Friday, June 28, 2013

Two Summery Salads

These photos are from a shoot I did for AARP magazine. Funnily enough, they comprise some southern dishes that happened to be a whole lot of fun to prepare... click the link for recipes. FYI, two things: I didn't use any sugar in the salad dressing (and it turned out *great*) and, ramen noodles tossed in melted butter and toasted are actually tasty. But I wouldn't make it a habit...

Thanks to Caitlin, my photo editor, for making the process so smooth and just all-around-great, and to Lauren and Jim, for making the work fun and filled with so much laughter. Oh those hams.

And this wonderful salad, below - almost that time of year again! - appeared in the latest issue of Anthology Magazine. It is my intention to do a redux in the next few days....after all, you can never have enough tomatoes.

For those of you who want to make this fabulous, simple salad:

Essential Panzanella

1 loaf of bread (I used challah, but any country loaf will do)
a large handful of shallots
a number of perfectly ripe heirloom tomatoes*
good extra virgin olive oil
aged balsamic vinegar
large handful of basil leaves
sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste

*I like a variety of hues and flavors—like the savory, intensely juicy Cherokee Purples, and bright, acidic Green Zebras

Cut bread into thick slices and then tear into bite-sized pieces. In a cast-iron skillet over medium heat, fry bread in olive oil. Peel shallots and cut into large wedges. In a bowl toss shallots with olive oil, and using a stovetop grill if you do not have access to one outdoors, grill on all sides. 
Cut tomatoes into bite-sized chunks.
Combine these three, arranged on a large serving platter, and dress with the balsamic and olive oil. Scatter with a bit of large flake sea salt, cracked pepper, and then the basil leaves. 
Make enough for guests to have seconds, because everyone will ask for more!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Springtime Travels and My New Life

It's not often I post a photo of myself. But, with so many different things going on all at once, I wanted to share just how happy I've been. This photo pretty much sums it up. 

With experiences stockpiling, I'm a bit frustrated that I haven't had the time (or energy after days adjusting to my new, full schedule) to sit and compose a wondrous tale for each of the vignettes I am going to share. So be it. I am happy as we settle in to our new lives in the South, and feel like I am living as if on a long vacation. We hope to keep it that way. 

Here is a bit of some meanderings from the past month or two - 

Gorgeous blooms - some of the first of the season, during our ill-timed but wonderful trip to Portland and Seattle in April - at The Meadow on Mississippi Street. This fell smack in the middle of us packing up ten years of a life in NY to move to Birmingham, and we both joked more than once about wishing we'd been more efficient and brought some stuff to pack while on this trip. Ha.

We found many great finds in the short time we stayed in Portland and felt genuinely welcomed by all of the people we met. Must. Return. Soon. 

For you New Yorkers with a hankering for a ridiculous artisanal chocolate selection, slabs of Himalayan pink salt, as well as numerous other bottled salts, don't miss their location in the West Village! It is a well-curated collection of good-living essentials....

We loved the Rebuilding Center. As I wandered the aisles, I had to remind myself I was taking a plane home *and* packing up far more of the very stuff collected in my years, and I certainly did NOT need more stuff at this moment. But, the vast collections of reclaimed, recycled just-about-everything at super reasonable prices made me wish a place like this existed in my own neighborhood.... One of the trucks parked outside said it best:

This place has its sights on the future of materials usage, as well as how we think about physical resources in general. Kudos to you guys for helping pave the way (literally) to innovative building practices. 

There was Por Que No? taqueria:  inventive, conscientious, and every bit delicious, and also the great vegetarian food truck Wolf & Bears, which had I been less hungry, you would see just how fresh and yummy their falafel and sauces were. Go! Eat well while supporting smart, local businesses. 

What is the best way to round things out? Topping off the experience with ice cream. (You knew I was going to say that.) For that, we hunted down Salt & Straw, and boy are we happy we did. 

With a hip space, excellent, friendly service, and dynamite flavors, you cannot go wrong. We chose the arbequina olive oil ice cream, and coffee & bourbon - damn good to the last lick.

In some ways all of this served as the backdrop to a pinnacle experience we were fortunate to have, that at an eco-homestead nestled in a quiet and beautiful neighborhood in the northwest. The Attunement Guest House had everything we needed and so much more. The radiant heat in the bathroom (I covet thee), the beautiful laying hens who supplied eggs for our breakfasts, the front "lawn" of spring onions, kale, and chard (available for harvest to go with those eggs), the newly constructed sun ray trellis which would nurture fig and kiwi trees.... and then there was our hostess, Joelle herself. She was a ray of sunlight and definitely a kindred spirit. I wish we'd had more time to soak up all the details and moments with her (and her awesome housemates). Another thing to come back for...

The breakfast shoot was unplanned. I think we were so wowed by the abundant, fresh food and feeling just so welcomed, that we both reached for our cameras to document our experience. Not the most eloquent subject - a humble veggie omelette - but the making it (and eating it!) was sheer bliss. I hope you experience some of that in the photos. For the recipe, scroll down....

Along the streets in both Portland and Seattle, everywhere was an explosion of blooms. I gasped aloud at least 7 or 8 times at the layers and abundance (there goes that word again) of all of the trees and plantings. Everywhere was so pretty, so considered.

There's more to this story, but it's long enough. I don't want to tire you out! I've mapped out more of my meanderings, so please stay tuned. I will be making more regular appearances once again, now having settled in to my new life in Birmingham.

Also, as per last post pre-move, Mira Zaki has won the giveaway. Congratulations Mira! I will be shipping your books out this week. Thanks so much for your patience.

Chard and Spring Onion Omelette
Serves 3

6 free range eggs
2 good bunches of swiss chard (you can also use kale, or broccoli rabe), rinsed and coarsely chopped
1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
2 spring onions, trimmed and finely chopped
1 tbsp fresh soft herbs (like parsley, dill, cilantro, thyme, etc.), coarsely chopped
freshly cracked pepper
a good knob of pasture-raised butter, divided in two
a good pinch of Himalayan pink salt (you can use regular sea salt, if that is what is available)

Scramble eggs in a bowl and season with a bit of pink salt and pepper. In a large skillet, heat the butter over medium-high heat. When it begins to bubble and become brown, add in the onions. Sauté for a couple minutes, then add in the chopped chard. Allow the chard (or whichever green you have chosen) to wilt in the pan, stirring to combine. Remove from pan and empty mixture into a sieve set over a bowl, allowing any leftover juices to drip out. Save liquid for stock or another use.

In same skillet, heat another pat of the butter until it sizzles, swirl around pan, then pour in the egg mixture and reduce heat to low. Tilt the pan every so often, using a rubber spatula to push egg away from the edge of the pan and allow the still-liquid part to seep over to the edge. Repeat, moving around the circumference of the pan, until no more liquid egginess remains. Once the omelette surface is solid enough to handle (and remain whole), use a long spatula to free it from the pan bottom, and with a *very confident* strong jerk, flip the omelette over, landing the omelette face-down into the pan. Scoot it center with the spatula if it didn't quite make it (many tries are necessary to perfect flipping a large omelette, so don't worry about tears the first series of tries). Scatter cheese across the surface, followed by the onion-chard mixture. With the spatula, fold one half of the omelette over and gently press the top down using the spatula butt. Remove from heat, cut into wedges and serve, garnished with herbs, sea salt and cracked pepper.