Monday, March 25, 2013

Some Fantastic News

I had planned on this being an Easter Egg story. I had some delicious, easy recipes gathered and almost all of the photography complete, when I received the big news. Are you seated? News that we are to move so I can grow a new branch in my work, as staff photographer at Southern Living Magazine. This was a many-month process and with the news now official, we realized we had to tell everyone. We are thrilled. And now, to move ten years of a life and home.

We have innumerable treasured stories from our lives in New York. The many friendships we have cultivated and nurtured, the not-so-savory path of "figuring things out" and taking on New York City day-to-day. Even the subway will have a more fond place for me as we transition to leave (is that even possible??).

Birmingham, Alabama will be our new nesting grounds (it is an egg story, after all). I will share bits from my new life as part of the talented staff at SL, but please be patient as we get settled. There will be *a lot* of boxes to unpack, farmers markets to discover so we can fill our refrigerator shelves, the task of driving to get re-aquainted with....... you know, new roots to grow. So thank you for traveling with me and being so supportive as we take the leap. See you on the other side!!!

Now, for various bits I have been cultivating to-date, and, another giveaway....
Scroll to bottom for recipes-

Shirred eggs with spinach, buttermilk, and ham

Ham Roast

"Buttered Eggs" - adapted from Canal House Cooks Everyday

Easy baked brioche jalapeño eggs

Chili Nutmeg Egg White Soufflé 

Egg Yolk Ricotta Ravioli

Simple recipes you can actually throw together - with a little care - at a moment's notice. For real. And totally delicious! Try for yourself and see.

In other bits launched, I spent some months' time fine-tuning my dear friend Chrissy's new look. We had many back-and-forths to refine things together, and I must say I was extremely fortunate to have such a similarly-minded collaborator.  She is one of the reasons I will miss New York so. Bird of a feather, in addition to swapping stories about delicious food lovingly prepared, I have benefited from her gifted clarity as a yoga teacher for many of my years here. The following are some of my favorites from our work together, along with a few images I shot for the story she produced on chocolate giant, Jacques Torres. 


See Chrissy's full story with Jacques, here.

And now for the giveaway!

I am offering BOTH the latest Food 52 Cookbook, as well as The Complete Gluten-Free Whole Grains Cookbook to one lucky recipient. You are likely familiar with the witty style and interesting creations from Food52. I love their weekly updates and am a big fan of their simple, no-nonsense approach. In the cookbook - signed by both Amanda and Merrill - choose from seasonal recipes like late-night coffee-brined chicken, roasted fennel and white bean dip, state fair cream puffs, pastitsio, and heavenly oatmeal molasses rolls, along with a chock load of others. With great mise en place photos and others showing process, and, of course, many drool-producing final creations, you're sure to succeed at some pretty tasty offerings!

From Robert Rose Publishers in Canada, the Complete Gluten-Free Whole Grains Cookbook includes great things like nutritional profiles and preparation guides on many grains, from buckwheat groats to hominy to teff, along with many more familiar grains like amaranth, oats, and rice. This is a great reference tool! Recipes include: almond-flavored millet with cherries, cockaleekie soup (a traditional Scottish recipe), congee with Chinese greens and barbecued pork, kasha and beet salad with celery and feta, amongst many others - 125 in all. Each recipe comes with a detailed chart highlighting its specific nutritional benefits. Pretty cool stuff. :)

To win: subscribe to my blog and leave a comment (with a means to contact you, should you end up the winner) explaining what foods/recipes make you feel happy and satisfied. For an extra name in the hat, follow me on Twitter - @melinaphotos - and leave a note there, and like my Facebook page - Melina Hammer Photography - leaving a comment there. Each comment gets you an additional ticket, so to speak. :) I will add everyone together and pull a name at random. Chances to win this giveaway end at midnight EST, Sunday April 14th. This is available only to continental United States participants. I will announce the winner shortly after, and contact you for your shipping address to send along the books. Good luck!!!


Shirred eggs with spinach, buttermilk, and ham
makes one serving

2 free range eggs
a small pour of buttermilk (around 2 tbsp)
a good handful of spinach - will cook down, so be generous
a few slices of roast ham (see following recipe)
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/2 cup comte or gruyère cheese, grater
sea salt and freshly cracked pepper
butter to grease the casserole
olive oil for sautéing 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees (F). In a small skillet set on medium heat, pour a glug of olive oil and sauté the garlic until fragrant, about 2-3 minutes. Add the spinach and stir around once the greens begin to wilt. In all it should take about 7 minutes tops. Remove pan from heat. Grease the casserole and line the edge with the ham. Scoop the spinach-garlic mixture into the center, and pour the buttermilk over. Season with s+p. Sprinkle a little of the cheese, then crack the eggs into the center. It can be helpful to hollow a couple wells for the eggs to nestle into. Finish by adding most of the rest of the cheese, saving the last bit to sprinkle as it comes out of the oven. Place on a baking tray and bake for 17-20 minutes, or until the whites of the eggs are set. Add more s+p to taste and one last scatter of the cheese, handle carefully with potholders, and serve.

Roast Ham
serves 18-20

18 lb smoked free range ham, ham hock cut off and saved for another use
2-4 cups apple cider
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup brown sugar
spicy mustard for serving

Preheat oven to 325 degrees (F) and remove all but lowest rack. Score the surface of the ham in 1-inch spacing, first in one direction, then turn the ham a quarter turn and then scored again. Should make a diamond patchwork design. Place ham in roasting pan and then slide it carefully into the oven. Pour enough cider to fill bottom of pan. Roast, checking in 15-20 minute increments, and refill bottom of pan with cider. This keeps it from burning and smoking up the house. 

After roasting for 1 hour, in a small saucepan over medium heat, stir to combine honey and sugar until sugar has dissolved and the mixture becomes a glossy, thick liquid. Remove ham from oven and paint the honey-sugar glaze all over. Replace in oven and roast for another half-hour and then remove again, painting glaze all over once more (you may need to reheat the glaze, as it will thicken when left to sit).

In all, the ham should roast for up to 2-2 1/2 hours, and be golden and caramelized when done. Serve the pan sauce beside after draining off the fat, along with spicy mustard.

Easy baked brioche jalapeño eggs
makes 12

12 pull-apart brioche dinner rolls
4 free range eggs
6 slices bacon
jalapeño pepper, thinly sliced on a mandoline
1/2 cup mascarpone
sea salt and freshly cracked pepper

Use a small serrated blade to hollow the centers out from the rolls and save for another use (like croutons or bread crumbs). In a bowl, scramble the eggs with s+p and the jalapeño slices. With a butter knife, slather mascarpone on the insides of the rolls, then set each a few inches apart onto a baking sheet. Preheat oven to 350 degrees (F). Eye the length needed for the bacon and line the rolls, trimming to fit. It is okay to have a few small pieces overlap - tastes great and looks just as good. Pour the egg mixture in slowly. If any overflows, scoop it up with a rubber spatula and try again. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until there is no jiggle when agitated. Allow to cool for 10 minutes and serve.

Buttered Eggs, adapted from Canal House Cooks Everyday

as many free range eggs as you think you'll need, then add a few extra - these will go fast!

Toppings can include (feel free to get creative here) -
torn ham pieces (great to use some leftover ham for this)
sliced Dutch matjes (a DELICIOUS fresh herring from Holland, I got mine from Russ & Daughters)
sliced sable
cucumbers, sliced very thinly on a mandoline
wild salmon roe
wasabi flying fish roe
crème fraîche
good mayonnaise
fresh dill
fresh chives

Fresh eggs do not peel easily once hard-boiled, so plan accordingly and use eggs that are 1-2 weeks in your refrigerator. In gently boiling water, lower eggs into saucepan. Eggs should be in a single layer, with about an inch of water above them. For soft, custard-like hard-boiled eggs, cook for no more than 9 minutes. Drain, running cold water over eggs, then place in a bowl with cold water in refrigerator until cool enough to handle. Tap on counter surface and begin peeling at rounder end, where the air pocket is. Once peeled, rinse off any shell bits and cut into halves. Set aside.

Prepare slices of any of your toppings as appropriate and chop or tear herbs. Smear or spoon the mayonnaise or crème fraîche, followed by fish or meat, followed by roe or herbs. You can also prepare small bowls of each topping to allow guests to make their own, which makes a festive, pretty presentation. Enjoy!

Egg Yolk Ricotta Ravioli
serve 2-3 ravioli per person

wonton wrappers
egg yolks from very fresh free range eggs
ricotta cheese
freshly grated nutmeg, if you like
pink Himalayan sea salt
freshly cracked pepper
fresh chives, cut on the diagonal
freshly grated grana padano or parmesan

Fill a large pot with water and season generously with salt. Heat on high to bring to boil. Meanwhile, lay out a number of wonton wrappers on a clean, dry work surface. Create a ring of ricotta in the center of each wonton. Sprinkle with the sea salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Carefully lower an egg yolk onto each ring - it is essential that they remain unbroken or you must re-do. Wet the edges of the wonton with water and press a second wonton over top, sealing the edges. You will need to crimp or pleat in places, in order to gather the surfaces and seal them properly. Repeat until you are finished with however many ravioli you have decided to make. 

Lower each ravioli with a slotted spoon into the gently boiling water. After a maximum of 2-3 minutes, lift ravioli from water with slotted spoon and drain on absorbent paper. Place onto serving dishes, grate cheese on top, and scatter with fresh chives. Serve with a green salad or steamed asparagus.

Chili Nutmeg Egg White Soufflé - from my mother
serves 4

2/3 cup parmesan, grated and divided into 1/2 cup and the remainder
1 cup grated gruyère cheese
3 tbsp butter, plus more to grease ramekins
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
egg whites from six free range eggs
1/4 cup whole milk
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/4 tsp chili powder
good pinch of freshly ground pepper
1/4 tsp cream of tartar

Grease four ramekins. Sprinkle parmesan inside and turn to coat all surfaces. Empty out any remaining into the next, and repeat until all ramekins are lined with parmesan. Place in freezer. In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, melt butter and add flour. Stir to combine and for three minutes continue stirring, cooking roux. Gradually add in milk and stir continuously, bringing to a boil. Lower heat to simmer and cook for a further 2 minutes, stirring, and add in the nutmeg, chili powder, and cayenne. Remove the pan from the burner, stir in 1/2 cup parmesan, and transfer to a large bowl.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees (F). In a large bowl, beat the egg whites until frothy. Add the cream of tartar and beat until they hold stiff peaks. Fold in 1/4 of the whites into the sauce. Fold in the remaining whites, along with the gruyere, until all are combined. Remove ramekins from freezer and place on a baking tray. Spoon mixture into ramekins, leaving 1/2-inch space from top edge, and top with the remaining parmesan. Bake the soufflé for 30 minutes or until puffed and golden. Serve immediately. 

Happy Easter everyone!!! xxx ;-)


  1. Congrats on your new adventure! Very exciting!

  2. Congratulations to you. I love your photography and get excited each time you have a new post. What a wonderful job opportunity and all of the changes will be so fun to get stressed, excited, and curious about! I am from the south (La) then moved up to the big apple and the dramatic change was wonderful!! Back down in the south for awhile (Tx) and still discovering many new and adventurous elements. Have a wonderful move and I am a follower on Twitter, Facebook, and here!

    1. Sarah, I always look forward to when you stop by. What sweet words! I am thrilled and nervous and quite eager for the adventure :)

      We are up to our eyeballs in boxes. 10 years - oof!

  3. Congrats Melina, I wish you good luck in your new job, and hope to see more of your inspiring work.
    I don't think I ever mentioned, that used to live in Alabama... now all my memories are rushing back :)

    1. Wow!!! When did you live in Alabama?? And where? If you have any tips, would you please email me some of your stories (when you get a chance)?

      Thank you very much, Vera!

    2. Oh jeez, that was a decade ago. I don't think I could help you find the hip places. :)
      Btw, I'm planning to trip to NYC later this year, and I was hoping to meet you personally. Well, this is my luck :)

  4. Holy mother of deliciousness, this all looks so amazing and delectable. Congrats again :) My fav foods are the Egyptian foods I grew up with- like falafel, molokhia, foul, on the Italian front- homemade pizza/focaccia bread, and on the egg front... any thing sunny side up :) (those egg yolk ricotta ravioli look insane!)

    1. So nice, your comment!! Thanks, Mira. I love your favorite foods - do you cook these, too? The ravioli ARE insane. Total YUM.

      Btw, I'm having a prop/house sale before we leave! You wanna be invited? xo

  5. Melina,
    Congratulations on your new gig and best of luck! I love seeing your photographs in your posts and it inspires me to pick up my camera. Since it snowed again, deep hearty stews and fresh bread are what make me happy. If we ever get to see spring and summer - fresh produce is always a big favorite here! Already followed you on facebook and your blog - adding twitter to the mix, too!

    1. Thank you so much, Dierdre! Any time I can be of inspiration, that makes me feel just peachy. I know exactly what you mean about hearty stews (I made a wicked pea soup with the ham hock from the ham - ridiculously flavorful!) in the cold weather. It's sleeting + raining here today...

  6. I'm so happy for your new adventure and wish you all the best in Alabama :)
    Looking forward to see your new work!
    All my best wishes xoxox

  7. Congratulations Melina, wishing you the best luck in a new adventure!!
    Always love your pictures..

  8. Wow - just wow.....look at how much you have grown, how far you have come, and how enriched your life is because of these many wonderful experiences! So, so proud of you and am so looking forward to standing on the sidelines of this new path in your dream. Be Happy, my dear Melina. You deserve this opportunity. xo

  9. That is such eggcellent news :) Good luck on your new adventures!

  10. Everything looks so delicious. Congrats on the new job! Just recently subscribed to your posts, but already I'm cooking from your blog, so thanks!

  11. I would love to win the cookbooks for the same reason I love to follow your blog, cooking new, great recipes is such a great way to have a wonderful time with family and friends. Plus, the pictures are amazing!

  12. Just subscribed to your facebook page!

  13. Those pictures are incredibly beautiful! Hearty omelets for breakfast with coffee and biscuits are always a good way to start the day! :)

  14. Hi, I really love your posts!!
    Those pictures are so~~~~~~~~~~~~~ beautiful XD
    What camera are you using? I want to buy some camera..but I don't know what should I buy
    I am a really big fan of this BLOG!!!! LOVE YOU!!!