There are several writers that produce excellent cookbooks. There are, conversely, several cooks that are fantastic writers. Among the great cooks that produce books, few are as legendary as Jacques Pépin. As renowned as Pépin is, I would think that exploring one of his works would be a daunting task to the timid, let alone the well-seasoned. Here is a gentleman that has cooked for countless French Presidents, produced numerous television series and teamed with the Grande Dame, Julia Childs, to tandem create a phenomenally successful series on instructing us on just exactly how to cook. His tomes on technique are legendary in the classroom as well as in the working kitchen. To learn from Pépin is to learn from a living legend. End of story.
Jacques Pépin creates food that is as intriguing to the palate as it is to the cook reproducing it. Classical French cuisine is laced in ambiguity and subtlety. French recipes are often laborious, rich in preparation and just as rich, often, in caloric content. Which, judging by the taste of a well-executed dish is quite acceptable to ingest the fat-content equal to that of small midwestern creamery in one sitting of a fantastic French feast. Nonetheless, in our overly rushed day, we do not necessarily have the requisite time to create a meal worthy of the Jacques Pépin stamp of approval. To boot, the flurry of our day is often the result of racing to and from the gym to work off the meal we don't have time to prepare. A paradox, really.
Most fortunate for us, Pépin penned Simple and Healthy Cooking. And it is what he represents. Wonderfully flavored recipes, succinctly written and light on the lard. Mind you, the good eats we expect, especially from Mr. Pépin do not fall short. Scallop Wontons with Tomato Sauce does not fail to impress with great flavor. And with a scant 10 ingredients, there is little room to spend too much time preparing this and many other dishes. Turkey Steaks with Grape and Currant Sauce is one of my favorites in the book, topped only by Sautéed Chicken Legs with Garlic Slivers and Balsamic Vinegar.
Pépin utilizes several fish specimens to keep the Healthy part of the book true. There is no shortcoming for carnivores, however. Plenty of veal dishes, like Veal Roast with Shiitake Mushrooms and Onions, make their way into Simple and Healthy Cooking. He is sure to follow each recipe with nutritional information, in case you do not trust him. For planning, the book is rich in menu designs, including nutritionals for the entire meal. A great help for the uninspired. The asides on specific components of some of the dishes make for an interesting read. The layout is also visually appealing color photographs accompany most of the dishes. If you can get your creation to look like these, you are well on the road to successful cooking. You don't have to worry about the intended taste coming from Jacques Pépin, there is little room for error.