It’s been a while since I visited my own blog, let alone write anything on this page. What can I say? I gave myself an unintentional break by enjoying the most of summer off line. There has been much cooking and photographing but not much free time to sit down and blog about it all. With longer days and gorgeous evenings here, there have been many impromptu dinners al fresco with friends, long chats with the husband in the evening and one thing leading to another…I felt a little tug at giving myself a little break from blogging. With Instagram, Twitter and Facebook so much part of our daily lives, it’s easy to rely on those to keep in touch with everyone out there.
Truth is, I miss you guys. If you are still around. I miss being here and letting my thoughts take shape through the keyboard. Work is busy and can take the fun out of a few hours spent editing and sharing recipes and pictures. Balance. Always something to strive for. Nothing makes me happier than cooking a bunch on the weekend and photographing dishes for a future post and then the routine sets in and that post takes a back seat. One week, two weeks and soon turns into almost three months…
Needless to say, I have a whole bunch of recipes and photos to share with you!
Weekly visit to the amazing farmers market we have here in Birmingham often result in simple yet delectable recipes and musings in the kitchen.
Our favorite snack on the weekend early this summer was market fresh carrots, briefly roasted served with creme fraiche and a good sprinkle of za’atar. Our current favorite dessert is roasted plum with local honey and a dollop of soft whipped cream.
Before I talk about this comforting and tasty Vegetable Couscous, I would like to announce the annouce the winner of the "Where Women Cook: Celebrate!" book giveaway. Folks! Congratulations to Heather from La Tarte Tatin all the way in Seattle!
Heather, please email your snail mail address to mytartelette AT gmail DOT com and I will put the book in the mail first thing Monday morning!
Now back to the Vegetable Couscous….
Earlier this year, Food & Wine Magazine assigned recipes to food bloggers and photographers for images for their site. I had a blast shooting the ones they gave me. Less than 48 hours after I had submitted my images, I got another email saying that they loved my images and could I shoot another ten. They were afraid timing was tight before the holidays. Little did they know my schedule! As a photographer, there is little room for normalcy! Weekends, holidays… we follow the food.
And I would follow that bowl of Vegetable Couscous everywhere. And I did. It was one of the favorites from the shoot. Reminded me of my childhood. The couscous dish my grandmother used to make, just a bit lighter. We eat everything, with fish and vegetarian dinners being the majority so this was perfectly fit for a light dinner al fresco. Paired with a tomato salad and a glass of rosé, it turned out to be all we needed to satisfy our hunger and enjoy the evening.
Hope you enjoy the recipe! Have a wonderful weekend!
Vegetable Couscous, with slight modifications, from Food&Wine:
Note: you can make this gluten free by using gluten free couscous instead of regular one. For the sake of making the recipe as per the requirements of the photo shoot, I used regular couscous.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, cut into thin slices
4 carrots, cut into thin slices
1 fennel bulb, cored and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 small eggplant cut into 1/2-inch pieces
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeño pepper, including seeds and ribs, cut diagonally into thin slices
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 1/2 teaspoons caraway seeds
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
5 1/2 cups water
1 2/3 cups drained and rinsed chickpeas (one 15-ounce can)
1 1/3 cups couscous
In a large skillet, heat the oil over moderate heat. Add the onion, carrots, fennel, eggplant, garlic, and jalapeño. Cook, covered, until the vegetables get soft, about 10 minutes. Add the tomato paste, coriander, caraway seeds, 1 teaspoon of the
salt, and pepper. Cook, stirring once or twice for another minute.
Add 3 1/2 cups of the water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for about 15 minutes. Add the chickpeas, stir and cook another 2 minutes.
In the meantime, prepare the couscous: in a medium saucepan, bring the remaining 2 cups of water to a boil. Add the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and the
couscous. Cover ad take the pot off the heat. Let stand for 5 to 8 minutes. Fluff with a fork. Spoon some couscous in individual bowls and spoon some of the vegetable stew and broth over it.
Let me start this post by giving you some heads up, sort of housekeeping news if you will. The workshop that Clare and I are holding in May 2012 is indeed sold out. There is a waitlist so feel free to send us an email to get on it if you wish. You never know…We are also planning more workshops like this in the future so stay tuned!
The good news is that if you live in Charleston and surrounding areas, I will be holding a One Day Food Photography Workshop at Heirloom Book Company downtown on December 10th from 10am til 5pm.Click here for all the details and to register. Photography, food, styling, book, fun space, and great natural light!
One of the things I love about Charleston and the area where we live, is waking up to a thick layer of fog over the ocean. It gives me the impression that Winter is settling in. I know better. It means today will actually be warmer than the last. That’s ok. I’m not paying attention to those little details anymore. There is Fall and Winter happening in my kitchen, regardless of my shorts and flip flop attire.
Every morning that I take the pups out in the backyard, I bring a little basket and gather the pecans that keep falling during the night. We fought the squirrels long and hard this year but it looks like we won the battle. Well, we did not lose it too bad, I should say. They left us plenty for a few pecan pies, some pecan sandies and the Pecan Brown Butter Cakes pictured here.
Fresh from the oven. Toasted the next day. A dab of Nutella. A smidge of lemon curd. With a cup of tea or coffee. We surely did not get enough… That would be partly because of a little incident involving a phone call, a step outside the studio, a puppy and a tray of cakes left at snout level. I can’t blame Bailey for not resisting. I almost inhaled three of them as they were cooling down.
If it is any testament to how good they are, I made two more batches in the last couple of days. And placed them far away from any possible puppy incident. On the same vibe the roasted vegetable I made for lunch the other day almost ended up consumed by my better half alone…
This salad is a riff on the salad that Clare a made many times when I was there last month for work. It is so easy, wonderfully seasonal and super comforting. Yes, comfort. In a salad. With lots of fresh ingredients. That’s my idea of comfort right now. Sometimes it’s a cup of rich chocolate mousse, a serving of spaghetti carbonara, a bowl of cheese rich onion soup. It depends on what is truly affecting me at the time.
I have loved these months traveling and staying with friends and bloggers rather than hotels. It gave me the chance to see them in their environment and learn from them. I was never as happy as when they wanted to share their cooking with me and let me in their world, their family traditions, their everyday. I’d rather chill at home with someone sharing their cooking and their story than go out to eat (unless the restaurant does feel like home).
I admit that I get the most satisfaction out of roasting vegetables for soups, salads or simply turning them into easy-do easy-come side dishes. Nothing could be easier than this salad. Roasted golden beets and fennel, a sprinkle of blue cheese, pumpkin seeds and some edamame on top of a bed of greens and Savoy lettuce. I ended up doing a shallot vinaigrette similar to the one Clare made when I was visiting. I sat down and felt a huge sentiment of peace and gratitude.
Preheat the oven to 350F. Position a tray in the middle. Grease bottom of 12 muffin tins and line with wrappers. Set aside.
Place the pecans on a single baking sheet and toast for about 15 minutes. Let cool. Grind finely in a food processor. Reserve.
In a medium saucepan set over medium high heat, melt and cook the butter until it turns golden brown and has a nutty scent. Takes about 8-10 minutes. Set aside to cool. (I usually don’t strain mine since we like the little dark particles that form when it browns but feel free to do so)
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, sugar and eggs until pale (takes about 2 minutes). Add the cooled brown butter and lemon zest and mix until well blended. Add the ground pecans, then the flour mix and baking powder and whisk about 50 strokes until the batter is smooth.
Pour it into the prepared tins and bake for about 20 to 30 minutes until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.
2 medium golden beets, washed, peeled and quartered
1 small fennel bulb, washed and quartered
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper
2 oz blue cheese
handful of pumpkin seeds
handful of edamame
Shallot vinaigrette (see here for recipe)
Preheat the oven to 375F. Position a rack in the middle.
In a medium bowl, toss together the beets and fennel bulb quarters, add the olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. Place in a 9×13-inch baking dish and roast for about 20-30 minutes or until tender and a little charred/caramelized.
Place a handful of salad greens at the bottom of two plates or bowl, top with the roasted vegetables, add about 1 oz of blue cheese to each plate and top with some pumpkin seeds and edamame. Drizzle with the shallot vinaigrette and serve