Best of

Best of 2013

I will remember 2013 as the year Chocolate & Zucchini celebrated its 10th anniversary, and as the year The French Market Cookbook was published (and so generously well received).

It is also the year I worked on a whole new version of the site — I cannot wait to unveil it! — and on a brand new book project, which I will tell you more about very soon (hint hint).

In 2013 I also got to visit not one, but two of my bestest and favoritest vacation destinations, Corsica and San Francisco, and this has felt like winning the lottery, twice.

But beyond these biggies, here are more of the everyday joys that have lit up my year:

Favorite new places to eat in Paris: Bones and Mary Celeste.

Favorite new utensils: my Earlywood spatulas, scrapers, and spreaders, my fabulous new chef’s knife, and my cinnamon grater.

Here are some of the everyday joys that have lit up my year.

Favorite new chocolates: bean-to-bar unconched chocolate by Nicolas Berger for Alain Ducasse, and Marou’s organic chocolate from Vietnam, especially the 70% from the Mekong delta.

Best breakfast: The entirely homemade breakfast served at In De Wulf the morning after (see picture above).

Favorite new cookbooks: Michelle Tam’s Nom Nom Paleo and Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s Isa Does It.

Most mileage on a single recipe: the Roasted Cauliflower à la Mary Celeste, which has become a weekly fixture at my table.

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Best of 2012

Happy New Year! Here’s to 2013 and the glorious meals, peals of laughter, new friends, and unforgettable adventures I hope it has in store for you.

Before we remove the protective film from this brand new year, I’d like to take a moment to look back on some of the best things 2012 brought. The two biggest, happiest events for me have been (1) the birth of my baby boy in the spring — Milan is now seven and a half months and he’s a ray of sunshine — and (2) wrapping up the manuscript for my upcoming vegetable cookbook, which will come out mid-2013 under the title The French Market Cookbook.

Here on Chocolate & Zucchini, after a little post-baby break, I was delighted to come back with two new series of Q&A posts: Draw Me A Fridge (in collaboration with my friend Alexia Colson-Duparchy) offers a sneak peek into our guests’ fridge habits, while Parents Who Cook asks parents about their kitchen life after they had children. I also picked up the Edible Idioms series where I’d left it, except now they’re illustrated by Mélina Baumert‘s wonderful watercolors.

Aside from these, here are some of the highlights of my year — and if you care to share your own, I’d love to hear about them!

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Best of 2011

Happy New Year! May your 2012 be a year of glowing health, simple pleasures, serene prospects, and dreams fulfilled.

2011 has been an eventful and wonderful year for me, full of exciting and gratifying projects in both my personal and professional lives. I got to travel around France (Deauville, Aix-en-Provence, the Basque country, Corsica) and beyond (Marrakech and Toronto), I was invited to be the host of an international food festival and the writer in residence at a chefs school, I worked on The Art of French Baking and on a new book of my own devoted to vegetables (to be released by Clarkson Potter next year), I did a two-week stint in the kitchen at my favorite vegetarian restaurant in Paris, I had my kitchen and living room remodeled, and I was admitted as a member of a famous French chocolate appreciation society, which had long been on my life list.

Beyond those big events, here are some specific highlights from my year, in no particular order. I’d love to hear about yours, so feel free to share in the comment section!

Most frequently made dish: Chicken in a bread crust, inspired by a dish demo’d by Saturne’s Sven Chartier at the Omnivore Food Festival.

Most frequently made dessert: Butterless apple crumble, a dairy-free version of the classic that is possibly even better for breakfast the next day.

Most elusive ingredient: Kale, a beautiful and nourishing green that is near-impossible to find in Paris, but which I filled up on while in Canada.

Most popular ingredient: Chestnut flour, which I brought back from Corsica and have been slipping into everything since.

Favorite new utensil: Bear claws, handmade in Canada, to toss salads.

Favorite homemade condiments: Dukkah, an Egyptian spice mix, and Celery salt, after a recipe by my friend Heidi.

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Best of 2010

I hope you’ve enjoyed a warm and cheerful holiday season, that you’ve shared laughter and good meals with the people you care about, and that you’re feeling full of energy and dreams for 2011.

May this fresh new year bring you joy, serenity, fulfillment, and really good skin. I look forward to another year of meeting you here on Chocolate & Zucchini.

Before we kiss 2010 goodbye altogether, I don’t want to miss my chance to reminisce on what it has brought me, thereby establishing my traditional “best of” list*.

Most memorable trip

The most salient memory I will keep from 2010 is, without a doubt, the trip I took to Japan with Maxence. I can even say it was the best trip of my life, and I wish I could bottle up the euphoria I felt for two weeks straight — and also wrap up in a magic doggie bag every single bite we ate, so I could savor them over and over again.

Most rewarding baking project

For the first time ever, I baked a galette des rois to celebrate the Epiphany, the traditional January holiday I wrote about here and again here. It was a success that far outweighed the (moderate) work involved, and I encourage you to try your hand at it too: the official date is this Thursday, but l’Epiphanie is customarily celebrated anytime in January.

Favorite breads

Ever since I found James MacGuire’s instructions for pain au levain in an issue of Art of Eating, it has become our weekly loaf of bread, and I now make it (almost) with my eyes closed.

I also baked a number of batches of these tomato burger buns. They accompanied us through a fabulous summer of near-weekly cheeseburgers — many of them vegetarian, since I discovered with glee that they sell portobello mushrooms at the greenmarket.

Favorite new cooking utensils

My new/old pressure cooker is definitely getting some mileage on my stove: I use it several times a week to cook legumes, grains, soups, and stock.

I have also acquired a used electric coffee grinder (a model very much like this one) that I have repurposed as a spice/seed grinder, to whizz things like flax seeds, cardamom and lemon zest.

And although it isn’t a cooking utensil exactly, we are delighted with the sparkling water fountain that my sister and brother-in-law gave us for Christmas, which allows us to turn still water to sparkling at the push of a button (“abracadabra!” optional).

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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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