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…
*******************GIVEAWAY ENDED APRIL 14TH************************************
Last night, as I was waiting for my flight in Orlando for my flight back home, all I could think about was the serving of Heidi’s Macaroon Tart awaiting me back in Charleston.
I have had a great time teaching at Food Blog Forum on Friday and I can’t wait to share pictures and information of what was shared a little later next week. My head is still full and my heart is bursting at the seam. I knew it already, but let me say it again, Food Bloggers Rock! Thanks to Julie who helped plan the whole weekend, I was able to teach a photography and styling workshop today before my flight. Awesomeness again…
Wild Rice Casserole.
Today, I really want to talk about Heidi Swanson's book Super Natural Everyday except everything I want to say never seems enough. Everytime I get a book for review, I make sure to devote a chunk of the week to cook from it. It helps see the thread use by the author to build the book. the stories, the photography. All the dishes I cooked this past week from her book led me down the same path: practical, satisfying, energizing, good and good for the soul.
Black Bean Salad.
In one word. I can’t wait to cook from it even more. The food is tasty, fresh and Heidi’s personality and wonderful soul shows at every turn of the page. A beautiful soul with a wonderful message to share. Good food, made with wholesome ingredients does not have to come in gargantuan portions nor is it difficult or time consuming to make. The flavors in all of Heidi’s dishes are a burst of everything that is good with eating and cooking in this world.
And the photography…always loved how Heidi’s lets her readers eat with their eyes first. Her photography is authentic and hers. Just as she is. Just as her food.
Millet Muffins & homemade strawberry jam.
I emailed her publicist a few days ago and asked if I could hold a giveaway of a copy of Heidi’s book for you guys. To my delight, I am happy to be able to share two copies with you guys! If you need a little enticing, check out the recipes for her Shaved Fennel Salad and Macaroon Tart after the jump!
Millet Muffins and Frittata.
To enter the giveaway:
– leave a comment on this post starting today until Thursday April 14th midnight Eastern time.
– one comment per person
– no anonymous comment please
– two winners will be picked randomly by the hand of the wise, my husband
Note: it may take up to 24 hrs for your comment to appear on the page.
Heidi has this fabulous Buttermilk Cake recipe that she makes with plums but I used Pixie tangerines since they were in season.
I had such a blast cooking, eating and photographing her recipes. I take immense pleasure at shooting other people’s recipes and Heidi’s was not exception. When it comes from the heart, the photography part becomes a source of intense joy. I hope the next few shots entice you to get her book and start cooking from her book soon.
Shaved Fennel Salad.
Shaved Fennel Salad, with permission of Ten Speed Press:
Serves 4 to 6
1 medium large zucchini, sliced into paper thin coins
2 small fennel bulbs, trimmed and shaved paper-thin
2/3 cup/.5oz/15g loosely chopped fresh dill
1/3 cup/80ml fresh lemon juice, plus more if needed
1/3 cup/80ml extra virgin olive oil, plus more if needed
fine grain sea salt
4 or 5 generous handfuls arugula
honey, if needed
1/2 cup/2 oz/ 60g pine nuts, toasted (I used walnuts)
1/3 cup/2 oz/ 60g/ feta cheese, crumbled
Combine the zucchini, fennel and dill in a bowl and toss with the lemon juice, olive oil and 1/4 teaspoon slat. Set aside and marinate for 20 minutes, or up to an hour.
When you are ready to serve the salad, put the arugula in a large bowl. Scoop all of the zucchini and fennel onto the arugula, and our most of the lemon juice dressing on top of that. Toss gently but thoroughly. Taste and adjust with more of the dressing, olive oil, lemon juice, or salt if needed. If the lemons were particularly tart, you may need to counter the pucker-factor by adding a tiny drizzle of honey into the salad at this point. Let your taste buds guide you. Serve topped with pine nuts and feta.
******************************************************************************* Macaroon Tart, with permission of Ten Speed Press
Makes 24 bite size servings (I made 2 rectangular tarts with one recipe)
1 1/2 cups/6oz/ 170g white whole wheat flour (I used 1 cup brown rice flour and 1/2 cup millet flour)
3/4 cup/ 2 0z/ 60g unsweetened finely shredded coconut
3/4 cup/ 3.75oz/ 106 g sifted and lightly packed natural cane sugar
Scant 1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
10 tablespoons/5oz/140g unsalted butter, melted
Preheat the oven to 350F/180C with a rack in the middle of the oven. Butter an 8×11-inch tart pan (I used two 14×5 ones) and line the bottom and sides with parchment paper.
To make the crust, in a large bowl, combine the flour, coconut, sugar and salt. Stir in the melted butter and mix until dough is crumbly but no longer dusty looking. Firmly press the mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan (it should form a solid, flat layer). Bake for 15 minutes, or until golden. Remove and set aside to cool for a few minutes.
In the meantime, prepare the coconut macaroon filling by combining the coconut, sugar, and egg whites. Mix until well combined.
Evenly distribute the blackberries across the tart base. Now drop little dollops of the macaroon filling over the tops of them (dirty up your hands for this part), and mush and press the coconut topping around into the spaces behind the berries. Be sure to let at least some of the colorful berries pop through for visual flair.
bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the peaks of the macaroon filling are deeply golden brown. Let the tart cool, then garnish with the crusted pistachios before slicing into small squares.
I know I did not post a new French Word feature last week so I thought I’d bring you a little bit of Provence where I grew up by sharing these "Petits Farcis a la Provencale" or Provencal Filled Vegetables. To say that I could eat these all 365 days of the year is no exaggeration. Even when I am sniffling and coughing away as I am today, I still want a piping hot mini zucchini filled with all the goodness that Spring and Summer can bring.
The vast majority of the people I know call these "petits farcis nicois" or little stuffed vegetables from Nice. We don’t. At least not in my family. We are not from the Alpes Maritimes where Nice is but from the Bouches Du Rhone where Provence is. We may all be different in this world but we are all proud of naming our roots, our region, our village. It’s by far lots more telling than race. It explains upbringings and traditions, identities and personalities. And food.
Just with a multitude of other recipes, there are as many variations for "petits farcis" as there cooks to make them. Every town or cook on the Mediterranean coast has a preferred recipe. Some like to use rice, sausage and tomatoes as a filling. Others exclusively use torn day old bread pieces. Some add cheese. Some don’t. Some use traditional seasonings like oregano, basil, or herbes de Provence (without lavender where I am from – thank you very much). Others become more adventurous and add a pinch of cinnamon and raisins.
A picadillo inspired stuffed zucchini does sound really good right about now for some reason…Yes, you realize now that I am not one to lose my appetite when sick or coughing. I always marvel at people saying "could not eat a thing I was so sick".
I absolutely love this time of year in Charleston. It is when I feel the strongest connections between my life in Provence and the one I am building here. I get to the market around 8am like we used to do back home and enjoy the quiet time before it gets crowded so I can get to know the vendors, exchange recipes, tips. No longer are they surprised that I buy headcheese at 8.30am or that I stuff eggs and milk in my bag next to a giant pork shank. They’re not surprised either when I bear a smile as wide as the Cheshire Cat when I find out they carry leaf lard for my pie crusts or garlic flowers to pickle them.
Many months, sometimes years can go by before I get the chance to go home for a visit and being able to connect the dots that make me who I am today here with Bill is by far the greatest gift I have received in this life. Oh geez, it does sounds like I just had a birthday and got smacked with a little wisdom on the head…oops!
When I found that the guys selling pink radishes and purple onions also had eight balls zucchini, I literally jumped up and down inside my head. Or did I do it in real life? I don’t know! They did look at me funny. Oh wait! That could be because I bought a dozen of these at once. at $1 for two, who wouldn’t?! Yes, the ones I made here are all filled with local produce (except for the rice, salt and pepper) I was inspired. I had a plan.
Every week, my friend Anita posts gorgeous still life pictures of her farmers shopping on her Flickr stream which makes my excitement about our farmers market all the more understandable. She inspires me daily to kick butt but her new weekly blog feature Dinner On A Deadline also inspired me to get 12 zucchini instead of 6 the other day and make a double batch of petits farcis, just in case I would have to get dinner done fast but well one busy day.
Like Anita, I thoroughly plan our meals and food budget and even though I already implement many of the steps she and her readers share, I look forward to the weekly post for newly creative ways to balance it all and I love the recipes she shares. I love how openly she made her system available to all to learn from, contribute to or simply read and move on. That’s what I love about the food blogging community. And yes, I do love having Anita and Cameron as friends in real life too.
Like my mother and grandmother before me I tend to use tomatoes, sweet onions and eight ball zucchinis in the Spring. These little round squash are abundant at the farmers market here in town right now and so darn cute easy to use. Scoop, fill, bake. Eat. Mange! Use leftover rice, couscous, quinoa, use veal sausage, pork or mixed sausages. Skip the mushrooms, add some bell peppers. The possibilities are endless. Hope you give these a try!
Petits Farcis a la Provencale – Provencal Filled Zucchinis:
6 eight ball zucchinis (or tomatoes, peppers, etc..)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 shallot, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound sausage
1 cup shitake mushrooms (or your prefered kind), chopped
1 cup cooked brown rice
2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh oregano, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 350F and position a rack in the center.
Cut the top off the zucchini and scoop the inside out. I don’t use it in the recipe but you could absolutely use it along with the other ingredients or to replace the rice. I save the insides for soup. Place the zucchinis in a baking pan and set aside.
In a large skillet, heat the oil and sautee the shallot and garlic for a minute. Add the sausage and cook until brown. Add the mushrooms and tomoates, and as soon as they start to release their moisture, add the rice. Cook for another couple of minutes and add the herbs, salt and pepper. Remove from the heat and let cool a few minutes.
Stuff the zucchini with the mixture, place the caps on and bake covered with tin foil for 15 minutes and uncovered for another 15 minutes.