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Jahresarchive: 2011

Giving Thanks: Mixed Nuts Tartelettes, Winter Greens & Squash Gratin and Tomatoes & Roasted Garlic Tartines.

Mixed Nuts Tartelettes


This close to the American holiday of Thanksgiving, I figured it was high time I shared some of the eats that we will have with friends this coming Thursday. It’s not all that we are preparing but when trying these recipes out for the big day, they really stood out. Tomato And Roasted Garlic Tartines as little bites with cocktails. Winter Greens and Squash Gratin as one of the sides and Mixed Nuts Tartelettes instead of the traditional pecan pie.

Tomato & Roasted Garlic Tartines


These recipes were the kind that made B. proclaim "please-please-please-put-these-on-the-Thanksgiving-menu-or-I-will-pout-and-throw-a-temper-tantrum". No, he didn’t really say that. He gestured it while eating another spoonful. So, while planning the menu with my friend Laura, I penciled these down along with tried and true favorites and this Cider Brined Turkey from Bon Appetit. It’s mildly concerning how excited I am about this one!

Roasted Yellow Cherry Tomatoes


Yes. I am cooking. Yes. I want to. Yes. I am completely thrilled about it. Nothing makes me happier than gathering good friends and family around a good meal, good wine and good conversation. That also has me wildly excited about the day. It’s not about buying into the hype. It’s not about food. It’s about making a meal for people you love. It’s about sharing. Making dishes that honor traditions as well as making new ones.

Roasted Garlic


The fact that this meal is centered around Thanksgiving is just icing on the cake. Like many of you, I give thanks everyday for the good fortune I receive and the lessons I learn, bitter or sweet. I think it’s nice however to have another chance to give thanks it out loud. To others. To yourself. There are never too many opportunities for gratefulness and wishing good upon others.

Tomato & Roasted Garlic Tartines


While not making a big production of it, I am very thankful that my friends, here or far, love cooking and prepping this much. Every year has brought a different group together and a different flair.

Tablescaping...


A while back, we decided to do have Thanksgiving with friends and Christmas with family. It seemed a lot easier on our sanity given B’s family dynamic and the fact that we do have a close knit group of friends we absolutely love hanging with during the holidays. Of course we compare weird family stories! But most importantly, we can keep our shenanigans up and no one will get offended. We can let loose and do exactly what we want. No pressure. I am grateful for that…

Roasting...


I do count my blessings. Everyday. And one of these is to be able to come here and unwind with you guys. What a blessing it is when things go array. Thanks for being part of the stories I write on this blog, the recipes. Thank you for your feedback, your questions and your love of food and photography.

Winter Greens & Squash Gratin


On a separate note, but one for my mama in particular, the newspaper did a full spread feature about my outlook on life, photography, work, etc.. in their Saturday printed issue that they also posted online here. See mom … I am not always noodling around…ahahah!

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Mixed Nuts Tartelettes



Tomatoes And Roasted Garlic Tartines:

Makes enough for 6 to 8 people as an appetizer/nibble

Ingredients:
2 cups cherry tomatoes (gold or red)
1 whole head of garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper
baguette toasts (gluten free or regular slices of bread, toasted to your liking)
oregano or other herb of your liking

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 375F (convection) or 400F (normal). Position a rack in the middle.
Place the cherry tomatoes in a baking pan and drizzle about half a tablespoon of oil over them. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper and toss to coat. Set aside.
Cut the top of the head of garlic, place it in a piece of baking foil. Drizzle the remaining half tablespoon of oil. Close the piece of foil over the garlic head.
Place both the baking pan with the tomatoes and the foil with the garlic in the oven at the same time. Remove the tomatoes after 20 -25 minutes and the garlic after 30-40 minutes (it should be soft). Let cool.
Rub each piece of toast with some roasted garlic, add a couple of tomatoes on top and sprinkle with some more salt and pepper if desired. Add some oregano to taste.

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Winter Greens and Squash Gratin, adapted from Virginia Willis’s Basic To Brilliant Y’all (see the original here)

Ingredients:
2 teaspoons unsalted butter, plus more for the gratin dish
1 butternut squash + 2-3 acorn squash, (about 3 pounds total), cut in half lengthwise and seeded
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 large bunch of Swiss chard, cleaned, stems removed and chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 /2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 tablespoon freshly chopped thyme
1 cup milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons regular or gluten free panko breadcrumbs
2/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 375F (convection) or 400F (normal). Position a rack in the oven.
Place the squash, cut side up on a baking sheet and roast in the oven until soft and slightly golden brown. Let cool.
In the meantime, heat the oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion, garlic and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the chopped Swiss chard and cook until the greens are wilted, another 5 minutes or so. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the nutmeg and thyme and stir well. Remove from the heat and reserve.
Scoop the flash of the different squashes in a medium sized gratin dish. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and pepper. Top with the reserved greens.
Pour the milk and cream over the vegetables and cover with aluminum foil. Bake for 25 minutes.
Meanwhile, stir together the breadcrumbs and cheese in a small bowl. Season with some salt and pepper. Decrease the oven temperature to 350F (convection) or 375F. Remove the foil from the dish and sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the top. Continue baking for another 15 minutes.

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Mixed Nut Tartelettes:

Makes eight 4-inch tartelettes

Ingredients:
For the crust:
1 cup Jeanne’s all purpose gluten free mix
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 stick (115g) unsalted butter, kept very cold
pinch of salt
2-3 tablespoons ice cold water

For the filling:
1/2 cup unsalted pistachios
1/2 cup hazelnuts
1/4 cup waluts
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup raw honey
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 large eggs

Directions:
Prepare the pastry. In the bowl of a food processor, (or follow the same instructions if doing by hand), pulse together the flour and the cocoa powder until incorporated. Add the butter and pulse until the butter resembles small peas and is evenly incorporated. Add the salt and pulse on more time. Gradually, stream in the cold water until the flour just comes together. Turn the mixture out onto your work surface and form into a 2-inch thick, round disk. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 30 minutes (or overnight) before rolling out.

Flour your working surface with tapioca flour (if gluten free) or regular flour and start rolling out the dough to about 1/4-inch thick adding more flour as you feel the dough starts to stick. You can also roll it out in between two sheets of plastic wrap of parchment paper, especially with working with the gluten free version. Cut eight 5-inch rounds of dough and place them inside eight 3 to 4-inch tartlet pans. Place a small piece of parchment paper inside each of them, fill with dried beans and refrigerate for another 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350F (both convection and not) and position a rack in the middle.
Place the tart shells on a baking sheet and bake the tartlets for about 15 minutes (with the dried beans inside). Remove from the oven, let cool for 5 to 10 minutes and remove the beans and parchment paper.

In the meantime, prepare the filling:
Place all the nuts on a baking sheet and toast until golden for about 10-12 minutes.
Remove from the oven and let cool. Remove the skin from the hazelnuts (see my tip at the end of the recipe). Coarsely chop all the nuts. Reserve.
Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium-high heat until brown bits form on bottom of pan, about 5 to 8 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.
Stir together the honey, salt, and vanilla in a medium bowl. Whisk in the eggs, then the brown butter. Fold in the nuts with a spatula or wooden spoon. Divide the filling among the tartlet shells. Bake tartelettes until filling is set around edges and jiggles slightly in the middle, about 30 minutes. Cover with foil over tart if the crust gets too dark. Remove from the oven and let cool.

Tip to skin the hazelnuts:
Place the nuts in a mesh bag like the one you purchase citrus in (lemons, grapefruit) or onion. Over the sink, rub the nuts together in the bag until all the skins have fallen through the holes in the mesh bag. Easy peasy…

Pecan Brown Butter Cakes & A Roasted Vegetable Salad

Hazelnut cakes


Let me start this post by giving you some heads up, sort of housekeeping news if you will. The workshop that Clare and I are holding in May 2012 is indeed sold out. There is a waitlist so feel free to send us an email to get on it if you wish. You never know…We are also planning more workshops like this in the future so stay tuned!

The good news is that if you live in Charleston and surrounding areas, I will be holding a One Day Food Photography Workshop at Heirloom Book Company downtown on December 10th from 10am til 5pm. Click here for all the details and to register. Photography, food, styling, book, fun space, and great natural light!

Pecans


One of the things I love about Charleston and the area where we live, is waking up to a thick layer of fog over the ocean. It gives me the impression that Winter is settling in. I know better. It means today will actually be warmer than the last. That’s ok. I’m not paying attention to those little details anymore. There is Fall and Winter happening in my kitchen, regardless of my shorts and flip flop attire.

Every morning that I take the pups out in the backyard, I bring a little basket and gather the pecans that keep falling during the night. We fought the squirrels long and hard this year but it looks like we won the battle. Well, we did not lose it too bad, I should say. They left us plenty for a few pecan pies, some pecan sandies and the Pecan Brown Butter Cakes pictured here.

Pecan Brown Butter Cakes


Fresh from the oven. Toasted the next day. A dab of Nutella. A smidge of lemon curd. With a cup of tea or coffee. We surely did not get enough… That would be partly because of a little incident involving a phone call, a step outside the studio, a puppy and a tray of cakes left at snout level. I can’t blame Bailey for not resisting. I almost inhaled three of them as they were cooling down.

If it is any testament to how good they are, I made two more batches in the last couple of days. And placed them far away from any possible puppy incident. On the same vibe the roasted vegetable I made for lunch the other day almost ended up consumed by my better half alone…

Savoy Lettuce


This salad is a riff on the salad that Clare a made many times when I was there last month for work. It is so easy, wonderfully seasonal and super comforting. Yes, comfort. In a salad. With lots of fresh ingredients. That’s my idea of comfort right now. Sometimes it’s a cup of rich chocolate mousse, a serving of spaghetti carbonara, a bowl of cheese rich onion soup. It depends on what is truly affecting me at the time.

I have loved these months traveling and staying with friends and bloggers rather than hotels. It gave me the chance to see them in their environment and learn from them. I was never as happy as when they wanted to share their cooking with me and let me in their world, their family traditions, their everyday. I’d rather chill at home with someone sharing their cooking and their story than go out to eat (unless the restaurant does feel like home).

Beets


I admit that I get the most satisfaction out of roasting vegetables for soups, salads or simply turning them into easy-do easy-come side dishes. Nothing could be easier than this salad. Roasted golden beets and fennel, a sprinkle of blue cheese, pumpkin seeds and some edamame on top of a bed of greens and Savoy lettuce. I ended up doing a shallot vinaigrette similar to the one Clare made when I was visiting. I sat down and felt a huge sentiment of peace and gratitude.

We call it Clare’s Salad at the house now. Just like we have Tami’s Lima Bean Bisque or Heidi’s Winter Pasta. Or Elise’s Braised Short Ribs.

Roasted Veggie Salad


Cooking with friends. Even if only in spirits. And to paraphrase someone we know… "it’s a good thing"….

Pecan Brown Butter Cakes:

Makes 12

Ingredients:
1 cup shelled pecans
4 oz butter (1 stick)
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
zest one lemon
2 cups Jeanne’s gluten free all purpose flour mix (or regular flour)
2 teaspoons baking powder

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350F. Position a tray in the middle. Grease bottom of 12 muffin tins and line with wrappers. Set aside.
Place the pecans on a single baking sheet and toast for about 15 minutes. Let cool. Grind finely in a food processor. Reserve.
In a medium saucepan set over medium high heat, melt and cook the butter until it turns golden brown and has a nutty scent. Takes about 8-10 minutes. Set aside to cool. (I usually don’t strain mine since we like the little dark particles that form when it browns but feel free to do so)
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, sugar and eggs until pale (takes about 2 minutes). Add the cooled brown butter and lemon zest and mix until well blended. Add the ground pecans, then the flour mix and baking powder and whisk about 50 strokes until the batter is smooth.
Pour it into the prepared tins and bake for about 20 to 30 minutes until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.

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Roasted Vegetable Salad:

Serves 2 as main dish

2 medium golden beets, washed, peeled and quartered
1 small fennel bulb, washed and quartered
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper
salad greens
2 oz blue cheese
handful of pumpkin seeds
handful of edamame
Shallot vinaigrette (see here for recipe)

Preheat the oven to 375F. Position a rack in the middle.
In a medium bowl, toss together the beets and fennel bulb quarters, add the olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. Place in a 9×13-inch baking dish and roast for about 20-30 minutes or until tender and a little charred/caramelized.

Place a handful of salad greens at the bottom of two plates or bowl, top with the roasted vegetables, add about 1 oz of blue cheese to each plate and top with some pumpkin seeds and edamame. Drizzle with the shallot vinaigrette and serve

A Three Day – Food Photography Workshop…In Charleston, South Carolina!

THE WORKSHOP IS OFFICIALLY SOLD OUT. WE ARE NOT ADDING MORE SPOTS BUT THERE IS A WAITING LIST AVAILABLE.

When I was in Seattle last month, Clare Barboza and I started comparing notes about the workshops and classes we were doing. Nothing strange there. We have become close friends over the last few months and have worked together on a couple of projects well enough to know our outlook, philosophy and ethics about photography and work just gel. It’s very comforting to find like-minded spirit you want to work with repeatedly, support and cheer along.

Anyway, in one big breath I said "Hey! I have an idea! We should create a workshop together. In Charleston!"… and within five minutes we had the dates penciled down and were online finding the perfect location. We wanted to make it a thorough learning experience where people would learn from both of us since we have similar views and complete different approaches at times. But also a retreat, by the ocean, with plenty of photography field trips in gorgeous Charleston.

And so…here it is!

Food Photography Workshop in Charleston, South Carolina!


Join food photographers, Clare Barboza and Helene Dujardin for a 3-day/4-night photography retreat in beautiful Charleston, South Carolina.

Imagine spending 3 days and 4 nights in a gorgeous house located across the street from the beach in The Isle of Palms, enjoying great food and wine, learning all about food photography and styling from Clare and Helene, and taking lots and lots of photos. Over the course of the workshop, you will learn about exposure, utilizing natural light, composition, choosing props, styling, and how to tell a story through photographs.

When: Thursday, May 3 through Monday, May 7, 2012

Fee: $1250 (includes accommodations for 4 nights, all meals, transportation to/from Charleston International airport and on all field trips, and 3 days workshop instruction from Clare and Helene. Please note that bedrooms are shared. See house plans here. )

To register: Click Here.

Workshop Schedule (subject to change):

Thursday, May 3rd:

Meet and greet at 5pm with cocktails and nibbles.

Attendees will be treated to a homemade dinner prepared by Clare and Helene (contribution of their better halves at the grill not excluded!). Please list any food allergies or restrictions at time of registration.

Enjoy the evening walking on the beach, checking out the music scene a block down from the house or get a good night of sleep in preparation of the coming days.

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Friday, May 4th:

Enjoy breakfast on the back deck before gathering with Clare and Helene for your first session of the day!

Session #1, The Nitty Gritty of Food Photography (basic camera function, exposure, light, depth of field)

Photo shoot

Lunch prepared by your hosts

Session #2, The Nitty Gritty of Composition and Food Styling (learn simple yet essential art guidelines, camera angles, etc.)

Photo shoot

Session #3, How to tell a story with images ( in preparation for field trip the next day)

Dinner at the beach house, served family style

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Saturday, May 5th:

A field trip to the Charleston farmers market, (bright and early!)

Photo shoot- photographing seasonal bounty and market finds, as well as cooking, styling, composing, shooting breakfast/ brunch.

Brunch

Session #4, Shooting on location

Dinner at award winning Lana Restaurant in downtown Charleston, prepared by the handsome and talented Executive Chef John Ondo (!)

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Sunday, May 6th:

Breakfast

Photo shoot- picnic on the beach (food preparation and styling, working outdoors, telling a story)

Downloading and choosing images

Critique and Review

Farewell dinner bash prepared family style.

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Monday, May 7th:

Breakfast

Clean up and departure

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Sponsors:
If you are a company interested in sponsoring part of the event, please get in touch with either Clare at clare@clarebarboza.com or Helene at helene@helenedujardin.com
Cucina Fresca
Seattle based Cucina Fresca will supply a hungry group of food photographers with the finest of their products from homemade sauce and pasta to gluten free options and delicious recipes!

Sponsor
Based in Charleston, SC, Rio Bertolini’s Fresh Pasta Co. produces fresh cut pasta, ravioli, gnocchi, lasagna, pizza dough, sauces and more with local and seasonal ingredients. Find them at Farmers Markets across South Carolina and Asheville.

Le Creuset
There is no need to introduce this household name…Le Creuset… Based in Charleston, SC, we are excited to say that they will provide us with cookware and giveaway items to satisfy attendees and readers alike.

Sharing My work, My Passion: Los Angeles Photography Workshop…

Apples


As soon as I turned the key in the door, I could not help myself and let a corny "Honey, I’m home!" only to be met by my other two honeys…the pups. Then I remembered, B. had probably gone from his day job to a music job. He would not be home until after 11pm. I had plenty of time to chill, unpack, do laundry, snuggle with the pups and find my place back home after this past week in Los Angeles.

This has been our rhythm since May that Plate To Pixel, the book I wrote on food photography was released (went in second printing in July y’all!). With his schedule of day work and music keeping him busy late into the night at least five days a week, and mine of shoots, on location or at the studio, made it really easy to take the decision to travel as much as I have this past Summer and Fall. Whether for a shoot or for a workshop, I was pretty much following an average pattern of 8 days gone – 10 days home. Up until now…

Culver Hotel - Culver City CA


My schedule so far indicates that most of my shoots will be on locations relatively near or at my studio. So far. I think. Unless an out of town gig comes up, of course.
But right now, the suitcase has been shoved to the back of my closet and everyone is finding their groove again. I am happily taking the time to comb through messages and emails, making plans for friends and family for evenings and weekends.

I am also planning my parents' arrival for Christmas and the leisurely trip they want to take to DC and New York with us. Train. Walks. Restaurants. Museums. Another kind of trip. I can’t wait to be in the kitchen with my mom and cook our favorite comfort foods for the holidays, make care packages and drop them off to friends together.

But before this and the next recipe I have simmering on the stove as we speak, I wanted to leave you with some pictures of this last workshop I held in L.A this past weekend.

Culver Hotel - Culver City CA


I have a soft spot for L.A. I love that city. In all its contradictions. It may be spread out and intense with people and buzz, the lack of skyscrapers is of major appeal to me. I don’t walk the streets looking for the famous pretty face. I listen carefully hoping I’d catch the ghost of Myrna Loy or Jimmy Stewart. I know…L.A is much more than the movies. I discover that everyday. So many great cultures migling at once.

I loved staying at the Culver Hotel this time. It was cozy, within walking distance of great restaurants, full of history and with live Jazz almost every night. Great cocktails too. The lovely room, staff and general atmosphere combined with the chance to catch up with friends such as Carrie, Jenny, Cathy, Andrew and Matty (not all at once) over cocktails or dinner gave the trip a bit of a homey feel I love so much.

Girlfriends...

With Carrie and Jenny.

The great part is that I had this much fun and good feel during the workshop. Those three days teaching were jam packed and went by so fast! It was intense but everyone had a lot of fun at the same time. I loved how everyone in the group tackled each exercise and obstacle with such fierceness and determination!

Hope you enjoy this little recap through pictures…

Studio Chair

The workshop was partly at LightSpace Studio in Culver City. Loved the decor there.

Helene - L.A Workshop November 2011

First day demonstrating overhead shooting. Picture courtesy of Liren Baker at Kitchen Confidante. The lovely Micah was my assistant for the weekend.

Lightspace Studio - L.A Workshop November 2011

The kitchen and prep area at the studio on day one.

Liren - Lightspace Studio - L.A Workshop November 2011

Liren practicing some of the lighting techniques discussed in the workshop.

Lightspace Studio - L.A Workshop November 2011

Students at work…focused and intense…

Radishes


The second day of the workshop was held at Hollywood Sierra Kitchens where the attendees could choose before many different kitchen vignettes to create a scene and tell a story with their food and the decor. This location shoot had so many different lighting options, from natural to fluorescent that there was always a decision to be made and a challenge to be met.

Hollywood Sierra Kitchens - L.A Workshop - November 2011

Inside the showroom.

Hollywood Sierra Kitchens - L.A Workshop - November 2011

Sneaking in a few shots myself.

Michelle - L.A Workshop - November 2011

One of the attendees, the lovely Michelle of Luka Looks.

Carole - Liren - L.A Workshop - November 2011

Carole came all the way from Brazil to take the workshop. Here with Liren during a team exercise.

Hollywood Sierra Kitchens - L.A Workshop - November 2011

One of the vignettes at the showroom. Kind of modern Italian.

Helene - Lightspace Studio - L.A Workshop November 2011

Shooting with a medium format Phase One camera…Picture taken via phone by Micah.

We wanted to add different voices to the workshop and different points of view or just have attendees the possibility to think about "the next step" if they wanted. The lovely Marie-Anne Aizac, photographers agent for Velvet Artists and Mara Serdans, agency art buyer from Deutsch, came to talk about what agent and art buyers were looking for in photographers, gave them pointers on how to put their best foot forward. I loved how the discussion was clearly two ways orientated where attendees were able to share as much of their passion and interest as Marie-Anne and Mara. It was wonderful!

In the last part of the afternoon, John Moeller of Digital Fusion, came to talk about his company’s work as digital technicians on photo shoots. He came with a Phase One medium format camera. I think the 80 megapixels of horsepower of that baby made everyone super nervous. Having handled a few Hassies back in the day, I jumped in and started shooting. Soon enough, everyone was excited to try shooting with this tremendous camera.

Carol - Lightspace Studio - L.A Workshop November 2011

Carole jumps right in and tries the medium format camera too.

Digital Fusion - Lightspace Studio - L.A Workshop November 2011

John also demonstrated their super efficient storage system, DF Studio, similar to a cloud system but much more oriented toward a client-photographer smooth relationship.

Mary - Lightspace Studio - L.A Workshop November 2011

Mary planning her move with the medium format. No intimidation there! I love it!

Shrimp & Arugula Salad


Now that I am back and staying put for a little while, I can’t wait to fill up the fridge with greens and seasonal produce and make plenty of healthy meals. Stay tuned for this salad recipe soon and plenty more!

Comforting Flavors: Coconut Soup With Red Kuri Squash and Shrimp and Lady Apple Cardamom Cake.

Coconut Soup With Red Kuri Squash & Shrimp


I have a tendency to always be cold. At least chilly. I like sweaters. I like scarves. Gloves. Hats. I like cold weather. I live in South Carolina where cold weather is…well…not that cold. It comes and goes. Three days of cold, two days of warm. Christmas in shorts. Valentine’s Day by the fireplace. I think I’ve finally gotten used to it. Almost…

We were pretty happy when the temperatures dropped a few degrees this past week. Even without the magnificent Fall colors of up North, there is a certain anticipation of a seasonal change around here. The dogs were waiting for that delicious moment when they’d be able to just lie on the back deck and enjoy a little reprieve. That wonderful crispy Fall weather. No humidity. No mosquitoes.

Lady Apples


As soon as Fall rolls around, my mind turns to comfort foods. Well, foods that are comforting to me. We all have distinct food associations, flavors, scents that resonate "comfort". Mine are without a doubt apple cake, apricot and frangipane anything, soups of many kinds, roasted vegetables, winter gourds. Right now, I can’t stop baking with Lady apples (so tiny!) and squash of all kinds.

Soups and cakes are a staple at our house. All year long. Undeniably influenced by seasonal produce but staples nonetheless. A local tomato soup in the summer is replaced by roasted squash one in the Fall. Winter welcomes piping hot bowls of French onion soup.

Lady Apple Cardamom Cake


Along with cakes, Bill has a love affair with coconut soup. I must admit, I do too. After many Thai inspired versions that we have done over the years, I wanted to change it up a bit this time. Red kuri squash and local shrimp cooked until fork tender in a lemongrass, ginger and lime coconut base. We went back for seconds. We wished we had enough for thirds. Incredibly satisfying.

Cakes are quiet and discreet in our kitchen in the Spring and Summer. The above 100F temperatures are not conducive to a lot of baking but as soon as I can turn the oven on without feeling we’re operating a furnace, I turn to one of our family favorite, apple cake. It’s nothing fancy. It’s actually pretty darn rustic if you ask me. One of the may reasons I love it. It also reminds me of my grandmother. A woman I miss everyday.

Lady Apple Cardamom Cake


She wasn’t always easy. Often stubborn. But when she loved, she loved 100%. She loved being surrounded with friends and family. My Sunday Supper tradition is a direct extension of her. Tea time was 4 o’clock around a plate of cookies and a slice of cake. Came one. Came six. It did not matter. The door was always open. Sunday lunches with a full table after church often lingered into impromptu dinners around an omelette, a bowl of soup and a piece of cake.

Grandma, Mamie Paulette even smelled of apples. And vanilla.

Lady Apple Cardamom Cake


Everytime I make her apple compote with a touch of sugar, lemon and vanilla bean, I can feel her around me. I wish we had had a few more years together so she could have come here and see us. Happy. That’s all she wanted. To have everyone happy. Making an apple cake puts me at peace. It’s comforting to have that little bit of her whenever I want. I am grateful she was not shy of passing her recipe on to me so I can pass it on to you.

On this note, I might be scarce this coming week, both in emails and to answer comments as I am heading for L.A on Wednesday. I will be there to teach an awesome 3-day workshop. I am so excited! There are still a couple of spots available! So if you ever hesitated to learn from a photographer, food stylist, digital tech, art buyer, etc… we are all here to answer your question and work hands on to help.

Autumn Squash Cooking


Details? Here we go! The amount of info we’ll pass on is pretty huge! We’ll be at Light Space Studio for 2 days and at Hollywood Sierra Kitchen another day. Yes…you can pick an choose the kitchen you want to shoot in!

I can’t wait to meet the people I will have the chance to guide and help for three full days and I am also giddy to meet up with friends I rarely see because of geography and life in general. I’ll try to post snapshots…

One thing for sure… I am definitely packing a couple of slices of apple cake in my carry-on! Have a great week everyone!

Coconut Soup With Red Kuri Squash & Shrimp



Coconut Soup With Red Kuri Squash and Shrimp:

Makes enough for 4

Ingredients:
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 small onion, diced
2 stalks of lemongrass
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups red kuri squash, peeled and diced (seeds removed)
4 cups seafood stock (or veggie or water)
1 can coconut milk (14 oz)
juice and zest of one lime
2 sprigs of thyme
1 pound medium shrimp (peeled and deveined)
cilantro to serve

Directions:
In a large stock pot, heat the sesame oil over medium heat, add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally until translucent, about 2-3 minutes. In the meantime, cut the stalks of lemongrass in half and pound them with the back of your knife a couple of times. The goal is to release the lemongrass essence to flavor the broth. Add those to the onion, along with the ginger and garlic and cook another 2 minutes or so. Add the Kuri squash and cook another 2 minutes. Add the stock, coconut milk, lime juice and zest, and the thyme. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to simmer and cook covered for about 15 minutes. When the squash is fork tender but not mushy, turn the heat back up to medium high. Add the shrimp and cook until they are just cooked through (5 to 8 minutes depending on size) (over and they will feel like rubber). Remove from the heat, remove the thyme and lemongrass stalks and let cool about 5 minutes before plating. Serve with cilantro if desired.

Apple Cardamom Cake:

Makes one 9-inch cake

Ingredients:
10 Lady apples (or 2 to 3 regular sized apples)
1 cup yogurt
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup olive oil
zest and juice of one lemon
2 cups Jeanne’s gluten free all purpose flour mix (or regular flour)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350F. Position a tray in the middle. Grease one 9-inch baking pan and line the bottom with parchment paper. Place the pan on a baking sheet. Set aside.
Peel, core and slice the apples very thin (a mandoline works great) and place them in a large bowl filled with water and lemon juice to prevent oxidation.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the yogurt, sugar and eggs until pale (takes about 2 minutes). Add the oil and lemon juice and mix until well blended. Add the flour mix, baking powder, cardamom and cinnamon and whisk about 50 strokes until the batter is smooth.
Pour it into the prepared baking pan and position the apple slices (drained slightly) on top.
Bake for about 30-40 minutes until a knife inserted in the middle comes free of raw batter.

Smoked Salmon, Fennel, Grape, Blue Cheese and Pecan Salad

Salmon, Fennel and Grape Salad


Been away from home for the past ten days and although I have had a wonderful time getting work done, seeing friends and meeting new people, I am always very much itching to get back home to my family. Both workshops in Kansas City went very well and this past week spent in Seattle for a shoot was just dreamy.

There is nothing more rewarding than knowing that you helped someone get more comfortable telling a story around food with their camera, light or that you contributed to making pretty images for someone’s cookbook. Photography is always the sum of many things that are equally important to me. Practice, creativity, partnerships and opening one’s mind to the unknown. The possibilities. I love seeing people let loose of their fear they can’t this or that.

Cheese Board


Flying to Seattle was like a mini vacation. A grueling mini vacation of sixteen hour days but a time off nonetheless. One of the things that I love about Seattle is how comfortable it is to me. Great friends such as Clare and Jeanne do that. Those two have a knack for creating a homey environment everytime I come visit. Good food, great conversations and a serious amount of wine every night do keep me going for hours…

When traveling, even if I stay with friends, I make sure to eat good nutritious food as a send off and as a re-entry. Friends feed me. Restaurants too. I even bring food on location shoots. It’s me. I have a bad habit to go for a cup of strong coffee in the morning and pretty much nothing until 4pm rolls around. By then, my stomach sounds like a little green alien is forming battalion.

Champagne Grapes


I am a big fan of salads and soups as means to set my internal clock right. They are food for the bones, body and soul. Just with like a photo you create, a simple bowl of salad you assemble can take on a gorgeous palette and tell the story of what your body is craving. Even in a hurry. Colors, textures, flavor combinations. It’s very much like assembling a picture to me. I always think of what I do as I put meals together the same way I do when I compose a shot.

The act of seating down and re-visiting my dish, now complete is very much like seeing the picture as I edit it. Sometimes, there is a bit too much salt, too many colors, flavors or the vinaigrette is off. Sometimes I like the salad so much, I want to keep it my immediate memory bank. Sometimes, I cringe when a shot I thought would work ends up being not seasoned the right way, so to speak. Sometimes I know I’ll revisit that set up many months later in a slightly different way because it worked great the first time.

Autumn In Seattle


Thing is, I do that photography-story telling bit with almost every food. Salads or not. Good thing I do this for a living, eh?! It’d be easy to get in a rut unless you shop for seasonal ingredients. Again, same goes with every foods.

Right before I left, you could tell a real transition up in the air and at the market. It was a bit touch and go but the arugula was still doing well. Grapes of all sorts were having a good times. White and purple scuppernongs, Champagne, big fat juicy seedless reds. The fennels had fronds longer than my arms. It was all starting to shape up in my head.

The couple of days before I left for my trip West, I loaded up on a salad comprised of arugula, raw fennel, grapes, blue cheese, smoked Coho salmon, pecans from our tree and a white balsamic vinaigrette. Easy. Nutritious. Good for the soul too.

Salmon, Fennel and Grape Salad


This week that Fall produce is slowly making an appearance, my salad making days might change. And I am looking forward to them.

Smoked Salmon, Fennel, Grape, Blue Cheese and Pecan Salad:

For 2:

In a large mixing bowl, mix the following ingredients:
– 4 oz smoked salmon (we like the thick slabs of Coho salmon)
– 1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
– small handful of grapes, halved
– as much crumbled blue cheese as you would like or think reasonable (we do about one 2-inch piece per person)
– 1 to 2 tablespoons of chopped pecans (or other nuts)
– 1 to 2 big handfuls of arugula
– as much or as little vinaigrette as desired

Dressing:
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 shallot, peeled and minced
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/8 teaspoon cracked pepper
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil

In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the Dijon mustard and shallot. Add the salt and pepper then the sherry. Drizzle in the olive oil and whisk until emulsified. Drizzle on top of the salad.

Acorn Squash & Sweet Potato Soup And "Basic To Brilliant Y’all" by Virginia Willis

Acorn Squash & Sweet Potato Soup


If I had to pick my two most favorite months of the year in Charleston it would be October and February. The humidity finally drops some in October, giving us the ability to enjoy being out without suffocating. I sneak in any moment I can feeling the tall grass under my feet. I also spend more time than usual at the dock watching the porpoises huddle and play now that less boats are out now that summer is over.

February is just magical here. The light is crisp and electric. The cold finally reaches us for a few days and we gather friends around the fireplace. I love the cold nippy winds that we get for a few days. A barely there couple of weeks of wintry weather.

Heirloom Book Company - Charleston


Lately, while the temperatures are still hot enough to have us in short sleeves and flip flops, the numerous rain showers and stronger winds put me in a definite Fall-ish mood. One that calls for hot soups and warm apple crisps.

This Acorn Squash and Sweet Potato Soup is one of those I want to have on repeat this Fall and Winter. It’s been decided by both Bill and myself after the first couple of spoons. Not only was it tasty, it was also the kind that does not need much else but a nice piece of country bread smeared with a dab of butter and sprinkle of grey salt.

Acorn Squash & Sweet Potato Soup


Aside from the addition of acorn squash, the base of sweet potato soup is directly from Virginia Willis' latest cookbook "Basic to Brilliant Y’all – 150 Refined Southern Recipes and Ways to Dress Them Up for Company". A book she came to share in Charleston last week and which release was celebrated (among other events) in a Sunday Dinner style dinner at Heirloom Book Company. The setting was perfect, a cookbook store with wall to wall vintage and current editions.

Heirloom Book Company - Charleston


The table setting was fun and the company engaging. In our proper form, Bill and I made fast friends with the couple next to us, visiting Charleston on their anniversary. They had just stepped into the bookstore a few hours prior to the event, completely on a whim and purchased a couple of tickets for that dinner. They did not know the book or Virginia but they "got" the spontaneity that defines Charleston.

Virginia Willis


Why celebrating Virginia in person in Charleston? Because the book was photographed here. In my studio to be exact and also on our dock where we had Virginia hold a very fiesty crab at sunset. The crew gathered in my home for 10 days and we got to work on some pretty delicious recipes. Curried Chicken Wings with Peach Dipping Sauce. Endive and Roquefort Slaw. Louisiana Duck Gumbo. Meringue Pillows with Strawberries and Cream.

Heirloom Book Company - Charleston


Sunday’s dinner showcased some of my favorites such as the Roasted Tomato Soup and the Chocolate Monkey Bread and new ones like the Garlic and Sausage Stuffed Pork Loin. Most importantly, it gave me a chance to congratulate Virginia on her hard work and dedication to develop and write recipes so that people like me, get the chance to convey emotions and visions one level deeper.

Acorn Squash & Sweet Potato Soup


I have been blessed to work with pretty special cookbook authors and their publishers these last few years and each time. This project where a whole team came together, fierce with dedication and love and pride of their work, made me grow as an artist and as a person. I walked away with a greater love of my profession as photographer. A greater dedication also. And let’s face it, hundreds of new favorite recipes…!

Heirloom Book Company - Charleston


Virginia’s recipes are no different. They completely speak to me. Virginia has the perfect ability to balance her formal French training as a chef with her Southern roots. A little irreverence against ennui thrown in for good measure and you have the perfect blend: a cookbook compiling easy and intermediate recipes, interesting and fun and with a Brilliant twist that is worth exploring each time.

Take her Sweet Potato Soup for example. The basic recipe is pretty darn tasty as it is if you ask me. A blend of sweet potatoes, Vidalia onions, thyme and curry. The "brilliant" possibility? A dollop of rum spiked whipped cream. Yep. And that my friends, is indeed brilliant. It absolutely makes you smile… I did vary mine a bit by adding acorn squash and sprinkling a bit of thyme and cracked black pepper on ours too. Recipes are canvas for you to enjoy your time in the kitchen and Virginia’s are perfect for that.

Heirloom Book Company - Charleston


When I was growing up, each meal would start with a bowl of soup. Nothing fancy. My mom would make the tastiest soups from the simplest vegetable combinations. Zucchini, onion, pumpkin, carrots, turnips. The quantity for each varied every single time which made the soup slightly different every time also. She learned that from her mother. She passed it on to me.

I carried that tradition a little further by making soups that my grandmother would surely dubbed as "fancy" if she were still alive. I never grew up with single ingredient soups beside Soupe a l’Oignon. Always a mix. Even our family trademark, Soupe Au Pistou is a medley of Provencal fragrances.

Heirloom Book Company - Charleston


Nowadays, I am usually drawn to soups where one ingredients really shines. Mushroom soup, roasted tomato soup, pumpkin soup, smoked corn soup, this crazy good lima bean bisque from my pal Tami. The multi ingredient ones I now stir are some we never made when I was a kid, such as Pho, Tom Yum, Avgolemono.

And this fragrant and silky Acorn Squash & Sweet Potato Soup. I could not let go of my DNA apparently and had to throw in another ingredient! Acutally, I picked up gorgeous mini acorn squash at the farmers market as well as a myriad of other vegetable and I have to cook the majority before my upcoming trips to Kansas City and Seattle this week.

This soup is good company. A warm bowl of soul and a whole lot of comfort.

Acorn Squash & Sweet Potato Soup



Acorn Squash & Sweet Potato Soup, adapted from Virginia Willis' Sweet Potato Soup in "Basic To Brilliant Ya’ll"

Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients:
2 mini acorn squash, peeled and cubes (about 3 cups)1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon + 1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
1 sweet onion, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon curry powder
3 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
9 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1/4 cup maple syrup
3 sprigs of fresh thyme
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 375F.
Cut the acorn squash in halves. Place them in a baking dish, drizzle with one teaspoon olive oil and roast for about 20-30 minutes. Let cool. Peel the skin off and reserve the flesh.
Heat the remaining tablespoon oil in a large heavy soup pot set over medium high heat. Add the onion and curry powder and cook until the onion is almost translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the sweet potatoes, stock, maple syrup, thyme and nutmeg and the flesh from the acorn squash.
Bring the soup to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, until the potatoes are tender, about 30 minutes. Remove the thyme sprigs. Let the soup cool a little.
Puree the soup until smooth with an immersion blender or a blender/food processor.
Reheat the soup before serving and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper if necessary.

To garnish:
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons dark rum
1/4 teaspoon lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon freshly chopped thyme
freshly ground pepper

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the heavy cream to soft peaks. Add the rum and lemon zest and continue whipping until firm. Use a dollop on top of the soup and sprinkle with fresh thyme and chopped thyme.

Lemon Salt Lemon Cupcakes And Portland Trip Part 3

Lemon Salt Lemon Cupcakes


Finally edited the last part of my trip to Portland a few weeks ago. I get lost in my memories of Portland every time I look at this last set. The day was jam packed with fun adventures…it kept my camera busy and happy.

I ended my trip on the same note it started, taking Sunday as an extra day to chill before getting back to work. A day spent with friends, visiting more of Portland, free of schedule. More time to spend with Tami, Nicole and Andrew to go about town. One pit stop at The Meadow salt and chocolate shop inspired the Lemon Salt Lemon Cupcakes pictured above.

Before I start waxing poetic about the shop and the salts, let’s (re)visit that last part of the Full On Oregon trip. Kuddos again to Travel Oregon for the incredible trip. I can’t wait to go back with Bill or my family.

Portland Market


We started bright and early at one of the farmers market. A mix of food vendors, fresh produce and flower stalls as far as the eye can see…Desserts and small bites from the dinner appeared behind a case and I was tempted to get more macarons and brownie bites…

Portland Market


Gorgeous displays of pastries from various bakeries in town as well as what seemed to look like an ever ending sea of flowers strewn about the market.

Portland Market


I must say that seeing one of Portland farmers market made me very proud of our own. Although smaller, we are equally serious about quality and diversity of produce, farmers and artisans.

Portland Market


A display of various kinds of mints and basil as well as other Asian staples. Heirloom tomato season was in full force and they were popping at just about every corner.

Portland Market


Flowers as far as the eye can see…

Portland Market


Bouquets of Brussel sprouts and colorful cauliflowers.

Portland Market


Artichoke flowers…mesmerizing color.

Portland Market


Gorgeous produce everywhere. I am telling you, my finger was glued to my shutter button!

Portland Market


My favorites… Ronde de Nice zucchini are perfect for "Petits Farcis" like my grandma used to make. Recipe here.

Portland Market


Garlic, garlic flowers and more gorgeous flowers…

Portland Market


After a thorough tour of the market, we actually had to stop and shop for the items we would use during the first workshop of the day on preserving and canning. As you can tell, it was not a complicated task to find everything we would need!

Portland - Preserving Workshop Instructor


Jennifer from Sassafras Southern Kitchen led our workshop on canning and preserving. We set up at KitchenCru, a community kitchen and culinary incubator which is about 24/7 so that various business can cook and package their products safely when their schedules allow it.

Portland - Preserving Workshop


We used all the gorgeous heirloom tomatoes we had picked up earlier at the market and set up various station of chopping and canning for the next three hours.

Portland - Preserving Workshop


The final product was Sassafras Southern Kitchen signature tomato relish. A little sweet, a little vinegary and simply delicious. I made it twice since I came back from Portland and we are just slathering it on everything. Will post the recipe soon!

Portland - Salt & Straw Ice Cream


Lunch was served right in the dining area of KitchenCru space and catered by three award winning chefs in Portland. Again, we did not lack great food exquisitely prepared. The meal was topped up in the most delicious way by Salt and Straw Salted Caramel ice cream. This team is young but they are already creating some big buzz around them. Justifiably so.

Portland Charcuterie Workshop


My afternoon session was all about charcuterie. My choice. I know, I could have gone with chocolate or ice cream making but I wanted to do something completely different and challenge my camera eye, my perspective and well….I do love charcuterie. Plain and simple.

Portland Charcuterie Workshop


Our class was led by Paula Markus and Eric Finley of Chop Butchery and Charcuterie. The enthusiasm and care they have for their business was contagious and evident in the quality of their products and the meats they use to keep such standards courtesy of Mt Shadow Natural Meats.

Portland Charcuterie Workshop


We started by making chicken liver bourbon mousse, then moved on to starting pancetta (it needs months to cure) and gathering herbs and seasonings for it.

Portland Charcuterie Workshop


Both Paula and Eric tagged team throughout the afternoon to take us through the various products and processes of their operation. They also had a whole hog brought in and took us through the various cuts and how they’d be used. Learning where you food comes from…

Portland - Dinner at Penner-Ash Wine Cellars


After our session and a quick refresher at the hotel, we boarded a bus, direction the Willamette Valley wine country for the Full On Oregon culmination dinner at Penner-Ash Wine Cellars. The surroundings were gorgeous and we got here right as the sun was setting and the Golden Hour was setting a wonderful cozy glow on everything.

Portland - Dinner at Penner-Ash Wine Cellars


More flowers everywhere and even more surprises at every turn in the garden. More on that later.

Portland - Dinner at Penner-Ash Wine Cellars


The dining room was beautifully set and each table was adorned with more flowers and a tablet of local Xocolatl de David chocolate bar was given to each attendee. I regretted that we did not get a tour of the property or the operation. It would have been nice to hear about their vision and products.

Portland - Dinner at Penner-Ash Wine Cellars


The dinner was executed by local chef Vitaly Paley and his staff and each dish was paired with different wines. Although all exquisite in their own way, dishes and wines, I must say my sensory palette was overwhelmed. So much so that I can’t tell you who was what and where.

Portland - Dinner at Penner-Ash Wine Cellars


One of the surprises waiting for me at the corner of the patio where we were enjoying hors d’oeuvres and wine was the small garden patch brimming with gorgeous fresh produce. Tomatoes galore of course but so much more…

Portland - Dinner at Penner-Ash Wine Cellars


Onions…and more tomatoes….

Portland - Dinner at Penner-Ash Wine Cellars


Swiss chards and blooms.

Portland - Dinner at Penner-Ash Wine Cellars


Lettuces…

Portland - Penner Ash Wine Cellars Dinner


Yes…I know. More tomatoes. But admit these are gorgeous. I just wanted to cut one open, sprinkle it with salt and eat it right there and then.

The Meadow


Speaking of salt…After this official closing dinner party on all the events of the Full On Oregon trip, I had decided to leave Portland on a red eye flight Sunday night. It was leaving me more time to hang out with Tami, Nicole and Andrew. We started with a little bite a food truck in town and met up with Andrew at The Meadow. The famous salt shop…and wow…were we in for a treat!

I picked up a few salt including a really fragrant lemon salt that immediately made me think of a sweet/salty concoction. The vision of lemon cupcakes with lemon salt was already dancing in my head…

We also took some time to walk through the Japanese Gardens before saying our goodbyes, eyes full of wonderful sights and bellies repast with delicious meals. My heart was just making jumps of appreciation and gratefulness for knowing so many nice and genuine folks.

Lemon Salt Lemon Cupcakes



Lemon Salt Lemon Cupcakes:

Notes: I used The Meadow lemon salt to top the cupcakes with and I realize it’s not accessible everywhere. One easy substitute is to rub some lemon extract with coarse sea salt and sprinkle it on the cupcakes. Another option is to just use a very light sprinkle of high quality sea salt on top. The salt and sweet combination is really tasty.

Makes 12

For the cupcakes:

Ingredients:
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1½ cups Jeanne’s gluten free all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup buttermilk
zest and juice of one lemon

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350F and position a rack in the middle.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar until smooth and airy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well in between each addition. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Lower the speed of the mixer and add the flour mixture and milk alternatively to the butter/eggs mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Add the zest and lemon juice ad beat until smooth. Fill cupcake tins about 2/3 full. Bake for 20 minutes until a cake tester inserted near the center comes out free of raw batter. Let cool completely before frosting.

For the buttercream:
3 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup water + 1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
zest of a lemon

Prepare the buttercream:
Place the yolks in a stand mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment.
Bring the sugar, water and lemon juice to 238F (on a candy thermometer) in a medium saucepan set over high heat. Slowly pour the hot syrup over the egg yolks and continue to whisk until cold. Change to the paddle attachment and beat in the butter, one tablespoon at a time. Add the lemon zest and continue to beat for a few seconds until completely smooth.

Assemble:
Pipe the buttercream on the cupcakes and top with a few flakes of lemon salt or coarse sea salt.

Elderflower Cream Tartelettes & Portland Trip Part Two

Ederflower Cream Tarts


Everytime I go through my pictures of Portland to write another post, I start looking online for airfares and rentals so B. and I can make our own memories there, armed with the few penciled down addresses I already love and plan to revisit. Thing is, both our schedules are filling up already until next summer so I don’t think a vacation will happen anytime soon. I’ve been booked shooting non-stop which explains the infrequent postings here. That and catching up with friends and family.

The vibes that Portland exudes are very similar to the ones I live here in Charleston. Although we lack the vista of the mountains, both towns have a humane quality of life that I absolutely love. People are open, people smile. People love to tell you about their town and are never short of recommendation. Instead of pointing to a direction, they will make sure you know your way there with maps and drawings, phone numbers and more spots to see on the way.

Mount Hood


Let’s get on to the second part of that Portland trip, our first real day of activities…one that took us high up, from mountains to rooftops while keeping our eyes full of magical sights and our bellies warm with exquisite meals. A day that inspired these Elderflower Cream Tartelettes.

I had chosen to take part in the foraging and wild foods exploring tour, led by Dr. Kallas and found myself staring at the beauty of Lake Tillium that morning, mesmerized by the beauty of Mount Hood majestically standing before me. Mountain air. One I miss every single day. I am a mountain gal from my area of Provence but never once did I get a crash course on Nature’s edible. Until Portland. It was fascinating.

Foraging With Dr.Kallas


Trust me folks, listen to the advice of experts like this guy before picking edibles in the wild. Read up, do your research, take classes. It takes one little mistake to pick up a deadly from a lovely. That plant is edible. It even tastes like vanilla at certain time of the year.

Foraging


This is a "no-no" as far as edible. Sure looks lovely though…

Foraging Near Mount Hood


I had a difficult time turning my back on the area and hopping into the van. Calming. Refreshing. A balm for the hurried soul. People boating, fishing or simply enjoying a quiet day off by the lake. I know that feeling all too well here in the South. Made the area even more appealing for me. But we all that foraging made our bellies ready for food and wine. Not surprisingly, we were fast obliged.

Phelps Creek Vineyard


After a lovely ride up to Timberline Lodge (the same ride in the opening credits of The Shining – I kid you not), we were treated to a wonderful lunch designed by Chef Jason Stoller Smith with edibles he had foraged himself a few days earlier. Now, that’s what I call a creative culinary treat. Each dish was paired with a different glass of wine from Phelps Creek Vineyard.

Timberline Lodge Lunch


Among those interesting edible concoctions were a foraged salad of Smooth Yellow Violet, Indian Paintbrush, Wild Ginger and Columbine, Hemlock Tea Sorbet, Hood River Peaches With Pineapple Weed Ice Cream and Vanilla Olive Oil Powder. A little molecular gastronomy was thrown in here and there supplying some really nice touches (nitro blast whipped potatoes are smooth as baby’s skin…) without being overwhelming or out of place. Well balanced meal throughout.

Ederflower Cream Tarts


My own foraging led me to the elderflower plant grown by the next door neighbor which inspired these little tarts. With a little Saint Germain (elderflower liqueur) thrown in there for good measure. Hmmm…

Clear Creek Distillery


We did not have a minute to spare noodling about after lunch as next on our agenda was a visit to the McCurdy Farms, Steve McCarthy and his Clear Creek Distillery. Yes, the orchard were pears and apples happen to make it into the bottle.

Clear Creek Distillery


It is a really fascinating sight to see and the love that Steve and his crew have for their craft is clearly reflected in the quality of the pear brandy and other liqueurs they produce. We sampled and sampled and sampled some more under the blazing sun and found refuge walking in the shades of the orchards. Pears on one side, apples on the other.

Clear Creek Distillery


The bottles are set on the fruits while they are barely buds and left until the pears or apples have reached a desirable size. In the meantime, the liqueur is made the old fashioned way, as Steve learned from his experience in Europe.

Clear Creek Distillery


The operation is relatively young, 26 years old, but booming with all sorts of interesting concoctions. Classics like pear or mirabelle plum eaux de vie but also Douglas Fir eau de vie and a vast array of grappas.

Clear Creek Distillery


There is something special about orchards. At least to me.

Clear Creek Distillery


After many a small glass of brandy of different flavors, we had to ride back to Portland downtown. The bus which was bubbling with conversation and excitement that morning was nothing but a murmur of napping food bloggers. The altitude, our full bellies, our well doctored veins (eau de vie is keen to medicine in my family), made for a quiet ride back to the hotel.

Burgers & Brew Rooftop Dinner


A little time to rest and we were back on for dinner. Burgers and brew. Looking over Portland. Gorgeous sunset and the talented chefs of Metrovino and The Guilt Club and their team. Great fun.

Burgers & Brew Rooftop Dinner


We were treated to three different kinds of burgers and buns, lamb, venison, beef as well as many delicious sides and dessert nibbles. Cold glasses of tea from Smith Tea as well as copious glasses of beer from The Prodigal Son Brewery.

Ederflower Cream Tarts


Once back home in Charleston, I found myself foraging my own way and came up with these tartelettes. Nothing fancy or complicated but the perfect transition from Summer into Fall. A light elderflower flavored cream nestled in gluten free tart shells and topped by Champagne grapes, figs and the last of the (good) raspberries around here. They go perfectly with a small glass of pear brandy by the way…!

*Disclosure: I was not asked nor received compensation to write about the trip. I’m doing it because I loved every bit of it. Transportation, meals and drinks when enjoyed as part of the trip itinerary were all taken care for by Travel Oregon.

Elderflower Cream Tartelettes:

Makes 8 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 15 to 20 minutes. Let cool completely before filling.

For the filling:
8 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 cup powdered sugar, sifted
juice and zest of one lemon
1/4 cup Saint Germain (elderflower liqueur) (or can use elderflower syrup)
1/2 cup heavy cream, whipped to soft peaks

In a medium bowl, whisk together the cream cheese and powdered sugar until smooth. Add the lemon juice, zest and Saint Germain and whisk again until fully incorporated. Gently fold in the whipped cream. Divide among the tart shells and refrigerate at least 2 hours or until set.

To finish the tartelettes, top each with your favorite seasonal fruits.

Love traveling for the ability it gives to lose myself in completely different surroundings. Finding the familiar in things around me would be no different than staying home. Pointless.

Portland Part 1 & Honey Walnut Cake With Riesling Sabayon

Honey Walnut Cake & Riesling Sabayon


A couple weeks ago I boarded a plane heading toward Portland, Oregon. I had no idea of what was ahead of me. I had no expectations either. I have learned that beside the ones I put on myself or my work, expectations can ruin an adventure. They make you focus on one thing and make you miss the alternative, the little things, the beauty that lies wherein.

I had nothing on my mind than not to miss my flights because Portland, a city I had never visited awaited. And I was meeting up with Tami in Chicago to catch our connection. Both our schedules had been so incredibly intense that we had to put ourselves on a self imposed "time off – time out – see you later – don’t burn the house down and please feed the pets" to finally give each other a big hug and a good conversation.

We did not sign up for the trip just to hang out with each other but it was definitely one of the perks. Actually neither of us (and neither of the twenty or so other participants on that trip) knew the other was going for a while. It makes me smile that a group of strangers all received the same email one night, not knowing how much they would gain of the trip, discovering a new city, new kindred spirits and themselves in the process.

Pok Pok, Portland Oregon


Yes, I had been asked on a sponsored trip. I am never asked on any of them or swanky organized parties and dinners and frankly, I am ambivalently happy about that because I’m still not sure how I’d feel if offers were frequent. I had never been to Portland. There was an opening in my schedule. Bill was busy every day and night with work and music. I said yes. So glad I did!

For three days, Travel Oregon made sure that we discovered the city of Portland, its food, its people, its landscape and many facets. From canoeing, foraging, fishing, to canning and charcuterie with people and artisans who cared about their craft, their land and wanted to invite us to come visit and leave with the desire to come back. Never were we asked to post, tweet, facebook or promote anything.

Portland, honey, I fell in love with you. You’ve got mountains like back home. You’ve got heat and snow. You’ve got magical hours and colorful places. You did not have to twist my arm, just to let me soak it in to hook me up.

This post will be part of a series of three, all accompanied with a recipe inspired by a dish I had there. There was some good eating and good drinking in Portland. Happy hour seem to start early and lasts all night. The running joke was "it’s been a full 5 minutes since my last cocktail/bite"Portland, you’re pretty special.

The Driftwood, Hotel Deluxe, Portland Oregon


Tami and I flew in a day before to get our feet wet, catch up and catch our breaths before the trip would start with some friends we’ve known for years and some we were meeting for the first time. We had only one "must do" for that evening: Pok Pok and its famed Thai & Vietnamese dishes. For various reasons, I did not take any photos of the dinner. I was focused on conversing with Tami, our bartender was extremely distracting (think Toni Bourdain and Eric Rippert secretly engineered offspring), and I needed both hands to polish off the most succulent fish sauce chicken wings. The numerous cocktails created with the restaurants house made drinking vinegars, did not help with focus either.

Ping Restaurant, Portland Oregon


Dinner was quite an adventure for my palate. Every bit of spicy was balanced by a hint of freshness. Every sweet met its salty. I must recreate one of the desserts we shared that night, the Pok Pok Affogato, when I have more time. Quite possibly the best of the last five years for me.

We rounded up the evening with cocktails at the hotel (Hotel Deluxe) lounge, The Driftwood Room. I am rarely impressed by the lounge within a hotel but this one quickly became a rendez-vous point for most of us on the trip. Crisp and refreshing cocktails with glamourous names and vintage appeal. The Springtime In Paris, the Ginger Rogers or the Rita Moreno kept us going and talking a little while longer each night.

Gruner, Portland Oregon


The next day, the official start of the Travel Oregon weekend was not starting until late in the afternoon so Tami and I grabbed our cameras and walked about town. We stopped in the famous Powell’s bookstore and happily got lost in this mecca of new and vintage books. A short walk down to Porch Light, a lovely prop shop recommended by Lara and we met up with Paula from bell’alimento who had just arrived for the trip also.

Gruner restaurant and its shaded outdoor seating provided a lovely respite for three ladies with varied tastes and preferences. More lovely cocktails and beet pickled deviled eggs to start us off. Salad with smoked trout, apples, blackberry vinaigrette, toasted hazelnuts, a tarte flambee (Flammekueche), zucchini and ricotta dumplings with roasted tomatoes. All were passed around the table and enjoyed without restraint.

Gruner, Portland Oregon


Dessert is what inspired today’s recipes. We clearly would have been happy to sample all of them but we only had room for a few more bites. And what glorious bites! The hazelnut-powdered sugar doughnuts with warm chocolate ganache were surprisingly light as a feather and melt in your mouth dangerous. The star of the meal was however the Honey Walnut Cake with Riesling Sabayon and Blackberries. A perfectly light cake with deep flavors of honey and walnut balanced by the soft and refreshing cream of the sabayon. This one was a sure winner for us three.

After more walking around town and a little get together to meet our trip companions for the next three days, we were whisked off in separate groups to different restaurants for dinner. Three of the activities on the trip were a choice between 4 or 5 options making it a truly tailored experience to our preferences or adventurous spirits. It also made it more manageable to handle small groups and to share our activities with our friends later on in the evening as we were recapping the day.

Ping Restaurant, Portland Oregon


That evening Paula and I found ourselves seating across at the dinner table at Ping, created by the man behind Pok Pok. I know, two Asians restaurants in two days….Given the lack of seriously authentic ones here, I was a darn happy camper again.

Ping Restaurant, Portland Oregon


The menu and cocktail pairing created for a small group was truly amazing. And abundant. Two dishes really stood out for me. The Quail Egg Skewers wrapped in local bacon and drizzled with a spicy mayo were an unusual bite of soft and crunchy, spicy, salty and neutral. The Vietnamese Style Short Ribs marinated in fish sauce, lemongrass, garlic and scallion oil were a perfect balance between balance of execution and presentation and depth of flavors. Strong, salty, refreshing and sweet.

Ping Restaurant, Portland Oregon


Ping Restaurant, Portland Oregon


The rest of the menu food was as rich and interesting as the setting and atmosphere of the restaurant with a theme of street food meets bistro carried out throughout the building.

Ping Restaurant, Portland Oregon


The rest of the evening is a blur. My belly was full and grateful. My senses overwhelmed by this much "different" experienced in one day, one evening. Hard to believe that we all got up hungry and joking about it. Luckily for us, our next meal was just an adventure away…

Dinner Mates


Stay tuned for more about Portland! I hope you enjoy the Honey Walnut Cake, with sabayon or just a spoon of whipped cream. It is even great the next day, toasted for breakfast…

Ping Restaurant, Portland Oregon


Note: the winners of Tart Love: Sassy, Savory and Sweet by Holly Herrick is Jessie in Los Angeles and Kate in Rochester NY. Send over your mailing address at mytartelette [at] gmail [dot] com and I’ll send the book right away.

Honey Walnut Cake & Riesling Sabayon


*Disclosure: I was not asked nor received compensation to write about the trip. Transportation, meals and drinks when enjoyed as part of the trip itinerary were all taken care for by Travel Oregon. I did come in early and left late, staying and eating on my dime at the hotel and restaurants around. And it was all worth it…!

Honey Walnut Cake With Riesling Sabayon:

For the cake: Recipe from David Leite of Leite’s Culinaria
1 1/2 cups walnut pieces
1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for the pan (or 1 cup gluten free flour mix here)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
pinch salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for the pan
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Butter and flour a 9-inch cake pan. Reserve.
Spread the walnuts on a sheet pan and toast in the preheated oven for 4-5 minutes. Allow to cool slightly.
Grind the nuts in a food processor with 1/2 cup of the flour until fine. In a medium bowl, stir together the ground nuts, remaining flour, baking powder, and salt.
In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or with an electric hand mixer, beat the butter with the honey and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
In a small bowl, beat the eggs with the orange zest and vanilla. Add it in three times to the butter mixture. Beat well to incorporate after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the dry ingredients and mix until fully incorporated.
Spread the batter evenly in the prepared cake pan. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Cool the cake in the pan for 5 minutes and then turn out onto a cake rack to cool. Serve with the sabayon.

For the Riesling sabayon:
1/2 cup Riesling wine
4 egg yolks
1/3 cup sugar

Directions:
Place a saucepan filled t 3/4 full with water over low heat. Bring water to a low simmer. Place Riesling, egg yolks and sugar in a stainless steel mixing bowl. Place mixing bowl over pan with water. Whisk vigorously until mixture thickens. Remove from the heat and let cool 10 minutes. Serve with the cake and fresh berries.