Chocolate & Zucchini http://chocolateandzucchini.com Wed, 23 Jul 2014 13:37:42 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.1 58 Ways to Use Cucumbers http://chocolateandzucchini.com/ingredients-fine-foods/58-ways-to-use-cucumbers/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=58-ways-to-use-cucumbers http://chocolateandzucchini.com/ingredients-fine-foods/58-ways-to-use-cucumbers/#comments Tue, 22 Jul 2014 13:30:07 +0000 http://chocolateandzucchini.com/?p=5884 The summertime often means a glut of cucumbers, or at least it does for me and my weekly vegetable basket. […]

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Cucumber

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 canola 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

Cucumber appetizers

- Use cucumber slices as a bread substitute for appetizer spreads.
- Cut large slices and stuff with goat cheese and basil or any other yummy food.
- Cut into sticks and serve with Anchoïade (French anchovy dip).

Cucumber pickles

- Asian pickles.
- Lacto-fermented dilly cucumbers.
- Bread and butter pickles.
- Salted cucumbers.

Cucumber sandwiches

- Add to any sandwich for crunch and freshness.
- Cucumber sandwiches on sandwich bread with cream cheese.
- Cucumber and avocado quick nori rolls.

Cucumber

Cucumber soups

- Cold yogurt and cucumber soup with a healthy dose of garlic and dill, and maybe a bit of green onion, blended till smooth.
- Gazpacho, esp. with hot peppers.
- Chilled cucumber and avocado soup with mango salsa.

Cucumbers served warm

- Baked cucumbers.
- Add to a stir-fry or stew.
- Dredge slices in cornmeal and fry.

Cucumber drinks and frozen treats

- Add a few slices to your iced water glass or jug.
- Muddle with basil, add gin and tonic.
- Sangria with white wine, cucumbers, mint, and green grapes.
- Make popsicles with lime juice and chili.
- Cucumber sorbet.

Non-food uses for cucumbers

- Apply slices on puffy or tired eyes.
- Make cucumber facial masks.
- Use as shoe polish, WD-40 replacement, defogger, or pest control.

58 Ways To Use Cucumbers

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Perfect Madeleines Recipe http://chocolateandzucchini.com/recipes/cookies-small-cakes/perfect-madeleines-recipe/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=perfect-madeleines-recipe http://chocolateandzucchini.com/recipes/cookies-small-cakes/perfect-madeleines-recipe/#comments Tue, 08 Jul 2014 14:30:13 +0000 http://chocolateandzucchini.com/?p=5895 Madeleines have long eluded me. I have spent a good portion of my baking life collecting various recipes and giving […]

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Perfect Madeleines

Madeleines have long eluded me.

I have spent a good portion of my baking life collecting various recipes and giving the promising ones a try every now and then, but my efforts were only ever rewarded with ho-hum results, pale and dense little pucks that stuck to the mold like nobody’s business and flatly refused to form a bump.

Granted, if my temperament as a baker was to latch on to such challenges and tweak and tweak tirelessly until I unlocked the secrets of this or that pastry, I would probably have solved this one some time ago. But the way I deal with baking hurdles is more along the lines of “try, fail, forget about it and move on; try again, fail again, move on again, etc.”

This time, the nudge to try again came from my two-year-old, who developed his own brand of madeleine obsession, one that is more centered on the eating of said madeleines. We were going through packs from the organic store at a rapid clip, and at 3.50€ ($4.80) for ten, I thought I might as well bake them myself.

I decided to put my fate in the hands of Fabrice Le Bourdat, owner and pastry chef of Paris pâtisserie Blé Sucré, using the recipe for his signature madeleines — plump, golden, fist-sized, and lemon-glazed — as shared on video for the Fooding website*.

It’s a beautifully straightforward recipe that is easily (and best) made by hand — I first made the mistake of using my stand mixer, and let’s just say pouring in hot melted butter while the motor is running is not pretty — and it yields absurdly perfect madeleines: buttercup yellow, softly sticky bumps, lightly crisp edges, and fluffy, moist hearts.

As they baked and I stared in through the oven door, hardly believing my eyes that the centers rose slowly to form the oh-so-elusive bumps, I heard a deep voice echoing through the kitchen, saying, “Your Quest Stops Here.”

Looking at the recipe, I think the key elements that make it so astonishingly successful are these:

  • Refrigerating the batter overnight and preheating the oven to high is what creates the temperature shock that causes the bump to form.
  • Using a piping bag to fill the madeleine molds may sound fussy, but it is in fact immeasurably easier than using a spoon — the batter is pretty sticky — and it ensures the madeleines are neatly formed and evenly sized, which in turn makes them bake evenly.
  • Carefully buttering and refrigerating the madeleine tray, then assertively banging the tray sideways on the counter right out of the oven prevents the madeleines from sticking — they pop right out! — and the moisture from building up on the madeleines’s underbelly as they cool.

A few parting comments and words of advice:

  • Overfilling the molds will get you duck-billed madeleines (see picture below) that your toddler may recognize as such and specifically request (“Madeleine canard !”) but may not meet your own standards of aesthetics.
  • I altered Le Bourdat’s recipe slightly, reducing the amount of sugar (from 300 to 250 grams), adding salt, using a mix of baking soda and baking powder, and adding lemon zest as a classic flavoring. Feel free to omit it, or substitute the zest of another citrus, or vanilla, or orange flower water.
  • You can certainly dream up all kinds of wilder flavorings, but I encourage you to try these simple flavorings first, to experience the beauty of the plain madeleine. You can always eat them with alternating bites of dark chocolate.
  • The madeleines sold at Blé Sucré are topped with a lemon glaze, which is quite lovely, but messier for little hands to deal with. Up to you.
  • Watch your madeleines closely as they bake — especially your first batch — to determine the exact baking time that works for your own oven’s idiosyncrasies. Since madeleines are small, it can be a minute between perfect and overbaked.

Join the conversation!

Have you had success baking madeleines in the past? Or is this the nudge you needed to give it a go? Are you an advocate of plain madeleines, or are you just dying to add in chocolate chips and blueberries and bacon bits?

* Here’s my own grainy video baking my chocolate and zucchini cake for that same website.

Duck-billed madeleine: this is what happens when you overfill the molds.

Duck-billed madeleine: this is what happens when you overfill the molds.

Perfect Madeleines Recipe

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 12 minutes

Total Time: 12 hours, 30 minutes

Makes 48 madeleines.

Serving Size: 1 madeleine

Calories per serving: 117

Fat per serving: 8 grams

Perfect Madeleines Recipe

Ingredients

  • 6 large eggs
  • 250 grams (1 1/4 cups) unrefined blond cane sugar
  • Zest of one organic lemon, finely grated
  • 120 ml (1/2 cup) milk
  • 375 grams (13 1/4 ounces, about 2 3/4 cups) all-purpose flour, plus more for sprinkling
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 400 grams (1 3/4 cups) melted unsalted butter, hot, plus more for brushing

Instructions

  1. Prepare the batter the day before. In a large mixing bowl, whisk the eggs with the sugar and lemon zest, then whisk in the milk.
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, and stir with a clean whisk to remove any lump. Sprinkle the flour mixture into the wet ingredients, whisking all the while.
  3. Whisk in the melted butter, cover, and refrigerate until the next day. The batter will keep, tightly covered and refrigerated, for up to three days.
  4. Two hours before baking, brush a madeleine tray (preferably tin) with melted butter, making sure no excess butter pools in the ridges. Sprinkle the mold thoroughly with flour, then tap upside down over the sink to remove excess flour. (After my first batch, I forgot to flour the mold and merely buttered it, which turned out to be enough to prevent sticking.) Place the tray in the refrigerator for 2 hours.
  5. Madeleine mold
  6. Preheat the oven to 230°C (450°F).
  7. Pour some of the batter into a piping bag fitted with a plain tip. (To make this step easier, you can place the piping bag in a tall measuring jug and fold the sides over and out to keep it open.)
  8. Piping bag
  9. Pipe the batter into the prepared madeleine tray, filling each mold to three quarters. Bang the tray once on a cutting board (or your counter if it's sturdy) to remove any air bubble.
  10. Madeleine batter in mold
  11. Insert into the oven, lower the heat to 180°C (360°F), and bake for 12 minutes, until the sides of the madeleines are golden brown and the domes buttercup yellow.
  12. Remove from the oven and unmold immediately: holding the tray with both hands, tilt it forward so the madeleines face away from you, and bang the side of the tray on your cutting board or counter so the madeleines will pop out. Depending on how well-seasoned your tray is, it may take one to three bangs to pop them all out.
  13. Transfer to a rack to cool. The madeleines freeze well in an airtight container.

Notes

Adapted from a recipe by Fabrice Le Bourdat, pastry chef and owner of Blé Sucré, as seen on Le Fooding.

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Perfect Madeleines

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The French Market Cookbook: 1st Anniversary Giveaway! http://chocolateandzucchini.com/books-cookbooks/the-french-market-cookbook-1st-anniversary-giveaway/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-french-market-cookbook-1st-anniversary-giveaway http://chocolateandzucchini.com/books-cookbooks/the-french-market-cookbook-1st-anniversary-giveaway/#comments Wed, 02 Jul 2014 15:00:02 +0000 http://chocolateandzucchini.com/?p=5868 The French Market Cookbook came out just a year ago today, and I wanted to take this opportunity to thank […]

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The French Market Cookbook

The French Market Cookbook came out just a year ago today, and I wanted to take this opportunity to thank those of you who bought the book — sometimes multiple copies of it! — and cooked from it with such enthusiasm. It has been a joy and an absolute treat to hear your season-by-season reports, read your sweet tweets, and see your Instagram pictures, so please keep them coming!

To celebrate this one-year anniversary, my publisher and I have five fresh copies of the book for you to win, so you can finally get your hot little hands on it, or gift it away to your favorite vegetable lover.

For a chance to win a copy of The French Market Cookbook, please leave a comment below no later than Wednesday July 9, 2014, midnight Paris time, telling me which of the book’s recipes you most want to try*, or which one you like best if you’ve already cooked from it.

I will draw five comments randomly and announce the winners here next week. My publisher has agreed to send the book out to any mailing address in the world, so you’re welcome to play regardless of your location.

We Got Winners!

The giveaway is now closed, and the following five readers will each receive a copy of The French Market Cookbook:

  • Petra Durnin, who wrote, “I’ve made the Ratatouille Tian and loved it! Would like to try the green pancakes next :)”
  • Mary Duggan, who wrote, “Green pancakes! I love chard and I’m always looking for new ways of cooking it!”
  • Martic, who wrote, “I want to make the Stuffed Vegetables with Beans and Barley — that sounds delicious!!”
  • Brigita Orel, who wrote, “I would love to try the peach, almond and cardamom clafoutis.”
  • Alyson, who wrote, “I really want to try the avocado and radish mini tartines… anything with avocado is a must for me!”

Congratulations to them, and thank you all for participating with such enthusiasm!

* To help you make a choice, here’s a sample of the book’s recipes, excerpted with the publisher’s permission:
~ Avocado and Radish Mini Tartines
~ Very Green Salad
~ Shaved Fennel Salad with Preserved Lemon
~ Green Pancakes
~ Green Bean and Red Rice Salad
~ Radish Top Pasta
~ Zucchini and Apricot Socca Tart
~ Ratatouille Tian
~ Stuffed Vegetables with Beans and Barley
~ Strawberry Tartlets with Breton Shortbread Crust
~ Peach, Almond and Cardamom Clafoutis

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July 2014 Desktop Calendar http://chocolateandzucchini.com/series/desktop-calendar/july-2014-desktop-calendar/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=july-2014-desktop-calendar http://chocolateandzucchini.com/series/desktop-calendar/july-2014-desktop-calendar/#comments Mon, 30 Jun 2014 22:01:24 +0000 http://chocolateandzucchini.com/?p=5859 At the beginning of every month in 2014, I am offering a new wallpaper to apply on the desktop of […]

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July 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 July is a picture of this almond cake with blueberry coulis, and I am sharing it with the most ardent recommendation that you include it in your plans for summer treats.

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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June Favorites http://chocolateandzucchini.com/links/june-favorites/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=june-favorites http://chocolateandzucchini.com/links/june-favorites/#comments Sun, 29 Jun 2014 16:00:25 +0000 http://chocolateandzucchini.com/?p=5837 Some of my favorite finds and reads for this month: ~ Have you been throwing out your strawberry tops when […]

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Photography by James Ransom, reproduced with permission from Food52.

Some of my favorite finds and reads for this month:

~ Have you been throwing out your strawberry tops when you could have been sipping strawberry top water all along?

~ My friend Emma has produced a series of documentaries on Marfa, TX for the French-German television channel Arte, and on July 10 the episode on Adam Bork will be available online: learn all about the inventor of the Marfa-lafel and his Food Shark food truck!

~ Does it make sense to bike without a helmet?

~ Unleash your inner Jacques Génin and make your own passionfruit mango caramels.

~ If you shop for tomatoes in France, don’t fall for the beefheart tomato fraud.

~ The high human cost of cheap Thai shrimp.

~ Client feedback on the creation of the Earth.

~ Impress your friends by creating a whistle out of a chestnut tree branch.

~ Calligraphy you can eat.

~ The Max Havelaar fairtrade label on the brink of implosion.

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

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Yellow Zucchini Tarte Fine on a Yogurt-Based Crust Recipe http://chocolateandzucchini.com/recipes/vegetables-grains/yellow-zucchini-tarte-fine-on-a-yogurt-based-crust-recipe/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=yellow-zucchini-tarte-fine-on-a-yogurt-based-crust-recipe http://chocolateandzucchini.com/recipes/vegetables-grains/yellow-zucchini-tarte-fine-on-a-yogurt-based-crust-recipe/#comments Wed, 25 Jun 2014 18:15:35 +0000 http://chocolateandzucchini.com/uncategorized/yellow-zucchini-tarte-fine-on-a-yogurt-based-crust-recipe/ This tarte fine (i.e. a thin tart with little or no rim) is a free-form room-temperature tart I assembled on […]

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Yellow Zucchini Tarte Fine

This tarte fine (i.e. a thin tart with little or no rim) is a free-form room-temperature tart I assembled on a homemade crust with fresh cheese, mint, and thinly sliced raw zucchini, finished with a drizzle of olive oil and a little fresh thyme from my neighbor’s parents’ garden.

The overall format was inspired by Sonia Ezgulian‘s radish tart, as featured on Cécile Cau’s blog: hers involves a pâte brisée made with fennel seeds and filled with a mix of fromage blanc (a sort of yogurt) and ground almonds, topped with thinly sliced raw pink radishes.

I thought I would transpose the idea to use the sprightly young zucchini we’ve been getting lately, and the crust I used in mine was an experiment, as I wanted to try and make a short crust pastry using yogurt.

I had long ago bookmarked several online mentions of a puff pastry-like dough made with petits suisses, for which you combine these little unsalted fresh cheeses with flour and butter in a 2:2:1 weight ratio (unless you use the 1:2:1 ratio others recommend), and thought it was finally time to give it a try.

There were no petits suisses in my fridge, but yogurt I did have, so I planned to use that. And the ratio didn’t seem quite right to me — I worried the dough would be too moist, and the fact that two different ratios were said to work equally well did nothing to reassure me — so I improvised my own, combining flour, yogurt and butter in a 3:2:1 ratio instead (here, 180 grams flour, 120 grams yogurt, 60 grams butter, plus a little salt).

That crust was a complete success: it was quick to assemble, easy to roll out, and it baked into a deep golden, crisp and flaky crust that supported the tangy fresh cheese filling and the sweet zucchini slices beautifully.

We liked this refreshing summer tart so much I made another, identical one later that week, and used that same dough recipe for the Swiss chard quiche my mother, sister and I baked at my parents’ mountain house over the weekend.

I now intend to try and make a sweet version of that crust, probably very soon, and probably for a rhubarb tart using the gorgeous garden rhubarb I brought back with me.

Yellow Zucchini Tarte Fine on a Yogurt-Based Crust Recipe

Prep Time: 25 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes

Serves 4 to 6.

Yellow Zucchini Tarte Fine on a Yogurt-Based Crust Recipe

Ingredients

    For the dough (see note):
  • 180 grams (6 1/3 ounces, about 1 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour (I use the French T65)
  • 120 grams (1/2 cup) plain yogurt, not from skim milk
  • 60 grams (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, cold, diced
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • For the filling:
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
  • 120 grams (1/2 cup) fresh cheese (I used fresh goat cheese; you could also use ricotta)
  • a dash of milk
  • a dozen fresh mint leaves
  • 2 medium and very fresh yellow zucchini, about 280 grams (10 ounces) total
  • fresh thyme
  • olive oil
  • salt, pepper

Instructions

  1. Start by making the dough. Place the flour in a medium mixing bowl. Form a well in the center and spoon in the yogurt, holding the whey if there is any. Add the diced butter and salt, and use a pastry blender (or a sturdy fork, or the tips of your fingers) to combine the ingredients, blending the butter into the flour. Alternatively, you can mix the dough in a food processor, using short pulses.
  2. When most of the flour is absorbed and you can no longer see pieces of butter in the dough (depending on the specific flour, yogurt and butter you'll use, your dough will be moister or drier than mine; feel free to add a little flour or a few drops of water to get a workable consistency), turn the mixture out onto a clean work surface and gather the dough into a ball, kneading it very briefly so it comes together, then flattening it into a thick disk. Place the dough on a plate and let it rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  3. (If you wish to make it in advance, cover with plastic wrap, and keep in the fridge for up to a day. Let it come back to just below room temperature before rolling out.)
  4. Preheat the oven to 180°C (360°F).
  5. Roll the dough out thinly between two sheets of parchment paper to form whatever shape seems easiest -- I like it free-form.
  6. Remove the top sheet of paper, sprinkle the dough with sesame seeds, place the top sheet back and roll over it with the rolling pin so the sesame seeds will embed themselves in the pastry; this provides flavor and crunch.
  7. Remove the top sheet of paper and roll the very edges of the dough over themselves to form a small ridge all around. Crimp if desired.
  8. Transfer the pastry (and bottom sheet of paper) to a baking sheet. Prick all over with a fork, cover with the top sheet of paper, and top with baking beans. Place in the oven and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until golden brown.
  9. Remove the top sheet and the baking beans (they will be very hot, obviously) and let the crust cool completely.
  10. Beat the fresh cheese with a dash of milk to get a creamy consistency. Snip the mint leaves finely and add them to the fresh cheese. Spread all over the crust.
  11. Trim the zucchini and cut into paper-thin slices with a mandolin (I am very happy with my Japanese mandolin). Spread the zucchini slices out evenly over the fresh cheese without worrying about the pattern. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, drizzle with good olive oil, and sprinkle with thyme.
  12. Cut into servings, preferably with a bread knife.

Notes

Alternatively, you can use store-bought puff pastry; make sure you get a good one that uses butter as the only source of fat.

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This post was first published on July 14, 2010.

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Paleo Granola Recipe http://chocolateandzucchini.com/recipes/breakfast/paleo-granola-recipe/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=paleo-granola-recipe http://chocolateandzucchini.com/recipes/breakfast/paleo-granola-recipe/#comments Thu, 12 Jun 2014 14:05:25 +0000 http://chocolateandzucchini.com/?p=5770 The first time I heard about the paleo diet, the concept sounded so outlandish (eating like a caveman? but why?) […]

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Paleo Granola

The first time I heard about the paleo diet, the concept sounded so outlandish (eating like a caveman? but why?) that I brushed it aside as yet another weirdly punishing fad.

But then I came across more mentions, from sources I trust, and I read some decidedly un-faddish discussions on the excessive amount of carbohydrates — from grains and sugar, mostly — the typical Western diet includes, and how it impacts our health.

If you’re late to the paleo party, here’s the gist of it. According to paleo theory, our digestive system, which has been evolving for 2 million years, hasn’t had time to adapt to the radical changes in our diet since humans invented agriculture some 10,000 years ago (marking the dawn of the neolithic era), much less those that occurred at madding speed over the past three generations.

For optimal health, and usually motivated by some health concern or other, paleo eaters decide to focus on whole, unprocessed, seasonal foods in the spirit of those that would have been available to the paleolithic man, who foraged, hunted, and fished.

This means opting mostly for fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, pastured meats and sustainable seafood — a much more reasonable proposition than the caveman image might suggest at first glance. (As Michelle Tam conveys in her well-crafted Nom Nom Paleo cookbook and Paleo 101 section on her website, the caveman should be seen as a mascot of sorts — not a model for historical reenactment.)

Since I’m neither a doctor nor a nutritionist, my take on this is quite pragmatic: I examined my own way of eating, and although processed foods and empty calories aren’t a concern, I recognized that I have a natural inclination to consume a fair amount of starches — from wheat especially.

And when I tweaked the way I compose my meals to eat less of them, or even none at all, the effect on my energy levels and how I felt generally was very convincing. My purpose is not to go paleo, but to acknowledge that I do better if starches — even the so-called good, whole-grain kind — don’t factor into my every meal.

This realization led me to create this easy formula for paleo granola, an astonishingly tasty and satisfying option when I want to start my day grain-free. I eat it with diced up fruit and berries, and homemade yogurt from raw cow’s or goat’s milk I get at the organic store. Dairy yogurt isn’t actually paleOK, so if you’re following the rules to the letter you can use coconut milk, or better yet, coconut yogurt, which I totally want to try making.

Whether they would have had granola on the menu in the Lascaux caves is up for debate, but it suits me beautifully.

Join the conversation!

What’s your take on the paleo eating style, and how it reportedly helps with so many chronic ailments? Have you ever felt the need to lower your carb intake, and experimented with that change?

Paleo Granola

Paleo Granola Recipe

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 40 minutes

Makes about 800 grams (1 3/4 pounds), or 20 servings.

Paleo Granola Recipe

Ingredients

  • 500 grams (1 pound 2 ounces) mixed nuts and seeds (here I used skin-on almonds and cashews; you can also use hazelnuts, walnuts, pecans, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds...)
  • 50 grams (1 cup) unsweetened coconut chips
  • 50 grams (1/2 cup) unsweetened grated coconut
  • 40 grams (1/3 cup) cacao nibs (optional)
  • 100 grams (1/3 cup) honey
  • 60 grams (1/3 cup) extra virgin coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground cake spices (I use the French quatre-épices mix that includes cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and black pepper)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • zest of an organic lemon, finely grated (optional)

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 160°C (320°F) and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
  2. Put the nuts in the bowl of a food processor or blender, and process in short pulses until roughly chopped, stirring every few pulses for even chopping. The goal is to have a mix of bigger bits and smaller bits. Pour into a large mixing bowl.
  3. Paleo Granola
  4. Add the rest of the ingredients, and stir vigorously until well combined. Pay particular attention to the honey and coconut oil: they will tend to remain as individual wads, and you'll need to coax them into mingling with the other ingredients.
  5. Paleo Granola
  6. Pour out onto the prepared baking sheet and spread out evenly.
  7. Paleo Granola
  8. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, stirring thoroughly every 10 minutes, until golden brown.
  9. Let the granola cool completely on the sheet -- it will crisp up as it cools -- then transfer to an airtight container. It will keep for 3 weeks at cool room temperature, or a couple of months in the refrigerator.
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Healthy Breakfast Oatmeal Cookies Recipe http://chocolateandzucchini.com/recipes/cookies-small-cakes/healthy-breakfast-oatmeal-cookies-recipe/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=healthy-breakfast-oatmeal-cookies-recipe http://chocolateandzucchini.com/recipes/cookies-small-cakes/healthy-breakfast-oatmeal-cookies-recipe/#comments Wed, 04 Jun 2014 13:48:00 +0000 http://chocolateandzucchini.com/?p=5775 Having a two-year-old at home who wakes up bright and (verrrry) early, excited to announce the breakfast item his heart […]

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Healthy Breakfast Oatmeal Cookies

Having a two-year-old at home who wakes up bright and (verrrry) early, excited to announce the breakfast item his heart is set on, I have become quite adept at flipping crêpes and cooking one-egg omelettes in a dazed half-sleep.

Beyond crêpes and eggs and bananas, my son is also quite keen on cookies for breakfast — who isn’t? — and although I have no qualms against yogurt cake and madeleines and buckwheat speculoos at any time of day, my motherly, nutrition-conscious instincts push me to try and offer things that match the request (“Gâteau ? Gâteau ?”) but provide a little more in the way of quality early-hour fuel.

This led me to create these two-bite cookies, made up of wholesome ingredients — rolled grains, coconut, almond flour, chia seeds — and no added sugar, relying on the sweetening power of mashed bananas and dried fruit instead.

They are extremely easy to make, and if you have a toddler underfoot you can even enroll him/her to mash and dump and stir and scoop (practical life activity, people, so Montessori!).

But naturally there is no reason to constrict these to the realm of kid food: we can all benefit from a nutritious and portable breakfast cookie, whether it’s eaten on the train ride to work, or while pushing a toy version around the living room.

The formula is very forgiving, and entirely open to variations: in different incarnations of these cookies I have switched the rolled grains around to use quinoa or rice or millet, I’ve added in finely chopped nuts (especially pecans!) or cacao nibs for crunch, and I once made a version with a touch of cocoa powder thrown in, all to great results.

Join the conversation!

What’s your favorite easy-to-carry yet nutritious breakfast option? And if you have a young child, what’s breakfast like at your house?

Healthy Breakfast Oatmeal Cookies

Healthy Breakfast Oatmeal Cookies Recipe

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 20 minutes

Makes 24 tablespoon-size cookies.

Healthy Breakfast Oatmeal Cookies Recipe

Ingredients

  • 2 overripe medium bananas, about 160 grams (5 1/2 ounces) weighed without the skin
  • 1 large egg (substitute 1 tablespoon ground flax seeds soaked in 3 tablespoons water until gel-like)
  • 35 grams (3 tablespoons) coconut oil
  • 100 grams (1 cup) old-fashioned oatmeal (use certified gluten-free as needed) or other rolled grains (spelt, quinoa, millet, rice, etc.)
  • 40 grams (6 tablespoons) almond flour
  • 40 grams (1/3 cup) dried cranberries (preferably unsweetened) or raisins
  • 20 grams (3 tablespoons) dried unsweetened grated coconut
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds (substitute sesame or poppy seeds)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 pinch fine sea salt

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 175°C (350°F) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, use a fork or potato masher to mash the bananas thoroughly with the egg and the coconut oil.
  3. In another bowl, blend together the remaining ingredients -- oatmeal, almond flour, cranberries, coconut, chia seeds, baking powder, and salt.
  4. Fold the dry ingredients into the banana mash, and stir until thoroughly combined.
  5. Scoop tablespoonfuls of the batter onto the prepared baking sheet, giving the cookies a little space to expand, and bake for 15 minutes, until set and golden.
  6. Transfer to a rack to cool.

Notes

These cookies keep for 2 to 3 days in an airtight container at cool room temperature; refrigerate or freeze for longer storage.

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June 2014 Desktop Calendar http://chocolateandzucchini.com/series/desktop-calendar/june-2014-desktop-calendar/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=june-2014-desktop-calendar http://chocolateandzucchini.com/series/desktop-calendar/june-2014-desktop-calendar/#comments Sat, 31 May 2014 22:01:29 +0000 http://chocolateandzucchini.com/?p=5683 At the beginning of every month in 2014, I am offering a new wallpaper to apply on the desktop of […]

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June 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 June is a picture of Zucchini Pasta with Almonds and Lemon Zest, one of my favorite quick pasta dishes, and a most satisfying way to welcome the first local zucchini when it makes its exciting appearance on market stalls.

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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May Favorites http://chocolateandzucchini.com/links/may-favorites-2/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=may-favorites-2 http://chocolateandzucchini.com/links/may-favorites-2/#comments Thu, 29 May 2014 15:00:26 +0000 http://chocolateandzucchini.com/?p=5716 A few of my favorite finds and reads for May: ~ The clean fifteen and the dirty dozen, prettified by […]

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The clean fifteen by Montreal graphic designer Simon L'Archevêque and urban nutritionist Bernard Lavallée. Reproduced with permission.

A few of my favorite finds and reads for May:

~ The clean fifteen and the dirty dozen, prettified by Montreal graphic designer Simon L’Archevêque for Bernard Lavallée’s Nutrtionniste Urbain.

~ I took part in a filmed discussion on food blogs (in French; I start talking 17 minutes in).

~ Bee collapse mystery: scientists may have found the culprit; now you can sign the petition to ban it in the EU.

~ Behavioral science is interested in how you eat your sushi: favorite first or favorite last?

~ The resurgence of home fermenting. I myself have enthusiastically experiemented with sourdough bread, yogurt, kefir (tibicos), beet kvass, kombucha, and fermented pickles. What about you?

~ If it drives you nuts how often you’re advised to throw out perfectly fixable appliances, Repair Cafés are for you.

~ The tasting menu at Dovetail in NYC, in 60 beautiful seconds.

~ Eyes are bigger than your stomach? This Swiss all-you-can-eat restaurant will fine you for it.

~ A French crowd-funding platform devoted to food-related projects.

~ In which I learn that my favorite number is, in fact, the world’s favorite favorite number.

~ How to make a salad with a pair of scissors and an exacto knife, by the talented Jessie Kanelos Weiner.

~ Easy-to-peel hard-boiled eggs in the pressure cooker.

~ What happens when you request a doggy bag in France.

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