Ingredients & Fine Foods

20+ Divine Ways To Use Coconut Butter

If you’re a coconut butter virgin, you are in for a life-changing discovery… and I apologize in advance if you develop an addiction to the stuff, as many of us have.

Coconut butter — not to be mistaken with coconut oil — is made from the dried meat of the coconut, which is finely ground until it releases its oil. This turns it into a lusciously creamy substance, with a slightly grainy texture that is most pleasant, and a subtly sweet, irresistible coconut flavor. Just like coconut oil, it is set at moderate room temperature, entirely solid when left in the fridge, and soft when heated*, or during a heatwave.

I first discovered coconut butter from Dastony, thanks to my friend Rebecca who introduced me to their amazing product line. Theirs is organic, raw, and stone-ground, but I am unable to get it in France, so I have been buying “coconut manna” from Nutiva instead. You’ll also find coconut butter sold under the name of coconut spread, creamed coconut, or coconut cream concentrate; in all cases, favor organic and make sure it is made from 100% coconut.

I confess my favorite way to enjoy it is by the spoonful — a single spoonful at a time, for it is quite rich — possibly paired with a banana as a quick pick-me-up in the afternoon, but there are plenty of other uses, and I have compiled a tempting list for your and my convenience.

Here are 20+ delicious things you can do with coconut butter; you will also find them on the coconut butter bliss Pinterest board I’ve created.

Hand-crafted mini cutting board from my friend at Earlywood.

Hand-crafted mini cutting board from my friend at Earlywood.

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35 Ways to Use Lemon Verbena

Starting in mid-spring, the guy I get most of my produce from brings in long stalks of verveine citronnelle, bushy with feather-shaped leaves, faintly sticky and powerfully fragrant. Rub one with your thumb and it will knock you over with a floral and citrusy scent that does bear resemblance to lemongrass, as the French name points out (citronnelle means lemongrass).

The most natural thing to do with the leaves is to infuse them for herbal tea, to be served hot of chilled, but I was looking for more ideas so I turned to you — via Twitter et Facebook — and the Internet for suggestions. Here’s a compendium below; I hope you find it inspiring if you come across that lovely herb yourself!

Happy pairings

Lemon verbena + Peach
Lemon verbena + Apricot
Lemon verbena + Raspberry
Lemon verbena + Strawberry
Lemon verbena + Rhubarb
Lemon verbena + Pear
Lemon verbena + Citrus (especially grapefruit)
Lemon verbena + Yogurt
Lemon verbena + Ginger
Lemon verbena + Fish
Lemon verbena + Chicken
Lemon verbena + Pork

Beverages

~ Make herbal tea, hot or iced, with lemon verbena on its own or mixed with other herbs, such as mint or sage.

~ Prepare a simple syrup for cocktails, non-alcoholic spritzers, iced tea, or lemonade.

~ Make a liqueur.

Baking and desserts

~ Add it to a rhubarb tart.

~ Make sorbet or ice cream.

~ Infuse it in the cream for panna cotta and other custard-style desserts, such as crème brûlée, and pots de crème.

~ Infuse it in the whipped cream for peaches and cream.

~ Make a simple syrup to moisten a sponge cake or a rum baba, drizzle onto crêpes and yogurt, or dunk in some ladyfingers for a strawberry charlotte or tiramisu.

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The C&Z Shop is Open!

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!

58 Ways to Use Cucumbers

The summertime often means a glut of cucumbers, or at least it does for me and my weekly vegetable basket. If you are in the same cucumber boat and in a bit of a rut with them, I have compiled this list of recipes and ideas for you and me to draw from.

As always with these lists, I am grateful to my inspired readers on Twitter and Facebook who contributed their own favorites!

Choose smaller cucumbers, smooth and evenly colored, that feel firm throughout — when they get older, they go soft at the tips so that’s a good thing to check. I find that the varieties I get from my grower or from the organic store don’t have a hint of bitterness, so I always keep the peel on, but that’s up to you — peeling in alternate stripes is a pretty compromise.

And if the varieties you have access to are indeed bitter, some people recommend cutting off the stem end of the cucumber and rubbing the cut surfaces together vigorously until a slimy froth comes out: wipe it away and, supposedly, all bitterness is gone.

Cucumber pairings

– Cucumber + tomato
– Cucumber + feta cheese
– Cucumber + red onion
– Cucumber + vinegar
– Cucumber + herbs (esp. mint, dill, basil, chervil, chives, cilantro)
– Cucumber + garlic
– Cucumber + sesame
– Cucumber + seaweed
– Cucumber + yogurt or cream
– Cucumber + avocado
– Cucumber + fish and shellfish (esp. crab, tuna, and anchovies)

Cucumber salads

– Bite-size cucumbers and tomatoes with red onion and feta, sprinkled with balsamic vinegar.
– With baby spinach, strawberries, and cubed feta coated with Herbes de Provence.
Panzanella (Italian bread salad).
– Peel and dice cucumbers about 2 cm (1/2 inch), add diced tomato, avocado and slivered red onion. Serve with fresh greens and a light dressing.
Greek salad.
– Salade niçoise (though some say that’s out of the question).
– Tzaziki.
– Cucumbers and sour cream, the Polish version of tzatziki.
Sweet and sour cucumbers with fresh dill.
– Thinly sliced with a lemony vinaigrette, sprinkled with poppy or sesame seeds.
– Thinly shaved slices of cucumber and red radish, with vinegar mixed with half a teaspoon of brown sugar and fresh red chilies.
– Toss with still-warm roasted fennel and a dressing made with mashed roasted garlic, lemon juice, olive oil and plenty of parsley.
– Ottolenghi’s cucumber salad with smashed garlic and ginger, or the one with chili, sugar, rapeseed oil and poppy seeds.
Crab and cucumber salad.
– With lime and Tajin, Mexican-style.

Asian-style cucumber salads

– Thinly sliced or match-stick-sliced cucumbers with seaweed flakes, rice vinegar, sesame oil, and toasted sesame (pictured below).
– Chopped cucumbers tossed with shredded shiso leaves, pitted and chopped umeboshi (sour plums), and a dressing made with soy sauce and juice of a citrus like yuzu.
– Malay cucumber and pineapple salad, with vinegar, sugar, and chilies.
– Use a vegetable peeler to slice the cucumber into long ribbons, then toss lightly with a simple dressing of rice vinegar and neutral-flavored oil (3 to 1 or so), salt and pepper, and a dash of red pepper or garlic to give it a little kick. Prettier than the usual half-moons, and a great side for peppery or Asian-influenced grilled meats or fish.
– Spicy thai cucumber salad.
Oi-sobagi, or spicy stuffed cucumber kimchi.
– Raita.
– Lebanese Fattoush salad

Cucumber Salad with Sesame and Seaweed

Cucumber Salad with Sesame and Seaweed

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70 Things To Do With Fresh Spinach

Fresh spinach is in season right now, and I got a huge bag of it from my favorite grower, so I’ve been looking for great ways to use it. I naturally turned to Twitter and Facebook to hear about your favorite spinach dishes, and I thought I’d share the master list. Thank you all for your inspired suggestions!

Spinach pairings

– Spinach + garlic
– Spinach + cheese (especially fresh goat cheese, feta, ricotta)
– Spinach + sesame
– Spinach + eggs
– Spinach + cream
– Spinach + pasta
– Spinach + mushrooms
– Spinach + potatoes
– Spinach + nutmeg
– Spinach + lentils
– Spinach + raisins
– Spinach + bacon
– Spinach + fish
– Spinach + anchovies
– Spinach + rice
– Spinach + lemon

Sautéed spinach

– Sautéed in butter
– Wilted in a pan with slivers of garlic (lots of it).
– Simply sauté with olive oil, sliced garlic and lemon juice.
– Spinaci alla romana, with pine nuts, garlic, and sultanas
– Toss in a hot skillet with garlic, olive oil, salt. Cover, remove from heat, wilt 5 min. Leftovers can be mixed into fromage blanc.
– Chop up spinach, sauté in sesame oil, and serve with quinoa or rice, and tofu baked with miso or soy sauce.
– Stir-fry quickly with garlic, extra-virgin olive oil, and a dash of soy sauce.
– Sautéed in a skillet with rice vinegar, a drizzle of sesame oil, toasted black sesame, and fresh ginger, Japanese-style.
One-pot spinach and quinoa pilaf

Spinach in baked dishes

– Spinach quiche, with leeks and gruyère
– Spinach and potato quiche with feta cheese
– Spinach tart or pie, with fresh goat cheese or camembert
– In a phyllo pie with feta, à la spanakopita
Torta pasqualina (Spinach and ricotta Easter pie)
– Spinach and ricotta lasagna
– Spinach pirojki
– Spinach börek

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