Chocolate & Zucchini in Healdsburg
May 29, 2007
I indulged in a fun treat last week that I’ve been wanting to share, but what with designing the new skin, I’ve fallen a bit behind.
Like many of you, I’m a big fan of Clotilde Dusoulier, the young Parisian of Chocolate and Zucchini fame. It’s been so fun watching her step into success over the past few years—from the initial
want to be am a food writer declaration to the launch of her debut book—that I had hoped to catch up with her on her book tour. I was scanning her schedule of Bay Area dates when I noticed that she was going to be in Healdsburg—of all places!
So last Wednesday, on a balmy, sunny evening, Christopher and I headed to Bovolo on the Healdsburg Plaza. We started with a plate of John’s renowned Black Pig Salumi on the back patio (Christopher snapped this pic while Clotilde was signing books for me—great gifts! And Clotilde, I didn’t realize you were so tall . . . I was the one in the big sandals ;-)) and then moved inside for the main meal—Warm Bean Salad with Walnut Arugula Pesto, Lamb and Prune Meatballs with Fregola and (of course!) a Zucchini and Chocolate Cake with Yogurt Gelato. All culled (or adapted) from Clotilde’s book.
When we got home that evening, I couldn’t resist taking a more in-depth look at the C&Z cookbook. What I’ve always loved about Clotilde’s writing, and what comes across loud and clear in the book as well, is her curious, “wow” nature with food—the way she combines what she already knows with what’s-in-front-of-her-right-now and a dab of “what if . . .” thrown in.
I, too, am an experimental cook. I love having my eyes opened to new ingredients—fava beans or sand dabs, say—from a farmer or fishmonger and taking the time to get comfortable with them using the tips and recipes handed across the counter with the bag. But once I have a handle on what an ingredient brings to a dish, I like to let my own experiences and tastes filter their way in. The butternut squash that I first learned to roast with brown butter and sage might end up mashed into a little panfried cake with cumin and cilantro and lentils, for instance. Or tarragon might find its way into fresh whipped cream as a topping for a berry dessert. That’s why I love reading about Clotilde’s own adventures combining tradition and experimentation, putting savory where sweet ought to be and vice versa.
The recipes I’m most looking forward to trying from the book? The Sardine and Tomato Club Sandwich, the Tomato Tarte Tatin (can you tell I just planted my tomatoes and am already dreaming of the harvest?) and, for sure, the Zucchini and Chocolate Cake. But I’m also looking forward to having Clotilde open new doors for me in an attempt to simplify dinner time once Noe arrives. Her Soft Boiled Egg with Artichoke Fingers, for instance, sounds like a delightful way to end a summer’s evening when we’re just too pooped to do do much in the kitchen (especially since our friends are going to have fresh eggs from their new chickens soon!). And Her Two Tomato and Parmesan “Pain Perdu” (French Toast) looks like the perfect dish for when those tomatoes have really kicked in and we’ve got some leftover bread on hand.
So check out the Chocolate & Zucchini Cookbook and let me know what your favorite recipes are!