Chocolate & Zucchini http://chocolateandzucchini.com Thu, 18 Sep 2014 12:30:33 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 Charred Broccoli and Avocado Salad Recipe http://chocolateandzucchini.com/recipes/vegetables-grains/charred-broccoli-and-avocado-salad-recipe/ http://chocolateandzucchini.com/recipes/vegetables-grains/charred-broccoli-and-avocado-salad-recipe/#comments Wed, 17 Sep 2014 15:50:15 +0000 http://chocolateandzucchini.com/?p=6343 Charred broccoli is fast becoming one of my go-to vegetable options, especially at lunchtime when I need something quick and low-effort. […]

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Charred Broccoli and Avocado Salad

Charred broccoli is fast becoming one of my go-to vegetable options, especially at lunchtime when I need something quick and low-effort.

My enthusiasm for it started as an offshoot from my beloved Roasted Cauliflower à la Mary Celeste, in which broccoli can be used with good results. But in truth, roasted broccoli isn’t an exact substitute for cauliflower: the tops of the florets become a bit drier and quite a bit crunchier when submitted to high heat, so roasted broccoli seems to call for a creamier treatment.

And what creamier companions than an herbed tahini dressing and a cubed avocado tossed in? Also: what tastier, more satisfying trio?

I usually eat half of this salad warm the day I make it, and try to contain my excitement until lunch the next day, when I can finally have the other half; it’s best to take it out of the fridge 30 minutes before eating.

The trick to this salad is to not be shy about roasting the broccoli: you’ll get the most vibrant flavor and most interesting texture contrast from broccoli that is frankly black at the tips.

The only damper on my charred broccoli enthusiasm these days is that is it harder than one would think to find glowingly fresh broccoli at the organic stores around me. You can tell broccoli is fresh when the heads are firm, with tight florets that take some effort to separate. Yet more often than not, a quick pat on the heads stocked in the produce bin reveals soft heads with distracted florets. I did learn recently that you can revive those heads by cutting a slice off the tip of the stem and putting it in a glass of water as in a vase, and I plan to try this next time, should my craving become too strong.

Join the conversation!

Do you share my love of roasted broccoli? What’s you favorite way to serve it?

Charred Broccoli and Avocado Salad

Charred Broccoli and Avocado Salad Recipe

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 40 minutes

Serves 2. (Recipe can be doubled.)

Charred Broccoli and Avocado Salad Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 large head broccoli
  • Olive oil for cooking
  • 2 good handfuls chopped fresh herbs: cilantro, chervil, chives, and flat-leaf parsley all good choices
  • 1 rounded tablespoon tahini (sesame paste, available from natural food stores and Middle-Eastern markets)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 ripe avocado, diced
  • Fine sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C (400° F).
  2. Cut the broccoli into even-sized florets. Peel off any tough part on the stem, cut it lengthwise into four long logs, and slice not too thinly.
  3. Put the broccoli on a rimmed baking sheet, drizzle generously with olive oil, sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt, and toss well to coat (it works best if you just use your hands). Insert into the oven and roast for 30 minutes, until charred at the edges.
  4. Charred broccoli
  5. While the broccoli is roasting, prepare the dressing. Put the herbs, tahini, lemon juice, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl.
  6. Sauce ingredients
  7. Stir with a fork to combine, and add a little fresh water, teaspoon by teaspoon, stirring all the while until you get a creamy but not too thick dressing. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
  8. Mixed sauce
  9. When the broccoli is cooked, transfer to the bowl, add the avocado, and toss to combine. Taste and adjust the seasoning again.
  10. Sprinkle with black pepper and serve. This is great when freshly made, but it can also sit at room temperature for a little while, or get packed for lunch and refrigerated.
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Green Romesco Sauce Recipe http://chocolateandzucchini.com/recipes/dips-spreads/green-romesco-sauce-recipe/ http://chocolateandzucchini.com/recipes/dips-spreads/green-romesco-sauce-recipe/#comments Wed, 10 Sep 2014 15:30:29 +0000 http://chocolateandzucchini.com/?p=6273 I recently tweeted about my recipe for muhammara, this sumptuous Middle-Eastern dip of roasted bell peppers and walnuts that I […]

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Green Romesco Sauce

I recently tweeted about my recipe for muhammara, this sumptuous Middle-Eastern dip of roasted bell peppers and walnuts that I wish more cooks knew about. This prompted Pami Hoggatt, of A Crust Eaten, to remark that it looked similar to Spanish romesco sauce.

I was very pleased that she did, for romesco sauce had somehow flown below my radar all this time and I was delighted to make its acquaintance: a Spanish specialty from Catalonia, salsa romesco can take on various guises, textures and flavorings, but it is most commonly a sauce of roasted peppers mixed together with nuts, olive oil, and vinegar. Different recipes will add different ingredients to that basic formula, but that’s the gist of it.

Pami pointed me to the recipe that she herself uses, and coincidentally, right around the same time The Kitchn ran a cute tiny video for what they appropriately call their “happy sauce”, which is in fact a romesco sauce.

I happened to have a collection of tiny bell peppers in various shades of yellow, green, and black-eye green sitting in my fridge, and it didn’t take long for me to enroll them into this wonderful green romesco sauce.

Small bell peppers

Like most people, presumably, I tend to prefer red bell peppers because they are sweeter, but I was pleased to make this sauce with green bell peppers as I think their subtle notes of bitterness form a beautiful alliance with the rounder flavors of the almonds.

And what are the possible uses for this gorgeous sauce? Well, you can use it as a dip or spread, naturally, but you can also plop a large spoonful onto a big bowl of greens and grains as TheKitchn suggests, you can serve it with fish or shellfish, and it will flatter any kind of cooked vegetable — I’m thinking broccoli, potatoes, or green beans.

Join the conversation!

Have you ever heard of, had, or made romesco sauce? And what color bell pepper do you generally go for?

Green Romesco Sauce Recipe

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 45 minutes

Makes about 1/2 cup; double or triple as needed.

Green Romesco Sauce Recipe

Ingredients

  • 2 medium green bell peppers, about 400 grams (14 ounces) total
  • 70 grams (1/2 cup) whole almonds, preferably roasted (substitute or mix 'n match other nuts, such as hazelnuts, pine nuts, cashews, etc.)
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 good handful fresh cilantro or flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika, preferably hot (I've also used ground chipotle pepper to good effect; add to taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

Instructions

  1. Roast the bell peppers, removing stem, skin, and seeds, and let them cool completely. You can also use jarred or frozen roasted bell peppers; I don't recommend canned as I find they taste like metal.
  2. In the bowl of a food processor or blender, combine all the ingredients. (You can also work in a regular bowl with a stick blender.) Process until completely smooth. Taste and adjust the flavor with a touch more salt, lemon juice, or paprika, as needed.
  3. Serve immediately, or transfer to an airtight container in the fridge and keep for up to 4 days.

Notes

The flavors develop overnight, so make this ahead if you can.

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Green Romesco Sauce

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Crème Caramel Recipe http://chocolateandzucchini.com/recipes/desserts/creme-caramel-recipe/ http://chocolateandzucchini.com/recipes/desserts/creme-caramel-recipe/#comments Wed, 03 Sep 2014 14:54:36 +0000 http://chocolateandzucchini.com/?p=6213 Caramel custard was a mainstay of my mother’s dessert repertoire when I was growing up. We referred to it by […]

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Crème Caramel

Caramel custard was a mainstay of my mother’s dessert repertoire when I was growing up. We referred to it by its common French name crème renversée — flipped custard — because of the way you serve it, upside down: this way the layer of caramel that was spread across the bottom of the pan finds itself on top, and the delicious sauce can run down the sides and pool onto the serving plate.

I am so partial to my mother’s recipe that I never ever order crème caramel when dining out, because I know it will fall short. Her version isn’t overly sweet, and it has the simple flavors of childhood — milk, eggs, vanilla. The silken, slippery consistency feels fresh and clean, though my favorite part is actually the lightly nubby “skin” that develops at the surface of the custard, where it was exposed to the oven’s heat.

Since the ingredients list is so straightforward, use the best ones you can: now would be a fine time to use your neighbor’s backyard eggs, that farm-fresh milk you get from the greenmarket, and the fat, waxy vanilla bean you’ve been saving for a special occasion.

My mother makes crème caramel in a single pan — a repurposed charlotte mold if you must know — for the whole family to share, but I usually cook it in ramekins instead: individual containers look fancier when we have guests, and if it’s just us, they make it easier to handle servings and leftovers.

Crème Caramel

Crème Caramel Recipe

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour

Total Time: 6 hours

Makes 6 servings.

Crème Caramel Recipe

Ingredients

    For the caramel:
  • 100 grams (1/2 cup) white sugar (see note)
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • For the custard:
  • 650 ml (2 3/4 cups) milk (I use fresh lait demi-écrémé -- 2% milk -- but you can also use whole milk or non-dairy milk; I wouldn't recommend skim)
  • 50 grams (1/4 cup) unrefined blond cane sugar (you can use the unrefined sugar of your choice, just keep in mind that a darker sugar will make the custard a bit brown)
  • 1 fresh vanilla bean, split open and beans scraped, or 1 tablespoon homemade vanilla extract, or 1 teaspoon store-bought natural vanilla extract
  • 4 large organic eggs

Instructions

  1. Have ready 6 ovenproof ramekins or cups, each about 160 ml (2/3 cup) in capacity.
  2. First, make the caramel. Combine the 100 grams (1/2 cup) sugar and the water in a large saucepan. Turn the heat to medium and let the sugar melt without stirring, simply swirling the pan around from time to time so it caramelizes evenly.
  3. As it boils, the caramel will turn golden, then golden brown, and when it darkens to a deep amber, remove from the heat and immediately pour into the prepared ramekins, swirling around to coat the bottoms evenly.
  4. Place the ramekins on a deep rimmed baking sheet, or a baking dish large enough to accommodate them comfortably.
  5. Preheat the oven to 150°C (300°F) and bring water to a boil in the kettle.
  6. Make the custard. In a medium saucepan, combine the milk, sugar, and vanilla, and bring to just under a simmer over medium heat, stirring frequently to prevent scorching. Let cool slightly.
  7. In a medium mixing bowl with a pouring spout, beat the eggs lightly. Set a fine-mesh sieve over the bowl, and pour in a quarter of the milk, then whisk to combine. Repeat with the remaining milk in three additions.
  8. Pour the custard into the prepared ramekins.
  9. Pour very hot water from the kettle into the rimmed baking sheet and around the ramekins to about half their height -- this will help conduct the heat evenly.
  10. Insert into the oven, lower the heat to 120°C (250°F) and cook for 30 minutes, until the custards are set but still jiggly, and the blade of a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
  11. Turn off the oven and leave the ramekins in for another 30 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool completely, then refrigerate for 3 hours or overnight before serving.
  12. To serve, run a knife carefully around the custard to loosen, place a small serving plate over the ramekin, and flip to unmold, shaking a bit as needed.

Notes

I use unrefined cane sugar in practically all my recipes, but it doesn't caramelize well due to the impurities, so I revert to regular white sugar when making caramel.

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Crème Caramel

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September 2014 Desktop Calendar http://chocolateandzucchini.com/series/desktop-calendar/september-2014-desktop-calendar/ http://chocolateandzucchini.com/series/desktop-calendar/september-2014-desktop-calendar/#comments Sun, 31 Aug 2014 22:01:56 +0000 http://chocolateandzucchini.com/?p=6181 At the beginning of every month in 2014, I am offering a new wallpaper to apply on the desktop of […]

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September 2014 Desktop Calendar

At the beginning of every month in 2014, I am offering a new wallpaper to apply on the desktop of your computer, with a food-related picture and a calendar of the current month.

As a new feature this year, the desktop calendar is available in two versions: a US-friendly version that features Sunday as the first day of the week, and a French version (shown above) that complies with international standards, featuring Monday as the first day of the week.

Our calendar for September is a picture of zucchini, and I probably don’t need to tell you how I feel about those. You can check out some of my favorite zucchini recipes, but this summer I’ve also been roasting them a lot when it wasn’t too hot out: cut the zucchini into big cubes, spread out on a rimmed baking sheet, drizzle generously with good olive oil and sprinkle with salt, and roast at 200°C (400°F) for half an hour. With some chopped chipotle almonds and fresh herbs on top, it is simple yet very tasty.

Instructions to get your calendar are below.

Here’s how it works:

1- Click on the following links to get the US version (weeks begin on Sunday) or to get the French version (weeks begin on Monday); each of these links will open a new window (or tab) displaying the wallpaper, in the appropriate format for your screen size.

2- Right-click (or ctrl-click for some Mac users) on the image, and choose the option that says, “Set as Desktop Background”, “Use as Desktop Picture,” or something to that effect (exact wording will depend on the browser you use).

3- If the image does not fit your desktop background neatly, you may have to go to your preference panel (on a Mac: System Preferences > Desktop & Screen Saver > Desktop; on Windows: Control Panel > Display > Desktop) and choose “Fit to screen” as the display mode of your background image.

4- Enjoy and see you next month!

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August Favorites http://chocolateandzucchini.com/links/august-favorites/ http://chocolateandzucchini.com/links/august-favorites/#comments Fri, 29 Aug 2014 10:58:48 +0000 http://chocolateandzucchini.com/?p=6155 Some of my favorite finds and reads for this month: ~ What’s new on the Paris restaurant scene this fall, […]

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The heirloom tomatoes I've been feasting on all month.

Some of my favorite finds and reads for this month:

~ What’s new on the Paris restaurant scene this fall, as told by Le Figaroscope, Le Fooding via Les Echos, and A Tabula (in French).

~ Ever wondered what a poaching egg might look like from underwater?

~ I discussed food blogging with Food & Wine editor Kristin Donnelly.

~ I am very tempted to make this peanut sauce for my late-summer noodle needs.

~ My friend Adam says you should never serve these ten foods at a dinner party. Which ones to you agree or disagree with?

~ Yes, it matters what kind of onion you use!

~ Party-leaving etiquette: do you say goodbye or leave quietly? (In French, leaving quietly is called filer à l’anglaise, making an English exit.)

~ Inspired by this great-sounding pairing: cucumbers with verbena and matcha green tea. Another one to add to my 58 Ways to Use Cucumbers.

~ Are these nut-hugging bear cookies too adorable to eat?

~ Fifteen chefs share what they’ve learned by cooking at the French Laundry.

~ The most common cooking mistakes (and how to avoid them).

~ A clever metro map to locate the best bars in Paris, and another for tea lovers.

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Green Bean and Nectarine Salad with Spicy Gomasio Recipe http://chocolateandzucchini.com/recipes/vegetables-grains/green-bean-and-nectarine-salad-with-spicy-gomasio-recipe/ http://chocolateandzucchini.com/recipes/vegetables-grains/green-bean-and-nectarine-salad-with-spicy-gomasio-recipe/#comments Tue, 26 Aug 2014 15:28:42 +0000 http://chocolateandzucchini.com/?p=6139 I grew up eating haricots verts steamed to army green softness and served warm, with a bit of butter and […]

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Green Bean and Nectarine Salad

I grew up eating haricots verts steamed to army green softness and served warm, with a bit of butter and freshly chopped parsley, usually as a side to roast chicken for Sunday lunch. After coming home from the greenmarket — with or without me tagging along — my mother would call across the apartment, “Il y a des haricots verts à éplucher !” (There are green beans to trim!)

My father, my sister and I would then pop out of our respective bedrooms and office to gather on the floor around the coffee table where a tray awaited, with a big pile of untrimmed beans and a colander to collect them once trimmed. It was understood that us kids could be excused from this if we had a big test to study for, but we seldom used that Get Out of Jail Free card, welcoming instead the opportunity to take a break and chat as our fingers busied themselves.

Looking back, I realize we could have cut down the workload in half by trimming the only end that actually needs trimming — that would be the stem end, the wispy tail is in fact harmless — but trimming both ends allowed us to thoroughly de-string the beans along each side, which counts for something.

In my own kitchen I mostly find myself eating green beans cold, in zesty salads such as this one. Green beans pair beautifully with summer fruit (“What grows together goes together”), and I love them topped with finely diced cantaloupe (it’s been such a fabulous year for French melons!) or thinly sliced peaches and nectarines, which I’ve come to like best white.

My salad had a “green” element and a “sweet” element, and to create a more complete balance of flavor with “nutty” and “savory” notes, I decided to throw together a batch of homemade gomasio — a Japanese condiment of toasted sesame ground with sea salt — to which I added ground chipotle pepper for an extra kick. It is very easy to make at home and incomparably more flavorful than anything you can buy at the store.

Spicy Gomasio

I made this salad with the stash of green beans I had put away in the freezer earlier this summer, when my vegetable basket had seemed too bountiful for us to handle in a week. Fresh green beans freeze easily and well, and if it looks like you won’t eat them very soon after purchasing, they’re better off in the freezer than going limp and yellow in the fridge. Just trim, rinse, dry thoroughly in a kitchen towel, and throw in the freezer in an airtight bag or container. They can then be cooked just like you would fresh ones — steamed or boiled or sautéed, as you prefer — with no thawing necessary.

The gomasio recipe below makes much more than you’ll need for this salad, but you’ll find yourself casting it in endless roles: you can use it pretty much anywhere you would use regular salt, and if you need to keep your sodium consumption low, it can help you boost the flavor of dishes without adding too much salt. I myself love it over a simple bowl of steamed short-grain rice and in onigiri, but also on soft-boiled eggs, in tomato salads, to dip fresh radishes in, sprinkled on any type of steamed greens, and on sliced apples.

Join the conversation!

What’s your favorite way to eat green beans? Have you every tasted gomasio, or even made your own? What do you like to use it on?

Green Bean and Nectarine Salad with Spicy Gomasio Recipe

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 8 minutes

Total Time: 23 minutes

Serves 3 to 4.

Green Bean and Nectarine Salad with Spicy Gomasio Recipe

Ingredients

  • 450 grams (1 pound) slim green beans, fresh or frozen, trimmed; use French-style haricots verts if possible, but longer or thicker beans can be subsituted, sliced into shorter sections as needed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 3 medium ripe nectarines, about 140 grams (5 ounces) each, cut into slices
  • Homemade Spicy Gomasio (see recipe below) or store-bought gomasio, to taste

Instructions

  1. Set up a steamer and steam the beans until the shade of al dente you like. I like them tender rather than squishy-firm, and it takes 8 minutes for slim haricots verts.
  2. Plunge in an ice bath immediately -- a simple salad bowl in which you've emptied an ice cube tray and poured cold water -- to preserve the consistency you've set your heart on, and prevents overcooking which would make the nice green color fade.
  3. Green beans in ice bath
  4. Drain as soon as the beans are cold; if you leave them in too long, I find they become too waterlogged. Spread out on a kitchen towel to dry thoroughly.
  5. In a serving bowl, combine the olive oil, lemon juice, and salt. Add the beans, sprinkle generously with gomasio (though not the full recipe!), and toss to coat. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
  6. Fold the nectarine slices in gently, and serve.
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Green Bean and Nectarine Salad

Spicy Gomasio Recipe

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 10 minutes

Makes about 1/3 cup.

Spicy Gomasio Recipe

Ingredients

  • 50 grams (1/3 cup) raw (untoasted) whole (unhulled) sesame seeds (see note)
  • 5 grams (2 teaspoons) ground chili pepper (I used freshly ground chipotle)
  • 10 grams (2 teaspoons) fine sea salt

Instructions

  1. Put the sesame seeds in a dry skillet over medium-low heat and toast until the seeds begin to dance and become fragrant, shaking the pan regularly for even toasting.
  2. Gomasio ingredients
  3. Transfer the still-warm sesame to a mortar, add the chili pepper and salt, and grind with the pestle until you get a medium-ground texture: it should come together into a powder, but you should still make out some sesame seeds.
  4. Spicy Gomasio
  5. Alternatively, you can use an electric spice grinder using short pulses to avoid overheating, but then you should let the sesame cool completely before grinding, and make sure to stop before the mixture is completely ground.
  6. Transfer to a jar, close the lid, and use within a month.

Notes

Sesame seeds go rancid easily, so double-check that the ones you use still taste fresh; best to buy them a small amount at a time from a store with a good turnover.

You could use pre-toasted sesame, but 1- I find store-bought toasted sesame is never as vibrant as freshly toasted, and 2- the sesame seeds warmed from the skillet are easier to grind in the mortar.

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Green Bean and Nectarine Salad

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How To Open a Walnut Without a Nutcraker http://chocolateandzucchini.com/tools-utensils/how-to-open-a-walnut-without-a-nutcraker/ http://chocolateandzucchini.com/tools-utensils/how-to-open-a-walnut-without-a-nutcraker/#comments Wed, 20 Aug 2014 12:40:40 +0000 http://chocolateandzucchini.com/?p=6097 This summer, Maxence and I took a little more time off than we usually do, and the three and a […]

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Périgord Walnuts

This summer, Maxence and I took a little more time off than we usually do, and the three and a half weeks (three! and a half! weeks!) we afforded ourselves allowed us to embark on a mini-Tour de France to visit with friends and family: from Franche-Comté to the Vosges in the East of the country, then all sails South toward the Périgord, the Pyrenees, Toulouse, and finally Provence.

We ate like kings, as can be expected, and our luggage got heavier and heavier at every stop as we loaded up with various local treats.

The Périgord walnut wasn’t the least of them: about halfway through our trip, we happened upon La Maison de la noix, a shop entirely devoted to the brainy nut. In addition to all the walnut spreads and jams and terrines and cakes one could dream of, I loved that they sold four varieties of walnuts that you could sample — using their cool low-tech nutcracker — and compare.

Most people think of the walnut as being a single thing — a walnut is a walnut is a walnut — but examining and tasting just these four side by side showed how wrong that is, as each displayed a different size and shape, and a different flavor profile, too. The one we liked best was the Lara, a jumbo walnut with a sweet, delicate flavor and very little bitterness. We filled up a big bag and went on our merry way, excited to share them with our friends at the mountain house we were renting together on the Ariège side of the Pyrenees.

But, as you might remember from my minimalist cooking kit, a nutcracker wasn’t part of my traveling arsenal, and the house kitchen — which was otherwise much better endowed than I’d feared — didn’t have one either.

When I shared my dismay with my friend Marie-Laure, she replied, “Oh, but you can just use any old knife!” and proceeded to show me how, with a deft twist of the blade and very little force, she could tame the toughest walnut.

Slip the tip of a knife at the seam

This trick, which reminds me of the classic oyster-shucking technique but is much less likely to lead you to the emergency room, kept us happy for the rest of our vacation, as we ate our way through two kilograms of Lara walnuts. I thought you might find it useful, too, so here goes:

Step 1: Take the walnut in your non-dominant hand, and hold it horizontally, so that the divide between the two halves is like the walnut’s Equator, and the fibrous, plus-shaped seam is facing you.

Walnut seam

Step 2: Pick up an ordinary but non-flimsy knife, and insert the tip of the blade horizontally into the seam (take extra care of course not to rip into your own hand; keep the sharp edge away from you and use the counter for support if that feels more comfortable).

Slip the tip of a knife at the seam

Step 3: Hold the walnut tightly and twist the knife like a key in a lock to pry the walnut open.

Cracked walnut

Step 4: Pluck out the walnut meat, breaking the shell halves further with your fingers as needed.

Extract the meat

If some of the walnut meat proves hard to dislodge, use the tip of the knife to tear off the bark-like, middle wall inside the shell: this will free the walnut meat. (Below is a walnut half with the middle wall removed.)

Walnut half

Will you give it a try? Before we part, I can’t resist sharing a photo of my vintage nutcracker, which I am now home and reunited with.

My vintage "Le Cascoc" nutcracker

My vintage “Le Cascoc” nutcracker

Join the conversation!

Have you ever used this technique? Any other tricks to share on how to make do when the appropriate utensil isn’t available?

How to Open Walnuts Without a Nutcracker

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Minimalist Kit for the Traveling Cook http://chocolateandzucchini.com/tools-utensils/minimalist-kit-for-the-traveling-cook/ http://chocolateandzucchini.com/tools-utensils/minimalist-kit-for-the-traveling-cook/#comments Wed, 06 Aug 2014 14:00:13 +0000 http://chocolateandzucchini.com/?p=6035 I am going to be traveling this month, doing some simple cooking in a couple of rented kitchens, and I’ve […]

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Minimalist Kit for the Traveling Cook

I am going to be traveling this month, doing some simple cooking in a couple of rented kitchens, and I’ve had enough hair-pulling experiences with crappy, dull knives and flimsy plastic spatulas to be stashing a few key utensils in my luggage this time.

Because I am also traveling with a toddler who needs his own minimalist traveling kit — including such essentials as a firetruck and a stuffed donkey — I really need to make my kit as trim as possible, and have elected to bring along:

~ My paring knife, freshly sharpened: rented kitchens are notoriously lacking in this regard, and since half of cooking is cutting, trimming, slicing, dicing, chopping, and paring, this qualifies as an absolute must-bring. I will be following this tip on how to wrap knives for traveling.

~ My vegetable peeler because, again, anything that’s supposed to be sharp is going to be dull in a rented house, and a dull vegetable peeler is worse than no vegetable peeler at all. Also, a good vegetable peeler allows you to cut vegetables into tagliatelle and papardelle to make all kinds of pretty summer salads such as this zucchini noodle salad.

~ A pair of locking tongs because it’s rare (especially in France) to find it in a home cook’s utensil drawer, yet I rely on it heavily for handling ingredients, for stovetop cooking, and for grilling. As a bonus, it doubles up as a toy for the toddler, who uses it to catch imaginary fish.

~ My Earlywood scraper made of bloodwood, sturdy and smooth with a thin and sharp edge, and a fantastic multipurpose tool that can be used for stirring, cutting, lifting, and scraping. I have written about Brad Bernhart’s handcrafted utensils before, and they’ve become cherished items in my kitchen that get used every single day (including his latest creation, the adorable coffee scoop, which I use daily to serve my paleo granola).

~ My pepper grinder, replenished with black peppercorns, because good-quality, freshly ground pepper, transforms the simplest dishes, which is exactly what I plan to cook while I’m away.

~ A small supply of unrefined grey sea salt, because ordinary supermarkets only carry stripped-to-nothingness salt I hate to cook with.

~ Extra virgin olive oil, in a small container I saved from a tasting sample I once received, and simply refill every time I need it. In the house we’ll be renting with friends for a whole week it will make sense to buy a whole bottle of olive oil, but for those one- and two-night stays, I don’t want to lug around a whole bottle, yet good olive oil is all you need to dress a few crudités from the local market. Plus, with the above salt and pepper, you have the simplest, most delectable snack at your fingertips.

~ My current favorite pocket knife (pictured below), a vintage Crosman Blades from 1981 I fell hard for at Native Delicatessen, a new micro-shop and art gallery that’s otherwise devoted to indigenous foods and cultures. This one will stay in my purse most of the time (I’ll have motive enough to make that legal) but it can also come to the rescue if two of us need a sharp blade in the kitchen at the same time.

My 1981 Crosman Blades Pocket Knife

My 1981 Crosman Blades Pocket Knife

And here’s what I considered bringing, but decided against because of space/weight limitations:

~ My beloved chef’s knife, which makes vegetable and herb prepping such a cinch. But the one I own is too heavy and also too dear to me to travel this time, so I will make do with my pairing knife for my slicing and chopping needs.

~ My mandoline slicer, which I use daily at home, especially during the summer. But I figure a minimalist kit can’t have utensils with redundant functions, and since this can’t do anything my knife can’t, I opted not to bring it. (But with a heavy heart.) (Can you tell I’m still on the fence about this one?)

~ A cutting board, because I know the kind of tiny, warped, scratched plastic junk we are likely to find, but the kind of spacious, hard wood board I like to use is much too heavy to be a realistic inclusion in this kit.

~ A measuring jug marked with weight measurements for different ingredients (flour, sugar, etc.) to bake without a scale, but the two I own — both coming from my late grandmother’s kitchen — are glass, so they’re out. I’ll just wing it with ordinary drinking glasses.

~ A silicone baking mat and/or silicone muffin cups to do some basic baking, but the rented house is likely to offer at least one cake or loaf pan, so we’ll do fine with that.

Join the conversation!

Do you bring utensils and ingredients with you when you travel? What does your minimalist kit contain? And what about your dream, weight-is-no-object kit?

More tips!

A few summers ago I ran a series of Q&A’s about cooking on vacation and asked each of my guests, among many other fun things, what ingredients and utensils they liked to bring with them when they traveled. Check the series to see their inspiring answers.

Note: The tools above are pictured on a literary kitchen towel by artist Stéphanie Radenac, a gift from my longtime blog friend Pierre Pozzi, who is himself a talented paper and cardboard artist.

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August 2014 Desktop Calendar http://chocolateandzucchini.com/series/desktop-calendar/august-2014-desktop-calendar/ http://chocolateandzucchini.com/series/desktop-calendar/august-2014-desktop-calendar/#comments Tue, 29 Jul 2014 22:30:53 +0000 http://chocolateandzucchini.com/?p=6006 At the beginning of every month in 2014, I am offering a new wallpaper to apply on the desktop of […]

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August 2014 Desktop Calendar

At the beginning of every month in 2014, I am offering a new wallpaper to apply on the desktop of your computer, with a food-related picture and a calendar of the current month.

As a new feature this year, the desktop calendar is available in two versions: a US-friendly version that features Sunday as the first day of the week, and a French version (shown above) that complies with international standards, featuring Monday as the first day of the week.

Our calendar for August is a picture of this marvelously quenching, easy, no-cook gazpacho that I recommend you make with the ripest and most beautiful tomatoes you will find this month.

Instructions to get your calendar are below.

Here’s how it works:

1- Click on the following links to get the US version (weeks begin on Sunday) or to get the French version (weeks begin on Monday); each of these links will open a new window (or tab) displaying the wallpaper, in the appropriate format for your screen size.

2- Right-click (or ctrl-click for some Mac users) on the image, and choose the option that says, “Set as Desktop Background”, “Use as Desktop Picture,” or something to that effect (exact wording will depend on the browser you use).

3- If the image does not fit your desktop background neatly, you may have to go to your preference panel (on a Mac: System Preferences > Desktop & Screen Saver > Desktop; on Windows: Control Panel > Display > Desktop) and choose “Fit to screen” as the display mode of your background image.

4- Enjoy and see you next month!

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July Favorites http://chocolateandzucchini.com/links/july-favorites-2/ http://chocolateandzucchini.com/links/july-favorites-2/#comments Tue, 29 Jul 2014 14:00:18 +0000 http://chocolateandzucchini.com/?p=6020 Some of my favorite finds and reads for this month: ~ Food quotes, illustrated. ~ Change your life one password […]

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Artichoke rosettes with olive oil, as served at L'Arpège and shared on Alain Passard's twitter feed.

Some of my favorite finds and reads for this month:

~ Food quotes, illustrated.

~ Change your life one password at a time.

~ An artist from Nantes, in the West of France, is stenciling the names of wild plants growing on sidewalks.

~ How Andrew Hyde hosted 138 dinner parties in one year — such an inspiring perspective.

~ My interview on Gourmandize US.

~ About Alain Passard’s Twitter account and how his assistants shoot the gorgeous pictures for it (in French).

~ Planning to eat your way around Paris this month? Check out this list of what’s open and what’s not.

~ The 2014 edition of the sustainable seafood guide for French food professionals has been released. (The poster is a good cheat sheet.)

~ A delectable look at Goodnight Moon.

~ Nine questions you should ask yourself to unclutter your recipe collection. Plus: how to make the most of your cookbooks.

What about you, any memorable link to share this month?

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