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.
Feels like forever since I last posted here. Wait, it’s been forever!What can I say..There was work, lots of it and at a fast pace, summer hang outs with friends and weekend discoveries around town. A trip to France that pumped all my energy and emotions and getting back in the groove of things which has been easier than anticipated.
I am spending the weekend in a cabin in the northern Georgia with my bestie Tami from Running With Tweezers and I can tell Fall is right around the bend. I am a bridesmaid at her wedding and we decided to do a bachelorette weekend all together in a serene and peaceful house. The Appalachian mountains are quite lovely and tranquil during Fall.
We are just spending a couple of quiet days catching up, genuinely talking about our hopes, fears, giving each others support and words of wisdom. Cooking, snacking, drinking wine and relaxing on the back porch doing nothing of extreme importance. A couple of days to read, relax and enjoy the sound of the river below. I needed it.
Adjusting our internal clocks.
Adjusting my own after three weeks spent in France surrounded by family, great meals, long dinners under the sun and shaded homestead was easier than I thought. I went back into the kitchen right away and cooked comforting meals every night. The husband is still back and forth between here and Charleston so it’s been me and old pup Tippy (will be 17 this coming year!), a good book in the evening and catching up on y’alls blogs and instagrams…
On the weekend, easy peasy meals have been most welcome. The weather has been hot and humid, typically Southern and there has not been much time spent baking, roasting, braising, etc… I am looking forward to those days when Sundays turn into lamb roasts, onion soup and braised chicken. Until then, it’s a loaded heirloom tomato salad, a minty quinoa and cucumber salad or better yet, a quick pasta dish with nothing else than a couple of add ons and a drizzle of olive oil.
When in France, I picked up the coolest black and white spaghetti at a gourmet store. Striped squid in gluten free spaghetti. I feel like playing Mikado with my brothers again everytime I boil a handful. My to-go lunch one hot Saturday was a simple quick toss of said pasta with Stilton blue and fresh cut figs. A little olive oil and I was in business. Simple method, simple flavors. Cooking like we do in my family.
My grandmother used to say "Sundays are good for apple tart". I have to agree, and add that any day is good for apple tart. But also, days begging for a warm embrace, a soft kiss and a little balm to the soul are greatly improved with a slice of my grandmother’s apple tart. Especially when shared with friends.
I believe our friends have heard my stories about my grandparents and family a million times over. That’s part being proud to be of their flesh and blood, part being away and nostalgic, part keeping connected across the miles with some basic traditions. Such as gathering with friends and listening to their stories as well.
This past week has been trying for my family back home, leaving me with the need to get in the kitchen and cook and bake comforting family recipes. The one that were never handwritten, passed down from mother to daughter. The ones that were shared among friends around a cup of tea. The ones prefaced with a simple phrase "well, that’s just one way of doing it…"
I often think of the recipes I was given by family members as the backbone for what I am doing today. I always think about who, among my family members, would enjoy a few gingerbread cookies, who would come share a little seafood pasta for lunch on a last minute notice? The stories associated with food or gatherings always fuel my own photoshoots as much as the actual dishes already do.
It can be a tough navigating act to keep balanced, energized and creative during the holiday seasons while navigating the million gazillion things we all have to do. Writing, crafting, keeping kids busy, baking goodies to share, etc… I find it helpful to balance nutritious, health boosting main courses with sweet little indulgences here and there.
Last week, a bowl of linguine with parsley lime marinated scallops and roasted beets followed by a slice of my grandmother’s apple tart was key to my own peace. A typical thin crumbly French crust, topped with a layer of vanilla bean applesauce then covered with thin slices of apples. Crispy and buttery smooth at the same time.
And if it’s having dessert first once in a blue moon or a little extra pasta on your plate…by all means, do.
Thin Apple Tart:
Note: my grandmother used to say that the only good thing about Golden Delicious apples was that they made great applesauce (apple compote). I tend to follow her thought and much prefer this way than fresh. The flesh and skin become so soft and buttery that you don’t have to peel them (but feel free to if you prefer, especially if using non organic apples or a different kind). My grandma’s applesauce is something of a family remedy with us…
Serves 6 to 8
Ingredients: For the crust:
2 tablespoons (20gr) slivered almonds
1/2 (60gr) cup powdered sugar, unsifted, divided
1/2 stick (57gr) unsalted butter, at room temperature
pinch of salt
3/4 cup (90gr) Jeanne’s gluten free all-purpose flour mix
1 egg yolk
Place almonds and 1 tablespoon powdered sugar in a food processor. Pulse until the nuts are finely ground. In bowl of electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter, ground nuts and salt on medium speed until well-combined. Slowly add remaining powdered sugar and flour and mix well. Add the egg yolk and mix until incorporated. Shape dough into a ball and flatten into a disc. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate for two hours or overnight.
Place the dough in between two sheets of plastic wrap or parchment paper and roll it out to about 1/4-inch thick round.
Place in a 9-inch tart pan, trim the edges. Prick the dough with a fork and refrigerate 30 minutes up to 2 hours. (you can even freeze the dough in the tart pan at this point and let thaw in the fridge overnight when you are ready).
In the meantime, prepare the applesauce.
Apple Compote: (you can prepare it up to 2 days in advance)
1/2 vanilla bean
2 tablespoons sugar
6 medium Golden Delicious apples
1/4 cup to 1/3 cup (60 to 80ml) water
On a flat surface, cut the vanilla bean in half lenghtwise without cutting all the way through and scrape the seeds from the pods with a pairing knife. Place them in a large saucepan along with the sugar. Set aside.
Core and roughly chop the apples. Add them to the vanilla and sugar mixture along with the water. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat. Turn the heat down, cover and let the apples stew for about 1 hour. Check every 20 minutes to and add water to the mixture if the liquid evaporates faster than the apples can cook. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature. Scoop about 1 1/2 cups applesauce inside the prepared tart pan.
2 tablespoons (15gr) granulated sugar
zest of half a lemon
2-3 medium apples
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut in small pieces
Preheat oven to 350F and position a rack in the middle.
In a small bowl, rub together the sugar and lemon zest so that the citrus natural oils can flavor the sugar.
Core and thinly slice the apples. Decoratively arrange the slices over the compote and sprinkle evenly with the sugar. Scatter the butter over the tart shell.
Bake for 35-40 minutes or until the top appples are golden brown.
Linguine With Roasted Beets and Lemon Parsley Scallops:
juice and zest of one lime
1/4 cup parsley leaves, finely chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 to 6 sea scallops
4 mini beets or 2 medium/large (color of your choice)
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 pound linguine (I went with gluten free but use the pasta of your choice)
In a glass or non reactive bowl, place the juice and zest from the lime, the parsley, garlic cloves and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Mix briefly with a spoon and add the scallops. Spoon some of the marinade over the scallops and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.
In the meantime, preheat the oven to 375F and position a rack in the middle.
Place the beets in a baking dish, add the teaspoon of oil, some salt and pepper and roast for about 20-25 minutes. Let cool, peel and cut in halves or quarters depending on the size.
When about ready to eat, place a large pot of water on the stove and cook the linguine until al dente according to package directions.
In the meantime, heat a large non stick pan over medium heat. Remove the scallops from the marinade (do not throw it away), cook the scallops about 2-3 minutes on each side.
In a large bowl, toss the pasta with a spoonful of the marinade, divide the pasta among 2 bowls, add the beets and scallops and serve.