Books & Cookbooks

Banana Pecan Cake with Maple Glaze

Banana Pecan Cake with Maple Glaze

This banana pecan cake entered my life thanks to one of the countless blessings this blog has brought to my life, which is to have met and become friends with quite a few cookbook authors.

Cookbook authors are delicious people to be around, naturally, and if I manage to fox my way into their house they may actually cook for me, but the invaluable bonus is that, once I’ve come to know and trust them, once I’ve witnessed how exacting they are, and how much pressure they submit themselves to in order to produce bulletproof recipes, I feel I can use their cookbooks with blind faith. I know I’m in good hands, and things had better work out because I know where they live.

One of my cookbook-writing friends is Marianne Magnier-Moreno, whom I met almost years and years ago at Chocolate & Zucchini’s second anniversary party, and who wears many hats: recipe writer, journalist, translator, cheesecake maker, young mother, and significant other to a gifted painter.

The crumb is moist and fluffy, the flavors multi-dimensional, and the overall sweetness is moderate, which leaves ample room for the maple glaze to step in and do its thing.

Marianne has recently released (and received an award for) a book called Le Grand Manuel du cuisinier that could actually be seen as an epic follow-up to another wonderful one she had written years before, called Mon Cours de cuisine pâtissier, a baking manual that offers seventy recipes with step-by-step pictures and detailed instructions. Step-by-step photography is nothing new in the world of cookbooks, but I’ve always thought it could make a book look dull. Not so here, where the shot-from-the-sky visuals and tasteful styling make each double an aesthetic treat.

My dear friend’s banana pecan cake

Among the winning recipes in that book is one for banana pecan cake, which I often bake when I have über-ripe bananas to use, and top with a maple glaze that’s also one of Marianne’s recipes.

I actually do not make the cake quite as written: I substitute almond butter for part of the butter in the printed recipe, and maple syrup for part of the sugar. I also lower the amount of flour, and add a little amber rum, and use pecans in place of Marianne’s walnuts.

Now, I know I just stated that I wanted to feel I could follow a cookbook’s directions with my eyes closed, but let me explain: I like to bake and cook things my own way, but in order to tweak a recipe, I need it to be rock-solid, otherwise it might not hold up to the tweaking.

But this banana pecan cake does, and brilliantly so. The crumb is moist and fluffy, the flavors multi-dimensional, and the overall sweetness is moderate, which leaves ample room for the maple glaze to step in and do its thing.

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Gift Guide for Cooks 2015

Gift Guide for Cooks 2015

Gift-giving season is upon us, and here’s my gift guide for cooks! If you’re on the lookout for cool ideas, for yourself or the food enthusiasts on your list, here’s my selection: all of them are highly desirable things that will make a lasting difference in the recipient’s kitchen life.

Gift Guide for Cooks: Utensils!

Gift Guide for Cooks: Cooking Tools

1. Fresh cinnamon

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 (where they have their own plantation) and Vietnam. Run-of-the-mill cinnamon typically 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.

2. Spiral slicer

After coveting it for quite a while, I finally caved in and ordered the Inspiralizer, the spiral slicer created by Ali Mafucci of the Inspiralized blog. When I received it, I was so excited I decided to unbox and try it out live on Periscope! If you like what you see, you can purchase it here. And if you make a move before this Friday (December 4, 2015), the Inspiralizer is on sale at just $39.95, shipping included.

3. Handcrafted utensils

You know how I feel about the handcrafted utensils from Earlywood, but I want to remind you what incredible gifts they make. In particular, I want to highlight the coffee scoop, which will brighten the mornings of anyone making coffee at home, and I use for my granola; and also the trifecta, which is a an ideal starter kit for someone just moving into their own kitchen, or looking to upgrade the cheap utensils they bought when they first did.

4. Best instant-read thermometer*

I first heard about Thermoworks through my friend Elise, who swears by their ChefAlarm thermometer, but the model I was most eager to adopt was their Thermapen, an instant-read thermometer that is most sleekly designed: it has zero buttons (it turns on when you pull out the probe), the display is auto-rotating, auto-backlit, and it reads the temperature in 2-3 seconds with a 0.7°F (0.4°C) accuracy guaranteed by the calibration certificate they send. I’ve been super happy with it, from gauging the doneness of my chicken, to checking the temperature of my little ones’ soups, to tempering chocolate. (*That’s what America’s Test Kitchen calls it!)

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12th Anniversary Book Giveaway!

12thAnniversaryGiveaway

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!

We’ve got winners! I have drawn five entries using the Rafflecopter random picker, and the names of the winners are listed in the widget below. They have each received an email explaining the next steps; if you’re one of the winners and you haven’t heard from me, please get in touch!

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Veggivore: French Cookbook Release (+ Giveaway!)

Veggivore Cover

I am delighted to announce that The French Market Cookbook, my book of French vegetarian recipes, is being released in France today under the title Veggivore.

Just like the original French Market Cookbook, Veggivore is a collection of original, colorful recipes to cook with vegetables according to the seasons, with lots of tips and stay-with-you ideas to eat tasty and healthful dishes daily. I have translated and adapted the texts for my French readers so that it is similar in spirit, but slightly different in tone and content.

Veggivore is a beautiful hard-cover book with a refreshing layout and inspiring photographs. It is now available from French bookstores and on Amazon France, and it is scheduled for release in Canada on March 11 (Amazon Canada has it on pre-order). If you have a French-speaking friend you think would enjoy it, please consider letting him/her know, and maybe even surprise him/her with a copy! (And if you still don’t have your own copy of The French Market Cookbook, you can read more about it here.)

Win a copy of Veggivore !

To celebrate the release, I have three copies of this French book to give away. To participate, head over to the French version of this post and leave a comment (in French or in English) telling me about your greatest challenge when cooking with vegetables. You have until Wednesday, February 11 midnight (Paris time); I will then draw three entries randomly and announce the winners. Good luck!

The C&Z Shop is Open!

Change Purse

I have just added a new shop section to Chocolate & Zucchini featuring a careful selection of ingredients, tools, and books I use and adore. For each I explain why I love them and what role they play in my cooking life, so you can decide if they’re a good fit for yours.

I am not selling those products directly, but rather pointing you to the sites of their respective vendors. I am launching the C&Z shop with a very small selection to which I will add over time, so please check back whenever you like (it’s easily accessible from the top menu) and feel free to suggest the types of items you’d like me to recommend!

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