Thursday, February 15, 2007

Chocolate & Zucchini

In my November 9, 2006, blog entry, I wrote about Dave's Law of Combinant Foods, a theory that proposes that if you like two foods individually, then you should like them in combination. Although the idea brings to mind some seemingly awful combinations, if you think about them a minute you realize that they probably could work. So naturally I was delighted to find out about a cookbook called Chocolate & Zucchini. The author is a well-known, Paris-based food blogger named Clotilde Dusoulier. Her blog--also called Chocolate & Zucchini--started in 2003 as a diary of Dusoulier's food musings and passions. It was soon discovered by the media and became so popular that she has given up her day job to become a full-time food writer.

Dusoulier's attitude toward food is in perfect synch with Dave's Law, starting with the title of her book and blog. It's not that it's her stated purpose to put two unlikely ingredients together. It's just that as a passionate cook she has the creative instinct to know when such things will work. Here are some examples from her cookbook that I think are cool: Broccoli and Apple Quiche, Pasta with Chocolate and Zucchini, French Toast with Two Tomatoes and Parmesan, Strawberry Avocado Ceviche, Tuna and Green Apple Mousse.

The book also has plenty of less out-there recipes: good solid French dishes that range from the homey (Mustard Chicken Stew and Tarte Tatin) to restaurant-worthy (Gratineed Chicken Soup with Pink Peppercorns and Creamy Mango Ricotta with Macadamia Crunch). And the book is very chatty (would you expect anything less from a blogger?). As Dusoulier puts it: "Each recipe comes with a story, because we all know that a dish is much more than a list of ingredients and a set of instructions: it draws its life and color from its backdrop, its emotional setting, and the little anecdotes of its genesis."

To find out more about Clotilde Dusoulier and her book, check her website.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Year of the Pig

February 18, 2007, is the beginning of the Year of the Pig on the Chinese lunar calendar. In honor of the new year, the Chinese post office has issued commemorative stamps depicting a red pig (red is a good luck color in China) and 5 little piglets. The stamps have a face value of 1.2 yuan (15 cents).

But here's the cool thing. If you scratch the front of the stamp, it smells like pork (which must be better than smelling like a pig, I guess) and the glue that you lick tastes like sweet-and-sour pork.

Just for the record, this is not the first scratch-and-sniff stamp in the world. Here are some other smells that have been available in stamp form: rose (Australia), magnolia (New Zealand), eucalyptus (U.K.), chocolate (Switzerland) and green tea (Hong Kong).

And on a final note, in 2008 the Chinese new year will be the Year of the Rat. Let's hope for no stamps.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Deep South Parties

Here is my nomination for the cookbook with the longest and funniest title: Deep South Parties or How to Survive the Southern Cocktail Hour Without a Box of French Onion Soup Mix, a Block of Processed Cheese, or a Cocktail Weenie. The book is by Robert St. John who, in addition to being a comedian, is the chef/owner of several restaurants in Hattiesburg, Mississippi: the Purple Parrot Cafe, Mahogany Bar and Crescent City Grill (which has a branch in Meridian, Mississippi).

St. John's sense of humor permeates the book (how about a chapter called "Methodists and the Art of Cat-Flossing?), but the recipes themselves are serious. They are inspired by the foods and traditions of the Old South, but they are given a very modern spin. For example: Crawfish-Andouille Hush Puppies, Cornmeal Biscuits with Fig Butter, Tasso and Smoked-Cheddar Savory Cheesecake (anyone who has been following my blog knows that I have a bit of a cheesecake addition) and Peach-Pecan Ice Cream Sandwiches.

If you want to find out a little more about Robert St. John you can check his website or to read more about his restaurants check this link out. And if you like Deep South Parties, then there is also his earlier cookbook called Deep South Staples Or How to Survive in a Southern Kitchen Without a Can of Cream of Mushroom Soup.