Rustic Apple Tart With Hemp Seed Crumb Topping

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Saturday, October 04, 2014


Apples
First morning with a clear crisp chilled air. Not the first weekend with apple pie on my mind. Oh yes, it's definitely apple season. And pumpkins, squash and long simmered dishes. Well, being in the South, we have to make pretend it is Fall because hot days and short skirts are lingering on. It only took the temperatures to dip by 5 degrees for my cravings for a good pot roast, like my mom makes, to resurface.
 
Apple Orchard
This morning. It's apples I have on the brain. Vanilla applesauce. Rice pudding with poached apples. Bakes apples with plenty of nuts and a drizzle of honey. And of course Apple Pie. My grandmother's apple pie (with a little twist). There was one thing my grandmother was famous for in my family and it was her pies. She had a knack for pie crusts. She had such a way in the kitchen. Everything I know about food and cooking comes from my grandmother and my mother. The way they cooked and baked, created menus and gathered friends around the table.
 
Apple Tarte Prep
Her apple pie was something not to be missed. A crispy buttery and slightly sweet crust, a layer of vanilla bean studded applesauce and plenty of apples slices on top, with a touch more butter and sugar on top. A dollop of creme fraiche, served room temperature and you would find silence around the dinner table, as well as plenty of smiles and happy bellies.


Apple Tarte
Today looks like an odd day in the weather pattern for the coming days, one with a light breeze, bright blue skies and a little cold in the air. I am taking full opportunity by cranking on the oven and making pie. A hot cup of tea and I am getting in the mood for Fall. Alabama is really beautiful in the fall. I didn't expected it last year (Charleston has two seasons, hot and hotter!) and I am really looking forward to seeing the seasonal color of nature in all its glory. Orchards are full and giving of all kinds of gorgeous apples, market stands abound with all varieties of squash imaginable.
 
Apple Orchard
I usually do not veer far away from the way Mamie Paulette used to make her apple tart. This time, however, I did by adding hemp seeds instead of nuts to the crumb topping I usually put on my tart. It added a nuttiness without being overpowering. I also skipped the applesauce layer Mamie traditionally used in hers. Not being lazy, truth is, we ate most of it before there was enough left for the tart. I'll have to tell you about it soon. This thing will make you swoon, get a skip in your step. It's a daily dose of happiness in itself.
 
Apple Tarte
As soon as the tart came out of the oven, it was like Mamie Paulette was here again. Her big warm heart, sharp wit and larger than life joy for life. 

A balm for the heart, for the cook and for the friends gathering at our table. 

Grilled Baby Artichokes With Chimichurri

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Tuesday, September 09, 2014


Atrichokes
With the last days of summer right around the corner, there have been dinners on the patio after dinners on the patio. Friends, neighbors, just us. It's been lovely. Truly. A balm for the soul. Summers are a bit harder on me than any times of the year. Summer is the time when we have entire months back home devoted to vacationing. Just that. It's another mind set. Another way of doing things. And while I knew my family was gathering at our chalet in the Alps or just moving about France, I worked straight through the summer.
 
Artichokes
Every morning this summer, I would sit on the patio here in Alabma and listen to the sound of cicadas, a light breeze brushing my cheeks. A tease really, often quickly replaced with smoldering heat and humidity. I'd often close my eyes and I could almost feel home. I could almost hear my nieces running around in the garden, jumping off into the pool, laughing wildly with their friends, and the cicadas. Always a sign of being home. And warm evenings with lots of grilling involved.

One thing I try not to do all summer long is turning the oven on. Where we are now, it basically heats up the whole dining and living area, bringing the smoldering heat inside for hours. So off to the back deck we go! Lots and lots of fish, meats and vegetables did end up being grilled, charred, slow roasted and smoked. Finger licking good stuff.
 
Chimichurri

One thing I grew up eating were steamed artichokes and vinaigrette. While vegetable soup was a staple starter in our house, my mom would often make steamed artichokes during the summer. As well as her proscuitto and melon salad. But that's for another time... With nostalgia tugging at me these past few months, I took it upon me to take familiar dishes that reminded me of time spent with loved ones and gave them a more current flair. Current to the temperatures, our way of living in the heat and our tastes at this moment. 

Grilled baby artichokes with chimichurri sauce became an easy side our starter to many a dinner, shared with friends or just the two of us. They require a bit of prep and maybe a bit messy if eaten with a fork and knife which in my opinion is a plus... Just grill, grab and dip... They make a great snack too when watching a movie on a lazy Sunday evening or during any sport related weekend.


artichokes plated 2

Roasted Carrots With Creme Fraiche & Za'atar & Roasted Plums With Honey & Whipped Cream

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Monday, August 18, 2014


Carrots
It's been a while since I visited my own blog, let alone write anything on this page. What can I say? I gave myself an unintentional break by enjoying the most of summer off line. There has been much cooking and photographing but not much free time to sit down and blog about it all. With longer days and gorgeous evenings here, there have been many impromptu dinners al fresco with friends, long chats with the husband in the evening and one thing leading to another...I felt a little tug at giving myself a little break from blogging. With Instagram, Twitter and Facebook so much part of our daily lives, it's easy to rely on those to keep in touch with everyone out there.

Roasted Carrots
Truth is, I miss you guys. If you are still around. I miss being here and letting my thoughts take shape through the keyboard. Work is busy and can take the fun out of a few hours spent editing and sharing recipes and pictures. Balance. Always something to strive for. Nothing makes me happier than cooking a bunch on the weekend and photographing dishes for a future post and then the routine sets in and that post takes a back seat. One week, two weeks and soon turns into almost three months...

Needless to say, I have a whole bunch of recipes and photos to share with you!

Plums
Weekly visit to the amazing farmers market we have here in Birmingham often result in simple yet delectable recipes and musings in the kitchen. Our favorite snack on the weekend early this summer was market fresh carrots, briefly roasted served with creme fraiche and a good sprinkle of za'atar. Our current favorite dessert is roasted plum with local honey and a dollop of soft whipped cream.

Roasted Plums

Fresh Tomato Tart & A Radish & Pea Salad

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Tuesday, May 27, 2014


Tomato Tart
I admit, I had some reservations about moving to Alabama in spite of the amazing opportunity to challenge my creativity and eye every day with like minded people. My husband was ready for a change, I was ready for a new adventure, both professionally and personally. Charleston was my home, where I met Bill, where we dated, got married and were I started establishing a career as a professional photographer. Where my closest friends and surrogate family was. There is something idyllic and timeless about Charleston and the Lowcountry. I know it. I feel it everytime I drive home, windows down, feeling the humidity in the air, watching the sun set over the marsh, the Spanish moss hanging from the trees, Charleston will always be my home away from France.
 
Chives Flowers
Yet, Birmingham is home right now. And a very pleasant one. Now that my husband has been here full time for a few months, we enjoy discovering the city and the surrounding towns every chance we get. Living with an historian as definite perks in that regard. Always finding the interesting, that one stone yet unturned. We are a good team, I pick the new places to eat and drink and he picks the historical sights. And when I drag him to the farmers market every Saturday at 7am, he does not blink an eye. Pups and basket in tow, we head out to sample some of the best produce in the South.
 
Tomato Tart Prep
Charleston farmers market spoiled me. Having a good connections with farmers, sampling gorgeous and local produce 8 months out of the year was something I feared I would not have in Birmingham. Boy was I wrong! The farmers market here is a cornucopia of dedicated and like minded people. While some are more traditional in their offerings (peaches, tomatoes, radishes), others have given us the opportunity to get completely different things than in South Carolina. Micro greens galore, wild garlic, chive flowers and French grey shallots to name a few.
 
Fresh Peas
It is pure pleasure to craft a weekend around the produce I get early on Saturday morning. I may have a few ideas in mind but once I get to the market, I just let myself be inspired by the produce I see. We have quite a few artisans around bringing the extra supplies I need, like fresh baked breads and fresh cheese. My friend Ana, who works as food stylist in Birmingham also owns a sheep dairy farm, Dayspring Dairy, and makes the best haloumi type cheese (as seen in my previous post), a gouda type cheese called Ewtopia and a lovely fresh cheese speckled with pimento which I love to spread on toast in the morning or incorporate in dishes such as Tomato Tart.
 
Peas Salad Prep
Right now, it's all about tomatoes, peaches, strawberries, radishes and peas. We can't get enough. Well, I am severely allergic to peas but that does not stop me from making Bill a favorite salad of his. A simple combination of fresh easter egg radishes, peas and radish microgreens, a sprinkle of salt and pepper and a drizzle of pungent olive oil. Lunches and dinner at the house right now often look something like this. A tart or tartine and a big salad. Making the best out of Alabama produce. It's not difficult. And it helps feeling a little bit more grounded.
 
Peas & Radish Salad

Strawberries & Honeydew Melon With Lemon Sugar & Mint

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Wednesday, May 21, 2014


Strawberry Honeydew prep
Feels like Summer is officially here in the South. Don't let the calendar fool you! I spent my birthday last week in the company of the guy I call my surrogate brother, chef John Ondo, and a group of complete strangers on the beach while doing a food photography and cooking workshop. Well, we were strangers to each other for about five minutes. Nothing like a few nibbles he had prepared for us and a glass of wine to break down the ice and make everyone share a good laugh and a good story.

The workshop was a huge success in my book. Between photo assignments and down times, everyone walked away with a different perspective on their own photography and cooking. We ate well, enjoyed the sunshine and the heat and welcomed the rain and lower temperatures one day. It gave me the opportunity to show students why shooting in the rain always gave me the greatest pleasure. The electricity in the light, the potential for pushing your camera settings and re-programming your brain to find the unexpected.


Local Strawberries
I walked away with new friends, new connections, plans for future workshops that leave me with a skip and a hop in my step. Always something that keeps pushing me forward. On a side note, we have a couple of spots open for the workshop I am doing in Atlanta in a couple of weeks! Details HERE. 

Coming back from workshops is always tricky. Let's face it, they require a lot of planning and "on" time. It takes a few naps and a few long nights to get my internal clock re-adjusted. In those circumstances I always rely on the food on my plate to give me the sustenance needed to re-enter reality.

 
Strawberry Honeydew Salad
With the heat, my palate craves the fresh flavors of sweet fruits. A meal always end with something sweet, usually a square of chocolate or fruit compote on yogurt in the winter and big fruit salads in the summer. Right now, the farmers market abounds with local bright red strawberries. We've been adding them to everything, including green salads actually. 

The combination of honeydew melon and strawberries is always a winning one for us. We just sliced a bunch for dessert and sprinkled our plates with lemon juice, lemon rubbed sugar and fresh mint. Clean, light and super refreshing. The kind of desserts that helps my body and mind feel reset. It's really so easy to prepare and always a hit with our friends.

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