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What are cookbooks for? As someone who writes them, it is tempting to say “to teach us to cook” and “to guide us through many delicious meals year in and year out.”

But, honestly, that’s not the best role for one of the best-selling categories of books. There are books, of course, that will teach you to cook and there are certainly books, lots of them, that will teach you a specific cuisine, all about a specific ingredient, or how to cook in virtually any style you can imagine, from gluten-free and vegan to organic and paleo.

The only thing that surprises me when I survey the nearly countless cookbooks released each season is that there has never been one devoted to an all-chocolate diet.

The most useful contribution cookbooks make to our lives in the kitchen, at least to me, is inspiration. Curling up with a cookbook as one would with a novel or memoir can result in an infusion of inspiration and energy, which is just what I felt when I snuggled into a chair with “From A Breton Garden: The Vegetable Cookery of Josephine Araldo” by Robert Reynolds and Araldo (Addison-Wesley Aris Books, 1990).

Reynolds owned Le Trou in San Francisco, where he was also the restaurant’s chef. He studied with Madeleine Kamman in Annecy, France, opened a cooking school in Portland, Oregon, that his students run today, and mentored for a time with Josephine Araldo, who was born in Brittany in 1897.

Araldo cooked in private homes in San Francisco from 1924 through the 1960s. After she retired, she wrote two collections of recipes and continued to teach both at her home and in Reynolds’ San Francisco restaurant.

In 1990, Reynolds and Araldo collaborated on a beautiful book that gathered together her traditional and innovative vegetable recipes. It is this book — both its recipes and the stories of their collaboration — that provided the inspiration I sought when I perused the cookbooks shelved in every room of my home.

All of today’s recipes are adapted from “From a Breton Garden.”

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Cherries, in part because of their high acidity, work beautifully in savory dishes. In this recipe, I recommend using basil if you don’t have tarragon as it is quite delicious with both green beans and cherries and is often more readily available locally.

Green Beans with Cherries

Serves 6

4 tablespoons butter, plus more as needed

1 pound green beans, trimmed and cut into thin diagonal slices

— Kosher salt

¼ pound ripe cherries, pitted and quartered

2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley

1 tablespoon minced fresh tarragon or basil

1 garlic clove, minced

— Black pepper in a mill

Put the butter into a sauté pan, with the stove set at medium heat, add the green beans, and toss gently to coat them in butter. Season with salt, cover and reduce heat to low; cook until just tender, about 8 to 10 minutes.

Uncover the pan, add the cherries and heat through.

Tip the beans and cherries into a serving bowl. Add the parsley, tarragon or basil, and the garlic and toss gently. Correct for salt, season with several turns of black pepper, and enjoy right away.

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Josephine Araldo’s original recipe calls for a cup of white grapes to be added to the beans just before adding the wine mixture. Because grapes are not currently in season locally, I have omitted them.

Green Beans in Red Wine

Serves 4 to 6

— Kosher salt

½ cup full bodied red wine

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 pound green beans, trimmed and cut into thin diagonal slices

4 tablespoons butter

— Black pepper in a mill

1 egg yolk

1/3 cup heavy cream

3 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley

Fill a medium saucepan half full with water, add a generous tablespoon of salt, and bring to a boil over high heat. When the water reaches a rolling boil, add the green beans and cook until tender, 5 to 8 minutes. Tip out into a colander, shake off excess water and let the beans dry.

Meanwhile, pour the wine and the vinegar into a small saucepan, set over medium heat and simmer until the mixture is reduced to a scant ¼ cup. Set aside.

Put the butter into a medium sauté pan set over medium heat. When the butter is fully melted and has begun to take on a golden hue, add the green beans and toss to coat thoroughly in the butter. Add the wine mixture, season with salt and pepper, cover and remove from the heat.

Put the egg yolk into a small bowl, add the cream and whisk until smooth. Pour into the pan with the green beans and toss gently.

Return the pan to low heat and cook very gently for 3 to 4 minutes. Do not let the liquid boil.

Transfer to a serving dish, scatter the parsley on top, and enjoy right away.

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If you are able to get Normandy cream, by all means, do so, even if it means feeling just a tad guilty. That said, we do have excellent dairy products here so you won’t, of course, go wrong using local cream.

Green Beans from the Brittany Coast

Serves 6 to 8

— Kosher salt

1 1½ pounds green beans, trimmed and cut in 1-inch lengths

½ pound very small potatoes, peeled

4 tablespoons butter

2 shallots, minced

2 garlic cloves, minced

— Black pepper in a mill

¼ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley

Fill a large saucepan half full with water, season with a generous tablespoon of salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the green beans and cook until tender, 4 to 6 minutes. Use a slotted spoon or medium strained to transfer the beans to a wide shallow bowl.

Carefully put the potatoes into the boiling water and cook until they can be easily pierced with a bamboo skewer; the time will vary depending on the size of the potatoes.

Meanwhile, put the butter into a large sauté pan set over medium-low heat. Add the shallots and cook gently, until soft and fragrant, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté 2 minutes more.

Add the beans and potatoes to the pan, toss to coat them in the butter, and heat through. Taste, correct for salt and season with several turns of black pepper.

Tip into a serving bowl, scatter the parsley on top, and enjoy hot.

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Bacon, tomatoes and green beans are one of the greatest food combinations ever. This version varies from Araldo’s original because I’ve used cherry tomatoes instead of larger tomatoes, which won’t be available locally for a few more weeks.

Green Beans with Bacon and Tomatoes

Serves 4 to 6

4 thick bacon slices, cut into ¼-inch wide crosswise strips

1 tablespoon butter

1 pound green beans, trimmed and cut into thin julienne

1 cup homemade chicken stock or vegetable stock

1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered

— Kosher salt

— Black pepper in a mill

1 tablespoon chopped fresh chervil or Italian parsley

Put the bacon and butter into a large sauté pan set over medium-low heat and cook until the bacon loses its raw look and begins to turn crisp. Drain off all but a tablespoon or so of the fat and return the pan to the heat.

Add the green beans, season with a little salt, add the stock and simmer gently until the beans are tender, about10 minutes or a bit longer. Add the tomatoes and simmer 5 minutes more.

Taste, correct for salt, season with black pepper, and transfer to a serving dish. Scatter chervil or parsley on top and enjoy right away.

Michele Anna Jordan is the author of 24 books to date. Email her at michele@micheleannajordan.com

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