A Little ... Well ok...Big Announcement

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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Big News...

I have been toying with how to break the news to you... Late at night, I would design some cute picture involving the husband and the pups, just the pups, just the husband but of course, I always ran out of time. It's been a whirlwind since May. Workshops, cookbook shoots, some editorial shoots. Lots of travel. Lots of packing and unpacking.

Well...there will be one more big swoop of packing. But not a couple of suitcases. A few many boxes actually.

We are moving! To Birmingham, Alabama...!

No, Bill did not take a job there. I did.

I am completely stocked and thrilled to announce that I am the new Senior Photographer for Oxmoor House, cookbook publisher of titles such as Southern Living, Cooking Light, Health, Sunset.

Now can I do this? : !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Never mind...I just did!!!!! (and more)

If you know me well, you know that I am right now smiling wide but quietly while inside, I am jumping up and down like a crazy woman. I get to photograph all sorts of cookbooks throughout the week. Different titles, styles, authors, recipes. A dream.

Oxmoor House emailed and asked me if I would consider coming down for a test shoot for the position. I flew to Birmingham, test shot for two days with super nice, creative and dedicated art director, food stylists, prop stylists, photographers, etc.... My excitement and desire to be part of the team grew stronger. But I knew I had to put this in the back of my head. There was Ireland coming up, then Seattle, a couple of cookbooks and editorials to be photographed. More workshops.

Then finally last week, I heard the news that I had gotten the job. I called my parents and told them the news. My mom asked "is that good?". I laughed so hard. Nerves. "Yes, mom. It's really good." For the first time, it hit me. The reality of the future ahead.

So yes, we are relocating. We are both super excited, not only about the job but about the possibilities ahead. New places to see, new friends to be made. New favorite hang outs to find.

It's all good...

I hope you are smiling along with us. I will continue to blog, but bear with me as I make the transition to another rhythm and city. It might take me a few days to get my bearings when it happens next months.

A huge "Thank You" to Matt, Clare, Tami, Anita and Laura. You guys know why and how much you mean to me. Love you bundles.

Blueberry & Key Limes Tea Cakes - Going Back To The Essentials

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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Blueberry Key Lime Tea Cakes

It's been a week clearly balanced with working and nesting. I am heading out of town next week again to shoot Le Cordon Bleu cookbook and have been spending a good portion of my free time baking, cooking, preserving, etc.. I clearly manifested an intense homemaking phase which I believe to be only normal since I am incessantly on the go this summer.

Blueberries

I feel I won't be touching ground for a while and spending time in the kitchen, mixing, kneading, chopping, gives me time to think, make plans, draw list, organize thoughts and priorities. Some good music in the background and the undivided attention of the pups and I spent a couple of days stocking the fridge and freezer with some good meals and treats for Bill to enjoy while I'm away.

Baking

I like to believe a sweet treat once in a while makes the distance a little more bearable (and thank you Skype inventor!). He also gets invited left and right everytime I go away, no matter how stocked up the fridge is. His parents, the neighbors, our close friends...They all seem to take pity on him! At least, I know he never arrives empty handed to a dinner...

Blueberry Key Lime Tea Cakes

These little tea cakes may be the most simple things to bake but there is value in the essentials, the basics. I know that I can freeze plenty for us to have one morning over brunch, to keep in the fridge for a little four o'clock pick me up with a cup of tea. I can pack a couple in his bag before he heads to work in the morning. They are full of good nutrients, blueberries, coconut sugar, whole grains and the addition of Key limes provides just the right amount of pop from the limes.

Nothing like a good basic tea cake fresh out of the oven to make you feel like the chaos around you can indeed slow down...even if only for a few minutes.

Blueberry Key Lime Tea Cakes


Blueberry Key Lime Tea Cakes:

Makes 24 muffin size tea cakes.

Ingredients:
2 cups Jeanne's gluten free flour mix (or cake flour)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup whole milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
zest and juice of 6 Key limes (or 1 lime)
1 cup (2 sticks - 8 oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cups coconut sugar (or brown sugar)
4 large eggs
2 cups blueberries

Directions;
Preheat the oven to 350F and line the inside of 24 muffin cups with cupcake or muffin liners. Grease with some melted butter or cooking spray. Set aside.
In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Reserve.
In another large bowl or container, combine the milk, vanilla extracts, zest and juice from the Key limes (the milk will curdle but do not worry - it's normal).
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the butter and coconut sugar until smooth and creamy (medium high for about 3 minutes). Beat in the eggs, on slow speed, one at a time until everything looks well combined. The mixture won't be smooth but make sure all the eggs look mixed in.
On low speed, beat in the flour mixture alternately with milk mixture in 3 additions, just until the batter comes together. Fold in blueberries with a spatula and give the batter another 10-12 strokes to finish mixing it all together. Divide the batter equally among the muffin tins.
Bake for about 25 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out free of raw batter.

Food Photography Workshop In Seattle - A Recap!

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Sunday, August 19, 2012

Seattle Workshop 2012

I finally sifted through all the pictures I took at the workshop Clare, Becky and I taught last weekend in Seattle and as usual, it was pretty hard deciding which ones to post and which ones to archive. So many good moments! It was intense. Attendees were focused, diligent and really really fun to hang out with.

Teaching with Clare was as much fun and excellent as the first time we did it together in Charleston this past May. We are really excited to be doing more workshops together in November and throughout 2013 when our schedules allow it.

Seattle Workshop 2012

Kuddos to Becky who not only led the food styling portions of each day and photo shoot but also prepared us the best lunches and a fabulous Vietnamese focused feast for our farewell dinner the last day. Loved meeting Marc who came to help Becky in the kitchen throughout the weekend. Those two kept the kitchen firing great dishes and great jokes. (Above set up by Tina Jeffers

Seattle Workshop 2012

Hard at work at the studio...

Seattle Workshop 2012

Gorgeous foods displayed for each shoot assignment quickly became the best snacks and lunches...

Seattle Workshop 2012

One assigned shoot was to create a picnic scene in the park and Becky worked on a gorgeous picnic basket set up to give students some inspiration.

Seattle Workshop 2012

Marc and Becky...

Seattle Workshop 2012

A trail of photographers' set up at Volunteer Park.

Seattle Workshop 2012

These sandwiches were so tempting...

Seattle Workshop 2012

Another location shoot assignment was held at Poppy restaurant. Chef and owner Jerry Traunfeld graciously led us meander throughout the kitchen and dining room as they were setting up for a busy Saturday night.

Seattle Workshop 2012


Seattle Workshop 2012

Loved the decor and feel of the restaurant. Wide open, with lots of gorgeous light and lots of opportunities for one's photographic eye to be inspired.

Seattle Workshop 2012


Seattle Workshop 2012

What is a trip to Seattle without good coffee?...!

Seattle Workshop 2012

I could eat this dungeness crab, nasturtium, avocado and shiso salad everyday. Simple, refreshing and clean. To the point.

Seattle Workshop 2012


Seattle Workshop 2012

Squash blossom fritters with walnut feta filling and red pepper sauce.

Seattle Workshop 2012


Seattle Workshop 2012

Thalis are one of the specialties at Poppy. The various ones offered by Jerry and his staff are a true work of art for all senses.

Seattle Workshop 2012

In the garden...

Seattle Workshop 2012

A sweet thali for two: ice cream choice, cocoa-nib anise shortbread, nutter-butter squares, pâtes de fruit, pimentón chocolate caramels, sabayon and raspberries.

Seattle Workshop 2012


Seattle Workshop 2012

The last day of the workshop ended by a fabulous dinner. We set out the tables with props used everyday on shoots, plates, glassware, silverware and linens. A little whimsy is always a good thing.

Seattle Workshop 2012


Seattle Workshop 2012

I got busy eating so this is the only picture from the delicious dishes Becky and Marc prepared for us.

Seattle Workshop 2012


Seattle Workshop 2012

Thank you to all the attendees for making this workshop special to us as we were sharing and guiding. Thank you Seattle for always making me right at home whenever I visit!

Nectarine And Pomegranate Tarte

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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Nectarine & Pomegranate Tarte

Back from Seattle after an amazing workshop and visit with dear friends. I love that the city is becoming like a second home away from home where I can visit and enjoy a great support system of friends and fellow photographers. There is always work associated with a trip to Seattle but it downright feels like a vacay-workathon for me. Yes, it's work chilling and sipping wine too you know...!

Nectarines

I have yet to go through all my pics from the workshop and our visit there. So much done and so much left to see! It was Bill's first time in Seattle and he absolutely loved it. The weather was a wonderful reprieve from our scorching hot days. A light breeze and 80F days felt like Spring and absolutely delicious.

We love hanging out with friends who love their city as much as we love ours. It was a treat to spend some time with Jeanne again. She gives the best hugs. Seriously. We were honored to have dinner at Sitka and Spruce with Anita and her husband who flew from San Francisco for the weekend. They never miss an opportunity to visit their old stomping grounds and I was thrilled to finally introduce them to Bill after all these years.

Nectarine & Pomegranate Tarte

Once again... lots of good times, good wines, good sun, good talks and sunshine. I love how each workshop teaches me "more and better" as I like to say. More about myself so I can always work toward being a better person. Every trip, anywhere, I try not to sweat the small stuff and focus on the bigger picture. Sometimes it is just me and my work, others and the moment, sometimes it is our couple.

A constant work on improving. With taking stance and remaining silent. Much like this tart I want to share with you today. Everytime, with time and experience, it turns out a little bit better. A little bit stronger and definitely a keeper. Until the ext one...

Pomegranate

Nectarines in South Carolina right now are as good as the best natural candy you can imagine. Juicy, fragrant. Wonderfully soft and simply at their best. I usually cut up about a pound worth and store it in the fridge so we can have a refreshing treat anytime we get a whiff of that hot humid air.

I got a bigger appetite than the number of days we would be home so I decided to use some of the nectarines I had (over) bought in a tart and take it to my in-laws who were dog(s) sitting for us. As well as watching over the fish. Always seem to forget mentioning Elliot.

Nectarine & Pomegranate Tarte

I made a regular pie crust (not gluten free) but the mix I usually use (my friend Jeanne's) works perfectly well with this. I must tell you soon about this Brazil nut crust I tried on Clare and Becky last week though. I want to tweak it one more time first... Bear with me!

In the meantime, I am leaving you with this super simple, yet delicious Nectarine and Pomegranate Tarte. Yes. I know. Pomegranate are not in season in the US at the moment. See, I love pomegranate so much, that once Winter rolls around, I freeze enough pomegranate seeds to last us through Springs and Summer. We use them all the time in refreshing salads, as sprinkles on desserts and so forth. Here, they were in perfect tandem with the sweet ripe nectarines.

Nectarine & Pomegranate Tarte


Nectarines and Pomegranate Tarte:

Makes one 9 to 10-inch tart:

Ingredients:
For the crust:

2 tablespoons (20gr) slivered almonds
1/2 (60gr) cup powdered sugar, unsifted, divided
1/2 stick (57gr) unsalted butter, at room temperature
pinch of salt
3/4 cup (90gr) all purpose flour or Jeanne's gluten free all-purpose flour mix

For the filling:
4 to 6 just ripe nectarines, peeled, halved, pitted and sliced thin
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon chopped almonds
2 to 3 tablespoons pomegranate seeds (fresh or frozen)

Directions:
Place almonds and 1 tablespoon powdered sugar in a food processor. Pulse until the nuts are finely ground. In bowl of electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter, ground nuts and salt on medium speed until well-combined. Slowly add remaining powdered sugar and flour and mix well. Add a couple of tablespoons of cold water to help the dough come together if necessary. Shape dough into a ball and flatten into a disc. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate for two hours or overnight.
Place the dough in between two sheets of plastic wrap or parchment paper and roll it out to about 1/4-inch thick round.
Place in a 9-inch tart pan, trim the edges. Prick the dough with a fork and refrigerate 30 minutes up to 2 hours. (you can even freeze the dough in the tart pan at this point and let thaw in the fridge overnight when you are ready).

Once the dough is chilled, preheat the oven to 350F and position a rack in the middle shelf.
Layer the nectarines in the shell, overlapping each other until the whole tarte area is covered. Drizzle with the honey and almonds.
Bake for about 35 to 45 minutes until the tarte is golden.
Remove from the heat and right before serving, sprinkle the top with the pomegranate seeds.

Chilled Cucumber Avocado Soup & Cauliflower Prosciutto Flatbread

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Monday, August 06, 2012

Chilled Cucumber & Avocado Soup

Barely home from Washington, D.C that we are repacking and heading out tomorrow (insanely early) morning for Seattle. Yep. It's the Summer of packed crazy but absolutely delicious adventures. And yes also to the fact that I will probably end up using (or abusing) every superlative adjectives I know along the way.

Going to Seattle for work is about as stressful as a week by a blue lagoon. Whether it is for a shoot or in this instance a workshop I am teaching with Clare Barboza and Becky Selengut, I can tell you that the conversations, good meals and bottomless glasses of wine make up for the brain power exhaustion and relative dépaysement. I am ok with being tired, being away and making a little home away from home, mentally and physically. The people, the jobs, the things I learn, the things I pass on. It keeps me energized.

Cauliflower & Prosciutto Flatbread

If asked, I doubt that my fridge and pantry would agree to my definition of a life well balanced. We have kept the minimum of supplies around to avoid any spoilage and waste. Nothing irks me more than wasting food because of ill planning or "voir plus grand que son estomac" (seeing larger than one's appetite). I do leave a few things for the house sitters to nibble on but not enough to warrant big trips to the grocery store.

A miscalculation of the meals we would eat at home this weekend created a surplus of vegetables and a quick scramble to use them in interesting ways while keeping up with the semi plan we have going on. I have no idea how my two cucumbers turned into four from grocery list to grocery cart but I was very glad they did after taking the first couple of sips from the Chilled Cucumber and Avocado Soup they contributed to.

Chilled Cucumber & Avocado Soup

Refreshing, creamy and light, this soup is going to be on heavy rotation as soon as we come back from Seattle. I have a real fondness for chilled cucumber soup. Or rather a fond nostalgia for the dish. When I first moved Charleston, my roomate at the time took me to a (now closed) French inspired bistro on Market street that served one of the best Cucumber Dill Yogurt soup I had ever had. Wait, the only had I had ever had so far!

I tried many times to recreate the soup but there was always something missing. Probably the moment more than the recipe and ingredients. I decided that rather than driving my senses crazy, I'd make a completely different version. One we could equally love and come back to. After a few tries, this is the one we settled on. The base rarely varies but the toppings change depending on what's around. Crumbled feta, sliced beets, radishes, herbs, a drizzle of truffle or avocado oil, lemon zest,... the possibilities are indeed endless.

Chilled Cucumber & Avocado Soup With Cauliflower & Prosciutto Flatbread

I admit, I would have never thought about putting cauliflower on flatbread had it not been for the Winter issue of Donna Hay magazine a couple of months ago. I read over the recipe, bookmarked it in a far corner of my brain, bought cauliflower and prosciutto and went about my business. And completely forgot about it all. Until yesterday that I was making dinner and the common "oops...not enough days, too many recipes to try" moment took place.

I took the elements of the original recipe, minus the cheese, and turned them in a crispy thin flatbread that was the perfect match to grilled shrimp and a big fennel, arugula salad with crunchy leftover cauliflower. Simple, light and one more way to sneak in vegetables into the meal. Made me want to try the cheesy version when we get back in town next week.

Off to (re) pack!

Chilled Cucumber & Avocado Soup


Chilled Cucumber and Avocado Soup:

Makes enough for 4 as a main course

Ingredients:
2 large cucumbers, peeled, seeded, and roughly chopped (about 1 to 1/2 pounds)
1/2 medium avocado, peeled and roughly chopped
1 small sweet onion, roughly chopped
1 cups sour cream
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon each lemon verbena and lemon thyme
salt and pepper to taste

Toppings options: (as many or as little as you desire)
fresh herbs
sliced beets or radishes
feta or goat cheese
shaved parmesan

Directions:
Place all the ingredients for the soup in a blender or food processor and puree until super smooth. I use my Blendtec which makes it extremely smooth in no time. Depending on how silky you want your soup to be, you might have to pass it through a sieve a couple of times.
Refrigerate for about a couple of hours and serve cold.

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Cauliflower & Prosciutto Flatbread:

Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients:
Pizza dough for one 16-inch pizza stone (I use half the recipe of my favorite pizza crust here)
For a gluten free crust, see here
1 to 1 1/2 cups thinly sliced cauliflower
4 oz finely chopped prosciutto
1/4 cup finely grated parmesan
olive oil
1 tablespoon cornmeal
salt and pepper to taste
fresh thyme to garnish

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 400F.
With your hands, stretch your dough to a large circle, about one inch wider than the surface of your stone.
Sprinkle the cornmeal over the surface of the stone (do not worry about heating it up as if making pizza). Place your dough over it and form a border with the extra inch of your dough.
Scatter evenly the cauliflower, prosciutto and parmesan over it. Drizzle a little olive oil, salt and pepper.
Cook for about 20-25 minutes or until the cauliflower is golden brown.
Let cool slightly and eat!

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