Feta and Fresh Herb Quick Bread

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Aix-en-Provence La Rotonde

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Feta and Fresh Herb Quick Bread

Feta and Fresh Herb Quick Bread

You can divide the French population in two camps: those who go on vacation in July, and those who skip town in August.

My own family was unequivocally juillettiste (August vacationers are called aoûtiens) so Bastille Day found us in the French Alps every year, crossing our fingers that the summer thunderstorms wouldn’t rain on our parade, quite literally.

These are the sweetest of childhood memories, the years blurring together into a single evening: the walk through the village carrying candle-lit lanterns, the fireworks, the stars in our young eyes, and the soft, unique feeling of being scooped up from the car fast asleep and carried into bed late at night.

As I became an adult, I soon lost the habit of celebrating le quatorze juillet: crowds make me anxious, and after a failed attempt to watch the Eiffel Tower fireworks from the heights of Montmartre (surprise, surprise, others had had the same idea), I pretty much gave up.

But now that I have kids, it’s different; now is the time their own childhood memories are formed (no pressure, right?). And as it turns out, my American friend and fab Pilates instructor* Emily recently moved into an apartment with a breathtaking view of the Eiffel Tower, and she threw a small party for some friends and their children to enjoy the fireworks**.

Dinner was assembled potluck-style, and the theme was “Typically French”.

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Best Eats in Aix-en-Provence, From a Local

Aix-en-Provence La Rotonde

Travel season is upon us, and I want to make sure you see and taste the best France has to offer! When it comes to Paris I’ve got you covered, but there are many other cities with exciting and delicious things for you to experience. So I’ve asked a team of French bloggers from different cities to share their favorite spots, and I am offering them to you in this new series.

In Aix-en-Provence, Clara recommends…

Clara Onuki Aix-en-Provence To explore Aix, we will be following Clara Onuki‘s footsteps ! Clara is a private chef and culinary instructor. She previously worked as a chef at hotels and restaurants before switching to freelance work. She specializes in healthy cooking and Japanese fusion, and is all about high-quality ingredients from small producers. Check out her site to know more about her services.

Aix-en-Provence, Clara says, is a lovely city where life is good. It has retained its old-world charm, with tiny cobblestoned streets, multiple greenmarkets, historical buildings, and the many fountains it is known for.

Aix denizens are true epicureans, often found on terraces (thanks to the Provençal sun!) sipping a happy hour drink, or biking around to run their errands in the small food shops.

A market or food shop: The greenmarket on place des Prêcheurs

Marche Place des Prêcheurs Aix-en-Provence

I could never live somewhere that didn’t have a greenmarket, since fresh produce is the base for all of my cooking. Here, I am spoiled: there are no less than six greenmarkets in Aix’s city center! I particularly like the Marché des Prêcheurs (opposite the Madeleine church) where you’ll find everything you need for a successful meal: local and organic fruits and vegetables, spices, and lots of terroir products!

Bonus tip: You can buy a handmade basket to do your shopping.

Where to go for sweet eats: Farinoman Fou

Farinoman Fou Aix-en-Provence

Although I am passionate about Japanese cuisine, I also love real bread! This exceptional breadmaker is only steps away from Place des Prêcheurs (in truth, Aix is such a small city that nothing is ever very far apart). The “Crazy Flourman” elevates bread to an artform, with original creations like “Les Boutons” (“The Buttons,” made with heritage wheat flour, saffron, rosemary, pine nuts, olive purée) or “Chair d’Aphrodite et puissance d’Eros” (“Aphrodite’s flesh and Eros’ power,” made with wheat flour, candied ginger, apple, fig, and fairy dust). These breads are so good you can simply eat them on their own as you walk away from the boulangerie — my favorite moment of the day!

Bonus tip: the matcha baguette on Fridays is a real treat, especially with almond butter.

Where to get tea or coffee: Plaisirs des thes

Plasirs des Thés Aix-en-Provence

Plaisirs des Thés is a traditional tea house: the owners, Guillaume and Cécilia, personally source high-quality teas from small producers in China and Japan. The range features almost 250 teas (as well as rooibos, infusions, and herbal teas) to drink or to buy.

You can also sit down at one of the small tables and drink your tea with a pastry (mochis, matcha financiers). This tea shop has earned my complete trust, and they supply the teas I need for my classes and demonstrations.

Bonus tip: I particularly appreciate the customer service here: They take the time to give kind and professional advice. And tea geeks will be pleased to know that the infusion times and water temperatures are perfectly respected.

A fun restaurant for dinner with friends: La Tradizionale

La Tradizionale Aix-en-Provence

What could be better than a glass of wine and a plate of Italian food for a nice evening with friends? Nestled on a pretty side street, La Tradizionale serves an authentic and delicious Italian fare. Here you will find well-crafted, traditional dishes made with super fresh ingredients.

I recommend their flavorful risotto, creamy but not too heavy. I also like their thin-crust pizza garnished with roasted vegetables and housemade pesto. Beyond those, the seasonal recommendations are always spot-on.

Bonus tip: you can make a reservation for a group, to celebrate a birthday for example. You will still receive impeccable service.

Lunch with co-workers: Le Môme

Le Môme Aix-en-Provence

Also located on Place Ramus, Le Mome is perfect for an al fresco lunch or an after-work drink. The short menu features a generous Mediterranean and Corsican cuisine, and you’re sure to eat well there.

Meat lovers should consider a cheese and charcuterie plate from Corsica, or the signature Corsican burger — brioche bun, ground beef, mountain cheese, fig jam, caramelized onions, fried egg, and tomato — with a glass of red wine. Otherwise, don’t miss the beautiful burrata salad with arugula, pine nuts, artichoke, and honey.

Bonus tip: everything is homemade, and it shows. I will also give a quick shout-out to the excellent pecan cheesecake, smooth and not too sweet.

Where to go for an intimate dinner with a date: Drole d’endroit

Drôle d'Endroit Aix-en-Provence

Hidden on a charming side street, this pretty restaurant is a must-visit. The ambiance is quiet yet vibrant, the daily menu features high-quality ingredients, and… the chef is a woman, which is pretty cool. The restaurant regularly displays the work of photographers, so you’ll also benefit from an art exhibition along with your meal.

For a date, I recommend you go on a weeknight and avoid Thursdays and Saturdays; reservations are a must on any day. Their vegetarian plate is a real treat, but all of their dishes are good, and the kind staff will be happy to make recommendations.

Bonus tip: there is live music on Thursday nights, and an open-mike night every month.

Wild Card Spot! Book in Bar

Book in Bar Aix-en-Provence

If there are two things I’m passionate about, it’s food and books. I grew up surrounded with books, and they hold a very special place in my life. I adore this spot, and bilingual readers will too, as Book in Bar is an international café and bookstore.

Located right in front of the newly opened Caumont Art Center, and mere steps from Cours Mirabeau, Book in Bar is a true gem with a charming, one-of-a-kind vibe. It’s the perfect place to work in peace, with a ginger lemon tea and a homemade scone by your side (the pastries are made by Laetitia, who runs House Cookies & Co., also in Aix).

Thank you so much for sharing, Clara!

You’ll find all of Clara’s recommendations mapped out below:

Do you have your own favorite spots in Aix-en-Provence? We want to hear about them in the comments below. And if there is a particular city or area you’d like featured in this series in the future, please speak up!

Photo credit: Clara Onuki.

One-Pot Pomegranate Roasted Chicken

Pomegranate Roasted Chicken

Pomegranate molasses was the topic of my very first column in ELLE à Table when I started writing for the French cooking magazine in the spring of 2008. (Pick it up if you’re ever visiting France!)

In this article I shared my enthusiasm for this amazing ingredient, obtained by reducing pomegranate juice to a thick, dark red syrup. A staple of Lebanese and Persian cuisines in particular, this fruity and acidic condiment is a treat for fans of tart flavors, of which I am a card-carrying member.

In fact, pomegranate molasses is one of my secret weapons when I want to add a little zing to my cooking, an extra trilling note that will be hard to put your finger on but will make all the difference. I may add a few drops to a vinaigrette, stir a spoonful into a yogurt sauce for bulgur, and use it in muhammara of course. I have glazed duck breasts and fish fillets with it, and seasoned mashed root vegetables as well; it is particularly good with celeriac and parsnips.

When dessert time rolls around, pomegranate molasses can be used with a light hand to season fruit salads (especially berries and blood oranges) and poured over roasted figs, to be served with fresh cheese.

In the recipe I am bringing to you today, pomegranate molasses lends depth and sparkle to a lively marinade for a cut-up chicken. Thus voluptuously coated, the chicken goes into the oven (the stovetop or the grill are equally good options depending on your preference and the weather) and comes out fall-off-the-bone tender and divinely caramelized. It is irresistible.

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12 Foods To Bring Back From France

What To Bring Back From France

Planning a trip to France, and not sure what to bring back as an edible souvenir for yourself, or a thank you gift for the kind soul who’s watching your dog/goldfish/child while you’re away?

I have twelve suggestions of artisanal products that are typically French, won’t break the bank — all items are under 10€ — and will actually get used and eaten in your or your friend’s kitchen when you get back.

Those are all easy to find, too. For each item I’ve recommended where to look!

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The Best Cooking Advice You’ll Ever Get

My life-changing extra-large cutting board from Earlywood.

My life-changing extra-large cutting board from Earlywood.

Inspired by a recent episode of the Happier podcast on the most valuable advice listeners had ever been given, I put out a call on Twitter and Facebook for Chocolate & Zucchini readers to share the best cooking advice they have ever received.

Here are the 40 nuggets of wisdom that resonated with me the most. Thank you so much to everyone who contributed, and please add your own best advice in the comments!

On Cooking

Your hands are the most important tool in the kitchen. (Mark)

Buy the best ingredients and utensils you can afford.

Always use a bigger bowl/pot/cutting board than you think you need. (Susannah)

Always be tasting.

Clean up as you go.

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