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How To Tell When Meat Is Done

A few weeks ago, I read Tara Austen Weaver‘s book The Butcher and the Vegetarian, a memoir in which she writes about being brought up as a vegetarian and the challenges she faced as an adult, when she had to start cooking meat for herself to try to recover from a serious health issue.

The Butcher and the VegetarianIt’s a very good read, witty and honest, and even for readers like me, who don’t share her dietary background or meat-handling angst, there are a lot of elements to relate to in her story. I especially enjoyed the sections where she addresses the political and ethical sides of the meat question in a remarkably level and dispassionate way.

A number of things she wrote stayed with me after I’d turned the last page, but there is one short passage in particular, early on in the book (p.31), in which her brother gives a technique for testing the doneness of red meat. It’s a small thing, but I liked the tip so much I thought I would, in turn, share it with you:

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Best of 2009

In the wee hours of a fresh new year, it is a lovely feeling to sit down and reminisce about the one that just ended, trying to squeeze out its essence and single out a few of its most memorable moments.

Among them, and in no particular order, I would list the release of a French classic I helped edit, a Best Culinary Travel Guide award for my Paris book, a trip to San Francisco and our first-ever apartment swap, my thirtieth birthday, and a few other noteworthy things, listed below.

Favorite new kitchen pet

Last spring I started keeping a sourdough starter, which I named Philémon, and this has been the most gratifying, wonder-filled project I have ever undertaken: each starter bread I bake seems an opportunity to learn something new and improve my skills, and the results delight us every time.

In addition to simple loaves, English muffins, and bagels, I have just started making sourdough baguettes and you will hear about these very soon.

Favorite new appliance

After a maddeningly frustrating few months trying to work with an oven that refused to cooperate, I finally threw in the towel and invested in a shiny new one that has (knock on wood) served me really, really well so far.

The contender in this category is the electric steamer I got for my birthday, which opened me to a whole new world of steamy dishes. In 2010, I ambition to use it for homemade dim sum.

Favorite new cookbook

This is not at all a newly published book, but I recently acquired Claudia Fleming’s dessert book The Last Course after hearing glowing reviews from several trusted sources. And indeed, it is a beautiful and inspiring book, full of seasonally-sound ideas and useful tips. (The book is out of print and its market value has shot up to absurd heights, but it can be ordered for a more reasonable price through the North Fork Table & Inn, where Fleming works now. Update: the book is now sold out at the North Fork Table & Inn.)

A contender in this category is Nancy Silverton’s Breads from the La Brea Bakery, a book about baking with a natural starter, which is, as I think we’ve established, my current passion.

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Help Plant Trees + Enter to Win A Reusable Shopping Bag

Today is the 39th edition of Earth Day, an international event created to celebrate that blue planet of ours, and raise awareness about environmental issues.

As I explained in this recent Q&A, I have grown more and more environmentally conscious over the past few years: without being completely obsessed with the topic, I do my best to educate myself, make informed choices, and limit the impact of my actions on the environment. I hope this reduce, reuse, recycle philosophy comes through year-round in my writing, and I wasn’t really planning anything specific to mark Earth Day on C&Z.

Ripple AfricaBut then Eva, the young co-founder of flip & tumble, the California company that makes the reusable shopping bags I use and love to use, contacted me about partnering to raise funds for Ripple Africa’s reforestation campaign in Malawi, and I said yes.

Here’s the deal: for every person who leaves a comment* at the bottom of this post, flip & tumble will fund the planting of a tree in one of the community nurseries that Ripple Africa is working to build, and I will match that donation with my own. So just go to the comment box, type “Plant trees for me!” (and whatever you want to add) and two trees will be planted.

Flip & TumbleIn addition to this, Eva is offering to give away ten reusable shopping bags, and I’ve decided to turn it into a little contest. I’d like to invite you to submit your best green tip — especially one that’s food- or cooking-related — through this form. I’ll pick my ten favorites, and their submitters will receive a bag each in the mail. You can participate regardless of where in the world you live — this is Earth day after all — but be sure to enter your email address correctly so I can contact you if you win.

You have until the very last seconds of April 22 — until midnight GMT-12, i.e. until 1pm Paris time on April 23 — to leave your tree-planting comment below and to submit your best green tip for a chance to win a lovely and handy reusable shopping bag.

Update: The comments and contest are now closed, and the results will be announced next week.

Thank you for participating!

* To prevent abuse, only one comment per IP address will be accepted.

Best of 2008

As I get things ready for the New Year’s Eve party we’re throwing tonight — a very casual affair, mind you, it’s the only kind we like (or know how) to host — I’d like to take a moment to say goodbye to 2008, and remember the good things it has brought.

Besides the release of the French version of my cookbook and the US publication of my new Paris book, Clotilde’s Edible Adventures in Paris; besides a memorable trip to Western Australia and another to Croatia; besides the birth of the most lovable of dimple-cheeked nephews, the purchase of a spiffy bike, and the demise of my oven, I give you, in no particular order, a few of the things that have marked my year:

Favorite food-related book: Della T. Lutes’ The Country Kitchen, a fantastic gift from Adam, who found a vintage copy of it at Bonnie Slotnick’s store in NYC.
Contenders: Diana Abu-Jaber’s memoir The Language of Baklava and Monique Truong’s novel The Book of salt.

Favorite new cake recipe: the flourless poppy seed cake.

Favorite new chocolate: El Ceibo‘s 71% chocolate, produced by a Bolivian coop.
Contenders: Claudio Corallo‘s chocolate with raisins and cocoa pulp in bitter liquor, Poppy‘s “pure bliss” raw chocolate hearts, and Taza‘s 80% bar of stone ground chocolate.

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Rouler quelqu’un dans la farine

This is part of a series on French idiomatic expressions that relate to food. Read the introductory Edible Idiom post, and browse the list of French idioms featured so far.

This week’s expression is, “Rouler quelqu’un dans la farine.”

Literally translated as, “rolling someone in flour,” it means duping someone, playing a trick on him, or using one’s wits and lies to take advantage of someone who’s a little naive, or not quite as smart as one is.

According to these sources, the expression dates back to the early nineteenth century. Rouler quelqu’un (literally, rouler = to roll) means cheating or swindling somebody, and la farine (flour) symbolizes lies, or misleading arguments, perhaps in relation to the fact that actors then used it as stage makeup. It also adds a notion of ridicule: the gullible victim is somehow responsible for letting himself be fooled so easily.

Example: “A chaque fois, elle lui promettait que ça ne se reproduirait plus, mais tout le monde voyait bien qu’elle le roulait dans la farine.” “She kept promising it wouldn’t happen again, but everyone could see she was rolling him in flour.”

Listen to the idiom and example read aloud:

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