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!
Everyday, every Winter, I am just a bundle of buzz, bliss, excitement and creativity. Everything about the day makes me move about and almost lose myself snapping photographs. The sky is magical this time of year with its every changing shades of blues. The silver and gold reflections of the water in the creek down below. I am constantly amazed at the light offering itself for the taking inside the studio. I lose myself in it as soon as the sun rises on the horizon until far after it is reasonable to admit.
Good thing my love for everything that is magical about Winter and the season is being matched with working on a few projects and chomping away at deadlines. I also love the fact that B. is either grading papers or exams in the room next to mine and through our respective silences, I know our minds are bursting with ideas. He’s constantly re-evaluating his way of doing things and presenting notions and I find myself doing the same in a different way. He is definitely the best mental partner I could have wished for.
Last Sunday morning I was writing on the couch in the studio, proof reading out loud a paragraph I was not completely happy with when B. popped his head in and volunteered to give it a look. We started talking photography and playing around with illustrations for a few chapters for a couple of hours. Before we knew it, we both heard our stomach growl. The light that day was so amazing I wanted to keep on working. But dang we were hungry too! Good thing that shooting food allows me to combine the two.
I wouldn’t normally do anything as fancy as scallops for lunch but it was Sunday after all, a quieter day for the both of us. One we like to make special. I also had been given these scallops the day before by one of the vendors at the farmers market who had just done a catering gig and was left with about two dozens huge scallops. I did not want to wait to cook them and risk being passed their peak for freshness.
Scallops cook fast, so it was the perfect quick lunch to fix while B. was grading a couple more papers. I wanted to include a vegetable side other than salad (they are my typical lunch fare throughout the week), something that would cook quickly too and possibly at the same time. By their mini size, the little patty pan squashes and zucchinis I had picked up at the market the day before were perfect. I actually started with these, just sprinkled with salt and pepper at high heat while I was assembling the scallops which took me less than 15 minutes. Once they were ready to go in, I lowered the oven temperature a bit and in 10 more minutes we had lunch. Special little Sunday lunch with my honey…
I brought everything up while pipping hot and started taking pictures. The smell was so hard to resist that within five minutes we were ready to dig it. A few more snapshots later and we were eating on the couch in my office, holding our plates in our hand and laughing at our actual set up. "I love your job!" Bill said enthusiastically. Yep. So do I!
Sometimes I know what is going to end up on the blog, sometimes I don’t. This lunch was completely unplanned but the resulting dish was too good and easy to keep for ourselves. I am glad I did not wait for a special occasion. The precise moment of just being in that day was special occasion enough.
Now I am wondering what I’ll find at the market for this upcoming Sunday, ehehe….
Have a great weekend!
Scallops With Roasted Patty Pan Squash:
Notes: For this dish, I counted we ate about 5 scallops each (we were hungry!) but you may want to adjust depending on their size. We ate the leftovers in a salad the next day.
To make gluten free breadcrumbs (or any kind of bread crumbs really), just process until finely ground a few slices of your favorite gluten free bread.
For this dish, start by roasting the vegetables as they take longer than the scallops to cook.
For the roasted squash:
assorted patty pan squashes or cut squash (count about a cup raw per person)
salt & peppper
about 2 tablespoons olive oil
For the scallops:
1/2 cup gluten free breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme
2 tablespoons finely shredded swiss cheese
salt and pepper
3 tomatoes, diced
1/3 cup white wine
20 to 24 scallops (depending on their size)
Prepare the vegetables:
Preheat the oven to 400F.
In a medium bowl, toss together the vegetables, salt and pepper and olive oil.
Place the vegetables in a baking dish or roasting pan and cook for about 20 minutes. Prepare the scallops in the meantime, you wan to end up with both cooked at the same time.
Prepare the scallops:
In a small bowl, combine the breadcrumbs, thyme, cheese and salt & peppper. Set aside while you prepare the rest of the dish.
In a baking dish, place the tomatoes, white wine and top with the scallops. Spoon about one tablespoons of the breadcrumb mix on top of each breadcrumbs.
Lower the oven temperature to 375F and cook the scallops alongside the vegetables until done, about 10-12 minutes depending on their size. Remove both the scallops and vegetables from the oven and let cool a couple of minutes before digging in.
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!
No, I have not found a way to make clams out of pastry nor did I find the time to make them out of fondant. After my last post, my dear husband came to me and complained "I’m ok with you posting that I dont' bake because let’s face it, I don’t but I *do* cook. Sometimes." Yes, he does. Sometimes. Which prevents me from eating cake for lunch because I am plowing through work and often realize that it is 2pm and we have not had lunch yet. And I love when he cooks simple things like these Steamed Clams that we eat on the back deck with some bread and a glass of wine.
Living by the water is downright very nice… I’ll never take that for granted. Nor will I take my little helper for granted either.
When I last called my mom, she could hear his banging pots and pans, setting his prep area "his" way while giving me directions to please exit the premises, he never came in the kitchen when I was baking after all. Yes sir! Happily. With his teaching schedule he is home a lot and with both our independent characters, she often wonders how pots and pans have not been used as weapons of marital destruction yet. We just love hanging out together and working "independently together". My studio is next to his study and I can shout for help whenever everything is about to tumble down just as easily as he can call me over to look at a research project. We are each others' best critiques and supporters.
When he calls out from the other room "Hey! Have you thought about lunch yet?", I often want to shout back "Hey! Go fry an egg and bring me one while you’re at it!". I never actually do say that. Lately though, I have sensed that he could hear my brain scream it so loud that he decided to enter "my" territory (the kitchen) and fix us something for lunch. And what a lunch! Simple, fresh and quick.
We do catch and eat tons of seafood but I rarely think of buying clams, for no particular reason actually. I had been working on a photo project for a friend and his catering business and one of the dishes to photograph had clams. I had bought two bags, anticipating redos but everything went without a hitch and I was left with an extra bag. Since Bill is the master at steaming shellfish and seafood (you should see him take care of the crabs we get at the dock!), I told him to please go do something with the clams as I would not keep them another day.
Fifteen minutes later I was sitting in front of a bowl of perfectly steamed clams in white wine and garlic, simply garnished with a sprinke of tomato dices and a few sprigs of parsley. Guess what I did? I told him not to move and got the camera to shoot our plates. He rolled his eyes so strongly that I thought they were going to get stuck to the back of his head. He simply said "can you speed this one up, I don’t want to eat me lunch cold?!"I know many of you cooking and blogging can relate!
I enjoy photographing and writing about other things than cakes and ice creams and I might also post a few other of our favorite "go to" savory lunches or dinners in the future. Do not be alarmed if you see bacon or thyme sneaking in here and there. For now, I figured it was high time I sang Bill’s praises for being such great little hands behind the scenes.
Serves two hungry people
Kitchen note: Littleneck clams are best for steaming. These were cherrystone clams which have a tendency to toughen up faster when steamed but we remove them as soon as the shells pop open and they stay nice and soft this way. You can ommit the white wine and use fish stock or water if you can’t have alcohol. We like to eat ours with a sprinkle of lemon juice and some red wine vinegar.
2 dozen fresh clams
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 cup white wine
1 cup water (or clam juice if you have some)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tomato, finely diced
Wash the clams thoroughly and brush off any dirt. Heat oil in a large saucepan set over medium heat and cook the garlic for a minute. Add the wine and water and bring to a simmer. Add the clams, cover the pan and let the clams steam for about 10 minutes or until they start to pop open. Discard any clams that did not open and scoop the clams into serving bowls. Season the juice remaining in the pan with salt and pepper to taste, pour some over the clams and garnish with parsley and diced tomato.