Side Dish: Generous Table

Heather Christo already had an impressive resumé — trained chef, food blogger, party planner, television personality, wife and mother — before she decided to tackle cookbook writing.

Fans of cookbooks that inspire and offer recipes without a lot of fuss will be glad she did.

To create her book, “Heather Christo’s Generous Table: Easy & Elegant Recipes Through the Seasons,” Christo writes that she spent a year making notes on the wedding and baby showers, holiday celebrations, family birthdays and other meals she shared with family and friends.

She says the result is a “cookbook with benefits.” Besides offering recipes for food that looks and tastes good, she shares tips and tricks for entertaining.

She also provides 20 menus for various get-togethers, both casual and more formal, plus ideas for adding creative touches to the table setting.

The book’s recipes aren’t divided by courses as most cookbooks are. Instead, they are divided by season, beginning with spring. Each season features five menus. Among them are Greek Easter feast (Her husband’s family is Greek.), ladies’ luncheon, boys breakfast, backyard barbecue, Sunday dinner, Halloween supper, game night and New Year’s Eve cocktail party.

Because Christo lives in the Northwest, her seasonal food choices don’t always quite match with what’s available in south Louisiana at that same time of year.

Among the book’s yummy recipes are Natalie’s North Carolina Slaw, Roasted Pork Tenderloin Sandwich With Zesty Roasted Red Pepper Spread, Greek Chicken and Potatoes; Spicy Arugula With Candied Pecans and Balsamic Dressing; Almond Ricotta Pound Cake; Raspberry Peach Prosecco Punch; and Merriann’s Melt-a-ways.

The book, beautifully illustrated with full-color photographs by Jim Henkens and Christo, is a winner, brimming with lots of ideas for easy entertaining. A definite keeper.

Cheramie Sonnier is The Advocate’s Food editor. Her email address is

Advocate-tested recipe

Lemon Tart With an Almond Shortbread Crust

Serves 8. Recipe is from “Heather Christo’s Generous Table: Easy & Elegant Recipes Through the Seasons” (Kyle Books; May 2013). Christo writes, “I am a sucker for lemon anything. But when it comes to lemon sweets, I obsess over lemon bars on a regular basis.”

Almond shortbread crust:

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup powdered sugar, plus more for sifting

1 cup unsalted butter, cold

1 cup slivered almonds

1/2 tsp. salt

Handful of edible flowers, for garnish

Lemon filling:

3 eggs

11/2 cups granulated sugar

3 tbls. all-purpose flour

Zest of 3 lemons

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a 10-inch round tart pan with a removable bottom with cooking spray.

2. First make the almond shortbread crust: In the bowl of a food processor, combine the flour, powdered sugar, butter, almonds and salt. This crust has to have some sturdiness to it, so mix the dough until it has really come together and the almonds are completely combined. Transfer the dough to the prepared pan and, using your fingers or a spatula, firmly press the dough onto the bottom of the pan. Using your fingers, bring the dough up the sides of the tart pan to create a thick and even crust on the edges. Poke a few holes into the dough with a fork to release steam while par-baking the crust.

3. Bake for 15 minutes, until the crust is barely golden. When you take it out of the oven, press the crust down with a spatula to release any steam bubbles that may have formed. I also run a spoon along the inside sides of the pan to make sure there is a nice round edge on the sides of the crust.

4. While the crust is baking, make the lemon filling: In a medium mixing bowl, whisk the eggs until fluffy. Add the sugar, whisking constantly, until well combined. Add the flour and mix well. Finally whisk in the lemon zest and juice.

5. Pour the filling over the hot crust when it comes out of the oven, and return it to the oven to cook for another 15 minutes, until the custard is just set and a little golden on top. (Be careful that you don’t add so much filling that it spills over the crust line — the custard will bake the crust to the pan, making it very difficult to remove.)

6. Let the tart cool in the pan for 15 minutes. While still warm, carefully pop the edge of the tart pan off the tart. Place the tart on a platter and cool completely.

7. When the tart is cool, sift powdered sugar over the top and garnish with the edible flowers. Slice the tart and serve each piece with a little freshly whipped, unsweetened whipped cream or a scoop of coconut sorbet.