I'm not sure how it is that it has taken me so long to finally pick up a copy of Clotilde's cookbook Chocolate and Zucchini, but now that I have it is providing much in the way of inspiration for our summer cuisine. I think that part of my hesitation when it first came out was the inclusion of meat dishes -- I very rarely buy non-veggie cookbooks -- but while meat certainly is well represented, there is also an abundance of veggie recipes in here (and a really delightful dessert section). Overall, it is a cookbook that focuses on using a few carefully chosen, fresh ingredients and Clotilde's love for food and the joy of cooking comes through in her notes and instructions in such a way that it makes cooking along feel like the best kind of simple indulgence. I'll admit that I first picked it up at the library, as I wasn't sure there would be enough in it for the non-meat eater to make a purchase worthwhile, I have however since bought 3 copies (two as gifts). So what tipped me over?
- While I've spent years here and there eating a vegan diet, overall I'm a bit of a sucker for cheeses and egg dishes. Being raised by one vegetarian parent, and in a household influenced strongly by European cooking, I'm a big fan of quiches, savoury tarts and souffles. Clotilde has some great recipes along this line, including the Tomato Tart Tatin, which makes for a wonderful summer patio dinner with a big green salad (especially now that the local tomatoes are making an appearance).
- Most of the recipes are simple - few ingredients - and actually achievable in short bursts of kitchen activity, making them great for weeknights or busy weekends (of which most of mine seem to be).
- As already mentioned, the dessert section is drool worthy. This should of course come as no surprise coming from a French gal. I'm currently cooking up (no pun intended) an occasion to make the chocolate raspberry cake.
- Wine pairings. I hadn't expected this at all. And while here in Canada we can't access many of the labels named in the book, the general ideas/varietals are most welcome as I find I can easily get stuck in a wine rut now that I'm not working in restaurants and being regularly exposed to new bottles.
Most of all what I really love about the book is Clotilde's attitude toward food and the stories she includes. "Write a cookbook" is fairly high on my list of life dreams, and I know that my own cookbook would include the same style of storytelling alongside the recipes. I love hearing what inspired someone to try a flavour combination, what a particular ingredient makes them think of and how a dish plays into their lives. Of course, it is this style that has made the Chocolate and Zucchini site so popular and it is very well reflected in the cookbook. The only drawback I can see to this cookbook is that it makes me wish that I could transport my kitchen to Paris, but alas a little taste of Paris at our Domicile will have to suffice for now.