In Which She Finally Gets Her Hands On Pierre Hermé’s Book

In Which She Finally Gets Her Hands On Pierre Hermé's Book

Last fall, I met the friend of a friend at a party and discovered to my great excitement that he worked for none other than pastry chef Pierre Hermé, at his rue Bonaparte pâtisserie. I had been coveting his new recipe book called “Mes Desserts Préférés” for a little while, and when I mentioned that to my new friend, he said he could try and have a copy signed for me. I nodded. Vigorously.

It took a number of weeks, missed calls and missed appointments to arrange it, but my daydreams about this beautiful book easily carried me through the wait. I finally went to collect it at the production center in the 15th arrondissement, in a small pastry shop with a discreet sign which the untrained eye would miss. It was just before new year’s eve, and this was where the huge quantity of holiday orders were being made and assembled, fresh from the morning. A lot of these are orders for Pierre Hermé’s signature macarons. (A macaron is made of two disks of light almond meringue, held together by a layer of cream.) Since nothing but the perfect macarons make it into the gift boxes, my friend was sweet enough to also give me a few small broken ones, which I shared with my parents and Maxence (aren’t they the luckiest bunch?).

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Sesame Zucchini Soup

Soupe de Courgette au Sésame

[Sesame Zucchini Soup]

Oh, did I mention I am in full soup-making mode these days? It could be the grey and chilly days we have to plow through, or the vague feeling that my body could use a little detoxifying after the holiday scrumpadillies, but all I can think about is soup soup soup. When the idea of lacing zucchini soup with tahini (the sesame paste used in hummus) came to me out of the blue a few days ago, I thought it very appealing and stashed it in the “to try” file of my mind – which I’d need a personal assistant to sort through, it’s such a mess.

Then Tuesday night, I came home ever-so-slightly tipsy from the excellent bottle of white wine my coworkers and I shared to celebrate a birthday (yup, tough working environment), and Maxence was out playing poker with his friends (and I am not making this up). I had everything on hand for my sesame zucchini soup, so I went right ahead and made it, humming along to Air‘s last album.

I served myself a few ladles of soup in the fresh and beautiful mug I bought in London, and sipped on it, sitting on one of our bar stools, leafing through my cool British cooking magazine, Delicious. I enjoyed this softly green and nicely fragrant soup very much : the hint of sesame gives it the kick that vegetable soups sometimes lack. I can’t wait to have the leftovers.

Note : in honor of my new passion, I have created a category of posts named “Par Ici La Bonne Soupe“, which makes me laugh. It is a faintly ridiculous expression, which could be translated as “bring it on” or “show me the money”. It translates literally to literally “over here the good soup”, which I think is even funnier. Don’t mind me.

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Chocolate and Orange Palm Leaf Cookies

Palmiers Chocorange

[Chocolate and Orange Palm Leaf Cookies]

If you browse through the row of cookbooks lined up on top of our fridge, you might notice one, called “Moi, je cuisine solo ou duo” by Brigitte Namour. The title roughly means “I cook for one or two”, and this book is filled to the brim with quick and ingenious recipes, scaled for a couple of servings. Originally, I had bought it as a gift for my dear friend Marion, who’s an enthusiastic cook too. I borrowed it from her (after the minimum length of time that basic manners require) and found myself wanting to write down so many of the recipes, that it was just as simple to get my own copy. So I did, and have been thoroughly happy with it ever since.

One of the recipes I have made again and again from that book is a recipe for little savory palmiers. Palmier (pal-mee-ay) is the French word for a palm tree, but it is also the name of a large cookie commonly found in French bakeries, made with puff pastry and sprinkled with sugar. The puff pastry is rolled into two concentric circles from both sides, creating the special palmier shape I am hard-pressed to describe better than this. (Believe me, I tried.) I don’t buy palmiers very often, but now that I think about it I should, because they are a real treat : the layers of sugar on the top and the bottom are slightly caramelized, the outer rim of the dough is flaky and crisp, and the closer you bite into the center of each circle, the moister and chewier the dough gets. You can also find packages of those cookies in a mini version at grocery stores (by Lu or Belin for instance) and then they are called “Palmitos” and are crispier.

To tell you the truth, I don’t really see the connection between this shape and a palm tree. A little research revealed that this is quite the stealthy cookie, also going by the aliases of Palm Leaf, Elephant Ear, Butterfly and Angel’s Wing, which are cute enough though they don’t make much sense either. But hey, who am I to question the etymology of such a lovely confection?

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The Last Bite Axiom (and Corollaries)

As you well know, I give a fair amount of thought to food (understatement of the year). Lately, I’ve been thinking more and more about the special ways in which we eat our food. In paying attention to this, I have noticed the host of small unconscious ceremonials that I conduct while eating, and I wanted to share them with you.

I hope you’ll recognize yourself in this and I won’t feel so neurotic.

The Last Bite Axiom says : “the last bite has to be the best”. When eating a dish, I will always make sure to prepare for the last bite, reserving a little bit of the best elements of the dish as I go, in a specially designated area of my plate. Water/Wine Corollary : if thirsty, it is important to drink before the last bite, to maximize the lingering time of the last bite’s sensory experience. (And please, do not just snitch a taste from my plate haphazardly, or you may very well have eaten my Last Bite.)

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2004 Weblog Awards

The Bloggies

I am thrilled and honored to announce that Chocolate & Zucchini has been nominated for the 2004 Weblog Awards – also known as “the Bloggies” – and is one of the five finalists in the Best European Weblog category. This is a public vote-for-your-favorite type of award, so if you enjoy this blog and would like to express your support, it would sure be appreciated!

To vote, you can go to the Awards page. Scroll down about one third of the page to the “Best European Weblog” category and pick your favorite. At the very bottom of the page, type in your email address then hit the “submit” button. (Of course, you can vote in the other categories too, but it is not mandatory.)

Thank you so much!

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