Radio silence once again. If you know me, you also know that this is not my usual thing to be this quiet. Lots and lots happening again. Generally, I would never come up with reasons why I did let something get a bit more silent (this page) but this time, tonight, there are plentiful and I am letting them all be.
The last five months have turned into a blurr. Many destinations. Workshops. Two cookbooks shoots. Fifty recipes for other clients. A job proposal. An acceptance. A house hunt. A bare bone move (seriously moved with three boxes labeled kitchen, clothes, toiletries and office. Oh and some props, linens, reflectors and strobes…)** And my first day working with amazing talent propping and styling the recipes I will be shooting.
A wave of emotions is taking hold of me as I reflect on the years gone by. I am sitting in an empty living room. It’s an unsually chilly day for Birmingham, I am told. I have a fire going. Some hot soup on the stove. A glass of wine. This is it. What comes to my mind, very clearly, though is how I would have never imagined the winding roads of this career would take me to this moment.
Yet, how everything I did in my work was never by chance but always from a place of hard work and desire of a job well done. How goodness comes to one’s own heart by just trusting yourself onto others. How just opening up your guts and heart to the universe gives you ten times the hopes you sent out there. How leading lights of desires, friendships, mentors and aspirations, inspirations lead one to just pack up and go seek a better life for the ones you love.
I am not alone. Bill has been the best team mate of all. He fully let me take hold of the direction of this team of two we created 14 years ago. That’s big. And then there is the team at work. Mindblowingly creative. I feel completely supported to bring myself into team project. A place where individual growth will happen as I work on many different collaborative projects.
Good people working on fun projects always make for a fun day at work. That is one if the reasons I wanted to share this book I photographed a few months ago, Marmalades by Elizabeth Fields (Running Press). It just came out and while I take a little time getting situated in my new life, I wanted to share with you some good old fashioned and modern marmalades recipes by giving away a couple of copies of the book, courtesy of Running Press.
All you have to do to participate is to leave a comment on this post. Two winners will be picked at random this Sunday October 14th, midnight central time. The giveaway is open to all, one comment per person, (no anonymous comments please).
** some of you seem to think I permanently moved with three boxes. No! That’s all I could bring to Birmingham before flying out of the country for a shoot and coming back directly to Birmingham. I have not been home to Charleston to get my stuff since mid September. If I had the luxury of time and space, you bet I would have taken a couple more….!
It’s always excited to see someone realize their dreams. Pick up their courage, their doubts, their talent and creativity and just go for it. I got excited when Beatrice announced she was writing a cookbook and I got even more excited when I finally held in my hands. "La Tartine Gourmande, Recipes For An Inspired Life" was no doubt a labor of love for Beatrice. It shows. From the colorful imagery to the detailed recipes, one can tell she did put a lot of care and perfectionism into her first cookbook.
I have Bea met once before on a press trip and it was a delight to see that the book matches the person in real life. Deeply French, but also very much in love with the flavors and aesthetics of other countries she visited. The book achieves what I look for most times in cookbooks: it reads like a novel with prose and anecdotes and at the same time it serves the purpose at hand, giving you plenty of recipes and creative ideas for casual to sophisticated plates.
The book is divided in two major parts; one where Bea goes through core recipes used in various chapters, as well as covering the flours, sugars and utensils she favors. The other parts covers all the recipes, from breakfasts to picnic, to casual lunches with friends, to sophisticated or simple dinners. One thing I really appreciated in Bea’s writing is the fluidity of the recipe writing as well as the simple yet to the point style of the headnotes.
If you are familiar with Bea’s blog, the book is indeed, its perfect extension. Recipes that are simple to make, full or flavors and leaving you inspired to go create more of your own. I made 3 batches of these Chocolate Financiers in the span of a week. They disappeared as fast as I was pulling them out of the oven. (Recipe for the financiers after the jump)
Bea was kind enough to answer a little fun interview I prepared so you could get to know her better. For more descriptions and excerpts from her book, you can check her amazon author page, here.
1/ Which person in your life influenced your cooking the most?
My mother. No doubt. I learned by her side. But in many ways too, it’s my upbringing in France. And the fact that I come from a family where there’s always been a clear passion for food, home cooking, and making someone happy with a meal. My brother and sister-in-law whom I am very close to love to cook and eat–like my mother, they keep an amazing vegetable garden to feed our crave for homegrown foods. Whenever I am in France, we spend a lot of time cooking together. Talking about food. So I know that it’s really us all, as a family, that rooted this love for food inside me. And the way I cook.
2/ Which culinary traditions or family habits have you kept from France?
The fact that I cannot skip lunch. Ever 😉 I am so French in that way. Lunch is cooked and needs to be a sit down meal during which I leave work and other things I am doing behind–to enjoy my meal. And it does not matter if I will have that meal alone. Everyone deserves that treat. As a family, Lulu, P. and I always eat together. Sharing our meals is a very important time of our day. Lulu is only 3 but she understands and loves it.
When I look at the dishes I make, no doubt, my cooking is French in essence. But I don’t perhaps cook what most people think of as French cuisine. I like to reinvent classics, which connects me to my roots and the foods that I loved to eat as a child. And then I personalize them to my taste and the influences my cooking gained from traveling and living in different countries. So in the end, it’s French but with a twist and exotic touches. I am curious about food, so I also like to constantly try new ingredients and build recipes around them.
At home, we always cared how food was presented on a plate. And we also always made sure that our meals were balanced in nutrition as well as in texture–hence I will always eat something cooked with something raw (ie there will always be salad that accompanies my meals). I think these definitely explain why I love to play with food the way I do. I like to make a dish pop onto a plate, looking light and colorful. And not overly complicated. I believe that we eat with our eyes first. I believe that what makes a great meal is quality ingredients, attention–and the rest follows naturally. That’s the way I was brought up to think about food.
3/ If stranded on a deserted island, which of the following would you miss the most?
– spice and/or herb
vegetable: carrots from my mother’s garden
fruit: I’d say I’d miss the taste of a wild strawberry. So concentrated. So delicious and unique.
herbs: parsley, coriander, chervil
4/ What is your favorite meal to cook for a romantic dinner "a deux"?
Not sure. It changes all the time since my creative flow keeps coming. I know there’d be chocolate somewhere during the meal (hello Molten chocolate cakes!). And we’d have a stunning looking refreshing appetizer, most likely a dressed-up salad or a verrine, with tons of zest (grapefruit, orange or lime), avocado and crab meat. As a main, I could easily imagine a creamy red kuri squash risotto finished with truffle oil and served with clams cooked in white wine, garlic and .fresh herbs.
5/ Favorite word? Least favorite word? Favorite color? Two things you can’t stop eating lately?
Favorite word: Maman….it’s filled with so many meanings and special things for me.
Least favorite words: Dépêche toi! (hurry up!) I hate when I have to rush….
Favorite color: That’s a hard one as I love most of them. Right now, I’d say red as I can see myself buying a lot of fabrics, bowls and home textiles with different hues of red on them. I also also love spring green and turquoise blue.
Two things I can’t stop eating right now: fine slices of apples enjoyed with pecans and honeycomb; coconut milk tapioca pudding with stewed fruit.
Bea and her publisher were also very kind to share two copies with two readers. To enter the giveaways for a copy of "La Tartine Gourmande, Recipes For An Inspired Life" – all you have to do is leave a comment (no anonymous, one entry per person) on this post between Monday March 5th and Thursday March 8th, midnight EST.You must claim your prize within 48 hours or two other winners will be picked. I know this sounds harsh but many enter, I announce winners and prizes stay unclaimed for months and/or are never claimed which is not fair to the other participants who really do care about a gift.
Disclosure: I was sent a copy of the book by the publisher. All images (except the book cover) and opinions are my own. Chocolate Financiers, slightly modified from La Tartine Gourmande:
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup almond meal
2 tablespoons millet flour
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
A pinch of sea salt
1/3 cup powdered sugar
4 large egg whites (beaten slightly)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350F, position a rack in the middle and line the inside of 10 muffin tins with wrappers.
In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat and cook until it starts to turn brown and smells smells like hazelnuts, between 8 to 10 minutes. Let cool slightly.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the almond meal, millet flour, cocoa powder, salt, and sugar. Mix until blended. On low speed, beat in the egg whites.
Add the butter and vanilla and mix for another 30 seconds.
Divide the batter evenly between the muffin tins and bake the financiers for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted near the middle comes out clean. Let cool and dust with more cocoa powder if desired.
I have written and erased the first sentence of this post fifty times it seems.It makes me smile a little considering the number of sentences I started and erased fifty times more since last November. The best one I could think about today was "Thank you".
I have thought a few times about this week. Right here. Right now. The week when my first book, "Plate To Pixel. Digital Food Photography & Styling" is out into the world. From November to March, it was the hard work of a team that did not stop until it was right. This week the book is yours. Ours.
Wow… it still is just barely sinking in. Once the book in my hands, it took a full 24 hours for my shoulders to relax and a smile to timidly cross my lips. Then as I was standing there in the rain with Bailey, that smile grew to a stupidly wide expression of gratitude and excitement.
I bolted back inside to Taylor who was getting his video equipment together and said "let’s do this! Let’s show people how awesome food photography can be with a little help from a friend!"
I come from a family of crafters. My dad is a published author and a painter. My mom designs frames for other people’s art. My brother Arnaud is constantly building and crafting objects and toys. My brother Thierry was a talented photographer. Writing this book feels a bit like my way of contributing to the family DNA!!
I loved working on this book so much! I wrote it with you in mind. And you is a lot of people with different likes and dislikes, different ways to go about life. But we all have the same goal. Take pictures of food and have a wonderful experience doing it.
Whether you need just a little push, a lot of help or just reinforcement that you are on the right track. I compiled information, hands-on visuals of bouncing, diffusing, white balances, exposures, depth of field, … Composition and styling techniques, equipment setup so you can see the full how-tos of a picture, step by step styling demos…and the list goes on!
I will be doing fun giveaways in the coming weeks to express my thanks for your support and kind words these past few months and your enthusiasm these past few days. But today is especially awesome to celebrate the release of the book. There won’t be one lucky person but three!
– I am giving away 2 signed copies of Plate To Pixel and a little surprise inside…
– my super talented friend Asya from gleena.com who is the artist behind the numbered ceramic plates I love to use here, is giving away four white ceramic dessert plates numbered 1 through 4 (like the ones in the picture below)
All you have to do is leave a comment here between today, April 26th 2011 and Friday April 29th 2011, midnight Eastern time.
Guidelines: one entry per person, no anonymous comment, leave 24hrs for your name to appear in giveaway as I manually moderate entries.
Now…how about some Double Trouble Chocolate Cake to really celebrate?!!
Double Trouble Chocolate Cake:
For the cake:
1 stick (113gr) butter
1 cup (200gr) sugar
1/2 cup (45gr) natural cocoa powder
1/2 cup superfine rice flour
1/2 cup millet flour
1/2 cup gluten free oat flour
1 teaspoon (5gr) baking powder
1 teaspoon (5gr) instant coffee powder
1/2 teaspoon (2.5gr) baking soda
1 cup (250ml) warm water Note: for a non gluten free version, you can use 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour instead of the rice, millet and oat flours.
For the ganache:
12 oz bittersweet chocolate (chips or chopped)
pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
Prepare the cake:
Preheat oven to 325F. Butter one deep 9-inch round baking pans, sprinkle some rice flour into the pans, shake it around and tap the excess off. Line the bottoms with one 9-inch circle of parchment paper. Set aside.
In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix together the butter and sugar until light and creamy. On low speed, add the cocoa and mix until incorporated. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape the bowl with a spatula to make sure they are properly mixed in. Add the flours, baking powder, coffee powder and baking soda and mix on medium-low speed while slowly adding the warm water and mix until smooth. Pour the batter in the prepared pan and bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let cool to room temperature and unmold the cake. Divide in three horizontally.
Prepare the chocolate ganache:
Place the chocolate and salt in a non reactive bowl and set aside. In a heavy bottom saucepan set over high heat, bring the cream to almost boiling (really hot basically!). When hot, pour it over the chocolate and salt. Let stand for 5 minutes before slowly whisking the mixture to bring it together to a smooth and silky ganache. If it’s not completely smooth, return to very low heat for a few seconds to melt the chocolate some more. Brands vary so this step may be necessary if the chocolate is not completely melted.
To assemble the cake:
Let stand the ganache about 15-20 minutes so it is thick enough to apply between the layers of chocolate cake. Leave about 1 to 1.5 cups for the top and sides and set and slightly warm it up a bit so it spreads more easily.
*******************GIVEAWAY ENDED APRIL 14TH************************************
Last night, as I was waiting for my flight in Orlando for my flight back home, all I could think about was the serving of Heidi’s Macaroon Tart awaiting me back in Charleston.
I have had a great time teaching at Food Blog Forum on Friday and I can’t wait to share pictures and information of what was shared a little later next week. My head is still full and my heart is bursting at the seam. I knew it already, but let me say it again, Food Bloggers Rock! Thanks to Julie who helped plan the whole weekend, I was able to teach a photography and styling workshop today before my flight. Awesomeness again…
Wild Rice Casserole.
Today, I really want to talk about Heidi Swanson's book Super Natural Everyday except everything I want to say never seems enough. Everytime I get a book for review, I make sure to devote a chunk of the week to cook from it. It helps see the thread use by the author to build the book. the stories, the photography. All the dishes I cooked this past week from her book led me down the same path: practical, satisfying, energizing, good and good for the soul.
Black Bean Salad.
In one word. I can’t wait to cook from it even more. The food is tasty, fresh and Heidi’s personality and wonderful soul shows at every turn of the page. A beautiful soul with a wonderful message to share. Good food, made with wholesome ingredients does not have to come in gargantuan portions nor is it difficult or time consuming to make. The flavors in all of Heidi’s dishes are a burst of everything that is good with eating and cooking in this world.
And the photography…always loved how Heidi’s lets her readers eat with their eyes first. Her photography is authentic and hers. Just as she is. Just as her food.
Millet Muffins & homemade strawberry jam.
I emailed her publicist a few days ago and asked if I could hold a giveaway of a copy of Heidi’s book for you guys. To my delight, I am happy to be able to share two copies with you guys! If you need a little enticing, check out the recipes for her Shaved Fennel Salad and Macaroon Tart after the jump!
Millet Muffins and Frittata.
To enter the giveaway:
– leave a comment on this post starting today until Thursday April 14th midnight Eastern time.
– one comment per person
– no anonymous comment please
– two winners will be picked randomly by the hand of the wise, my husband
Note: it may take up to 24 hrs for your comment to appear on the page.
Heidi has this fabulous Buttermilk Cake recipe that she makes with plums but I used Pixie tangerines since they were in season.
I had such a blast cooking, eating and photographing her recipes. I take immense pleasure at shooting other people’s recipes and Heidi’s was not exception. When it comes from the heart, the photography part becomes a source of intense joy. I hope the next few shots entice you to get her book and start cooking from her book soon.
Shaved Fennel Salad.
Shaved Fennel Salad, with permission of Ten Speed Press:
Serves 4 to 6
1 medium large zucchini, sliced into paper thin coins
2 small fennel bulbs, trimmed and shaved paper-thin
2/3 cup/.5oz/15g loosely chopped fresh dill
1/3 cup/80ml fresh lemon juice, plus more if needed
1/3 cup/80ml extra virgin olive oil, plus more if needed
fine grain sea salt
4 or 5 generous handfuls arugula
honey, if needed
1/2 cup/2 oz/ 60g pine nuts, toasted (I used walnuts)
1/3 cup/2 oz/ 60g/ feta cheese, crumbled
Combine the zucchini, fennel and dill in a bowl and toss with the lemon juice, olive oil and 1/4 teaspoon slat. Set aside and marinate for 20 minutes, or up to an hour.
When you are ready to serve the salad, put the arugula in a large bowl. Scoop all of the zucchini and fennel onto the arugula, and our most of the lemon juice dressing on top of that. Toss gently but thoroughly. Taste and adjust with more of the dressing, olive oil, lemon juice, or salt if needed. If the lemons were particularly tart, you may need to counter the pucker-factor by adding a tiny drizzle of honey into the salad at this point. Let your taste buds guide you. Serve topped with pine nuts and feta.
******************************************************************************* Macaroon Tart, with permission of Ten Speed Press
Makes 24 bite size servings (I made 2 rectangular tarts with one recipe)
1 1/2 cups/6oz/ 170g white whole wheat flour (I used 1 cup brown rice flour and 1/2 cup millet flour)
3/4 cup/ 2 0z/ 60g unsweetened finely shredded coconut
3/4 cup/ 3.75oz/ 106 g sifted and lightly packed natural cane sugar
Scant 1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
10 tablespoons/5oz/140g unsalted butter, melted
Preheat the oven to 350F/180C with a rack in the middle of the oven. Butter an 8×11-inch tart pan (I used two 14×5 ones) and line the bottom and sides with parchment paper.
To make the crust, in a large bowl, combine the flour, coconut, sugar and salt. Stir in the melted butter and mix until dough is crumbly but no longer dusty looking. Firmly press the mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan (it should form a solid, flat layer). Bake for 15 minutes, or until golden. Remove and set aside to cool for a few minutes.
In the meantime, prepare the coconut macaroon filling by combining the coconut, sugar, and egg whites. Mix until well combined.
Evenly distribute the blackberries across the tart base. Now drop little dollops of the macaroon filling over the tops of them (dirty up your hands for this part), and mush and press the coconut topping around into the spaces behind the berries. Be sure to let at least some of the colorful berries pop through for visual flair.
bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the peaks of the macaroon filling are deeply golden brown. Let the tart cool, then garnish with the crusted pistachios before slicing into small squares.
Yes, I am giving away a box full of chocolate donated by Scharffen Berger in San Francisco. Head toward the end of the post for details on how to participate.
Back in June (wow that feels like an eternity…) I was part of a food blogging panel at Evo 10 with two wonderful ladies, Jane and Helen Jane. Yep, I am not making this up. We clearly sounded like a tribe "Hi! I’m Helen!" "And I am Jane!" "And I’m Helen Jane". They were handling the blogging part of our workshop and I was doing the photography part. Lots of fun and new friendships came out of this. Honest, comfortable and packed with belly laughing punctuated conversations.
There is a myriad of ways to blog and find your peace and balance. I don’t think on it much. I am thrilled to make you discover bits about my home country, new recipes and techniques. It’s a place for me to practice my crafts and hopefully to give you something enjoyable to look at and tempt you as well. I put a lot of hard work and dedication into this space and it has given me so much in return. Most of all, the possibility to connect with wonderful people all over the world and be able to live all sorts of experiences.
However, when Jane sent me an email asking me if I wanted to help her organize a little party during BlogHer Food this weekend, my first reaction was "ugh…I don’t really have time to plan right now" but Jane came back with the words "what if it is a swanky chocolate filled little shingdig?". My reply? "go on, I’m listening…"
I have no idea how it all happened but before I knew it, I was part of a team of talented and generous ladies getting together venue, foods, libations and gifts for a party. I got worried that we would have to sell our souls to the Devil to make it happen but Jane & Kristen calmly said "We won’t do any of that. Just sit pretty and eat your chocolate. Scharffen Berger is giving us tons for the party".
I am a milk chocolate kind of gal if you must know. I don’t eat that much chocolate but when I do, it’s the creamy kind that gets me all tingly. Add nuts and caramel bits and I will do just about anything…
And that I did. And still do tonight as I am finishing packing for BlogHer Food. I can’t wait to be there and see familiar faces and meet new ones. People I’ve been reading for years becoming even more real. I love that my schedule this weekend is a nice balance of work, play and unexpected.
There was a tad bit of planning to be done on the home front before heading out though. Mainly stocking the fridge with good foods and making sure that the important things were right in front of his eyes if B. opened up said fridge. There are now eight Vanilla Rice Pudding & Chocolate Panna Cotta facing him. Don’t worry, he’s got more nutritious foods to dig into.
I have no idea what got into me to combine panna cotta and rice pudding except my deepest love for both. I figured with the weather finally changing a bit we could try to get into Fall mood a little too and start simmering, stirring, chocolating again after the heat of the summer. It does feel nice to finally have that little crisp in the air as the sun rises over the water.
So I am not going to tell you that this post was made possible by the folks at Scharffen Berger who sent me chocolate because I would have made this recipe without them sending chocolate anyway. But…I would have used high quality chocolate like theirs nonetheless specifically because chocolate is in the front seat in this one.
What I am going to tell you is that they make some mighty fine chocolates and by using the 70% bittersweet chocolate bars, the panna cotta packed a good chocolate punch while remaining smooth as silk. To make sure you get the chance to feel the way we feel after sharing one of these, I asked if they’d let me have more chocolate to give away to one of you. I asked for "some chocolate" and they are sending a box full.
That’s also why I love them. They know how good their craft is and are all about getting us addicted to it…eheheh. Did they ask or demand I post about them? Nope. I volunteered. That was a no brainer for me. Eat chocolate and giveaway some more on your blog. Make someone else happy.
I am happy to be giving away a mixed box of Unsweetened Natural Cocoa Powder, 99% Cacao Unsweetened Chocolate Baking Bar, 62% Cacao Semisweet Chocolate Baking Chunks and a few of their eating bars in various percentages courtesy of Scharffen Berger. To enter, you have until Monday October 11th, midnight Easter standard time to leave a comment on this post. (No anonymous comment). The winner will be picked at random by the closest person to me in the room (not kidding) – I’ll be in San Francisco until Tuesday but I will make sure to get in touch with the winner. Vanilla Rice Pudding & Chocolate Panna Cotta:
Serve 6 to 8
For the rice pudding:
1 cup rice (really the kind you like best)
1 1/2 cups (315ml) whole milk (I used raw)
1/2 vanilla bean, split open
1/2 cup (60ml) heavy cream
1/4 cup (50gr) sugar
Pinch of salt
For the chocolate panna cotta:
1 tablespoon powdered gelatin (2 sheets gelatin)
1/4 cup water
1 cup whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup honey
8 oz bittersweet chocolate
1 cup Greek yogurt
Cocoa nibs, dusting of cocoa powder and fresh whipped cream (optional garnish)
Prepare the rice pudding:
In a stainer, rinse the rice under cold water for a minute to remove some of its natural starch.
In a medium saucepan set over medium heat, bring the rice, milk, cream, sugar to a simmer. Scrape the seeds from inside the vanilla bean and add to the pan with the salt. Cook until tender, stirring occasionally for about 20 to 30 minutes. Remove from the heat. Let cool for a few minutes and divide the pudding evenly among ramekins. Cover with a layer of plastic wrap until you are ready to pour the panna cotta on top of the rice pudding.
Prepare the panna cotta:
Place the water in small bowl and sprinkle the gelatin over it. Reserve.
In a large heavy bottomed saucepan placed over medium heat, bring the milk, heavy cream, and honey to a simmer. When the cream is hot, remove from the heat and whisk in the chocolate until melted. Add the reserved gelatin and stir until it is completely dissolved. Add the yogurt and whisk vigorously until well blended.
Divide the mixture over the rice pudding ramekins. Let stand at room temperature for 20 minutes and then refrigerate for at least 4 hours before serving to let the cream set properly.
Garnish with cocoa nibs and whipped cream if desired.
The chocolate, cocoa powder and cocoa nibs used in this recipe were given by Scharffen Berger at no cost.
I honestly think the older I get, the harder that jetlag thing becomes. Maybe it is simply that each time it becomes a tad bit more significant in emotions and events. I did give myself the weekend off to do the mundane "back from vacation" routine and spend some time with B. and our friends getting re-adjusted.
I also took time to write down some sort of schedule as my work time is pretty much spoken for until this April. I look forward to come here on this page and unwind with more recipes and stories!
In that spirit and to tell you "Thank you" from the bottom of my heart for reading, laughing, frowning and smiling with me, I put together a little basket of French goodies I picked up on my trip to give away today. Head to the end of the post for instructions on how to enter…!
In the meantime, on to the Southern part of my trip back home. I do hope my aunt and uncle won’t mind my posting about their gorgeous home and the wonderful meal we had when we stopped there on our way from the Alps to Aix-En-Provence. I am so proud of the work they have done, I can’t help share some pictures.
I have always thought my aunt Agnes should have been a stylist or an interior decorator and this visit proved it once again. They basically bought a ruin in Provence with 4 walls, a roof and pretty much nothing you could call a home inside. Today, they have turned it into possibly the most peaceful retreat one could think of.
I don’t tend to carry my camera to every meal I attend but I knew that lunch at their place would be the perfect opportunity to make you part of an everyday meal for us. French food and cooking is always surprising. A perfect mix of intricate, controlled preparations, detailed methods and a more relaxed, everyday cooking which makes going out a true fete and dining in a celebration of simplicity.
With the myriad of regions, provinces and history in France, it’s not uncommon for visitors to go a tad bit crazy over the fantastic food. I know I do everytime I come home but really French cooking is nothing but a strong appreciation for seasonal foods and the cooking methods that bring out the best of it. Simple, fresh, fragrant. And Provence is naturally perfect for that.
I just wrote myself a sticky note to ask my aunt for her confit de carottes recipe. Melt in your mouth slow cooked carrots that held their shape perfectly right up until you’d close your mouth upon them. Then it was an explosion of sweet and savory, garlic flower and thyme.
We ate and drank and took our time to appreciate the scenery before us. So much so that we made our way to Aix-En-Provence in the later part of the afternoon. The sun falling down over the city was casting a gorgeous golden glow on the house fronts and pebbled streets.
Going back there was a treat for all of us. My father went to school at the Institute of Political Studies there and got a bit emotional showing me his first apartment right on the Cours Mirabeau. We spent quite a bit of time in that area retracing steps to stores, restaurants, and other places we used to visit.
Things have inevitably changed since we used to live in the area but a few things remain as we remembered. The markets, the plazas, sitting at a cafe listening to an open air classical concert. Fountains, facades, shops…it was good to be back even for such a short stop but we had somewhere more important to be.
Going back to my old village of Calas-Cabries was amazing in ways I can’t explain. In the five minutes I was out of the car, everything came back. The streets, the turns, the walkways, the shortcuts. My first bike fall, my first crush, my first dive...Trees and bushes had taken over the front lawn in my old house and that was just as well. I could almost hear us play in the pampa’s grass again and not think about the pool newly installed.
Time and life change things. I did not expect anything upon returning home. Expectations ruin things most of the time. The old village had not changed however. The church where I did my communions, the central plaza where I did my ballet recitals. All these years spent there becoming the person I am today. I finally started making sense of myself to myself.
The chapel on the hill where we’d have Scouts meetings. It was good to be home and take a walk under the pine trees and to hear the kids running around at recess. Nothing like a trip home to reset the human clocks right.
It’s good to be home now although I am already planning another couple of trips out West! First isBlogHer Food in San Francisco October 8th and 9th. I am honored to be back as a speaker on a photography panel with my buddy Jen from Use Real Butter as we share the same view about conferences being teaching tools not mere presentations of what is or should be. Sharing is key. We hope to see you there!
Cookies. Milk. Afternoon showers. Looking at the shoreline through the window. That was just the medicine needed the other day. Even if just for the enticing aroma of warm chocolate wafting through the house. I did not know the power of chocolate chip cookies until I moved to the US though. We don’t really do those back home. We have eclairs, macarons, financiers. These I knew as my pick up-feel better-never let me down treats. Until I met B.
Turns out I married a chocolate chip cookie monster. It does not matter which kind comes out of the oven, a tray usually disappears in its entirety as soon as the cookies are cool enough to handle. And before I am done with the batch I can pretty much start over. His favorites are hands down chocolate chip cookies and I think I have baked 100 different recipes so far. Always in search of the next best one.
I must say, after years of marriage and oodles of batches behind me that I get it. the French have their baguette and chocolate bar as a snack, here it’s cookies and milk….and I love that too. Unlike B. I am good after a couple of cookies but I had to find a gluten free recipe now and one that he would not even blink twice about trying. And liking.
I really had not particularly trying to find one until the good folks at Threadless contacted me about a promo they were doing. I have a personal rule not to do product review here, mostly because I hate to commit to a deadline for one when work is already full of deadlines as it is. But it’s Threadless tees…I love them. I bought my first one four years ago and probably bought over a dozen for friends and family since then. They are awesome. Different, fun and they promote artists and individual talent.
Before I agreed I checked the selection they wanted to promote, trying to tie it in somehow with this blog and give you something back at the same time in the form of a new recipe. You can guess I fell in love with the Cookie Loves Milk design. And I had the perfect reason to search for that gluten free chocolate chip recipe my repertoire was missing.
I picked the most reliable gluten free source I know, my friend Shauna from Gluten Free Girl and The Chef. I know the extent with which her recipes are developed and the love she puts in making them for us around. If you doubt it, watch this video trailer for their upcoming cookbook. See what I mean? I picked her cookie recipe in the Blog Aid cookbook we both participated in to raise funds for the Haiti this past winter. Tons of your favorite bloggers contributed pictures and recipes! And dorky as I am, I baked in my brand new Cookie Loves Milk tee….
You know what I love about that tee-shirt? It brings a smile on everyone’s face. Even the cranky bank teller giggled. Five seconds of giggles in your day and you have already done a great deal for your inner self. Smiling. The good for the soul kind of workout. Something I am definitely happy to promote and stand behind. Not to mention that this tee is so comfortable to wear I almost went to bed with it..eheheh! The flip-flops that came along? Just what I needed for the beach…
But that’s not all… Threadless has nicely offered to giveaway a "Cookie Loves Milk" tee shirt to one lucky reader of this blog (they unfortunately ran out of flip-flops) and I am am adding a copy of the Blog Aid – Recipes For Haiti cookbook where the following recipe comes from. To enter:
– leave a comment on this post (why not tell me your favorite cookie?) between today Wednesday August 11th and Sunday August 15th, midnight eastern US time.
– one entry per person, duplicates will not be published
– no anonymous entry. Sign Zorro or Bambi if you must…
36-hour Chocolate Chip Cookies – originally adapted from David Leite from Leite’s Culinaria, now adapted from Shauna’s version.
Note: Read more about why 36 hours in the fridge makes them better here.
1 cup sorghum flour
1 cup corn starch (you can sub tapioca starch)
1 cup potato starch
1 cup millet flour
1 tablespoon xanthan gum
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups brown sugar
1 cup plus granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups chocolate chips or chocolate chunks
In a large bowl, whisk together each of the flours and "starches" along with the xanthan gum, baking soda and baking powder.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and the sugars on medium speed for a couple of minutes. then mix for 1 minute more. Don’t overmix. the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well in between each addition and scraping the sides and bottom of your mixer bowl if necessary. Add the vanilla extract and beat an extra 30 seconds.
Add the flour mixture into the batter, 1/2 cup at a time, mixing just until the dry ingredients are coming together. Add the chocolate and mix briefly to incorporate.
Cover the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 36 hours.
When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350°F, position a rack in the middle of the oven and line baking sheets with parchment paper or a non-stick baking mat.
Scoop your preferred size of dough balls onto your baking sheet, 2 inches apart from each other. Sprinkle the tops with the sea salt.
Bake the cookies about 12-15 minutes, depending on the size of your cookies or until golden brown. Let cool the cookies 10 minutes on the baking sheets before transferring to cooling racks.
You have no idea how good it feels to finally take time in this crazy schedule to come here and write a little, share a recipe and possibly a good laugh or two. Although now that I am here I am drawing a super "ugh" kind of a blank. Yes, even that brilliant paragraph I wrote in my head this morning in the shower. Pouf! Gone. I am seriously thinking of designing a waterproof notepad or carrying a waterproof in there.
Oh yes…it just came back to me: Bill’s birthday is next week, the 27th to be exact, and I do need your help. I can’t decide what to make him for his birthday dessert this year and I thought I would ask you for some suggestions. In order to make this a bit more fun for everyone, I thought about pairing it with a little giveaway. So here it is folks:
– Tell me what is the most raved about dessert you have made (please provide link to recipe or as many details as you wish) in the comment section of this post. No need to have a blog, just the main idea of the recipe. (No anonymous without a name will be approved).
– On Monday night, I’ll pick one I know my better half would love for his birthday, make it and post about it, (with full credits to you and the recipe of course).
– But that’s not all, the person whose dessert was picked will be sent a copy of "Artisan Breads – At Home With The Culinary Institute of America" (I’ll ship worldwide)
Hope ya’ll can hit me with some major sweetness! And anything goes: the man likes everything, ahaha!
And I am ok with losing my mind over this… it’s the season after all and I admit I absolutely love it. Well, apart from not being able to cook and post as much, answer emails on time, and piling up clean laundry instead of folding it. Why am I telling you this? It all relates to these Cherry And Plum Crumbles and how I need a mini "brain check" before bedtime lately.
I was all set to make cherry and plum sorbet the other day when I realized I may not have picked up enough of each at the farmers' market and I was about to head out the door for more, B. shouted from the garage that his mom was stopping by with extras from her market trip "she thought you might like more plums and cherries". What did I hear instead? The tiny influx of rush and stress of my own mental notes but not a word he said.
I started thinking I should pick some flowers for his mom as a thank you. That I’d better not lolligag while at the store, get my stuff and jet. My mind drifted and wondered if I’d have time to churn that batch of ice cream before bedtime. I thought about the vet, the delivery guy, the dentist every one in between! It felt crammed up inside my head. Have no fear, I am not driving while under the influence of the voices. The car seems to be a free zone.
I got home right on time to invite my mother in law inside for a very cold glass of lemonade and a few cookies. We unloaded our bags together and busted out laughing right away. I was staring at enough cherries and plums to feed the whole neighborhood. I’ve always considered this kind of happening a joyous opportunity to poach extra fruit and freeze them for when I crave cherries in January, plums in November, or ripe and juicy pears in June.
Poaching fruit in a concoction of lemon juice, water and spices is something I learned from my mom and grandmother very early on. It used to generates suspicious looks from my husband when we were newlyweds and he’d come home to find me elbow deep skinning and pitting a box of bruised peaches for poaching and freezing. Why not can you might ask? I make jams regularly so I am running out of room already in the pantry and I go through the frozen fruit faster than the jams.
I had enough fruit this time around to make cherry and plum sorbets, poach and freeze some and make Cherry Plum Crumbles with the rest. That’s a lot. Even if it’s summer and it is bloody hot outside, I still went ahead and made crumbles. I needed to plan comforting treats for the busy day ahead. The mix of crunchy bits of dough and soft fruit all warm out of the oven topped with a generous scoop of ice cream is my idea of the ultimate comfort.
I am too ticklish to get a massage. I am too claustrophobic to enjoy a facial. Not girly enough to go for mani-pedis. So crumbles it is. Curled up on the couch, passed midnight, the pups next to me. Preferably with a side of summer rain but without is alright too.
Cherry and Plum Crumbles With Goat Cheese Ice Cream:
For the fruits:
4 plums, pitted and chopped into small dices (about 1 cup)
1 cup fresh cherries, halved and pitted
1/4 cup honey
zest of one lemon
2 Tb lemon juice
2 Tb cornstarch
For the crumble:
1/2 cup light brown sugar (I used sucanat)
1/3 cup millet flour
1 teaspoon cardamom
6 tablespoons butter, cold
Prepare the fruits:
Preheat your oven to 350F.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the fruits with the honey, lemon zest and juice and cornstarch. Toss with your hands to coat the fruits evenly. Divide between 4 to 6 ramequins and place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or foil as the fruits are most likely to release their juice, causing a spill. Set them aside while your prepare the topping.
Prepare the crumble:
In a medium bowl, toss together the sugar, millet flour and cardamom. Add the butter cut in small pieces and mix with your fingertips until you get a mixture that resembles coarse crumbs. Divide th topping evenly on top of the dishes. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until the topping is golden brown.
Goat Cheese Ice Cream:
3/4 cup sugar (170 gr)
2 egg yolks
2 cups milk (500 ml)
1/3 cup heavy cream (100 ml)
1/2 vanilla bean, seeded
4 oz goat cheese (120gr), at room temperature
In a large bowl whisk the sugar and egg yolks until pale. In a saucepan set on medium heat, bring the milk, cream and vanilla bean to a simmer, slowly pour a small amount on the egg yolks to temper. Pour the remaining over the yolks and sugar. Stir well then pour back in the saucepan and cook over medium low heat until the cream thickens and coats the back of a wooden spoon, stirring constantly.
Remove from the heat and whisk in the goat cheese until completely melted and incorporated.
Cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate until cold. Process in an ice cream maker according to your machine’s manufacturer’s instruction. Freeze until firm.
Going around the tables taking some shots. Still life styled by Diane.
It hit me at the Atlanta airport that I was really back on the East Southern side of things Wednesday night. Unlike in Salt Lake City or Denver, you could feel the humidity seeping out through the walls and permeating the air at the gate. A part of me wanted nothing more than to turn around, click my heels and head out West again. The bigger part of me wanted to be home, hug my better half, play with the pups and slowly go through all the emotions and images of the past week.
The Rembrandt Yard where the workshop was held – look at all that light!
The main reason for my being out West last week was to teach at the Food & Light Photography Workshop that Jen from Use Real Butter had been planning for months. From the moment she asked me to be one of the instructors until the day the workshop began, the excitement of the event was beginning to make my head burst. A HUGE thank you to Jen for organizing with such detail and apparent grace the workshop. From creating the website, downloading all sort of info for attendees (hotels, camera manuals,…) to gathering sponsors and prizes.
Todd and Diane (left) and Jen (right) sharing their knowledge.
I was honored to be among the instructors with kickbutt Jen and the ever talented Todd and Diane from White On Rice Couple. I was equally honored to be among such a tremendous group of attendees. They were all so enthusiastic to learn, practice, share and help one another, talk with us, ask questions and practice some more. It made the whole two day workshop that much more enjoyable and well, plain awesome.
I had done workshops before in which 1 or 2 hours was devoted to hands on practice after a presentation but this time, 2/3 of the workshop was devoted to hands on, time-on-tool practice. Time to really put into play what the instructors had just talked about and as we were circulating from table to table, we could repeat or elaborate what had been shared and discussed before.
The instructors time was divided in such a way that students got the best of everything that we got and boy we did cover a lot! Jen kicked off the workshop with a thorough and interactive presentation on camera basics and fundamentals such as exposure, metering, aperture, shutter speed, ISO. Todd and Diane presented on natural light workflow, lenses and focal lengths. On the second day, Todd and Diane presented half a session on artificial light while I presented the second half on natural light, both addressing how use either or depending on the desired photographic goal. The last session tackled food styling which Diane and I shared with a bonus styling demo to boot.
At the Rembrandt Yard.
Beside the reward of learning and practicing for 2 straight days, Jen scored some neat prized to give out to attendees in different categories. Picking from all the entries posted to the Food and Light Flickr pool was tough! See the list of winners on Jen’s post. Congratulations to all of you guys – everyone did a fabulous job! Watch out for Elena’s son, Ethan…Such a young fella but his creativity and skills are already really strong!
The Kitchen Upstairs.
Cocktails and good times.
To celebrate such a strong end to this fabulous workshop, the "break-down crew" (Lisa, Anita, Dana, Annie, Todd, Diane, Jen and Jeremy) headed out to happy hour at The Kitchen Upstairs.
Jen and Lisa.
Garlic Fries and Sticky Toffee Pudding.
After hearing rave reviews from Jen for months I was thrilled to finally sit down to good cocktails and good food. The Kitchen did not disappoint, from the lovely details and atmosphere to the wonderfully crafted small plates we shared.
I laughed for a straight two hours…it felt good. I wish I could have stayed to hike with Jen, Jeremy, Todd and Diane the next day but flying back East takes about an entire day and there is much to be taken care of at home these days (trips, work, family, etc…). Jen’s backyard is like my backyard in the Alps. Beautifully breathtaking and a sight I miss everyday.
Chocolate Pots de Creme and some pretty stylish water.
No reason to feel left out if you could not attend though. Jen found herself with three extra swagbags at the end of the workshop and decided that we (Jen, Todd and Diane and myself) should put them up for giveaways. So here you go: THREE chances to win one of these awesome bags very generously filled by Chefs Catalog (coincidentally my go-to source for kitchen stuff ever since I move to the US). Each tote is filled with 4 large wooden spoons, 1 silicone spatula, a ceramic peeler, a 6-inch Wusthof bread knife and cutting board set, 3 kitchen towels, 4 stainless steel prep bowls with lids (love those!).
Here are the rules to enter:
– leave a comment on this post by Monday July 5th at midnight Eastern time
– one entry per person (duplicate will be deleted)
– participants must have US shipping addresses
– the winner will be picked at random by my wonderful better half
I’m in Utah folks! Got in Salt Lake City yesterday afternoon and I’m heading to The Canyons Resort in Park City Utah where the Evo 10 Conference is held this year. To say that I am honored and stoked is putting it mildly. Yesterday as I was watching my inbox implode in between two planes, I just smiled and thought "breathe – take the travel time as a time out". I am looking forward to this week, complete with the workshop in Boulder. Work does pile up when you can’t look! It’s fine though. It’s actually better than fine. It’s impossible to complain when mixing work and play in such beautiful scenery as the mountains of Utah and Colorado.
Before I left I treated B. to a couple of special treats and of course stocked the fridge and freezer. When I made these Nutella Doughnuts from Lorna’s cookbook, The Newlywed Kitchen, they almost ended up being dinner. We just could not stop eating them. Pop. Pop. Pop. Oops… Tender, moist, tangy and filled with Nutella….the one thing we truly fight over in the kitchen. If you finish the jar and do not replace it, be ready to face a mini temper tantrum. And not necessarily from me…!
Last week I raved about the simplicity of the Parmesan Roasted Asparagus Tomatoes and Eggs I made from her cookbook. Well, let me raved about how spending a little bit of time in front of the stove to fry these babies up was worth it. Ten times that even. The recipe comes together in no time and the size of the doughnuts makes them the perfect little bite to have after dinner or as a treat (but you won’t stop at one, let me tell you that!). The oozing Nutella in the center? Literally the proverbial icing on the cake. Per-fect.
I love drop doughnuts and the simplicity of Lorna’s recipe makes them so easy to adapt gluten free. If you are afraid of deep drying. Fear no more. The temperature given for the oil is right on for these. They turn into perfect airy pockets with a slight tang coming from the ricotta and lemon zest. Love how the Nutella plays so well with the lemon zest. Just the right touch of it too. They are so good plain too. Filled with some strawberry jam I made last month. I even filled some with compote I made after the neighbors gifted me with a basket full of sour apples.
Another successful bite from Lorna’s book! And guess what? Today is your chance to get your hands on a copy to see and taste what I am talking about! That’s right! Lorna is graciously giving away a copy of her book to one of you. All you have to do is leave a comment on this post (anonymous please sign a name) – between today Thursday June 24th and Sunday June 27th, midnight Easter time. A winner will be picked at random from the comment pool by my better half.
While in Salt Lake City I stayed with Maria and Josh, the team behind Two Peas And Their Pod and we are heading together to the conference, meeting up with Kristen, Katie, Amy and a whole bunch of people I’m thrilled to meet for the first time. Since this morning is pretty much the most quiet time I foresee for the rest of the week, I thought I’d post some snapshots of our "Bloggers Meet Up". I’ll try to post snapshots of the conference, attendees and speakers as I go along.
Maria and Christie.
Maria organized a little get together for me and Christie from The Table Runner graciously hosted it at her beautiful home. We spent hours talking about life, blogging, food, kids and so much more. Made me go to bed with a full heart and a skip in my step. Thank you ladies for your generosity!
Nutella Doughnuts, courtesy and copyright Lorna Yee from "The Newlywed Kitchen" cookbook.
Makes about 14 doughnuts
Note: to adapt these gluten free, I replace the flour with 1/2 cup superfine sweet rice flour, 1/4 millet, 1/4 cup sorghum flour, and added 1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum for a smooth dough.
3 large eggs
1/4 cup sugar
8 ounces whole-milk ricotta
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
Canola, vegetable, or peanut oil for frying
Powdered sugar for dusting doughnuts
1 cup Nutella
In a large mixing bowl, stir together the eggs, sugar, ricotta, salt, and vanilla extract. Add the flour and baking powder, and mix until just combined.
Heat 3 inches of the oil in a deep pot until it registers 375 degrees F on a deep-fat thermometer. Drop a tablespoon of batter into the oil and cook for about 3 minutes on one side, and 2 minutes on the other side. (Do not make the doughnuts much bigger, as the outside will brown too quickly and they won’t cook through.) Don’t overcrowd the pot–you will probably need to fry the doughnuts in three batches. Cut one doughnut open to make sure it’s cooked through before removing the rest of the batch from the oil. When the doughnuts are cooked, scoop them out and allow them to drain on paper towels. Repeat with remaining batter.
Dust the doughnuts with powdered sugar and pipe Nutella into the center of each one. These doughnuts are meant to be devoured warm out of the fryer, so make them just before you’re both ready to eat them.
Variation: Add 1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon or orange zest to the dough and fill the doughnuts with your favorite jelly or lemon curd.