Flemish Carbonades in Régal Magazine

Carbonades Flamandes

Earlier this year, I was offered to contribute to Régal, the most recent addition to the French landscape of cooking magazines (it first came out two summers ago). My mission was to come up with three recipes, each one responding to a different theme: I was to create the recipes, test them, write them up, and take care of the food styling. To say that I was thrilled would be an understatement, given how much I enjoy the magazine. To say that I was nervous would be an understatement, given how much I enjoy the magazine.

The three recipes will be published in three subsequent issues, and the first of them appears in the Octobre/Novembre issue, which came out in France yesterday. The theme for this one was Ma recette de grand-mère (“my grandmotherly recipe”) — not necessarily a family recipe, but something comforting and warm to ease the transition from summer to fall — and I shared my recipe for carbonades flamandes, a Flemish stew of beef and beer that is sweetened with vergeoise brune (brown beet sugar) and pain d’épice (the French honey spice cake).

The photo shoot took place in my own appartment, and this was fun (you can see my living-room wall on some of the pictures, as well as the table I borrowed from my neighbors), reassuring (I got to use the kitchen equipment I know and trust), and convenient (no need to schlep my gear and supplies all across the city).

A couple of weeks before the shoot, I had a conversation with the art director to determine the mood we wanted to create for each dish, and consequently the kind of props I should be looking for. As you may or may not know, many shops and department stores in Paris will let food stylists borrow items for their shoots, in exchange for credit if the items appear on the pictures. Interestingly enough though, most of the props we ended up using came from my own (admittedly overcrowded) kitchen cabinets.

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In Remembrance

Five years ago today, I boarded a flight from Paris to San Jose. I was returning to my apartment in California after spending some time with my family and friends in France.

Little did we passengers know what horrifying events were taking place as we were flying over the Atlantic. Mid-flight, we were told that there had been terrorist threats against the US — a gross understatement, presumably to avoid panic attacks –, that all American airports were closing down, and that our plane was diverted to Calgary, Canada.

Stranded in Calgary for a few days, feeling cold and lonely with my heart in my throat, I had plenty of time to watch in disbelief as the same images appeared on television, again and again. Plenty of time to reflect on what had happened, but not nearly enough to make sense of it. Even five years haven’t been enough, really.

I won’t add to the chorus of political analysis of this gruesome day and its world-changing consequences, but I did want to say that I am right there in the ranks of those who remember.

The Day I Turn 27

I am celebrating my 27th birthday today, and the weather is happy with frequent bursts of thankfulness. Twenty-seven has always been my lucky number so I am not all that surprised, but I have to say this has been an excellent vintage: my first year working for myself (I do recommend it to anyone who likes to work in his pajamas and dislikes being told what to do and when), my first cookbook completed, plenty of gratifying and challenging projects, a few fun-filled trips, more splendid meals than I can count, and more chocolate than I care to admit.

My plans for today involve a blissful mix of doing nothing at all, spending time with the people I love who are close by, and thinking about those who aren’t. And as I do just that, I will keep my fingers crossed, and wish for another year just like this one.

Pandolce and Holiday Wishes


Reason number two hundred and forty-seven to be friends with your next-door neighbors: they cook, and they share.

When Stéphan (one door to the right) prepares scampi in coconut milk, he will prepare a plate for you and hand it over through your respective kitchen windows, a.k.a. the service hatch. In return you will send two flutes of rosé champagne their way, because you just happened to be celebrating something.

And when Peter (one door to the left) takes a trip back to his native Italy to celebrate Christmas with his family, he will ring your doorbell just before leaving, to return the ice-pack his girlfriend Ligiana had borrowed for her sprained ankle, and to give you a freshly baked loaf of pandolce, still a little warm, golden and crusty.

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C&Z turns 2!

Tartelette Figue et Thym Citron

Two years ago today, I hit “publish” on my very first post for Chocolate & Zucchini. I had been toying with the idea for a few weeks, debating with myself whether or not to start my own blog. Of course I didn’t have the faintest notion what this would all lead to, what adventures, discoveries, encounters and life changes awaited me.

Life changes? Yes, indeed: today seems like the perfect day to announce that I have just signed a book deal with a NYC publisher, that I have quit my dayjob and that I now live the happy life of a full-time writer, working on the book and a miscellany of other projects. Excited, thrilled, gleeful and proud is how I feel — but most delightful of all, free. There is no price tag on that.

I have said before what a gratifying journey this has been, and would like to thank you all for reading me and supporting me. Creating C&Z is the best thing I have ever done, it has brought me so many unexpected gifts, and it would be nothing without you.

Just like last year I’m thinking of throwing a little party for those of us who live (or happen to be) in Paris. I’m still working out the details but they will be posted very soon.

[And before you ask, that little jewel pictured above is a celebratory tartlet (fig and lemon thyme on an almond pastry — outstanding) that I purchased at Pain de Sucre, a new and very promising pastry shop that was recommended to me by a reader (merci Stéphane!). They have a striking selection of creative tartlets and pastries and desserts in glasses, I have heard great things about their brioche, and they have the most tempting stuffed bread rolls that look like pains au chocolat, only savory. The shop is located at 14 rue de Rambuteau in the 3rd, and is open everyday from 8am to 8:30pm, except Tuesdays and Wednesdays.]

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