Chocolate & Zucchini Wed, 26 Nov 2014 17:37:04 +0000 en-US hourly 1 November Favorites Wed, 26 Nov 2014 17:19:11 +0000 First of all, a reminder: if you’re in Paris this Saturday, November 29, I’ll be signing books at WHSmith from […]

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First of all, a reminder: if you’re in Paris this Saturday, November 29, I’ll be signing books at WHSmith from 4 till 5:30pm with my friend and illustrator Mélina Josserand and a platter of chocolate fleur de sel cookies. Please come and say hi!

A few reads and finds from the past month:

~ I was a guest on Radio Canada to talk (in French) about Edible French.

~ Have you ever wondered whether you could continue to cook if you ever went blind? Here’s how my friend Dave does it.

~ Bored with the pairing of beets and goat cheese? Here are five inspired ideas to break out of that rut.

~ A visual guide to determine the freshness of an egg.

~ What does a recipe editor do, anyway?

~ When and why it became socially acceptable for upper-class Parisians to smile.

~ A tempting maple syrup tart from Clamato’s executive chef.

~ Why does food stick to your knife?

~ To make bread, watch the dough, not the recipe.

What about you, any article or link that has stuck with you this month?

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Five Baking Lessons from Huckleberry’s Zoe Nathan Mon, 24 Nov 2014 16:27:16 +0000 Huckleberry is a bakery and café in Santa Monica that is run by baker Zoe Nathan and her husband Josh […]

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Fresh Blueberry Brioche (photography by Matt Armendariz)

Huckleberry is a bakery and café in Santa Monica that is run by baker Zoe Nathan and her husband Josh Loeb. Although I’ve never had a chance to visit myself, I understand it’s a wildly popular place that has successfully disproven the nay-sayers who told Zoe Nathan that, “nobody eats bread and pastries anymore,” least of all in LA.

Earlier in the fall Zoe Nathan released her first book, published by Chronicle Books and also called Huckleberry, and after hearing her on the Good Food podcast I was very curious to see it.

It did not disappoint: it is a gorgeous book, with a sunny polka-dotted pattern printed on the edges of the pages that makes you want to place it backwards on your bookshelf, and Matt Armendariz’s delectable photography. Although the book was co-written by Zoe Nathan, her husband, and their long-time associate Laurel Almerinda, they have chosen Zoe Nathan’s voice to guide the reader through the book, in a day in the life format that starts at 3:30am (oy!) with “Muffins” and ends at 10am with “Coffee and other beverages”.

Nathan’s is an opinionated voice, too, one that does not mince words — considering the tone of Gabrielle Hamilton’s new Prune cookbook, could this be a trend? — and is pretty honest about the hard work and emotional roller coaster involved in running a successful bakery.

I’ve particularly enjoyed the general baking advice that she shares at the front of the book, and thought I’d share the five baking lessons that have stuck with me the most.

1. Color is flavor

Most bakers, myself included, are so afraid of burning things they usually take their baked goods out of the oven before they have reached the apex of their flavor.

It’s perfectly understandable — who wants charred cake? — but the fact is, a tart crust is much crispier and tastier if it is allowed get to the brown side of golden; a crumble or cobbler (Nathan’s example) needs plenty of time for the fruit to completely collapse and soften; a naturally leavened baguette or sourdough loaf expresses its full complexity when it is darker than we think.

Zoe Nathan says we should “treat [color] as another ingredient to be measured” and encourages us to “flirt with disaster” and push the baking time just a little more than completely comfortable. And in truth, there is often a lot more time than we think between underbaked, just right, and overbaked.

Black and Blue Oat Bars (photography by Matt Armendariz)

Black and Blue Oat Bars (photography by Matt Armendariz)

2. Use all your sense, and your intuition

Baking has a reputation of being an exact science, contrary to cooking, which is (supposedly) more open to interpretation and improvisation. Yet no recipe writer can predict how moist or ripe your fruit is, how your oven operates, and what the weather’s like where you live, and this is why a well-written recipe is one that gives you not just baking or resting times but sensory clues as well.

This means you should involve (and trust) your senses of touch, sight, smell, and your intuition to gauge whether this or that preparation needs a longer rising time, more kneading, more time in the oven, a hotter oven, etc. I personally feel this is very empowering, too: look, you’re learning how to fish!

3. Double the salt

Zoe Nathan recommends doubling the amount of salt that is called for in any baking recipe (not hers, presumably): she finds most bakers are too shy with salt, when it is in fact a key ingredient that enhances and reveals flavors like no other. I fully agree with her stance, but naturally you have to take the advice with a grain of salt (ha ha) and use your judgment: you woudn’t want to double the amount of salt in a recipe developed by someone who’s already on that same salty boat.

Brown Rice Quinoa Pancakes (photography by Matt Armendariz)

Brown Rice Quinoa Pancakes (photography by Matt Armendariz)

4. Brush off excess flour

Whenever you’re rolling out dough — such as for cookies, a tart of a pie — you’re going to use a fair amount of flour to dust your work surface and your rolling pin. What few recipes note, however, is that 1- you should use only as much as you need to maintain a good balance of ingredients in the dough, and 2- you’re supposed to brush off the excess flour before using: it’s not going to magically disappear, and that extra flour is just going to sit there awkwardly, tasting of raw flour.

Like Zoe Nathan, I keep a dry pastry brush around for just that purpose — and have another, silicone brush that I keep for wet uses, such as eggwash, oil, butter, etc.

5. Measure the night before

Every pro will tell you that mise en place is the foundation of their craft, and it’s easy to imagine that when your day starts at 3:30am, your baking will gain in efficiency and precision if you’ve prepped and measured your ingredients the day before, and if you want to be reaaaaally well-prepared, as Zoe Nathan notes, set out the tools and utensils you’ll need also.

In a home setting, even if your schedule is a bit less extreme, which I hope it is, fresh-baked breakfast treats will indeed be a smoother achievement if you heed that advice. And as a parent to a young child, I have found that no weekend baking will happen at all if I don’t divide it into ingredient prepping/measuring one day, and actual baking the next.

Bonus tip! The stealth check

This one is not so much a lesson as a fun, and potentially life-saving trick for frazzled bakers. If you’re unsure about a cake you’ve baked — maybe you got confused about ingredient amounts or think you may have forgotten to add an ingredient altogether — you can just rip a small piece out from the bottom of the cake as you unmold it. Let it cool, taste it, and you’ll know where you stand: if it is, after all, fine, no one will be the wiser about that missing piece.

PS: My favorite stone-ground chocolate and how to roast and skin hazelnuts.


Transparency note: I received a review copy of Huckleberry with no obligation to write about it, and cleared the necessary permissions to use Matt Armendariz’s photography in this post. All words and opinions are my own.

Cherry Tomato Goat Cheese Cobbler (photography by Matt Armendariz)

Cherry Tomato Goat Cheese Cobbler (photography by Matt Armendariz)

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“Cheesy” Kale Chips Recipe Wed, 19 Nov 2014 15:56:46 +0000 I’ve recently set out on a mission to prune my cookbook collection, and it has felt wonderful. It is not […]

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Cheesy Kale Chips

I’ve recently set out on a mission to prune my cookbook collection, and it has felt wonderful.

It is not a quick process, but it’s a fairly straightforward one: every weekend I pick one book, two at the most, to go through carefully, leafing through its every page and marking the recipes that call to me. For some I’ve already done the work years ago when I first acquired the book, and I have been surprised to see that few of the recipes I had tagged then still do anything for me now.

Often times it’s a type of recipe for which I’ve since found My One (say, my granola recipe or my chicken stock formula), and it feels great to sit back and cherish those without thinking I need to try every one else’s version. Other times it’s recipes that simply fail to spark the excitement of the cook I have become — and I have trouble even remembering what moved me to tag them in the first place.

Once I’ve marked the recipes I’m interested in, I decide if there are enough to warrant holding on to the entire book, or if I can just scan the corresponding pages and pass the book on to someone else. In the process I also take into account the non-recipe value of the book, of course: if it can serve as a reference book in my cooking and in my work, if it is particularly well written, or if I have an emotional draw to it (we’re allowed those, right?). And if I decide the book can stay, I create a quick index card to list the recipes I’ve tagged and the page number, and slip it inside for future reference.

Choosing RawGena Hemshaw’s Choosing Raw is among the ones that recently made the cut, and with no hesitation: it’s the first cookbook by the author of the same-name blog, and in it she shares her take on a vegan and (mostly) raw lifestyle. I admire Gena’s writing on her blog — she strikes a rare balance between informative, inspiring, and approachable — and her book is just as enjoyable, as she provides the reader with the thorough information and delicious building blocks essential to plant-based eating.

Among the recipes I enthusiastically tagged was the one for cheesy kale chips. I’ve made oven-roasted kale chips before, simply dressed with olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper, but this was my chance to reproduce the more substantial “cheesy” chips I’ve bought (and scarfed down) at natural foods stores in the US and in the UK, which typically call upon cashew “cheese”.

It turned out to be one of the easiest and most rewarding recipes I’ve made in a while: you simply tear curly kale into bite-size pieces, dress them in a no-cook sauce whizzed in the food processor, and let the oven (or dehydrator) do the rest of the work. Soon enough the kale and sauce relinquish all their moisture, leaving you with crisp pieces of kale generously crusted with an ultra flavorful, cheesy cashew coating.

Join the conversation!

Do you like to make kale chips? What’s your favorite flavoring or technique then? And how do you manage (or attempt to manage) your cookbook shelf?

PS: How to make the most of your cookbook collection, Cucumber and avocado quick nori rolls also inspired by Gena, and 50 Things to do with kale.

Cheesy Vegan Kale Chips Recipe

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 2 hours, 30 minutes

Total Time: 2 hours, 45 minutes

Cheesy Vegan Kale Chips Recipe


  • 1 bunch of curly kale, about 700 grams (1 1/2 lb)
  • 130 grams (1 cup) unroasted and unsalted cashews, soaked overnight, drained, and rinsed
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 small red bell pepper, about 150 g (1/3 lb), seeded and roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon white miso paste (shiro miso, available from Japanese markets and natural foods stores)
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 20 grams (1/3 cup) nutritional yeast


  1. Wash the kale carefully and spin it dry in a salad spinner. Cut off the spines (keep for soup) and tear the leaves into bite-size pieces, discarding any stringy bit that gets in the way. This should yield 400 grams (14 ounces) leaves. Spread out on a clean and dry dishtowel, and leave out to dry for 1 hour.
  2. Kale
  3. In the bowl of a food processor or blender, combine the soaked cashews, lemon juice, bell pepper, miso paste, salt, and nutritional yeast, and process until thoroughly puréed, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed.
  4. Cheese and pepper sauce
  5. Put the kale leaves in a mixing bowl and pour the sauce over them.
  6. Kale + sauce
  7. Stir the sauce into the kale until thoroughly combined; you could use a spatula, but in fact your (clean) hands will work better.
  8. Kale + sauce 2
    If using a regular oven:
  9. Line one or two baking sheets (depending on their size) with parchment paper or a silicon baking mat, and arrange the pieces of kale in a single layer, leaving them a little space to breathe and making sure the leaves are all unfurled, with no thick glop of sauce on them, which would take longer to dehydrate.
  10. Kale on baking sheet
  11. Preheat the oven to 75°C (165°F) and dehydrate for 2 1/2 hours, or until completely dry and crispy, switching the baking sheets every half-hour or so, and flipping the chips halfway through.
  12. If using a dehydrator:
  13. Arrange the pieces of kale on two dehydrator trays lined with nonstick sheets, and dehydrate at 46°C (115°F) for about 8 hours, flipping the chips halfway through.
  14. The texture of the chips is best on the day they're made, but they'll keep well for a couple of weeks in an airtight container.


This recipe is adapted from Genna Hamshaw's Choosing Raw.

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Vegan Quiche Filling Recipe Wed, 12 Nov 2014 14:27:32 +0000 A few weeks ago, I had a special guest over for dinner: my American pen friend Amy, whose family hosted […]

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Vegan Quiche Filling

A few weeks ago, I had a special guest over for dinner: my American pen friend Amy, whose family hosted me in their Michigan home the summer I turned fifteen.

This was a life-defining trip for me: it was my first time in the US, a.k.a. the coolest country in the world in the eyes of this French teen, and Amy’s parents made it count in a way I’ll forever be grateful for, taking us on roadtrips in their minivan (with a television and VCR inside!) to Canada and to New York City (New York City!), and generally making sure I had a grand time.

Everything was a source of gleeful amazement to me, from the size of the backyard to the whole-house air-conditioning, from the gigantic malls to the extra frilly decorations in every girl’s room I visited, from the frozen waffles I was allowed to have every morning (every morning!) with bottled chocolate syrup to my first PB&J (which I did not “get” at the time), from the powerful smell of popcorn in movie theaters to the different kinds of fast food (burgers! tacos! pizzas!) Amy’s father picked up on his way home from work most nights.

Amy and I got along famously, but we lost touch as teenagers will — and probably did even more easily in that pre-Internet era. In recent years I searched for her on Facebook every once in a while, but turned up empty. Eventually it is she who wrote in, letting me know she’d soon be traveling through Europe and stopping for a few days in Paris. Would I be up for a little reunion?

The least I could do was invite her to dinner and she said yes, noting that she was now a vegan. I wanted to make her something homey and French, something I would serve to any of my old girlfriends, and decided on a quiche filled with greens, in the style of this greens and walnut quiche.

Obviously the egg-milk-and-cream filling would not do, so I looked for a vegan alternative and was intrigued by this idea of a filling based on chickpea flour, thickened to a custardy consistency on the stove, and flavored with spices and nutritional yeast, the go-to vegan ingredient when a cheesy note is needed.

The filling was very easy to prepare — I made it and my olive oil tart crust the day before — and it garnished the quiche in the most satisfying way. Nobody would mistake it for the classic egg-and-cream custard of course, but it hit all the right notes: creamy but pleasantly set, richly flavorful on its own but subtle enough to let the other ingredients shine.

Join the conversation!

Have you kept in touch with your foreign exchange friends, and what would you serve if you had them over for dinner now? Have you ever made a vegan quiche, and what type of filling did you use?

Vegan Quiche Filling Recipe

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 15 minutes

For one 30-cm (12-inch) quiche.

Vegan Quiche Filling Recipe


  • 100 grams (1 cup) chickpea flour (available from natural foods stores and Indian markets, also labeled as gram flour or besan)
  • 15 grams (1/4 cup) nutritional yeast (available from natural foods stores)
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard


  1. In a medium bowl, combine the chickpea flour, nutritional yeast, salt, nutmeg, and turmeric. Add the mustard and whisk in 240 ml (1 cup) fresh water.
  2. Vegan Quiche Filling Mix
  3. Pour 360 ml (1 1/2 cups) fresh water in a large saucepan and bring to a simmer. Whisk in the chickpea mixture and bring back to a simmer.
  4. Vegan Quiche Filling Cooking
  5. Cook over low heat for 5 to 8 minutes, stirring constantly, until thickened.
  6. Vegan Quiche Filling Cooked
  7. The quiche filling is now ready to use, but you can also pour it into a container and refrigerate until the next day. It will thicken and separate, but that's okay: simply whisk it back into shape.
  8. To use, combine it with the other quiche ingredients and pour into a blind-baked quiche shell, such as my olive oil tart crust, parbaked for 10 minutes at 180°C (360°F).
  9. Green Quiche (pre-baking)
  10. Bake at 180°C (360°F) for 25 minutes, then brush the top with olive oil (this gives a nice sheen to the otherwise matte finish of the filling) and return to the oven for another 5 minutes. Serve hot or just slightly warm.
  11. Green Quiche (baked)


Adapted from The Gourmet Vegan.

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Belgian Waffles (Liège-Style) Recipe Wed, 05 Nov 2014 15:09:27 +0000 I spent my childhood eating Liège waffles we bought at the grocery store. Those thick and cake-like grids studded with […]

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Liège-Style Belgian Waffles

I spent my childhood eating Liège waffles we bought at the grocery store. Those thick and cake-like grids studded with sugar crystals seemed to me infinitely superior to the thin waffles stuffed with vanilla cream that my sister prefered and I ignored disdainfully.

I hadn’t eaten such waffles since my teenaged days — I stopped buying supermarket pastries years ago — but they made a major comeback into my life earlier this year, when a tiny Comptoir Belge opened a stone’s throw from my house, at 58 rue des Martyrs.

This stand offers Belgian waffles in the style of Liège, cooked fresh while you watch and sending seductive, buttery wafts right up to the little carousel on Place Lino Ventura, a powerful marketing ploy indeed. And the first time I tried them, you could have knocked me over with a feather.

A far cry from its distant plastic-wrapped and palm-oiled grocery store cousin, the artisanal and freshly cooked Liège waffle is a study in contrast between the thinly crisp shell, the tender and brioche-y insides, and the thick sugar cristals that melt and caramelize in the waffle iron.

And since I recently received from Cuisinart (see note at the bottom of this post) a fabulous griddler with waffle plates, it wasn’t long until I tackled this monument of Belgian gastronomy.

In my research I found dozens of recipes, with such widely varying proportions my head spun, and my solution was, as it always is, to draw up a spreadsheet comparing the different ingredient amounts in proportion to the flour weight (you can take the cook out of the engineer, etc.). This led me to formulate a recipe that would be best suited to my taste, i.e. less sweet and less butter-heavy than average, while still retaining 100% of its deliciousness.

The resulting waffles are an absolute delight, the recipe is easy, and the dough freezes perfectly well, allowing you to invite your sister over for an impromptu snack one afternoon and, with hardly a finger lifted, have her discover in turn how a Belgian waffle really should be eaten: still warm, caramelized, chewy, irresistible.

Transparency note : The griddler and waffle plates were sent to me to review by Cuisinart France through their PR agency. I will note that this was actually the model I had set my heart on and was about to get as a birthday gift from my parents when I had the opportunity to receive it for free. All opinions expressed here are my own.

Liège-Style Belgian Waffles

Liège-Style Belgian Waffles Recipe

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 4 minutes

Total Time: 2 hours, 45 minutes

Makes 15 waffles.

Liège-Style Belgian Waffles Recipe


  • 200 ml (3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon) lukewarm milk (you shouldn't feel a temperature difference when you dip your finger in)
  • 12 grams (1 scant tablespoon) active dry yeast
  • 500 grams (1.1 pounds) all-purpose flour (about 3 3/4 cups, but I strongly recommend you use a scale to measure this amount)
  • 10 grams (2 teaspoons) fine sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (I use fresh cinnamon from Cinnamon Hill)
  • 2 tablespoons unrefined cane sugar (I used Belgian cassonnade, the traditional unrefined beet sugar)
  • 2 large organic eggs
  • 150 grams (1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons) butter, softened
  • 190 grams (1 1/4 cups) pearl sugar (available online; mine comes from G. Detou and I use it for chouquettes also)
  • Cooking oil, for greasing the waffle iron


  1. In a bowl, combine the milk and yeast and let stand for 15 minutes, until the surface is foamy. (If that doesn't happen, your yeast is probably too old; start again with a freshly purchased packet.)
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment (see below about making the dough entirely by hand), combine by hand the flour, salt, cinnamon, and brown sugar. Add in the milk mixture and the eggs, and stir by hand again (I detach the dough hook and use that) to moisten most of the flour so it won't fly off everywhere when you turn the mixer on.
  3. Turn the mixer on and knead at low speed for 5 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic and no longer sticks to the sides of the bowl.
  4. Waffle Dough 1
  5. Add in the butter.
  6. Waffle Dough 2
  7. Knead for another 2 minutes, until the butter is fully incorporated. The dough will be quite sticky.
  8. Waffle Dough 3
  9. (The kneading can also be done by hand. It's more of a workout, obviously, and the part when you have to work in the softened butter can be a bit messy. The key is to not lose hope -- the dough will eventually absorb the butter -- and take heart in the fact that you'll have the softest hands afterward.)
  10. Cover the bowl tightly with a kitchen towel and leave to rise at warm room temperature, away from drafts, until doubled in size. The exact time needed will vary depending on the temperature in your kitchen, but it should take about 2 hours.
  11. Waffle Dough 4
  12. Fold the pearl sugar into the dough -- this will deflate it and that's okay -- so it's evenly distributed.
  13. Waffle Dough 5
  14. Divide the dough into 15 pieces, each about 75 grams (2 2/3 ounces), and shape them (roughly) into balls. Let rest at room temperature for 15 minutes before cooking. (See note below on refrigerating or freezing the dough for later.)
  15. Preheat your waffle iron to medium-high; on my own griddler, the ideal temperature is 190°C (375°F).
  16. Brush the waffle plates with oil (this is unnecessary if they're non-stick) and place one ball of dough in the center of each waffle segment.
  17. Waffle Iron 1
  18. Close the waffle iron and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, until golden brown.
  19. Waffle Iron 2
  20. Lift the waffles from the iron (I use wooden tongs) and let cool 5 to 10 minutes on a rack before eating.


You can set aside some or all of the balls of dough to cook later: right after dividing the dough, arrange on a plate, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for up to a day. Remove from the fridge 15 minutes before cooking.

You can also arrange the extra pieces on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicon baking mat. Place in the freezer for 1 hour, or until hard, then collect the pieces into an airtight freezer bag. Thaw at room temperature for 3 hours before cooking.

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October Favorites Mon, 03 Nov 2014 14:55:06 +0000 A few of my favorite links and finds for the past month: ~ EDIBLE FRENCH was featured in the New […]

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An apple tree in the garden of La Grenouillère, where we escaped one sunny fall weekend.

A few of my favorite links and finds for the past month:

~ EDIBLE FRENCH was featured in the New York Times T Magazine.

~ I was also invited to talk about EDIBLE FRENCH on one of my favorite radio shows, Even Kleiman’s Good Food on KCRW.

~ A new photography book explores chefs’ favorite tools and what they mean to them.

~ Cooking smells as pheromones for the home.

~ What breakfast looks like if you’re growing up in Tokyo, Istanbul, or Reykjavik.

~ 25 Hindi expressions related to food.

~ If you’ve enjoyed my Parents Who Cook interview series, here are more words of wisdom collected by Leah Koenig.

~ An inside look at Trader Joe’s and its business practices.

~ Emily Blincoe’s color-coded food photography.

~ Mark Bittman on feeding children and creating a home where cooking is the norm.

~ Does it really make a difference if you use room-temperature eggs in your baking?

~ Who says French isn’t easy? Here’s a quick flowchart to decide whether you should use “tu” or “vous”.

~ Some of the biggest mistakes you may be making when baking cookies.

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November 2014 Desktop Calendar Fri, 31 Oct 2014 23:01:49 +0000 At the beginning of every month in 2014, I am offering a new wallpaper to apply on the desktop of […]

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November 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 November is a picture of a chunky pumpkin soup I love to make in the fall, and would be a lovely way to use that carved pumpkin flesh from your Halloween celebrations.

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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Clean-Out-the-Fridge Soup Recipe Wed, 29 Oct 2014 18:57:08 +0000 The natural consequence of buying fresh vegetables to eat is that you may end up, at some point, with not-so-fresh […]

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Clean-out-the-fridge Soup

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

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

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

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

Choosing your vegetables

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

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

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

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

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

Clean-out-the-fridge Soup

On texture

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

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

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

Flavor boosters

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

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

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

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

Cooking the soup

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

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

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

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

Finishing and serving the soup

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Join the conversation!

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

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

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Change Purse

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

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

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

The post Lemon Ginger Tartlets appeared first on Chocolate & Zucchini.

Lemon Ginger Tartlet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Join the conversation!

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

Lemon Ginger Tartlets

Lemon Ginger Tartlets

Prep Time: 40 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 8 hours, 30 minutes

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

Lemon Ginger Tartlets


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


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


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

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