I’m not trying to complain or anything. I am very fortunate to get to travel a great deal, both for business and for pleasure – and often a little of both. Still, an enormous hole in my life-long travel itinerary remains: I have never been to Paris. This is particularly stunning when you consider: a) three items on my bucket list involve France; b) after food and books, perfume is my next favorite thing on the planet; and c) I adore French food and wine! Until I can get there, I have to content myself with the tastes of the country I’m dying to go to, so I’m always on the lookout for a great French cookbook, which is why I wanted to review Clotilde Dusoulier’s Chocolate & Zucchini.
Who is Clotilde Dusoulier? A young Parisian computer-programmer-turned-food-blogger, Dusoulier says that it took a move to San Francisco after college for her to realize exactly what the French approach to food meant to her. Now back in Paris, she is author of the wildly popular food blog Chocolate & Zucchini, which is coincidentally the name of her first cookbook.
Take on Cooking: Every day contemporary French is probably the best way to describe Chocolate & Zucchini. Dusoulier’s stories illustrate how food is completely intertwined with all aspects of life in Paris, which I love. Like many French people, her meals seem to be made up of a combination of things she buys (bread, when you’re in France why make your own?) and things she makes from scratch. It’s a very seasonal and fresh approach to food, not at all stuffy.
The Delicious Parts: I loved how Dusoulier talks about her boyfriend, her neighbors and her family, all of whom inspire her cooking. She is willing to mess with tradition when it makes things better – replacing butter on the mouillettes for dipping in soft boiled eggs with an artichoke and goat cheese spread was genius – but not when it doesn’t, so don’t go changing the pan bagnat. She has a good sense of humor. I especially loved the story about her bakery ruining her favorite turkey salad.
My First Bites: I cooked four recipes from the book: Green Bean Salad with Pecans and Dry-Cured Ham; Soft-Boiled Egg with Artichoke Bread Fingers; Lamb and Prune Meatballs; and Zucchini with Olives. My family loved them all. My daughter especially loved the soft-boiled egg, and I was glad to be reminded what a fantastic and simple meal one makes (add a salad or steamed asparagus to this and you’re done)! The recipes are detailed and direct – you really can’t mess them up.
Not Quite To My Taste: This is a wonderful little book, and my only complaint is that it is little – I really wish there were more recipes. But wanting another helping is hardly a criticism, so I guess the book was entirely to my taste.
Recommendation? Devour, Split, Send it Back to the Kitchen? Devour, definitely, if you are looking for a contemporary take on French food! And Split if you want to dip your toes in the water of French cuisine. One whole section of the book is on entertaining, and considering how straightforward the directions are, I’d say anyone could look like a whiz in the kitchen if they planned an event around her buffet items. I will be sorry to see this one go back to the library, but I’ve already added it to my Christmas List (hope Santa reads this blog).
One Great Recipe: Clotilde Dusoulier’s Courgettes aux Olives
Zucchini with Olives
1 ½ t. extra virgin olive oil
12 black olives, such as Kalamata, pitted and chopped
1 large onion, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 ½ lbs. zucchini, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 t. herbes de Provence
1/3 c. dry white wine
1) Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add three of the olives (reserve the others) and cook for a minute, until fragrant. Add the onion and garlic and cook for four minutes, until softened, stirring regularly to avoid coloring. Add the zucchini, sprinkle with salt, pepper and herbes de Provence, and stir to combine. Cover and cook for 5 minutes.
2) Add the white wine and the reserved olives, and stir again. Turn the heat to medium-high and cook, uncovered, for 5 to 7 minutes, until most of the juices have evaporated. Serve hot, at room temperature, or cold.
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FTC disclosure: I did not receive a free copy of this book for review.