Best of 2010

I hope you’ve enjoyed a warm and cheerful holiday season, that you’ve shared laughter and good meals with the people you care about, and that you’re feeling full of energy and dreams for 2011.

May this fresh new year bring you joy, serenity, fulfillment, and really good skin. I look forward to another year of meeting you here on Chocolate & Zucchini.

Before we kiss 2010 goodbye altogether, I don’t want to miss my chance to reminisce on what it has brought me, thereby establishing my traditional “best of” list*.

Most memorable trip

The most salient memory I will keep from 2010 is, without a doubt, the trip I took to Japan with Maxence. I can even say it was the best trip of my life, and I wish I could bottle up the euphoria I felt for two weeks straight — and also wrap up in a magic doggie bag every single bite we ate, so I could savor them over and over again.

Most rewarding baking project

For the first time ever, I baked a galette des rois to celebrate the Epiphany, the traditional January holiday I wrote about here and again here. It was a success that far outweighed the (moderate) work involved, and I encourage you to try your hand at it too: the official date is this Thursday, but l’Epiphanie is customarily celebrated anytime in January.

Favorite breads

Ever since I found James MacGuire’s instructions for pain au levain in an issue of Art of Eating, it has become our weekly loaf of bread, and I now make it (almost) with my eyes closed.

I also baked a number of batches of these tomato burger buns. They accompanied us through a fabulous summer of near-weekly cheeseburgers — many of them vegetarian, since I discovered with glee that they sell portobello mushrooms at the greenmarket.

Favorite new cooking utensils

My new/old pressure cooker is definitely getting some mileage on my stove: I use it several times a week to cook legumes, grains, soups, and stock.

I have also acquired a used electric coffee grinder (a model very much like this one) that I have repurposed as a spice/seed grinder, to whizz things like flax seeds, cardamom and lemon zest.

And although it isn’t a cooking utensil exactly, we are delighted with the sparkling water fountain that my sister and brother-in-law gave us for Christmas, which allows us to turn still water to sparkling at the push of a button (“abracadabra!” optional).

Most thrilling experience for the thrifty cook

In the fall, I was grateful for the chance to cook and bake with free ingredients that I either foraged (mushrooms and chestnuts) or received from generous friends with gardens (quinces and walnuts), as evidenced by these recipes for cep and walnut pizza, quince almond cake, quince jelly, and walnut and date cookies.

Most frequently made meal

When we have friends over for dinner, I tend to go through phases of serving essentially the same meal to different groups until (almost) everyone has tasted it, and then I have to think up something new. In 2010, my little black dress of dinner parties has been a salt-crusted chicken served with perfect roasted potatoes and a green salad, followed by a seasonal fruit tart.

I actually got to serve this to an ambassador and his wife whom we befriended this year (I know!), and they kindly requested the chicken recipe, which is a variation on the one that’s included in Yves Camdeborde’s book Dimanche en famille (already mentioned here).

Favorite new staple

Since early last summer, I have been making most of my savory tarts on this yogurt-based crust, and it now keeps my olive oil crust company in the regular tart rotation.

Favorite new skill to develop

I had the opportunity to visit the Valrhona chocolate factory in Tain-l’Hermitage last spring, and our group was treated to a primer on how to taste chocolate. It was fascinating, and I’ve tried to follow our instructor’s advice ever since.

Favorite kitchen toys to play with

A friend let me borrow her dehydrator, and I had a lot of fun playing with it, making this raw buckwheat granola and these raw flax seed crackers especially.

I’ve also used my pasta roller quite a bit this year, to prepare fresh pasta of course, but also multiple batches of these excellent olive oil and seed crackers.

Favorite food-related reads

Among the books and cookbooks I read this year, I particularly enjoyed In the Green Kitchen (I wrote about it here), 52 Loaves (I wrote about it here), the above-mentioned Dimanche en famille (I wrote about it here), as well as Eating Animals and Bidoche, two life-changing books on the meat industry.

Favorite non-food-related reads

My favorite books for 2010 are — in order of appearance — The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (read her other books, too, she’s an extraordinary writer), A Distant Neighborhood by Jirô Taniguchi (this one is a manga), My Ántonia by Willa Cather, The Passage by Justin Cronin, Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert (I read it in French, of course, but I’m linking to a new translation by Lydia Davis), and A Visit from the Goon Squad. (See my reading page for a complete list.)

I will also remember 2010 as the year I crossed over to the side of e-readers: I got myself a Kindle and I have taken to it like fish to water. I won’t read all my books on it, in part because I borrow many of the novels I read from my mother, but it’s been wonderful to have when traveling, and I plan to use it to read or re-read classics that are now in public domain, and are therefore available for free download.

What about you? I’d love to hear about your own 2010 highlights!

* If you want to take a little trip back in time, you can check:
~ Best of 2009
~ Best of 2008
~ Best of 2007
~ Best of 2006
~ Best of 2005.

  • http://shewhoeats.blogspot.com chika

    happy new year clotilde! (i feel a lot comfortable saying it here ;)) looking back the year that was, i’m amazed how you have always stayed so inspiring, and keep giving and giving more. so thanks for that, and i hope 2011 will be filled with even more deliciousness and inspirations for you (and hence, for us :))

    and since you can’t bottle up your trip to japan, you’ll just have to come back, right?? xo

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      Thank you, Chika, that means a lot!

  • http://www.londonfoodieny.com Anna @ londonfoodieny.com

    Happy New Year Clotilde! So funny that I share some of your similar favorites- a kindle, a sparkling water fountain, a coffee grinder. You have inspired my new years resolution this year….back to making starter breads and I will be using all your resources and recommendations as guides, I’m sure!

  • http://butterybooks.com Lisa@ButteryBooks

    Thanks for bringing me up to date on all your favorite posts! I look forward to reading more in the new year!

  • http://Www.gourmetise.com Guenot

    Houlala que s’aventures ! Je ne suis pas surprise que le Japon soit ta plus belle découverte. J’espère marcherait tes pas cette année, je rêve d’y allerdepuis tellement longtemps.

  • gingerpale

    I’m reading “Hokkaido Highway Blues” now, and enjoying it very much. Not a *lot* about food, but it sure creates a pro-travel-to-Japan feeling! Glad I saw this in your reading list.

  • http://haphazardmusings.wordpress.com Freckles

    We have also come around to the pressure cooker and sparkling water fountain this year, and it’s totally revolutionized our lives. I used to dislike drinking water, but add some bubbles and I can’t get enough!

    Looking forward to more of your great posts in 2011!

  • http://three-cookies.blogspot.com/ Three-Cookies

    Looks like an eventful and successful 2010, even serving a meal to an ambassador. Congratulations. Hope 2011 is a blast!

  • http://lacaffettierarosa.wordpress.com Caffettiera

    You are the second blogger I read that puts the galette des rois in the ‘best of 2010′ list… I’ll have to give this a try then, though I have never tasted it (I loved your burger buns, they have become regular at my place as well).

    I *so* badly want a coffee grinder to use for spices. I bought a manual one last year that was very cheap but is literally unusable now, and it never worked with the hardest spices anyway. It is such a useful item!

    And, last but not least.. I did notice you have a reading page before! I read loads, and I am always looking for good advice. I got an ebook reader from Santa as well, but I just started using it tonight really. It had to fight for my attention with a new camera, who is my 2010 highlight, and most likely also my 2011.

    Happy 2011!

  • http://www.dinnersanddreams.net Dinners & Dreams

    My mom used a pessure cooker almost everyday. I have lost touch with that wonderful utensil but am planning to return to it.

    Nisrine

  • http://www.LetsCookTonight.com Gigi Centaro

    Hi Clotilde,
    I share your love of Japan. I have been there three times and each trip was wonderful. The food, people and sights are amazing.

  • http://naturally-delicious.blogspot.com/ renee

    What a wonderful list. You’ve busy this past year. I went back and re-read many of those posts with enjoyment. Will you be giving us the salt crust chicken recipe? I hope you will, because I want to prepare your complete meal for a group of friends. I’m going to get a head start by baking the sables now.

  • http://greenbeansandchocolatecake.blogspot.com kamana

    this is perfect to guide me through your year of posts. look forward to reading more and i will try nt to drool as i look at your gorgeous food photos.

  • http://www.therapistinthekitchen.wordpress.com Jeffrey – The Therapist

    I’m so excited to have come across this blog. I have spent much time in Paris and pine to be there again. I can’t wait to read more.

  • http://www.turntablekitchen.com Kasey

    I would have never thought to use my pasta rollers to make crackers. Brilliant! I will definitely be trying that. Happy New Year!

  • http://www.georgiapellegrini.com Georgia Pellegrini

    I’m with you on the coffee grinder, they really make great and inexpensive spice grinders, I even grind up nuts to put in my dough for pies and things with mine. Also, so easy to clean! Just wipe it out with a paper towel or a piece of bread!

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      Love the “wipe it out with a piece of bread” advice: edible clean-up!

  • http://hautestuff.blogspot.com/ yixiao

    i miss japan =s sighhhh

  • http://www.winosandfoodies.com barbara

    Happy New Year Clotilde. I have one of the sparkling water fountains. One of my best investments as I use it daily.

    Looking forward to your 2011 adventures.

  • Rachel

    What a year! I always enjoy reading your ‘best of’ lists, and this is no exception. Here’s my very abbreviated one:

    Most memorable trip (from a standpoint of food, art and good company): a draw between New York with my boyfriend and Paris/Vienna (on my own but meeting up with friends along the way)

    Favorite cookbook: Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi (runner-up: Sunday Suppers at Lucques by Suzanne Goin)

    Kitchen toy: I’m going to cheat and say all of them – I moved into my first ‘grown-up’ (i.e. no roommates) apartment and have been having a ball kitting out my kitchen exactly as I want! Although if pressed, I guess I would say my new cocotte. :)

    All the best to you for 2011!!

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      Thanks for sharing Rachel, and congrats on your first solo apartment!

  • Mila

    Hi Clotilde, Happy New Year! I love your blog. Any chance there will be an entry on the salt-crusted chicken. That sounds heavenly.

  • http://www.hawberry.net Shelley

    Happy new years to you! I too would definitely agree that learning to make good levain bread has been one of the most revelatory things to happen to me this year. I like my bread with flax seeds, toasted pumpkin seeds, and sometimes sesame seeds as well!

    I use a small blender as coffee bean and black peppercorn grinder. My boyfriend goes out of the way to get a little coffee dust on the black peppercorns and vice versa.

  • http://pattayagirls.blog.com/ Pattaya Girls

    I thought I was the only one who loves teh linseed crackers ( especially with marmite on )

  • http://poppiesoctober.blogspot.com patoumi

    Je suis toute contente que tu aies aimé The Bell Jar! (et je viens d’évoquer à haute voix l’existence de ce transformateur d’eau. Ca me rappelle quand j’avais dit “Là le truc que j’aimerais trop avoir, c’est un fouet danois”)

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      Ah oui, The Bell Jar, lecture très marquante ! C’est assez glaçant, mais c’est merveilleusement écrit, je pense le relire bientôt. Et j’étais moi aussi toute contente quand je l’ai vu sur ta liste de lectures, ça ne m’étonne pas qu’on ait ça en commun. :)

  • http://thenewlywedchefs.com The Newlywed Chefs

    This blog looks wonderful! Can’t wait to spend more time here :)

  • http://anniesue.wordpress.com Ann

    Hi Clotilde,
    Happy New Year! I was re-reading your pressure cooker post, and wonder what brand your 4.5L cooker is. In Canada, it’s very hard to find cookers smaller than about 8L, and that’s too large for me!

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      Hello Ann, I have a vintage SEB pressure cooker. I believe their products are sold abroad under the brand name T-Fal, but I don’t know if the line includes pressure cookers. Good luck and happy new year!

  • Kristen

    Thanks for all you offer, Clotilde! I’ve been reading your blog since 2006 when I stumbled across your recipe for Gateau Choco-Coco and made it for my hubbie’s birthday (big hit!) I was so skeptical about what blogs even were back then and yours was the first I read and “followed”–many inspired kitchen moments have followed since!

    So a few favorites of 2010 to share:

    Favorite restaurant: brand new Le Comptoir, a little wine bar on Blvd St. Laurent in Montreal

    Favorite kitchen item pairing: microplaner and nutmeg

    Best new wine discovery: Seresin Sauvignon Blanc (biodynamic, organic winery in Marlborough, NZ)

    Best new breakfast concoction that requires little prep for big payback: Black Bean Huevos Rancheros

    Happy New Year, looking forward to enjoying your writing and culinary adventures in 2011.

  • Marnie

    Hello Clotilde, Happy New Year to you!
    It has already been a happy one for me – last night I returned to Melbourne from a holiday in Europe, including a week in Paris that was just as you describe your time in Japan!
    I’ve been reading your blog for a few months and we took your Edible Adventures book with us…a great under-the-Christmas-tree gift. Thank you for sharing your recommendations. A major highlight for us was a celebratory meal at Chez l’Ami Jean…one of the most memorable meals ever.
    I’d like to ask you a favour…we were spoiled with the chef’s special dessert, which included riz au lait served with caramel salée. I’d like to (try to!) recreate this at home for my boyfriend, who has been talking about it every day since. Do you have a similar recipe?
    Once again, thank you for sharing your beautiful, romantic and delicious city with us, and for your lovely blog… wishing you all the very best for a happy 2011.

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      Thank you, Marnie, for your very kind words. Here’s the recipe I use for riz au lait. You could make that, and serve it with a salted caramel sauce (Elise has a recipe for caramel sauce, to which you could simply add salt). Good luck!

  • http://www.choosingraw.com Gena

    I always love “best of” posts — they do truly make it fun to reflect on the year past. I’m so glad that we “met” this year, Clotilde!

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      I am too, Gena, and I wish you the very best with your brave and admirable life change!

  • Katherine

    Dear Clotilde,
    We did 2 of your top 2010 list – we visited Japan (amazing!) and I made your Galette de Rois.
    The Galette was good although I was crushed when my daughter who’s 6 asked why I made apple pie. Mon mari quietly agreed. Argh!!!
    When we got to Tokyo – we bought the most adorable mini-galette de rois at the Takashimaya depachika – it even came with a crown and feve. It was the best gdr I’ve tasted. The Japanese are great at taking something foreign and making it even better.

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