"Mathilde asked me to taste the vinaigrette and see if it needed more salt or oil, but of course it was perfect; I could’ve sipped it from the cup. The secret ingredient was a teaspoon of mayonnaise."
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon mayonnaise
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 head of lettuce, washed and dried
A few sprigs of fresh dill, leaves picked
In a small bowl, whisk together mustard, mayonnaise, and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper. Add olive oil, whisking, until emulsified.
Tear lettuce leaves in halves or thirds into a large salad bowl. Add dill, season lightly with salt and pepper, and toss to combine.
Add as much vinaigrette as you like to the salad and toss to combine. Store any remaining vinaigrette in an airtight container in the refrigerator for tomorrow’s salad, or for sopping up with bread.