The words quick and French are not necessarily a contradiction in cooking terms. On the contrary, each time I go back to France I pick up a few more short cuts to put into practice at home.

Take baked oysters, for example. With an "R" in the month and oysters back in season, I've happily taken to baking them in ramekins, bypassing the bother of the half shell. Here is the chance to use freshly shucked oysters that are so conveniently sold in jars. When cooked at high heat with fresh herbs and butter, the oysters steam in their own juices so their flavor develops to the full. True, the presentation may be less spectacular than on the shell, but pretty little flowered ramekins are their own decoration.

Quiche may seem a cliche', but not this version, which unites the vegetables of late summer with a topping of cheese and cream. Provenc ale mixtures like these are an invitation to invention. Bell peppers of all colors can be added for instance, and the herbs can vary with the season. Anchovy and olives would be good additions too, and I see nothing wrong with including a can of flaked tuna if you prefer a more substantial main dish.

As for dessert, hot lemon souffle' must be the perfect end to almost any dinner. The disadvantage of a souffle' -- the need to prepare it at the last minute -- does not hold here. The lemon mixture can be made ahead, so the only last-minute task is to whip the egg whites -- a three-minute job in the mixer. Guests will hardly notice your absence from the table and the souffle' will be ready 15 minutes later. Just long enough to build up an atmosphere of eager expectation.

TIMETABLE Once the quiche is made, dinner takes less than an hour to prepare.

Up to one day ahead: Make quiche and refrigerate. Chill the wine.

Up to four hours before serving: Assemble oysters in ramekins. Cook lemon souffle' mixture and keep at room temperature.

Forty-five minutes before serving: Heat quiche in a low oven.

Twenty minutes before serving: Remove quiche from oven and keep warm. Raise temperature to 425 degrees.

Fifteen minutes before serving: Bake oysters; leave oven on.

After serving quiche: Finish and bake lemon souffle'. BAKED OYSTER IN HERB BUTTER (6 servings)

Scallops can also be used for this recipe.

24 to 30 medium (1 pint) shucked oysters

6 tablespoons butter

4 shallots, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

1 tablespoon chopped chives

1 tablespoon chopped tarragon

Salt and pepper to taste

French bread, black pepper and vinegar for serving

Drain oysters and divide them among six 1-cup ramekins. In a small pan, melt butter, add shallots, and cook until soft -- about 2 minutes. Let cool. Add garlic, parsley, chives, tarragon, salt, and pepper and spoon over oysters. Seal the ramekins with foil. Ramekins can be refrigerated up to 4 hours.

To finish, heat the oven to 425 degrees. Bake oysters just until edges curl, 12 to 14 minutes. Serve at once, leaving guests to remove the foil at table and season their oysters with pepper and vinegar. Serve with French bread to absorb the juices.


Take advantage of the last of summer's bounty.

4 to 5 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, chopped

1 1/2 pounds tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 sprigs fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried thyme

Salt and pepper to taste

1 small eggplant

2 zucchini

3 ounces gruye`re cheese, thinly sliced

10-inch quiche shell made with pa~te brise'eSTART NOTEcqEND NOTE (recipe follows)


2 eggs

1/2 cup whipping cream

Pinch grated nutmeg

In a frying pan, heat 2 tablespoons oil and fry onion until soft but not brown. Add tomatoes, garlic, thyme, salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture is quite thick, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, peel eggplant and cut in 3-by-8-by-2-inch strips. Wipe zucchini and cut also in strips. In a frying pan heat 2 more tablespoons oil and add eggplant with salt and pepper. Saute', stirring, until tender and slightly browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove eggplant. Add zucchini with salt and pepper, and more oil if needed, and fry until tender but still firm, 2 to 3 minutes.

Spread half the cheese in a layer in the quiche shell. Add half the tomato mixture and top with the eggplant. Cover with remaining tomato mixture and top with zucchini, arranging sticks like the spokes of a wheel.

Whisk together the eggs, cream, nutmeg, salt and pepper and pour over the vegetables. Top with remaining cheese. Bake quiche in a 375-degree oven until browned and the custard is set, 20 to 25 minutes. The quiche can be made up to a day ahead and refrigerated. Warm it in a low oven just before serving.


1 1/2 cups flour

6 tablespoons butter

1 egg yolk

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons cold water, more if needed

10-inch quiche pan with removable base

Sift flour onto a marble slab or board and make a large well in the center. Lightly pound butter to soften. Place butter, egg yolk, salt and water in the well and work together with your fingertips. Gradually work in flour, pulling dough into large crumbs. If the crumbs are dry, sprinkle in a tablespoon more water. Press dough firmly together -- it should be soft but not sticky. Work on a lightly floured surface, pushing dough away with the heel of your hand and gathering it up with a dough scraper until smooth and pliable. Press dough into a ball, wrap it in paper and chill for 30 minutes.

Butter a 10-inch quiche pan with a removable base. Roll out pastry on a floured surface, line pan with dough and chill until firm, at least 15 minutes.

Prick base of shell with a fork, line dough with aluminum foil, and fill with dried beans or rice. Baked in a 400-degree oven until pastry is set and beginning to brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Remove foil and beans or rice, return quiche shell to the oven, and continue baking until crisp and brown, 5 to 7 minutes.


There's nothing here to dull the refreshing edge of lemon.

6 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup lemon juice

1 cup sugar

6 egg yolks

Grated zest 3 lemons

7 egg whites

Confectioners' sugar for sprinkling

In a heavy pan, heat butter with lemon juice and half the sugar until butter and sugar melt. Take from the heat and beat in egg yolks, one by one, then the lemon zest. Heat very gently, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens to the consistency of heavy cream, about 5 minutes. Lemon mixture can be made up to 4 hours ahead and kept at room temperature.

To finish, generously butter a 1 1/2-quart souffle' dish and heat oven to 425 degrees. Beat the egg whites until stiff. Add remaining sugar and beat until glossy, about 20 seconds. Stir a quarter of the egg whites into the lemon mixture and then gently fold this mixture into remaining egg whites. Pour mixture into prepared souffle' dish and smooth the surface. Bake until the souffle' is puffed and brown, 15 to 18 minutes. Sprinkle with confectioners' sugar and serve at once