Chocolate & Zucchini http://chocolateandzucchini.com Wed, 30 Sep 2015 22:05:27 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1 October 2015 Desktop Calendar http://chocolateandzucchini.com/series/desktop-calendar/october-2015-desktop-calendar/ http://chocolateandzucchini.com/series/desktop-calendar/october-2015-desktop-calendar/#comments Wed, 30 Sep 2015 22:05:27 +0000 http://chocolateandzucchini.com/?p=8068 At the beginning of every month, I am offering a new wallpaper to apply on the desktop of your computer, […]

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October Desktop Calendar from Chocolate & Zucchini

At the beginning of every month, 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.

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 October is a photo of purslane, the wonder weed that Michael Pollan has called one of the most nutritious plants on the planet. If you find it in your backyard or your greenmarket, I have 45 ways to use purslane for you!

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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12th Anniversary Book Giveaway! http://chocolateandzucchini.com/books-cookbooks/12th-anniversary-book-giveaway/ http://chocolateandzucchini.com/books-cookbooks/12th-anniversary-book-giveaway/#comments Wed, 30 Sep 2015 08:00:17 +0000 http://chocolateandzucchini.com/?p=8099 Chocolate & Zucchini turns 12 today! This means I have been blogging for, oh, just about 4 383 days, and […]

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12thAnniversaryGiveaway

Chocolate & Zucchini turns 12 today!

This means I have been blogging for, oh, just about 4 383 days, and this particular anniversary actually marks the point where I have been blogging for a full third of my life. No wonder C&Z feels as familiar to me as my own limbs, and writing here as natural as breathing.

Creating this blog on an idle September day in 2003 is one of the top 3 most life-shaping decisions I have ever made (the other two would be: living in California in my early twenties, and having a child in my early thirties — what about you?).

Not a day goes by that I don’t feel grateful beyond words for everything it has brought me. An incredibly fulfilling career, a rich network of like-minded cooks and real-life friends, a wealth of knowledge I would never have acquired otherwise, and my interactions with you, dear readers, who warm my heart, make me laugh, inspire, and teach me daily.

To thank you, I have partnered with my publishers to give away Five sets of my three latest books:

PreservingThere’s PRESERVING, the newest Ginette Mathiot tome that I’ve helped revise for its English-language edition, and has just been released by the good people at Phaidon. This one is all about conserving, salting, smoking, and pickling — in other words, capturing flavors at the height of the season, to enjoy later.

The French Market CookbookThen there’s THE FRENCH MARKET COOKBOOK, a book that celebrates the love story between French cuisine and vegetables, and contains 75 of my heaviest-rotation recipes for seasonal produce, such as my shocking pink pasta with a no-cook beet sauce, my Corsican turnovers garnished with squash, or my pear and chestnut cake.

Edible FrenchAnd finally there’s EDIBLE FRENCH, a lovely book of French food-related idioms that tell you so much about French culture, and come illustrated with whimsical watercolors by my friend Melina Josserand.

Five lucky winners will win a copy of each of these books, so three books total, which will be sent in the mail by their respective publishers.

You have until Sunday, October 10, 10pm EST to enter, using the Rafflecopter widget below: you’ll see you have different options to enter the giveaway, and you can use as many as you like to increase your chances of winning. The winners will be picked randomly and their names will be announced here on Monday, October 11. Good luck and thank you for participating!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

* Is this your first time entering a giveaway using Rafflecopter? Here’s a quick video showing how it works:

How to Enter a Rafflecopter Giveaway from Rafflecopter on Vimeo.

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September Favorites http://chocolateandzucchini.com/links/september-favorites-3/ http://chocolateandzucchini.com/links/september-favorites-3/#comments Mon, 28 Sep 2015 13:32:53 +0000 http://chocolateandzucchini.com/?p=8086 A few reads and finds from this past month: ~ I have become a member of Food Blogger Pro, and […]

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Dinosaur Kale -- a rare sight in Paris -- found at Terroir d'Avenir.

A few reads and finds from this past month:

~ I have become a member of Food Blogger Pro, and I am loving the many video courses and resources to help me grow and improve Chocolate & Zucchini. If you have a food blog too, and want to join the community, here are promotion codes you can use.

~ Spicy eggplant balls, chilled eggplant soup, zaalouk: my aubergenius recipes in the Wall Street Journal.

~ From potimarron for breakfast, to chocolate after dark: Here’s a day on my plate.

~ Made me laugh: A new caption that works for every New Yorker cartoon.

~ Ten Paris food secrets you may not know about.

~ Can you protect your belly from Delhi belly? (The French call it la tourista.)

~ How to age gracefully.

~ Guillaume Long’s take on what utensils he brings on vacation (in French). Here’s my own minimalist kit for the traveling cook.

~ 10 French Instagram accounts you should follow if you like food.

~ Food illustrations are making a comeback. Is this the end of food porn as we know it?

~ Cubed food: do you recognize them all?

~ Turn lemons into lemonade and coffee stains into adorable monsters.

For more links and articles throughout the month, follow me on Twitter!

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Raw Chocolate Hazelnut Truffles Recipe http://chocolateandzucchini.com/recipes/candy-mignardises/raw-chocolate-hazelnut-truffles-recipe/ http://chocolateandzucchini.com/recipes/candy-mignardises/raw-chocolate-hazelnut-truffles-recipe/#comments Thu, 24 Sep 2015 14:01:24 +0000 http://chocolateandzucchini.com/?p=8036 The problem with working from home is that the kitchen is a powerful distraction. Oftentimes I’ll be typing away, working […]

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Raw Chocolate Truffles

The problem with working from home is that the kitchen is a powerful distraction.

Oftentimes I’ll be typing away, working on an assignment, fielding email, or straightening up notes from an interview or field trip, and a wonderfully seductive thought will pop into my head.

“Should I start slicing zucchini for roasting tonight?”
Or: “How about I spatchcock a chicken and try a new marinade for it?”
Or maybe: “Will the apples that the neighbor’s daughter brought from her garden keep for much longer, or should I hurry up and make Gâteau de Mamy?”
And also: “Boy, do I wish I had some raw chocolate truffles to nibble on!”

It’s all I can do not to jump up from my chair and dash into the kitchen; I call it culinary procrastination.

Regarding the truffles, the idea came about as I was writing a story on raw chocolate for my column in ELLE à table. “Raw” chocolate is chocolate that is processed at low enough a temperature to preserve a maximum of antioxydants and minerals. The concept is disputed, especially in the absence of any certification system — I recommend you read Stephanie Zonis’ in-depth article on the subject. But since raw cacao powder is easily available, and can be used to make all sorts of interesting, raw-inspired preparations with alternative sweeteners and high flavor, I’m totally on board.

As one might expect, it’s hard to research the topic without wanting to get all practical, and within minutes I had abandoned my computer and was happily whizzing and shaping and dusting these two-bite treats.

The good news is (for my editor at least) it didn’t keep me away from my desk for very long, as this is a super easy and quick process. First, you’ll grind some nuts. I used hazelnuts and sunflower seeds here, but you could substitute whichever nuts you prefer (think almonds, walnuts, macadamia, pecans…), and I like a combo. Then, you’ll process some pitted dates with salt, spices (I use the cinnamon I love and/or freshly ground cardamom), and raw cocoa powder. Finally, you’ll pour in some gently melted coconut oil and honey (rice syrup for you vegans) to bind everything together.

Raw Chocolate Truffles

All that’s left to do then is to channel your inner kindergartener and roll little balls of dough between your palms, then toss in a bowl of grated coconut or cocoa powder to coat. The result is pretty and appetizing, and more important, it is absolutely delicious, with a vibrant chocolate flavor and a rich, lightly nubby texture from the nuts.

Such a welcome pick-me-up in the middle of a work project, and the purrrfect treat to savor while watching your favorite series at night when the kids are in bed.

I want to know!

Do you eat raw chocolate yourself, and what’s your favorite brand? Have you ever made your own raw chocolate confections? Does the kitchen ever draw you away from what you should really be doing, you culinary procrastinator you?

I hope you try making these truffles, and when you do, please share the pictures on social media using the hashtag #cnz.

Raw Chocolate Hazelnut Truffles Recipe

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 20 minutes

Makes 20 to 25 truffles.

Raw Chocolate Hazelnut Truffles Recipe

Ingredients

  • 60 grams (1/2 cup) raw hazelnuts
  • 60 grams (scant 1/2 cup) raw sunflower seeds
  • 100 grams (3 1/2 ounces) pitted Medjool dates (or other soft dates), about 5
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (I use fresh cinnamon)
  • 80 grams (2/3 cup) raw cocoa powder + 2 tablespoons for coating
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 2 level tablespoons honey (or rice syrup for vegans)
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened grated coconut

Instructions

  1. In the bowl of a mixer or blender, process the hazelnuts and sunflower seeds in short pulses (this is to avoid overheating) until you get the consistency of breadcrumbs.
  2. Raw Chocolate Truffles
  3. Pour into a mixing bowl.
  4. In the bowl of the mixer, process the dates with the salt, cinnamon, and cocoa. Add to the bowl and mix well.
  5. Raw Chocolate Truffles
  6. In a small saucepan, melt together the coconut oil and honey over gentle heat. Pour into the bowl and stir well with a fork or dough whisk until the dough comes together.
  7. Raw Chocolate Truffles
  8. Roll the dough into balls, 2 to 3 cm (1 inch) in diameter, between the palms of your hands, and place them on a tray lined with parchment paper.
  9. Raw Chocolate Truffles
  10. Put 2 tablespoons cocoa powder in a shallow bowl and roll a third of the truffles in it. Repeat with another third of the truffles and the grated coconut in a clean bowl, and leave the last third plain.
  11. Raw Chocolate Truffles
  12. Allow to set in the refrigerator for 2 hours, then transfer to an airtight container and keep in the fridge. The truffles can be eaten straight from the fridge, or you can allow them to come to room temperature 1 hour before serving.
http://chocolateandzucchini.com/recipes/candy-mignardises/raw-chocolate-hazelnut-truffles-recipe/

Easy Raw Chocolate Truffles

Easy Raw Chocolate Truffles

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Spiced Beef Cheek Stew Recipe http://chocolateandzucchini.com/recipes/meat-charcuterie/spiced-beef-cheek-stew/ http://chocolateandzucchini.com/recipes/meat-charcuterie/spiced-beef-cheek-stew/#comments Wed, 16 Sep 2015 13:49:44 +0000 http://chocolateandzucchini.com/?p=8018 I am not sure why I thought buying beef cheeks in mid-July was a good idea. It was a crime […]

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Spiced Beef Cheek Stew

I am not sure why I thought buying beef cheeks in mid-July was a good idea.

It was a crime of opportunity, really: I was returning to the farmers’ market at the Batignolles for the first time in a while (having a second baby will do that to you) and I was eager to pick up organic meat from one of the farmers there, not quite knowing when I’d have a chance to go again.

Fresh organic meat is still inexplicably hard to find in Paris, as most butchers — even the fancy, pricy ones — offer conventional meat only. It may be well raised and from smaller farms, though it’s always hard to know for sure, but the organic certification is never a selling point.

I stopped by one of my favorite meat stalls at the greenmarket, one run by a boisterous butcher lady who comes with her young apprentice and her teenaged daughter. I spotted a beef cheek in the display case, and set my heart on it immediately: it’s one of my favorite cuts for braised dishes, but it’s a little-known one that you usually have to special-order. It’s also fairly cheap, compared to other stew-friendly cuts, but it has lots of flavor and a rich, satisfying texture brought on by the high collagen content.

The butcher said, “Do you want the entire cheek?” and I said, “Sure!” not having any notion of how big that would be. I watched her trim and prepare the whole thing, and ended up with a good four pounds of meat.

A great purchase by any cook’s standard, except… we were in the middle of a heatwave and the last thing anyone wanted to eat was braised beef cheeks. Thankfully, I was able to find room in my tiny freezer to stash the package away, and dutifully updated the list I maintain to keep track of my frozen supplies so things don’t camp in there for a decade. (Do you do the same? I recommend it.)

Fast forward a few weeks, and I was patting myself on the back for such accidental preparedness. In the midst of the hectic, my-eldest-is-starting-school, my-youngest-is-starting-daycare, I-have-a-zillion-projects-I-want-to-work-on weeks, I was able to put together this incredibly aromatic, soul-warming spiced stew in a matter of minutes.

I use a pressure cooker for this recipe, which saves a significant amount of time and means the stew is ready in — wait for it — an hour. You can, however, prepare it in a Dutch oven or a slow cooker: the active time is just as short, but the meat will take longer to cook. And in all cases, I recommend you prepare it the day before; all stews benefit from a good night’s sleep.

The amounts listed serve a gang — a gang of eight, to be precise — which makes it perfect for a fall dinner party, or means a family can get two to three dinners out of it. If you’re the kind of person who dislikes eating the same thing two days in a row, you can transform the dish on subsequent nights: shred the meat with two forks and toss it with pasta and freshly grated cheese, or layer it across the bottom of a baking dish, top with mashed broccoli and breadcrumbs, and place under the broiler of the oven to make a green hachis parmentier.

And of course, leftover servings may be frozen for another pat-on-the-back dinner down the road.

Join the conversation!

Have you ever cooked with beef cheeks? Is there another semi-obscure cut of meat that you love? Is it stew season yet where you live?

PS : Perfect mashed potatoes to serve with this, and a lovely plum tart to finish.

Spiced Beef Cheek Stew

Spiced Beef Cheek Stew Recipe

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 50 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour

Serves 8.

Spiced Beef Cheek Stew Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1.8 kilos (4 pounds) beef cheek (see note for substitutions)
  • 2 tablespoons smoked paprika (hot or not, as you prefer)
  • 2 tablespoons ground ginger
  • 2 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons fine sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 teaspoon ground chili pepper (optional; skip if you've used hot smoked paprika)
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 medium red onion, finely sliced
  • 8 prunes, pitted and chopped
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 2 cups homemade stock (water will do if you don't have it)
  • Fresh cilantro or flat-leaf parsley, for serving

Instructions

  1. Cut the meat into 5-cm (2-inch) cubes and place at the bottom of a pressure cooker, Dutch oven, or slow cooker.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the smoked paprika, ginger, cumin, salt, cardamom, chili pepper if using, and black pepper. Add to the pot and stir well to coat all the pieces of meat.
  3. Add the onion, prunes, tomato paste, and vinegar, and stir to combine.
  4. Beef Cheek Stew
  5. Pour in the stock.
  6. If using a pressure cooker:
  7. Close the pressure cooker tightly, place on the stove over medium heat, and bring it up to full pressure. Lower the heat to just maintain the pressure and cook for 40 minutes. Allow the pressure to release naturally.
  8. Check that the meat is fork-tender; if it's not, bring the cooker back to pressure and cook for an additional 5 minutes before checking again.
  9. Beef Cheek Stew
    If using a Dutch oven:
  10. Cover the pot and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Lower the heat to maintain a simmer and cook for 3 hours, until the meat is fork-tender, stirring from time to time and adding a bit of water when the liquids run low.
  11. If using a slow cooker:
  12. Close the cooker and cook on low for 6 to 7 hours, until the meat is fork-tender.
  13. In all cases:
  14. Remove the meat from the pot with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  15. Return the pot to medium-high heat (if using a slow cooker, transfer the sauce to a large pan), bring to a boil, and allow the sauce to reduce until velvety. Add the meat back into the sauce and warm up as necessary.
  16. Serve over perfect mashed potatoes or steamed rice, with cilantro on top and your choice of green vegetable on the side (roasted zucchini, green beans, sautéed kale...).

Notes

  • If beef cheeks are unavailable, substitute another stew-friendly cut, such as chuck roast; see a full list of possibilities.
  • Like all stews, this one gets even better the next day and the day after that.
  • It also freezes perfectly. Allow to thaw in the fridge for a day before warming back up over gentle heat.

http://chocolateandzucchini.com/recipes/meat-charcuterie/spiced-beef-cheek-stew/

Spiced Beef Cheek Stew

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Easy Tarte Tatin Recipe http://chocolateandzucchini.com/recipes/cakes-tarts/easy-tarte-tatin-recipe/ http://chocolateandzucchini.com/recipes/cakes-tarts/easy-tarte-tatin-recipe/#comments Tue, 08 Sep 2015 12:51:22 +0000 http://chocolateandzucchini.com/?p=7354 I realize this puts me in the minority, but I am someone who longs for fall, and the new crop […]

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Tarte Tatin

I realize this puts me in the minority, but I am someone who longs for fall, and the new crop of apples that comes with it.

Returning to the Batignolles farmers market after our vacation, I was elated to spot crates of bright red Akane apples — the first to appear in late August — and promptly filled a bag with them, my mouth watering at the thought of the crisp, acidulated wedges I would soon sprinkle with fresh cinnamon and use to scoop up my lightly salted, crunchy almond butter.

But these apples are pretty good for baking, too, and on the first of the chillier, windy days that followed the altogether wonderfully warm summer we’ve had this year, I decided to call upon the comfort of a simple tarte tatin.

I’m sure some cooks feel intimidated by the idea of this dessert but truly, there is no need to be. I would argue that it is, in fact, the most forgiving of tarts: the dough can be patched up as necessary if you can’t quite roll it out in one go — since the fruit bakes underneath it, you don’t have to worry about it being leak-proof — and there is no risk of it turning soggy since it is directly exposed to the heat of the oven.

Beyond a good, tasty crust that’s both tender and crumbly, a winning tart tatin starts with a nice layer of buttery caramel on which to arrange the apples at the bottom of the pan. This is easily done as well, if you trust your eyes and your nose to alert you to its doneness (the goal is golden brown and irresistibly nutty). I then sprinkle that layer of caramel with some salt, because well, what’s buttered caramel without salt?

I also peel the apples in alternating stripes, not just because it’s half the work (though it is) but because I think it’s pretty and I like a bit of skin on my cooked apples.

Perhaps the last step that needs demystifying is the flipping of the finished tart, in order for the crust to return to the bottom and the apples to the top. I admit this is a manoeuvre not to be taken lightly, but an assertive gesture and a good pair of oven mitts will do the job quite nicely. I actually enjoy the thrill of it — will it flip, will it stick? oh, the sense of adventure! — and feel safe knowing that any stubborn apple wedge that might remain stuck to the pan can be scraped off carefully and returned to its rightful place with no lasting consequence.

Some people like their tart tatin at room temperature, others prefer it slightly warm. You can still bake the tart earlier in the day then; you’ll just warm it back up in a low oven. As for accompaniments, I am partial to crème fraîche or thick yogurt, but I won’t begrudge you a scoop of vanilla ice cream if you promise it isn’t the artificially-flavored, tooth-achingly sweet kind.

Join the conversation!

How does tarte tatin rate on your favorite fall desserts list? Have you ever tried baking one yourself, and how did that go?

Tarte Tatin

Easy Tarte Tatin Recipe

Prep Time: 40 minutes

Cook Time: 50 minutes

Total Time: 2 hours, 30 minutes

Serves 6 to 8.

Easy Tarte Tatin Recipe

Ingredients

    For the crust:
  • 200 grams (1 1/2 cups) all-purpose flour
  • 25 grams (2 tablespoons) unrefined blond cane sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 120 grams (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, cold and diced
  • 1 large organic egg yolk
  • For the apple filling:
  • 75 grams (5 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon) unsalted butter
  • 75 grams (6 tablespoons) unrefined blond cane sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 4 large organic apples, about 800 grams (1 3/4 pounds)

Instructions

  1. First, prepare the dough for the crust. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar and salt. Add the butter and yolk, and rub them in with a pastry blender or a fork until you get an even, coarsely sandy consistency.
  2. Tarte Tatin
  3. Turn the dough out onto a clean work surface. Add 2 tablespoons cold water and knead briefly to gather the dough into a smooth ball. If necessary, add a touch more water. Put the dough on a plate, cover with an upturned bowl and refrigerate for 1 hour or overnight.
  4. Tarte Tatin
  5. Now, prepare the caramel coating. Put the butter and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Allow them to melt together until the mixture becomes golden brown and smells irresistibly nutty and caramel-y, swirling the pan around from time to time but not stirring.
  6. Tarte Tatin
  7. Pour the butter caramel into a round 25-cm (10-inch) cake pan (don't use one with a removable bottom) and spread more or less evenly with a spatula. Sprinkle with the salt.
  8. Tarte Tatin
  9. Preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F).
  10. Peel the apples in alternating stripes. Core, cut into eighths, and arrange in the pan, rounded side down, starting from the outside.
  11. Tarte Tatin
  12. Roll the dough out on a lightly floured work surface to form a 30-cm (12-inch) circle. Lift the dough up and transfer it over the apples. Tuck in the side, patch up as needed, and pierce three holes for ventilation.
  13. Tarte Tatin
  14. Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour, until the crust is golden brown and the apple juices are bubbling from the sides. Transfer to a rack.
  15. Tarte Tatin
  16. Allow the tart to cool for 5-10 minutes. Run a knife all around to loosen the crust. Top with an upturned serving plate and, wearing oven mitts and long sleeves, flip the whole thing so the tart lands crust side down on the plate. If any piece of fruit sticks to the pan, just scrape it off gently and place it back where it belongs.
  17. Serve warm or at room temperature, with a dollop of crème fraîche.
http://chocolateandzucchini.com/recipes/cakes-tarts/easy-tarte-tatin-recipe/

Easy Tart Tatin

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A Better Way to Slice Zucchini http://chocolateandzucchini.com/recipes/vegetables-grains/a-better-way-to-slice-zucchini/ http://chocolateandzucchini.com/recipes/vegetables-grains/a-better-way-to-slice-zucchini/#comments Thu, 03 Sep 2015 11:46:44 +0000 http://chocolateandzucchini.com/?p=7959 Have you ever noticed how cutting the same vegetable in different ways has a significant effect on the flavor and […]

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How to Slice Zucchini

Have you ever noticed how cutting the same vegetable in different ways has a significant effect on the flavor and overall eating experience?

I’ve written about grated carrots in this regard, and have recently adopted a new way of slicing zucchini that I wanted to share with you.

It all started with a plate of fish I had at Le Bal Café, one of my favorite lunch spots in Paris. This delicious dish came with thickish slices of zucchini, cut at a steep angle and roasted. I was instantly taken with this shape, which I thought was quite attractive, and very successful in terms of texture.

I played around with the idea in my own kitchen, and ended up with a slightly different technique, in which you work your way down the zucchini from side to side, as shown on this animated image:

How to Slice Zucchini

The slices are just as steeply angled, but have one skinless edge to them. Not only does it look lovely in the plate, but it makes for a great textural balance in every bite, from the firm, skin-side rim to the soft flesh in the middle.

It works particularly well if you’re going to roast the zucchini — my cooking method of choice these days, with a healthy glug of olive oil and a good coating of garam masala –, and it is quite fun to do, too, especially if your knife is well-sharpened.

So if you’re stuck in a rut with your same old zucchini half-moons, I hope you give it a try!

Join the conversation!

Do you share my interest in knife technique, and how different cutting styles produce different results? Do you have a favorite vegetable-slicing trick to share?

How to Slice Zucchini

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September 2015 Desktop Calendar http://chocolateandzucchini.com/series/desktop-calendar/september-2015-desktop-calendar-2/ http://chocolateandzucchini.com/series/desktop-calendar/september-2015-desktop-calendar-2/#comments Mon, 31 Aug 2015 22:03:40 +0000 http://chocolateandzucchini.com/?p=7737 At the beginning of every month, I am offering a new wallpaper to apply on the desktop of your computer, […]

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September 2015 Desktop Calendar

At the beginning of every month, 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.

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 photo of my shakshouka, a simple, family-style Middle-Eastern dish that is quickly assembled, highly flexible, and rather heavenly.

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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Spatchcocked Chicken “Under a Brick” Recipe http://chocolateandzucchini.com/recipes/meat-charcuterie/spatchcocked-chicken-under-a-brick-recipe/ http://chocolateandzucchini.com/recipes/meat-charcuterie/spatchcocked-chicken-under-a-brick-recipe/#comments Tue, 25 Aug 2015 09:10:58 +0000 http://chocolateandzucchini.com/?p=7940 Sometimes you come across a disruptive recipe and your life changes forever. This is one such recipe. It was recommended […]

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Spatchcocked Chicken

Sometimes you come across a disruptive recipe and your life changes forever. This is one such recipe.

It was recommended to me by a reader named Saudia, from Oregon, who answered my call for recipe suggestions to use my brand-new Lodge pan, a US-made cast-iron skillet that goes elegantly from stove to oven. I’d been coveting one for a long time without ever having room in my luggage to bring it back from my travels, but early this summer, I finally found out it was available in Europe.

Saudia pointed me to the recipe Mark Bittman had published in the New York Times in 1997 (so, yeah, nothing new), and when I went on a search for images of the finished results, I stumbled upon this more recent post by my friend Adam, who had merged Bittman’s recipe with Amanda Hesser’s. I mostly followed the instructions outlined by Adam, with a few minor modifications.

First, you spatchcock* your chicken, which sounds a lot more intimidating than it really is: all you need to do is cut the chicken on either side of the backbone — I use kitchen shears — then flip the chicken and press it down firmly so it lies flat (check out this video). This allows the chicken to cook faster and more evenly.

I’d done spatchcocking once before, inspired by an old Gwyneth Paltrow video, of all things, but the chicken had turned out pretty dry so I’d gone back to my standard recipes for whole chicken: Muriel’s chicken or, with a bit more time on my hands, salt-crusted chicken or chicken in a bread crust.

But this recipe introduces a clever trick: you start by placing the chicken, skin side down, in a hot and oiled skillet, and you use a weight of some kind — the traditional recipe uses a brick, hence the name of the recipe — to press it down into the pan so the skin will brown nicely. The whole thing is then transfered to a very hot oven, where the chicken will roast for 15 minutes with the weight still on, and 15 more minutes skin side up and weight off.

This creates a marvellously colored chicken with a crisp, crackly skin; perfectly cooked everything (including the breasts, which don’t dry out); and lots of delicious, garlic-infused cooking juices that drip into the skillet under the chicken and stay there without burning or evaporating. And all this in a mere 35 minutes! We’ve been so finger-licking impressed that the rôtisseries in our neighborhood might not see us quite so often.

For optimal flavor, the recipe also has you rub the chicken with olive oil, salt, dried herbs, and cumin (my own addition), and you should do this a little bit in advance, to allow the seasoning to be absorbed fully. For convenience, I like to spatchcock and rub the chicken the day before, and then keep it in the fridge until I’m ready to cook it the next day.

In terms of equipment, you do need a cast iron skillet — or any heavy skillet — that’s ovenproof, and large enough to fit your spatchcocked chicken. I use this 26-cm (10-inch) Lodge pan and a standard French chicken fits in nice and snug. You also need something to use as the weight: if you’re the kind of person who has ready access to loose bricks you’ll wrap one in foil, but failing that you can use a second cast-iron skillet or the lid of a Dutch oven. I use the lid from this adorable cocotte.

Join the conversation!

Have you ever spatchcocked a chicken? How did you cook it and how did you like the results?

* In French, a spatchcocked chicken is called by the cute term poulet en crapaudine, because the chicken is made to look a little bit like a toad, or crapaud. Croak, croak!

Spatchcocked Chicken

Spatchcocked Chicken “Under a Brick”

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 35 minutes

Total Time: 45 minutes

Serves 4.

Spatchcocked Chicken “Under a Brick”

Ingredients

  • 1 ready-to-cook organic chicken (or at least farm-raised), about 1.3 kg (3 pounds)
  • 1 tablespoon fine sea salt
  • 1 tablespoons mixed dried herbs, such as Herbes de Provence (thyme, rosemary, oregano, savory, basil...)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 6 cloves garlic, crushed with the flat of the knife
  • Olive oil

Instructions

  1. Using sturdy kitchen shears, cut the chicken along both sides of the backbone. Flip the chicken to breast side up and press firmly to open fully. This is called spatchcocking a chicken and this video shows you the process. (I personally cut around the tail end so it remains attached to the chicken, as this is the best bit!) Set the backbone aside in the freezer for your next chicken stock.
  2. In a small bowl, mix the salt, herbs, cumin and 2 tablespoons olive oil, and apply on the entire skin surface of the chicken. (It's easiest to do this with your hands; wash them meticulously before and after.) If there is time, cover with plastic wrap and allow to rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or, better yet, overnight.
  3. Spatchcocked Chicken
  4. Preheat the oven to 260°C (450°F).
  5. Place a cast iron skillet (see details in the post above) over medium heat. When it is hot enough that a drop of water sizzles, pour in 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add the garlic and let it steep in the oil for 30 seconds.
  6. Push the garlic to the sides and place the chicken in the pan skin side down.
  7. Spatchcocked Chicken
  8. Place the weight of your choice (a brick, another pan, or a cast iron lid; see details in the post above) on the chicken and press firmly so the chicken skin is as much in contact with the pan as possible. Cook undisturbed for 5 minutes.
  9. Spatchcocked Chicken
  10. Protecting your hands with oven mitts (I love my Ove' Gloves), transfer the whole thing with great care (pan + weight + chicken = hot + heavy!) into the oven and roast for 15 minutes.
  11. Take the whole thing out (again, with great care), remove the weight and flip the chicken in the pan so it is now skin side up.
  12. Spatchcocked Chicken
  13. Return to the oven for 15 minutes (without the weight this time), until the chicken skin is nicely colored and the chicken is fully cooked. (If you have a food thermometer with a probe, insert it into the fleshy part of the thigh and check that it has reached 74°C/165°F.)
  14. Carve the chicken and serve with the juice and garlic cloves, and perhaps perfect mashed potatoes and green beans on the side.
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Spatchcocked Chicken

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20+ Divine Ways To Use Coconut Butter http://chocolateandzucchini.com/ingredients-fine-foods/20-divine-ways-to-use-coconut-butter/ http://chocolateandzucchini.com/ingredients-fine-foods/20-divine-ways-to-use-coconut-butter/#comments Wed, 19 Aug 2015 10:01:03 +0000 http://chocolateandzucchini.com/?p=7897 If you’re a coconut butter virgin, you are in for a life-changing discovery… and I apologize in advance if you […]

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Hand-crafted mini cutting board from my friend at Earlywood.

If you’re a coconut butter virgin, you are in for a life-changing discovery… and I apologize in advance if you develop an addiction to the stuff, as many of us have.

Coconut butter — not to be mistaken with coconut oil — is made from the dried meat of the coconut, which is finely ground until it releases its oil. This turns it into a lusciously creamy substance, with a slightly grainy texture that is most pleasant, and a subtly sweet, irresistible coconut flavor. Just like coconut oil, it is set at moderate room temperature, entirely solid when left in the fridge, and soft when heated*, or during a heatwave.

I first discovered coconut butter from Dastony, thanks to my friend Rebecca who introduced me to their amazing product line. Theirs is organic, raw, and stone-ground, but I am unable to get it in France, so I have been buying “coconut manna” from Nutiva instead. You’ll also find coconut butter sold under the name of coconut spread, creamed coconut, or coconut cream concentrate; in all cases, favor organic and make sure it is made from 100% coconut.

I confess my favorite way to enjoy it is by the spoonful — a single spoonful at a time, for it is quite rich — possibly paired with a banana as a quick pick-me-up in the afternoon, but there are plenty of other uses, and I have compiled a tempting list for your and my convenience.

Here are 20+ delicious things you can do with coconut butter; you will also find them on the coconut butter bliss Pinterest board I’ve created.

Hand-crafted mini cutting board from my friend at Earlywood.

Hand-crafted mini cutting board from my friend at Earlywood.

~ First off, you can make your own coconut butter quite easily, using dried, unsweetened coconut flakes and a sturdy food processor; here’s a video tutorial if you need it. As a tempting variation, you can toast the coconut flakes beforehand to make toasted coconut butter.

~ Add coconut butter to smoothies to make them creamier and boost their nutritional value. This works especially well with bananas, peaches, and/or blueberries.

~ Use it as a substitute for nut butters in recipes, if nut allergy is an issue or you want to play around with flavors.

~ Assemble these adorable strawberry creme truffles, or these coconut truffles with cinnamon.

~ Make peanut butter cups, and perhaps try this mint and dark chocolate version.

~ Bake these coconut butter brownies with dates as a sweetener and a sprinkle of salt on top.

~ Make vegan fudge, flavoring it with chocolate and banana, with almonds and raspberries, or with peanut butter.

~ Add it to the blender when making this instant banana sorbet.

~ Turn it into a quick frosting for your cakes and cupcakes.

~ Make coconut chocolate pudding or coconut blueberry pudding.

~ Whizz it into this fall-perfect pumpkin coconut butter to spread on toasted sourdough bread or French crêpes.

~ Melt (with or without chocolate) and pour over a bowl of ice cream or chilled fruit to create a delightful hard shell, or use this same mixture to dip berries and allow to cool and set in the fridge.

~ Make coconut butter buttons for a quick treat. Try this toasted coconut version or this lemon vanilla variation as well.

~ Use it to make stuffed dates.

~ Stud it with your favorite nuts and dried fruit for a luxurious coconut butter bark.

~ Make these dangerously simple, two-layer chocolate coconut bars.

~ Melt and drizzle over a baked sweet potato or roasted squash.

~ Make vegan parmesan cheese (!).

~ Add a spoonful at the end of cooking to bind and flavor a vegetable stir-fry or a curry.

~ Make egg-free mayonnaise.

Join the conversation!

Does coconut butter figure in your pantry already? How did you discover it, and What’s your favorite use?

Coconut Butter

* Note that the fat and solids of coconut butter tend to separate over time, so when you open a fresh jar you need to place it in a pan of very hot water for 15 to 20 minutes, then stir it all back together with a fork, a bit like you would do (minus the heating) with an all-natural nut butter.

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