July 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 July is a picture of this almond cake with blueberry coulis, and I am sharing it with the most ardent recommendation that you include it in your plans for summer treats.

Instructions to get your calendar are below.

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June Favorites

Photography by James Ransom, reproduced with permission from Food52.

Photography by James Ransom, reproduced with permission from Food52.

Some of my favorite finds and reads for this month:

~ Have you been throwing out your strawberry tops when you could have been sipping strawberry top water all along?

~ My friend Emma has produced a series of documentaries on Marfa, TX for the French-German television channel Arte, and on July 10 the episode on Adam Bork will be available online: learn all about the inventor of the Marfa-lafel and his Food Shark food truck!

~ Does it make sense to bike without a helmet?

~ Unleash your inner Jacques Génin and make your own passionfruit mango caramels.

~ If you shop for tomatoes in France, don’t fall for the beefheart tomato fraud.

~ The high human cost of cheap Thai shrimp.

~ Client feedback on the creation of the Earth.

~ Impress your friends by creating a whistle out of a chestnut tree branch.

~ Calligraphy you can eat.

~ The Max Havelaar fairtrade label on the brink of implosion.

What about you, any memorable link to share this month?

Yellow Zucchini Tarte Fine on a Yogurt-Based Crust

This tarte fine (i.e. a thin tart with little or no rim) is a free-form room-temperature tart I assembled on a homemade crust with fresh cheese, mint, and thinly sliced raw zucchini, finished with a drizzle of olive oil and a little fresh thyme from my neighbor’s parents’ garden.

The overall format was inspired by Sonia Ezgulian‘s radish tart, as featured on Cécile Cau’s blog: hers involves a pâte brisée made with fennel seeds and filled with a mix of fromage blanc (a sort of yogurt) and ground almonds, topped with thinly sliced raw pink radishes.

I thought I would transpose the idea to use the sprightly young zucchini we’ve been getting lately, and the crust I used in mine was an experiment, as I wanted to try and make a short crust pastry using yogurt.

That yogurt crust was a complete success: quick to assemble and easy to roll out, it baked into a deep golden, crisp and flaky crust that supported the tangy fresh cheese filling and the sweet zucchini slices beautifully.

I had long ago bookmarked several online mentions of a puff pastry-like dough made with petits suisses, for which you combine these little unsalted fresh cheeses with flour and butter in a 2:2:1 weight ratio (unless you use the 1:2:1 ratio others recommend), and thought it was finally time to give it a try.

There were no petits suisses in my fridge, but yogurt I did have, so I planned to use that. And the ratio didn’t seem quite right to me — I worried the dough would be too moist, and the fact that two different ratios were said to work equally well did nothing to reassure me — so I improvised my own, combining flour, yogurt and butter in a 3:2:1 ratio instead (here, 180 grams flour, 120 grams yogurt, 60 grams butter, plus a little salt).

That crust was a complete success: it was quick to assemble, easy to roll out, and it baked into a deep golden, crisp and flaky crust that supported the tangy fresh cheese filling and the sweet zucchini slices beautifully.

We liked this refreshing summer tart so much I made another, identical one later that week, and used that same dough recipe for the Swiss chard quiche my mother, sister and I baked at my parents’ mountain house over the weekend.

I now intend to try and make a sweet version of that crust, probably very soon, and probably for a rhubarb tart using the gorgeous garden rhubarb I brought back with me.

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Paleo Granola

The first time I heard about the paleo diet, the concept sounded so outlandish (eating like a caveman? but why?) that I brushed it aside as yet another weirdly punishing fad.

But then I came across more mentions, from sources I trust, and I read some decidedly un-faddish discussions on the excessive amount of carbohydrates — from grains and sugar, mostly — the typical Western diet includes, and how it impacts our health.

If you’re late to the paleo party, here’s the gist of it. According to paleo theory, our digestive system, which has been evolving for 2 million years, hasn’t had time to adapt to the radical changes in our diet since humans invented agriculture some 10,000 years ago (marking the dawn of the neolithic era), much less those that occurred at madding speed over the past three generations.

This realization led me to create this easy formula for paleo granola, an astonishingly tasty and satisfying option when I want to start my day grain-free.

For optimal health, and usually motivated by some health concern or other, paleo eaters decide to focus on whole, unprocessed, seasonal foods in the spirit of those that would have been available to the paleolithic man, who foraged, hunted, and fished.

This means opting mostly for fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, pastured meats and sustainable seafood — a much more reasonable proposition than the caveman image might suggest at first glance. (As Michelle Tam conveys in her well-crafted Nom Nom Paleo cookbook and Paleo 101 section on her website, the caveman should be seen as a mascot of sorts — not a model for historical reenactment.)

Since I’m neither a doctor nor a nutritionist, my take on this is quite pragmatic: I examined my own way of eating, and although processed foods and empty calories aren’t a concern, I recognized that I have a natural inclination to consume a fair amount of starches — from wheat especially.

And when I tweaked the way I compose my meals to eat less of them, or even none at all, the effect on my energy levels and how I felt generally was very convincing. My purpose is not to go paleo, but to acknowledge that I do better if starches — even the so-called good, whole-grain kind — don’t factor into my every meal.

This realization led me to create this easy formula for paleo granola, an astonishingly tasty and satisfying option when I want to start my day grain-free. I eat it with diced up fruit and berries, and homemade yogurt from raw cow’s or goat’s milk I get at the organic store. Dairy yogurt isn’t actually paleOK, so if you’re following the rules to the letter you can use coconut milk, or better yet, coconut yogurt, which I totally want to try making.

Whether they would have had granola on the menu in the Lascaux caves is up for debate, but it suits me beautifully.

Join the conversation!

What’s your take on the paleo eating style, and how it reportedly helps with so many chronic ailments? Have you ever felt the need to lower your carb intake, and experimented with that change?

My gorgeous hand-crafted granola scoop by Earlywood.

My gorgeous hand-crafted granola scoop by Earlywood.

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Healthy Breakfast Oatmeal Cookies

Having a two-year-old at home who wakes up bright and (verrrry) early, excited to announce the breakfast item his heart is set on, I have become quite adept at flipping crêpes and cooking one-egg omelettes in a dazed half-sleep.

Beyond crêpes and eggs and bananas, my son is also quite keen on cookies for breakfast — who isn’t? — and although I have no qualms against yogurt cake and madeleines and buckwheat speculoos at any time of day, my motherly, nutrition-conscious instincts push me to try and offer things that match the request (“Gâteau ? Gâteau ?”) but provide a little more in the way of quality early-hour fuel.

We can all benefit from a nutritious and portable breakfast cookie, whether it’s eaten on the train ride to work, or while pushing a toy version around the living room.

This led me to create these two-bite cookies, made up of wholesome ingredients — rolled grains, coconut, almond flour, chia seeds — and no added sugar, relying on the sweetening power of mashed bananas and dried fruit instead.

They are extremely easy to make, and if you have a toddler underfoot you can even enroll him/her to mash and dump and stir and scoop (practical life activity, people, so Montessori!).

But naturally there is no reason to constrict these to the realm of kid food: we can all benefit from a nutritious and portable breakfast cookie, whether it’s eaten on the train ride to work, or while pushing a toy version around the living room.

The formula is very forgiving, and entirely open to variations: in different incarnations of these cookies I have switched the rolled grains around to use quinoa or rice or millet, I’ve added in finely chopped nuts (especially pecans!) or cacao nibs for crunch, and I once made a version with a touch of cocoa powder thrown in, all to great results.

Join the conversation!

What’s your favorite easy-to-carry yet nutritious breakfast option? And if you have a young child, what’s breakfast like at your house?

Healthy Breakfast Oatmeal Cookies

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