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.

Two Favorite Spring Salads: Marinated Tomato Salad With Panko Crusted Haloumi & Tomato Salad With Smoked Paprika Vinaigrette

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Thursday, May 08, 2014


Herbs
It's full on Spring here in the South and I am absolutely smitten with it. Unlike in Charleston where we seem to get barely 10 days of this wonderful season, Alabama is downright gorgeous this time of year. Lush landscapes, fields upon fields of dogwoods and wild flowers. And lots and lots of herbs...
 
Tomatoes
And the produce... As soon as the farmers market started again, there has been a fridge full of gorgeous and tasty tomatoes, herbs, micro greens, salads, radishes, tender peas, wild garlic, chive flowers and more tomatoes. Be prepared for an onslaught of tomato recipes.


Chive Flowers
We simply can't get enough. There has been much cooking and little blogging. Thing is, we have been puppy training... After a few weeks without another pup in the house, another companion to our other dog, we drove to the shelter and rescued a little pup in need of a home. What we were told was a labrador and German shepherd mix turned out to be a German Shepherd and Great Dane mix. Please meet Tiggy. She is now 4 months old and we love her to pieces. And yes, we might need a bigger house! No shoes have been chewed up yet. She's after tags and pretending her water bowl is a kiddie pool (she goes to doggie daycare twice a week and they have one there...which explains it all!). She and Bailey get along famously.
 
Halloumi salad
And she loves going to the market with us, getting lots of petting and meeting up the other dogs in the neighborhood. We've been busy playing, cooking and enjoying this new energy in the house.
 
Chimichurri
The days have progressively getting longer and warmer. Days at work have become fuller and busier with lots of great new shoots and projects. Our evenings of slow cooking, braising have been replace with lots of grilling and tons of cold soups and salads. We are in full "Operation Tomatoes". Lots of tomato salads, grilled tomatoes, gazpachos, etc...
 
Wild Garlic
Here are two of the salads I made recently and are now in rotation on the weekends when we can have more time to share them with friends with a cold glass of Prosecco and lots of puppies running in the back yard.
 
Micro greens
The first one was a chimichurri marinated salad with panko crusted haloumi. Lots and lots of parsley, extra virgin olive oil, chive flowers and robust heirloom tomatoes. The other one a simple salad of fresh tomato with a kicking smoked paprika vinaigrette. Add a bit of grilled protein (shrimp, chicken, red meat) and you have a complete dinner bursting with the flavors of spring.
 
Tomato Salad With Smoked Paprika Vinaigrette


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