Banana Chocolate Muffins

Experience has twice shown that I am not the kind of person who, when pregnant, cooks up big batches of […]

  • 17
  • April 21, 2015
Miso Glazed Flank Steak

I only ever buy meat from Mathieu, my butcher of choice at the organic greenmarket on Saturday mornings. I used […]

  • 52
  • April 8, 2015
Goat Cheese

A few reads and finds from the past month: ~ Not sure what to do with goat cheese? My suggestions […]

  • 2
  • March 30, 2015
Pasta with Tetragon

My first brush with tetragon — a.k.a. New Zealand spinach, warrigal greens, sea spinach, and a few assorted nicknames — […]

  • 35
  • Favorite
  • June 22, 2010
Warabi Mochi

We had our first taste of warabi mochi on the basement floor of the Tokyu department store in Shibuya, Tokyo. […]

  • 41
  • Favorite
  • May 18, 2010
Radish Leaf Pesto

Radish season is in full swing, and I have been buying a bunch a week since they first appeared a […]

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  • Favorite
  • May 12, 2009

Vegan Chocolate Banana Muffins

Experience has twice shown that I am not the kind of person who, when pregnant, cooks up big batches of soup and lasagna in advance of the birth to stash away in her freezer for times of sleep-deprived need.

For one thing, my freezer is Paris-kitchen-tiny and already packed with chicken carcasses for stock and chopped onions and stalks of lemongrass. But also, it would require more organizational skills than I seem to possess and I was scrambling to prepare our regular dinners as it was, so there wasn’t much time or energy left for post-birth meal planning.

I did have room in that shoebox-sized freezer for a half-dozen chocolate banana muffins that I was overjoyed to find when I returned from the maternité with an infant and a wolf’s appetite.

However, it may tell you something about my priorities to know that Mika’s arrival didn’t catch me completely unprepared: I did have room in that shoebox-sized freezer for a half-dozen chocolate banana muffins that I was overjoyed to find when I returned from the maternité with an infant and a wolf’s appetite.

The recipe for these vegan muffins is based on this winning vegan coconut banana bread, which I modified to skip the grated coconut, add coarsely chopped bittersweet chocolate, and bake in muffin form, with a sprinkle of unrefined sugar so the top part is extra extra desirable.

The texture of these muffins is astoundingly satisfying, moist and tender and chocolate-chunky, the flavors are big and bold, and they are pretty easy to put together, so they are an ideal baking project if you’re pressed for time and energy but mighty hungry.

Join the conversation!

Are you the sort of cook who would prepare well in advance of big events, such as a birth or a scheduled medical procedure? What sort of dish or treat would you make ahead then?

Banana Chocolate Muffins

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Miso Glazed Flank Steak

I only ever buy meat from Mathieu, my butcher of choice at the organic greenmarket on Saturday mornings. I used to stop by every week and get enough for two meals or so, but the line is so long these days — word must have gotten out that his stuff is good — that I had to change my strategy: I go less frequently, buy a little more, and freeze the extra. (On the weeks that I don’t buy meat, I get eggs directly from Mathieu’s wife, Laure, who stands at the register, thus skipping the line. This is accepted practice and can be done without feeling wrathful gazes flare up your back.)

My favorite items to get are duck breasts, which I rub with spices and roast, pork tenderloin, boudins blancs, and andouillettes (chitterlings sausage), all of which freeze very well. And every once in a while, when I’m in the mood for red meat, I get slices of bavette (flank steak) or merlan (a lesser-known, tender cut from the inner thigh) to have for lunch when I get back from the market.

Because this is very flavorsome meat, I usually cook it in the simplest of ways, by just searing it in a grill pan. But the other day I decided to try something a little different and marinated the meat in a paste-like, miso-based marinade. It was so quickly assembled and yielded such savory results it may well become a Saturday lunch staple around here.

If you take a look at the ingredients’ list for the marinade, you’ll notice that I used fresh turmeric, found at the organic store. The skin was a little wrinkled, but it was the first time I’d seen any for sale, so I jumped at the opportunity anyway. As the young man who rung up my purchases remarked, the rhizomes look like cut fingers (he’s lucky it’s my kind of humor). They can be peeled, grated, and used much like ginger, and just like ginger, the fresh stuff has little to do with its dried and ground persona, which I’ve always thought tasted a bit musty. The one caveat is that fresh turmeric is a powerful tincture that will, if you’re not careful, stain your countertop, hands, sleeves, food processor, left cheek, and favorite napkin with highlighter yellow, near indelible blotches. Just thought you might like to know.

Fresh turmeric

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April 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 April is a photo of the gorgeous jumbo walnuts I bought in the Périgord last summer, which gave me an opportunity to learn how to open walnuts without a nutcracker (and prompted you to offer all kinds of alternative tips in the comments).

Instructions to get your calendar are below.

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March Favorites

A few reads and finds from the past month:

~ Not sure what to do with goat cheese? My suggestions in FRANCE Magazine.

~ Learn more about my kitchen staples and habits with this Kitchen Encounter in The Guardian.

~ Where to find the world’s best éclairs.

~ My 10 perfect food experiences to have in Paris.

~ Food bloggers name their most anticipated new cookbook. Find out what mine is!

~ 57 tips to be a better cook.

~ What Ira Glass’s work routine looks like.

~ I want to make these cornbread waffles.

~ My top 10 foods to try in Paris.

~ Tempted to make this apple, lime and chia smoothies.

~ These funky chocolates illustrate Japanese words for texture, from poki-poki to zaku-zaku.

Butterless Apple Crumble

It’s only recently that I’ve realized that the crumble topping of a fruit crumble doesn’t have to be made with butter to be crisp and delicious.

Did you know? Am I the last person to find out?

The epiphany came from my intensive granola-making activities: after all, isn’t granola a second cousin to the crumble topping? And if I make granola with oil, not butter, why not try that in a crumble?

And so, for the past few months — since the beginning of this year’s apple season, really — I have gone butterless with all of my apple crumbles. (And I’ve made quite a few.)

There are several benefits. First, the crumble topping is considerably faster to mix: measure the ingredients, combine in a bowl, stir with a fork, and that’s it, you’re done. No dicing of butter, and no rubbing either. It takes five minutes tops, including the time to put all the ingredients and utensils back where they belong and wipe down the counter if you’ve spilled a little flour, which no recipe prep time in the world accounts for.

I like to half-peel the apples in alternating strips. Not because I’m half-lazy, though maybe I am, but because I like the rustic touch a bit of apple skin provides.

Second, I find that the absence of butter shifts the balance of flavor so that the (good unrefined) sugars that you use, the spices, and of course the apples themselves, sing through with a more subtle complexity.

And third, those who avoid dairy for whatever reason will be grateful for an apple crumble they can eat, especially one that can stand proudly on its own, without the crutch of crème fraîche or ice cream that seems to be automatically tacked on.

One more note about my apple crumbles of late: I like to half-peel the apples in alternating strips. Not because I’m half-lazy, though maybe I am, but because I like the rustic touch of finding a few pieces of apple skin in my crumble, and half-peeled apples deliver just the right amount. I also pick a mix of apple varieties — like I do for my apple tarts — to get as vivacious an apple taste as possible.

I hope you’ll give it a try. But for the die-hard butter lovers out there who simply must have it in their apple desserts, I recommend this rather outstanding brown butter spiced crisp.

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