I had a reason for not wanting to go to Paris, this trip, and it was both very stupid and very sweet. Namely, I love Paris so much, I didn’t want to go there again without Craig. Lest you forget, we’d gone together to the Edinburgh Film Festival, he left that Sunday for the Nantucket Film Festival, and I ducked down to London where I ate myself silly and saw lots of theater. I could’ve stayed there for the rest of the week, reconnecting with him in Munich (where I am now) for the Munich Film Festival, only our friends Mark and Diana were in Paris that same week and kept imploring me to come join them. “You’ve already been to Paris without Craig,” said Mark. “What’s the difference?” It was a powerful point. And so, before I knew it, I’d bought a one-way ticket for the Chunnel and figured I’d continue my way from Paris to Germany with a stop in Strasbourg, right on the border of France. When you see what I ate along the way, you’ll agree that this decision should’ve been a no-brainer right from the start.
Almost a decade ago, when I started my scrappy little food blog, an e-mail arrived all the way from Paris, France from a young woman named Clotilde Dusoulier who had her own food blog called Chocolate & Zucchini. She told me that she liked what I was doing; I checked out her site and I liked what she was doing. We became fast friends–digital pen pals, you might say. We had a dinner at Babbo in New York (documented here with pictures erased, sadly), a dinner in Paris at Ze Kitchen Galerie (those pictures work!). She went on to write several books, including Chocolate & Zucchini: Daily Adventures in a Parisian Kitchen, Clotilde’s Edible Adventures in Paris, and–most recently–a book so gorgeous I have to show you a picture of it.
Hold your ears, short ribs, and hide your eyes pork butt: lamb shoulder is quickly becoming my favorite cut of meat to cook at home. I’ve sung its praises before here on the blog, but lately I’ve been on a real lamb shoulder kick. I made April Bloomfield’s version for a crowd recently and they all went nuts for it (hers has anchovies in the mix, which show up in today’s version in the olive tapenade; anchovies and lamb make a surprisingly good match) but even the simplest version–today’s comes from my friend Clotilde–can still wow. And now that it’s spring, it’s a perfect thing to serve along with white beans (traditionally flageolets) and a zesty olive tapenade.
My friend Clotilde Dusoulier, of the legendary food blog Chocolate & Zucchini and author of several notable food books (including her own cookbook, a guide to Paris and the book she recently translated, the French Joy of Cooking, “I Know How To Cook”) was coming to dinner.
I’ve spent lots of time with Clotilde, we’ve dined together several times in New York (at Babbo and the Corner Bistro and Dirt Candy) and in Paris (at Ze Kitchen Galerie) but we’d never cooked for each other. And considering that she grew up in France, where dining and food are such a deep part of the culture children aren’t just born with silver spoons in their mouths but an entire set of flatware, and I grew up on Long Island and in Boca Raton, Florida where fine dining is limited to the salad bar at the golf club, I knew I was in serious trouble. How could I impress Clotilde? What if she spit her food out into her napkin in disgust? How would I live this down? Would she ever want to see me again? This was the most terrifying dinner guest of all time.
Today’s the second day of Hanukkah and as much as I wish I could tell you that I’m frying latkes and spinning dreidels and unwrapping Hanukkah gelt in celebration, I’m actually sitting here next to a pile of cookbooks trying to figure what constitutes the Best of 2009. You see, many of my food blogging contemporaries–David, Deb, Eat Me Daily–have already offered up their take on what you should buy for you and yours this holiday season and now it’s my turn to separate the wheat from the chaff or the sour cream from the apple sauce (latke joke!). Are you ready for some hardcore gift-buying ideas? Come along with me.
Somehow, in the past two weeks, I’ve eaten at three new and relevant New York restaurants. Instead of typing up three separate restaurant posts, I decided to make a video summarizing all three meals. The only thing I think I got wrong is the price of the spaghetti and tomato sauce at Scarpetta; it’s $24, not $26.
[Click to enlarge.]
Finally made Clotilde’s signature cake. Can you see the zucchini? You can’t? That’s because it sort of melts as it cooks. That’s important to note because when I first shredded the zucchini, using the food processor, it came out in long strands. I was worried there’d be long strands of zucchini in the finished product so I put in the blade and chopped them all up. But Clotilde assures me that, “size doesn’t matter. The zucchini blends into the texture of the cake, so they can be short or long, whatever’s easiest with the tools you have.”
This is a perfect dessert to make right now with zucchini still so abundant. You can trick yourself into thinking it’s healthy too and justify the giant piece that you cut for yourself, like the piece you see above. Just more proof that Chocolate & Zucchini is a book worth having.