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.
We had an unexpected snow day yesterday and since our offices at Oxmoor House were closed, my husband and I decided to enjoy it to the fullest. Took the dogs for walks in the snow and around the neighborhoods to check if we can help anyone. Tidied up the house floor to ceiling, caught up on our reading and watched a couple of movies. Oh, and had a couple of cocktails in front of the fireplace.
Things are slowly going back to normal today and we’ll have to catch up on our photo schedule the best we can. I secretly wished the roads were still undrivable just so that I could watch the pup frolic in the snow. Bailey is like a kid with a new toy everytime he steps outside (5 year old lab-pit mix), while Tippy (17 year-old collie-sheltie) enjoys the freezing temperatures on his old bones.
It’s been a fun day also spent in the kitchen making soups to keep us warm and cozy. Lunch was an old Food&Wine recipe I had clipped a while back (Bon Appetit also has a version of it in this month’s issue that I have not tried yet), Spicy Pork And Kale Soup With Harissa. It’s an interesting blend of Asian flavors (soy sauce, galangal,..) and Moroccan ones (harissa). It works really well together and we polished off a couple of bowls with joy. The original recipe called for ground chicken but without the possibility to go the store, I used what I had in the fridge. Dinner was super aromatic Root Vegetable Soup, thick and creamy, that I served with Croque Monsieur.
A new year! Wishing you a great 2014. May it be filled with all the things you work, wish, hope for! May it be filled with creative energy, engaging people and wonderful moment! It’s been a whirlwind of a year for us. A new position, a move, living apart for most of the year. Seeing friends get married, others have babies. There has been some really tough times too, which I may come back and share with you although I am not quite ready for that yet. You have been there all along, reading and sharing with me and it has made 2013 very dear to me.
It’s been a perfect mix of busy and quiet around here. My parents arrived the week before Christmas and are staying a couple more weeks. In the middle of work and play, we have had a wonderful time with friends and family, taking short and longer road trips, dogs in tow. We’ve enjoyed long simmered meals and new restaurants, quiet reading time and effervescent card games. A nice cozying time. For sure.
When my parents come visit, I like to spoil them a bit and won’t let them do too much around the house. It gives them time to really enjoy each other’s company, take walks, make plans, etc… I love cooking dinner for them and making them dishes I know they don’t usually try at home. I cook from so many different cuisines that I always enjoy making them discover something new. A typical week ranges from French, to American, Mexican, Asian, Italian, Moroccan. It keeps me immensely happy in the kitchen.
One of the cuisines I find myself cooking and craving a lot is Vietnamese. Thai is definitely a really close seconds. Can’t explain why. It comes in waves. We could have an entire month of Vietnamese and Thai dishes and dive right away in another of Italian and French or Northern African. I love spices and herbs. I love the play that each cuisines does with them, so different in taste and flavor, and yet intrinsically similar blending the sweet, sour, salty, and bitter. Umami. To our palates and in our plates.
One of the highlights of December for me was this Tamarind Beef & Kohlrabi Salad from Luke N’Guyen’s "My Vietnam". This books is both a delight for the eyes as it is to the taste buds. This dish is great post heavy holiday party meals with the refreshing crunch of beets, carrots, kohlrabi and the deep flavors of mint and fresh coriander. It’s hard to stop at one serving, let’s just put it this way.
Hope you enjoy it too! Best served with a cold refreshing beer I might add…
I can’t say it’s the weather that pushed me to turn the oven on all weekend and bake, roast, braise, etc.. I am not nesting. I am not feeling blue. I just had the urge to crank it full blast in spite of gorgeous skies and a refreshing 85F. Yes. Anything below 95F is refreshing to a Southerner…
I can see hints of Fall peeking here and there. The leaves are slowly changing and the evening bring on a cooler breeze and a sweater. But, we are still in flipflops and tee-shirts during the day. I wore boots once last week and even that was pushing it.
This in-between is actually my favorite part of seasonal transition. I feel I can breathe. The new light cast by the sun is balm to my soul. The cloudless sky, crisp air and lush foliage just get me in the mood for heartier meals and dishes. Even if it’s just me and the old pup back at the house.
With the husband gone back to Charleston for a few weeks, I can’t sensibly make a large coq au vin, pot roast or lasagna without eating the leftovers for days (unless I have friends over every night)(and I have a thimble sized freezer so I can’t portion/freeze/rotate). Instead, I gravitate towards smaller, individual sized portions for most dinners.
My favorite thing to do this time of year and while cooking for one most nights is to make stuffed vegetables. With one simple preparation I can have stuffed onions, tomatoes, zucchini or eggplant comforting me for dinner after a long day on set.
Les Farcis is a cultural institutions in my family. My grandmother was famous for her "petits farcis provencal" filled with ground meat, rice, onions, garlic, lots of basil and thyme. To this day, no one in the family makes them quite like she used to. And no, it’s not because of that elusive and often times nostalgic way to remember a grandmother. She had her own way of mixing ingredients in her own proportions in order to create a heavenly balanced dish.
My mom’s stuffed vegetables were something else too. Especially the big red peppers. Filled to the rim with a variation on her mom’s. I loved stuffed pepper night. They were generously moist, opulent in flavors and big! And I was always intrigued as a child with the idea of putting all of one’s meal ingredients (minus dessert) into one big plump vegetable. I thought there was some genius in that.
I just follow in their footsteps by cooking my own variations of stuffed vegetables. When I find them, I use little round zucchinis, known as eight-ball zucchini and fill them with leftover ratatouille and rice or local sausage I find at the farmers market (recipe here). When I am by myself, anything I throw together and stuff a vegetable remains meat free.
This time around, I used farro instead of rice and added a healthy mixed of eggplant, zucchini, onion and fiery hot peppers. A good dose of parsley and time. A little sprinkle of feta right before they went in the oven and I was in business.
The end result was perfect for sightly cooler nights and a simple dinner at home.
So, this long distance relationship I am in with my very own husband is working alright by most standards. It’s long, afar, with very short weekends here and there but we have, without even saying it outloud, understood that every minute counts. There is no bickering, no wondering, no hint. Just plain us. I am not saying this situation, him in South Carolina until June and me in Alabama now is easy, fun or a learing experience of the "a couple’s journey through discovery and awareness" (seriously. Ugh).
How we navigate and manage the distance and absence is not only revealing of who we are in our relationship but also of what we have been building in the fifteen years we have been together. I am really proud of who we are as a couple but I am even more grateful for having such a strong partner. Call this my two Valentine’s Day paragraph a week later which is appropriate since we don’t really partake in the red and pink celebration. Except…
Except this year. I think the distance made us a little bit softer, a bit mushier than usual when last Thursday came about. He sent roses. I got him a present. We exchanged funny cards and texts worthy of first crushes. And I really wanted to head home and cook him a nice meal. I know. Easy way for Valentine’s Day. What can I say? My husband, after all this time together, still thanks me at the end of every meal. For the thought and care. For the food itself. For the nurturing of conversations and laughs around a warm plate.
It’s the little things.
This past weekend that he came to visit, I decided to splurge a little and come up with a nice meal of Lamb Chops With Blood Orange Sauce, Roasted Okra With Chili Oil and fresh baked bread. It wasn’t complicated and we sat down and caught up. We usually eat meat about once a week, the bulk of our diet being seafood and vegetarian meals. I just could not help thinking about my grandmother who used to tell me growing up how she would always regal my grandfather with grilled lamb chops when he’d come home in between two war campaign. I smiled. I headed out to the store and got natural raised lamb chops, bright red and succulent and started cooking.
A good meal. A glass of wine. Hosting our first get together with new friends and neighbors here in Birmingham. A good weekend. A lazy one too. For once, no moving boxes, no U-Haul to unload, no storage unit to visit. Just cozying up on the couch watching all movies most of the morning. Driving around town and looking at neighborhoods where we might want to live more permanently here in Birmingham.
When my husband drove into town this past weekend, I don’t think he expected to find his wife coughing, well hacking away would be more appropriate, and bent over from the pain felt in every rib and back muscle everytime a coughing fit would come about. It was not a lovely sight. But, I selfishly admit that I was so happy to finally unload onto him all duties and responsibilities for 48 hours.
See, we have been living apart and in different states since October that I moved to Birmingham. Since then, I have been holding the fort here by myself. I have fixed, nailed, caulked, hammered, glued, and pretty much everything else that he used to do when we were both in Charleston. It’s telling how much you stretch your strength, both mental and physical when alone. I had lived by myself before. But not by myself after 15 years with "Mr-Handy-Dandy-I-Can-Fix-Anything-Oh-Look-Honey!-I-Just-Built-Us-A-House" – kind of man. Because he did. Built us a house. The house that was now reduced to a U-Haul in my driveway.
This was the first time we really felt like things were moving forward in a "together" kind of way. Until then, I had brought things from Charleston to start making the rental house into more of a home but this was the big push. Our stuff. Fifteen years of living in South Carolina together and six plus years in our house on the creek. There had been a few little "well this is it! We are indeed relocating to Alabama" moments in the last few months but this was more poignant to me than getting my first water bill in my new city.
I am quite grateful that neither of us are materialists folks so the amount of stuff we bring with us easily fits in a small storage unit until we found a more permanent home here. I was happy to see that what we both considered "must pack" items were family things we could not replace; pictures, albums, family heirlooms, etc… And here I was, sick as could be the one weekend I needed to muster up all my energy to unload our belonging into a storage unit for a few months.
My dear husband ordered me back to the couch for a few hours. He wanted to take care of me and I completely let him do that. And it felt incredibly good just to lay quiet and rest under a couple of blankets. I could not stay still more than an hour though and quietly headed off to the kitchen to make soup. He was weary of the drive. I was craving something clean, flavorful and warm to make my limbs and throat feel better.
I started gathering ingredients for a makeshift Tom Yum soup. Galangal, kaffir lime leaves, Thai chilies, and went off on a tangent of the most delicious kinds. My original idea for a soup quickly evolved into a Thai inspired butternut squash and coconut soup with a little kick and lots of fragrant and healing ingredients.
The end result was a super satisfying bowl of soup that took no longer to make than a cozy nap on the couch…
This combined with a good day and a half of rest and I was almost back on my feet. Enough to help him out a little on Sunday and make us another scrumptious meal on Sunday. I chose a completely different flavor palette this time with a Pozole. A pork and hominy stew garnished with fresh avocado, radish and cilantro. Clean and filling. Perfect for a cold weekend night.
Making every moment count now when we see each other is a given. We don’t get to see each other every weekend and when we can make the drive either way, the visits are really short. So, things as simple as sitting down to a nice meal and watching a good flick afterwards are what we crave. Then I know the dinner parties, visits with friends, game nights, etc… will resume or be created anew just as they were in Charleston.
It’s kind of like dating again. But as much as I like having my boyfriend visit, I am ready to have my husband back so we can really get to live this new town together!
I just absolutely love this time of year. The temperatures may be higher than Spring feels like in other part of the world but we are still (and I insist on still) a few weeks away from scorching 100F (minimum) and 100% humidity (also a minimum). That means I can meander the farmers market without melting or rushing to get home once the milk and eggs find their way to my basket.
Every Saturday that I am in town, from April to December you will find me right at opening hour at the market. I like to be able to talk to the vendors who have now become friends. Instead of "hey we’re back!" when the market opened again this season, it was hugs and stories shared all around. We had months to catch up on and lots of good news to share. New breeds for Jason at Meathouse. New lasagna and fresh pasta flavors for Brian at Rio Bertolini, new farmland for Ken and his crew. So proud to see so many young talents share their craft and passion with produce- intense people like me.
They know my habits. I am not special. They know the habits of all their regulars. I am grateful for their enthusiasm and little extras they put in my basket once in a while. I love that they never mind my taking pictures as if they were about to disappear with their next breath. Charleston is lucky to have caring farmers and individuals. We are lucky to have this amount of gorgeousness so many months out of the year. I do my weekly shopping there and right now I am all about the greens, mushrooms and radishes. In a few weeks it will be heirloom tomatoes and squash that will be prominent.
Going with the rythm of the season is a treat. I am aware of it. If you have access to a farmers market or to a farm, make a trip there. There are fantastic passionate people working to get you the best produce possible. I like to honor them with photographs and still life shots. They make my work so much easy. Clients are always thrilled to see ingredients as fresh as these!
It makes getting home after a long shoot and staring at the content of the fridge with a hungry stomach that much easier. I can look at the chalkboard pantry door and see what I can combine from both dry and fresh goods to make dinner. (Side note: when we built the house back in 2005, I took the pantry door off its hinges and painted it with a coat of chalkboard paint. It makes tracking one’s fridge and pantry content that much more efficient). Lately, I have renewed a love affair with soft and creamy polenta, topped with lots of greens and once in while with an egg or a few grilled shrimp. (season kick off here was a few weeks ago)
Fresh, easy, quick and completely satisfying. I have to thank my mother for reminding me of the wonders of polenta. When they visited last and she was so sick the whole time, it was the only thing she could eat without being bothered much afterwards. Instead of making different meals for everyone, we would just make one big batch and partake. Months after, I still reach for the tin of polenta whenever I want something light, yet comforting.
Here is my favorite way to serve it at the moment: topped with sauteed Russian kale and shitake mushrooms, plenty of garlic and parsley and with a poached egg on top.
What is your favorite easy dinner to make?
Creamy Polenta with Russian Kale Shitake Mushrooms (with option to be topped with a poached egg):
For the kale and mushroom mix:
2 teaspoons olive oil
4 cups cleaned and roughly chopped Russian kale
1/2 pound fresh shitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced thin
1/2 cup loosely packed fresh parsley
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup water or vegetable stock
salt and pepper to taste
For the polenta:
2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup fine grain yellow polenta
dash of freshly ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon heavy cream
For the poached egg (optional) (but oh so tasty!)
I find that Elise’s post about poached eggs is the best one to date. You can check it out here.
Start by preparing the kale and mushroom mix.
Heat the oil in a large skillet set over medium high. Add the kale and mushrooms and sauteed for about 5 minutes. Add the parsley and garlic and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes. Add the stock (or water), salt and pepper, cook for another minute and remove from the heat. Let cool while you prepare the polenta.
In large pot, bring the water to a boil. Add the salt and polenta at once and stir quickly with a whisk or wooden spoon to prevent the polenta from clumping. Add the nutmeg. Reduce the heat to a simmer. Let the polenta cook, uncovered for about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the heavy cream. Check the seasoning once again.
Divide into four portions, top with the kale and mushroom mix, adding a few tablespoons of the juice as you go along and top with a poached egg if desired.
I hope everyone celebrating Thanksgiving had a wonderful time doing so. We surely did. The whole week was actually pretty darn good. It was rich in connections and reflections. The time spent in the kitchen with Laura reminded me of the time spent at home preparing a holiday meal with my grandmother and mother. It was comforting and soothing in so many ways.
It was a lot of fun cooking a huge feast with another like minded person. It’s easy to talk food, pies, gratins, table settings, photography while chopping, boiling, cooking, peeling, etc… We made a lot of dishes. We wanted to try new recipes and still some beloved family ones. We certainly did not hold back but we had plenty to box up for our guests to take home. I have learned years ago that Thanksgiving leftovers are a must!
I will revisit a couple of the dishes for a later post but among the biggest hits were the Apple Cider Brined Turkey from Bon Appetit, Laura’s mashed potatoes with creme fraiche, a root & leek vegetable gratin and a fennel-brioche and sausage stuffing. And the greens beans! I must revisit those miso green beans soon and post the recipe!
When everyone gathered around the table and shared some of their stories, time, themselves, my heart just fogged over. I was thankful for being surrounded by so much love and friendship. Many times I had to pinch myself that the day went as beautifully as it did. And continued the day after when Laura and her fiance Alex requested that I shot their engagement pictures. We had so much fun…well into the evening with dinner and drinks.
The weekend was spent quietly putting china and linens away, shopping at our farmers market and loading up on lots of seasonal fruits and vegetables. Taking some time to sit in the park with Bill and share a crepe and a cup of coffee. It finally started to feel like the holiday season (except for the 80F weather). Those simple things are all I crave for. They fuel me and refuel me times and times again. Just as certain foods do.
After a few richer meal than usual, I like the simplicity of a few good salads or soups. Without being a full blown detox, it’s nice to dig my fork into a lighter fare. Lately, it’s been lots and lots of variation around quinoa salad and this one is the one I have made countless time in the past couple of weeks. It’s versatile enough to be a side dish or main course (with a poached egg on top…fabulous!). Kale and butternut squash are abundant this time of year but any seasonal vegetable would work.
I generally pass on desserts in favor of a good juicy apple or pear this time of year. I do however have the habit of making dessert for our Sunday suppers with friends and crisps and simple tarts are always high on the list during Fall and Winter. Having a spoonful of a little sweet something always makes me feel like I am ending the weekend well and ready for the week ahead.
The quinoa salad is one I intent to serve for lunch during the Food Photography Workshop I’ll be teaching in Charleston on December 10th. Yep, I enlisted Laura to assist and help prep some great foods for all the attendees. On a side note, there are 3 spots left for that workshop!
I am curious though….what do you like to cook or bake to give your body and self a little break this holiday season? Looking forward to being inspired with your answers! Thanks for sharing!
Apple Cardamom Crisp:
Makes 6 to 8 (depending on your ramekins)
For the fruit:
6 regular size apples (your choice) or about 12-15 lady apples
1 cup fresh cranberries
2 tablespoons honey
juice and zest of one lemon
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon cardamom
Preheat the oven to 350F (convection or regular) and position a rack in the center. Prepare the fruit:
Peel, core and slice thin the apples. Place them in a large bowl with the cranberries, honey, lemon zest and juice, cornstarch and cardamom. Toss well and reserve.
Prepare the crisp topping:
In a medium bowl, combine with your fingertips or a pastry blender the flour, sugar and butter and form large clumps of dough. Refrigerate at least an hour or freeze overnight.
Assemble and bake:
Divide the apples evenly among 6 gratin dishes or ramekins. If the crisp dough was refrigerated, just break apart clumps of it over the fruit with your fingertips. If it was frozen, you can simply grate it on top with a large cheese grater.
Bake for 20-30 minutes. Let cool.
In a large pot, bring the quinoa and water to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer, covered until all the water has been absorbed (about 20 minutes). Remove from the heat, fluff with a for and place in a large bowl to cool for 20 minutes.
In the meantime, heat one teaspoons olive oil in a large skillet, add the onion and cook until it turns translucid. Add the garlic, butternut squash and kale. Cover with a lid and cook for about 10 minutes on medium-low heat. Remove the lid, check that the butternut squash is tender but not mushy or hard when you poke a piece with a knife. Add the thyme and continue cooking until the all the liquid creating by the cover has evaporated.
Let cool to room temperature. Gently fold the cooked quinoa and the cooked vegetables together along with the vinaigrette.
Serve room temperature or cold.
I have a tendency to always be cold. At least chilly. I like sweaters. I like scarves. Gloves. Hats. I like cold weather. I live in South Carolina where cold weather is…well…not that cold. It comes and goes. Three days of cold, two days of warm. Christmas in shorts. Valentine’s Day by the fireplace. I think I’ve finally gotten used to it. Almost…
We were pretty happy when the temperatures dropped a few degrees this past week. Even without the magnificent Fall colors of up North, there is a certain anticipation of a seasonal change around here. The dogs were waiting for that delicious moment when they’d be able to just lie on the back deck and enjoy a little reprieve. That wonderful crispy Fall weather. No humidity. No mosquitoes.
As soon as Fall rolls around, my mind turns to comfort foods. Well, foods that are comforting to me. We all have distinct food associations, flavors, scents that resonate "comfort". Mine are without a doubt apple cake, apricot and frangipane anything, soups of many kinds, roasted vegetables, winter gourds. Right now, I can’t stop baking with Lady apples (so tiny!) and squash of all kinds.
Soups and cakes are a staple at our house. All year long. Undeniably influenced by seasonal produce but staples nonetheless. A local tomato soup in the summer is replaced by roasted squash one in the Fall. Winter welcomes piping hot bowls of French onion soup.
Along with cakes, Bill has a love affair with coconut soup. I must admit, I do too. After many Thai inspired versions that we have done over the years, I wanted to change it up a bit this time. Red kuri squash and local shrimp cooked until fork tender in a lemongrass, ginger and lime coconut base. We went back for seconds. We wished we had enough for thirds. Incredibly satisfying.
Cakes are quiet and discreet in our kitchen in the Spring and Summer. The above 100F temperatures are not conducive to a lot of baking but as soon as I can turn the oven on without feeling we’re operating a furnace, I turn to one of our family favorite, apple cake. It’s nothing fancy. It’s actually pretty darn rustic if you ask me. One of the may reasons I love it. It also reminds me of my grandmother. A woman I miss everyday.
She wasn’t always easy. Often stubborn. But when she loved, she loved 100%. She loved being surrounded with friends and family. My Sunday Supper tradition is a direct extension of her. Tea time was 4 o’clock around a plate of cookies and a slice of cake. Came one. Came six. It did not matter. The door was always open. Sunday lunches with a full table after church often lingered into impromptu dinners around an omelette, a bowl of soup and a piece of cake.
Grandma, Mamie Paulette even smelled of apples. And vanilla.
Everytime I make her apple compote with a touch of sugar, lemon and vanilla bean, I can feel her around me. I wish we had had a few more years together so she could have come here and see us. Happy. That’s all she wanted. To have everyone happy. Making an apple cake puts me at peace. It’s comforting to have that little bit of her whenever I want. I am grateful she was not shy of passing her recipe on to me so I can pass it on to you.
On this note, I might be scarce this coming week, both in emails and to answer comments as I am heading for L.A on Wednesday. I will be there to teach an awesome 3-day workshop. I am so excited! There are still a couple of spots available! So if you ever hesitated to learn from a photographer, food stylist, digital tech, art buyer, etc… we are all here to answer your question and work hands on to help.
I can’t wait to meet the people I will have the chance to guide and help for three full days and I am also giddy to meet up with friends I rarely see because of geography and life in general. I’ll try to post snapshots…
One thing for sure… I am definitely packing a couple of slices of apple cake in my carry-on! Have a great week everyone!
Coconut Soup With Red Kuri Squash and Shrimp:
Makes enough for 4
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 small onion, diced
2 stalks of lemongrass
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups red kuri squash, peeled and diced (seeds removed)
4 cups seafood stock (or veggie or water)
1 can coconut milk (14 oz)
juice and zest of one lime
2 sprigs of thyme
1 pound medium shrimp (peeled and deveined)
cilantro to serve
In a large stock pot, heat the sesame oil over medium heat, add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally until translucent, about 2-3 minutes. In the meantime, cut the stalks of lemongrass in half and pound them with the back of your knife a couple of times. The goal is to release the lemongrass essence to flavor the broth. Add those to the onion, along with the ginger and garlic and cook another 2 minutes or so. Add the Kuri squash and cook another 2 minutes. Add the stock, coconut milk, lime juice and zest, and the thyme. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to simmer and cook covered for about 15 minutes. When the squash is fork tender but not mushy, turn the heat back up to medium high. Add the shrimp and cook until they are just cooked through (5 to 8 minutes depending on size) (over and they will feel like rubber). Remove from the heat, remove the thyme and lemongrass stalks and let cool about 5 minutes before plating. Serve with cilantro if desired.
Apple Cardamom Cake:
Makes one 9-inch cake
10 Lady apples (or 2 to 3 regular sized apples)
1 cup yogurt
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup olive oil
zest and juice of one lemon
2 cups Jeanne’s gluten free all purpose flour mix (or regular flour)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Preheat the oven to 350F. Position a tray in the middle. Grease one 9-inch baking pan and line the bottom with parchment paper. Place the pan on a baking sheet. Set aside.
Peel, core and slice the apples very thin (a mandoline works great) and place them in a large bowl filled with water and lemon juice to prevent oxidation.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the yogurt, sugar and eggs until pale (takes about 2 minutes). Add the oil and lemon juice and mix until well blended. Add the flour mix, baking powder, cardamom and cinnamon and whisk about 50 strokes until the batter is smooth.
Pour it into the prepared baking pan and position the apple slices (drained slightly) on top.
Bake for about 30-40 minutes until a knife inserted in the middle comes free of raw batter.
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.