October Desktop Calendar from Chocolate & Zucchini

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

  • 1
  • October 1, 2015

Chocolate & Zucchini turns 12 today! This means I have been blogging for, oh, just about 4 383 days, and […]

  • 107
  • September 30, 2015
Tarte Tatin

I realize this puts me in the minority, but I am someone who longs for fall, and the new crop […]

  • 22
  • September 8, 2015
Lemon Ginger Tartlet

It’s been almost ten years since I was first in touch with Claire, the talented author of the pioneering natural […]

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  • Favorite
  • October 15, 2014
Ginger and Dill Coleslaw

I don’t know what my body is trying to tell me, but I seem to have developed a high taste […]

  • 43
  • Favorite
  • October 15, 2013
Clean-out-the-fridge Soup

The natural consequence of buying fresh vegetables to eat is that you may end up, at some point, with not-so-fresh […]

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  • Favorite
  • October 29, 2014

October 2015 Desktop Calendar

October Desktop Calendar from Chocolate & Zucchini

At the beginning of every month, 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 October is a photo of purslane, the wonder weed that Michael Pollan has called one of the most nutritious plants on the planet. If you find it in your backyard or your greenmarket, I have 45 ways to use purslane for you!

Instructions to get your calendar are below.

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12th Anniversary Book Giveaway!


Chocolate & Zucchini turns 12 today!

This means I have been blogging for, oh, just about 4 383 days, and this particular anniversary actually marks the point where I have been blogging for a full third of my life. No wonder C&Z feels as familiar to me as my own limbs, and writing here as natural as breathing.

Creating this blog on an idle September day in 2003 is one of the top 3 most life-shaping decisions I have ever made (the other two would be: living in California in my early twenties, and having a child in my early thirties — what about you?).

Not a day goes by that I don’t feel grateful beyond words for everything it has brought me. An incredibly fulfilling career, a rich network of like-minded cooks and real-life friends, a wealth of knowledge I would never have acquired otherwise, and my interactions with you, dear readers, who warm my heart, make me laugh, inspire, and teach me daily.

To thank you, I have partnered with my publishers to give away Five sets of my three latest books:

PreservingThere’s PRESERVING, the newest Ginette Mathiot tome that I’ve helped revise for its English-language edition, and has just been released by the good people at Phaidon. This one is all about conserving, salting, smoking, and pickling — in other words, capturing flavors at the height of the season, to enjoy later.

The French Market CookbookThen there’s THE FRENCH MARKET COOKBOOK, a book that celebrates the love story between French cuisine and vegetables, and contains 75 of my heaviest-rotation recipes for seasonal produce, such as my shocking pink pasta with a no-cook beet sauce, my Corsican turnovers garnished with squash, or my pear and chestnut cake.

Edible FrenchAnd finally there’s EDIBLE FRENCH, a lovely book of French food-related idioms that tell you so much about French culture, and come illustrated with whimsical watercolors by my friend Melina Josserand.

Five lucky winners will win a copy of each of these books, so three books total, which will be sent in the mail by their respective publishers.

You have until Sunday, October 11, 10pm EST to enter, using the Rafflecopter widget below: you’ll see you have different options to enter the giveaway, and you can use as many as you like to increase your chances of winning. The winners will be picked randomly and their names will be announced here on Monday, October 12. Good luck and thank you for participating!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

* Is this your first time entering a giveaway using Rafflecopter? Here’s a quick video showing how it works:

How to Enter a Rafflecopter Giveaway from Rafflecopter on Vimeo.

September Favorites

Dinosaur Kale -- a rare sight in Paris -- found at Terroir d'Avenir.

Dinosaur Kale -- a rare sight in Paris -- found at Terroir d'Avenir.

A few reads and finds from this past month:

~ I have become a member of Food Blogger Pro, and I am loving the many video courses and resources to help me grow and improve Chocolate & Zucchini. If you have a food blog too, and want to join the community, here are promotion codes you can use.

~ Spicy eggplant balls, chilled eggplant soup, zaalouk: my aubergenius recipes in the Wall Street Journal.

~ From potimarron for breakfast, to chocolate after dark: Here’s a day on my plate.

~ Made me laugh: A new caption that works for every New Yorker cartoon.

~ Ten Paris food secrets you may not know about.

~ Can you protect your belly from Delhi belly? (The French call it la tourista.)

~ How to age gracefully.

~ Guillaume Long’s take on what utensils he brings on vacation (in French). Here’s my own minimalist kit for the traveling cook.

~ 10 French Instagram accounts you should follow if you like food.

~ Food illustrations are making a comeback. Is this the end of food porn as we know it?

~ Cubed food: do you recognize them all?

~ Turn lemons into lemonade and coffee stains into adorable monsters.

For more links and articles throughout the month, follow me on Twitter!

Raw Chocolate Hazelnut Truffles

Raw Chocolate Truffles

The problem with working from home is that the kitchen is a powerful distraction.

Oftentimes I’ll be typing away, working on an assignment, fielding email, or straightening up notes from an interview or field trip, and a wonderfully seductive thought will pop into my head.

“Should I start slicing zucchini for roasting tonight?”
Or: “How about I spatchcock a chicken and try a new marinade for it?”
Or maybe: “Will the apples that the neighbor’s daughter brought from her garden keep for much longer, or should I hurry up and make Gâteau de Mamy?”
And also: “Boy, do I wish I had some raw chocolate truffles to nibble on!”

It’s all I can do not to jump up from my chair and dash into the kitchen; I call it culinary procrastination.

Channel your inner kindergartener and roll little balls of chocolate dough between your palms. The result is absolutely delicious, with a vibrant chocolate flavor and a rich, lightly nubby texture from the nuts.

Regarding the truffles, the idea came about as I was writing a story on raw chocolate for my column in ELLE à table. “Raw” chocolate is chocolate that is processed at low enough a temperature to preserve a maximum of antioxydants and minerals. The concept is disputed, especially in the absence of any certification system — I recommend you read Stephanie Zonis’ in-depth article on the subject. But since raw cacao powder is easily available, and can be used to make all sorts of interesting, raw-inspired preparations with alternative sweeteners and high flavor, I’m totally on board.

As one might expect, it’s hard to research the topic without wanting to get all practical, and within minutes I had abandoned my computer and was happily whizzing and shaping and dusting these two-bite treats.

The good news is (for my editor at least) it didn’t keep me away from my desk for very long, as this is a super easy and quick process. First, you’ll grind some nuts. I used hazelnuts and sunflower seeds here, but you could substitute whichever nuts you prefer (think almonds, walnuts, macadamia, pecans…), and I like a combo. Then, you’ll process some pitted dates with salt, spices (I use the cinnamon I love and/or freshly ground cardamom), and raw cocoa powder. Finally, you’ll pour in some gently melted coconut oil and honey (rice syrup for you vegans) to bind everything together.

Raw Chocolate Truffles

All that’s left to do then is to channel your inner kindergartener and roll little balls of dough between your palms, then toss in a bowl of grated coconut or cocoa powder to coat. The result is pretty and appetizing, and more important, it is absolutely delicious, with a vibrant chocolate flavor and a rich, lightly nubby texture from the nuts.

Such a welcome pick-me-up in the middle of a work project, and the purrrfect treat to savor while watching your favorite series at night when the kids are in bed.

I want to know!

Do you eat raw chocolate yourself, and what’s your favorite brand? Have you ever made your own raw chocolate confections? Does the kitchen ever draw you away from what you should really be doing, you culinary procrastinator you?

I hope you try making these truffles, and when you do, please share the pictures on social media using the hashtag #cnz.

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Spiced Beef Cheek Stew

Spiced Beef Cheek Stew

I am not sure why I thought buying beef cheeks in mid-July was a good idea.

It was a crime of opportunity, really: I was returning to the farmers’ market at the Batignolles for the first time in a while (having a second baby will do that to you) and I was eager to pick up organic meat from one of the farmers there, not quite knowing when I’d have a chance to go again.

Fresh organic meat is still inexplicably hard to find in Paris, as most butchers — even the fancy, pricy ones — offer conventional meat only. It may be well raised and from smaller farms, though it’s always hard to know for sure, but the organic certification is never a selling point.

I stopped by one of my favorite meat stalls at the greenmarket, one run by a boisterous butcher lady who comes with her young apprentice and her teenaged daughter. I spotted a beef cheek in the display case, and set my heart on it immediately: it’s one of my favorite cuts for braised dishes, but it’s a little-known one that you usually have to special-order. It’s also fairly cheap, compared to other stew-friendly cuts, but it has lots of flavor and a rich, satisfying texture brought on by the high collagen content.

Beef cheek is fairly cheap, compared to other stew-friendly cuts, but it has lots of flavor and a rich, satisfying texture brought on by the high collagen content.

The butcher said, “Do you want the entire cheek?” and I said, “Sure!” not having any notion of how big that would be. I watched her trim and prepare the whole thing, and ended up with a good four pounds of meat.

A great purchase by any cook’s standard, except… we were in the middle of a heatwave and the last thing anyone wanted to eat was braised beef cheeks. Thankfully, I was able to find room in my tiny freezer to stash the package away, and dutifully updated the list I maintain to keep track of my frozen supplies so things don’t camp in there for a decade. (Do you do the same? I recommend it.)

Fast forward a few weeks, and I was patting myself on the back for such accidental preparedness. In the midst of the hectic, my-eldest-is-starting-school, my-youngest-is-starting-daycare, I-have-a-zillion-projects-I-want-to-work-on weeks, I was able to put together this incredibly aromatic, soul-warming spiced stew in a matter of minutes.

I use a pressure cooker for this recipe, which saves a significant amount of time and means the stew is ready in — wait for it — an hour. You can, however, prepare it in a Dutch oven or a slow cooker: the active time is just as short, but the meat will take longer to cook. And in all cases, I recommend you prepare it the day before; all stews benefit from a good night’s sleep.

The amounts listed serve a gang — a gang of eight, to be precise — which makes it perfect for a fall dinner party, or means a family can get two to three dinners out of it. If you’re the kind of person who dislikes eating the same thing two days in a row, you can transform the dish on subsequent nights: shred the meat with two forks and toss it with pasta and freshly grated cheese, or layer it across the bottom of a baking dish, top with mashed broccoli and breadcrumbs, and place under the broiler of the oven to make a green hachis parmentier.

And of course, leftover servings may be frozen for another pat-on-the-back dinner down the road.

Join the conversation!

Have you ever cooked with beef cheeks? Is there another semi-obscure cut of meat that you love? Is it stew season yet where you live?

PS : Perfect mashed potatoes to serve with this, and a lovely plum tart to finish.

Spiced Beef Cheek Stew

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