Due to many requests and emails, Clare and I have decided to open two more spots to our Gulf Shores Food Photography & Styling Workshop, April 25th-29th. It sold out fast but we have room and plenty of brain power to accommodate and teach two more people. For more info, click HERE.
Cooking for one can be challenging. Not because recipes are often written for 4 or 6. For me they are a fast realization that I can’t share my favorite things with my mate. During the week, I live of big pots of soups filled with lots of root vegetables, plenty of herbs and a bit of protein I cook and add separately. It’s nothing glamorous but it’s good and it fills the house with familiar flavors. I also make big batches of ratatouille that I simply top with shavings of parmesan and a poached egg. Any leftover anything is greatly highlighted with an egg on top, in my opinion.
Week like this week, could prove challenging to get something nutritious on the table if I were neither a bit organized nor desiring to feed my body right. Let’s face it, and you know it, everyday can turn form nice and mellow to high pressured and brain frying. It’s always nice to come home to something one can reheat or fix in a flash. While I try to get a big pot of soup on during the weekend so I can have some ready to eat when I get home, sometimes, I find myself in the mood for something else altogether.
Composed salad are always my second best choice. Lots of greens, roasted vegetables, flavorful grains and a protein of some sort. Kale, roasted beets, quinoa, wild rice, salmon, soft boiled eggs, grilled steak. Everything makes its way into a salad. Or a soup. Small batches of Pho, oxtail stew, salmon chowder. It’s micro cooking all over again. And if you like preparing food, shopping, chopping, dicing, sauteing, mixing, well, you still like cooking for one. Even if it means, a quiet evening, one bowl and some leftovers.
Sometimes, I just get a bit more fancy with my time, especially when I get home a bit earlier than anticipated and take a few minutes to marinate, assemble and grill. And still have leftovers to come home to.
The latest issue of Donna Hay had the most tempting marinated zucchini salad and while inspired by the dish, I did not follow the recipe to a T. I paired it with some simple chili oil (from the roasted okra in this post) and blood orange marinated shrimp that I thread on fresh sugar cane sticks. They add a bit of sweet contrast to the oil in the marinade and pair perfectly well with the mint and pepper of the marinated zucchini salad.
Dining for one may be a bit of drab at times, unless with meals such as this one when something is good and you don’t necessarily want to share…
Very few of us can live on salad alone. Or soup. I know I can’t. Although, after the indulgences of the holidays, we all felt a little need to detox. With my parents staying with me in Birmingham until last week, it was easy to find a balance of good-for-you meals mixed in with little indulgences here and there. Indeed, they had not until now tried white bbq sauce and not as much soul food but I fixed that pronto. Culinary moves that called for lighter but just as tasty meals in between.
As cliche as it may sound, if you feel nurtured on the inside, you show it to the ones you loved on the outside.
Things have been busy and good. The blog qot a bit quiet and for good reason. After our holiday stint on the beach in Charleston, my parents came home to Birmingham with me. And I loved having them here. We cooked, went to the symphony, the movies. We ate out and in and tried to find balance between long days at work and short evenings at home. Or at least, it felt that way to me. Probably because the night still falls so early.
There was nothing more heart warming than to see my mom set the table while my dad would cut the bread. Habits I grew up with that never seemed as important as they are now. With every year that passes, I realize how lucky I am that I get along so well with them for one and that they are still willing to put their own routine on hold to come visit for an extended period of time.
The difference this year compared to previous visits is that everything was a whirlwind (again…). A mix of driving back and forth, packing boxes, unpacking boxes. All this with super trooper pup Tippy somewhere in the car, who at 16 years old is decidedly the best dog ever. The minute we both got back in the house last week after we said goodbye to my parents, we both plopped down on our respective beds. I did not see that pup surface until dinner time. I pretty much did the same thing well, except for a big grocery trip to stock up on everything I needed to fix a few dinners and lunches.
I was starting to feel my energy levels getting low and decided to nip that in the bud with plenty of greens, seafood and nutritious grains. Among the recipes I made are three I want to keep on rotation this year. A spinach salad from the cookbook Jerusalem, chock full of dates, almonds and spices, a pan seared cod with a tangy lemon relish from The Sprouted Kitchen coobook. My go to meal last week was a quinoa salad that existed only in my head for a long while. A mix of sweet and savory with red and yellow quinoa, lots of herbs and topped by a barely set soft boiled egg.
I hate to say but all meals this week will feature plenty of hot soups and liquids instead. I am hoping my mother did not pass on her bronchitis on to me as a farewell gift but sure looks that way. Already perusing my favorite coobooks for nutritious soups.
I have had the images for this post up and ready for words for about a week now. It’s not that I can’t find the words to go along. It’s just that I am ever near long enough the computer to sit down and write.
We had such a great time at the beach with my parents, my brother and his family that diving right back into work mode was a blessing and a curse at the same time. It’s been busy around here but having my parents stay with me here in Birmingham for a couple of weeks shifted the rhythm even further.
It’s good. It’s all good. It’s actually awesome to have them around and see the new house, the new job, the new town. They really get a handle on my new situation and all the questions they had are being answered. My photo schedule, the way we do things, the people I work with, the places I like to go to for dinner, a drink or to shop. Things are about as new to them as they are to me and we share discoveries and new finds everyday.
It’s really nice to come home after a long day and start cooking with my mom. Chopping, dicing, searing, etc… while sipping a glass of wine and watching the end of an old movie or listening to the radio. We have more quiet time for serious talks, or to simply catch up on news about the family at large.
It’s been raining lots lately and we have been enjoying a few comforting and hearty meals. The kind to make you feel instantly better and warm inside after being caught by a heavy rain.
Stews, fish soups, long cooked dishes, and roasted veggie soups have permeated the air around for days now, filling me with a bit of nostalgia. The flavors and spices of my grandmother's stews and roasts come into to our conversation almost at every meal. Her cooking while being so intricately French provincial was so influenced by her life in Northern Africa and encounters with other army wives.
It might be for this reason that I have absolutely loved every page turned in the new cookbook by Ottolenghi, Jerusalem, co-authored with Sami Tamimi. I hear my stomach growl at just about every recipe and my eyes pop out from every stunning picture. I find my family’s cooking in so many of the recipes in the book.
I don’t know if we are atypical or just reflect an era (military, moves, oversea travels, wars, etc…) but some of my most vivid food memories are as much of harissa,Berber couscous and papaya with lime juice as they are of cassoulet and Bouillabaisse.
In that regard, the book completely appeals to me. The way Ottolenghi and Tamimi look at culinary traditions and influences. Understanding that one dish may have the same root but different interpretations in neighboring cultures, civilizations or countries. They understood that cooking is honoring ones traditions as well as sharing common flavors, differences in interpretations. Food travels. It is not one to be of only one people and one culture. It is alive. It reflects peoples, generations and history. It is humanity.
I get that. Especially when sitting down at the dinner table around a plate of Pistachio Crusted Lamb and a side or Roasted Cauliflower & Hazelnut Salad. (recipes after the jump). I get the sharing, the cultural influences, and the roots. The history that brought this plate and the chatter about it, in front of me. I happily grab my fork and ask my mother for one more story about my grandmother. About her own childhood. About mine with her.
Only a few more days and they will be heading back to France. A few more days to revel in the memories and the times we are living in the present. I am grateful for the love and time they give me these few short weeks. It’s been quite nice, indeed…
All packed and ready to go! I think. First stop Scotland for a couple of short days. Then we will head over to Ireland and backroad our way to Belle Isle Cookery School for the 4-day workshop I am teaching there. To say that I am excited would be the understatement of the year. I have not been to that part of the world yet.
House sitter all set up. Dog sitter already thrown in the middle of a creek chase by Bailey. Raincoats. Rain boots. Layers. Maps and big giddy smiles. Yep. I think we are about ready. Oh and Elliott, our 6 year old beta fish (so not joking) also found a temporary pad with friends, becoming their kids' first official visiting pet. Everyone is pretty much set.
It’s been such a long time we went abroad together. And the first real time off we have in a completely uncommon, unknown and foreign (to us) location. Pretty cool. We have been pouring over Google Earth for so many months checking the scenery and trying to figure out where his ancestors had lived that I am about as ready as can be to check things out.
I have no idea of what we will actually find, see and who we will end up meeting along the way. And we are completely open to that. I have learned to just learn and get familiar with things as much as possible and let thing unfold the way they do. There will always be something to come out of it, an improvement to be made, a lesson to be learned, another place to discover.
That’s pretty much the motus operandi I have had these last few days as I was trying to empty out the fridge before our departure. Grab a few ingredients and spices agreeing with our taste buds, toss them up together and see where that gets us. Adjust attitude seasoning and keep going until dinner comes together.
And well…With an small peleton of heirloom tomates leading the race (yes, I may have the Tour De France playing in the background of my studio), we ended up with Heirloom Tomato and Rosemary Tarts one evening, accompanied by a few big spoonfuls of panzanella salad. And yes, tarts again. One of the easiest thing to do to clean out a fridge before a trip.
There are as many ways to make a tomato tart as there are cooks out there. And wait until you taste the quintessential Southern tomato pie. Oh dear. And well, there are as many versions of the panzanella salad as there are people having an opinion about it. That diversity is one of the many reasons why I love reading stories and anecdotes behind recipes. It’s also one of the reasons that make me grab my camera to make an imprint of the moment and tell another story. Or the same one, with a different look.
Traveling is very much the same. You see the same things as the many people around you. With a different look. For all of us.
Have a fantastic weekend! I will try to post some pics and updates as the trip unfolds but if you want first hand thoughts and pictures, best is to read my Twitter feed, @helenedujardin or check my Instagram shots at helenedujardin.
For the crust:
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour or Jeanne’s all purpose gluten free mix
1 stick (115g) unsalted butter, kept very cold
1/4 teaspoon of salt
2-3 tablespoons ice cold water
For the filling:
6 to 8 heirloom tomatoes
1 cup milk
2 teaspoon freshly chopped rosemary
pinch of salt and pepper
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Prepare the crust: In the bowl of a food processor, (or follow the same instructions if doing by hand), pulse together the flour until incorporated. Add the butter and pulse until the butter resembles small peas and is evenly incorporated. Add the salt and pulse on more time. Gradually, stream in the cold water until the flour just comes together. Turn the mixture out onto your work surface and form into a 2-inch thick, round disk. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 30 minutes (or overnight) before rolling out.
Flour your working surface with tapioca flour (if gluten free) or regular flour and start rolling out the dough to about 1/4-inch thick adding more flour as you feel the dough starts to stick. You can also roll it out in between two sheets of plastic wrap of parchment paper, especially with working with the gluten free version. Cut eight 5-inch rounds of dough and place them inside eight 3 to 4-inch tartlet pans. Place a small piece of parchment paper inside each of them, fill with dried beans and refrigerate for another 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350F (both convection and not) and position a rack in the middle.
Place the tart shells on a baking sheet and bake the tartlets for about 15 minutes (with the dried beans inside). Remove from the oven, let cool for 5 to 10 minutes and remove the beans and parchment paper.
Slice the tomatoes and lay them flat on a couple of sheets of paper towels to soak up some of their juices.
In a large bowl, beat the eggs with the milk until well incorporated. Add the rosemary, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Whisk again.
Divide the mixture in between all the cooled tart shells and arrange the tomato slices over the top.
Bake at 350F for about 20 to 30 minutes or until the center is barely set.
—————————————————————————— Panzanella Salad:
Not so much a recipe but more a big toss up according to your own appetite.
( for recipes, here is a good start)
Mine goes something like this:
some leftover bread
plenty of tomatoes
lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper
freshly chopped basil
fresh minced garlic
Toss all the ingredients together and let sit for about an hour so the bread gets a good soaking…
This is the time of year when my family would usually travel a few hours to settle in the Alps for the summer and enjoy cooler temperatures and lots of hiking in the gorgeous of Les Alpes De Haute Provence.
These days, everytime I look at our pine trees and feel a whiff of a cool breeze, I just can’t help but smile wide and feel energized. I think about all the wonderful picnics, lunches on the graveled terrace and lots of hours spend at the community pool.
It was a time to spend with my mother hovering over her cooking magazine and cookbooks and pick dishes we would do together or techniques she thought I was ready for. This was my kind of summer school. We’d bookmark recipes, crafts, articles, discoveries.
Like many of you I use Pinterest, notepads, bookmarks, and lots of other devices to keep track of my favorite links. I have enjoyed doing a little round up last week and from the feedback I got, you guys enjoyed it too so I have decided to make this a weekly thing.
So…here what caught my eye this past week. Have a wonderful weekend!
– I am also adding one of my favorite salad this week, a Caesar Salad and Shitake Mushroom Salad I shot for Food & Wine Magazine. Recipe after the jump.
Caesar Salad With Shitake Mushrooms, with permission of Food & Wine Magazine:
8 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup cubed gluten free baguette (or your favorite bread, gluten free or not) (1-inch cubes)
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon cooking oil
3/4 pound shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, caps sliced
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 hard-cooked eggs
3 tablespoons wine vinegar
2 1/2 teaspoons anchovy paste (or 2 anchovies, mashed with a fork)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
2 small heads romaine lettuce (about 1 pound each), cut crosswise into 1/2-inch strips
– In a large nonstick frying pan, heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil over moderate heat. Add the cubed bread, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and stir to coat the bread with the oil. Sauté the bread until crisp and lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in half the garlic. Transfer to a large salad bowl.
– In the same pan, heat the cooking oil over moderately high heat. Add the mushrooms, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until the mushrooms are tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Add half the remaining garlic and the parsley and cook, stirring, for 1 minute longer. Add the mushrooms to the croutons.
– Put the eggs, vinegar, anchovy paste, and the remaining garlic, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and 5 tablespoons olive oil in a blender or food processor and whir until smooth. Add the lettuce to the mushrooms and croutons, sprinkle with Parmesan, and then add the dressing. Toss to coat.
Thank you everyone for your get well wishes. It was a slow cooking/blogging week. Perfect opportunity to tell you about a project I was thrilled to be part of earlier last year. Along with some pretty awesome authors, photographers, bloggers, crafters, I was asked by the magazine Where Women Cook, to be part of their book project, "Where Women Cook: Celebrate!". The book is a collection of women’s stories on how they celebrate and gather the people they love around them.
The instant I read the first lines of the project, I knew I wanted to tell the story of how my grandmother used to celebrate. Above all the traits I inherited from her, this is by far the strongest one. The project was easy: tell with pictures and a few recipes your favorite way to celebrate, how you gather the people you love ad create lasting memories.
Tthe theme I chose to feature and photograph was the same one my grandmother would pick for family gathering: a Berber Couscous with merguez sausages, stewed veggies, chicken and mutton. Plenty of couscous and harissa to go around too. Both my grandparents were in Morocco for a extensive period of time, ten years apart, both my parents were born there, ten years apart. Moroccan cuisine is very much part of my family coding. It’s celebration food for us.
My friend John at Lana Restaurant provided all the bistro bowls, silverware and napkins I needed. We set out a pretty table with flowers in mason jars and lots of natural twine.
We strung some lights across the trees and all over the yard.
The girls got busy making pretty flower arrangements while I was finishing cooking and John was grilling. The other guys in the group got busy with quality control and opening wine bottles.
We sat down by the water and cheered, laughed, ate well, raised our glasses and polished off many servings of couscous. My grandmother would have been proud of us!
We took a break, played some silly games and found some room for Honey Saffron Ice Cream and Cardamon Shortbread Cookies.
Fanny and Patrick from Bin 152 provided much of the wines and we lingered at the dinner table and watched the sun set over the water. We talked for hours and I completely forgot to serve a family favorite palate cleanser, a Citrus Mint Salad.
So here it is. The one recipe that never made it into the cookbook, my grandmother’s super easy refreshing Citrus Mint Salad (check at the end of the post).
For the Berber Couscous and the Honey Saffron Ice Cream & Cardamom Cookies recipes, I encourage you to check out the book, "Where Woman Cook: Celebrate!". You will also be able to discover some of the amazing women who participated in the project such as Ree of Pioneer Woman, Angie of Bakerella, and Molly of Orangette.
You could also…enter a giveaway to win a copy of the book, right?! Well, here it is! I am indeed giving away one copy of "Where Women Cook: Celebrate!". All you have to do to enter is leave a comment to this post, between Friday March 30th and Monday April 2nd, midnight Eastern Standard time when a winner will be picked at random. And yes, I will ship overseas. Just a few guidelines: no anonymous comments, one comment per person and prize must be claimed within 48 hours or another winner will be chosen. Citrus And Mint Salad:
1 pink grapefruit
1 white grapefruit
1 large orange
1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped
3 tablespoons honey
Supreme the pink and white grapefruit as well as the orange. (here are great instructions on how to supreme citrus)
Place the fruit segments with the mint and honey in a non reactive bowl and let sit at room temperature for 20 to 30 minutes. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Divide among bowls or ramekins, adding some of the natural juices over the fruit.
It’s been a game of hide and seek in our household for the past month or so. My better half has been playing music jobs left and right, on top of his day job. I, on the other hand, have been buried in the studio either shooting and editing until early evening, hoping for an evening when we can just chill. There have been a lot of "just changing clothes and heading out! I love you!" and "I won’t be home for dinner" exchanged.
It’s ok. After so many years, we are used to the fact that some months his schedule makes him a passing ghost and some other months, well, it’s my turn to hop from plane to plane for work or workshops. On a side note, for an updated workshop schedule, click here. It’s a rythm we understand and adapt to happily. His passion for playing music brings him so much that I would be the last one to complain. Same goes the other way. He knows how much I love to travel and share my passion about photography with others and help them as much as I can, and lets me be where I need to be. A happy mate is a happy house…
Well, even with our motto of "doing things independently together", there are those moments when the in passing "love you" needs to turn into a long hug, a conversation. A sit down and a cup of coffee. A date night. Whatever it is that makes it worth it. There are so many nights with a single plate on the table, so many girls night out or in, so many chick flick marathons that one can take before the string starts wearing thin. My best way to fix that is to pack some food, a blanket, our kite and our fishing rods and head to the beach. A picnic. A moment that we create.
I started planning some of our favorites to take along. A Salmon & Quinoa Salad, a big bottle of lemonade, and to finish a cross between a Pavlova and Eton Mess. A Meringue with Creme Fraiche and Berries. Something healthy and light and something completely decadent but just as light to the palate.
I was about to put all our victuals in the car when the sky became black and thunder rolled up its big drums. Within minutes, it started pouring. So much for a picnic at the beach. Well…c’est dommage (too bad) but I was not going to let this one day off together slip away. I pushed the furniture in the living room, spread our picnic blanket on the rug and laid out our meal.
We sat there, with the pups sleeping soundly, listening to the sound of the rain and feeling grateful for this one little moment alone. And…grateful to be only steps away from the kitchen to go for seconds…!
Ingredients: 1 cup uncooked quinoa
2 cups water
1 sprig oregano
1 garlic clove, smashed
One 6 oz salmon fillet
1 to 2 cups arugula leaves
1/2 cup edamame
6 to 8 medium radishes
olive oil and vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
In a large saucepan, combine the quinoa, water and oregano. Ad a pinch of salt and some cracked pepper. Bring to boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the quinoa is translucid and soft. Remove the oregano and garlic. Let cool.
In a sautee pan heated over medium high heat, add a teaspoon of olive oil and cook the salmon for about 3 minutes on each side (longer if the fillet is thick). Season with salt and pepper. Remove from the pan and let cool.
Assemble the salad by dividing the quinoa arugula, edamame, radishes, and salmon among plates (or cups that you can place a lid on if traveling). Drizzle with olive oil and vinegar to taste.
Meringue With Creme Fraiche and Berries:
Note: Start this dessert the day before you serve it. The meringue needs to sit in the oven overnight (off) and the homemade creme fraiche requires you start it the day before you assemble the dessert. It is so easy, I wonder why I don’t make it more often..oh yeah… not as calorie free as it tastes! You can purchase your own creme fraiche if you wish.
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoon buttermilk
Place the heavy cream in a non reactive bowl. Stir in the buttermilk. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit on the countertop overnight. The next day, refrigerate until ready to use.
2 egg whites
2/3 cup sugar
Preheat the oven to 350F and position a rack in the middle.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, whip the egg whites to a thick foam at medium speed for about 3-4 minutes. Slowly drizzle in the sugar, a few tablespoons at a time until the meringue is stiff and glossy.
Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a silpat and form circles of meringue with about 1/4 cup of the batter for each. You can make them as thin or fluffly as you wish, smaller or larger. Mine were about 3 inches round.
Place in the oven, turn the oven off and leave them overnight.
For the berries:
1 cup raspberries
1 cup blueberries
1 cup blackberries
1 tablespoon honey
juice of one lemon
Mix carefully all the berries together with the honey and lemon juice. Reserve until ready to use.
Place a meringue round on a plate. Whip the cream fraiche for a minute to fluff it up and spoon some on the meringue. Top with the berries and drizzle with some of the juice they gave out while sitting.
You can also, layer the meringue, creme fraiche and berries in glasses and pack them up in your picnic basket.
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
Been away from home for the past ten days and although I have had a wonderful time getting work done, seeing friends and meeting new people, I am always very much itching to get back home to my family. Both workshops in Kansas City went very well and this past week spent in Seattle for a shoot was just dreamy.
There is nothing more rewarding than knowing that you helped someone get more comfortable telling a story around food with their camera, light or that you contributed to making pretty images for someone’s cookbook. Photography is always the sum of many things that are equally important to me. Practice, creativity, partnerships and opening one’s mind to the unknown. The possibilities. I love seeing people let loose of their fear they can’t this or that.
Flying to Seattle was like a mini vacation. A grueling mini vacation of sixteen hour days but a time off nonetheless. One of the things that I love about Seattle is how comfortable it is to me. Great friends such as Clare and Jeanne do that. Those two have a knack for creating a homey environment everytime I come visit. Good food, great conversations and a serious amount of wine every night do keep me going for hours…
When traveling, even if I stay with friends, I make sure to eat good nutritious food as a send off and as a re-entry. Friends feed me. Restaurants too. I even bring food on location shoots. It’s me. I have a bad habit to go for a cup of strong coffee in the morning and pretty much nothing until 4pm rolls around. By then, my stomach sounds like a little green alien is forming battalion.
I am a big fan of salads and soups as means to set my internal clock right. They are food for the bones, body and soul. Just with like a photo you create, a simple bowl of salad you assemble can take on a gorgeous palette and tell the story of what your body is craving. Even in a hurry. Colors, textures, flavor combinations. It’s very much like assembling a picture to me. I always think of what I do as I put meals together the same way I do when I compose a shot.
The act of seating down and re-visiting my dish, now complete is very much like seeing the picture as I edit it. Sometimes, there is a bit too much salt, too many colors, flavors or the vinaigrette is off. Sometimes I like the salad so much, I want to keep it my immediate memory bank. Sometimes, I cringe when a shot I thought would work ends up being not seasoned the right way, so to speak. Sometimes I know I’ll revisit that set up many months later in a slightly different way because it worked great the first time.
Thing is, I do that photography-story telling bit with almost every food. Salads or not. Good thing I do this for a living, eh?! It’d be easy to get in a rut unless you shop for seasonal ingredients. Again, same goes with every foods.
Right before I left, you could tell a real transition up in the air and at the market. It was a bit touch and go but the arugula was still doing well. Grapes of all sorts were having a good times. White and purple scuppernongs, Champagne, big fat juicy seedless reds. The fennels had fronds longer than my arms. It was all starting to shape up in my head.
The couple of days before I left for my trip West, I loaded up on a salad comprised of arugula, raw fennel, grapes, blue cheese, smoked Coho salmon, pecans from our tree and a white balsamic vinaigrette. Easy. Nutritious. Good for the soul too.
This week that Fall produce is slowly making an appearance, my salad making days might change. And I am looking forward to them. Smoked Salmon, Fennel, Grape, Blue Cheese and Pecan Salad:
In a large mixing bowl, mix the following ingredients:
– 4 oz smoked salmon (we like the thick slabs of Coho salmon)
– 1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
– small handful of grapes, halved
– as much crumbled blue cheese as you would like or think reasonable (we do about one 2-inch piece per person)
– 1 to 2 tablespoons of chopped pecans (or other nuts)
– 1 to 2 big handfuls of arugula
– as much or as little vinaigrette as desired
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 shallot, peeled and minced
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/8 teaspoon cracked pepper
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the Dijon mustard and shallot. Add the salt and pepper then the sherry. Drizzle in the olive oil and whisk until emulsified. Drizzle on top of the salad.
We’re back home. Everything and everyone is getting back to normal. Groceries, laundry, walks with the pups. And yet, everything’s different. Every move taken and every thing said is tinted with a veil of deep sadness and compassion.
As some of you may have learned, one wonderfully kind and talented food blogger, Jennifer Perillo, lost her husband suddenly this past weekend. I did not know Jennifer well. We had met briefly at several conferences in the past. We were Twitter and Facebook friends. We did not live close. We did not email. We did not talk on the phone. Yet, if I could wrap my arms around her today and hope it helped a little, I would.
Over the year, I have come to deal with the fact that I don’t care that much of August. I have a love-hate relationship with August actually. My brother passed away in August. My grandmother too. It’s my mother’s birthday in August. And my grandfather’s too. He’s 101 this year by the way. Talk about witnessing life and mortality.
I am finally ok with August being a crappy month for myself. I hate, hate, hate the fact that now it will be a difficult time for Jenny and her daughters. I, and others who have lost dear ones, know the journey ahead. And we hurt inside for Jenny and her daughters already. How to make it better? How to make it easier?
Just like finding a few dishes prepared for you when you come back from travels, or finding the fridge a little fuller than when you left. Just like noticing a full basket of fruits on the counter and a "welcome home" note; we can be there for Jennifer and her family just the same.
Those little gestures mentioned above done by my mother in law right before we walked in the door, were immensely appreciated and resonated deeply within us. Caring for one another does is not about climbing the highest peaks or diving the deepest sea. Little gestures. A meal. A note. A walk. A hug. Expressing respect. And compassion.
When I went back home to my brother’s funerals, I came back to many cards of condolences, many phone calls and texts. I also had many friends drop by with a bite to eat. They knew food was the last thing I wanted. I wanted to disappear. I was numb. But mechanically, I ate the dishes they brought over. It was sustenance. I let Bill rocked me too sleep many many nights. It was a necessity. I still sleep as little now as I did then.
For weeks, life was on auto-pilot but I do remember the comfort of sharing memories with people who came over with a giant green salad or a pint of sorbet. I remember those moments gently pulled me out of this quiet space I had made for weeks. The comfort of my neighbor Camille’s voice as she scooped her famous peach granita into little cups for us and her kids. The warmth of the oven touching my cheeks as I opened it to retrieve the first tart I had made since…since Thierry had left us.
Normalcy mixed with extraordinary circumstances. Jennifer and her family are going through this as I write it. They need us, our thoughts, prayers and memories of them for those who knew them. They need them now but they will need them months and years form now. Thankfully, and because the food community and humanity in general is pretty damn grand, reaching out to them is already happening.
Erika from Ivory Hut, who went through her own tragedy last year, losing everything in a house fire, is gathering the troops to help out. A care package program is being organized for those who are not in Jennifer’s area so a little piece of love and care can be delivered now and for months to come right to her doorstep. Locals are also organizing a relief effort to show her that not only we care but we are here for her.
To get more details and to lend a hand and a comforting gesture, please email Erika at [email protected]
My heart is heavy for the Perillos right now. But it is also full of hope. I know there will be many a smiles in their future even only through the solace of your thoughts and words for them.
When someone around Bill and myself is going through tough times and could use a night off, we volunteer to take care of their kids, their pups or we just drop off a collection of dvds and a good meal. It’s small compared to the void we cannot fill but it’s a start. Food I can do. Which is why I am sharing three recipes (click on "continue for recipes" that are good options to bring to someone who might need a little comfort and a lot of hugs.
This post is dedicated to Mikey, Jennifer and their daughters. We don’t know each other all that well, but I really wish I could change your August. Now and forever.
When it comes to food and comforting friends with a little something to nosh on, I always gravitate towards dishes that can easily last a few days and only get better with a bit of time. Lately, we have been feasting on bowls after bowls of Quinoa, Watermelon and Feta Salad many days in a row. Sometimes with a poached egg on top. In the heat of the summer, this salad is not only healthy and light but also super refreshing.
1.5 cups quinoa
3 cups water
1 cup watermelon, rind removed and cut into small cubes
2 oz feta, crumbled
2 green onions, white and green parts, chopped thin
1/3 cup loosely packed mint, chopped thin
1/4 cup olive oil
juice of one lemon
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
pinch of salt and pepper
In a large saucepan, bring the quinoa and water to a rolling boil. Turn the heat down to a simmer, cover the pot halfway and cook until the water is completely absorbed and the quinoa is translucent (about 20 minutes). Let cool completely.
When the quinoa is cooled, add the remaining ingredients and fold carefully. Adjust the salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate until ready to eat.
Roasted Red Pepper & Ricotta Tart:
Serves 4 as a light main dish.
Another dish that I always find easy to fix, transport and leave in someone’s fridge or freezer for them to reheat easily and quickly is a gluten free Roasted Pepper & Ricotta Tart. Accompanied by a green salad and you have something satisfying and nourishing. A little balm for the heart. And the belly.
For the crust:
5 tablespoons (70gr) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon piment d’Espelette (or pinch red pepper flakes)
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
3 egg yolks (save one white for the filling)
1/2 cup (80gr) brown rice flour
1/2 cup (60gr) millet flour
1/4 cup (30gr) sorghum flour
1/4 cup (40gr) potato flour
(or 1.5 cups of all purpose flour if not using gf flours)
For the filling:
3 to 4 bell peppers of various colors (red, yellow, orange)
1 cup ricotta
1 egg white
salt and pepper to taste
Directions: Prepare the crust:
In a mixer, whip together the butter, piment and mustard on medium speed until light and airy. Add the egg yolks, one at a time and beating well after each addition. Mix until incorporated. Add all the different flours and mix briefly. Dump the whole mixture onto a lightly floured (use more rice flour) board and gather the dough into a smooth ball. Flatten the dough into a disk, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour.
When the dough is nice and cold, roll it out on a lightly floured board or in between two sheets of plastic to fit your preferred tart pan. If the dough tears while you roll or/and transfer into the pan, just patch it with your fingertips. Refrigerate 30 minutes.
You can freeze the dough for up to 3 months and prepare it up to 4 days in advance.
Prepare the filling:
Preheat the oven to 400F and then roast the peppers until their skin turn black, remove from the oven, place then in bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let them cool completely. Remove the plastic, and peel the skin right off the pepper, seed them too and cut them in halves or at least fairly large pieces.
Blacken the skin of the peppers over an open flame such as a gas stove or grill. Place then in bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let them cool completely. Remove the plastic, and peel the skin right off the pepper, seed them too and cut them in halves or at least fairly large pieces.
Preheat the oven to 350F and position a rack in the middle.
In a medium bowl, mix the ricotta, egg white, salt and pepper. Layer at the bottom of the prepared tart shell. Layer the roasted pepper pieces on top.
Bake for 30 to 35 minutes.
Peach and Nectarine Granita:
Makes enough for 8
Since it’s August, and it’s still mostly to very warm just about anywhere, I got to say that the most comforting thing for me and many others I know, is still to dig my spoon in soft soothing ice cream. Or sorbet. Or granita. In this case, I was pressed to use the four peaches and nectarines we still had from our trip to the market before heading down to Florida. So easy to make and since it’s stored in the freezer, it’ll be there anytime you need a little cooling treat.
2 peaches, skin and pit removed
2 nectarines, skin and pit removed
1/4 cup honey
juice of one lemon
1 cup Greek yogurt or creme fraiche
In a food processor, puree all the ingredients together. Place in a large baking dish and freeze. After two hours, run a fork along the length of the dish, breaking up the fruit mixture into a granita. Repeat the process every hour or so for about 4-5 times until the mixture is completely frozen but you get a shaved ice consistency all the way through. We like ours chunky but the more times you run your fork in the mixture, the thinner the shavings will be.