Stuffed Round Zucchini

Courgettes Rondes Farcies

[Stuffed Round Zucchini]

We buy most of our fruits and vegetables at our favorite little fruit stand in the rue des Abbesses, where the staff is friendly, greets us with big smiles, gets stuff for us from the back – often including a little freebie – and is always happy to discuss what’s the best seasonal choice and how to prepare it.

But sometimes it’s just more convenient to go to the Champion grocery store if it’s on my way, and I have to admit the produce aisle there is really pretty decent. Sometimes the veggies look a little sad and wilted (especially the eggplant, for some reason) in which case I just skip that particular variety, but most of the time the quality is fine. Especially in the winter, summer produce being more delicate to handle. I can also tell they really try to offer more than the average supermarket selection, and occasionally have exotic fruits or unusual vegetables. Unfortunately, I’m afraid only a few of us customers seem to go for the new stuff : more often that not the effort is short-lived, and the particular new produce item is nowhere to be found a week later.

So last week, when I saw that they sold little ball-shaped zucchini, I instantly decided to get a few, because anything round and small and cute gets my enthusiastic vote, and also as a measure of encouragement for the good Champion guys who make the produce selection. And of course, what can you do with little round zucchini, if not stuff them with goodies? I had made a similar dish a few months ago, filling the shells with quinoa, ricotta and pinenuts, and had enjoyed the process as much as the result. I decided to do something different this time, a non-vegetarian version that would use Jackie‘s wonderful red onion confit.

This was really great (not to mention easy-peasy to make) : the zucchini look so pretty, and they are deliciously tasty with the meat and onion filling – which owes a lot to Jackie’s confit. Maxence enjoyed it particularly, and said that this was the best thing I had done lately. (He’s not quite the soup-fan that I have become, so I’m afraid the poor darling has been feeling a little deprived…) As often with dishes that are a blend of flavors, make sure you have leftovers, as this is even better the next day.

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Fennel and Orange Peel Soup

Fennel and Orange Peel Soup

Soupe de fenouil à l’écorce d’orange

Introducing: the latest brainchild of my soup kick. I was on the bus home from work a few days ago (you know, line 67, my food thought lab?), thinking about the soup I would make for dinner. I had half a mind to make some kind of winter squash soup, and was toying with the idea of adding candied orange peel to make it more interesting. I had just picked up the latest copy of the French cooking magazine Saveurs and was idly leafing through it, stomach grumbling (inevitable reaction when looking at food pics at 7:30pm), when I spotted the section on fennel.

My love of fennel is somewhat paradoxical. I normally hate anything aniseed and I dislike the smell of raw fennel, but once it’s thoroughly cooked and tender, it takes on a sweet and caramelized flavor I adore. So I just avoid breathing through my nose as I chop, and wait for the heat to work its magic.

Which is why, upon looking at this article, I thought : “Fennel soup! Now, that would be great with orange peel!”. And so, after a quick stop at my local market, I got home and whipped this up.

I was very happy with the result : it is infused with subtle flavors, and the cooked and pureed fennel gives it a lovely texture. The leftovers were even better the next day. You can also soft-boil an egg, peel it and break it open in the bowl of soup, for a lovely blend of tastes and a complete meal.

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Scottish Caramel Shortcake

Scottish Caramel Shortcake

Oh my.

This is one of the many luscious gifts that my blog-friend Jackie gave me when we met in London. Those square layered cookies come in a pack of three, each with a layer of buttery shortcake biscuit, a layer of creamy caramel, and a layer of sweet milk chocolate to top it all off.

Naturally, I expected something rich, so I cut one up into fourths and had a piece with a cup of tea. It was so good, the different layers melding together, the caramel getting squished between the crunchy biscuit and the velvelty chocolate, that I just had to have another quarter.

By then I was in such a sugar high that I couldn’t bear the thought of the two remaining quarters feeling lonely and neglected, so I let them join their little buddies and happily gobbled them up.

And then I spotted the nutrition facts on the package. And thought : “There has got to be some mistake.” Oh well.

Update : I was just catching up with Jackie’s posts. Now if that isn’t synchronicity…

Yahoo Picks Chocolate & Zucchini !

Yahoo Picks Chocolate & Zucchini !

Many thanks to Yahoo! for making Chocolate & Zucchini the Pick of the Day!

Sauteed Ginger Beef and Cabbage

Sauteed Ginger Beef and Cabbage

As much as I love to cook, it is sometimes very nice to have your boyfriend say, on a lazy Sunday afternoon : “you know, I think I’d like to make dinner tonight”. Though usually more of a whip-it-up-by-instinct kind of cook, on this occasion he takes out the Japanese cookbook he bought in London, picks a recipe, makes a list, goes shopping, comes back and starts working.

Very much aware of my slight tendency to meddle, I steer clear from the kitchen as he cooks, comfortably cross-legged on the couch with my laptop, but oh-so-happy to offer advice when sollicited.

We invite our neighbor-friends over, and Maxence graces us with this perfect dish : beef strips in a ginger sake and soy marinade, stir-fried with cabbage, served on a bed of sticky rice. Everybody loves it, the meat is moist and infused with flavor, and the sauce is deliciously tasty over the rice and cabbage.

Maxence glows, and reflects that there is indeed something to be said for following recipes, every once in a while…

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