When we dropped our friend J. at the airport yesterday, it felt a little like dropping off your kid to camp. Mind you the kid has just turned forty years-old but that sparkle in his eye about finally getting some vacation time was precious. I almost ran to an airline counter and bought a ticket home!
We said goodbye, got his keys, promised to water the plants and joked "hey man! who is going to come to the house to help eat the shoot or market food?". But really, I was quite serious. I also need to explain "shoot" and "market" foods…
One wonderful aspect of my job as a food photographer is that whether I have a magazine or a cookbook shoot, 100% of the food I work with is edible and unless a shoot is taking too long and the food is not kept refrigerated properly, we eat what we now call "shoot food" for dinner.
Also, as a food lover who tends to overload at the farmers market, it’s a blessing to have single friends like J. who are just a phone call away and hungry to come share our victuals and a glass of wine when I spend an entire day cooking and baking. We often joke that our table is more often set for four or six than for two.
What can I say… I like fresh and seasonal food, and I like to feed my friends. J. loves vegetables. He has an adventurous palate. He likes to buy cookbooks and brings them over to the house so we can brainstorm our next "market dinner". While Bill and him go play some music (they are both musicians), I cook and bake to the sound of old time jazz tunes.
Since I always post on Twitter the contents of my basket after the Charleston farmers market on Saturdays, I thought I’d blog about some of the dishes I make from all those goodies and often share with friends. Like J. As we did last week before his long trip overseas.
One thing I love doing when we get home from the market is to fix us breakfast since we usually get up and go to make it there right at opening time. I am not a huge breakfast person except on Saturdays. A bed of arugula, some sauteed bacon and an egg. Over easy, sunny side up, poached…any way works for me. I have taken to sauteed some halved grapes with the bacon lately and the combination of savory and sweet it just outstanding.
We are in full blown tomato and heirloom tomato season and that makes me very very happy. We can’t get enough of them. I literally go nuts with the tomatoes at the market. We like to eat them simply in a salad with some chopped avocado, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Sometimes a sprinkle of basil. Sometimes oregano. Sometimes I just make a simple pie crust and fill it with cut up tomatoes, fresh goat cheese, a drizzle of olive oil. It’s messy. It’s fresh. It’s delicious.
I would never have thought I would get Bill to actually ask for turnips or beets for dinner. But he does. Specifically the ones from the market. They are super fresh and sweet and when I roast them with some salt and pepper, he just can’t get enough. I roast a batch in late afternoon and we snack on those while I prepare dinner. Nature’s candy. Seriously.
Our market is a food lover, food photographer’s dream come true. Not only are the vegetables flavorful, fresh and delicious, they also look good. I can’t stop myself from picking up tiny baby squash or amazingly purple round eggplants. And purple onions. And purple basil. It makes for a beautiful gratin just by layering them all together. A good drizzle of cream and thanks to Nigel Slater’s book Tender we had the silkiest of side dish the other night for dinner.
Dinner at our house would not be complete without dessert of course and lately, we have been drowning (my fault) under cases of apricots. One of my favorites. I am picky about my apricots and this year they are amazingly fragrant and tasty. We have enjoyed them sauteed in a bit of raw honey and served along side cookies or tea cakes like the hazelnut financiers pictured here.
I recently discovered pineapple sage and been adding it to plenty of dishes, sweet and savory. It’s mild, smells like pineapple and adds a lovely fragrance to tea cakes. Lemon thyme, lemon verbana lemon balm, pineapple sage…all these mild herbs lend themselves perfectly to sweet treats.
I was particularly happy to curl on the couch Saturday night with a couple of financiers and some of those honey apricots. We had just driven home from my book signing in Charlotte and I was just craving something sweet and tangy.
The trip was a lot of fun and it was awesome to finally hang out with Taylor in his hometown and meet some of the Charlotte food bloggers. Thank you to everyone who came to have a book signed or just say "hello", it was an honor meeting you. Of course, it was nothing like one of The Pioneer Woman's book signing where people line up for hours just to talk to Ree!
Speaking of which…It’s been hard keeping the secret of a little weekend that Ree and I have been organizing but it’s finally here! I am extremely honored that Ree has invited me to come to her ranch to teach a couple of workshops July 23rd-24th. Yes! One will be on how to make macarons and the other on food styling and photography.
She is giving the chance to 3 readers of her blog (and their guest) to come and spend the weekend learning, baking, photographing…and of course laughing and eating! You can enter the giveaway on her blog here! I can’t wait!
The best part? The minute I told Bill about what we were doing he said "I’m coming!" Then he added "let’s do a road trip there!" It’s been ages since we took a road trip together and we just love doing those. Granted I catch up on sleep but we love to discover new towns and new storied. Once I have the itinerary mapped out, I might ask some of you for recommendations of all kinds.
In the meantime, I might just sneak away the last of the Hazelnut Financiers and Honey Apricots. And wait impatiently for dinner and a serving of that Eggplant Gratin…!
Honey Apricots and Pineapple Sage Hazelnut Financiers
For the Honey Apricots:
1 tablespoon butter
6 apricots, halved and pit removed
1/3 cup honey
In a large sautee pan placed over medium high heat, melt the butter until it starts to sizzle, add the apricots, cut side down and sautee for 2 minutes. Flip them over and sautee another 2 minutes. Remove from the pan and place them on a serving plate. Add the honey to the hot pan and swirl it around until hot. Pour over the apricots and serve right away
For the financiers:
1 stick (115g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup (100gr) unsifted powdered sugar
1/2 cup (60gr) ground hazelnuts
1 tablespoon finely chopped pineapple sage
1/4 cup (30gr) rice flour (or same amount in cake flour)
pinch of salt
4 large egg whites
Preheat your oven to 375F and position a rack in the center. Lightly butter the inside of 12 financiers molds or muffin tins and place them on a baking sheet. Set aside.
In a medium saucepan set over medium high heat, melt the butter until it turns to a rich hazelnut brown color. Remove from the heat and let it cool for 5 minutes. Strain and reserve.
Mix together the powdered sugar, flour, ground hazelnuts, pineapple sage and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the egg whites and mix on low speed until all the ingredients are coming together. Add the brown butter, increase the speed to medium and beat until smooth.
Divide the batter among your molds and bake for about 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown.
Fresh Market Eggplant Gratin, inspired by Nigel Slater’s Root Vegetable Gratin in Tender:
2 teaspoons olive oil
3 baby round eggplant or one large regular eggplant, sliced
2 small red onions, sliced
1 cup shitake mushrooms, diced (I use a combo of shitake and oyster)
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup basil loosely packed basil leaves and chopped
Salt and pepper
1 cup light cream (or 1/2 milk and heavy cream)
Preheat the oven to 350F and position a rack in the middle. In a 9×9 inch gratin dish lightly coated with a bit of olive oil, place some eggplant slices in a single layer. Top with a single layer each of onion slices, diced mushrooms. Sprinkle with some garlic, chopped basil and salt and pepper. Repeat the layering until all the vegetables are used. Pour the cream over the top and bake for 30-40 minutes until golden brown.