October Favorites

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

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.

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.

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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

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The C&Z Shop is Open!

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!

Lemon Ginger Tartlets

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.

I share Clea’s taste for a very tangy lemon tart — i.e. not very sweet — and to me the formula below achieves the perfect balance.

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

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