Brussels Sprout Salad with Hot Smoked Salmon & Cherries.


Thursday, October 08, 2015

Brussel Sprouts Salad
Thank you everyone on your kind words on my last post. You are the best virtual peeps a girl can have. I always know I can come to this space and share without holding back. What you see is what you get... We are not settled in yet, living out of boxes still. Mainly because we are trying to cram three lives into a house and while my mother in law has been nothing but gracious about making this space our own, we are taking small steps towards big transitions.

We came with what we needed, putting the rest in storage, two dogs and a bunch of photography equipment for the new studio. I am so grateful that the office/studio is adjacent to the house so we can  help her out and work at the same time.

I am just giddy at the new space I will have to get back to freelancing. My original studio as a freelancer had amazing light but was a bit small. This new space is currently getting new floors, a fresh coat of paint and the dark room is being turned into a prop room. First big book shoot since getting back to being my own boss is happening in less than a month and I can't wait to have the space done and ready!

Brussel Sprouts Salad
I have been teaching workshops ever since we left Birmingham and I am finally enjoying a few days of reprieve. That means admin emails and phone calls, trying to figure out where things are and getting reacquainted with my town and its creative pulse. Things I have learned in the three days I have officially moved back in: while my mother in law doesn't cook anymore, her knives are crazy sharp. When she says "I'll do it" that means "I have a system and only I can do it right." Oh and "more wine please!" Now that's me speaking. And you know what? It all works out in the end...

I am in charge of cooking and I love that she is open to everything. Spices, ingredients, cuisines. It's all different for her and she loves good food so we are a good pair. I love being able to share with someone all the bounties surrounding us and having open minded palates, even in her 90s is wonderful. I made this Brussels Sprouts Salad with Hot Smoked Salmon And Cherries last month before I left but I am excited to try it out again with her. While cherries may not be in season anymore, you can easily substitute red grapes or pomegranate seeds for them this Fall.

I am sure we will have more adventures in cooking in the weeks to come but so far so good...Even evenings of cheese plates and nibbles are fine by me! The photo below is one of my new favorite shots that I did with my bestie Tami at the Mixed Conference we taught at this past weekend.

We are all embracing this move and what it means to us. Living, sharing, giving back, holding on, creating new and exciting work.

Cheese & Nibbles

Pork Belly Tacos With Cilantro Avocado Cream & An Announcement!


Friday, August 28, 2015

Pork Belly Tacos With Cilantro Avocado Cream
Three years ago, exactly to the date, I was letting you in on a pretty big move in my life. Both in my immediate geography and career. When I was asked by the creative director of Time Inc Books in Birmingham, Al to come work for them as Senior Photographer three years ago, the timing was perfect. I was ready for a little more time in one place with the possibility to work with dedicated and talented food and prop stylists everyday.

I put my whole heart into it, I learned so much more than I could ever think of. Meant some wonderful people in the world of publishing. Editors, graphic designers, recipe developers and test kitchen professionals who have fed my soul and belly with beautiful pages and great food.

I am so happy that I answered yes to the offer three years ago but now, it is time. We are moving back to Charleston, SC. I resigned from my position and I am going back to being a freelance photographer!


Pork Belly Tacos With Cilantro Avocado Cream
After my father in law passed away, we made a promise to my mother in law to be present to take care of her. Be present. Be in the present. That has always been the pushing force for us. Charleston, back home, is where we need to be. After two years not being able to find work, my husband got his position back at the College and is a happy fish again. I am excited about the world unfolding before me and already have my head going wild with ideas about collaborations, work, projects. Life is always on the other side of fear.

 I am looking forward to more time for workshops, travels, work, work and more work. Because I love what I do and hope to be doing this for a long long time. Thank you all for wishing us well on our new adventures three years ago. Hope you will be excited as I am to follow my new adventures along. 

Once again, bear with me as I pack boxes and more boxes and settle into our new life (and new studio space!). In the meantime, it's Friday. That means tacos and drinks in this house! Pork Belly Tacos With Cilantro Avocado Cream to be precise.
Pork Belly Tacos With Cilantro Avocado Cream

Coconut Yogurt & Passion Fruit Tartlets


Friday, August 14, 2015

Coconut Passion Fruit Tarts
I got to say, with my husband in Charleston and me here in Alabama, dinners have been reduced to a strict minimum. Not that I was keen on keen on big productions after a whole day staring at food but still. I almost always have dinner in a bowl. A big salad and some protein, lots of fresh herbs and seasonal vegetables. Roasted, grilled, fresh. It depends on how my feet feel that evening.
Coconut Passion Fruit Tarts
You can imagine baking has gone way down too! Heat and solitude combined, it sure feels unnecessary to bake tarts, cakes and cookies. Only if shared with friends though. But there is always that tugging at my heart to bake something, if only to share it later. The scent of lemon and sugar being rubbed together to make pastry dough. Freshly baked cookies coming out of the oven. Vanilla and milk steeping together on the stove for creme brulee. These moments ground me and comfort me. 
Coconut Passion Fruit Tarts
The urge to make something light and refreshing got the best of me the other day. Small tartlets filled with creamy coconut yogurt and passion fruit, lightly topped with sugar and quickly browned with a blow torch. Mine ran out of gas before I could achieve a deeper color but that allowed for the yogurt not to curdle too much and the yogurt to stay smooth.
Coconut Passion Fruit Tarts
I don't recommend browning the tops under the broiler as it will cook the yogurt thus loosing that creamy oozing quality you want when cutting into them. I tried, that's how I know...Still as good, just a different thing. You could try different combination such as lemon yogurt and raspberry mashed up on the bottom, lemon and rhubarb compote, pumpkin filling and vanilla yogurt for the Fall. The possibilities are as endless as your imagination!
Coconut Passion Fruit Tarts

Comfort In A Bowl Of Wild Mushroom Pasta With Garlic and Parsley.


Thursday, July 23, 2015

Wild Mushrooms
Comfort food is not only for cold winter nights or rainy autumn days. There is comfort in summer bright tomatoes, juicy ripe peaches and cooking to warm up your heart or ground you in that okay place. I've meaning to update this blog in the last few weeks but didn't have the heart to. We, my husband, his family and mine were battling a fight we could not win. My father in law, my father number 2 and my husband's best friend and band mate of 30+ years passed away from complications of cancer. He fought with dignity up until the very last moments. When I tell people he was 93 years old, the response is "wow, he had a great life!". Yes, he did. He was lucky to meet his life partner 73 years ago and be married for 71 years. Yes, he did so many wonderful things with and for his family. Yes. No, it doesn't diminish the void we all feel. While we rejoiced we were lucky to have him this long, we wished for more. As we, humans, usually do.
Wild Mushroom Pasta
I went back to Charleston to be there for my family. I cooked meals, listened to stories. I have been in this dreadful place before and I could anticipate reactions and emotions and offer a listening heart and a warm hand. I got back to Birmingham while my husband stayed in Charleston for a little while longer. It's me and one of the dogs. My days are busy at work with long days of really fun shoots (working on the new Ball canning book right now is pure joy) but evenings can feel a little long at times. Especially toward the end of the week when all the week's pressure and work start to take a toll on my mind and body. Thursdays have started to become my comfort food days.
Slow baked salmon on top of pasta with lots of pesto and tomatoes, roasted veggies to go on top of a farro salad, bright vibrant greens with grilled shrimp, lots of lemon and pepper. And garlic. Always a ton of garlic. That's true comfort to me.

Before I left for Charleston, I had purchased at the farmers market a load of wild mushrooms that I sauteed with garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper. Shitakes, chanterelles, lion's mane, golden and grey oyster mushrooms. Unsure of timing with the family, I froze my concoction for a later meal. I already had it it my head to preserve the integrity of the mushrooms by adding them, as they were now, to a simple dish of pasta with more garlic and lots of parsley. Something that always reminds me of home, simple days, shared meals and comforting food.
Wild Mushrooms Pasta
Here it is, one of my favorite meals, to eat alone or share (always better) when things don't seem all that great. It will make you sit down and reminisce, bringing a flow of memories you did not expect but will most certainly welcome and indulge. I know I will tonight.

Chilled Riz Au Lait With Citrus Honey Poached Peaches


Monday, June 29, 2015

Chilled Rice Pudding with Citrus & Honey Poached Peaches
Thank you to everyone who has inquired about the workshop in Charleston. Yes, it is sold out but we do have a waitlist if you are interested. You can send me an email at helenedujardinphoto[at]gmail[dot com]. It's been a busy May with family here and a busy June but I am ready for summer cooking and summer playing!

The heat is on for sure! We've been grilling a lot and making big salads chock full of all the vegetables we can get at the market. The oven is currently not an option I want to have. Gets the house too hot, takes forever to cool off and with longer days and more light, we just want to sit on the patio and enjoy the refreshing evenings as much as possible.

I have not done much baking, and usually it's been on early weekend mornings before it got too warm. Desserts have been lots and lots of fresh fruits and the occasional cookies and ice cream. Not tremendously exciting (well, except for the couple of new ice cream flavors I have been trying to nail), but when summer rolls around, there are always three desserts I tend to put on rotations at the house. Panna Cotta, clafoutis and riz au lait (rice pudding).
Baking With Peaches & Lemon Verbana
Riz au lait is my comfort food. My grandmother used to make it all the time whenever we needed a little TLC. For me it screams "I love you", "Let me comfort you", "make yourself a bowl and come unload what troubles you" or just "hey, things are wonderful, let's celebrate!" It's all that. A gentle hug, a reminder to slow down. The scent of vanilla infused milk just wafting through the house. Something that requires you to pause and stir. Inhale and exhale. To me it is the essence of cooking and sharing. As soon as I make Riz Au Lait, I want to give a bowl to someone. 

Granted, it's usually a dessert I make more often in the fall and winter months but chilled rice pudding adds a nice bite and cold creamy smooth feel. I cook the rice with milk and a bit of vanilla, just to the point of the milk being completely absorbed. I let the rice continue soaking in all that lovely goodness until it is cool. It's soft and unctuous without being liquid.  The creaminess will reveal itself in the bite, not the look. Once cooled, I top it off with fruit poached in a citrus and honey syrup. Right now, peaches are ripe and gorgeous, but it could well be rhubarb or strawberries, a mix of different berries, etc...

My extra bit of love comes from a couple of lemon verbena stems I add to the syrup. Vanilla, citrus, honey, lemon verbena. My favorites, all surrounding a comforting bowl of rice pudding. Maybe not like Grandma used to make but she would approve nonetheless. I'm pretty sure of that...
Chilled Rice Pudding with Citrus & Honey Poached Peaches

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