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

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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.
 
Garlic
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

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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


Announcing a 4 day Food & Lifestyle Photography Workshop In Charleston South Carolina, September 21st- 25th 2015

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Sunday, June 14, 2015


Workshop Myrtle Beach
EDITED: This workshop is SOLD OUT.

I am really excited to announce that I am teaming up again with my dear friend John Ondo, Chef at Lana in Charleston, South Carolina for a 4 day workshop in Charleston, South Carolina, September 21st - 25th 2015, combining food and lifestyle photography, composition and styling with cooking sessions with John.

I have known John for many years and have photographed him and his crew many times. His food, cooking, restaurant are like home to us. He's incredibly talented, down to earth and a great teacher. We had such a great time teaching our last two workshops together that we decided to do another one. 

We wanted to bring a retreat/workshop that was not only full of information but relaxing at the same time and we are always thinking the beach is about as relaxing as one can get!
 
Workshop Myrtle Beach
During our retreat, I will share with you my photo and styling processes. Anything from camera basics, creating an edible narrative with your photos, styling naturally, working with different light situations, current propping trends, etc... 

Attendees will spend time with John in the kitchen learning techniques, basic skills and some fun dishes. Through both our personal guidance, you will develop your own creative process for styling, shooting and editing your photographic stories. 

Nothing is off limits with questions, from how to pick ingredients and how to cook them, how to manage your cooking/photo time efficiently, knowing about photography for blogging, cooking for photography, photo as a hobby or how to get started in the business. 

All this right by the ocean... 

Everyone, all levels of photography or cooking are welcome!
 
WkshopNZ
Here are the details: 
When: September 21st - 25th 2015 
Where: Charleston, South Carolina 
Fee is $1,850 and includes: 
4 nights accommodation 
3 days of practical instruction with cooking, food styling, composition, prop styling and photo sessions. 
All meals, snacks and refreshments 
Reception cocktails and appetizers on the evening of the 21st. 
There will be no refunds for this workshop – please know you attend before registering. Full payment due at time of registration. Fee includes all meals and accommodations. No exceptions. 
The workshop is open to 8 people. 
Does not include travel fares to and from the workshop. 

To register please click here.

Jerusalem Artichokes Pasta & A Kumquat Bourbon Sour

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Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Jerusalem Artichokes Pasta
It's been a fun filled three weeks over here. We flew to New York to meet my parents coming in from France and toured the city with them before we all went back to Birmingham. My godmother, her brother and husband flew in shortly after for my 40th birthday. We made them discover the best of what Birmingham and Northern Alabama had to offer and we barely made a dent in all the wonderful things we wanted them to see. I think they were quite surprised (as were we when we first got here) at all there is to do and visit down here. I'm telling you, this state is a diamond in the rough, yet to be discovered. They flew back home but my parents are still with us for another two weeks.

After a short visit to our hometown of Charleston for Memorial Day and a quick stay with my in-laws we are all back here enjoying some downtime. I say hometown because even if I am an expat, Charleston had been my home for 16 years prior to moving to Birmingham and it is truly my husband's hometown. There are roots there. Friends, stones, landmarks, a house we build ourselves, cobblestone streets we like to walk, trees we kissed under and waters we navigated.

sunchoke pasta Blog 3
Home is where we make memories. We have the luxury of being able to do so in two cities. At different paces, we different friends. We love the lush surroundings and neighborhood feel of Birmingham just as we long for the marshland and Spanish moss of the Lowcountry. We love the drive to South Carolina as much as we appreciate coming home to Birmingham. Both towns are ever changing and adapting at different paces and different ways. Friendships remain in one while some are cultivated in the other.

After some weeks traveling to and from, here and there and back again, we like nothing than the normalcy of cooking something simple that most at our dinner table will appreciate. It is still pretty easy to find some fall-ish produce around here. The Spring and Summer produce has had a late start due to the weather although I am noticing things are kicking into full gear finally at the farmers' market. Jerusalem artichokes and kumquats are still available and still spot on tasty. That's a treat for those of us who like them a whole lot!

At the end of  a long day spent in a car sightseeing, shopping, meandering about town and state, I like to make a flavorful and easy pasta dish. Something that I can cook while enjoying a cocktail and more conversations with my guests. Enters this rendition of a pasta dish suggested by Nigel Slater in his "Tender" cookbook. Sautee the Jerusalem artichokes in oilve oil and garlic while you boil the pasta, garnish with a squeeze of lemon and parsley and serve. Voila. Easy. Serve with some extra freshly cracked pepper and freshly grated parmesan and your're set.

Kumquat Bourbon Sour Blog
I did mention to prep this dish while sipping on a cocktail, didn't I?! A while back, when friend and food stylist Nathan came over to play at my home studio, we made a lovely Kumquat Bourbon Sour cocktail that I have been able to replicate during some hot semi-feeling summer days. It couldn't be any easier and any tastier. This ones comes the bar at the Hot & Hot Fish Club here in Birmingham Al. Beware. It is easy to prep and easy to drink!

For us, a home is where we able to have friends come and enjoy a good meal, share their worries and stories. A place where the traveler in miles or life can come and feel welcomed and loved. That's what we hope we are providing for those who cross our paths.

Mexican Feast To Be Shared With Friends

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Tuesday, May 05, 2015


Mexican Fiesta Table
I rarely think about doing holiday posts, well maybe except for Christmas or New Year and it wasn't until last week that I was editing these pictures that I realized I was going to post close or on Cinco de Mayo. However, holiday aside, this is a feast with friends I would do over in a heartbeat!
 
Pork Tacos
Nathan and I got together for another Sunday Play Day in the kitchen and behind the camera. Our idea was to cook and shoot a big feast, a meal that we would both serve to friends or cook with them. I can't recall how we got to the Mexican theme however but sure is pretty fitting now! 

Mojo marinated pork skewers in soft corn taco shells, salsa verde, pico de gallo, grilled baby onions, spicy pickled veggies, elote, rice and beans, grilled nopales were on the menu!
 
Elote
What I love about this meal is that each part comes together rather quickly even with its multicomponent aspect. Some elements can be bough ahead of time instead of trying to make them yourselves. For example, the soft tacos that we ended up grilling, as well as the chicharrones, were purchased at a local Mexican market, along with the tortilla chips and spicy pickled vegetables.
 
Watermelon Margarita
We got caught up in the festive mood of our shoot and added a Watermelon Margarita cocktail at the last minute. It was actually really nice to have an afternoon of nibbling and sipping cocktails while shooting and creating images with the light, colors and composition that we wanted. I think all of our play days so far have included a cocktail and we don't plan on changing that!! 

Cinco de Mayo or not, this Mexican orientated spread will make an an appearance many times over on my table this summer. Round up the meal with the flourless chocolate cake I posted recently and you are sure to make people belly happy!!

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