summer love.

June 21, 2011

 

 

 

Photo credits: snocone, biking, fireflies, tomatoes, cold brew coffee, al fresco dining, swimming

 

 

 


For the past ten days, I have had the joy of galavanting around Southern California with my family (sans sister). We met some incredible, and hospitable folks, drank great wine, indulged in fresh foods, and soaked in the beauty of both the coast and the mountains. It was a nourishing and inspiring vacation.

We spent an ample amount of time on the beaches of San Clemente and Dana Point. (The handsome man pictured here is my dear brother.) When I was not being mesmerized by the beauty of the water or the grace of the surfers, I was reading: The Help, The Absorbent Mind, French Women for all Seasons, back issues of Saveur, or Ecclesiastes.

We got to go to a few stunning farmer’s markets, brimming with California’s finest – avocados, citrus, and berries of all sorts. Keeping most of our cooking simple, we often grilled fresh fish and loads of vegetables.

On Saturday, we took a day trip to Temecula Valley – Southern California’s wine country. The scenic drive from the coast took us through lush mountain passes, and dropped us off into what felt like the South of France – rolling hills dotted with sprawling vineyards. We enjoyed a stop at Mount Palomar where we ate a Medeterrainian style lunch in their bistro. I especially enjoyed the baked brie bowl (pictured above, soft brie placed into a sourdough bread bowl, lined with fresh basil leaves, then covered with roasted garlic, sundried tomatoes and pine nuts). They recommended enjoying it with their Dry Riesling – perfect to cut the savory richness.

  We followed lunch and a small hike around the vineyard with a leisurely wine tasting. They had a wide variety – my favorite was called Castello Trovato, a red metitage of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and cabernet franc grapes. Everything I love in a red – hints of black cherry, earthiness, robust, with a long finish.

One of the most inspiring pieces of the trip for me was the landscape – especially the vegetation and plant life. Flowers, succulents, and trees of all kinds offered color, texture, and smell that I am unaccustomed to in the midwest.

On our final day, we had the honor of sailing with hospitable friends out of the Dana Point Harbor. It was a breathtaking adventure to go out on the water and feel the freedom of Pacific air. They also graciously took us to a lovely restaurant, Chart House,
overlooking the harbor, where we had a number of quentessential California/Pacific inspired hors d’oeuvres. Pictured top right:  tuna tartare drizzled with wasabi cream paired with seared peppered tuna & avocado, with kim chee slaw & plantain chips. Bottom left: jumbo lump crabmeat tossed in remoulade, layered with avocado & mango.

California was a breath of fresh air and I eagerly anticipate the time that I will be spending there in the near future.

May 30, 2011

I hope that my days are measured not by lists and calendars, but rather by lingering al fresco dinners, loaves of bread, good cheeses, bottles of wine, and the friendships that surround them. 
 
(Thanks to Lauren M. for the photographs.) 

cheers

May 22, 2011

Congratulations to my beautiful sister, Lori Beth, for graduating high school!

To celebrate properly, I baked a variety of pies and tarts: a Lemon Cream Tart, Strawberry Cream Cheese Torte, Dark Chocolate Cream Tart, Blackberry Cream Pie, Banana Cream Pie, Pecan Pie, and Apple Pie. Most of the recipes I used were from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From my Home to Yours. I found them to all be lovely recipes, using classic French baking techniques paired with Dorie‘s expertise to create homey, inviting desserts. I also drew on my invaluable experiences baking alongside the family of Cuppies and Joe in Oklahoma City, of whom I will forever be indebted to for teaching me not only how to bake delicious desserts, but also how to serve them forth with love.

It was a joy to share these sweet comforts with friends and family alongside coffee and stories of our graduate.

Here’s to you, pretty girl.

I love being in the kitchen, finding fresh, interesting ingredients and trying new recipes. It is enjoyable to pour a glass of wine, saute some onions, chop vegetables, and let the meal begin to unfold. While the process is of great pleasure, the greatest joy happens once I am sitting down around the table with friends and family to share the abundance. On Thursday, I found this beautiful set of 1960’s dishes at a thrift store. The mustard yellow color and intricate pattern is so lovely.  I got to thinking about what the draw is, and why I would spend money on more dishes. While I have had a number of meaningful meals over paper plates, I think there is really something special about the plates and cups that we use to serve food.

The dishes become something which hold value and sentiment, as families use them again and again for celebration and holidays. They can represent a style or a period of time. They can be carefully crafted pieces of pottery made by someone you know (read: my brother) or an artist that you want to support. They can be a colorful set that inspires or an antique set inherited. Beautiful food deserves beautiful presentation. It helps us cultivate a more meaningful relationship with the food we eat and the time we take to eat it. It is a small thing that deepens the ritual. It creates a whole dinner experience.

It is important for us to develop a meaningful way of thinking about the things that fill our home. Things are not here to define us, but because there are so many items that are essential for living and functioning, why not buy things that mean something? If you spend time to research and use your money on the things that inspire, or are made well, they last longer and begin to contribute to the overall experiences of life. Being a good steward of what we are given involves taking care of what we fill our homes with, especially those used daily, such as plates, forks, and cups.

Curious about what other food lovers had said about the subject of dishes and dinner presentation, I turned to my role model, Alice Waters, of Chez Panisse in Berkley. At her resturanunt, all the tableware is from Heath Ceramics. Heath is made in California, and focuses on a blend of functionality and modern aesthetics. She chose them because they are made locally and each piece is crafted carefully with sustainability in mind.

She shares some insights in relation to her project Edible Schoolyard, which works to bring healthy, whole foods and gardens to schools.  Though this article is directed towards kids, the implications are great for all. The whole interview can be found here. A few highlights:

We’ve made a place that is comfortable, because that shows them that we care, too. We want them to see beautiful things, as well as to smell and to taste beautiful things. For example, I love to put down the tablecloth. That’s all a part of telling them that we care. We’re creating an atmosphere that naturally fosters goodwill and respect — an everyday experience that encourages civilized conduct.

We set the table with a tablecloth, and real plates, forks and knives. We think about the center of the table. Maybe it can use a little centerpiece. The kids choose what that might be, whether it’s flowers from the garden, something from the kitchen, some vegetables, or something that’s going to be part of what the kids are eating. The improvements to the food or the surroundings don’t need to be costly. They can be quite simple.

Strawberries.

May 13, 2011

Strawberry season is here!

I have always had an affinity towards strawberries. They seemed like a hands-off, once a year sort of treat. Still to this day, when I visit my grandparents home, the treasured dessert is vanilla bean ice cream topped with strawberries from their garden. In its simplicity, it speaks of freshness, family, and the coming of summer. In one of my favorite books as a child, The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear, the little mouse tries to hide his ripe strawberry from the big hungry bear. (It is another that I think my father had memorized due to reading it over and over and over again.) I love this!

While the berries are best enjoyed when ripe, simply on their own, there are also many great ways to bake and cook with them. My sister and I transformed the lovely berries into a simple galette to complete a fresh spring dinner. The strawberries baked down with butter and sugar, nestled into a classic tart dough making a warm treat reminiscent of strawberry shortcake. I like making galettes instead of pies, because the dough to fruit ratio is more equalized, and I also love how rustic it looks. The recipe for the galette is below, and here are a few other strawberry recipes I hope to try in the coming weeks:

Strawberry Basil Lemonade

Strawberry Basil Salad with White Balsamic by Just Pinch Me 

Strawberry + Leek Quesadillas from Sprouted Kitchen 

Heidi’s Roasted Strawberries from 101 Cookbooks

Strawberry Buttermilk Cake by Fork Spoon Knife 

Strawberry Basil Pesto by Chocolate and Zucchini 

Strawberry Galette 

adapted from Martha Stewart
For The Dough
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for surface
1 1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
8 ounces (1 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons ice water
 
For The Galette
1 pound strawberries, hulled
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 large egg yolk
1 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

Directions

  1. Make the dough: Pulse flour, salt, and sugar in a food processor to combine. Add butter, and pulse until mixture forms coarse crumbs. Add ice water, and pulse until just combined (dough will still be crumbly). Shape dough into a disk, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour (or overnight).
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. On a floured surface, roll dough to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut out a 10-inch round, and transfer to a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  3. Make the galette: Cut strawberries lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Reserve end pieces for another use. Toss slices with 1/4 cup sugar and the cornstarch, and immediately arrange them in concentric circles on dough. Start 1 inch from edge, overlapping slices slightly. Fold edge of dough over berries. Refrigerate for 15 minutes.
  4. Whisk together yolk and water. Brush dough with the egg wash, and sprinkle with remaining 1 tablespoon sugar. Dot berries with butter. Bake until crust is golden brown, 40 to 45 minutes.

May 8, 2011

process: three

March 29, 2011

process: two

March 23, 2011

process: one

March 21, 2011

Working on a small scale with watercolor, wax, and thread. We take the sky, as if red is something we could own, something we might find in the stillest moments, as if the earth is humane and wouldn’t break our bones. (None of His were broken. Not one, allegedly.)