Lemon Verbena Macarons, Sharing Passions & A Giveaway!

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Sunday, July 31, 2011

Lemon Verbena Macarons

Hard to believe that one week ago, last Sunday, we were basking in the heat of Oklahoma watching our first rodeo, enjoying the last bit of our trip to pioneer country.

Macaron Workshop - Pioneer Woman's Ranch
I'm from the South of France. I talk with my hands. A lot...

A ranch. Wild horses. Cows. Stray dogs. And cats. Night skies that fill your soul of everything good and infinite. Sunrises so intense they almost paralyze your thoughts. And your words.

Lemon Verbena Macarons

Food. Lots of it. Cameras clicking away. Spatulas folding fast and furiously. Strangers who became fast friends. Happy banter. Wine. Late nights and shooting stars.

Saint Louis
Downtown Saint Louis.

2850 miles driven. One macaron workshop. One food photography workshop. Lots of pictures taken and archived. Lots of coffee. Lots of time spent catching up with Bill as we drove through Memphis, Pawhuska, Saint Louis, Nashville, Asheville. We reveled in the immensity of this country. We anticipated with excitement our time off together at the ranch. We smiled the whole drive back to Charleston. We had fun. The trip gave us back every bit of ourselves we put out there. To strangers and to each other.

Lemon Verbena Macarons

I loved that Bill saw me in my element and that now he understands why I get so involved and so quiet everytime I do and leave a workshop or a conference. I invest everything I've got in the people coming to learn. I am spent. Emotionally, verbally. It was great that he saw the dynamics and spirits of the people attending. Now he gets it. And he gets why it is so important for me to pay it forward. Continually.

Macaron Workshop - Pioneer Woman's Ranch
Darcy, Helene, Krystin.

Seeing a dozen people go from mildly intrigued to slightly nervous and completely giddy at the idea of learning a new skill like macaron making is priceless. The act covers much more than just piping and filling pretty cookies. It covers essentials of pastry science that would be Harold McGee or Shirley Corriher approved. Things that explain incidents or successes with other cookies and recipes.

Macaron Workshop - Pioneer Woman's Ranch
Mandy and my editor Courtney.

Answering people's questions about photography. Seeing people with different levels of interest and skills just pick up their camera and compose and shoot food all afternoon was balm to the heart. They teamed up, they geeked out, they giggled. They got frustrated. They got creative. I was thrilled that my editor at Wiley, Courtney came for the weekend too and saw the book in action so to speak!

Macaron Workshop - Pioneer Woman's Ranch

It was a moment that went beyond taking a picture or making a story. A sense of community developed bringing us closer. It made them want to share what they had learned that day. I told them they should. I do! It's the key to a happier soul.

Saint Louis
Saint Louis.

We drove to Oklahoma with clear chatty anticipation of the weekend and we drove back to Charleston in silence. Memories already making room in our hearts and bumping around in our heads.

Horses On The Road To The Lodge

Thank you to everyone who came with open minds and open hearts, who came for one thing and left with three others. Thank you to Ree for opening her home to a bunch of strangers and for the time spent with us in the middle of family sickness and cookbook deadlines.

Ree At Work
Ree shooting a recipe for her new cookbook.

It was a colorful weekend. And I am not only talking about the macarons! It was hot sure, but for us it was actually a heat we could sustain as it was humidity free. The moment we stepped out of the car in Charleston, it felt like a steam oven. Come to find out, it was especially beneficial to my plants this whole time and I walked into an oasis of overgrown basil, thyme, oregano, pineapple sage and lemon verbena. Happy, happy!

Lemon Verbena

In an effort to keep the plants trimmed and well and to accompany this post, I made a batch of lemon-lemon verbena macaron the other night. Light and summery. They are perfect with a glass of lemonade as a little pick me up in the blistering heat of summer.

Lemon Verbena Macarons

One last thing and there is a giveway to go along...

I rarely travel empty handed and I had brought goodie bags to all the attendees to help them with macarons making (aprons, spatulas, food coloring, etc...) and each attendee also received a copy of Plate To Pixel. I don't know how it happened but I came home with an extra goodie bag and I want it to find a good home so I am putting it up for grabs today.
The bag contains:
- one apron (similar to the ones worn by the attendees in the pictures above)
- spatula, pastry tip, pastry bag
- powdered food coloring kit (8 colors)
- one signed copy of "Plate to Pixel, Digital Food Photography & Styling"

To enter: leave a comment here between today, Sunday July 31st and Tuesday August 2nd, midnight (Eastern time). No anonymous entry. One comment per person. That's it! Easy peasy..

Lemon Verbena Macarons:

Makes 25 to 30 filled macarons, depending on size

Ingredients:
For the shells:
200 gr powdered sugar
110 gr almonds (slivered, blanched, sliced, whatever you like)
1 tablespoon loosely packed lemon verbena leaves
90 gr egg whites (use egg whites that have been preferably left 3-4 days in the fridge)
25 gr granulated sugar
1 tablespoon finely chopped lemon verbena

Directions:
Place the powdered sugar and almonds in a food processor and give them a good pulse until the nuts are finely ground. Add the lemon verbena leaves and mix until blended. Sift if desired (helps keep the shells smooth in appearance).
In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites to a foam, (think bubble bath foam) gradually add the sugar until you obtain a glossy meringue (think shaving cream). Do not overbeat your meringue or it will be too dry.
Add the nuts and powdered sugar to the meringue, give it a quick fold to break some of the air and then fold the mass carefully until you obtain a batter that falls back on itself after counting to 10. Give quick strokes at first to break the mass and slow down. The whole process should not take more than 50 strokes. Test a small amount on a plate: if the tops flattens on its own you are good to go. If there is a small beak, give the batter a couple of turns.
Fill a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip (Ateco #807 or #809) with the batter and pipe small rounds onto parchment paper or silicone mats lined baking sheets. Sprinkle with the finely chopped lemon verbena. Let the macarons sit out for 30 minutes to an hour to harden their shells.
When you are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 280F.
Bake the macarons for 15 to 20 minutes, depending on their size. Let cool.
Once baked and if you are not using them right away, store the shells in an airtight container out of the fridge for a couple of days or in the freezer for up to 2 weeks (longer and the sugar starts to seep out which makes them sticky). Fill the macarons and let them mature in the fridge at least 48 hours prior to eating them.

Lemon Cream Cheese Filling:
8 ounces (1 package) cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup powdered sugar, sifted
zest and juice of one lemon

In bowl of electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and powdered sugar on low speed, until very smooth with no lumps. Add the lemon zest and juice and mix until well blended. Pipe or spoon about a tablespoon into the center of each macaron shell and top with another shell.

Snapshots From A Weekend On The Ranch...

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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Horses At The Lodge

We are on our way back from our road trip to Oklahoma and Ree, The Pioneer Woman's Lodge where I shared with her readers two of my passions, cooking and photographing. We are in Nashville for the night but I could not wait any longer to post a few snapshots before I write a more detailed post later on. Ree wrote the nicest and funniest post about it here and made me wish I could give everyone a hug again!

Horses...Lots of them. Wild horses. This is the first image I saw before pulling in the driveway to The Lodge where we would stay the weekend. Bill and I arrived a day before the attendees to get our bearing, get some work done, take pictures and get Bailey the puppy situated. I texted Ree we were riding speechless at the immensity of the landscape before us. And its beauty.

Lodge Mud Room

We know oceans. This was ocean of grass and waves of hills. As far as the eye could see. We were tired and beaten up by the road trip but all our aches evaporated the minute we pulled into the driveway. The Lodge is grand. Spacious. Cozy. Comfortable. Huge. Styled. Welcoming.

Buster

We put our bags down, grabbed our cameras and headed back out the door. We wanted to catch the Golden Hour. Right before the sun goes down. We were met by Buster one of the strays hanging out on the property. Buster stayed with us throughout the evening, checking things out. Such a cool and sweet puppy. Yes, I wanted to take him home.

Bailey & Buster

Bailey and Buster became instant friends and they were inseparable on our little walk in the heat and golden glow of the prairie. Thanks to Buster and his nonchalant ways, Bailey's lack of assurance with the horses vanished in minutes. They were really like two old pals hanging out.

Lodge Dining & Living Room

One thing about The Lodge is that it's spacious. Better not realize you need to get back to your room after you reached the kitchen. On the other hand, it is so beautifully decorated that there is something to read or look at all major intersections!!

Night Sky At The Lodge

Marveling at the sky above us. For once, we could see the Big Dipper. The Milky Way. Shooting stars. Things we can't see or not as well where we live. We stayed up late to take some shots. We could not go to sleep. All our senses were going crazy. I felt overwhelmed. In a good way.

Night Sky At The Lodge

Many times on the trip we pondered the thought of bringing a blanket outside and sleeping under the stars.

Lodge Inside

Who can resist waking up to a kitchen with such a light? Dang! No wonder Ree loves shooting there so much now. In my head I could not stop hugging the islands, countertops, stoves and ovens.

Group At The Lodge

Look at that mighty fine bunch of macarons bakers and photographers! The dynamic of the group was pretty awesome and flowing easily. Lots of good laughs and jokes flying around.

Macarons

There were a lot of macarons baked and photographed that weekend. We had some great successes and some serious ka-plunk but we all shared and learned that day. Would not have it any other way!

Observing ...

On this trip, I also went to my first rodeo. I also observed lots and lots of cowboys. Always fascinating.

Sunset At The Lodge

This sunrise still fills my heart. The colors that accompanied us as we left The Lodge the other morning. Magical.

Ree

This lady. Her warmth, generosity. Her singing and her laughing. Her jokes and her curiosity.

I'll be back with more pictures from the workshop later this week. Have a great rest of the week everyone!

Summer Fare: White Nectarines Pineapple Sage Galette, Chanterelles Tartines & Quinoa and Fig Tabouleh

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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

White Nectarines Galette

Don't judge but a slice of this white nectarine galette has ben breakfast for the past two days. Tomorrow also. Even though we are taking a road trip cross country, B. requested I'd pack the galette along for the ride. I am not that interested in breakfast usually. Unless there is pie. Or eggs and bacon. These would seriously get me in trouble. As a gourmande through and through, I'd happily sit down and cut myself a not-so-shy piece of pie if you'd let me. Especially when filled with juicy white nectarines from the farmers market.

White Nectarines

The moment I took this one out of the oven, I made another one. Certain that we would appreciate waking up to share a piece while sipping our coffees. We are indeed on the road, heading to The Pionneer Woman’s Ranch. The macaron and photo workshop weekend is finally here! And well, instead of spending time in airport, airplanes and muttering over missed flights and too short connections, we decided to pack up the van and take a littlelong trip out West.

White Nectarine Galette

I did leave a few goodies and cookies for the house sitter but not this pie. Nor the leftover sautéed chanterelles we shared for lunch under the shade of a huge oak tree in the middle of nowhere Alabama. Nor did I leave the couple of servings of the quinoa and fig tabouleh our gluttonous selves could not finish the night before we left. All three were packed up and enjoyed quietly. And well.

Chanterelles

It’s been ages since Bill and I went on a long road trip together and when I mentioned the trip to Ree he turned to me with a big bright smile “I am free that week! Let’s just get in the car and see the country!”. I gotta love his enthusiasm because if you know me, you also know that I fall asleep the minute I get in the car. There is something with enclosed spaces that make me go “ka-plunk” asleep. I feel terrible about it. Really!

Chanterelle tartines

There is nothing I enjoy more than having the time to catch up with Bill as we pass through towns along this big vast American soil. I just love this place. Its complexities and diversity. Its textures and personas. So far, I am doing good on this trip. Proof is that I am writing this as he drives. We have been able to catch up on family stories as we drove through South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama and now Mississippi.

Chanterelle Tartines

We just enjoy those rare moments now when both our schedules allow for some free time together. What can I say... Fourteen years have passed since our first excursion together and we still dig just being with the other. In the moment. And I want to believe it’s not only because of the delicious foods I pack up when we head out.

garlic

These four recipes are perfect for a picnic, on the side of the road, at the local park or even on a hot day at the beach. They pack easy and well and last a while since they are better at room temperature. As I was preparing them, I wanted nothing less than to set aside some time to pull out a blanket in the backyard and have an impromptu picnic by the creek. But there was more cooking to be done before heading out!

Chanterelle tartines

When Jason at the market said he'd have freshly picked chanterelles, I literally jumped in my seat. My mind going only in one direction. Chanterelles sauteed in butter with garlic, parsley, salt and pepper. Served on toast with a sliver of pecorino. That's all I could think about. This is by far my favorite way to enjoy wild mushrooms.

Tomato Zucchini Salad

This salad of heirloom tomatoes, thinly sliced zucchini and feta is actually a take on a salad I ate while in Salt Lake City during a pot luck. The original version featured zucchini, sliced thin, with feta, dill and a drizzle of olive oil. I loved the combo so much that I started my own riff on it as soon as I got home. My advice? Make more than what you think you will need. You'll eat it all. And more!

Quinoa and Fig Tabouleh

The quinoa and fig tabouleh is an interpretation of a recipe from Elle a Table. I was intrigued by adding figs to a savory grain salad. Figs and savory are opposites and harmonious at the same time. Such a perfect fruit to pair up with tomatoes, mint and lots lemon juice! We are full blown in fig season down here and I can't stop filling my basket with them.

Figs


Quinoa and Fig Tabouleh

I think the most doubting soul that the combo would work was Bill but as soon as I was done taking those pictures, I handed him a spoonful and before I knew it, I was almost prying the bowl from his hands so we would have some left for dinner! The tabouleh also works great with millet or other whole grains.

Galette

I will try to post some pictures and updates of the weekend on the ranch as soon as I get back, if not sooner! Have a great rest of the week!

White Nectarine Galette:

Makes one 6-inch galettes

Ingredients:
For the crust (pate brisee)
2/3 cup millet flour
1/3 cup superfine white rice flour
1/4 cup sorghum flour
(or you can use 1&1/4 cup all purpose flour instead of the 3 flours mentioned above)
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
8 tablespoons butter, very cold and cut in 1/2 inch dice
2 tablespoons to 1/4 cup ice water
1 egg mixed with 1 tablespoon water (to brush on the top crust)
Or milk to add some color to the crust
chopped nuts for topping (optional)

For the filling:
4 small white nectarines
1 tablespoon pineapple sage, freshly chopped (or mint, lemon thyme, lemon balm, etc...)
1/4 cup honey
1 tablespoon cornstarch

Directions:
Prepare the crust
In a large bowl, mix together the millet, rice and sorghum flour. Add the powdered sugar and mix. Add the cold butter and mix with a pastry cutter or your fingertips until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the water, one tablespoon at a time and mix until the dough comes together in a ball. Flatten into a disk in between your hands and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate 30 minutes (you can make it the day before too).

In the meantime, prepare the fruit:
Cut the nectarines in half and remove the pits. Cut each half in thin slices. Mix them together in a large bowl with the herb, honey and cornstarch. Let stand 10 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350F and position a rack in the middle.
When ready to assemble, roll the dough in between sheets of plastic to about 1/8-inch thick to make a rough 9 to 10-inch circle. Place the nectarine slices inside that circle. Bring the edges over the fruit to create a 2-inch border or so and repeat the procedure until a complete border is created. Brush with the egg wash or some milk if desired (adds color to the crust), sprinkle with nuts with desired, and bake for about 30 minutes.

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Chanterelle Tartines:
For 2 hungry people

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon butter
half a pound fresh chanterelles, cleaned of dirt
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup to 1/3 cup chopped flat leaf pasley
salt and pepper
thin slices of pecorino or other hard fragrant cheese.
Freshly toasted whole grain bread

Instructions:
In a large sautee pan set over medium high heat, melt the butter until it sizzles. Add the mushrooms, garlic, parsley, salt and pepper and cook until nicely colored, about 8-10 minutes.
Let cool slightly and spoon a bit of that mixture onto pieces of toast with a little sliver of cheese. Serve warm.

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Tomato Zucchini and Feta Salad:

Serves 4 to 6 as a side dish.

Ingredients:
3 tomatoes (heirloom if you can), cut into small cubes
2 zucchini, thinly sliced
1 small red onion, shaved
1/3 cup feta cheese
1/4 cup to 1/3 cup loosely packed fresh basil, chopped
salt, pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil

Instructions:
Combine all the ingredients together and let sit in the refrigerator at least a couple of hours before serving so all the flavors have time to meld together.
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Quinoa and Fig Tabouleh, adapted from Elle A Table:

Serves 6 as a side dish

Ingredients:
1.5 cups dry quinoa
3 cups water
6 large figs or 10 small ones, diced
3 tomatoes (heirloom if possible), diced
4 green onions, thinly sliced, white and green parts included
1/3 cup to 1/2 cups loosely packed fresh mint
juice of two lemons
salt and pepper
1/4 cup olive oil

Instructions:
In a large pot, bring the quinoa and water to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer, covered until all the water has been absorbed (about 20 minutes). Remove from the heat, fluff with a for and place in a large bowl to cool for 20 minutes.
Add the figs, tomatoes, green onions, mint, lemon juice. Add salt and pepper to taste and the oil. Let sit at room temperature for another 20 minutes and refrigerate after that if not consumed right away.

Salt Lake City, Park City, Utah and Evo 11...Pictures & Thoughts

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Sunday, July 17, 2011

Watermelon Slushies

Evo 11 is ... staying hydrated as much as possible. Altitude. Talking. Sun. More talking. More sun. More slushies. Beware though. Two straws in your watermelon slushie means "a little boozy". Just so we are clear. And boy, the thirst-o-meter was working overtime.

Salt Lake City Workshop
(Photo ©Foodie Crush)

Salt Lake City is...arriving a couple of days early and teach an all day workshop hosted at The Market Street Grill and organized by Heidi of Foodie Crush.
Meeting people for the first time and others whose blog I have been following for years. Being able to pass on anything and everything I can think of that might help. Guiding.

Salt Lake City Workshop
(photo ©Foodie Crush)

Workshop is...taking my job seriously. My words. The impact of what we do as photographers, stylist, bloggers. Without taking myself too seriously.

Market Street Grill

Workshop is...the remarkable amount of care and dedication from everyone on staff at Market Street Grill to provide the attendees with the tools and time to have a memorable experience. And the food...gosh the food...

Salt Lake City Workshop
(Photo ©Foodie Crush)

Workshop is...It's finding out what people wish to do and helping them reach those goals. It's listening and practicing along with them.

Market Street Grill

Workshop is...discovering new ways to style and shoot. Always being open, aware and happily surprised. The way the chef plated this cake makes it so creative and fun to shoot and yet, I would have never thought of it. Happy discovery...!

Evo 11

Evo 11 is...Rachael and Jyl. The two powerhouses who founded Evo. Gracious of their talent. Generous of their skills. Beautiful in their friendships to others. Kind. Immensely patient. They make Evo my favorite conference to attend. Not kidding.

Evo 11
Sarah, Heather, Kami (photo©Whipper Berry.)

Evo 11 is... taking a deep breath and rooming with complete strangers and leaving with two wonderful friends. I had the chance to share a room with Sarah from season 11 of The Biggest Loser and Heather from one of my favorite blogs, Whipper Berry.
Evo 11 is ...bumping into Evo 10 roomate Kami from No Biggie (far right) and to get one of her special hugs.

Evo 11

Evo 11 is... meeting up with gorgeous Helen Jane and catching up, laughing, hugging and brainstorming posts ideas, life tips and just giving her some plenty of support during her Ignite talk.

Evo 11

Evo 11 is... having the chance one more time to be inspired by super fantastic women, entrepreneurs. Makers like Alli and Barbara. I always feel recharged and refueled after a conversation with them.

Evo 11

Evo 11 is ...not only about the women ya'll. There were men too. Married. Single. Fathers. Brothers. Husbands. And awesome...!

Evo 11

Evo 11 is ...meeting rockstars. Women who can rock tattoos and purple hair. Give warm and energizing hugs. And take awesome pictures. Cecily...you're badass. Don't change it.

Evo 11

Evo 11 is...sitting next to someone such as Jenny who can cry as much as I can during Me Ra Koh closing keynote and smile as much as I do when hanging out with super talented photographer, web designer and dear friend Aimee.

Carina & baby
Carina And Lucinda.

Evo 11 is... when friends like Carina create magical human beings between Evo 10 and Evo 11.

Bubbles

Evo 11 is.. about letting your inner child let loose. Blowing bubbles and watching them fly away. It's about letting go of your inhibitions and discovering other facets of yourself.

Workshop

Evo 11...is being able to teach a food photography and styling workshop in one of the most serene and gorgeous locations I have taught. Lookout Cabin. All the way up the mountain...

Chefs

That workshop was a team effort between Chef Murcko, his staff, Caitleen of The Canyons Resort and yours truly to make sure that all attendees had not only a good time but also walked away with more knowledge to share with others.

Workshop

Evo 11 is ... filling up your glass with....don't expect something lyrical here. No seriously. Evo is about quenching that thirst. Mountain air...
Ok, so Evo is also about filling your metaphorical glass with inspirational ideas coming at you from all directions.

Workshop
Just because I can...having lunch there was pretty darn special.

Workshop

See...they do fill up glasses there. Orange Bubble Fitzer. No alcohol. None needed with the altitude...!

Workshop

And just when you think awesome has reached a new level of delicious, you discover the dessert table. And my jaws dropped. And my toes curl. Vanilla Panna Cotta with Strawberries and Basil Chiffonade. Yep.

Evo 11

Evo 11 is... about letting loose. There is no distinction of any kind on a dance floor. We all look a bit weirder than we did five minutes ago. And it's fantastic. No one cares about what blogs you read, which one you write and what's the latest app downloaded. Unplugging and letting loose.

Potluck
Dara and Kalyn.

Salt Lake City is...having a dear and long time blog friend, Kalyn, gather a few people one Sunday evening for a little potluck.
It's about feeling as much at home as I do when I am the one gathering my buds around a glass of wine and salad.
It's wishing we were all a tad bit closer. Geographically.

Potluck
Maria and Josh from Two Peas & Their Pod.

Salt Lake City is...those two. Soon to be three. They are like family to us. There are no words to describe how proud I am of them and what they accomplish.

Utah Flowers

Thank you to everyone who made the workshops in Salt Lake City and Park City possible. Thank you to everyone who came and asked questions both in SLC and during Evo. Thank you to everyone who gave me a hug, a smile, or a drink.
A special thank you Kristen for being so wonderfully and gently in my life.

Hope everyone had a wonderful weekend! I have been cooking and baking up a storm for work and home and can't wait to share with you this week!

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