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Pear & Nutella Tart

Pear Nutella Tart

I sympathized with everyone going through the blizzard and snowstorm that hit the East coast by making a few baked goods and giants pots of soup. Sure our temperatures dropped a little but nothing like people up North felt it. No snow here. I lived vicariously through friends posting on social media and the news reports. Winter here is touch and go. It was 70F yesterday. I think I wore a coat 4 times so far. I am not complaining. I know that being freezing cold and shoveling mountains of snow feels old really fast.

Nostalgia kicked in though. During the winter months back home, we would drive up to the mountains near Italy where my family has a chalet and spend two good solid weeks skiing to our hearts' content. I miss those days. I love and miss the silence right after a fresh snow fall. The pure air of the mountains and the cozy feel of a warm cup of soup by the fire.

Pear Nutella Tart

It also made me crave Nutella. Our favorite snack after a long day on the slopes. And tart. A good tart with Nutella would be perfect to indulge in my nostalgic moment. If you know me or have read this blog for a while, you know that I have a hard time with chocolate and fruit pairing. I simply do not like chocolate and fruit in anything. Especially berries and fruit. Give me nuts, caramel and chocolate any day and I am a happy girl. But a chocolate cake with raspberry coulis and I will pass. Except when it comes to pears and chocolate. Somewhat I am better than good with that association!

I had leftover puff pastry dough that I had used for Galette des Rois during Epiphany so I decided to use it for this Pear & Nutella tarte. I knew it wouldn’t puff as much being re-used but that was just fine this way. The filling is a basic custard with a good amount of Nutella in it. Choose pears that are on the ripe side rather than firm and just harvested.

Pear Nutella Tart

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Watercress, Pancetta & Goat Cheese Spaghetti

Watercress & Prosciutto Spaghetti

If you are reading the blog on your computer, you might notice that it has a brand new look. Nothing drastic but I wanted this page to reflect more of how I currently saw things in my head. Once again, I got in touch with Ana at Blog Milk to install a new theme for me and she did a wonderful job tweaking it to my specs. I love Blog Milk! Not going to lie. Affordable templates, small installation fee if you don’t want to bother with it and great communication. Ana…thank you for keeping on creating!

Creating. It’s always something I keep in mind even for the most mundane everyday tasks. Like cooking dinner. I am fortunate enough to have a husband who enjoys everything I cook, whatever cuisine, whatever season. My mother in law is a traditional southern cook but she has surprised me more than once in the last month by having seconds of lunch salads and soups I wasn’t sure she’d go for. 

Watercress & Prosciutto Spaghetti

But heck…sometimes I am not that inspired comes dinner time. You would think that with the number of recipes I shoot for a living that would never have a problem picking one to make for dinner, wouldn’t you? Well, it’s like having "chefs disease"…you graze but rarely cook a meal for yourself. I see so many meals throughout the week that my brain kind of shuts down from time to time, a bit overwhelmed by the choices. 

That’s when the tried and true dishes and their multitude of variations come into play and make me look like I have awesome creating superpowers. I am all about superpowers. Mine is to usually make food disappear off my plate 🙂 What’s yours? 

One of those dishes is a simple pasta from Cooking Light with plenty of pancetta, lots of garlic, goat cheese and a big handful of watercress. It is actually a blank canvas to let your inspiration run wild. Pancetta is sometimes replaced with proscuitto, garlic gives way to shallots, burrata or feta sometimes eclipse the goat cheese and watercress disappears in favor of sorrel or arugula. I might thrown in some leftover smoked salmon, some fresh shrimp with a bit of chilies. Leftover roasted chicken has also been known to make an appearance from time to time. Spaghetti might give way to orecchiette or fettuccine.

Watercress & Prosciutto Spaghetti

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Happy New Year! 2016 Starts With An Olive Oil and Walnut Cake!

Olive Oil & Walnut Cake

Happy New Year! I hope that 2016 is truly filled with all your wildest dreams coming true! While we learn from our experiences, I am not one do dwell on the past much. What is done is done and tomorrow is not guaranteed, so the present is where it’s at. Pretty much. Last year tested me and also enabled me to stretch my wings. There were moments of 2015 I wanted to throat punch with a vengeance and others I wanted to relive in all their deliciousness. It’s what makes a year I guess!

Every year I follow Susannah Conway’s "Find Your Word" online course. I admit, I severely crush on the girl… beauty, intelligence and soul. She’s the whole package. Her Instagram #decemberreflections photo challenge was a complete stretch for me but I am glad I did! I am not one to stay still long enough to retrospect or reflect so this month long challenge was definitely an exploration in sharing thoughts through the lens. Five day into it, I knew my word for 2016. Explore.

Explore the obvious like new places, new projects, new recipes, but also explore my own hesitations, new techniques like calligraphy and video. Explore the senses and the unexpected. I am true Taurus after all and I am looking forward to where it takes me. It’s ok for your word to change. Last year I started with Nourish and mid-way through it, that word evolved into "Let Go". Both fit at the time. But there are so 2015 now…! Time to Explore!

And I need some sustenance for all that exploring that is about to happen. Olive Oil & Walnut Cake seems like a good place to start…

One last thing… There is ONE spot left in the workshop I posted the other day!

 

Olive Oil & Walnut Cake

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Announcing A 3 Day Food Styling & Photography Workshop February 2nd – 6th 2016

FoodStyling & Photo Workshop Feb 2-6th 2016

I am thrilled to announce a brand new 3 day workshop for February 2016 with two of my favorite people, food stylist Tami Hardeman and chef John Ondo!

During the 3 day workshop, we will guide you on several photo assignments where we’ll share all our tips and techniques. Whether you have a blog, write for a local or national magazine, work with brands and need to supply food photography, want to establish a career in the world of food styling and/or food photography, etc… this workshop is for you.

We’ll share the tools and philosophy we use in our daily workflow: defining a mood and feel, working with mood boards and sketches, sourcing ingredients and styling, choosing the best props to showcase the food, composition through lighting, best camera angles and tools for the task at hand, editing and post processing.,etc…

Cooking sessions with Chef Ondo will punctuate the mornings and afternoons where he will share his love of Mediterranean cuisine cooking with locally sourced ingredients.

All this right by the ocean.

The workshop will start by a casual meet & greet at the beach home, followed by dinner prepared by Chef Ondo. Three days of photography and cooking follow. Attendees will have a morning free to wander about and visit Charleston, get some personal work done or just chill.


The workshop includes:

3 days of photography, composition, food styling and cooking sessions

4 nights accommodations on the beach at Aerie House (more info here)

Breakfasts, lunches and dinners

Refreshments and snacks

Fee is $1875 (does not include travel fares to and from workshop) 

Registration open January 2nd. More details HERE.

Pear and Frangipane Tart

Pear Frangipane Tart

I have to admit that I haven’t done any Christmas baking this yet. And it probably won’t happen until Christmas. Wait, that’s not true. There will be my mom’s Swedish cinnamon buns on Christmas Day and snickerdoodles over the weekend. Usually I am the poster child for Santa’s bakery, if there ever was one. I’ll be cooking Christmas dinner (well late lunch for us) and will be making a sticky toffee pudding cake (F&W Dec 15 issue). Probably because I like saying sticky toffee pudding with the voice of Kermit The Frog or Gollum.

 

Tart Prep

I did bake a few things despite my lack of holiday baking. Mostly cakes and pies that were devoured as fast as they were coming out of the oven. Almost. During our last workshop a couple of weeks ago, it seemed that I could not turn galettes fast enough for dessert for the attendees! I’ve had a hard time resisting fall and winter fruits at the market. Apples, seckel and forelle pears, kumquats, cranberries. They all ended in my basket at some point.

Tart Prep

It’s no secret that I do love making (and eating) tarts. I grew up watching my grandmother making loads of them on a regular basis and even more around Christmas time. Her tart fillings were simple and straightforward, always letting the fruit take center stage. Sometimes, there was a supporting actor such as a custard base, lemon curd or frangipane. If I had to choose which one I favor the most, I honestly could not. I love the pillowy softness of a vanilla custard, the acidulous tickle of a lemon curd and the tantalizing taste of an almond filling.

 

Pear Frangipane Tart


Pears and frangipane
go hand in hand like good company and a good meal. They never outplay each other. A classic combination that everyone in my family enjoys. A bit of vanilla bean added to the frangipane never hurts either.

 

Pears

I hope the holidays treat you well and are a source of comforting meals with friends and family.

It’s never easy to find balance this time of year but a slice of pear frangipane tart and a glass of wine might just do that!

 

Pear Frangipane Tart

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Curry Carrot Soup With Toasted Quinoa Topping

Carrots-2

Being away from Charleston the last three years, I had almost forgotten how much longer the temperatures stay above normal this time of year. I should know better though given that we are in a sub tropical climate… Nevertheless, I was getting antsy to get a bit of a hint that December was upon us. And just like that, a good rain and the temperatures dropped. The air became crisper, the sun shining with a different luminosity, the sky finally wearing that winter blue I love and missed.

All prompted me to head to the kitchen to make a few batches of soups.

My latest love is for a velvety curry carrot soup I made the other day. Vadouvan, turmeric, sumac were my spices of choices, giving depth to the soup. The humble carrot took another dimension and we all went back for seconds. I wanted a crunchy bit in there somewhere so I topped it off with a blend of toasted quinoa, parsley, toasted almond and lemon zest. 

Curry Carrot Soup

With my studio adjacent to the house, it’s really easy to put a pot of soup on, get to work, and come back in around noon to have lunch with my mother-in-law when the husband is teaching. I’ve come rather fond of our lunch breaks together. Sometimes, we sit quietly at the table and listen to the news. Sometimes, I prompt her to tell for the gazillion time how she met my father-in-law, the story of how they were wed in New Orleans during the war. I love listening to her. We talk about my family, when my parents will come visit next or what we are going to cook for Christmas. Sometimes, we are both deep in our thoughts and appreciate the silence.

 

Carrots

Lunch is often time a cup of soup and a tartine or a big salad and a croque monsieur. Mama Ruth had never had those before but now I feel like I have creating a monster! When I head to the kitchen and says "lunch in 20 minutes!", she often replies from wherever she is "are we having those nice cheese and ham sandwiches you made the other day? You know, those French sandwiches with all that good melty cheese?" Well yes, I guess we are…!

 

Curry Carrot Soup

Bailey the older of the two pups usually stays in the house by her side and keeps her company (read sleeps soundly while Turner Classic Movies is on). Tiggy, the younger pup comes with me to the studio and finds a warm spot in the sunlight streaming in. She loves to be there with me, keeping watch over the food on set, getting petted by clients or just watching the squirrels passing by. We have all started to find our comfort zone, our rhythm. It’s nice. It’s really nice.

Sure we have our moments. We don’t always all agree on politics or family stuff but heck, which family doesn’t?! Nothing that a good pipping hot cup of soup and a croque monsieur can’t fix!

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Twisted Cinnamon Brioche Rolls

Brioche Rolls

Trust your instinct. That is definitely the moral of this recipe/story. I had a hunkering for soft and buttery brioche rolls and with an afternoon completely to myself I figured why not dive i and put my pastry chef apron back on? Except, instead of digging my true and tried brioche recipe from my days at the restaurant, I went on pinterest, instagram, google, and just about every where else and finally chose a recipe. Method seemed right, measurements seemed off, but I have been surprised more than once shaking my head at a recipe only to be happily surprised by the end result. So why not, maybe they knew something I did not.

 

Brioche Rolls

While I manage to make the rolls turn out ok, there were a few chosen words and ninja moves to get there. But while the finished product was not uniform, they looked fine and tasted awesome. I inhaled one a few minutes after they came out of the oven, so really…what’s the more important? My belly is happy. The family is happy. And of course now I want to do them over again using my restaurant days recipe. The one in that flour dusted binder I keep close by. That same binder filled with killer savory recipes from my mom and comforting sweet ones from my grandmother. I like to revisit it from time to time. Except I keep the family free of a sugar spun kitchen and chocolate towers. Oh well, the holidays are near. Maybe I’ll spun or pull some sugar for the heck of muscle memory. Probably not…

 

Brioche Rolls

While I could lead you to the recipe that worked so-so, I am giving you the brioche recipe I have tried before and rely on when I need to make small batches (instead of brioche for 100 as I have it in my binder!) It is from Bouchon Bakery and never fails. You can make loaves, rolls or get twisted like I did this time.

Have a great Thanksgiving everyone! I am smoking a turkey and making French-American sides for a little Friensdgiving Wednesday and Thursday will be at my sister in law with the more traditional turkey and accoutrements. While not my holidays, I have happily adopted the tradition…

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Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup

Taiwanese Beef Soup

Been a frantic few weeks here since we moved and while it’s been a half excuse not to sit down and blog, it has not been an excuse to stop me from eating well while getting the new studio space ready to roll.

 First shoot in the new space started with the lovely and awesome Gina Homolka from Skinnytaste for her second cookbook. Had to pinch myself when I was first approached by her agent to do the photography for this NY Times best seller author but had to pinch myself even harder when I was able to create my own dream team to work on it with me. Prop stylist Kim Phillips and food stylist Tami Hardeman, along with Tami’s assistant Abby, joined me on this dream of a week. We have a bit more to shoot in March and April and I can’t wait!

What’s that got to do with eating well amidst busy days? Gina’s recipes were all delicious for one, so we did eat very well on our shoot. I have a ton of leftovers from that week in my freezer for two. And third, I’ve been on a high soup making kick with all the leftover produce in the fridge.
And when I was pretty through with those, I turned to a recipe I’ve been wanting to make for a long time. Taiwanese Beef Soup. The thoughts of soy sauce, chilies, star anise, ginger and beef simmering on the stove for hours was perfect the cold I was starting to develop.

 After perusing several recipes online, I turned to a friend on Facebook who directed me to one my favorite authors, Andrea Nguyen and her recipe, itself adapted from another one. I followed his advice and used beef shanks with bone marrow and oxtails. I had to adjust the spiciness for my mother in law a little and added in some sliced red chilies separately into our bowls. Everybody was happy and everybody had seconds!

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Announcing A Winter Styling & Photography Retreat in Charleston, SC December 8th – 12th

dip4b

Super excited about the focus of this workshop I am putting together with Chef John Ondo. We are teaming up for a winter styling and photography retreat in Charleston SC, in a beautiful beach home located on the Isle of Palms December 8th -12th. The 3 day workshop will be geared toward food, prop styling and photography in low light situations such as winter, rainy and cloudy days. 

Helene will focus on her photo and styling processes, from basics natural light manipulations to more advanced ones. Cooking sessions with Chef Ondo will punctuate the mornings and afternoons where he will share his love of Mediterranean cuisine and creativity cooking with locally sourced ingredients.

Together, Helene and John will guide you to create an edible narrative with your photos, and share current food styling and propping trends, etc…
Nothing is off limits with questions, from how to pick ingredients and how to cook them, how to manage your cooking/photo time efficiently, knowing about photography for blogging or professional work, cooking for photography, photo as a hobby or how to get started in the business. 


All this right by the ocean.

The workshop will start by a casual meet & greet at the beach home, followed by dinner prepared by Chef Ondo. Three days of photography and cooking follow. Attendees will have a morning free to wander about Charleston with a private tour guide, get some personal work done or just chill.

 

Workshop Charleston

The workshop includes: 

3 days of photography, composition, food styling and cooking sessions 

4 nights accommodations on the beach at Aerie House 

One on one photo sessions with Helene

Cooking demos with Chef Ondo

Breakfasts, lunches and dinners
Refreshments and snacks 

Most rooms are shared – there is opportunity for single rooms on a first sign up basis

To register, please go HERE.

Workshop is limited to 8 people. 

Fee is $1850 (does not include travel fares to and from workshop) 

There will be no refunds for this workshop – please know you can attend before registering.
Full payment due at time of registration, no deposit required.