It's a new day

I can’t say that November has been a good month. Except that I am alive and well, and my family […]

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  • November 26, 2015
Paris cheese shop

Walking into a Paris cheese shop can be a daunting affair if you don’t know what you’re looking for, or […]

  • 10
  • November 24, 2015
Sweet Potatoes

The sweet potato is an incredibly versatile tuber, but I tend to prepare them in the same two or three […]

  • 34
  • November 4, 2015
Chocolate Marble Cake

Cake marbré au chocolat I grew up eating a store-bought chocolate marble cake called Savane. Created in the sixties by […]

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  • Favorite
  • November 10, 2009
Spaghetti Squash Gratin with Bacon and Walnuts

Gratin de courge spaghetti, noix et lardons It saddens me when people attemp to pass off food items as something […]

  • 55
  • Favorite
  • November 24, 2009
Quince Jelly

I haven’t made much jam lately. I was very excited about the process when I was just learning about it […]

  • 39
  • Favorite
  • November 3, 2010

Best of November

It's a new day

I can’t say that November has been a good month. Except that I am alive and well, and my family and friends are too, and what more is there to be thankful for? It is my most heartfelt wish for all of you who read this. I am also incredibly grateful that the many messages I received in which you expressed your concern and sent words of support. It has meant more to me than you can imagine.

One of the strangest things when such dramatic events happen, is that life does go on.

Even as we keep the victims and those who loved them in our thoughts, we continue to go out, to eat at restaurants, to play with our kids at the playground, to take the metro, to go to the movies, to have drinks with friends.

It is a leap of faith, that whole business of hoping that you won’t be in the wrong place at the wrong time, though you don’t deserve it more than anyone else living alongside you in the same city.

But surely it is the only possible response to terror: #jenaipaspeur#iamnotafraid.

And so, in the spirit of not letting the bad guys win, I give you some happy highlights from my November, and I wish a heart-warming day and a marvellous feast to those of you who celebrate Thanksgiving today.

Good eats

Best of November 2015

• I had a wonderful meal at Le Potager de Charlotte (Charlotte’s vegetable patch), a new vegan restaurant that opened on rue Condorcet in Paris’ 9th arrondissement. My eggplant with sunflower seed “bolognaise” was amazing, and it is wonderful to see a restaurant-style, vegan cuisine that’s delicate and sophisticated. Here’s the Snapchat story I made from the experience (more on that below!).

• I have been doing research for an article about the best croissants in Paris (such hardship) and Gontran Cherrier’s is high on my list.

• I had lunch at Le Tricycle, a micro-resto on rue de Paradis (10th arrondissement) that serves ital cuisine and makes excellent vegan hot dogs. Pictured above is the avocado dog and the vegetable mafé.

• I placed a group order with fellow chocoholics to lay my hands on organic Porcelain chocolate from Dutch bean-to-bar maker Original Beans, and with it I made an egg-free chocolate mousse leveraging the power of chickpea “juice”. You’ll hear more about this soon on Chocolate & Zucchini!

Follow me on Instagram for many more food shots and Paris recommendations throughout the month!

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Paris Cheese Shop How-To: 6 Tips to Buy Cheese Like The French

Paris cheese shop

Taka & Vermo, a Paris cheese shop in the 10th arrondissement.

Walking into a Paris cheese shop can be a daunting affair if you don’t know what you’re looking for, or how to ask. The great thing, though, is that most fromagers (cheesemongers) in the city are more than happy to help you select the perfect cheeses for your cheese plate.

Laure and Mathieu, creators of the artisanal cheese shop Taka & Vermo in the trendy 10th arrondissement of Paris, gave us* a tour of their shop and the aging cellar downstairs, where many of the cheeses are left to get nice and creamy in ninety-nine percent humidity.

Tips for a smooth Paris cheese shop experience

They allowed us to take the beautiful pictures that illustrate this post, and shared their passion for their craft. Visit them to taste their goods!**

Scenes from a Paris cheese shop

Raclette is traditionally eaten in the winter, melted and poured over boiled potatoes. It is also quite popular to host raclette parties with friends, similar to those for fondue.

1. Know your cheese families

In your French cheese adventures, you’ll come across three major types of milk: cow, goat, and sheep. But within each milk type, the choices are endless: among goat’s milk cheeses alone you will find many different shapes and aging stages, from chèvre très frais (very fresh), to frais (fresh), crémeux (creamy), or secs (aged).

Tommes, those large, quintessential rounds of mountain cheese, can be found made of cow’s, sheep’s, or goat’s milk, but most cheeses with a flowery (or bloomy) rind, like Brie or Camembert, are made with cow’s milk (fromages de vache). Same for cheeses with a sticky orange rind (croûte lavée), which are often the most pungent, stinkiest cheeses of all — think Munster (the real French kind from Lorraine and Alsace) or Epoisses from Burgundy.

For a classic sheep’s milk cheese, or fromage de brebis, seek out Roquefort, a blue cheese from the south of France that is protected by a denomination of origin (AOC), and is a unique addition to any cheese plate. Our Paris cheese shop owner, Laure, lists it as one of her favorites.

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Speculoos Gnocchi

Speculoos Gnocchi

I adore speculoos, those spice-rich, snap-crisp cookies from Belgium.

They are made into a very popular and very decadent cookie spread — kind of like a speculoos incarnation of Nutella, i.e. undeniably palatable but nothing I’d want to promote from a nutritional standpoint — and I myself was inspired to turn them into sweet dumplings.

I love the idea of bringing that irresistibly sweet and spiced flavor to plump and tender little pillows, and I also like the North-meets-South twist of such a concoction, as the Belgian cookie and the Italian dumpling join forces in the same dessert cup.

Speculoos Cookies

You’ll find that it’s a really fun recipe to make, too, as you crush the speculoos with a rolling pin (stress reliever!), pipe little logs of batter to poach in simmering water, and sear the gnocchi in butter to give them a golden crust.

You can prepare the batter the day before if you like, but it’s best to poach and sear just before serving. Speculoos gnocchi are best eaten warm, with a dollop of crème fraîche that will slowly melt, and a light shower of freshly grated cinnamon.

Gnocchi in skillet

This is such a good recipe that my friend and super talented video journalist Katie Quinn suggested we create a video around it. It was a treat to do this with her, and the resulting video is now on her YouTube channel, which you must subscribe to this minute. It was also picked up by FWx, Food & Wine’s lifestyle site for millennials.

PS: Oh, and don’t miss my recipe for buckwheat speculoos, a wonderful treat any time of year, but particularly fitting during the holiday season!

About the cinnamon I use

I am in love with the fresh cinnamon I order from Cinnamon Hill, a small company that specializes in sourcing and selling the highest-quality, freshest cinnamon from Sri Lanka and Vietnam (ordinary cinnamon usually comes from China or Indonesia). I get whole sticks, and grate them with the beautifully crafted (and highly giftable!) cinnamon grater that Cinnamon Hill has designed. Truly, you don’t know what cinnamon tastes like until you’ve tried freshly harvested, freshly grated, top-grade cinnamon, and it makes an amazing difference in this recipe.

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Inside Earlywood: A Q&A with Woodworker Brad Bernhart + A Giveaway!

Gorgeous utensils from Earlywood. Photography by Dan Armstrong.

Gorgeous utensils from Earlywood. Photography by Dan Armstrong.


I think about Brad Bernhart every day.

Every time I stir a simmering pot, scrape caramelized bits of roasted vegetables off a baking sheet, scoop granola into a cup, spread almond butter on my toast, cut up a piece of fruit, or ladle a chunky soup into bowls. I hold in my hand the beautiful, functional, durable utensils he has created, and feel lucky that I get to use them daily.

It’s not every kitchen tool that brings you joy, yet joy is precisely what’s at play here.

I told you about Earlywood a little while ago, and have kept in touch with Brad since, so when he told me about the new products he had designed — a set of mini cutting boards, slender tasting spoons, a tapered bread board — I was excited to try them out. Like all Earlywood products they are beautifully crafted, and I was especially taken with the miniature cutting boards and their one-of-a-kind wood pattern. Aren’t they striking?

Bread board, set of mini cutting boards, and set of tasting spoons from Earlywood.

Tapered bread board, set of mini cutting boards, and slender tasting spoons from Earlywood.

I have long been curious to hear more about Brad’s process, and he has agreed to participate in a little Q&A for our collective enjoyment.

Gift-giving season is around the corner and you’ll want to explore the Earlywood range, because any of Brad’s products will make an affordable yet truly special gift for the cooks you love. And as a gift to you, C&Z readers, Brad has offered a generous prize that you can enter to win at the bottom of this post. Happy reading and good luck!


Tell us a bit about your life path, and how you got to where you are.


In a nutshell, this is my life path: Kid, ski bum, student, engineer, husband, father, Earlywood!


Walk us through “a day in the life of Brad.”


My days are not consistent by any means. My wife is a nurse and works night shifts, so she is often in some state of preparing for work or recovering from work, but if I had to describe a “typical” day this would be it: If I have it in me, I try to get up before my kids do so I can knock a few things off my plate, like take a shower or drink some coffee in silence! Then, in come the kids. My little ones are two and three years old, and it takes them about ten seconds to go from 100% asleep to 100% fired up and rowdy. We cook some breakfast, get some clothes on and get ready for their day. That’s when I usually pass the torch to my wife and go to work.

I might spend a few hours in the office e-mailing and working on business stuff, then if everything lines up… I’m off to the shop to make some sawdust. I work as hard as I can for as long as I can, then it’s back into the hurricane of my children. We usually eat dinner as a family, do some kind of activity, then go through their bedtime routine. At that point, I finally have some nice quiet time to take care of myself, but as many parents can probably relate with… I just fall asleep!


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Raw Scallop Crostini, Pumpernickel and Herbed Butter

A chic yet easy nibble. Learn how to make herbed butter! Spread it on pumpernickel bread with a sliced scallop on top. Great for a special occasion buffet!

Herbed butter is my secret weapon for apéritif nibbles.

It’s just about as chic as it is easy to make: you get the best artisan butter you can find and afford, allow it to soften slightly, and add flaky salt along with finely chopped fresh herbs. Chives, flat-leaf parsley, cilantro, chervil, basil, dill… If you can mix and match, so much the butter, uh, better.

Once ready, this green-flecked butter is the ideal binder to bring together the base and topping for ultra simple but very attractive canapés. This is assembly cooking at its best: slices from a fresh, slim baguette and halved pink radishes; crunchy cucumber rounds topped with a small roll of cooked ham; or squares of pumpernickel bread and sliced scallops.

The lightly nubby pumpernickel bread, the creamy herbed butter, and the slippery, silky scallops come together for a fresh and delicate two-bite savory treat.

Coquilles Saint-Jacques are no doubt my favorite kind of shellfish, and I particularly enjoy their sweet and subtly briny flavor when they’re raw — perhaps you’ve encountered them as hotate sushi before. In France, fishmongers sell live scallops that they’ll shuck to order, so you’re assured of their freshness; if that’s not an option, make sure you get sushi-grade scallops*.

And since scallops don’t come cheap, I save them for special occasions — holiday meals in particular — and I make sure the recipe I feature them in will allow their looks and taste to shine brightly.

Here, I’ve chosen to pair them with clean flavors and complementary textures: the lightly nubby pumpernickel bread, the creamy herbed butter, and the slippery, silky scallops come together for a fresh and delicate two-bite savory treat that I like to serve with a chilled Muskadig.

Tell me everything !

What are some of your favorite pairings for simple crostini that you can serve with a pre-dinner drink or as part of a chic buffet? And have you started thinking about your holiday menus, or is it way too soon for you, in which case please don’t let me freak you out?

* And if still you’re not comfortable eating your scallops raw, just sear them for a minute on one side in a lightly oiled skillet.

A chic yet easy nibble. Learn how to make herbed butter! Spread it on pumpernickel bread with a sliced scallop on top. Great for a special occasion buffet!

Continue reading »

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