Cookbook Confidential: “Bistro Cooking” by Patricia Wells


Don’t worry, we didn’t forget the French butter!

More than recipes, an experience!

What I made

A definite thumbs up!

  • 5 to 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 large red bell peppers, cored, seeded, and diced
  • 2 tbs. drained capers
  • 2 tsp. toasted cumin seeds
  • 4 whole porgy, each about 10 oz. (300 g) cleaned, with heads on or substitute sea bream or rainbow trout)
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

      In a medium non-stick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium heat. When oil is hot but not smoking, add the peppers and sauté until cooked through, 4 to five minutes. Off the heat, stir I the capers and cumin. The sauce can be prepared ahead and reheated at serving time.

     Rinse the fish and pat dry. Generously season the cavity of each porgy with salt and pepper. Generously brush the fish with oil. 

     In a large non-stick skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat. When hot but not smoking, add 2 of the fish and cook until opaque through but not firm or dry, 4 to 5 minutes per side. Keep the fish warm while you cook the other, adding more oil as needed.

      Meanwhile, reheat the sauce. Also heat 4 dinner plates until very hot and brush the hot plates with olive oil. 

     When the fish are cooked, season with salt and pepper and place them on the hot oiled dinner plates. Spoon the warmed sauce alongside and serve immediately.

Gratin de Courgettes et Tomates

Tomato and Zucchini Gratin

       This is really two recipes in one, a side dish or a main course if sprinkled with the cheese. I halved the recipe and cooked it in a smaller dish, and still had enough for four side dishes, and I used the Parmesan. She suggested serving this with a Bandol from the Mediterranean, such as Domaine Tempier.        

  • 1 garlic clove, halved
  • 1 pound (500 g.) zucchini (about 2 medium), ends trimmed, thinly sliced
  • 8 small firm tomatoes (about 2 lbs.;1 kg) cored and thinly sliced
  • 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp. freshly mince thyme
  • 1 cup (3.5 oz;100 g) freshly grated imported Parmesan cheese (optional)

      Preheat the oven to 450 F, 230 C.

     Rub the bottom of a large oval porcelain gratin dish about 14” X 9” X 2” (40.5 X 25.5 X 5 cm) with the garlic. Alternating the slices of zucchini and tomato, arrange the vegetables in a single layer over the bottom of the gratin. (this sounds tedius, but it was really quite simple and fast.) Sprinkle with the thyme and the oil, salt, and pepper. 

    Bake, uncovered, until meltingly soft, about 20 minutes. 

      If serving as a side dish, place under the broiler just until lightly browned. If serving as a main course, sprinkle with the Parmesan and broil until the cheese is bubbly and browned.

  Serve immediately. Serves 4.

© Copyright 2023– or current year, The New Vintage Kitchen. Dorothy Grover-Read. Unattributed use of this material is strictly prohibited. Reposting and links may be used, provided that credit is given to The New Vintage Kitchen, with  active link and direction to this original post.

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38 Comments Add yours

  1. Eha says:

    Love both recipes tho’ have to admit that my fare these days has ‘lightened’ considerably – not hard with the Vietnamese, Korean, Malaysian and other lighter dishes common here in Australia. BUT would love the book in spite of a longtime cook book moratorium (they flood every room!0 . . . just to read the stories and remember the delightful meals had on many business trips over . . .

    1. There is indeed plenty of butter in the book, but surprisingly many of the recipes were quite healthful as well. But the stories and background really make this book a treasure!

  2. lisinmayenne says:

    This looks wonderful, Dorothy! I love French cooking (and butter! 😊) but obviously I am a bit biased. Just one question, though . . . what is porgy? ‘Daurade’ is French for sea bream and I’ve never heard of porgy in English. Is it something you have in the States that doesn’t live in Europe? 🤔

    1. Sea bream or Daurade is sometimes called Porgy in US, but when I wrote the article I had to look it up because here in New England we don’t hear the term Porgy. Whatever you call it, the trout, which I can easily find, was delicious!

      1. lisinmayenne says:

        Ah, thank you! I love little language snippets like that. Yes, I can imagine the trout was lovely, it’s such a crowd pleaser when it comes to fish dishes, isn’t it?

      2. Trout has such a sweet mild flavor, and it has a special place in my heart. My dad loved to fish, and he often brought home a creel full of fresh brook trout to my mother’s delight. We kids often fished them ourselves in the stream behind our house. Great memories.

  3. Bernadette says:

    As alway Dot, you have provided your readers with a delightful review filled with great recipes and helpful hints.

    1. Thanks Bernie! It was easy with a book so full of the delicious!

  4. I like cookbooks that provide stories and comments and not just recipes, thanks for the review Dorothy~

    1. Thanks for stopping by! The stories really make this book!

  5. a great chef and I have several of her cookbooks. Her first hand knowledge about Italian cooking is awesome and I learned several techniques from her work.

    1. She is definitely a chef I would love to cook with, or even just watch!

  6. Chef Mimi says:

    I’ve had this book forever and I love it! You picked some great recipes.

    1. Thanks Mimi! I asked myself “what do I want for dinner?” These jumped out at me, and I’m glad they did!

  7. The book is a classic for a reason. Both dishes look fabulous! 🙂

    1. Thanks Ronit! They were delicious, and really simple to make as well.

  8. Suzassippi says:

    I loved the story along with this! The gratin looks wonderful; I might have to try that one tonight!

    1. Thanks Suz! They were both incredibly tasty and really easy as well!

    2. Sounds like a delightful book that celebrates the good life. And a whole chapter about potatoes? Yes, please!

      1. I know Laurie! Any book that has a whole chapter on potatoes deserves a place on my shelf!!!

  9. Christy B says:

    I love that it includes personal stories with the recipes! That’s one of the things I like so much about your posts here, Dorothy xx

    1. Anonymous says:

      Thanks so much Christy! I try to put al little love in my posts, a story even if it is just a chat at the farmers market! Food is about connections after all, whether around the table or across the blogosphere! ~ Dorothy

  10. Your veggie dish is a masterpiece and paired with the fish is a wonderful meal!

  11. Y’all just picked a good cookbook to explore and create from!

    1. As I said, how did I ever miss this one all these years? I know I must have seen it, and I’ve read some of her other books. One of those educational gaps!

  12. Hi, Dorothy – Yum!!! I will definitely try that Tomato and Zucchini Gratin. Thakns so much for sharing this!

    1. Thanks Donna! They were delicious and easy!

  13. nancyc says:

    I’d like to try that Tomato and Zucchini Gratin sometime… that sounds great! 🙂

    1. It was ready fast and easy Nancy, and tasted so good. It was also pretty to play with and then eat!

  14. NativeNM says:

    My husband would love this as well and he’s hard to please when it comes to vegetables. And we both love trout so a great meal all around!

    1. Thanks Jan! It all went together beautifully!

  15. Fish with bell peppers and cumin, what an unusual combination (that I’ve never encountered in France). Didn’t the tomato and zucchini get watery?

    1. I know, it was different. The cumin was definitely drowned out by the peppers, so I’d either use a bit more or leave it out altogether.
      Luckily, the garlic tomatoes and zucchini held up well, but I was careful not to overcook them.

  16. Elizabeth says:

    Did you catch the trout? As a child we caught then in high mountain lakes in Oregon and cooked them over the fire. No fancy treatments though. LOL

    1. I did not catch these, but they were wild!
      I grew up with a small stream behind my house and we kids often fished our supper like you Elizabeth! Of course, we also had to learn to clean them as well!

      1. Elizabeth says:

        I never have to use that skill any more!

  17. A true classic and I don’t think the recipes will ever go completely out of date…perhaps just adjusted to todays tastes sometimes.

    1. I agree Karen, it’s already stood the test of quite a bit of time!

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