Clotilde Dusoulier is a twenty-seven-year-old Parisian who adores sharing her love of all things food-related—recipes, inspirations, restaurant experiences, and above all the pleasure of cooking with the fresh ingredients found in her local Montmartre shops. But her infatuation with food was born not in her mother’s Parisian kitchen, but in San Francisco, where she moved after college and discovered a new world of tastes. When she returned to her beloved France, her culinary exploits inspired her popular and critically acclaimed blog, ChocolateandZucchini.com.
In her first book, Dusoulier provides a glimpse into the life of a young Parisian as she savors all that the city has to offer and shares her cooking philosophy in the form of more than 75 recipes that call for healthy ingredients (such as zucchini) and more indulgent tastes (such as chocolate). The Los Angeles Times calls her recipes "simple, charming, and fun."
Appetizers such as Cumin Cheese Puffs, sandwiches and tarts like Tomato Tatin, soups like Chestnut and Mushroom, main dishes including Mustard Chicken Stew, and desserts like Chocolate and Caramel Tart can all be found alongside menus for entertaining, as well as tips for throwing cocktail or dinner parties with French flair. Chocolate & Zucchini is the book for anyone who has journeyed to Paris and can still recall the delicious flavors and aromas—or for those of us who only dream about them.
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About the Author
Read an Excerpt
You know how it is. Whenever you’re at a party with people you don’t know, someone is bound to pop the question, “So, what do you do?” I have to say I expand upon the subject with infinitely more animation now that my work matches my inner wants and needs, and when I do, my interlocutor unfailingly turns to Maxence with twinkling eyes to exclaim,“Wow, it must be an endless display of gastronomic prowess at your place!”
Full disclosure: not really. We eat well, that much is true, fresh vegetables from the greenmarket and quality goods from the shops around us, but the day–to–day menus are simple, and on weeknights we rely heavily on what we call picnic dinners: a bit of cheese from the cheese shop, a modest selection from the charcuterie, or leftover bits and pieces from the previous day’s cooking. Add a hunk of bread from the bakery, a green salad or a bowl of soup, and you’ve got yourself a quickly assembled and heartily enjoyed meal.
And on other nights, when inspiration propels me into the kitchen, it’s with an ample measure of improvisation that I cook, rummaging through the contents of the fridge, and putting together dishes that capture the day's mood and weather. This section holds a few favorites for simple meals, around which I’ll weave variations to use what’s on hand.
SALADE DE POULET, PÊCHES & NOISETTES
Chicken Salad with Peaches and Hazelnuts
When I still worked in an office — before I joined the pajama workforce — I often brought my own lunch. It was a habit I had formed when I lived in the States and this was a widespread custom: I would join my coworkers in the bright orange company kitchen, and we would munch on our respective meals over a game of Boggle (I never once won, but it did enrich my English vocabulary with three– and four–letter words).
At my French office it was less common, and most of my colleagues walked to a nearby bistro for the plat du jour. This was quite pleasant and I joined them from time to time to catch up on office gossip, but for reasons of nutrition, cost, and variety, I still enjoyed putting together my little picnic in the morning.
In the summer, I liked to pack colorful salads and escape to the nearby Parc Montsouris at lunchtime. As I entered the park I would pass by a gastronomic restaurant set in a handsome pavilion and pore over the daily menu in lieu of an appetizer. I would walk on to sit by the little lake, where a handful of ducks swam about, in the vague hope that someone might throw stale bits of baguette their way.
A fork in my right hand, a book in the left, and the container of salad propped up against me with my left wrist — a technique that took years to refine — I would dig in happily, comfortable in my delicious solitude. And after a little post–lunch walk I would return to the office, refreshed and sated.
This salad is a staple from those days, and I still prepare it now for quick lunches, simple dinners, or party buffets. It is an excellent use for leftover roasted chicken, which I like to buy at a rotisserie on rue des Abbesses, where the farm-raised chickens are plump and delectable, and where the lady looks strikingly like the famous French actress Marie–Anne Chazel.
• 3 ripe yellow peaches, about 7 ounces each (substitute yellow nectarines)
• 3 tablespoons hazlenut oil (substitute walnut oil or extra virgin olive oil)
• 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
• 1 pound cooked chicken meat cut into strips, from a store-bought rotisserie chicken or a home-roasted chicken, about 3 cups
• 2/3 cup shelled hazlenuts, toasted, husked, and roughly chopped
• 1/2 cup (loosely packed) fresh cilantro leaves (substitute fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves)
• Fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper
• 8 cups (packed) baby spinach leaves, about 8 ounces
Serves 4 as a main course, 6 to 8 as a starter
1. Peel the peaches: this is easier if you blanch them first by putting them in a pan of simmering water for a minute. (If you use nectarines, it is unnecessary to peel them.)
2. In a medium salad bowl, whisk together the oil and vinegar. Add the chicken, peaches, hazelnuts, and cilantro. Season with salt and pepper, and toss to coat. Add the spinach leaves and toss again. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve immediately, or refrigerate for up to a day; it gets better as it sits. Remove from the fridge half an hour before eating.
NOTE If you prepare the salad in advance, the vinegar will wilt the greens a little. It will still taste good, but may not look as presentable: if you make it ahead for company, add the spinach at the last minute.
VARIATION Use fresh (or dried) apricots and almonds instead of peaches and hazelnuts.
WINE WEIN & SEKTGUT THIELEN MERLEN FETTGARTEN 2003 RIESLING SPATLESE (Germany, Mosel–Saar–Ruwer, white) A light–bodied wine with stone fruit flavors that reinforce the peach in the salad. Excellent balance between sweetness, to complement the slightly bitter nuts, and acidity, to stand up to the balsamic vinegar.
While I love eating out with friends, having them at home is something else entirely: the atmosphere is more intimate, you get to choose your own musical ambiance, and you're free to partake in the kind of conversation you wouldn’t dream of letting anyone overhear in a crowded bistro. Of course, that means no eavesdropping for you, either, but you can't win on all counts.
Whether you are inviting friends for a simple apéritif, putting together an impromptu dinner, planning a more elaborate menu, or throwing a party, this section offers tips and recipes to make the occasion stress–free and successful.
GOUGÈRES AU CUMIN
Cumin Cheese Puffs
The classic version calls for cheese as the only flavoring, but I like to use cumin in mine: this complements the fruitiness of the cheese remarkably well and adds a welcome piquancy. Serve with an apértif drink, or use the same batter to make large gougères (about 3 inches in diameter) and serve as a first course, with a salad.
• 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced
• 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
• 1 cup flour, sifted
• 4 large eggs
• 1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds or 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
• 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
• 1 1/2 cups freshly grated Comté or Gruyère, about 5 ounces (substitute a good Swiss cheese)
Makes about 40 gougères
Chilling time: 30 minutes
1. Measure all the ingredients before you start. Combine the butter, salt, and 1 cup water in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium–low heat. Remove from heat, add the flour all at once, and stir quickly with a wooden spoon unitl well blended. Return the pan to medium–low heat and keep stirring until the mixture forms a ball and pulls away from the sides of the pan.
2. Let cool for 3 minutes. Add the eggs one by one, stirring well between each addition, until incorporated. (What you have just made is a pâte à choux.) Sprinkle with cumin and pepper and fold in the cheese. The batter will be thick. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes, or up to a day.
3. Preheat the oven to 400°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Remove the batter from the fridge, and use two teaspoons to shape small balls of batter (about 1 inch in diameter) that you will plop onto the baking sheet, leaving an inch of space between each. If you have to work in batches, cover the batter and return it to the fridge.
4. Bake for 20 minutes, until puffy and golden — however much you want to peek inside, do not open the oven door during the first 10 minutes of baking, or the gougères will not rise well. Turn off the oven, open the door just a crack, and leave the gougères in for another 5 minutes. (This helps prevent an abrupt temperature change, which would cause the gougères to deflate and nobody wants that.) Transfer to a cooling rack for 5 minutes and serve warm, or let cool and serve at room temperature.
NOTE You can freeze the gougères for up to a month and reheat them (no thawing necessary) in a 350°F oven for 8 minutes. They won't be as moist as freshly baked ones, but they are very convenient to have on hand for unexpected guests.
VARIATIONS Replace the cumin with caraway seeds, rosemary, or paprika, or omit the spices altogether.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Two of my favourite things in the world are food and books, so Clotilde's delightful combination of recipes and stories to accompany them is my idea of the perfect cookbook. Her photography adds an extra layer of appeal, with fresh, sharp photos of the recipes, and glimpses into 'her' Paris. The photos of produce at market stalls and outdoor shots of Paris will have people wishing they were there. The recipes are well-laid out and well-referenced, methods are easy to follow, variations and substitutions are noted and wine pairing suggestions are also given. I'm sure this is one cookbook what will be used over and over again. There are recipes for all occasions, from quick, simple snacks to sophisticated dinner party dishes, and lots of delicious everyday recipes as well. The essence of Clotilde's recipes is that they are enjoyable to make and to eat, especially when shared with family and friends. The first recipe I'm cooking out of my new favourite cookbook? The Chocolate and Zucchini Cake, of course!
Several months ago I came across the Chocolate and Zucchini blog in my search for something else entirely. I read the first post 'which I forget now'... and fell head over heels! I have tried several of Clotilde's recipes and they are fantastic! I was also excited to learn she would have a book coming out and kept the release date on my calendar. This week I was fortunate enough to pick it up and attend the book signing at The French Library in Boston. The book is amazing. Like she mentioned at her book signing, she goes into much more detail about her food habits and passion, preparing for dinner parties, food shopping, etc. There are 70+ recipes in this book, only five coming from her blog - so as to not disappoint long time fans of the blog. Not only is she an impressive writer and food artist/cook, but she is an excellent photographer. During the book signing, her photos were displayed as a slide show on a large screen. She has taken all the photos in her book and for her blog too! This book is a definite Must-Have!
This is one of the best-tested cookbooks in my kitchen. The recipes always turn out delicious food that never lasts long. The Gateau de Mamy has become a household staple.
Sadly I'm disappointed that I did not get an autographed copy of Chocolate and Zucchini while Clotilde was in New York. When you have a three year old and no babysitter, it is not pleasant for anyone to make that three year old wait in line for anything! My unautographed copy :-( arrived yesterday. I skimmed through it quickly - reading the recipe titles, scanning the beautiful pictures, reading a bit here and there..now it sits on my bedstand - and I've started to read a few pages every night - I will savor the words as I do a Saveur magazine - reading a little every night to enjoy and inspire me. It is like a mini vacation reading this book (the same way I feel about Saveur). The recipes are unique with a few expected recipes here and there but overall it is a beautiful book crammed with exotic recipes, tantalizing descriptions and witty tales. I am going to buy several copies as gifts for my friends and nieces. This book is a must have for any cook, baker, or lover of fine writing.
Dusoulier is inventive, playful, and always willing to take risks in the kitchen. Sometimes these risks pay off, sometimes less so, but it's hard not to be inspired just flipping through her recipes.
I have only used two of her recipes so far, but the Chocolate and Zucchini Cake alone is worth the price of the book. And I love cookbooks with lots of anecdotes and commentary.
I am a kitchen enthusiast, but even so, it is not common for me to read a cookbook cover to cover. I was not searching for a recipe; I was not planning a weekly grocery list. Instead, I was simply drawn into what Clotilde Dusoilier has to say about food. She paints vivid images of culinary creations, using historical, cultural, and familiar dialogues. She is able to share snippets of food history and background, without drowning me in data that is soon to be forgotten, letting me hold onto the information long enough to process its relevance in her introduction to the recipe. She details French cooking in a way that makes me understand why it is both an art form and achievable by the likes of me, that even soufflés that fall can still be tasty. She makes it clear that adventures in a kitchen can and should be a lifetime endeavor. Childhood memories can bring the pursuit of the perfect mashed potatoes into a full life cycle. The personal stories have made me appreciate the time I spend in the kitchen with and for my husband and children, hoping that they are creating memories that will spark them to love the exploration of food even more.I was a follower of the blog, Chocolate and Zucchini, before picking this cookbook up. I think I took more away from the cookbook than I ever have from the blog. The connections, the groupings, the continuity all make this a strong cookbook, especially for those who are ready to learn not just recipes, or even how to begin to create your own, but how recipes can be connected to your life in both the minutia and the grand.
I feel a little guilty rating a cookbook without actually testing the recipes first, but it was a really nice read. And beautifully laid out. I've never read the blog, although I'd heard of it. I loved the idea of a French person being uninterested in cuisine until moving to the U.S. -- it seems so upside-down. Really enjoyed the irreverent writing (and that's supposed to be very hard to pull off in a second language). So many recipes are so simple, and don't require anything exotic. Best of all, there are many variations and substitution ideas provided, for when you either lack a component or don't care for it. Should be particularly handy when summer returns.