Saturday December 19, 2015
In Chocolate and Zucchini, Clotilde Dusoulier transfers readers to Parisian markets, allowing them to get hopelessly lost among the gorgeous haricots verts, be offered a bright-red radish, or sample a bit of tangy Roquefort. Her recipes are geared at taking this simple produce and making a wide array of dishes that vary from the refreshingly simple to the more elaborately complex.
Clotilde divides her entertaining section into categories like Apéritif, with lighter options such as the Two-Olive Tapenade or Eggplant Caviar, followed with Impromptu, giving easy recipes for the gatherings you haven’t been planning three weeks in advance, and the more involved Dîner. The latter boasts options like Sea Scallops and Mango with Parmesan Wafers or Comté Cheese Soufflés, but I’m drawn most to the classic Beef Bourguignon, a recipe so well-known that even Americans rely upon it as a dinner party staple. She applauds the dish for its melt-in-your-mouth texture thanks to meat and vegetables left to marinate overnight in a bottle of Burgundy wine. Adding just over an ounce of semisweet chocolate is enough to give a slight sweetness in opposition to the acidic sauce. With carrots, onion, bacon, and beef, this is a hearty dish one can use for any chilly winter night spent with company.
Clotilde attributes her love of baking and her passion for sweet things to her time spent assisting her mother by the oven, measuring, pouring, and of course, tasting. She loves watching the chemistry that ensures a mixture of butter, eggs, flour, and sugar will result in something entirely different the moment it comes out of the oven. While the Creamy Mango Ricotta with Macadamia Crunch and the Blueberry Amandine Tart have me salivating with just a peek at their ingredients lists, it’s the Chocolate and Zucchini Cake that stops me on the first page of her Desserts section. The recipe headnote explains how Chocolate & Zucchini came to be the name of her award-winning blog, a combination of ingredients and flavors that seemed to fully-encompass everything she loved about food. Clotilde found it fitting to seek out a recipe for her book that displayed the same surprisingly delicious mélange of flavors. With a healthy amount of cocoa powder and bittersweet chocolate chips, you’ll only notice the zucchini for the moist bite it brings to this cake’s tender crumb.
Chocolate & Zucchini is a small-volume exploration into the time-honored but pleasure-filled French approach to cooking and eating. Clotilde gives us an idea of what it is to share in this tradition, beginning with the markets, proceeding to the table, and finishing with a satisfying meal.