Chili Oil & Blood Orange Grilled Shrimp With Marinated Zucchini Salad.

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Thursday, February 28, 2013


Blood Orange Marinated Shrimp Skewers

Need to start with a great little update first: 
Due to many requests and emails, Clare and I have decided to open two more spots to our Gulf Shores Food Photography & Styling Workshop, April 25th-29th. It sold out fast but we have room and plenty of brain power to accommodate and teach two more people. For more info, click HERE.

Cooking for one can be challenging. Not because recipes are often written for 4 or 6. For me they are a fast realization that I can't share my favorite things with my mate. During the week, I live of big pots of soups filled with lots of root vegetables, plenty of herbs and a bit of protein I cook and add separately. It's nothing glamorous but it's good and it fills the house with familiar flavors. I also make big batches of ratatouille that I simply top with shavings of parmesan and a poached egg. Any leftover anything is greatly highlighted with an egg on top, in my opinion.

Week like this week, could prove challenging to get something nutritious on the table if I were neither a bit organized nor desiring to feed my body right. Let's face it, and you know it, everyday can turn form nice and mellow to high pressured and brain frying. It's always nice to come home to something one can reheat or fix in a flash. While I try to get a big pot of soup on during the weekend so I can have some ready to eat when I get home, sometimes, I find myself in the mood for something else altogether.

Blood Oranges

Composed salad are always my second best choice. Lots of greens, roasted vegetables, flavorful grains and a protein of some sort. Kale, roasted beets, quinoa, wild rice, salmon, soft boiled eggs, grilled steak. Everything makes its way into a salad. Or a soup. Small batches of Pho, oxtail stew, salmon chowder. It's micro cooking all over again. And if you like preparing food, shopping, chopping, dicing, sauteing, mixing, well, you still like cooking for one. Even if it means, a quiet evening, one bowl and some leftovers.
 
Blood Orange & Shrimp Mise

Sometimes, I just get a bit more fancy with my time, especially when I get home a bit earlier than anticipated and take a few minutes to marinate, assemble and grill. And still have leftovers to come home to.

The latest issue of Donna Hay had the most tempting marinated zucchini salad and while inspired by the dish, I did not follow the recipe to a T. I paired it with some simple chili oil (from the roasted okra in this post) and blood orange marinated shrimp that I thread on fresh sugar cane sticks. They add a bit of sweet contrast to the oil in the marinade and pair perfectly well with the mint and pepper of the marinated zucchini salad.


Marinated Zucchini Salad

Dining for one may be a bit of drab at times, unless with meals such as this one when something is good and you don't necessarily want to share...

Seared Lamb Chops With Blood Orange Sauce and Roasted Okra With Chili Oil

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Wednesday, February 20, 2013


Lamb Chops & Blood Orange Sauce Ingredients

So, this long distance relationship I am in with my very own husband is working alright by most standards. It's long, afar, with very short weekends here and there but we have, without even saying it outloud, understood that every minute counts. There is no bickering, no wondering, no hint. Just plain us. I am not saying this situation, him in South Carolina until June and me in Alabama now is easy, fun or a learing experience of the "a couple's journey through discovery and awareness" (seriously. Ugh).


Okra


How we navigate and manage the distance and absence is not only revealing of who we are in our relationship but also of what we have been building in the fifteen years we have been together. I am really proud of who we are as a couple but I am even more grateful for having such a strong partner. Call this my two Valentine's Day paragraph a week later which is appropriate since we don't really partake in the red and pink celebration. Except...
 
Lamb Chops


Except this year. I think the distance made us a little bit softer, a bit mushier than usual when last Thursday came about. He sent roses. I got him a present. We exchanged funny cards and texts worthy of first crushes. And I really wanted to head home and cook him a nice meal. I know. Easy way for Valentine's Day. What can I say? My husband, after all this time together, still thanks me at the end of every meal. For the thought and care. For the food itself. For the nurturing of conversations and laughs around a warm plate. 

It's the little things.


Lamb Chops & Blood Orange Sauce


This past weekend that he came to visit, I decided to splurge a little and come up with a nice meal of Lamb Chops With Blood Orange Sauce, Roasted Okra With Chili Oil and fresh baked bread. It wasn't complicated and we sat down and caught up. We usually eat meat about once a week, the bulk of our diet being seafood and vegetarian meals. I just could not help thinking about my grandmother who used to tell me growing up how she would always regal my grandfather with grilled lamb chops when he'd come home in between two war campaign. I smiled. I headed out to the store and got natural raised lamb chops, bright red and succulent and started cooking.
 

Roasted Okra


A good meal. A glass of wine. Hosting our first get together with new friends and neighbors here in Birmingham. A good weekend. A lazy one too. For once, no moving boxes, no U-Haul to unload, no storage unit to visit. Just cozying up on the couch watching all movies most of the morning. Driving around town and looking at neighborhoods where we might want to live more permanently here in Birmingham.

Just taking a breath and catching up.

Lamb Chops, Blood Orange Sauce & Roasted Okra

Apple Walnut Cakes With Mascarpone Cream

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Tuesday, February 12, 2013


Apple Cake _ Southern Comfort Cookbook


I don't think I could have enjoyed making these Apple Cinnamon And Walnut Cakes more than this weekend. Rainy and grey weather, still getting over a bad cold and terrible news about someone I loved just made me head out to the kitchen and cook, bake, stir and chop. I also went for a long run and ran until my lungs were about to explode. I needed to feel life in me. A tangible happenstance of something as fundamental as taking a breath in and letting a breath out. I had to get into the kitchen, open a cookbook and start a methodological way of going about my day.


Apples


Gather ingredients. Follow directions. Measure and stir. Step one would sway me one way. Step two another. I did not want to think. I did not want to guess. I just wanted comfort. Comfort in making a cake similar to the one my grandmother would make when I was little. Comfort in bringing extra cakes to the neighbors on Sunday morning. It did not even occur to me that my hands had reached for "Southern Comfort" by Allison Vines-Rushing and Slade Rushing. How appropriate. Comfort. In time of sorrow. Southern. Right here in the Deep South.

 
Apple Cake _ Southern Comfort Cookbook

Life has funny ways indeed. And for a few hours, I surrendered. I was too tired from thinking, speculating, wondering, being sad, being mad and feeling like a piece of my life of the past thirteen years had been wrongfully taken from me. When someone screams, I get quiet. When someone gets mad, I smirk. When someone decides to check out, deliberately, I check in. I know no other way to deal with loss and grief. And I bake. Or cook.

 
Sour Apples


If you read food blogs, such as this one, I am pretty much reassured that you do the same thing when blue. So I am hoping that you understand when my dealing with uncomfortable moments, makes me reach for the comfort of a soft cake, filled with aromas of apples and cinnamon, the tender crunch of walnuts and crumbs sticking to your fingers. Comforting scents and textures. Like a warm blanket on a cold and rainy day. These cakes will cure many a broken heart, will stop many a falling tear and will become the kindest balm for your soul.

 Take my word for it. I cooked from "Southern Comfort" all weekend long. Even if you are not a Southerner here in the US, as I can't claim to be, but understand more and more being married to one for the last fifteen years, you can find comfort in taking familiar recipes, childhood recipes, family-hand-me-down recipes and make them yours. I feel deeply comforted and little more Southern. But overall, I just feel better for reconnecting to the only normalcy I know. Being in the kitchen and making food for the people I love. In memory or not.

Apple Cake _ Southern Comfort Cookbook


This post was written with one single person in mind. Here is to you Tim... With all my love and thirteen years of an honest and seamless friendship between a man and a woman who were just trying to make sense of this life we are in. And for the many cakes I made you sample while I was pastry chef-ing at Mistral's back in the days... Miss you Mischief. Your Misconduct.


Two New Favorite Recipes: Butternut Squash & Coconut Soup And Pozole

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Wednesday, February 06, 2013


Butternut Squash & Coconut Soup

When my husband drove into town this past weekend, I don't think he expected to find his wife coughing, well hacking away would be more appropriate, and bent over from the pain felt in every rib and back muscle everytime a coughing fit would come about. It was not a lovely sight. But, I selfishly admit that I was so happy to finally unload onto him all duties and responsibilities for 48 hours.

See, we have been living apart and in different states since October that I moved to Birmingham. Since then, I have been holding the fort here by myself. I have fixed, nailed, caulked, hammered, glued, and pretty much everything else that he used to do when we were both in Charleston. It's telling how much you stretch your strength, both mental and physical when alone. I had lived by myself before. But not by myself after 15 years with "Mr-Handy-Dandy-I-Can-Fix-Anything-Oh-Look-Honey!-I-Just-Built-Us-A-House" - kind of man. Because he did. Built us a house. The house that was now reduced to a U-Haul in my driveway.

Making Soup


This was the first time we really felt like things were moving forward in a "together" kind of way. Until then, I had brought things from Charleston to start making the rental house into more of a home but this was the big push. Our stuff. Fifteen years of living in South Carolina together and six plus years in our house on the creek. There had been a few little "well this is it! We are indeed relocating to Alabama" moments in the last few months but this was more poignant to me than getting my first water bill in my new city.

I am quite grateful that neither of us are materialists folks so the amount of stuff we bring with us easily fits in a small storage unit until we found a more permanent home here. I was happy to see that what we both considered "must pack" items were family things we could not replace; pictures, albums, family heirlooms, etc... And here I was, sick as could be the one weekend I needed to muster up all my energy to unload our belonging into a storage unit for a few months.

Lime and Cilantro


My dear husband ordered me back to the couch for a few hours. He wanted to take care of me and I completely let him do that. And it felt incredibly good just to lay quiet and rest under a couple of blankets. I could not stay still more than an hour though and quietly headed off to the kitchen to make soup. He was weary of the drive. I was craving something clean, flavorful and warm to make my limbs and throat feel better. 

I started gathering ingredients for a makeshift Tom Yum soup. Galangal, kaffir lime leaves, Thai chilies, and went off on a tangent of the most delicious kinds. My original idea for a soup quickly evolved into a Thai inspired butternut squash and coconut soup with a little kick and lots of fragrant and healing ingredients. The end result was a super satisfying bowl of soup that took no longer to make than a cozy nap on the couch...


Pozole


This combined with a good day and a half of rest and I was almost back on my feet. Enough to help him out a little on Sunday and make us another scrumptious meal on Sunday. I chose a completely different flavor palette this time with a Pozole. A pork and hominy stew garnished with fresh avocado, radish and cilantro. Clean and filling. Perfect for a cold weekend night.

Making every moment count now when we see each other is a given. We don't get to see each other every weekend and when we can make the drive either way, the visits are really short. So, things as simple as sitting down to a nice meal and watching a good flick afterwards are what we crave. Then I know the dinner parties, visits with friends, game nights, etc... will resume or be created anew just as they were in Charleston.

It's kind of like dating again. But as much as I like having my boyfriend visit, I am ready to have my husband back so we can really get to live this new town together!

Radishes

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