Homemade Yogurts

Homemade yogurts

The yogurt maker (yaourtière in French) is often used to illustrate the concept of an appliance that seemed like a good idea at the time of purchase (back in the seventies), but ends up collecting dust in the dark depths of a kitchen cabinet. It strikes me as terribly unfair a way to disparage a perfectly respectable peace of household equipment.

I grew up on the homemade yogurts my mother made using her yaourtière, so much so that she is probably the only individual on the planet who actually had to buy a second one when the first one got so much use it broke down. Homemade yogurts have a taste and texture that make them absolutely perfect for breakfast in my opinion, eaten as is or poured on cereal. I had one every morning for as long as I lived with my parents but had to go without for the two years in the Silicon Valley (where I drank Kefir -fermented milk-, an acceptable substitute).

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Fennel & Tuna Polar Bread Sandwich

Pain Polaire

Over the last few years, I’ve noticed an increasing number of bakeries and sandwich places in France selling sandwiches made with Pain Polaire. Polar bread, sometimes also called swedish bread, is a round, soft flatbread with dimples. Polar bread sandwiches are made between two of these pancake-like slices, and the whole sandwich is then cut into halves. A popular version of these sandwiches involves smoked salmon, but any filling will work, really.

I love these sandwiches. The bread tastes slightly sweet and its texture is very enjoyable : soft enough so it doesn’t hurt your palate and make your jaw ache like baguette sandwiches do, but not mushy either, and there is no I-don’t-like-the-crust-so-much syndrome like there is with sandwich bread, because well, there is no crust.

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Honey Hazelnut Cake

My parents came over for tea yesterday. This is always a perfect occasion for me to bake (like I need one), and since it was my father’s birthday, I decided to bake a cake. After perusing my cookbooks and recipe files, I set my heart on a Honey Hazelnut Cake from a French baking book called Les Gâteaux de Mamie.

The original recipe is titled Gâteau aux noisettes et au miel and is actually for muffins, but I wanted a single cake to put birthday candles on, so I baked the batter in a cake pan, doubling the ingredient amounts.

We enjoyed it very much. The flavors of honey and hazelnut come through very distinctly, and the crumb is super moist and fluffy. It goes wonderfully with a cup of tea. And with such a simple preparation process, this hazelnut honey cake is definitely a keeper.

[This recipe was originally published on October 6, 2003 and updated on December 22, 2015.]

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Absolute Chocolate Tartlets

Absolute Chocolate Tartlets

[Absolute Chocolate Tartlets]

I could have met my friends Marie-Laure and Laurence at a Chocoholics Anonymous meeting, so when they came over for dinner last night, I decided I would treat them to Absolute Chocolate Tartlets.

Mini Cookbook of French Tarts

The recipe comes from one of my cookbooks, called Je Veux du Chocolat! (“I want chocolate!”) by Trish Deseine – another much cherished present from Maxence. In the book, it is called “Tarte Absolue” and is made as one big tart, but I love making single-serving things, especially desserts, and I wanted to use the little tartlet molds I had bought at E. Dehillerin two weeks ago : fluted edged, non-stick, with removable bottoms.

This is a pretty time-consuming dessert to make, but it’s a lot of fun, and the result is way worth it!

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Quinoa-Stuffed Zucchini with Ricotta and Pine Nuts

"Man, I'm stuffed!" said the zucchini.

Last night, my BFFs Laurence and Marie-Laure were coming to dinner, and as a main dish, I served these Quinoa-Stuffed Zucchini.

These small “eight-ball” zucchinis had caught my eye in the sidewalk stall of our produce store and I immediately saw, in blinking letters: Stuffed zucchini! I got nine of them as there would be three of us, and three is always a good number of items to have on a plate.

I started out by cutting off each of their cute little hats neatly (reserving them of course), then scooped out the flesh, being careful not to rip the skin, with a melon baller.

Let me stop for a second here and tell you about my OXO melon baller: I bought it on a whim about two years ago, and I don’t have the faintest idea why, since I don’t remember having ever felt the need for a melon balling apparatus before. I guess it just struck me as neat in the store. These things seem to happen. I did use it for the first time last summer (to ball melons, of all things), and did find that it worked beautifully! It’s pretty sharp, like a little rounded knife. Like I said: neat.

The filling is a simple mix of cooked quinoa, ricotta, sautéed onions and garlic, and the carved-out flesh of the zucchini. This I proceeded to spoon into the zucchini shells, and was astonished to see that I had precisely the right amount of stuffing to fill them.

Isn’t that creepy? That normally never happens, right? Kind of like when you dig a grave, and there’s never enough dirt to fill it back in? OK, forget I said that. Anyhow, my zucchinis were stuffed to the brim, and I put the lids back on. I did try to return each hat to its rightful owner, but they had gotten mixed up, and I figured they were probably past caring at that point.

This is a lovely dish that you can prepare in advance, and pop back into the oven when your friend get there. And Marie-Laure and Laurence were very appreciative indeed. “C’est vraiment délicieux!” they said.

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Zucchini Stuffed with Quinoa and Ricotta Recipe

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 50 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour

Serves 4.

Zucchini Stuffed with Quinoa and Ricotta Recipe

Ingredients

  • 190 grams (1 cup) uncooked quinoa, rinsed in fresh water
  • 12 medium round zucchini
  • 3 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
  • 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 120 g (1/2 cup) ricotta
  • Olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons mixed dried herbs, such as Herbes de Provence
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for serving (optional)

Instructions

  1. First, cook the quinoa. Bring 360ml (1 1/2 cups) water to a simmer. Add the quinoa and simmer, partially covered, for 10 minutes.
  2. Remove from the heat, cover, and let rest for at least 10 minutes; a little more is fine. The grains will continue to unfurl and plump up during this time; it will have absorbed all the water and won't need draining.
  3. Preheat the oven to 200°C.
  4. Slice a "hat" off the top of each zucchini, and carve the inside using a melon baller or a sharp-edged teaspoon, reserving the flesh.
  5. Put the zucchini shells and hats in a baking dish. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt, pepper, and 1 teaspoon herbs.
  6. Put into the oven for 20 minutes; this will give the zucchini shells a head start on the cooking.
  7. Meanwhile, heat a glug of olive oil in a large skillet, and sauté the onion and garlic for 5 minutes, stirring regularly, until soft and fragrant.
  8. Add the reserved zucchini flesh, and season with 1/2 teaspoon salt, pepper and 1 teaspoon herbs. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring from time to time, until cooked through. If the zucchini has rendered a lot of juice, drain the mixture in a sieve placed over a bowl
  9. Add in the cooked quinoa and pine nuts, and mix well.
  10. Take the zucchini shells out of the oven. If some cooking juice has pooled at the bottom of the shells, flip to pour out (the zucchini shells will be hot).
  11. Divide the filling evenly among the zucchini shells and place the hats on top.
  12. Return to the oven for 20 minutes.
  13. Serve with a fresh grating of Parmesan, if desired, and green salad.
http://chocolateandzucchini.com/recipes/vegetables-grains/zucchini-stuffed-with-quinoa-and-ricotta-recipe/

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