When my husband drove into town this past weekend, I don’t think he expected to find his wife coughing, well hacking away would be more appropriate, and bent over from the pain felt in every rib and back muscle everytime a coughing fit would come about. It was not a lovely sight. But, I selfishly admit that I was so happy to finally unload onto him all duties and responsibilities for 48 hours.
See, we have been living apart and in different states since October that I moved to Birmingham. Since then, I have been holding the fort here by myself. I have fixed, nailed, caulked, hammered, glued, and pretty much everything else that he used to do when we were both in Charleston. It’s telling how much you stretch your strength, both mental and physical when alone. I had lived by myself before. But not by myself after 15 years with "Mr-Handy-Dandy-I-Can-Fix-Anything-Oh-Look-Honey!-I-Just-Built-Us-A-House" – kind of man. Because he did. Built us a house. The house that was now reduced to a U-Haul in my driveway.
This was the first time we really felt like things were moving forward in a "together" kind of way. Until then, I had brought things from Charleston to start making the rental house into more of a home but this was the big push. Our stuff. Fifteen years of living in South Carolina together and six plus years in our house on the creek. There had been a few little "well this is it! We are indeed relocating to Alabama" moments in the last few months but this was more poignant to me than getting my first water bill in my new city.
I am quite grateful that neither of us are materialists folks so the amount of stuff we bring with us easily fits in a small storage unit until we found a more permanent home here. I was happy to see that what we both considered "must pack" items were family things we could not replace; pictures, albums, family heirlooms, etc… And here I was, sick as could be the one weekend I needed to muster up all my energy to unload our belonging into a storage unit for a few months.
My dear husband ordered me back to the couch for a few hours. He wanted to take care of me and I completely let him do that. And it felt incredibly good just to lay quiet and rest under a couple of blankets. I could not stay still more than an hour though and quietly headed off to the kitchen to make soup. He was weary of the drive. I was craving something clean, flavorful and warm to make my limbs and throat feel better.
I started gathering ingredients for a makeshift Tom Yum soup. Galangal, kaffir lime leaves, Thai chilies, and went off on a tangent of the most delicious kinds. My original idea for a soup quickly evolved into a Thai inspired butternut squash and coconut soup with a little kick and lots of fragrant and healing ingredients.
The end result was a super satisfying bowl of soup that took no longer to make than a cozy nap on the couch…
This combined with a good day and a half of rest and I was almost back on my feet. Enough to help him out a little on Sunday and make us another scrumptious meal on Sunday. I chose a completely different flavor palette this time with a Pozole. A pork and hominy stew garnished with fresh avocado, radish and cilantro. Clean and filling. Perfect for a cold weekend night.
Making every moment count now when we see each other is a given. We don’t get to see each other every weekend and when we can make the drive either way, the visits are really short. So, things as simple as sitting down to a nice meal and watching a good flick afterwards are what we crave. Then I know the dinner parties, visits with friends, game nights, etc… will resume or be created anew just as they were in Charleston.
It’s kind of like dating again. But as much as I like having my boyfriend visit, I am ready to have my husband back so we can really get to live this new town together!
I hope everyone celebrating Thanksgiving had a wonderful time doing so. We surely did. The whole week was actually pretty darn good. It was rich in connections and reflections. The time spent in the kitchen with Laura reminded me of the time spent at home preparing a holiday meal with my grandmother and mother. It was comforting and soothing in so many ways.
It was a lot of fun cooking a huge feast with another like minded person. It’s easy to talk food, pies, gratins, table settings, photography while chopping, boiling, cooking, peeling, etc… We made a lot of dishes. We wanted to try new recipes and still some beloved family ones. We certainly did not hold back but we had plenty to box up for our guests to take home. I have learned years ago that Thanksgiving leftovers are a must!
I will revisit a couple of the dishes for a later post but among the biggest hits were the Apple Cider Brined Turkey from Bon Appetit, Laura’s mashed potatoes with creme fraiche, a root & leek vegetable gratin and a fennel-brioche and sausage stuffing. And the greens beans! I must revisit those miso green beans soon and post the recipe!
When everyone gathered around the table and shared some of their stories, time, themselves, my heart just fogged over. I was thankful for being surrounded by so much love and friendship. Many times I had to pinch myself that the day went as beautifully as it did. And continued the day after when Laura and her fiance Alex requested that I shot their engagement pictures. We had so much fun…well into the evening with dinner and drinks.
The weekend was spent quietly putting china and linens away, shopping at our farmers market and loading up on lots of seasonal fruits and vegetables. Taking some time to sit in the park with Bill and share a crepe and a cup of coffee. It finally started to feel like the holiday season (except for the 80F weather). Those simple things are all I crave for. They fuel me and refuel me times and times again. Just as certain foods do.
After a few richer meal than usual, I like the simplicity of a few good salads or soups. Without being a full blown detox, it’s nice to dig my fork into a lighter fare. Lately, it’s been lots and lots of variation around quinoa salad and this one is the one I have made countless time in the past couple of weeks. It’s versatile enough to be a side dish or main course (with a poached egg on top…fabulous!). Kale and butternut squash are abundant this time of year but any seasonal vegetable would work.
I generally pass on desserts in favor of a good juicy apple or pear this time of year. I do however have the habit of making dessert for our Sunday suppers with friends and crisps and simple tarts are always high on the list during Fall and Winter. Having a spoonful of a little sweet something always makes me feel like I am ending the weekend well and ready for the week ahead.
The quinoa salad is one I intent to serve for lunch during the Food Photography Workshop I’ll be teaching in Charleston on December 10th. Yep, I enlisted Laura to assist and help prep some great foods for all the attendees. On a side note, there are 3 spots left for that workshop!
I am curious though….what do you like to cook or bake to give your body and self a little break this holiday season? Looking forward to being inspired with your answers! Thanks for sharing!
Apple Cardamom Crisp:
Makes 6 to 8 (depending on your ramekins)
For the fruit:
6 regular size apples (your choice) or about 12-15 lady apples
1 cup fresh cranberries
2 tablespoons honey
juice and zest of one lemon
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon cardamom
Preheat the oven to 350F (convection or regular) and position a rack in the center. Prepare the fruit:
Peel, core and slice thin the apples. Place them in a large bowl with the cranberries, honey, lemon zest and juice, cornstarch and cardamom. Toss well and reserve.
Prepare the crisp topping:
In a medium bowl, combine with your fingertips or a pastry blender the flour, sugar and butter and form large clumps of dough. Refrigerate at least an hour or freeze overnight.
Assemble and bake:
Divide the apples evenly among 6 gratin dishes or ramekins. If the crisp dough was refrigerated, just break apart clumps of it over the fruit with your fingertips. If it was frozen, you can simply grate it on top with a large cheese grater.
Bake for 20-30 minutes. Let cool.
In a large pot, bring the quinoa and water to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer, covered until all the water has been absorbed (about 20 minutes). Remove from the heat, fluff with a for and place in a large bowl to cool for 20 minutes.
In the meantime, heat one teaspoons olive oil in a large skillet, add the onion and cook until it turns translucid. Add the garlic, butternut squash and kale. Cover with a lid and cook for about 10 minutes on medium-low heat. Remove the lid, check that the butternut squash is tender but not mushy or hard when you poke a piece with a knife. Add the thyme and continue cooking until the all the liquid creating by the cover has evaporated.
Let cool to room temperature. Gently fold the cooked quinoa and the cooked vegetables together along with the vinaigrette.
Serve room temperature or cold.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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!
Tomatoes And Roasted Garlic Tartines:
Makes enough for 6 to 8 people as an appetizer/nibble
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
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.
************************************************************************** Winter Greens and Squash Gratin, adapted from Virginia Willis’s Basic To Brilliant Y’all (see the original here)
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
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.
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
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…
Every year for Christmas I bake gifts for B’s family and our friends. The tradition started 10 years ago when B. and I entered stores after stores, Christmas shopping for his relatives, only to come out empty handed. What do you get the people who have everything? Homemade goodies. And tons of them. Neatly packaged in personalized boxes with pretty ribbons and paper. I go all out. They love it.
I do love to give those boxes filled with cookies, truffles, macarons, etc…but it is easy to let flours, sugar, chocolate, vanilla take over the kitchen. There are times I feel I am inhaling far more buttercream than humanly recommended. I bet some of you can relate! Baking after work also means multitasking with dinner. Clearly not the time to experiment with new or lengthy recipes so I rely on dishes which ingredient list and method I can recite as if it were poetry. Enters this rice dish.
In the past eight years, I have probably made this dish once a month. I know….that’s a bit scary to think we ate it or some variation of it close to a hundred times. It’s that good. It’s so easy and can be adapted to all seasons that once you get the gist of it, it’s just a matter of not eating the whole thing in one sitting.
The flavors in this recipe were the main attractions for me. Coconut, squash, onion, thyme. They left me intrigued. It’s perfectly suitable for a vegetarian night. We love it simply accompanied by a poached egg on top and a slice of bread. Simple and yet full of flavors. Easy to make and easy to eat.
Right now is the perfect time to use butternut or acorn squash but feel free to substitute yellow squash or eggplant. I sometimes use finely chopped purple or flat leaf kale instead. The black beans can be replaced by any other bean such as pinto or chickpeas. Rosemary can easily replace the thyme. You get it. Use the recipe as a canvas to fit your tastebuds. We love it when the temperatures drop! Hope you will too.
1 1/4 cups vegetable broth or water
1 cup light coconut milk
1 cup short grained or basmati rice
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 cup finely chopped onion
2 stalks lemongrass, finely chopped
1 3/4 cups cubed peeled butternut squash
1 teaspoon chopped fresh (or 1/4 teaspoon dried) thyme
salt & pepper
1 1/2 cups cooked black beans (if using canned, drain & rinse them first)
zest and juice of one lime
Bring broth (or water) and coconut milk to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add rice, cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Remove from the heat and keep warm (I just keep mine covered while I prepare the rest of the recipe).
Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and lemongrass and sautee 5 minutes or until the onion becomes translucid.
Reduce heat to medium and add the squash. Cook until tender, about 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in thyme, salt, pepper and black beans. Cook 3 minutes or until thoroughly heated, stirring occasionally. Add rice to squash mixture, add the lime zest and juice and stir to combine.
Thank you all so much participating in the Macy’s giveaway! Through emails, I know that some of you held dinner parties this week to raise money to fight hunger. That makes me so happy! We held our own last night in a very impromptu sort of way when my mother-in-law dropped by with a standing rib roast, all ready to be devoured. I quickly gathered the neighbors to our table. As a thank you, they made donations to the local food bank. As my way to thank them, I sent everyone with some of this Butternut and Acorn Squash Soup we have been enjoying lately.
My random number generator (Bill) went to bed before midnight so I quickly emailed Jen and asked her to pick two winners. Her answer was: "48 & 119, based on time interval between kaweah’s twitches in her sleep times random number." Don’t you love this scientifically proven method? Ah! Congratulations to Mani and Cindy. Please send me your mailing address so I can forward them to Macy’s (mytartelette[at]gmail[dot]com).
Dang things are busy around here and I am liking it very much! I get to do and see, work lots of fun stuff. Indeed, if you are in the Charleston area, drop by the first annual recipe and cook-off contest which I’ll be photographing for Charleston Magazine. Come support some budding cooking and baking talent!
Obviously, all that buzzing about is good and getting home, plopping exhausted on the sofa makes me feel like I have contributed to the twirling world around me. I know my mom hates it because I end up calling home (France) at the oddest hours and often times while I am eating a late lunch of soup or salad while they’re already in bed. Sorry. Every time I would talk to my mom last week, she’d ask me what I was eating, and my answer always was "butternut and acorn squash soup, side of petits lardons and creme fraiche".
It got to the point that she started worrying immensely. "Do you need me to send you some money?" she asked one day. In her mind, if we were eating that much soup that could only mean we were ut of ka-ching. I started laughing uncontrollably. "No mom! It’s our soup kick of the month and it so good I keep making it every other day!". The timid colder days did not have anything to do with it but tempting displays of seasonal squash got the best of me and I caved in.
This soup could not be any simpler to make with fresh butternut and acorn squash, some chicken stock (homemade if possible), garlic and thyme. To serve, we like a little (or a big) dollop of creme fraiche and some "lardons" (thick cut bacon or salted cured pork). One day this week we added some thinly sliced dried Thai chilies and sauteed butternut squash seeds. We voted this version as the best so far but feel free to improvise!
And before I forget: Please join me on Monday, October 26, when I join forces with nine of the webs best food and lifestyle bloggers for the delightfully frightful Halloween collaboration, Trick-Or-Eat. Nine haunted houses have been trimmed and tricked out on your behalf. Which of your favorite bloggers awaits behind each haunted home? Whatever have the ghostand hostesses prepared for your visit? Be sure to stop by for this ultimate Holiday Block Party, presented blog style! Butternut And Acorn Squash Soup:
Serves 4 hungry poeple
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small butternut squash, peeled and diced into 1-inch cubes (seeds scooped out & saved)
1 small acorn squash, peeled and diced into 1-inch cubes
3 cloves or garlic, peeled and smashed (don’t worry about mincing)
4 cups chicken stock
1 to 2 teaspoons fresh thyme (or less if desired. You can also use some sage)
salt and pepper
chopped Tai chilies
creme fraiche (or sour cream)
sauteed thick cut bacon or salted and cured pork, sliced thin
seeds from one of the squashes (sautee in the bacon fat for maximum flavor, and drained on paper towels)
In a large stock pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the cubed squashes and sautee for 2-3 minutes or until they start to get some caramelizing color. Add the garlic and sautee one minute, stirring often to prevent it from burning (or it will become bitter). Add the chicken stock and thyme and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and cook, covered for about 30 minutes or until the squash is tender. With an immersion blender, puree the soup in the pot until smooth. If usig a food processor or blender, let the soup cool a bit before processing. Adjust the consistency to your liking with extra water. Salt and pepper to taste.
Garnish as desired.