Eléonor Picciotto’s love affair with French cuisine and all things culinary began as a child. Growing up in Paris, she had a mother who didn’t like to be in the kitchen and would put her in charge of dinner. The experience came in handy when Picciotto (COM’11) arrived at BU. Undeterred by the lack of a kitchen in the dorms, she managed to whip up angel hair pasta, couscous, and tabbouleh armed with only a hotpot. Now living in New York, she has a kitchen of her own and has graduated to more advanced dishes like cured bresaola and Nutella roulé.
Picciotto’s culinary inventiveness and her love of fresh, healthy, French-influenced food inspired her to write French Cuisine for the Young and Broke, a cookbook of fast, easy, and healthy recipes, which she self-published earlier this month. It’s already gaining attention: Entertainment Weekly singled the title out in its December 9 issue as the “best name for a cookbook,” and over 200 people attended the cookbook’s launch party in Manhattan.
French Cuisine takes readers through the entire dining experience—from appetizers to desserts—and provides easy-to-follow instructions for 150 recipes using minimal, inexpensive ingredients and equipment. In addition to tried-and-true recipes such as marinated chicken, Picciotto writes step-by-step directions for French crepes and a shockingly simple 10-minute soup.
Picciotto says her experience at BU helped motivate her to write the book. “My friends and I formed a supper club at BU where we would take turns hosting dinner every week,” she recalls. “One night I was running really late and I was in charge of dessert, so I rifled through my fridge to see what I could find, and all I had were apples.” Mashing cooked apples with a little bit of cinnamon, she rushed off to the party. Her friends raved, to her surprise.
“I found myself observing how my friends ate, and they didn’t seem to have a sense of how to combine and prepare ingredients,” Picciotto says. “When someone orders a pizza, it’s $12, but for the same price you can have an amazing meal, and you don’t need unnecessary and unhealthy ingredients. It doesn’t take hours to create a dinner.”
Picciotto began writing the cookbook after she tore a ligament and broke her femur as a member of the BU ski team during her sophomore year. Doctors prohibited skiing for the next 18 months and ordered her to rest for six weeks in a thigh-to-ankle cast. She soon went stir-crazy.
“I’m an energetic person, and if I didn’t start a project soon I was going to kill someone,” she says, laughing. “My friends reminded me that I love to eat and I love to write, so they suggested that I write a cookbook. I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but the more I wrote, the more ideas I got, and it became a real, concrete project.”
The book took a year and a half to complete. Writing the recipes was tedious, Picciotto says, because she had to remind herself to make every step as clear as she could. Her friend Ben Timmins (CAS’11, COM’11) took photos for the book and another friend helped design it.
Many of Picciotto’s recipes are inspired by her day-to-day diet, family and friends, and the great restaurant meals she has had. A lot of times, she looks through her fridge to see what ingredients she has, and improvises with those. “Within a week I try to get down the right measurements, ingredients, and taste,” she says. “It usually takes about three times to get the perfect recipe.”
She blogs about cooking from home, and is currently working as a marketing intern for a well known Manhattan-based jeweler, but will be moving to Geneva soon for a full-time job with a Swiss watch company. But for now, she cooks dinner almost every night and is on call for friends who need dinner ideas.
“Whenever I’m tired, I remind myself that I shouldn’t have to spend money on something that is less good than what I could make,” she says. “I want to know exactly what I’m putting in my mouth.”
This recipe takes only 15 minutes and requires no cooking. Picciotto writes that it is best served as a simple appetizer with blinis or toast. Diced cucumber, ginger, and tomatoes, can also be added. Makes 2 servings.
- 1 pound of very fresh salmon
- ½ a grapefruit
- 1 avocado
- 2 tablespoons of diced red pepper
- 1 lemon
- 1 teaspoon of mustard
- 2 teaspoons of olive oil
- Some aneth (dill)
- A pinch of salt and pepper
- Take the piece of salmon, remove the skin, and cut the flesh in dices.
- Dice the avocado and grapefruit. Make sure you remove both skins.
- In a large bowl, mix the olive oil, mustard, lemon juice, salt, and pepper.
- Add the diced salmon, avocado, grapefruit, and pepper to the bowl and stir them all together.
- Serve by filling a cup with the salmon mix and flip it upside down on the plate. Serve very fresh.
The printed edition of French Cuisine for the Young and Broke is available for $35. To purchase, email Eléonor Picciotto at email@example.com. An e-version of the book will be released soon, and will be less expensive than the printed copy.