Raspberry Sort Of A Syllalub & Catching Up ...
Monday, September 24, 2012
I really wanted to update the blog last week but if I had, it would have sounded vaguely familiar. In a way... It would have started just as it did several times over the summer: "I just got back from here and I am re-packing to fly over there". And I did. Except I drove. I have been on 27 planes since June. I am so not kidding. Driving was a nice change. Except I don't drive long distance. After 20 minutes, my eyelids get heavy and I just want to pull over and take a nap. Impossible this time.
Right after I got back from teaching in New Hampshire, we loaded both our vans with "stuff". A futon, a dresser, a bedside table. A first box of clothes, cookbooks, kitchen cookware, anything and everything to get me started in Birmingham. We had four days to find a house, an apartment, anything we could rent for a year while I start at Oxmoor House in October and he wraps up his contract at CofC until May.
We were on a mission. Some people thought we were crazy. Or seriously and overly optimistic. I just refuse to believe there is never a solution to an issue. And when I say "I refuse" you can trust me that I woke up saying just that when we headed to Birmingham this past Wednesday. Why? Because I came with an added little problem, the one called "I have boxes, where should I put them?"...I am heading back to wrap up a cookbook shoot on Thursday for about 10 days and flying right back to Birmingham to start my new job about 36 hours later. I had to keep the optimism factor way up.
Again. Call me crazy. Or driven. Or severely crazy happy about this next phase of my life. We found the house.(check my Instagram feed for some pics) We love it. It's the right thing for the next few months that I will be in Alabama and Bill still in South Carolina. And it will be ours for a few months before we buy something more suited for a couple with two dogs and things. It's perfect to host dinner with friends and drink some wine on the back deck. It has a peach tree and a pecan tree. A space to grow veggies. I have been Pinteresting decor ideas like crazy.
It's all falling into place. And if I don't stop and think too long, I can actually talk to dear friends without hugging them until they can't breathe or hold them tight until I feel the void burning inside. I am torn. I feel guilty to say how excited I am to friends here and I feel slack not showing how excited I really am to the peeps there. A balancing act once again.
Driving those eight hours to Birmingham was actually one great balancing act in itself. I had to balance reflective moments with dancing in my seat (literally) so I would not get drowsy. I made "Eye Of The Tiger" my "driving to Birmingham" official song. Smile all you want, it worked. That and bopping around on the edge of my seat singing "blablabla" to songs I had never heard before.
I also made a lot of recipes in my head. Without having found a home yet, I was already thinking about my first dinner party in Birmingham. Would I make a special cocktail or stick to wine? Would I make something comforting and Fall inspired or something lighter and weather appropriate? We are still in the South after all. How about dessert? What would I want to bring to my guests as we linger on the back deck at the new house?
I wanted to remember Summer. The summer I felt ran through my fingers faster than a handful of sand. I enjoyed every moment of it but I did not really feel like I captured enough of its essence to last me through Winter. So, right there, in the car, I drew a couple of easy going, easy to make and savor recipes chock full of Summer. Lemon, raspberries, lemon verbena. Something light and refreshing. A raspberry lemon verbena water and a modified raspberry syllalub. Raspberries, a little Port and plenty of lavender whipped cream.
Something that I hope will let Summer know that I am now ready for Fall. Now that I had my little taste of sunshine, complete with friends here on the back deck. And now I am ready for all the adventures ahead...
Chanterelles & Lobster Risotto
Wednesday, September 12, 2012
Traveling so much these past few months has sort of turned into an amusing social study of myself and my fellow travelers. Nothing like getting stuck a airport to reflect, notice, smile or get a few eye rolls going. I have noticed that my patience has no limits going somewhere. As if I were not really in a rush to leave home and slowly making my way to my new destination. On the other hand, that same patience runs thin when I am getting home. I want to be home and I can't wait to be there. The time in between? The time I am working, shooting or teaching? I love it! I get fully immersed into it and don't see it go by.
I just got back from shooting a first set if pictures for Le Cordon Bleu's upcoming cookbook this past Sunday and I am writing this post from the airport. Yep, a short 48 hours home and I am heading to New Hampshire to teach a couple of workshops. After that, I will be heading to Birmingham with a first load of boxes to find a house (leads look good) , then it's back to shoot Le Cordon Bleu for another week. From there, I will fly directly back to Birmingham for my first day at Oxmoor House.
I thrive on busy. I can even thrive on crazy. This is a bit insane. But, we are aware this is only temporary insanity and that a certain discomfort must take place. All these years of working toward a goal...not about to let a little crazy get in the way...! I smile thinking that one of the chefs at Le Cordon Bleu nicknamed me Le Courant D'Air....The Draft. Too bad it does not come with flying superpowers...
I think the trick to it all, beside hard work, is also to be organized. Bill and I took a big calendar and started mapping routes, airplane rides, car rides, days in, days out, hangouts with friends, dinners, dates...everything went in. I started making a separate map. I know that when I get home, he is super happy to have me back in the kitchen humming and cooking something simple and comforting. Something that tells him that I know I am gone often lately and that I appreciate his mending the fort. So, while at airports or on airplanes, I map out meals. The ones I am going to leave for him for while I am gone, and the ones I will make the day I get home.
This risotto came out of a combined desire for the comfort of slow cooked rice and the need to use up the chanterelles I could not resist getting at the farmers market. The lobster? A couple of extra tails from a shoot which were the perfect little something to say you're special. It turned out to be the perfect way for us to reconnect in the midst of the hustle and bustle.
A comforting dish, a glass of wine and a good conversation. My idea of a lovely time.
Chanterelles and Lobster Risotto
Notes: I like to stop adding all the liquid before the end as I like my risotto on the drier side, meaning not as creamy as you would usually see it. I really like the firm bite that it provides by doing so while respecting the cooking method of traditional risotto. If you like it creamy smooth, add all the liquid, if not stop before adding the last cup or so of liquid.
2 medium lobster tails
4 1/2 cups seafood stock
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 pound chanterelles, scrubbed clean and chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
Fill a large stockpot with water, add a good pinch of salt and bring to a boil. Add the lobster tails and boil for 8 to 10 minutes or until their flesh turns white. Remove from the water, drain and let cool for about 15 minutes. With kitchen sheers, cut the shells open lenghthwise and remove the flesh. Cut into 1/2 inch pieces.
In a medium saucepan, bring the seafood stock to a boil and keep to a low simmer.
In the meantime, heat the butter in a large skillet. Add the mushroom and cook until tender, about 5-8 minutes, add the garlic and cook another couple of minutes. Add the white wine and rice and cook until most of the liquid is absorbed. Add about 1/2 cup of stock and cook until the liquid is absorbed again. Keep adding the stock to the rice mixture, 1/2 cup at a time until the rice is cooked but still a little firm to the bite, about 20 minutes. I don't like mine gooey or too creamy so I stop a little before and keep it on the drier side.
Stir in the lobster tails and cook for just a minute. Serve into big bowls and garnish with fresh chopped chives.
Fig & Goat Cheese Tartelettes
Monday, September 03, 2012
Thank you all so much for the well wishes and congratulations. I am really excited about the beautiful work to be done ahead with wonderful food and prop stylists working by my side. Right now, things are a severe blur. I am shooting a cookbook away from home for two weeks, while completing another assignment and looking for a place to live in Birmingham. I have never embraced technology as much as I have in the past month.
It's both fascinating, life saving and a tad exhausting at the same time. However, the pure joy of logging online after a heavy day at work and read that Charleston friends have bought a house while my favorite food stylist has gotten engaged makes me realize that I will always be close to the things that matter. In that regard, I love you Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and more than ever Skype which has been crucial for Bill and I to plan our next everything for the three months ahead.
It makes my head hurts at time. I admit I am looking forward to the dust settling some and unplugging for a weekend. Soon I hope. A craving. A quiet day. No buzz, notifications or replies, follows and so forth. Finding that balance again. A day fit for baking I think. That day will come again when I find myself settled in our new home, wherever it will be, baking and cooking dinner with new friends.
I see a day made for tarts and tagine. The process. The hand feel. The motion. The wait. All punctuated by a chat and a glass of wine. Or a sit down and a cup of tea. It does not really matter at this point. I would be happy either way. As long as I feel the minutes go by ever so slowly.
I am not complaining a bit about the speed of things right now. I am embracing everything. I am also dreaming about the moments ahead. I dream them sweet. Sweet as Fig and Goat Cheese Tartelettes.
Again...thank you all so much for your sweet words about my last post. Your support would give anyone a skip in their step. It did for me. Thank you.
Fig and Goat Cheese Tartelettes.
For the pastry crust:
I used this one from my friend Jeanne at The Art of Gluten Free Baking but I also recommend this one from Holly Herrick if you are not gluten free.
Preheat the oven to 350F and position a rack in the middle. Roll the dough in between sheets of parchment paper if you are using the gluten free one or on a well floured countertop is using the regular one. Cut the dough the fit eight 4-inch tart rings or shells. Fill the shells with dried beans or pie weights and bake until the shells are completely cooked through, about 12 to 15 minutes. Let cool about 20-30 minutes before filling again. You may turn the oven off at this point and turn it back when you are ready to fill the shells.
For the filling:
6 oz goat cheese, at room temperature
2 tablespoon sugar
juice and zest of one small lemon
1 large egg (slightly beaten)
1/2 cup heavy cream
In a medium bowl, whisk together the goat cheese and powdered sugar until smooth. Add the lemon juice, zest, egg and cream and whisk again until fully incorporated. . Divide among the tart shells and bake at 350F for about 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool about 20 minutes.
8 to 10 small figs, quartered, (your choice of variety)
2 to 4 tablespoons honey
When you are ready to serve, place the quartered figs on top of the tarts and drizzle with honey...as much or as little as you like...!