"Just blueberries", a Norwegian expression illustrated by Melina Josserand.

Whenever I host a giveaway, I strive to craft a question that will encourage creative and thoughtful responses: this is […]

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  • May 27, 2015
Caramelized Sesame Chocolate Bar

Not long after my second son was born, I received a message from Audrey, a reader I’d been conversing with […]

  • 28
  • May 19, 2015
May 2015 Desktop Calendar

At the beginning of every month in 2015, I am offering a new wallpaper to apply on the desktop of […]

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  • May 1, 2015
Fresh garlic

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Springtime Pot-au-feu

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Black Sesame Panna Cotta

I have been enjoying Kaori Endo‘s food for years, from when she was cooking at Rose Bakery, to her charming […]

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Around the World in 30 Food Expressions

"Just blueberries", a Norwegian expression illustrated by Melina Josserand.

"Just blueberries", a Norwegian expression illustrated by Melina Josserand.

Whenever I host a giveaway, I strive to craft a question that will encourage creative and thoughtful responses: this is both so you’ll feel engaged in the conversation and, more selfishly, so I get to read through your entries and learn and smile and be inspired.

When my latest book Edible French came out last fall and I gave away copies, you were entered by submitting your favorite food-related expression in any language you liked.

I know you share my love of languages so I wasn’t surprised to see you come through with dozens of curious and delicious expressions. Since then I’ve been meaning to draw a short selection to highlight in a post, and this is it! Many thanks to all who contributed, and feel free to share more in the comments!

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Edible French

Poland: Letting someone in the raspberry bushes (Wpuścić kogoś w maliny) means that you knowingly set someone up for difficulties, getting lost and confused, losing their way, etc.

Korea: Someone is described as chicken skin (느끼해) when they’re super cheesy. The expression refers to super oily and greasy bland foods that make you feel gross.

Poland: Being served duck blood soup (Czarna polewka) means being rejected romantically. Duck blood soup was served by the parents of the young woman to the man whose proposal was being turned down.

Holland: Having an apple to peel with someone (Hij heeft een appeltje met hem te schillen) means having a bone to pick with someone, i.e. bringing a complaint against someone.

Germany: Having raisins in one’s head (Rosinen im Kopf haben) means having big ideas.

Germany: A freshly baked mom (Frisch gebackene mama) is used for a woman who’s just had a baby.

Spain: Being even in the soup (Estar hasta en la sopa) is said of someone who’s overly present, such as a celebrity appearing in every talk show.

Pakistan/India (Punjabi): You are like a blob of soft butter, a bowl of fresh cream and a crystal of sweet sugar (Makkhan de pedeo, malaai de duneo, mishri di dali) is a flirtatious expression for a pretty village belle.

"One day honey, one day onion"

“One day honey, one day onion”

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Caramelized Sesame Chocolate Bar

Not long after my second son was born, I received a message from Audrey, a reader I’d been conversing with via emails and comments, who wanted to recommend a recipe drawn from the French blog La Belle au blé dormant*. It was a recipe for dark chocolate bites garnished with squash seeds, sunflower seeds, and caramelized sesame, which both she and the blog’s author Nolwenn had found instrumental in surviving the first few weeks with a newborn.

I read through the recipe and at first the idea of my finding the time and brain bandwidth to make something like this seemed laughable, but it turns out my appetite for chocolate is strong enough to move mountains: I could not get that recipe out of my head, and within a few days I was indeed preparing a modified version for myself — one with just the sesame — accomplishing one small step at a time in between maternal duties.

The smooth bitterness of the dark chocolate combined with the crunchy, nutty, caramelized sweetness of the sesame clusters made for a sublime combination, and already I knew that chocolate bar would not live to see the end of the week.

On one morning, I toasted the sesame seeds. Later, I made the caramel, mixed in the sesame, and broke up that (tasty, tasty) sesame bark into small clusters. The next day, I dug out my digital probe thermometer and tempered the chocolate (yes, tempered the chocolate, that’s how ambitious I was), stirred in the caramelized sesame nuggets, and poured the mixture into a narrow loaf pan.

A couple of hours later, when the dust had settled and the chocolate had set, I unmolded the thick bar, had a taste, and my eyes rolled back into their sockets: this was insanely! good! The smooth bitterness of the dark chocolate** combined with the crunchy, nutty, caramelized sweetness of the sesame clusters made for a sublime combination, and already I knew that chocolate bar would not live to see the end of the week.

I have since made several more batches of that chocolate bliss, and even invested in two silicone molds such as these to make actual bars with breakable squares (the faint swirls in that picture indicate I failed to temper the chocolate properly that day; I’m still not a pro at it, and the baby was crying). Some of these bars went straight into my belly, others were given away as gifts — one of them to a new mother — and I am happy to say they made a gratifying impression on the recipients.

I’ll note that if you don’t have the time or inclination to make the actual bars, you should consider making just the caramelized sesame: it’s extremely easy and a wonderful treat in its own right.

Join the conversation!

Have you ever made your own chocolate bars? What recipe did you use and how did you like the results?

PS: Make this wonderful Cinnamon Granola Chocolate Slab or these easy Ginger and Almond Chocolate Clusters, and make sure you know How To Taste Chocolate!

* Allow me to explain the pun: La Belle au bois dormant (literally, “the beauty sleeping in the woods”) is French for Sleeping Beauty, and the author of this allergy-conscious blog has replaced bois (woods) by blé (wheat).

** I use Valrhona’s Manjari 64% couverture chocolate.

Caramelized Sesame Chocolate Bar

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Homemade Croûtons

I hesitate to write this for fear of sounding like I’m bragging, but when it comes to baguettes I am spoiled for choice: within a five-minute walk of my house there are four boulangeries that have won the Best Baguette in Paris award at some point (including one two-time winner!) and three or four more whose baguette skills are very much on par.

This means we never want for a crusty, pointy loaf to go with our soups and our cheese and our spreads, but it also means the temptation of buying a fresh one often leads us to neglect the end section of the previous one, which soon goes stale in its kitchen towel.

Throwing out bread is out of the question, and my go-to trick to upcycle these leftovers is to make croûtons. It takes just about five minutes to cube the baguette and toss it with olive oil, dried herbs, a bit of garlic, and a touch of salt; another ten to bake the croûtons to golden perfection. To save energy, I usually season the croûtons when I have time, then set them aside and wait until I’ve fired up the oven for another use to slip them in.

The resulting croûtons are a treat in and of themselves, but I also like to keep a container at the ready to add to my clean-the-fridge soups, my grated carrots and beets salads, and whatever else would seem to benefit from a crunchy finish.

Join the conversation!

Do you buy or make your own croûtons? What do you like to flavor them with, and use them in?

PS: My very own sourdough baguettes, plus other uses for day-old bread: chocolate almond bettelman, panzanella and gazpacho.

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Parents Who Cook: Emily Mazo-Rizzi

Emily Mazo-Rizzi is an American who has been living in Paris since 1999, where she was initially working as an Internet project manager. She then went back to the United States for a year to train as a Pilates instructor, and has been teaching Pilates in Paris since 2010. She is married to a Frenchman, Bruno, and food and cooking have always been a central part of their life together.

I have known Emily for ten years, ever since she first got in touch as a reader of Chocolate & Zucchini, and over this decade she has become my very own Pilates teacher and a cherished friend. Her (adorable) daughter Olivia was born a few months after my own son Milan, so we have shared many a parenting conversation, and I have been so inspired by her way of involving Olivia in the kitchen that I knew I had to have her as a guest of my Parents Who Cook series. She was kind enough to accept my invitation, and I hope you enjoy reading about her approach. Thank you Emily!

clotilde

Can you tell us a few words about your daughter? Her age, name, and temperament?

Emily Mazo-Rizzi

Olivia is two and a half as I write. She is easygoing, observant, calm, curious, sweet, loves to move and loves to laugh. She adores cooking with us. She’s hesitant about trying new foods and shy about meeting new people, but ends up trying and warming up.

clotilde

Did having a child change the way you cook?

Emily Mazo-Rizzi

Most definitely. In fact I think there is not a single aspect of my life that hasn’t changed since having a child! My husband Bruno and I used to spend well over an hour cooking dinner together each night. Our meals were not necessarily elaborate but we had two or three different things on our plates, or a starter and main course. Now we tend to have one-dish meals or one hot dish and one cold — usually some kind of a salad.

I am a Pilates instructor and work two evenings a week, so Bruno prepares meals on those evenings. The other nights I usually start preparing our meal while Olivia eats, then he takes over while I give her a bath. We haven’t gotten organized enough yet to eat early and together on weeknights, but that will be our goal for next fall.

clotilde

Do you remember what it was like to cook with a newborn? Any tips or saving grace for new parents going through that phase?

Emily Mazo-Rizzi

Part of my nesting in preparing for Olivia’s arrival was making tomato sauce. She was born in October so we had good tomatoes from our farmer at the greenmarket until then. Bruno would laugh at me because we’d buy one or two kilos of tomatoes a week, and I’d cook them up into sauce and freeze them. It reassured me to know that when our baby was born we’d at least have homemade tomato sauce to put on pasta or make some sautéed veggies more interesting. We also made and froze a lot of chicken broth for risottos, soups, sauces. I think preparing your own food in advance is a great way to be ready for the baby’s birth.

Then when the baby arrived there was more take-out than we’ve ever had before or since. Bruno proudly donned his role as hunter-gatherer and headed out into cold, usually rainy, and then snowy Paris to come back with simple things to prepare. We love our greens so there were always vegetables. We also tried to make extra so there would be leftovers for the next day.

In the US, friends and family bring food to new parents. I wish that were the case in Paris! I think if I have another child I will be more forward and tell our friends coming to meet the baby: “Please don’t bring us any more baby presents; please bring us dinner!” A few American friends did and we were so grateful.

Olivia making cinnamon cookies

Olivia making cinnamon cookies

clotilde

Over time, have you developed staple dishes or strategies that make it possible to prepare a meal and keep the kid happy at the same time?

Emily Mazo-Rizzi

We try to prepare Olivia’s food in advance; it started when she was a baby. On Sunday, we’d go to the greenmarket and use our fresh produce to concoct industrial quantities of apple sauce or other fruit compotes, puréed carrots, potatoes, zucchini, etc. Just like another parent featured in this column, Tamami Haga, we also freeze everything flat in zip-lock bags. We have a small freezer so it helps to save space. (Be sure to label and date everything!)

As Olivia has moved beyond purées, we’ve continued to prepare food for her in advance and freeze it. It’s amazing how many things freeze really well. She loves Clotilde’s roasted cauliflower minus the fish sauce; I just made a batch for her last night. Now that she’s older, we also try to make extra of what we have for dinner and she’ll eat it the next night. For her starch we have a wide variety of pasta, rice, and grains on hand. I also cook, purée and freeze potatoes and sweet potatoes. I add vegetables to everything, for example: mashed potatoes AND zucchini, mashed sweet potato AND Hokkaido squash, omelet with spinach or Swiss chard, etc.

Olivia was in her baby seat in the kitchen with us at a pretty young age, so she’s used to it. As she got older she would play with toys or draw while we cooked. I kept special toys in the kitchen just for the high chair. Now, she eats while we cook our meal and she helps cook her own.

Olivia rolling out the dough for cinnamon cookies

Olivia rolling out the dough for cinnamon cookies

clotilde

Have you found ways to involve your daughter in the cooking process?

Emily Mazo-Rizzi

Olivia began cooking with us just before she turned two. I started by having her make cookies with me on a Saturday morning when we didn’t have any time constraints. She helped me measure: scooping ingredients, pressing the buttons on the scale. Then she pressed the buttons on the food processor. She loves watching it go! Then cutting the cookies into shapes, placing them on the tray. At some point I “sacrificed” some dough and let her play with it. When our product was complete she gave an enthusiastic “Woooow!” and was delighted to taste!

Now we try to give her any task she can manage. Putting salt in the pot before we pour in the boiling water for pasta or a grain. Deveining spinach is a great sorting game; washing it is a lot of fun! She takes the frozen food out of bags and discovers the cold and wet feeling. She helps cut butter to put on her quinoa, bulgur, or other grain. We’re teaching her to pour carefully, stir, beat, and even cut. She enjoys brushing olive oil and vegetables to grill. Bruno has her put her hand on his when he cuts soft things like avocado or beet, and she knows to “puuuush”, she truly guides the movement. When I cut she says, “Watch your fingers, Mommy!” She takes things out of the fridge and puts them away upon request.

I think it works for us because she has come to understand that the kitchen is an important place for our family. We’ve taught her that cooking is a privilege and she knows that if she doesn’t follow instructions she loses the privilege. She has been very upset when that has happened, so it happens rarely.

Olivia manning the gas stove (!)

Olivia manning the gas stove (!)

clotilde

As someone who’s passionate about food, can you talk about the joys and challenges of feeding your child, and how you go about teaching her to be a happy, adventurous eater?

Emily Mazo-Rizzi

We were so incredibly excited for Olivia to try solid food, we thought she would open her mouth, taste, swallow and ask for more. We were sorely disappointed. Puréed carrots were at first some bizarre form of torture. This initial experience was indicative of the ups and downs of the whole process of teaching a child about food. As young children try foods for the first time, it’s important to stay calm and not feel offended when your child rejects the dish you just spent hours preparing. Freeze the leftovers and then try and try again! I can’t remember where I heard or read a pediatrician say a child has to try a food thirty times before determining that he or she really and truly does not like it!

Olivia is resistant to trying new things. We ask her to taste one bite, sometimes she does, sometimes she doesn’t, and then we don’t make her finish it if she doesn’t want to. We do know, however, that even though she resists trying, she usually ends up eating the thing and liking it.

We tend to be more strict at home about having her eat all or most of her meal before moving on to yogurt or fruit. When we’re out at restaurants or with friends, we offer her a bit of everything and don’t make a big deal if she doesn’t eat a well-rounded meal. Learning to choose your battles is another key to parenting in general, and to happy meals.

Like so many things children learn by example. We see mealtime as a fun, relaxing and pleasant time to eat delicious foods, try new foods and be together as a family. We feed her things we eat ourselves and always encourage her to taste. She wants to do what we do, she wants to eat what we eat. We even feed her things we don’t like — beets and sheep’s milk yogurt for example — and she loves them. Maybe we have to try them thirty times too!

Olivia

May 2015 Desktop Calendar

At the beginning of every month in 2015, I am offering a new wallpaper to apply on the desktop of your computer, with a food-related picture and a calendar of the current month.

The desktop calendar is available in two versions: a US-friendly version that features Sunday as the first day of the week, and a French version (shown above) that complies with international standards, featuring Monday as the first day of the week.

Our calendar for May is a photo of happy strawberries, grown in actual soil and picked ripe, which means they are as flavorsome and fragrant as they are fragile: this kind of strawberry is necessarily local and is best eaten within a day or two of purchase, but that’s rarely a problem at my house. If you’re seeking inspiration, check out these strawberry recipes.

Instructions to get your calendar are below.

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