Chocolate & Zucchini Fri, 31 Oct 2014 08:28:25 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Clean-Out-the-Fridge Soup Recipe Wed, 29 Oct 2014 18:57:08 +0000 The natural consequence of buying fresh vegetables to eat is that you may end up, at some point, with not-so-fresh […]

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Clean-out-the-fridge Soup

The natural consequence of buying fresh vegetables to eat is that you may end up, at some point, with not-so-fresh vegetables to eat.

However diligent your meal planning, it is difficult to nail it perfectly. And if you leave room for improvisation and sudden crushes in your shopping habits, or subscribe to a weekly produce basket, the end of the week is likely to find you with soft carrots and wilting greens from time to time.

The sturdier produce will keep fine from one week to the next; if you own The French Market Cookbook you’ll find a guide to produce that keeps and produce that doesn’t in the intro section. But for the more fragile vegetables, and if you like to start the week on a clean slate or need to make room for your overenthusiastic farmers market run (ahem), what’s the solution? If you answered “garbage can”, come see me at my desk before recess. The correct answer is soup.

Soup is an extraordinary catch-all for vegetable odds and ends, and it is the easiest and most rewarding way to transform scraps no one really wants to deal with into something warm and inviting. Although it’s hard to truly botch a soup, my years of soup-making experience have taught me that there are a few rules that make the ride smoother and the result tastier.

Choosing your vegetables

Naturally, I am talking about using vegetables that are past their golden days, yes, but haven’t reached the stage of putrefaction: wilted and limp is fine, moldy and mushy-brown is not. And when in doubt, toss it out.

You can, in theory, throw into the soup pot whatever needs using up, but it pays to select your vegetables with an eye towards variety and balance. I enjoy my clean-out-the-fridge soups the most when I’ve used a mix of colors (green, orange, tan, white…) and flavor families (sweet, earthy, verdant, onion-y, aniseed-y…), and included vegetables that grow both above- and below-ground. Some fruits, such as apples and pears, fare well in there too (bananas not so much).

To achieve that, you can of course complement the selection with a few freshly bought vegetables and/or freezer-stashed ones. In fact, if you find yourself with clean-out-the-fridge soup material in too small a quantity to actually make clean-out-the-fridge soup, or if you’re simply short on time, you should clean and chop those vegetables as if you were about to cook the soup, and stash them in the freezer instead.

To give you an example, my most recent edition this past Monday contained a few stalks of (wilting) Swiss chard, a quarter of a kabocha squash (the rest had been roasted), a small bunch of thin (and limp) carrots, the outer leaves from a head of cauliflower (stashed in the freezer), the stalks from a bunch of curly kale (leftover from making cheesy kale chips I’ll soon tell you about), a few bulbs of baby fennel (freshly purchased), a good red onion, a couple of potatoes, the end of a bunch of chives, parsley stems, and some tarragon.

The vegetables should be cleaned thoroughly — no need to dry them as they’ll just be wet again in a moment — and cut into even-sized chunks. Medium pieces — say, 2-cm (1/2-inch) cubes or slices — save chopping time and work fine if you plan to purée the soup. If you prefer a chunky, non-puréed soup, aim for a finer dice.

Clean-out-the-fridge Soup

On texture

Such mixed vegetable soups benefit from a bit of starch to make them both velvety — the French don’t call them veloutés for nothing — and more satisfying. For this purpose you can throw in some potatoes (regular or sweet; I use organic and keep the peel on), some pink lentils or split peas, or the stale end of a loaf of good bread.

If you prefer to avoid starches in your diet — hello, paleo readers! — you can skip this and use nut butter or coconut milk (see below) to achieve creaminess.

Conversely, use highly fibrous ingredients with caution: I once thought it a good idea to include the tall and very bushy fronds from a bunch of fennel, but my immersion blender could never quite vanquish them and my soup, while delicious, was a bit hairy for my taste.

Flavor boosters

Along with the vegetables you can add some garlic and any kind of spice (cumin, cloves, fennel seeds, coriander, fenugreek, peppercorns, chili pepper, whole or ground) or herb you like. Dried herbs (thyme, rosemary, oregano) can be added early on, while fresh herbs (parsley, chives, cilantro, tarragon, chervil, basil) should be added at the last minute, just as you process the soup.

The liquid you use in the soup is of importance, too. In a pinch, water will do, but if you have homemade vegetable or chicken stock on hand, this would be a fine time to use it. I no longer bother with bouillon cubes or powder as I don’t think they add much to the conversation, but the choice is yours.

My secret trick is to ask for extra cooking juice when we buy a chicken from the rôtisserie, if I can remember to bring along a clean jam jar for that. I keep it in the fridge and use it for my soups: the layer of fat that collects at the top is used to start the cooking, and the rest of the congealed, flavorsome juice is like concentrated chicken stock.

You can also go for an Asian flavor profile and add a can of coconut milk. You can then complement that with a thumb-sized piece of fresh, grated ginger and/or a stalk of lemongrass (which can be stocked in the freezer and minced without thawing), and maybe some cilantro or mint as a garnish.

Cooking the soup

If you abide by the classic soup-making method, you’re supposed to sweat your aromatics in some fat first, and add vegetables in order of their optimal cooking time. But my goal with the clean-out-the-fridge soup is to streamline the process and to make it as hassle-free as possible, so I don’t worry too much.

When all the vegetables are clean, I start heating some fat (olive oil, or rendered animal fat if I have some saved) in my cast-iron cocotte. I add the onions and spices first with a bit of salt, to soften and toast while I chop the rest of the vegetables. These I add in as I go, stirring every once in a while. I do this over moderate heat so nothing burns if I forget to stir.

I then add whatever cooking liquid I’ve chosen to use, and because that’s usually not enough, top it up with fresh water to just cover the vegetables. I add salt (about 1/2 teaspoon per liter/quart of liquid, less if the stock is already seasoned), I increase the heat, cover, and bring to a simmer. After a few minutes, there’s usually some foam gathering at the surface, which I skim off for good luck.

I let this simmer 15 to 20 minutes, enough for the longest-cooking vegetables (such as carrots and potatoes) to become tender, easily pierced with the tip of a knife. I find the other, shorter-cooking vegetables don’t suffer significantly from the added cooking time, and my life is made immeasurably easier.

Finishing and serving the soup

I let the soup cool just a bit, fish out any woody herb stems, then whip out my immersion blender and purée the soup thoroughly. It’s safest to wear an apron and long sleeves for this, but if you keep the head of the blender submerged at all times, the splatter is minimal to nonexistent.

Although I haven’t owned one in years, I understand a regular blender would work even better. Food processors are less ideal as they are not watertight and you need to work in small batches, which goes contrary to the hassle-free premise of this soup.

This is the time to adjust the seasoning with salt, and add a touch of acidity, too, in the form of lemon juice, your favorite vinegar, or maybe a spoonful of mustard. If you find your soup tastes a little dull, adjusting both those dials (salt and acidity) should do the trick.

You can serve the soup as is — no need to present it as a clean-out-the-fridge soup if you doubt your audience will be enchanted by the thought — or spruce it up with your choice of:

  • a scatter of (fresh and perky) chopped herbs,
  • a drizzle of oil,
  • a spoonful of cream, pesto, gremolata, nut butter, or tahini sauce,
  • some croutons (bonus points if they’re homemade to use up stale bread).

If you’re feeling extra fancy, you could finish the soup French onion soup-style: pour it in heatproof bowls, top the soup with a slice of bread brushed with a little white wine and sprinkled generously with grated cheese, and pop the bowls under the oven grill for a few minutes until bubbly.

If you’ve made more soup than you can (or want) to eat over the next 3 to 4 days, pour the cooled soup into freezer-friendly, labeled containers (liter- or quart-sized is a good format), chill for a few hours in the fridge, then transfer to the freezer. (It’s ok to do that even if some of the ingredients you’ve used in the soup were previously frozen, as you’ve now re-cooked them.)

Join the conversation!

Do you make clean-out-the-fridge soup yourself? Any tips and tricks to add to the list? What other strategies to you adopt for produce on the decline?

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The C&Z Shop is Open! Wed, 22 Oct 2014 10:56:35 +0000 I have just added a new shop section to Chocolate & Zucchini featuring a careful selection of ingredients, tools, and […]

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Change Purse

I have just added a new shop section to Chocolate & Zucchini featuring a careful selection of ingredients, tools, and books I use and adore. For each I explain why I love them and what role they play in my cooking life, so you can decide if they’re a good fit for yours.

I am not selling those products directly, but rather pointing you to the sites of their respective vendors. I am launching the C&Z shop with a very small selection to which I will add over time, so please check back whenever you like (it’s easily accessible from the top menu) and feel free to suggest the types of items you’d like me to recommend!

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Lemon Ginger Tartlets Wed, 15 Oct 2014 14:53:26 +0000 It’s been almost ten years since I was first in touch with Claire, the talented author of the pioneering natural […]

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Lemon Ginger Tartlet

It’s been almost ten years since I was first in touch with Claire, the talented author of the pioneering natural foods blog Clea Cuisine, and over time we’ve built a simple and sincere friendship that means a lot to me.

Clea is one of those rare persons who radiate with confidence and serenity, as if the turmoil of the outside world and its latest trends left them unfazed, so busy they are following their own path, guided by their own taste. These qualities have earned her a crowd of loyal and engaged readers whose food lives she has often changed, as one of the very first in France to write about agar agar, rice flour, and almond butter.

And so when she suggested a culinary exchange between our respective blogs, I accepted without a moment’s hesitation: the idea was for each of us to pick three recipes on the other’s blog, combine them vigorously in a shaker, and come up with a new recipe inspired by the mélange.

The opportunity to dive into one another’s archives was not the least of the associated perks, and I personally chose her Cream of carrot with white miso and ginger, her Chocolate and ginger pudding with agar agar, and her Ultimate lemon tart.

Initially, I decided to make a lemon tart flavored with ginger and white miso — you can read more about using white miso in desserts. But my preliminary tests did not convince me that white miso had its place in this recipe, so I shelved the idea and opted instead to make lemon ginger tartlets, which delighted all who had the chance to sample them.

The pairing of lemon and ginger no longer has to prove itself, and all I had to do was add finely grated fresh ginger to Clea’s lemon curd recipe. I share her taste for a very tangy lemon tart — i.e. not very sweet — and to me the formula below achieves the perfect balance. This vividly flavorful lemon ginger curd could also be prepared for its own sake, to spread on a pretty brioche, pimp your yogurt, garnish crêpes, or dip a spoon in (I won’t tell).

For the crust, I chose to follow the recipe for pâte sucrée that pastry chef Jacques Genin uses and shares in his little book Le Meilleur de la tarte au citron (The best of lemon tarts). It is very easy to make and lovely to handle, and it forms a delicate and crisp tart shell in perfect contrast to the unctuous curd.

And to see the idea that my own archives sparked for Claire, head over to her post (in French) on Pasta with almond-zucchini gremolata and roasted onions.

Join the conversation!

Do you know people like Clea who inspire you with their poise and taste? And how do you like your lemon tarts — tangy? sweet? with a layer of meringue on top?

Lemon Ginger Tartlets

Lemon Ginger Tartlets

Prep Time: 40 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 8 hours, 30 minutes

Makes six 10- to 12-cm (4- to 4 3/4-inch) tartlets.

Lemon Ginger Tartlets


    For the dough (pâte sucrée); makes double to amount so you can save half for another time:
  • 175 grams (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for greasing
  • 125 grams (1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons) unrefined cane sugar
  • 60 grams (2/3 cup) almond flour (i.e. almond meal or ground almonds)
  • 2 large organic eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 large organic egg yolk, at room temperature
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 310 grams (2 1/3 cups) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • For the filling:
  • 4 organic lemons
  • 30 grams (1 ounce) fresh ginger, peeled and very finely grated125 grams (1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons) unrefined cane sugar
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch, combined with 1 tablespoon water (this is called a slurry)
  • 3 large organic eggs


    Step 1: Prepare the pâte sucrée (at least 3 1/2 hours before baking and 8 1/2 hours before serving)
  1. In a large mixing bowl, put the butter, sugar, and almond flour. Using a flexible spatula, rub the butter into the dry ingredients until you get an even, sandy consistency.
  2. Beat in the eggs.
  3. Fold in the flour and salt, working them in just until no trace of flour remains. Don't overwork the dough.
  4. Turn the dough out onto the counter and knead gently just a few times -- maybe 5 or 6 -- so the dough comes together into a ball.
  5. Divide in two; if you have a scale, each half should weigh 400 grams (14 ounces). Wrap one tightly in plastic and keep in the refrigerator or freezer for another time. Place the other half on a plate -- that's the one you're going to use for the tartlets -- cover, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or until the next day.
  6. Step 2: Line the tartlet molds (at least 1 hour before baking) and bake (at least 5 hours before serving)
  7. Divide the dough into six equal pieces; if you have a scale, each piece should weigh 65 grams (2 1/3 ounces).
  8. Have ready six tartlet molds, 10 to 12 cm (4 to 4 3/4 inches) in diameter, such as these. Grease them carefully with butter if they're not non-stick.
  9. Working with each piece of dough in turn (leave the unused ones in the fridge), roll it out into a thin round large enough to line one of your tarlet molds, keeping your work surface and your rolling pin lightly floured.
  10. Pâte sucrée 1
  11. Brush off the excess flour from both sides of the dough with a pastry brush, and fit snugly into a tartlet mold, letting the excess dough hang over the edges.
  12. Pâte sucrée 2
  13. Roll your pin firmly across the edges of the mold to cut off the excess dough (save these scraps to make cut-out cookies), and press the sides of the dough against the mold with your fingers to help them stay put. Return to the refrigerator for at least 1 hour before baking.
  14. Pâte sucrée 3
  15. Preheat the oven to 160°C (325°F) and bake the tartlets for 20 to 25 minutes, until golden brown. Don't underbake them: you want a good color so the crust is flavorful and holds up well to the filling. Transfer to a rack to cool completely while you make the curd.
  16. Step 3: Prepare the lemon curd and garnish the tartlets (at least 4 1/2 hours before serving)
  17. Grate the zest from 2 of the lemons into a medium saucepan, and juice all 4 of them. You should get about 150 ml (1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons) juice. Add to the pan with the ginger, sugar, and cornstarch slurry.
  18. Put the pan over low heat and heat the mixture, stirring regularly with a heatproof spatula, just until the sugar dissolves.
  19. Beat the eggs in a medium mixing bowl, and whisk in the warmed lemon juice.
  20. Pour back into the pan and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly with the spatula in an 8-shaped motion to scrape the bottom and sides of the pan thoroughly. The curd is ready when it is thick enough that the spatula leaves a clear trace at the bottom of the pan.
  21. Lemon Ginger Curd
  22. Divide the curd among the six tartlet shells and even out the surface with the spatula.
  23. Place in the refrigerator to cool and set for at least 4 hours, and up to 8. Remove from the fridge 15 minutes before serving. These are best served on the day they are made, but if you have leftovers they will still be delicious the next day and the day after that.


  • If you don't have tartlet molds, use the same recipe to make a single tart, 25- to 28-cm (10- to 11-inch) in diameter.
  • This is a make-ahead recipe; start in the morning if you plan to serve the tartlets for dinner. If you plan to serve the tartlets for lunch, make the dough and line the tartlet molds the day before, then bake the tartlets, make the curd, and garnish in early morning.
  • The pâte sucrée can be used for any other kind of sweet tart garnished with fruit, nuts, chocolate, etc.
  • The lemon ginger curd can also be made independently and used to spread on toast or brioche, to garnish a cake roll, or to spread across the middle of a split yogurt cake.
  • To make the recipe nut-free, simply use this pâte sablée recipe instead of the above pâte sucrée.

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Edible French Comes Out Today! (+ A Giveaway) Tue, 07 Oct 2014 09:41:43 +0000 EDIBLE FRENCH, my new book of food-related French idioms, is released today. EDIBLE FRENCH explores fifty of the most evocative […]

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Edible French

EDIBLE FRENCH, my new book of food-related French idioms, is released today.

EDIBLE FRENCH explores fifty of the most evocative French expressions related to food with cultural notes, recipes, and whimsical watercolors by my talented friend Mélina Josserand.

It’s a project that has been brewing in my mind for years and years, and as a lover of both food and language, I am thrilled to be able to share it with you now.

I am also incredibly pleased with how the physical object turned out; the production team has done a wonderful job of it. It’s a book that feels very loveable, and the quality of the paper — thick, matte, with a bit of texture — really brings out the beauty of Melina’s watercolors, almost as if they were originals. I can tell that the people I show it to don’t really want to let go once they have it in their hands, and I hope you feel that way too.

I have set up a companion site for the book where you can view excerpts and listen to the expressions and example sentences featured in the book.

And if you plan to be in Paris in the coming weeks, I have two book events lined up on October 14 and November 29 (all details here).

EDIBLE FRENCH is now available in the US and Canada, in France, and in the UK.

See below for an animated sneak peek of the book, and details about the giveaway.

To celebrate the release, I have five copies to give away!

To enter, please share in the comments below your favorite food-related idiom in any language, explaining what it means and why you like it.

You have until Tuesday, October 14 (midnight Paris time) to enter. I will then draw five entries randomly and announce the winners here. My editor at Perigee Books has agreed to ship the books to any mailing address in the world, so you’re welcome to play regardless of your location; please make sure you enter your email address correctly so I can contact you if you win. Good luck!

We Got Winners!

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

  • Christiana, who wrote, “My favourite is stick a fork in me! as it reminds me of the 90’s film Pump Up The Volume and how I pined for Christian Slater with such abandonment and teenage angst!”
  • Lota, who wrote, “I have two: one in English: a bun in the oven meaning pregnancy and a Polish idiom wpuścić kogoś w maliny which is translated literally as to let someone in the raspberry bushes which means that you knowingly set someone up for difficulties, getting lost and confused, losing their way etc.”
  • Michelle, who wrote, “I love cherry on top – it always sounds so happy!”
  • c n, who wrote, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade! because when life gets rough, you got to get through it!”
  • Kara Johnson, who wrote, “As busy as popcorn in a skillet… I recently heard this for the first time and love the image of bouncing, popping corn it gives me. :)”

Congratulations to them, and thank you all for participating with such enthusiasm! I had a blast reading through this most colorful selection of expressions.

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October 2014 Desktop Calendar Tue, 30 Sep 2014 22:10:03 +0000 At the beginning of every month in 2014, I am offering a new wallpaper to apply on the desktop of […]

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October 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 October is a picture of my jar of granola, which I make a little bit differently each time, but always following this basic formula. And when it comes to granola, of which I cannot get enough, I have more than one recipe up my sleeve: see this raw buckwheat granola, this savory granola, this paleo granola, and these granola bars.

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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September Favorites Mon, 29 Sep 2014 14:00:14 +0000 Some of my favorite finds and reads for this month: ~ Ever wanted to get a food-related tattoo? Here are […]

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Rooftop View of the Sacré-Coeur

Some of my favorite finds and reads for this month:

~ Ever wanted to get a food-related tattoo? Here are a few temporary ones you can test-drive.

~ A simple recipe for yogurt popsicles. I’ve been tempted to get some pop molds and this may push me over the edge.

~ Who makes the best pain au chocolat in Paris?

~ What kids’ school menus look like in Japan.

~ How to make chocolate chip cookies exactly how you like them.

~ The Eater site publishes its list of banned words.

~ You have until January 3 to go and see this Paris exhibition on the fascinating history of the spoon.

~ I love the tip at the bottom of this post on how to properly dip chocolate-coated shortbread.

~ Why you are better off refrigerating your tomatoes — in some cases.

~ How about a little photo tour of my neighborhood?

~ “Just so you know, food arrives when it’s ready.” This service trend has yet to arrive in Paris, and it’s one I hope doesn’t.

~ I should make temaki sushi more often.

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Soy Sauce Roasted Cashews Recipe Wed, 24 Sep 2014 10:08:54 +0000 I love the bulk section at my local organic store. I love that it allows me to cut down on […]

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Soy Sauce Roasted Cashews

I love the bulk section at my local organic store.

I love that it allows me to cut down on the packaging, as I strive to bring back and reuse the same paper bags until they give out in exhaustion. I love that I pay less for the exact same products or ingredients, and I love that it gives me an opportunity to purchase sample-size amounts of new foods without committing to a whole package.

This is how I recently got ahold of some shoyu roasted cashews from Jean Hervé — an all-around fantastic brand for nut butters — that proved all kinds of good, crunchy and toasty and salty but not overly so.

I found myself reaching for small handfuls that soon turned into bigger ones while preparing dinner, and sprinkling them over my lunch salads as well, and soon enough my sample was gone.

Of course I could have just gone out and bought more — oh, how I love pulling down on those levers! too! — but when I compared the price of plain cashews with the soy sauce roasted ones, I calculated that they were charging 30% more for the soy sauce marinating and the roasting, which seemed like steps I could very well accomplish myself.

And it was indeed a most straightforward process: you simply pour soy sauce over the cashews, and let them soak it in overnight before roasting in the oven, where the cashews will crisp up as the soy sauce dries up and caramelizes.

These you can nibble on with a pre-dinner drink — I like to present them on the adorable mini cutting boards that Earlywood now makes — or snack on during the day (word of warning: very. hard. to stop.), or sprinkle over your salads, or package up and present as a low-effort but well-received edible gift.

Soy Sauce Roasted Cashews

Prep Time: 1 minute

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Total Time: 12 hours

Makes 2 cups.

Soy Sauce Roasted Cashews


  • 300 grams (2 cups) unroasted, unsalted cashews
  • 2 tablespoons Japanese soy sauce (use gluten-free tamari if gluten is an issue)


  1. In a medium container with a tight-fitting lid, combine the cashews and soy sauce. Stir well to coat.
  2. Close the container and let rest on the counter until the next day, shaking the container every once in a while so the cashews absorb the sauce evenly. The next day, the cashews should have soaked it all up.
  3. Preheat the oven to 150°C (300°F).
  4. Arrange the cashews in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet and roast for 25 to 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes, until the cashews are golden brown.
  5. Let cool completely before serving. These cashews keep for a month in an airtight container at cool room temperature.
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Soy Roasted Cashew Nuts

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Charred Broccoli and Avocado Salad Recipe Wed, 17 Sep 2014 15:50:15 +0000 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


  • 1 large head broccoli, about 750 grams (1 2/3 pounds)
  • 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


  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 Wed, 10 Sep 2014 15:30:29 +0000 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 under 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


  • 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


  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.


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

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Crème Caramel Recipe Wed, 03 Sep 2014 14:54:36 +0000 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


    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


  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.


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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