Chocolate & Zucchini http://chocolateandzucchini.com Sat, 31 Jan 2015 23:05:36 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1 February 2015 Desktop Calendar http://chocolateandzucchini.com/series/desktop-calendar/february-2015-desktop-calendar/ http://chocolateandzucchini.com/series/desktop-calendar/february-2015-desktop-calendar/#comments Sat, 31 Jan 2015 23:05:36 +0000 http://chocolateandzucchini.com/?p=7297 At the beginning of every month in 2015, I am offering a new wallpaper to apply on the desktop of […]

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February 2015 Desktop Calendar

At the beginning of every month in 2015, 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 February is a picture of the little jar of dried herbs that lives by my stove. It’s a mix I got in Corsica called herbes du maquis, but it is quite similar to herbes de Provence and is used in much the same way: you can apply it on meat and fish as a dry rub or marinade, fold it into bread or cracker dough, and use it to flavour grains, legumes, and vegetables.

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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Seaweed and Seed Crackers Recipe http://chocolateandzucchini.com/recipes/appetizers/seaweed-and-seed-crackers-recipe/ http://chocolateandzucchini.com/recipes/appetizers/seaweed-and-seed-crackers-recipe/#comments Wed, 28 Jan 2015 10:41:03 +0000 http://chocolateandzucchini.com/?p=7304 The story of these crackers started quite serendipitously. I had prepared my trusty olive oil tart crust to make one […]

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Seaweed and Seed Crackers

The story of these crackers started quite serendipitously.

I had prepared my trusty olive oil tart crust to make one of my favorite dishes ever, the onion and cumin quiche featured in my first book. I was left with some scraps, which I usually bake in whatever shape they happen to come out in, to nibble on at a later date. But this time I decided to go one step further and stamp out crackers using an actual cookie cutter, and the first one I grabbed when I reached into my cavernous miscellany cabinet was a puzzle shape I’ve owned for years and years.

I had enough leftover dough to make, oh, about three, but they were such a hit with my two-and-a-half-year-old (crackers! puzzle-shaped! what’s not to like?) that I soon whipped up another batch of the dough just for this purpose. The crackers have been on heavy rotation at my house since then, pleasing toddlers and adults alike.

Over time I have fiddled with the recipe to boost the flavor (and nutrition), eventually settling on this favorite version, which includes mixed seeds (sesame, chia, and flax) and dried seaweed flakes (all of these are easily found at natural food stores).

These crackers are thin and delightfully crisp, with air pockets that form randomly and add to the thrill of them. We tend to snack on them as is, either to hold us over till the next meal or to accompany a pre-dinner drink, but naturally they’d do just as well with the dip or spread of your choice, such as these colorful and veg-heavy beet hummus or peacamole.

PS: Add more fuel to your cracker fire with these Zaatar pita chips, Cheese thins, and Chestnut and herb canistrelli.

Seaweed and Seed Crackers

Seaweed and Seed Crackers Recipe

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 35 minutes

Makes about 3 dozen crackers.

Seaweed and Seed Crackers Recipe

Ingredients

  • 250 grams (8.8 ounces, see note) light whole wheat flour (French T80), or a 50/50 mix of all-purpose and whole wheat
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds, lightly toasted
  • 2 tablespoons whole or ground chia seeds
  • 2 tablespoons flax seeds, ground
  • 3 tablespoons dried seaweed flakes (I use a three-color mix that contains dulse, nori and sea lettuce)
  • 60 ml (1/4 cup) olive oil
  • 120 ml (1/2 cup) cold water

Instructions

  1. Combine the flour, salt, seeds, and seaweed in a medium mixing bowl. Add the oil and water, and mix them in with a fork or dough whisk until the dough comes together. Add a touch more water as needed.
  2. Seaweed and Seed Crackers
  3. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.
  4. Preheat the oven to 180°C (360°F) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicon baking mat.
  5. Divide the dough in two. Keep one refrigerated and place the other on a lightly floured work surface. Roll the dough out fairly thinly -- 1 to 2 mm, about 1/16" -- adding a little more flour underneath and on the dough when it seems on the verge of sticking. Try to work in quick, assertive gestures to avoid overworking the dough.
  6. Using a cookie cutter, stamp out as many crackers as you can and arrange them on the prepared baking sheet as you go. Gather the dough scraps into a ball, roll it out again, and repeat. Repeat with the second half of the dough.
  7. Seaweed and Seed Crackers
  8. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until golden to golden brown; chances are you'll have a bit of both due to slightly different thicknesses. Transfer to a rack to cool completely.
  9. The crackers keep for a week or two in an airtight container at cool room temperature.
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Seaweed and Seed Crackers

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Parents Who Cook: Laurie Colwin http://chocolateandzucchini.com/interviews/parents-who-cook/parents-who-cook-laurie-colwin/ http://chocolateandzucchini.com/interviews/parents-who-cook/parents-who-cook-laurie-colwin/#comments Tue, 20 Jan 2015 13:04:46 +0000 http://chocolateandzucchini.com/?p=7271 Have you read anything by Laurie Colwin? She was an American author based in New York City, who wrote novels […]

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Laurie Colwin celebrating her daughter Rosa's 4th birthday in 1988.

Have you read anything by Laurie Colwin?

She was an American author based in New York City, who wrote novels and also penned a column in Gourmet magazine for a few years, writing about her kitchen life in such a warm, witty, and approachable way that it was impossible then, and remains impossible now, for the reader not to develop a strong connection to her. These essays were published as two collections, Home Cooking: A Writer In The Kitchen and later More Home Cooking: A Writer Returns To The Kitchen, which have become cult reads for admirers of quality food writing, sharing shelf space with the work of M.F.K. Fisher, Edna Lewis or Alice B. Toklas.

Ms. Colwin died unexpectedly in 1992, at the unfair age of 48, and left a daughter, Rosa, who was only eight at the time. Rosa Jurjevics is now thirty and works as a writer, animator, and multimedia producer — she founded Big Creature Media a couple of years ago — and I had the opportunity to get in touch with her last fall, when Open Road released Colwin’s books as ebooks for the very first time, and offered the contact to promote this release.

I immediately jumped at the chance to feature Laurie Colwin, whose writing — both fiction and nonfiction — I greatly admire, as part of my Parents Who Cook series, in which I explore how children shape and inform a cook’s kitchen life. This is the first installment in which it is the child who speaks, and I am grateful to Rosa for sharing such touching and uplifting memories from her childhood. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

Please consider downloading one of Laurie Colwin’s wonderful books from Open Media, and do share any of your own memories or tips about cooking with and for children!

clotilde

Can you tell us a few words about the kind of child you were, and the kind of mother your mother was — both in general and with regards to food?

Rosa Jurjevics

I was a headstrong kid and spoke my mind – asked or not. A teacher once wrote on a school report that I was the tallest in my class and that my mother had referred to me as her “Viking child.” I’m not sure if this was a nod to my Baltic heritage (though Latvians were not Vikings, to my knowledge) or simply to suggest that I was a bit brutish in manner and stature. I admit to being both of these things as a child!

My mother was a similarly opinionated person, and she seemed to like having an opinionated kid – even when we clashed over, say, what was and was not appropriate for my school lunch. Open dialogue was encouraged, but I was a handful (to say the least), and there were definitely many times that I wore my poor mother out with pestering, arguing, or throwing fits.

I adored my mother’s cooking. It would have been hard not to. She put so much care into it, so much thought, and really loved to do it. People flocked to her table, and were so happy to hang out in the kitchen as she cooked. She would constantly ask her dinner guests to taste things and give their honest opinions of them. She wasn’t a showy cook, or one who kept her methods to herself, but instead really delighted in sharing food, recipes, and conversation.

Still, there were times when it was hard to be the kid who ate the “weird food.” My mother had very strong opinions about things that were good and bad for kids and for people in general. Keeping perishables in plastic was bad. Making jam from scratch was good. She didn’t like to budge much on the subject of good and bad. Though a lot of my classmates and neighborhood chums learned that they loved gingerbread and salmon and asparagus at my house, I envied them their Oreos and American cheese slices and radioactively colored “juices” nonetheless.

There were times I wished that I could just be “normal” and get chocolate-laden granola bars in my lunchbox (a pink, formerly Barbie-themed plastic trunk with the doll decal scraped off and cat stickers in its place) instead of a kiwi fruit, or have Wonderbread on my sandwich instead of slices from a Bread Alone boule. Some battles I won (fruit roll-ups, the kind that involved peeling Little Mermaid characters from their centers) and others I lost (no store-bought cookies!), and so I continued to be the first-grader with the goat’s milk yogurt and smoked Gouda. Years later, an old friend told me how jealous she’d been of my lunch. “All I got was tuna fish,” she told me. “And maybe a yogurt. Your food was exciting!” And she was right.

Laurie Colwin and her then 2-year-old daughter Rosa in 1986.

Laurie Colwin and her then 2-year-old daughter Rosa in 1986.

clotilde

What did family meals look like when you were a young child (the good, the bad and the ugly)?

Rosa Jurjevics

The meal I remember best was our standing Friday night roast chicken dinner. This was my mother’s version of a secular Shabbat. No prayers, but long, tapered candles and conversation – about our days, what we were looking forward to over the weekend, or what I learned at school. Her roast chicken was just heavenly, dusted with paprika, then slow-cooked (and basted!) in a pan for hours. I remember her carving it at the table and how juicy the meat was. Just perfect!

I also recall her dinner parties, too, how she’d put out the filigreed silver if we were having fish or a tureen if we were having soup. I got to pick the tablecloth, which was usually an elaborate sheet meant for bedding but also happened to fit our farmhouse table for ten quite nicely. The dinner parties would stretch long into the night, and I’d be put to bed before they were over. My room was next to the dining room and was closed off by two slatted doors, so I would fall asleep to the gentle sound of the guests’ voices and laughter.

The only ugly I can remember was the one time she tried to make fish head soup. She realized her mistake, though, and none of us had to eat it!

clotilde

Do you think having a child changed the way your mother cooked, and if so, how?

Rosa Jurjevics

After I came along, I think my mother really got to fuss in a way she never had before – and I say that with love, and as a positive thing! Fussing over someone doesn’t just mean restricting their intake of commercially made peanut butter, for example, but also means that the fusser may cut up the fussee’s toast into “postage stamps” when they are sick (a family tradition).

My mother got to watch me eat all these delicious things for the first time, and gauge my reaction to what she had me try. I was over the moon for salmon, apparently, and lemons. Cornichon pickles disappeared if left in my line of sight for too long, and I went nuts for rhubarb (just as my father did and does). I ate meat, fish, bread, jam, Indian food, Chinese food, Ethiopian food, black bean soup, and that goat’s milk yogurt. My mother loved witnessing my ‘aha’ food moments, and said in one of the cookbooks (I can’t remember which) that she wished she could go back in time and discover certain foods all over again.

My mother also made friends with my friends and their parents via cooking, and often had my classmates and their parents over for dinner, some of whom loved to share their own culinary favorites. One mother of a friend of mine had grown up in Hong Kong, so we all spent many hours in Chinatown together, gobbling up dim sum and poking around in the shops there. I still love the smell of those stores that sell dried roots, leaves, and even animals for medicinal purposes. Tourists turn up their noses and walk out (I’ve seen it happen), but I go right for the most pungent isle. It reminds me of those good old days.

clotilde

Did your mother find ways to involve you in her cooking process, and if so, how? Do you think this came naturally to her, or did she make a conscious effort to include you in that part of her life?

Rosa Jurjevics

I was in the kitchen with her all the time. My mother and I spent a lot of time together, as she worked from home and she had to get me from school in the afternoon. I’d either watch her prepare food or get right in the thick of it. She taught me to knead bread, roll dough, cream cold butter with sugar, and blend wet and dry ingredients. If I got too squirrely or underfoot, she’d set me up with a miniature of her favorite bowl and a tiny bit of whatever she was making. I was then free to mess about as I pleased and not get in her way.

When I got a bit older, I was more helpful. I made the salad dressing, for instance, which had been my mother’s childhood job, and set the table. I buttered pans, got all the gingerbread batter out of the bowl with a spatula, and folded napkins. Truthfully, I liked all the cooking and baking tasks better than the rest!

clotilde

What are some of your fondest food-related memories growing up around your mother?

Rosa Jurjevics

Oh, so many! One is from the year we made a black cake for Christmas. That thing has to age for while, so we baked it weeks in advance, storing it in a tin in the pantry. My mother wanted to make royal icing, a process I don’t remember, but I watched, fascinated, as she put it together. We also handcrafted marzipan decorations to top it off, and I recall being very proud of our work when it was all done and on the table!

I will also never forget how my mother positioned herself when she was cooking. She was prone to wearing these oversized sweaters, ones with thick stitching, and so when she was mixing or chopping or kneading, she pushed the sleeves all the way up past her elbows. She was not a tall woman, standing at just five feet, one inch, and so she had to make the most of her force when she was dealing with stubborn dough or a dull knife or a big roast, and also worked without fancy gadgetry. No electric mixers, pulverizers, or anything of the sort for her! We had a blender, though, and a hand-crank eggbeater, and a hand-held mixer that my dad and I used to make egg whites for his famous pancakes. I don’t think my mother ever touched it, though. So she was pretty physical in the kitchen, mixing things in big bowls or chopping up vegetables for stews.

clotilde

What would you say are the most important lessons you learned from her about cooking and eating?

Rosa Jurjevics

Hmm. Well, I did learn to make a mean gingerbread, and have inherited her gadget-free method. I think the biggest thing I took away from our life together, though, was how unifying food can be. No matter who we are or where we’re from or where we’ve been or where we’re going, we all like a good meal. At the end of a long day, or year, or whathaveyou, food (along with kinship) can soothe us in a way that’s hard to describe. Hatchets can be temporarily buried, arguments laid to rest, over dinner. Feuding siblings can be silenced (at least for the moment) with a delicious soup, or a couples’ fight curtailed by the promise of homemade chicken Parmesan. It’s worth a try, at least.

clotilde

If you’d like to have kids some day, how do you think you’ll go about teaching them to be happy, adventurous eaters?

Rosa Jurjevics

If I am ever to acquire (not produce) children – which is a big ‘maybe’ in the grand scheme of things – I think I’d stick to my mother’s favorite philosophy: “you don’t have to like it, you just have to try it.” I think this opened a lot of my friends’ eyes to what it meant to be an adventurous eater when we were growing up.

So many parents were primed to say, “you have to eat everything on your plate,” and here was an adult who offered an unfamiliar food with no strings attached. My mother was giving us the agency to not like whatever we were being given, and not have to eat it if it wasn’t to our taste. And it really worked. I can’t think what my life would be like had I not had my first Brussels’s sprout, bite of poached egg, toasted cheese (aka Welsh Rarebit) sandwich, spoonful of black bean soup, or fried zucchini blossom. I certainly would have been the poorer for it.

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Black Sesame Sablés (Shortbread) Recipe http://chocolateandzucchini.com/recipes/cookies-small-cakes/black-sesame-sables-shortbread-recipe/ http://chocolateandzucchini.com/recipes/cookies-small-cakes/black-sesame-sables-shortbread-recipe/#comments Tue, 13 Jan 2015 16:00:25 +0000 http://chocolateandzucchini.com/?p=6667 After last week’s events in Paris, it’s not so easy to break the silence here. Writing about news and politics […]

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Black Sesame Sablés

After last week’s events in Paris, it’s not so easy to break the silence here. Writing about news and politics isn’t what I do, and I suspect it’s not what brings you here either, yet I can’t not acknowledge what has happened.

In the wake of these senseless, horrifying acts, which only reinforce the great concerns I have about the world we’re building and the society I live in, I choose to see the silver lining: how French men and women came together in historic numbers in the immediate aftermath, and how much international support has poured in. I am too much of a realist to believe that this tremendous reaction will have any lasting effect on the underlying issues at play, but at least for these few days, (most of) the French get to walk and talk and cry as one, and we can never have too much of that.

Of course I found it impossible to write while all this was unfolding — it suddenly seemed absurd to care about the tiny things I normally care about — but as a friend kindly said to me, writing about food and culture and travel helps bring people of different horizons to understand and respect each other, and that is nothing to sneeze at.

In any case, I thought it fitting to start the year off on a note both dark and sweet with these black sesame sablés. It is a recipe I developed for ELLE à table, a French cooking magazine in which I write a bimonthly column, and sang the luscious, nutty glories of black sesame paste in the holiday issue. This seed butter, made from roasted and ground black sesame, is a dramatic, shiny black and I keep a jar of it in my fridge to slip into all sorts of sweet preparations, or simply spread it on my morning toast of sourdough.

These shortbread cookies have a rather arresting look, the distinctive, toasty flavor of black sesame with a hint of salt, and the delightful texture I look for in all my sablés, delicate and shatter-prone. I understand these qualities won’t do much toward world peace, but if you can share them and make someone’s day sweeter, it’s a step in the right direction.

PS: Black sesame panna cotta, Yves Camdeborde’s perfect sablés, and the galette des rois you have until the end of the month to make, perhaps with your own shortcut puff pastry.

Black Sesame Sablés

Black Sesame Sablés (Shortbread) Recipe

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 50 minutes

Makes about 50 small cookies.

Black Sesame Sablés (Shortbread) Recipe

Ingredients

  • 100 grams (1/3 cup + 2 tablespoons) black sesame butter/paste (look for it in natural food stores and Japanese markets; substitute any other natural nut butter)
  • 100 grams (7 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
  • 80 grams (6 tablespoons) unrefined blond cane sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 150 grams (5 1/3 ounces, about 1 cup + 2 tablespoons) all-purpose wheat flour
  • 100 grams (3 1/2 ounces, about 3/4 cup) rice flour (see note)

Instructions

  1. In a mixing bowl or in the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the sesame paste and butter. Add the sugar and salt and mix well.
  2. Stir in the flour until completely absorbed, without overworking the dough.
  3. Gather the dough into a ball without kneading. Divide it into 4 pieces and roll each into a log, about 3 cm (1 1/4") in diameter. Wrap in parchment paper and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. (You can freeze one or several of the logs; let stand at room temperature for 1 hour before using.)
  4. Black Sesame Sablé Dough
  5. Preheat the oven to 150°C (300°F) and line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper.
  6. Using a sharp knife, cut each roll into round slices about 1 cm (1/3") thick. Arrange the slices on the baking sheet, giving them a little room to expand.
  7. Black Sesame Sablés (pre-baking)
  8. Bake for 30 minutes, until set but not browned. Let stand for 5 minutes on the baking sheet before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
  9. The cookies will keep for a week in an airtight container at room temperature.

Notes

The rice flour, in combination with the wheat flour, gives the cookies a particularly successful, crumbly texture. If unavailable, use all wheat flour.

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Black Sesame Shortbread

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Best of 2014 http://chocolateandzucchini.com/series/best-of/best-of-2014/ http://chocolateandzucchini.com/series/best-of/best-of-2014/#comments Tue, 06 Jan 2015 15:00:10 +0000 http://chocolateandzucchini.com/?p=7235 Happy New Year! I hope your 2015 is a year full of joy, exciting ventures, great conversations, rich relationships, enlightening […]

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View of the Canche river at La Madelaine sous Montreuil

Happy New Year! I hope your 2015 is a year full of joy, exciting ventures, great conversations, rich relationships, enlightening experiences, and plenty of delicious meals. It certainly promises to be a full year for me, and I look forward to keeping you updated on my various projects.

As we bid 2014 adieu, I have great pleasure in recalling this excellent year through these few highlights:

Biggest changes on C&Z: A brand new design, in which I’m happy to say I continue to feel wonderfully at home, the return of the monthly desktop calendars, and the recent addition of a shop section.

Most enlightening read: The Third Plate, by my culinary hero Dan Barber (if you care about food, you have got to read this).

Favorite new appliance: My griddler and waffle plates, with which I’ve made weekly batches of croque-monsieur and all kinds of waffles, including these irresistible Belgian waffles.

Most popular food gift I’ve made: These chocolate bars studded with cinnamon granola.

Favorite new breakfast items: Paleo granola with homemade yogurt and seasonal fruit, and healthy breakfast cookies.

Favorite resolution I’ve actually kept: Making the most of my cookbook collection.

Loveliest book publishing moment: Hosting a signing for my latest book, Edible French, in the company of my talented watercolorist friend Melina Josserand. (We wrote about our collaboration in The Cook’s Cook December Issue, page 39).

Most wonderful vacation: Renting a house in the Pyrénées ariégeoises with a few friends, and discovering the friendliest little neo-hippie enclave and the most gorgeous, unadulterated lanscapes.

Favorite Paris eats: simple, wowing plates at Cuisine, vibrant sandwiches at Le Look, kushiage at Peco Peco, big salads at Lockwood, fine dining at Porte 12, barbecued ribs at Flesh, and arepas at Bululu.

Blow-torched mackerel at Porte 12

Blow-torched mackerel at Porte 12

Most successful store-bought-to-homemade experiment: Vegan “cheesy” kale chips.

Most rewarding baking endeavor: Achieving madeleine perfection.

Favorite new quickie snacks: Easy nori rolls with cucumber and avocado and soy-roasted cashews.

Favorite travel tips: Fasting against jetlag and putting together a minimalist cooking kit.

Favorite new kitchen habit I’ve been trying to embrace: meal planning.

Favorite new way to eat my greens: This greens and walnut quiche.

Favorite do-ahead, weeknight treat: Oven-baked falafel.

Favorite new twist on a classic: Cherry clafoutis with chestnut flour.

Favorite new soup recipe: An ayurveda-approved lentil and butternut squash soup.

Favorite new baking trick: A simplified puff pastry, to make a caramelized apple tarte fine for instance.

Favorite new way to cook eggs: This kid-friendly one-egg omelet.

Favorite way to cook broccoli: charring it.

What about you?

What are some of the most memorable things you’ve seen, experienced, discovered, and tasted in 2014?

Vertical garden on rue d'Aboukir in Paris

Vertical garden on rue d’Aboukir in Paris

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January 2015 Desktop Calendar http://chocolateandzucchini.com/series/desktop-calendar/january-2015-desktop-calendar/ http://chocolateandzucchini.com/series/desktop-calendar/january-2015-desktop-calendar/#comments Wed, 31 Dec 2014 23:05:03 +0000 http://chocolateandzucchini.com/?p=7187 Happy New Year! At the beginning of every month in 2015, I am offering a new wallpaper to apply on […]

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January 2015 Desktop Calendar

Happy New Year!

At the beginning of every month in 2015, 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 January is a picture of my perfect madeleines, based on a fabulous recipe by Fabrice Le Bourdat, pastry chef at Blé Sucré.

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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Raspberry Bûche de Noël Recipe http://chocolateandzucchini.com/recipes/cakes-tarts/raspberry-buche-de-noel/ http://chocolateandzucchini.com/recipes/cakes-tarts/raspberry-buche-de-noel/#comments Tue, 16 Dec 2014 13:08:16 +0000 http://chocolateandzucchini.com/?p=7197 Holiday meals are just around the corner, and if you’re still unsure what to make for dessert, I’m just one […]

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Raspberry Bûche de Noël

Holiday meals are just around the corner, and if you’re still unsure what to make for dessert, I’m just one step ahead of you: we will be having Christmas lunch at Maxence’s mother’s, I’ve offered to bring dessert, and I’ve only made up my mind yesterday, when I did a trial run to make sure the recipe would work as I imagined it would.

The classic French dessert to serve at Christmas is the bûche de Noël (yule log), which people typically buy ready-made. Depending on the fanciness of the pastry shop, it is either A- loaded with buttercream, pretty kitschy, and entirely too sweet*, or B- a refined and elaborate affair that costs about twice the price of the rest of the meal, and requires you to wait in line among other stressed-out customers openly freaking out over the unchecked items on their to-do list.

I’m all for simple and peaceful during the holidays, so my plan instead is to bring this easy homemade bûche, rolled up with vanilla cream (a quick mix of yogurt and mascarpone cheese) and studded with raspberries. It is a moist and super refreshing dessert, light on the tongue and bright on the palate, moderately sweet and interspersed with the tangy, perfect notes of the berries. Just the kind of dessert I wish for at the end of a rich meal.

Two of the guests at our lunch don’t eat chocolate (I know!), but if that wasn’t the case I would likely have added dark chocolate shavings to the filling and some cacao powder dusted on top. I also considered adding chopped hazelnuts or toasted coconut to the cream, but decided to keep the flavors simple (sensing a pattern here?) and stick to the vanilla and raspberry pairing.

Raspberries aren’t exactly in season this time of year (unless of course you live in the Southern hemisphere) but I buy them frozen and can live with this exception to my season-abiding cooking habits. For a more winter-friendly filling, you could replace the raspberries with poached and diced pears, and add some toasted walnuts or crumbled bits of candied chestnut for flavor and color.

As far as decorations go, again I’m going for simplicity, but you can place small paper stars on top the cake to act as stencils when you dust on the confectioner’s sugar, you can drizzle the top in a zig-zag pattern with melted chocolate or caramel sauce, or you can place little marzipan trees across the top.

Join the conversation!

Will you be doing any cooking or baking for holiday meals this year? What are your plans? And have you ever made, or wanted to make, a Bûche de Noël?

PS: An equally holiday-friendly raspberry dacquoise, some holiday gift suggestions, and my ginger and almond chocolate clusters.

* And not necessarily made in-house: more and more pastry shops just buy frozen, factory-made bûches and pass them off as their own. If a neighborhood pastry shop seems to be selling lots of different sizes and designs, it is worth asking whether they are homemade. You can view a France 5 documentary on that subject (in French) for another few days: Noël, une bûche à tout prix !

Raspberry Bûche de Noël

Raspberry Bûche de Noël

Prep Time: 40 minutes

Cook Time: 8 minutes

Total Time: 5 hours

Serves 6 to 8.

Raspberry Bûche de Noël

Ingredients

    For the syrup:
  • 30 grams (2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon) unrefined blond cane sugar
  • 1 tablespoon dark rum or rosewater
  • For the cake base:
  • 4 large organic eggs, separated
  • 100 grams (1/2 cup) unrefined blond cane sugar
  • 100 grams (3 1/2 ounces, about 3/4 cup) all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • For the filling:
  • 120 grams (1/2 cup) plain Greek-style yogurt or fromage blanc
  • 120 grams (1/2 cup) mascarpone cheese
  • 20 grams (1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons) unrefined blond cane sugar
  • 1 fresh pod vanilla (or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract)
  • 230 grams (8 ounces) raspberries, fresh in season, frozen otherwise (no need to thaw)

Instructions

    Prepare the syrup.
  1. Put 60 ml (1/4 cup) water and the 30 grams (2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon) sugar in a small saucepan and heat just enough for the sugar to dissolve. Set aside to cool and add the rum.
  2. Prepare the cake base.
  3. Preheat the oven to 175°C (350°F). Have ready a metal jelly roll pan (sides greased and bottom lined with parchment paper) or a silicon jelly roll pan (no need to grease or line), about 28 by 38 cm (10 by 15 inches).
  4. Run a clean kitchen towel (not terry cloth) under running water and wring it thoroughly so it is just moist.
  5. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and the 100 grams (1/2 cup) sugar until pale and fluffy.
  6. Sugar + yolks
  7. Fold in the flour, mixing just until incorporated.
  8. Sugar + yolks + flour
  9. In a separate, perfectly clean bowl, and using a perfectly clean whisk, whisk the egg whites with the salt until they form soft peaks.
  10. Beaten egg whites
  11. Stir one third of the egg whites into the batter to loosen. Fold in another third, working gently with a spatula to lift the mixture and keep it from deflating. Repeat with the remaining third.
  12. Batter
  13. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and level the surface with a spatula.
  14. In mold
  15. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until the top of the cake is golden. Don't overbake or it will be hard to roll.
  16. Cooked base
  17. Top the cake with the moist kitchen towel, place a baking sheet or tray over it, and flip the whole thing. Unmold the cake carefully, removing the parchment paper if present.
  18. Unmolded
  19. Brush the cake with the syrup, and roll it up with the kitchen towel; this will initiate the proper shape to make the final rolling easier. Let cool completely, seam side down.
  20. Rolled
    Fill and roll the bûche.
  21. In a bowl, whisk together the yogurt, mascarpone, 20 grams (1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons) sugar, and vanilla.
  22. Yogurt + mascarpone
  23. Unroll the cake carefully and spread it with the yogurt mixture (in the photo I didn't spread the filling up to the edges, but that's not necessary.) Arrange the raspberries on top.
  24. Filled
  25. Roll the cake back up as tightly and evenly as you can, using the kitchen towel for support (but not rolling it up this time).
  26. Transfer cautiously to a dish or platter, seam side down, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, and up to 8.
  27. Rolled
    Serve the bûche.
  28. Using a serrated bread knife, slice off both ends of the roll to get clean edges. Dust with confectioner's sugar and serve.
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Warming Pink Lentil Soup Recipe http://chocolateandzucchini.com/recipes/soups/warming-pink-lentil-soup-recipe/ http://chocolateandzucchini.com/recipes/soups/warming-pink-lentil-soup-recipe/#comments Tue, 09 Dec 2014 15:30:28 +0000 http://chocolateandzucchini.com/?p=6694 The days are getting shorter, the air is getting chillier, and our collective noses are getting snifflier. It’s time for […]

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Pink Lentil Soup

The days are getting shorter, the air is getting chillier, and our collective noses are getting snifflier. It’s time for a warming bowl of wholesome, immune-boosting ingredients, and this pink lentil soup is precisely that.

It is drawn from an early review copy of Sarah Britton’s upcoming book My New Roots, which won’t come out until spring, but this particular recipe is one that’s actually available on her beautiful blog of the same name.

The entire book is a treasure trove of inspiration and I’ve tagged many recipes to try, but this one was first in line: it is incredibly quick to put together, with hardly any prep work at all, and mostly pantry ingredients you likely have on hand as we speak.

The result is a remarkably satisfying, lightly chunky soup that hits all the right spots — the sweetness of the lentils, the earthiness of the cumin, the acidity of the lemon, the umami of the tomatoes, the fiery kick of the ginger and chili pepper — and I can already see it becoming a staple of my wintry repertoire.

Join the conversation!

What’s your favorite warming, soothing dish to prepare when you need to keep the cold, and the sniffles, out?

PS: A winter vegetable curry, my favorite gift ideas for the holiday, and chocolate walnut cookies.

Pink Lentil Soup

Warming Pink Lentil Soup Recipe

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 35 minutes

Total Time: 45 minutes

Serves 4.

Warming Pink Lentil Soup Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil or olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, thinly sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 thumb-sized piece fresh ginger, finely grated (I use a Microplane grater)
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon Cayenne pepper or other ground chili pepper
  • 400 grams (14 ounces) jarred whole tomatoes (see note) or 5 large fresh ones, chopped, if in season
  • 200 grams (1 cup) pink lentils (also called red lentils), rinsed and preferably soaked overnight
  • 1 organic lemon
  • 1 liter (4 cups) stock, homemade if possible
  • A few sprigs fresh parsley or cilantro
  • Fine sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. Heat the oil in a soup pot. Add the onions, garlic, and 1/4 teaspoon salt, and cook for a few minutes, stirring regularly, until softened. Add the ginger, cumin, and chili pepper, stir, and cook for a couple minutes more, until fragrant.
  2. Add the tomatoes, and crush them with your spatula once them landed in the pot. Add the lentils, stock, and 1/2 teaspoon salt, and stir well. Cut four slices from the middle of the lemon and add them in. Bring to a simmer and cook on low for 30 minutes, until the lentils are tender.
  3. Add a good squeeze of lemon juice, taste, and adjust the seasoning.
  4. Divide among bowls, top with a sprig or two of fresh herbs, sprinkle with black pepper, and serve.

Notes

  • I buy my preserved tomatoes jarred, not canned, because most cans have an inner lining that contains BPA, and the acidity of tomatoes make them prime candidates for those compounds to leach. Starting from January 1, 2015, BPA will be banned from all food containers in France, but we know little about the new materials that will be used.
  • If you can make the soup a day ahead, or manage to have leftovers, you'll find it tastes even better the next day.
  • Recipe minimally adapted from Sarah Britton's My New Roots.

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Cinnamon Granola Chocolate Bars Recipe http://chocolateandzucchini.com/recipes/candy-mignardises/cinnamon-granola-chocolate-bars-recipe/ http://chocolateandzucchini.com/recipes/candy-mignardises/cinnamon-granola-chocolate-bars-recipe/#comments Wed, 03 Dec 2014 15:00:03 +0000 http://chocolateandzucchini.com/?p=7095 I have been dreaming about something like this for a long time, inspired both by the nut-studded chocolate bars one […]

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Cinnamon Granola Chocolate Bars

I have been dreaming about something like this for a long time, inspired both by the nut-studded chocolate bars one finds at good chocolate shops in Paris — such as the one that’s on our desktop calendar for this month — and by the tradition of chocolat au couteau, or knife-cut chocolate, a generous slab of chocolate that is broken into smaller chunks for sale by the weight.

I find the concept of rough-cut chocolate curiously enticing, and have often snacked on a handful of granola with a side square of dark chocolate. Somehow the two ideas merged into this chocolate bar, whose surface is covered with a nicely toasted, nutty granola spiked with a healthy amount of sea salt and some freshly grated cinnamon.

And not just any cinnamon: I recently received a sample of the new cinnamon harvest from my partner Cinnamon Hill, a small British company I love that imports top-quality cinnamon sticks grown in Vietnam and Sri Lanka, and every time I use their stuff in my cooking and my baking, I am reminded of the stark difference freshness makes — it’s just not the same spice at all.

I was so smitten with the cinnamon sticks and the gorgeous wooden grater they initially sent me that I bought the cinnamon lover’s pack for my mother for Christmas last year. And now they’ve created a lower-price, injection-molded version of that grater, based on the original design, with an identical grater blade, and also manufactured in the UK (not China!), which makes it an even more affordable gift option for the baker who has everything.

Cinnamon Graters from Cinnamon Hill

Cinnamon Graters from Cinnamon Hill

These cinnamon granola chocolate bars are the perfect recipe to dip your toes in the homemade chocolate pool if you’ve been wanting to try it this holiday season, giving you a great but low-risk opportunity to temper chocolate. Tempering chocolate means bringing it to three different temperature levels (high, low, medium) to control the crystallization of the cacao butter, and it translates to a chocolate that is glossy when set (as opposed to matte with white marbling), and breaks off with a clean, satisfying snap.

This is a process all chocolatiers apply to their chocolate and it may sound a little intimidating at first, but it is a lot less fiddly than it sounds and the result is plenty worth the effort. It does require a digital thermometer with a probe, so if you don’t have one or it just sounds like too much of a project, I’ve included instructions to skip that step.

My plan for my inaugural batch of granola chocolate bar is to just nibble my way through it, bit by bit and chunk by chunk, but I ambition to make more, package it up, and give it away as an edible gift. I can also imagine how charming it will be to bring this on a small platter when I have guests over for coffee during the holidays, with a few chunks broken off and a parmesan knife for chocolate enthusiasts to help themselves to more.

PS: How to taste chocolate, my favorite Christmas cookies, and easy candied nuts.

This post is brought to you by Cinnamon Hill. All words and opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting the companies that support Chocolate & Zucchini.

Cinnamon Granola Chocolate Bars

Cinnamon Granola Chocolate Bars

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Total Time: 3 hours

Cinnamon Granola Chocolate Bars

Ingredients

    For the granola:
  • 180 grams (2 cups) rolled grains of your choice (such as oats, spelt, quinoa, etc. choose gluten-free grains as needed)
  • 120 grams (1 cup) whole almonds and hazelnuts, roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil (or other oil)
  • 3 tablespoons honey or rice syrup
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground cinnamon (I used Cinnamon Hill's Saigon cinnamon)
  • For the chocolate base:
  • 400 grams (14 ounces) high-quality bittersweet couverture chocolate (available from baking supply stores), at least 60% cacao, finely chopped (see note)
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

Instructions

    First, make the granola:
  1. Preheat the oven to 150°C (300°F) and grease a rimmed baking sheet.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the rolled grains, nuts, coconut oil, honey, and cinnamon, and stir until thoroughly combined.
  3. Spread out on the baking sheet and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until toasted and lightly browned, stirring well every 10 minutes. Let cool completely, and measure 120 grams (1 cup) of the granola. (You can keep the rest for topping yogurt and snacking.)
  4. Line a 20-by-20-cm (8-by-8-inch) square pan with parchment paper as neatly as possible, and use clothes pins or chip clips to keep it in place.
  5. Lined pan
    If you choose to temper your chocolate (recommended):
  6. Have ready a large bowl of ice water, and a food thermometer with a probe.
  7. Put the finely chopped chocolate in a heat-resistant bowl and place it over a pan of just-simmering water over low heat.
  8. Melt the chocolate slowly, stirring frequently to ensure even melting, until the chocolate reaches 50-55°C (122-131°F). Don't let it go over 55°C (131°F).
  9. Place the top bowl containing the chocolate over the bowl of ice water and, scraping the bottom of the bowl and stirring continuously, bring the chocolate down to 28-29°C (82-84°F).
  10. Melted Chocolate
  11. Return the bowl of chocolate over the pan of just-simmering water and, still stirring continuously, allow the chocolate to come up to 31-32°C (88-90°F). Don't go over that temperature or you'll have to start the tempering process from the start.
  12. Immediately pour the chocolate into the prepared pan.
  13. If you prefer not to temper your chocolate:
  14. Melt the chocolate slowly in a double boiler, stirring frequently to ensure even melting, and remove from the heat as soon as it's entirely melted. Pour the chocolate into the prepared pan.
  15. Assemble the chocolate bars:
  16. Sprinkle the surface of the chocolate evenly with the salt first, and follow with the 120 grams (1 cup) granola you've set aside. Use the tip of a rubber spatula to push the granola topping gently down into the chocolate, to make sure it's securely embedded.
  17. Allow the chocolate to set at cool room temperature for at least 2 hours or overnight.
  18. Lift the parchment paper from the pan, loosen it gently from the sides of the chocolate, and break the chocolate into chunks, with your (clean, dry, and cool) fingers or a parmesan knife.
  19. The chocolate will keep for several weeks in an airtight container at cool room temperature.

Notes

I prefer dark chocolate over any other kind, but you can use milk chocolate here if you prefer. The target tempering temperatures to use then are 45-48°C (113-118°F) for the initial melting, 26-27°C (79-81°F) for the cooling phase, and 29-30°C (85-86°F) for the final working temperature.

http://chocolateandzucchini.com/recipes/candy-mignardises/cinnamon-granola-chocolate-bars-recipe/

Cinnamon Granola Chocolate Bars

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December 2014 Desktop Calendar http://chocolateandzucchini.com/series/desktop-calendar/december-2014-desktop-calendar/ http://chocolateandzucchini.com/series/desktop-calendar/december-2014-desktop-calendar/#comments Sun, 30 Nov 2014 23:05:09 +0000 http://chocolateandzucchini.com/?p=7022 At the beginning of every month in 2014, I am offering a new wallpaper to apply on the desktop of […]

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December 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 December is a picture of a candied pistachio chocolate bar from Alain Ducasse’s bean-to-bar chocolate factory in Paris.

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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