Clotilde Dusoulier – Chocolate and Zucchini

Add the turkey, season with salt and pepper, cover, and cook for 3 to 4 minutes on each side, until cooked through and slightly browned (but not tough as a shoe).

Not tough as a shoe. This is what I love about Clotilde Dusoulier’s Chocolate and Zucchini: Daily Adventures in a Parisian Kitchen, the imaginative language she uses for the most mundane cooking instructions. Unlike most cookbooks, Clotilde’s book reads more like an adorable memoir, something that you could just curl up with in bed and take delight in the enjoyment of every word. Not to say that the book doesn’t have beautiful photos and inspiring recipes, it does, in spades. It’s just that Clotilde’s light-hearted, amusing stories that accompany each recipe are what I think will give this book a long life. It truly is a joy to read.

If you aren’t already familiar with Clotilde, she is the writer behind the delightful Parisian Chocolate & Zucchini blog. Although Clotilde is French, she writes her blog in English, giving us a window into her world of food in Paris. When I read her blog or her book, I am transported to that glorious city, with its sidewalk cafes, impeccably dressed women, little French dogs that invariably lounge in the doorways to the stores you are trying to enter, and the best (fill-in-the-blank) cheeses, peaches, pates, baguettes, chocolates, and house wine imaginable.

The book is organized into three main sections, one for simple foods, like salads and sandwiches, one for the various aspects of entertaining – dinner parties, side dishes, buffets – and a final section for sweets and desserts. Each recipe has extensive head notes describing the inspiration for the recipe, as well as carefully crafted step-by-step instructions, and little helpful notes.

Of all the possible cooking techniques for fish the papillote provides the best effort-to-effect ratio. Behind the pretty French name (pah-pea-yot) is a simple concept: you just wrap a fish fillet and a few choice ingredients in parchment paper and plop the whole thing in the oven. Inside the papillote, a little Turkish bath gets going: the fish cooks gently in its own steam without drying out, and its flavors meld voluptuously with those of the other bathers.

A fish taking a Turkish bath? Perfect.

The photos are beautiful, all taken by Clotilde in her apartment in natural light, with the food soon consumed after its beauty shot. So what you see in the photos is exactly what Clotilde has cooked following her own recipes.

Nectarine, peach, and ginger tart. Chocolate mango cake. Tomato, pistachio, and chorizo loaf. Cumin and onion quiche. Fava bean and mint frittata. Flemish carbonades… The recipes are like these. No standard fare. All imaginative, and completely doable for the home cook. Even if you don’t try every recipe in the book, they will give you ideas of ways to pair ingredients, of new combinations and cooking methods.

Christmas is around the corner. If you are looking for a gift for someone who loves to cook, loves to experiment with new ideas, and appreciates exceptional writing, I highly recommend Clotilde’s Chocolate and Zucchini: Daily Adventures in a Parisian Kitchen. It’s a treasure.

clotilde.jpg
Clotilde

Cotilde gave me a copy of her book months ago, when it first came out. I’m embarrassed to have taken so long to review it, as it has been sitting in the stack of books next to my bed since May. I have slowly been making my way through it, which is no reflection on the book (it’s compact and easy to read), but more of my wanting to cherish every word.

Links:
Clotilde’s Very Chocolate Cookies by David Lebovitz
Eggplant Caviar by Alanna of A Veggie Venture
Sliced Zucchini Appetizer and extensive review at Blog Appetit

6 Comments

  1. Wendy

    Couldn’t agree more, Elise! I love her blog. When I read about Paris in Clotilde’s words I feel welcomed. Haven’t bought the cookbook yet. May just do so today!

  2. lydia

    This is absolutely a book to savor, but for me it was a book to read more than a book from which to cook. Perhaps that’s because I know that the ingredients I can get locally will always fall just a bit short of what I might find in Paris!

  3. Denise

    I just looked at the blog and I LOVE IT!!!
    Thank you again Elise for pointing me to another great site! You Rock! ;0

  4. Alanna Kellogg

    What a lovely tribute, Elise! I can almost ‘hear’ exclamation points, which speaks volumes. PS I second the view that Clotilde’s book is ‘do-able French cooking’ for an American home cook.

  5. Jen

    I too have adored her blog for some time now. After receiving her book this summer I’ve fallen in love with her whimsical charm and passion for cooking. Is is a stretch to say she’s brought a rebirth of Parisian cooking to Am for younger generations. (Julia Child, Jacques Pepin, or Ina Garten) A book for anyone rather.

    One of my favorite cookbooks this year by far!

  6. sam

    Well – you think you’re slow – she gave me a copy on the same day and I’ve only had a chance to look at the pictures so far. Too many recipe books, too little time. I must pull it out of the stack and make something from it.

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