Best of March

Sainte-Gauburge priory in Saint-Cyr-la-Rosière, which houses the Perche's eco-museum.

Sainte-Gauburge priory in Saint-Cyr-la-Rosière, which houses the Perche's eco-museum.

Happy spring! I hope you’re enjoying the longer days, the switch to daylight saving time, and the first springtime crops that are starting to appear on market stalls. Asparagus, strawberries, and tender greens! Such a bright, exciting time of year, it warrants three exclamation marks in the same paragraph!

Best of March 2016

Good Eats

• I had the freshest, most lovely lunch at Health Inside, a vegetarian juice bar that recently opened on rue Charlot in the 3rd, an area that’s heaven for people who like that kind of veg-happy food (see also: Wild &The Moon, Café Pinson, Nanashi, Rose Bakery, the list goes on). I especially enjoyed my lentil salad, made with French green lentils and chunks of avocado. The dressing had a touch of honey in it, but what made the dish were the still-warm, just-roasted hazelnuts scattered on top. What’s your favorite kind of lentil salad? I’m also in love with this one.

• I was blown away by the sheer magnitude of the gianduja éclair I bought at Boulangerie BO in the 12th — intensely flavored, not too sweet, and generously studded with caramelized hazelnuts. (March was hazelnut month for me apparently!)

• I also had a very special guest in my kitchen: Mariah, a high school senior from Minnesota, was flown to Paris with the support of the Make-A-Wish Foundation to pursue her passion for baking. She was whip-smart and super sweet, and I was honored to bake my favorite French sablés with her.

• A sunny lunch at Taillevent ended on a wondrous note with an green apple and carrot plated dessert created by the young and talented François Daubinet. An inventive pairing he ran away with, expressing it with fresh and bright flavors.

Perpetual Giveaway!

Starting this month and every month after that, every subscriber of the C&Z newsletter will be automatically entered to win a copy of one of my books. He or she will be offered to choose between Chocolate & Zucchini, Clotilde’s Edible Adventures in Paris, The French Market Cookbook, and Edible French, which I will ship to any mailing address in the world.

This is my way of showing my appreciation for your support and loyal readership. If you don’t yet subscribe, you can sign up now. Keep your fingers crossed and good luck! I will announce the winner in the next monthly newsletter.

Loving this

For years and years I’ve wanted to incorporate a meditation practice into my daily routine, but I could never make it stick until I got a meditation headband as a holiday gift last December.

Muse headbandIt’s a digital device that analyzes your brain activity, and gives you gentle feedback to help quiet your mind: you choose a soundscape (I like the rainforest and the desert best) and start meditating. When you’re completely calm, you start to hear birds chirping; when you are losing focus, the wind picks up and the weather gets gradually more intense, which reminds you to let go of your active thoughts, and bring your mind back to your breath.

It works in conjunction with a smart phone application that logs your meditation sessions and provides tips and encouragement as well.

The irony of buying something to engage in a minimalist activity that should only require one’s brain is not lost on me. But for those of us who have trouble committing to the practice without some sort of structure and accountability, this has proven to be a great tool to overcome my curiously powerful resistance.

I anticipate I will no longer need it after a while (and will give it away or resell it then), but for now I am enjoying my Muse band very much, and never before have I been so consistent with the practice. Do you meditate? If so, how do you do it? If not, is it something you’re curious about?

French food cheat sheet

Will you be visiting France soon? I have put together a printable cheat sheet of French terms and useful phrases to help you navigate the food scene like a pro. You are welcome to download it here; I hope you find it useful!

French Food Cheat Sheet

5 Cool Links

Raw Chocolate in Paris: A Virtual Tour of the Rrraw Chocolate Factory

Rrraw chocolate truffles

To get you in the mood for Easter, here’s a special chocolate gift for you: I’m taking you on a virtual tour of a raw, bean-to-bar chocolate factory!

Rrraw is a small French company that makes high-quality, delicious stone-ground chocolate that is also raw, vegan, and organic. I have been in touch with the super friendly owner, Frédéric Marr, for years, and I finally had the chance to visit the workshop a few weeks ago. So I took lots of pictures to share with you!

Their range of raw chocolates includes square vegan truffles and chocolate bars in various flavors, such as coconut, cashew, seven spices, hemp seed, pollen, aguaymanto… I am also quite taken with their chocolate-covered cacao beans, crunchy and brittle in their smooth coating.

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8 Naturally Green Recipes for Saint Patrick’s Day

Naturally Green Recipes

March 17 is a special day for me, not because I’m Irish, but because my father’s name is Patrick (Bonne fête Papa !), and because both my nephew and my fabulous intern were born on March 17, though not the same year, obv. (Joyeux anniversaire Paul ! Happy birthday Anne!)

On top of that, I’ve always been drawn to Irish culture. I spent a wonderful few weeks vacationing in Ireland when I was a child, then on a foreign exchange program in Cork as a teenager, and visiting Ballymaloe House is an actual item on my life list.

I love the idea of celebrating the Irish spirit by sharing green foods on Saint Paddy’s big day, but when you start to look for recipes online, the amount of food coloring involved soon makes you feel queasy.

So I thought I’d share a few ideas for naturally green recipes that you can make today — they’re all quick and easy — if you’d like to join in the fun, but still eat the kind of fresh and healthful foods you prefer to gravitate toward.

Will you be celebrating Saint Patrick’s Day today?

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“Everything” Sweet Potato Flatbreads

"Everything" Sweet Potato Flatbreads

In honor of International Sweet Potato Week (yes, it’s a thing!), let me share my life-altering recipe for sweet potato flatbreads, seasoned with an “everything” spice mix.

This is originally inspired by a reader named Jo, who commented on my 40 Ways to Cook Sweet Potatoes post, saying that she made such flatbreads and sold them from her market stand along with other breads. Such a simple, brilliant idea stuck in my head, and I vowed to try it soon.

Making grain-free sweet potato flatbreads

Jo generously explained that she makes her sweet potato flatbreads with a 1:1 mix of puréed sweet potatoes and all-purpose flour, but for both color and flavor, I decided to lean more heavily on the sweet potato and used a 2:1 ratio instead.

I also chose to make my sweet potato flatbreads with cassava flour (farine de manioc in French), which I’ve been experimenting with lately. Cassava is the tuberous root from which tapioca starch is extracted, and it is ground into a grain-free (by definition), gluten-free, paleo-friendly* flour that is quite extraordinary: it is a much better binder than other gluten-free flours, and it yields beautifully pliable flatbreads or tortillas.

Want to see just how pliable?

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Roasted Onion Quiche with Sesame

Roasted Onion and Sesame Quiche

Do you ever found yourself with a surfeit of onions? I’ve developed this delicious roasted onion quiche as a coping mechanism for just this situation.

Every Monday I get a basket of vegetables and herbs from a producer who actually delivers them to my doorstep — an incredible luxury. I’ve been using his services for seven years, and in a way he’s become a little bit of a family member.

He sometimes comes by super early, so he’s seen us in our pyjamas, he’s seen us open the door completely frazzled and sleep-deprived after the first baby, and infinitely more zen after the second. We joke around, we discuss the effect of the weather on crops and what computer he should get, and then he goes on his merry way to deliver his goods to his other (mostly chef) clients.

The contents of the basket varies widely from one tip of the year to the other, from the mind-blowing tomatoes he unloads on our doorstep all through summer, to the procession of root vegetables that grace the fall and winter months.

But one thing that’s a constant is the supply of onions and shallots, of which he includes a goodly amount every week. Now, I love onions, but prepping them is my least favorite kitchen task. And although I firmly believe, being French and all, that virtually every dish benefits from an onion base, when I’m pressed for time it’s the first thing I drop.

In comes the roasted onion quiche!

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