Chocolate & Zucchini http://chocolateandzucchini.com Fri, 28 Aug 2015 18:44:48 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1 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 you 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 you 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.
http://chocolateandzucchini.com/recipes/meat-charcuterie/spatchcocked-chicken-under-a-brick-recipe/

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 and cinnamon truffles.

~ 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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Zucchini Noodle Salad Recipe http://chocolateandzucchini.com/recipes/vegetables-grains/zucchini-noodle-salad-recipe/ http://chocolateandzucchini.com/recipes/vegetables-grains/zucchini-noodle-salad-recipe/#comments Tue, 11 Aug 2015 09:00:00 +0000 http://chocolateandzucchini.com/uncategorized/zucchini-noodle-salad-recipe/ In the heart of summer, when the zucchini I find at the greenmarket is the pocket-size kind that feels firm […]

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Zucchini Noodles

In the heart of summer, when the zucchini I find at the greenmarket is the pocket-size kind that feels firm and bouncy with youth, all I want to do is eat it raw.

I really love (love, love!) shaving it for this zucchini tarte fine I shared a few summers ago, and I also like to cut it into sticks for dipping in muhammara or roasted eggplant and yogurt dip.

But most recently, my raw zucchini obsession has revolved around zucchini noodles: crisp, fresh, graceful on the plate, and so fun to eat.

The passion was ignited during a trip to Corsica one spring: at a sun-bleached restaurant on the isolated bay where we were staying, I was served a dish of fried calamari over zucchini noodles. Up until then, I’d been sure you needed a spiralizer to make them, and although the Benriner model had been on my wishlist for years, I’d stayed on the fence because I was not sure how well it worked, and reluctant to find room for such a bulky gadget.

But looking closely at the zucchini noodles on my plate that day, I had an epiphany: these were simply made with a mandoline slicer! A tool I already owned! And the very same one whose virtues I extolled when I wrote about grated carrots.

All you need to do is set up the mandoline slicer with the comb-like blade, and feed the zucchini through it along its full length, as if it were riding down a water slide*.

It is a little precarious, especially when you’re nearly done and only a thin portion of the zucchini remains, so be extra super mega careful, and use the kevlar glove that reader Elaine helpfully recommended, or at least the hand guard, however awkward and annoying it is. Alternatively, I’ve heard good things about julienne peelers such as this one, and it may be a good low-cabinet-occupancy option.

To make noodles, you should use small and young zucchini: the bigger, older specimens have lots of seeds and slightly fibrous flesh in the middle, which won’t do well in noodle form. This means it isn’t the ideal use for the giant zucchini taking over your vegetable garden, unless you use only the outer parts and reserve the core for soup or stock.

And once you have your zucchini noodles in a glorious heap on your cutting board, you’ll find they’re quite versatile. I like to make a simple salad seasoned with olive oil, lemon juice and cumin and sprinkled with toasted pumpkin seeds and purple basil, as in the recipe below.

But you can also dress them with:

Or, you can treat them like pasta and:

Although some recipes recommend blanching or microwaving the zucchini noodles for pasta-like uses, I prefer to keep them raw for optimal texture, and let the warm sauce or broth heat up the dish.

Join the conversation!

Do you make zucchini noodles, and how do you like to serve them? Do you covet or own a spiral slicer? What do you think: gadget or necessity?

Zucchini Noodles

* When I was a teenager, going to the Aquaboulevard water park was a popular outing. Riding the water slides was thrilling, but also a little scary because urban legend had it that unspecified people sometimes wedged razor blades in the grooves between the different sections of the slide so the skin on your legs would be gashed open as you slid down.

** This is the vegetarian cookbook issued by David Frankiel and Luise Vandahl Andersen of The Green Kitchen Stories. Disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from the publisher.

Zucchini Noodle Salad Recipe

Prep Time: 20 minutes

4 servings

Zucchini Noodle Salad Recipe

Ingredients

  • 600 grams (1 1/3 pounds) small zucchini, about 4
  • 60 ml (1/4 cup) extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (I tried lime and it wasn't as good)
  • 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • a handful of pumpkin seeds, toasted
  • a few sprigs fresh basil (green or purple), sliced or torn

Instructions

  1. Trim the zucchini and slice it into noodle-like strips using a mandoline or spiral slicer.
  2. Transfer to a bowl. Add the oil, lemon juice, salt, cumin, and pepper, and use your clean hands to combine all the ingredients, working gently. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
  3. Divide among serving plates, lifting bunches of the noodles with your hand and creating pretty swirls. Sprinkle with pumpkin seeds and basil, and serve immediately.

Notes

The zucchini may be sliced and dressed a few hours before serving, but only add the salt at the last minute. Since it draws moisture out of the zucchini, it would soften it and cause its juices to pool at the bottom of the bowl.

http://chocolateandzucchini.com/recipes/vegetables-grains/zucchini-noodle-salad-recipe/

This post was first published on August 7, 2013.

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Apricot Blueberry Cobbler Recipe http://chocolateandzucchini.com/recipes/desserts/apricot-blueberry-cobbler-recipe/ http://chocolateandzucchini.com/recipes/desserts/apricot-blueberry-cobbler-recipe/#comments Tue, 04 Aug 2015 15:00:45 +0000 http://chocolateandzucchini.com/uncategorized/apricot-blueberry-cobbler-recipe/ I’d been living in California for a few months and thoroughly enjoying the dotcom vibe of my workplace when the […]

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Apricot Blueberry Cobbler

I’d been living in California for a few months and thoroughly enjoying the dotcom vibe of my workplace when the big news was announced: we were going to have a company barbecue.

This, to me, was what working in the Silicon Valley at the turn of the century was all about: a lot of fun ideas to make employees happy (water guns! foosball table! free pizza on Fridays!) and therefore more inclined to put in the hours and brain juice that would help the company grow (until it didn’t, but that’s another story).

And so, on barbecue day, everyone pitched in — some set up the burger assembly station, others grilled the burger patties (and veggie substitutes, this was California after all), others yet plopped scoops of salad (potato or pasta salad, I mean) onto plates, or rounded up anyone still hiding out in his cube — before sitting down on the sunny deck at the back of our offices to dig in.

A few people had volunteered to bring dessert, and among them, someone (Barbara, from client ops) had baked a peach cobbler.

While people oohed and aahed, I asked: what’s a cobbler? A cobbler, someone explained, is someone who mends shoes (un cordonnier in French). This didn’t make much sense to me, so I gently inquired: okay, but, um, why? My American-born coworkers conferred for a while, spoon in mid-air and brow furrowed, until they had to admit no one had a reasonable explanation.

No matter: we all know where the proof of the pudding is, and this one was very good indeed.

A cobbler is one of those all-American desserts with funny names — together with the brown betty, the buckle, the grunt, the slump, and the pandowdy — in which seasonal fruit is topped with some sort of dough, and then cooked or baked.

In the case of the cobbler, the topping is a sugar-dusted biscuit dough that is strewn across the fruit, either in rough hand-torn pieces, as I like to do, or in neat rounds, if you prefer (though I suspect it only looks that way if you use the ready-made biscuit dough sold in canisters at the grocery store).

The cobbler is a nice change of pace from the crumble or the crisp, in that it offers a wider range of textures: the dough becomes browned and crisp at the top, remains tender like the insides of a scone in the middle, and melds with the juicy fruit at the bottom.

Because I was first introduced to the cobbler by way of Barbara’s, it remains iconically linked to peaches in my mind. But really, any ripe fruit can be used, and I particularly like the apricot and blueberry version I baked last week when friends came over for dinner.

I use almond flour in my cobbler dough for a smoother mouthfeel, and when I make it for stone fruit, I like to flavor it with a prudent splash of orange blossom water. It is often recommended to serve the cobbler with vanilla ice cream, but I am French and I like it better with crème fraîche: I think it does a better job at underlining the natural sweetness of the fruit.

If you’re still puzzled about the name, as I am, know that it may in fact be linked to the topping’s resemblance to the shape of cobblestones, or of cobbles, which are either rounded hills or lumps of coals. But the truth is nobody really knows — not even food history librarian Lynne Olver, who nonetheless offers quotes and references that speaks to the origins of the dish.

(And for more desserts in the cobbler family, see this rhubarb raspberry grunt and this brown butter spiced crisp.)

Apricot Blueberry Cobbler

Apricot Blueberry Cobbler Recipe

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 45 minutes

Serves 6.

Apricot Blueberry Cobbler Recipe

Ingredients

    For the fruit:
  • 1 kilo (2.2 pounds) ripe apricots
  • 4 teaspoons sugar (I use an unrefined blond cane sugar)
  • 2 teaspoons pearl tapioca
  • 200 grams (1 cup) blueberries (fresh or frozen; no need to thaw if frozen)
  • For the dough:
  • 150 grams (1/3 pound, about 1 1/4 cups) flour
  • 50 grams (1/2 cup) almond flour (a.k.a. ground almonds or almond meal; if unavailable, use whole almonds and blitz them to a fine powder with the sugar in a food processor)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar, plus more for sprinkling (I use an unrefined blond cane sugar)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon orange blossom water
  • 125 grams (1/2 cup) plain yogurt
  • 70 grams (5 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, diced

Instructions

  1. Pit and quarter the apricots. Put the slices in a shallow baking dish (ceramic or glass) and sprinkle with the sugar and tapioca. Toss gently to combine, arrange in an even layer, cover, and let stand for 1 hour.
  2. Preheat the oven to 180°C (360°F).
  3. Prepare the dough. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the flour, almond flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the orange blossom water, yogurt, and diced butter. Combine roughly with a fork, then use a pastry blender or the tips of your fingers to rub the wet ingredients into the dry ones. The dough will be soft; don't overwork it. (This can also be done in a food processor or mixer, but I find it's quicker to do it by hand.)
  4. Add the blueberries on top of the apricots. Take tablespoonfuls of the dough and drop them on top of the fruit, covering the surface in a uniform fashion, but leaving a little space in between for the fruit to peer at the sky. Sprinkle the top with sugar.
  5. Insert the dish in the middle of the oven and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the topping is golden brown and the fruit is bubbly.
  6. Serve while still a little warm -- but not piping hot -- with crème fraîche or whipped cream. You can make the cobbler a few hours ahead and reheat it gently before serving.
http://chocolateandzucchini.com/recipes/desserts/apricot-blueberry-cobbler-recipe/

This post was first published on August 17, 2010.

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August 2015 Desktop Calendar http://chocolateandzucchini.com/series/desktop-calendar/august-2015-desktop-calendar-2/ http://chocolateandzucchini.com/series/desktop-calendar/august-2015-desktop-calendar-2/#comments Fri, 31 Jul 2015 22:02:25 +0000 http://chocolateandzucchini.com/?p=7735 At the beginning of every month, I am offering a new wallpaper to apply on the desktop of your computer, […]

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August 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 June is a photo of the gorgeous tomatoes my producer bestows upon us all summer, to our absolute glee. I make tons of tomato salads with them, and here are some of my favorite tomato recipes, to which I’ll add the wonderful tomato panade (a chunky bread-thickened summer soup) featured in The French Market Cookbook.

Instructions to get your calendar are below.

Here’s how it works:

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

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

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

4- Enjoy and see you next month!

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July Favorites http://chocolateandzucchini.com/links/july-favorites-3/ http://chocolateandzucchini.com/links/july-favorites-3/#comments Tue, 28 Jul 2015 09:00:53 +0000 http://chocolateandzucchini.com/?p=7883 A few reads and finds from the past month: ~ I wrote a piece in the Wall Street Journal on […]

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Zucchini Blossoms

A few reads and finds from the past month:

~ I wrote a piece in the Wall Street Journal on How to Get the Most Out of Your Local Farmers’ Market, with recipes and photos (guest-starring my then four-month-old).

~ I was a guest on Public Sénat’s television show La Politique c’est net to discuss food blogs and social media. You can watch the video (in French).

~ 10 best spots for ice cream in Paris.

~ I am having fun with these French/English language puzzles — great to while away a train ride this summer!

~ How to have a better lunch at your desk.

~ Happy news: Ippudo is finally coming to Paris! We’ll see if they use the same sesame mills I fell in love with at their NYC location.

~ How to double the antioxydants in your salad greens.

~ 10 French pastry chefs to follow on Instagram.

~ Inspired to make these rhubarb squares, this vegan curry with sweet potato noodles, this grilled chicken shawarma, and this szechuan eggplant. For more recipe inspiration, follow me on Pinterest!

~ How to pack for two weeks in a carry-on (I wish someone would do a “traveling with kids” version!).

What about you: any great read or link to share?

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Minimalist Kit for the Traveling Cook http://chocolateandzucchini.com/tools-utensils/minimalist-kit-for-the-traveling-cook/ http://chocolateandzucchini.com/tools-utensils/minimalist-kit-for-the-traveling-cook/#comments Tue, 21 Jul 2015 13:00:13 +0000 http://chocolateandzucchini.com/?p=6035 I am going to be traveling these next few weeks, doing some simple cooking in a couple of rented kitchens, […]

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Minimalist Kit for the Traveling Cook

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

Because I am also traveling with a toddler and a baby who need their own minimalist traveling kit — including such essentials as toy diggers, special blankets, and stuffed monkeys — I really need to make my kit as trim as possible, and have elected to bring along:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My 1981 Crosman Blades Pocket Knife

My 1981 Crosman Blades Pocket Knife

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

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

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

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

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

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

Join the conversation!

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

More tips!

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

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

A version of this post was first published on August 6, 2014.

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Fire-and-Forget Pork Carnitas Recipe http://chocolateandzucchini.com/recipes/dairy-free/fire-and-forget-pork-carnitas-recipe/ http://chocolateandzucchini.com/recipes/dairy-free/fire-and-forget-pork-carnitas-recipe/#comments Wed, 15 Jul 2015 10:28:04 +0000 http://chocolateandzucchini.com/?p=7794 When Maxence and I moved back to Paris after living in California, one of the things we missed most sorely […]

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Pork Carnitas

When Maxence and I moved back to Paris after living in California, one of the things we missed most sorely was Mexican food. Sure, there were a couple of Mexican restaurants in the city, but there was something a little dusty and unexciting about them. They lacked the freshness, simplicity, and fun that we’d come to expect from our favorite taquerias back in the States.

Fast forward a few years, and we were positively thrilled to see Mexican food in general, and tacos in particular, become the new “it” cuisine among hip Parisians, with new spots popping up on the map at a rapid pace (though not as ridiculously so as burger places).

Not all of them got it right, but we happily tried as many as we could — up until the recent opening of a new El Nopal location in our neighborhood, just off Place Pigalle, when we declared ourselves content. It’s a tiny, corridor-like shack where the team is friendly (and actually Mexican; the owner is from Monterrey), everything is super fresh, and we find ourselves going practically every week, tasting our way through their different taco fillings — asada, carnitas, deshebrada, tinga, cochinita… the list goes on.

Believe it or not, this has not sated our hunger for Mexican food, and I’ve taken to making my own carnitas so we can have taco nights at home every once in a while. It’s one of those incredibly simple, incredibly rewarding recipes that have you braise the meat for hours with no human intervention, until you have exceedingly tender meat that pulls apart into gloriously moist shreds and caramelized bits. (For a detailed discussion on the ins and outs of making carnitas, read this food lab piece.)

I’ve occasionally made my own corn tortillas (I actually own a tortilla press, that’s how committed I am) but for a quicker preparation, pliable lettuce leaves from a crisp head work beautifully. Place a few simple toppings on the table — finely diced onion, chopped cilantro, avocado slices, lime wedges — and you’re in business.

The recipe uses a whole pork shoulder, which you should get from a good butcher so it’s not pumped with antibiotics, and it makes quite a bit, but carnitas freeze well, so you can stash away any extra meat for a super easy dinner you’ll be grateful for sometime down the road.

Join the conversation!

Are you a fan of Mexican cuisine? Do you have a local taqueria you love? What’s your favorite Mexican recipe to make at home?

Pork Carnitas

Fire-and-Forget Pork Carnitas Recipe

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 7 hours

Total Time: 8 hours, 15 minutes

Serves 6.

Fire-and-Forget Pork Carnitas Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 bone-in pork shoulder, about 2 kilos (4 1/3 pounds)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon ground chili pepper
  • 2 teaspoons fine sea salt
  • 200 grams (7 ounces) sliced bacon
  • 4 cloves garlic, halved
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 organic orange (optional)
  • For serving:
  • Corn tortillas and/or lettuce leaves
  • Fresh cilantro
  • Finely diced yellow or red onion
  • Sliced avocado
  • Lime
  • Red or green salsa or just Tabasco

Instructions

  1. Rub the meat with the cumin, oregano, chili pepper, and salt, and set aside in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour and up to 1 day.
  2. Line the bottom of a Dutch oven with the sliced bacon. Place the pork shoulder on top, along with the garlic and bay leaves. If using the orange, squeeze its juice over the meat, cut the peel into four pieces and add to the pot.
  3. Cover and place the Dutch oven in the oven. Set the temperature to 120°C (250°F) and let the meat cook for 6 to 8 hours, basting it every hour or so, until fork tender and nicely bronzed.
  4. Remove the orange peels and bay leaves from the pot, and shred the meat using two forks. Discard the bone.
  5. Serve with corn tortillas and/or lettuce leaves to wrap into tacos, with a sprinkle of cilantro and onion, slices of avocado, a squeeze of lime juice and a drizzle of salsa.
  6. On the first day I serve it straight from the pot, but on subsequent days I like to spread the leftovers on a baking sheet and place for 6 to 8 minutes under the broiler of the oven to reheat and crisp up.

Notes

Any extra can be frozen.

http://chocolateandzucchini.com/recipes/dairy-free/fire-and-forget-pork-carnitas-recipe/

Pork Carnitas

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Homemade Coconut Milk Yogurt Recipe http://chocolateandzucchini.com/recipes/basics/homemade-coconut-milk-yogurt-recipe/ http://chocolateandzucchini.com/recipes/basics/homemade-coconut-milk-yogurt-recipe/#comments Tue, 07 Jul 2015 08:50:55 +0000 http://chocolateandzucchini.com/?p=7829 On a quick trip to London a year and a half ago, I spent an embarrassing number of hours exploring […]

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Coconut Milk Yogurt

On a quick trip to London a year and a half ago, I spent an embarrassing number of hours exploring the aisles of the Kensington Whole Foods, stocking up on amazing British bean-to-bar chocolate and the paleo granola that inspired my own.

In the dairy aisle I noticed with great curiosity that they sold coconut milk yogurt, and bought a small tub to have at breakfast the next morning — you know how I feel about hotel breakfasts. One spoonful and I was smitten: it had the smooth texture and lovely tang of dairy yogurt, but it was wonderfully aromatic, with that one-of-a-kind, subtle sweetness that coconut milk brings. You had to taste it to believe it.

It was also fairly pricy (£2 for 125 g, that’s 2.80€ or 3$ for a half-cup, i.e. £16, 22.50€ or $25 for a liter/quart) and unavailable in France. So I resigned myself to see it as a once-in-a-blue-moon indulgence.

Until just a few of weeks ago, when I chanced upon this tutorial and saw the light: you can make your own coconut yogurt at home! From regular canned coconut milk! Available at the store!

The process is just as easy as making ordinary yogurt from cow’s or goat’s milk, which I do weekly: you simply combine the coconut milk with yogurt ferment or a probiotic supplement, and leave it to incubate at a steady, moderate temperature (around 40°C or 105°F) until the coconut milk is cultured, which takes 24 hours for the level of tang I like.

And I’ve been loving my homemade coconut milk yogurt. It’s a treat in and of itself, but I love it with a sliced-up banana and some granola, or dotted with berries, and I think it would make an excellent base for frozen yogurt. The yogurt tends to separate slightly, with a thin layer of set coconut oil at the top, but I actually enjoy that fudgy line (it’s not a bug, it’s a feature!) just like the creamy one I get when I use non-homogenized cow’s milk.

From a price perspective, my coconut yogurt works out to about 15€ (£11 or $17) per litre/quart, which remains more expensive than making yogurt from animal milk, but is notably cheaper than store-bought coconut yogurt.

If you don’t have a yogurt maker, you can use the light inside your oven to generate the required heat (as outlined in the recipe below), but getting a yogurt maker is a small investment I promise you won’t regret. There is no need for anything fancy: I have a super basic model that doesn’t cost very much, and does the job perfectly. The one I own is equivalent to this model in the US, but if you live elsewhere, here are my criteria for choosing a yogurt maker:

  • Glass jars: the cocktail of plastic and heat is an ugly one, and because you’ll be reusing the jars again and again, you want them to be inert and heat-resistant, i.e. made out of glass.
  • No automatic shut-off: many models turn themselves off automatically after a few hours (6 to 8, depending on the model) because they consider that the yogurt is done after that time. However, you may like your yogurt tangier (incubated longer), or you may want to make 24-hour yogurt if you have trouble with lactose, or you may want to make coconut yogurt, which takes 24 hours also. I understand the convenience of the automatic shut-off, but I prefer to set an alarm for myself and keep control of the incubation duration. Conveniently, these manual models are also cheaper!
  • The possibility of getting extra jars: you definitely want a double load of jars right from the start, so you can begin a new batch of yogurt before you’ve eaten (and cleaned) your way through the previous one. Also, breakage happens (ahem).
  • There are single-container models that allow you to make the yogurt in bulk rather than in individual jars, but for my own use I find it much more convenient to have the yogurt pre-portioned and ready to grab in the fridge.

The coconut milk I use for these yogurt is one I buy at the organic store (the Organi brand) which costs 2.49€ per can, is 15% fat, and has no BPA in the inside lining (I’ve checked with the manufacturer). As for the ferment, I’ve successfully used this yogurt starter as well as this probiotic supplement, which has 7 billion probiotics (Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, Lactococcus, and Streptococcus strains) in each dose.

Join the conversation!

Do you make your own yogurt? What’s your prefered method? Have you ever tried it with non-dairy milk?

Coconut Milk Yogurt

Homemade Coconut Milk Yogurt Recipe

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 24 hours

Total Time: 24 hours

Makes 1 liter (4 cups).

Homemade Coconut Milk Yogurt Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1.2 liter (5 cups) canned organic full-fat coconut milk, from three 400-ml (13 1/2-oz) cans (make sure the lining is BPA-free)
  • 1 sachet yogurt ferment or probiotics (I use this one, which has 7 billion probiotics in each dose) OR 120 ml (1/2 cup) yogurt saved from the previous batch (see note)

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl, whisk about 120 ml (1/2 cup) of the coconut milk with the ferment. Pour in the remaining coconut milk, whisking as you go.
  2. If using a yogurt maker:
  3. Divide the coconut milk mixture among the jars of the yogurt maker.
  4. Switch it on and leave to incubate for 24 hours (if your yogurt maker has an automatic shut-off feature, you'll have to turn it back on).
  5. Allow to cool to room temperature without disturbing, then place in the fridge.
  6. If you don't have a yogurt maker:
  7. Pour the coconut milk mixture into glass jars with heatproof lids, and close the jars.
  8. Place in the oven, close to the oven light (ideally with a 60-watt bulb). Turn the oven light on, and leave the yogurt in with the light on for 24 hours. The temperature inside the oven should remain in the 38-43°C (100-110°F) temperature range; use an oven thermometer to make sure.
  9. Allow to cool to room temperature without disturbing, then place in the fridge.

Notes

You can use a small amount of yogurt from the previous batch as a starter for a fresh batch and repeat this cycle a few times, until you find the new batch is more acidic and doesn't set quite as well as you'd like. Use a fresh dose of ferment or probiotics for your next batch then.

http://chocolateandzucchini.com/recipes/basics/homemade-coconut-milk-yogurt-recipe/

Coconut Milk Yogurt

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July 2015 Desktop Calendar http://chocolateandzucchini.com/series/desktop-calendar/july-2015-desktop-calendar-2/ http://chocolateandzucchini.com/series/desktop-calendar/july-2015-desktop-calendar-2/#comments Tue, 30 Jun 2015 22:05:24 +0000 http://chocolateandzucchini.com/?p=7730 At the beginning of every month, I am offering a new wallpaper to apply on the desktop of your computer, […]

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July 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 June is a photo of this delightful cherry clafoutis made with chestnut flour. And if you’re looking for more recipes to make the most of the fleeting cherry season, I can also recommend this cherry hazelnut loaf cake and the cherry and rose compote featured in The French Market Cookbook.

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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