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Archive for April, 2011

So, I’ve been busy. Really, really busy the past couple of weeks. My mornings, my time to cook and shoot have been filled with shooting for other folks.

Hey, I’m not complaining. Not one bit, please keep it coming! I love making pictures for my clients. Few things bring me as much joy as delivering images and receiving a giant happy thank you in return (earning money is nice too). But…I miss being here. Cooking and making pictures of beautiful food for Leek Soup is my version of meditation and it’s something I need to do these days to keep me grounded.

It’s all about balance, isn’t it, and it’s becoming very apparent that organizing my days, my work, and my life in a way that keeps me happy, focused and sane is something I undoubtedly need to do. Tips are welcomed!

Hopefully later this week I’ll have (make!) the time to cook some food and share it with you. Sadly I have nothing new to show you now, but I thought I’d bring together some of my favorite spring and Easter(ish) photos. Beautiful bowls and little eggs and bunnies that make me smile.

Cheers!

This is the first food photo I sold!

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Some days you’re just lucky. The cutest little girls walk into your studio (ok, not my studio. Joni Kabana generously let me rent her studio for this shoot) and it all comes together. You do the math: Akasha (4, going on 15) and Keyara (2), fairy costumes, spring dresses and overflowing beauty.

Nothing like chasing little rainbow fairies around Joni’s beautiful studio with my camera. What fun!

Cheers!

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I love photographing noodles. There is something so beautiful in their monochromatic straight lines when they’re uncooked.  Gentle and unassuming. Toss them in a pot of boiling water and them become wild and unruly, curling towards the heavens bursting to be tossed in the perfect sauce. Only then, is their true nature revealed. A nutty, starchy carrier inflated with the intricacies of olive oil, tomatoes, coarse sea salt.

I wanted to cook something simple for this weeks post and my weekly inbox newsletter from Food and Wine was the source of inspiration: Spaghetti with Lamb and Mint. Lamb and mint are two words that will unquestionably get my attention. Individually, each will kick in salivation and a grumbling stomach. Bring the two together and everything stops. Mint’s bright, refreshing tanginess is the perfect balance to lamb’s gamey earthiness. Both warming and invigorating. I don’t know who figured out how amazingly wonderful lamb and mint are together, but I wouldn’t be surprised to find wild mint growing in places where lambs roam…

Cheers!

Whole-Wheat Spaghetti with Lamb and Mint

Adapted from Food and Wine

What you’ll need~

Olive oil

1 shallot, thinly sliced

2-3 cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped

2 leeks, washed and sliced, white and tender green parts

1 pound ground lamb

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1 can chopped tomatoes, drained

1-2 tablespoons tomato paste

1-2 teaspoons sea salt

1 lb whole-wheat spaghetti

Black pepper, freshly ground

1/2 cup chopped fresh mint

Handful of Moroccan Beldi olives

In a large pan warm olive oil of medium heat.

Toss in shallots and leeks stirring until softened.

Add garlic and lamb, cooking until the lamb is no longer pink.

Stir in cumin, tomatoes, tomato paste, and salt.

Cover and simmer for about 15 minutes.

In the meantime, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

Add the spaghetti and cook until just barely done, about 15 minutes.

Working in batches, use your tongs to pull cooked spaghetti from the pot and drop in the pan with the simmering sauce.

Toss it all together, add your mint, olives and pepper and serve steaming hot.

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There are two things to remember about making pizza, aside from the crust, you must remember that it’s all about the toppings. The second? Make sure you aren’t stingy with the toppings. Actually, there’s a third: ask Adam what to do. Adam is very particular about his pizza and this one was, well, ok.  I really liked it, but I as it turns out I didn’t make it quite right. I most definitely did not use enough toppings, and most decidedly not only not enough cheese, I blasphemously sprinkled it on top of the prosciutto and watercress instead of below where it would have created a nice goopy base for everything to stick to.

Don’t get me wrong, Adam is very diplomatic, and joyfully ate said pizza, but when pressed, he gently revealed that it wasn’t, well, quite right. Of course, now the quest has begun and, dammit, I’m going to make Adam the perfect pizza.

Cornmeal Crust Pizza with Prosciutto, Watercress and Mystery Cheese

Ok, well, not exactly a mystery. I had a few unlabeled chunks of cheese that I decided to use instead of buying more cheese. Pretty sure I used Comte and a young Manchego. Feel free to use whatever cheese you happen to have on hand.

What you’ll need~

Cornmeal pizza dough:

1 package active dry yeast

1 cup warm water

Pinch of sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for coating bowl

2 1/2 to 3 cups all-purpose flour plus more, if necessary

1 cup cornmeal, plus more for dusting

Toppings~

One bunch fresh watercress, torn or clipped from stems

2-3 thin slices of prosciutto

One thinly sliced shallot

Cheese of your choice

Salt and pepper to taste

In a large bowl blend yeast, water and sugar. Stir and set aside for five minutes.

Add salt, olive oil and half of the flour and mix well.

Add 1 cup of cornmeal and all but 1/2 cup of the remaining flour and use your hand to mix well.

Place dough on a lightly floured surface and knead for about 5 minutes adding flour as needed until the dough is smooth and elastic.

Lightly oil a large bowl and place dough in it. Cover with a damp towel and let rise in a warm spot in your kitchen for about 2 hours.

If you have a pizza stone, place it in your oven and preheat to 500 degrees. I don’t have a pizza stone (yet!) so I used an oiled baking sheet. Be sure to use an oil that can tolerate high heat, like coconut oil. Otherwise you’ll have a smoky kitchen to deal with. Trust me.

Divide the dough into two portions (I froze the second ball for future use) and form into balls. Place dough balls on your oiled baking sheet, cover with a damp towel and let rest for about 15 minutes.

Place dough back on lightly floured surface and press and, using a rolling-pin, roll out to a shape of your choice.

Place dough back on baking sheet drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with toppings and salt and pepper.

Bake for about 12-15 minutes, rotating halfway through.

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We have Heidi Swanson to thank for this wonderfully creamy soup. Spicy and sweet, perfect for a cool spring day. I made a few changes based on what I had on hand, and, on retrospect, I think I would have changed a bit more.

Heidi’s version calls for a touch of sugar. I used honey instead, but found the sweetness of the finished dish to be overwhelming, especially with the addition of her sweet potato croutons. These things really are a matter of personal taste, and, when given a choice, I will always choose savory over sweet. When I make this soup again, however, I think I’ll up the curry and likely exclude the sweetener all together.

I added a handful of arugula to each bowl to offer a splash of color and to lighten things up a bit. If you’re looking for a hearty wild rice soup, this one will surely fit the bill.

Cheers!

Curried Wild Rice Soup

Adapted from Super Natural Cooking by Heidi Swanson

Two tablespoons coconut oil

1 1/2, or more, teaspoons green curry paste

1-3 garlic cloves minced

1 shallot, chopped

1 yellow onion, chopped

1 cup wild rice, rinsed

4 cups water

1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch chunks

sea salt

2 teaspoons curry powder

1 tablespoon honey or sugar, optional

1 tablespoon dry sherry

1 can coconut milk

Juice from one lime

Fresh arugula

Warm one tablespoon coconut oil in a heavy pot over medium-high heat.

Add curry paste, garlic, shallot and onions and sauté for about 3-4 minutes.

Stir in wild rice and 3 cups of your water.

Bring to a simmer, lower heat, and cook covered for about 40 minutes, until rice is softened.

While the rice is cooking, warm 2nd tablespoon of coconut oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat and add potato chunks and a pinch or two of salt. Give it a good stir a and cook for a few minutes until the bottoms start to brown.

Continue cooking and stirring until the potatoes are cooked through and become crisp on all sides.

Place cooked potatoes on a paper towel to drain. Set aside.

Once the rice is cooked, stir in curry powder, honey, sherry, coconut milk, remaining cup of water and one teaspoon salt.

Cook for another five minutes.

Remove from heat stir in lime juice and add salt and pepper to taste.

Ladle into bowls and top with a sprinkling of sweet potato croutons and a handful of fresh arugula.

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These scones pretty much speak for themselves. Inspired, yet again, by Kim Boyce’s Good to the Grain, a cookbook that I apparently cannot get enough of, Kim brought together two of my favorite things: Figs and buckwheat.

If you’ve never baked with buckwheat flour, you’re in for a treat, and perhaps a bit of a surprise. Buckwheat flour is not fluffy or light, rather, it’s dusty and earthy. Grainy and on the strong side, what it lacks in gluten (you almost always have to blend it with other flours in baking) it makes up for in intensity and, in my world, beauty. I love buckwheat’s dark purplish, gray hues and sandy texture. It lends itself well to the way I like to photograph food, as still-life rather than simply dinner.

Cheers!

Kim Boyce’s Figgy Buckwheat Scones

I only tweaked one thing about this recipe, so I feel I can’t safely say it is “adapted”. I used raw sugar instead of regular cane as that is all I had on hand. Next time, for kicks, I may use honey or molasses as a substitute.

What you’ll need~

Dry Mix

1 cup buckwheat flour

1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup raw sugar, or cane sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Wet Mix

1 stick cold butter, cut into 1/4 inch chunks

1 1/4 cup heavy cream, I used whipping

1 cup fig butter (recipe below)

Sift your dry ingredients into a large bowl. If you’re using raw sugar you’ll have to stir that in after you’ve sifted the flours.

Add butter and rub the butter with your fingers until in becomes coarse like grains of rice.

Add cream and stir until the dough is just combined.

Turn the dough out onto a well floured surface and shape into a rectangle. Keep your hands and the surface floured, as the dough will be fairly sticky.

Using your rolling-pin, roll out dough into a rough rectangle that’s about 8×16 and 3/4 inch thick.

Spread the fig butter onto the dough. Roll the dough, starting from the long side, into a log. Make sure the seam is at the bottom of the log.

Cut the log in half and place on a plate. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 and line your baking sheet with parchment paper.

When the logs are finished chilling, remove from your refrigerator and cut each half into 6 even pieces. You want the scones to be about 1 1/4 inch wide.

Place the scones face up on the baking sheet and bake for about 40 minutes, rotating halfway through.

The scones should be golden brown on the bottom. Eat warm straight from the oven.

Fig Butter

I tweaked this recipe a bit as well. I didn’t have any port on hand, so I used Marsala. Worked like a charm.

What you’ll need~

1/2 cup raw sugar

2 whole cloves

1 star anise

1 cup red wine

1/2 cup Marsala, or Port

12 ounces dried Black Mission figs, stems removed

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1 stick butter, softened

Pour 1/4 cup water and the sugar in a small saucepan and gently stir with a wooden spoon incorporating the sugar. Don’t let the sugar splash up the sides of the pan.

Add the cloves and the star anise.

Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat and cook for about 8 minutes.

Add the red wine, Marsala, figs and cinnamon and cook over medium, stirring, for another 2 minutes.

Reduce your heat to a simmer and cook figs for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove the pan from the heat and let cool to room temperature.

Spoon out the cloves and anise and pour the figs and liquid into your food processor. Process for about a minute.

Add the butter and process until the mixture is smooth.

Spread on to figgy scones, or store in the refrigerator for about a month.

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Oh, I feel just awful. I made and shot this dish about a week ago and completely forgot, as in I didn’t write down a damn thing, exactly what I threw in the pot.

There are fiddlehead ferns, to be sure. Cremini mushrooms, black forest bacon, garlic, a splash of sherry…well. Perhaps no recipe today? Just a few shots of what I remember to be a wonderful dish and a link that sort of fits the bill, at least enough to offer you some guidance and hopefully a bit of inspiration.

I suppose I was just so excited to be cooking with fiddlehead ferns that I just plum forgot what I was doing. Aren’t they the cutest things ever though?  Can you see now how I would be distracted?

Their flavors and texture are reminiscent of asparagus with a hint of damp Northwest forest. I suggest not doctoring them up too much otherwise you run the risk of covering and drowning out their character. I wanted to keep things simple and served them with heaping bowl of brown rice.

Cheers!

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