Ingredients & Fine Foods

The Cheese Geek’s Guide to Affinage

Did you know that France produces more than 350 types of cheese? Each variety is the unique result of a specific production method and aging process, requiring both technical skill and intuition.

Jonathan DeitchWe talk about cheese a lot on Chocolate & Zucchini: we’ve covered how to shop for cheese and the notion of cheese terroir, and today I am happy to present a guest post by Jonathan Deitch, a.k.a. Monsieur Fromage, a fellow bilingual blogger and passionate explorer of all things cheese.

Jonathan is an American who’s lived in France since 2009. He recently attended an intensive two-week professional workshop at Académie Opus Caseus, the cheese industry’s center for education. He has generously offered to walk us through the process of making and aging cheese, with lots of quirky details for us cheese geeks to lap up.

Please visit the M. Fromage blog, and follow him on Twitter and Instagram. Thank you Jonathan!

Part Magic, Part Biochemistry

Goat cheeses sampled on Cheese Day in Paris, in January 2016. Note the blueing on the rind.

My recent two-week professional training with the Académie Opus Caseus was an eye-opening introduction to affinage, the process of aging cheese. The principles and techniques are simple to understand, yet they take a lifetime to master. They also serve as a good reminder of the importance of environment and tradition, and the value of patience, honest labor, and passion.

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Cinnamon Recipes: 263 Things To Do With It, Part I

Ahhh, fresh cinnamon, you amazing spice you.

Whether it’s used as a subtle accent or a more assertive note, cinnamon adds a one-of-a-kind layer of warmth to many preparations, sweet or savory. It can boost the taste of other ingredients and deepen the overall flavor of dishes, sometimes acting as a barely recognizable, “secret” ingredient.

A little while ago I asked you to share your best cinnamon recipes, and you submitted such brilliant, inspired cinnamon ideas that I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to compile this rich list of suggested uses for this wonderful, versatile spice.

As we head into the holiday season, I give this list to you in two installments. Ideas from the realm of sweets below; savory, beverage, and non-food uses follow in Part II. Enjoy!

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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Cinnamon Recipes: 263 Things To Do With It, Part II

Continuing from 263 Things To Do With Cinnamon, Part I inspired by the Cinnamon Hill fresh cinnamon, here’s a whole new batch of ideas for savory dishes, all kinds of beverages, and non-food uses. Many thanks to all of you who contributed these wonderful ideas; I hope you find the list as inspiring as I do!

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.

Photo: Nargisse Benkabbou at My Moroccan Food.

Lamb tagine from Nargisse Benkabbou at My Moroccan Food.

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Christine Ferber Jams

Over the summer, Maxence and I spent a few blissful, brightly sunny days hiding out in my parents’ vacation house in the Vosges mountains. One day, we took a day trip to Alsace, the region just on the other side of the mountain famous for its wines, its storks, and little houses with pointy roofs and exposed beams.

We went on a pilgrimage to Niedermorschwihr, the Alsacian village where Christine Ferber, whom I’ve mentioned before, officiates. This is where the Jam Fairy makes the best French jams, and this is where she sells them, in a little bakery named Au Relais des Trois Epis.

I had been dying to go there ever since I learned about it, and grew increasingly excited as we neared the village. We parked on the tiny church square, got out of the car and were instantly knocked off our feet by the intense fruit smells. They were coming out of a small ground floor window in the back of the shop, through which we could see the lab where the magic happens.

{A cat is hiding in the picture. Can you spot it?}

Somebody’s pet is hiding in the picture. Can you spot it?

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Terroir Products: What to Eat in the Jura

Montbéliard cows, just chillin'.

This is a guest post written by Anne Elder, my wonderful intern, about the recent class trip* she took to the Jura. The photos are also hers. Take it away, Anne!

When I drive through France, the roadside signs always make me feel like I’m about to meet a celebrity, bearing names of towns I only know from the perspective of my tiny Paris kitchen, and the labels on my favorite foods.

I felt that very excitement traveling through the Jura, a French region that’s just south of popular oenophile destination Burgundy, but one that is oft overlooked by tourists. It is a lush mountainous region near the Swiss border, where the land lends itself to the production of many delicious terroir foods.

The concept of terroir is pervasive in French cuisine (and increasingly in America, too), dating back centuries.

Eating a produit du terroir means you are indirectly tasting the ground in (or on) which it was made — tasting the soil, the climate, the craftsmanship. This notion ranges from cheese, and how the hay eaten by the Montbéliard cows impacts its flavor, to wine and how the precise fusion of soil and climate and skill meet to grow grapes that are pressed into such a complex beverage.

Jura is a goldmine when it comes to seeking out terroir. Equipped with rain boots and notebooks, my classmates and I were determined to learn how to taste France. We drove over hilltops, past rows of sapins (spruce trees, which are cut down into boards where the cheese will be left to age) and stayed in a gîte, a no-frills guest house.

During our five days there, we were afforded the opportunity to see the cheese production from the farm to the aging cellar, taste wine still ripening in oak barrels, and sample many more local recipes and products cooked by gracious hosts.

If you are able to travel to Jura on your next trip to France, here are the terroir products you must not miss.

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