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 lunchsalads and soups I wasn’t sure she’d go for.
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.
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!
Everytime I look at the picture above, I think what a perfect metaphor it is for life. At least mine. It’s got shadows. It’s got color. Texture. Spice. Flavor. It’s got old parts and it’s got new ones. It’s got roundness and it’s got angles. It’s good in so many different ways. Everyday we put things in a pot and try to make them work. Sometimes the pot gets too full and tilts over. Most times, my attempts at making things right result in pretty good things. Literally. This Fresh Pea Salad being one of them.
I got these gorgeous peas during the early days of the farmers market, shelled them and froze them. I was still undecided as to what their fate would be but I could not pass on this much freshness in a pod. It’s been a month now that I have taken a still life of them for the French Word A Week feature but I just did not want to post a shot of a peas in bowl and run off the page.
Like a bunch of petit pois running off my plate.(click on word to hear the pronunciation)
I think that I like saying "petit pois" as much as I like pomme de terre or pamplemousse. The word just jumps on your tongue before jumping on your plate. I told you. Little things make me insanely happy. The muffled sound of beer being poured in a glass, the shattering of the sugar crust on a creme caramel. The pop that little peas make between my teeth.
Forget what the calendar reads, it’s Summer here already. With this heat, there isn’t a day without a salad. A big bowl with fresh ingredients from the farmers market thrown in together. They don’t have to match. They just have to play well with one another.
This salad is perfect as a side dish whether you use fresh or frozen peas, and lends itself to enough variations it can make your head spin. It’s best served lukewarm with its sauteed onion and garlic and you can skip the cheese on top of need be. The first batch we had was actually just peas, salt and pepper and plenty of fresh herbs from the garden. It made a refreshing, light and easy side to a grilled piece of salmon on a warm and humid evening.
We also turned it into lunch by adding fresh cheese I made the day I did faisselle, a poached egg and a piece of bread. I thought B. would ask where was the meat but it turned out to be satisfying just as it was on yet another scorching day. I used a basic recipe for paneer to make the fresh cheese but you can substitute any soft variety that you like or pick a harder cheese like parmesan (or skip it altogether). We like ours with a chiffonade of basil and oregano but the choice is yours. The possibilities are only limited by what’s not around pretty much.
One more thing before you ump on to the recipe:
Congratulations to Katie G. – lucky winner of the Evo 10 conference pass. See you in Utah!
Fresh Pea, Herb and Cheese Salad:
Serves 4 as a side dish
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 medium onion, chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
4 cups water
2 cups freshly shelled peas (use frozen if you have to)
1/2 cup to 3/4 cup fresh cheese (I used this recipe for paneer)
salt and pepper to taste
freshly chopped basil and oregano (or whatever you like instead)
splash of balsamic vinegar and oil (roughly 2 teaspoons each)
In a large saucepan set over medium heat, heat the oil and sautee the onion and garlic until translucent. Set aside.
Bring the water to a boil in large stock pot and cook the peas until tender (about 5 minutes). Drain them from the water, rinse under cold water and drain well.
In a large bowl, combine the peas, onion, garlic, fresh cheese, salt, pepper and the herbs. Mix until combined and add a few splashes of vinegar and olive oil. You’re set!
Le P’tit Coin Francais:
Salade de petit pois et fromage frais:
1/2 oignon, coupe en des
2-3 gousses d’ail, emincees
120gr-150gr de fromage frais (recette ici)
1 litre d’eau
500gr de petit pois (sans ecosses)
sel et poivre
basilic et origan (ou autre)
1 cc huile
1 cc vinaigre balsamique
Dans une grande poele, faire revenir l’oignon et l’ail jusqu’a ce qu’ils soit translucide. Mettre de cote.
Dans une grande casserole, porter l’eau a ebullition et faire y cuire les petits pois pendant 5 minutes. Les passer sous l’eau froide et laisser bien egoutter.
Dans un grand saladier, melanger l’oignon, l’ail, les petits pois, le fromage frais, sel, poivre et ajouter un peu d’huile et vinaigre. C’est pret!