Last night, the Hot Bread Kitchen Cookbook took home the Food52 Piglet Award for 2016. It’s a huge honor to all involved. The judging happens through a bracket system, in which pairs of books compete against each other. Eventually, only two are left. Andrew Zimmern, of Bizarre Foods, made the final ruling. Yotam Ottoleghni helped it through an earlier round. Reading Ottoleghni’s review just about made my year. (Anybody who glances at this blog will know I am a huge fan of his recipes.)
The book was written by Jessamyn Rodriquez and Julia Turshen, and it tells the story of a bakery that is also a non-profit social enterprise. The women who apply to train at the Hot Bread Kitchen come from all over the world. They are taught artisan baking and business skills, to help them become successful culinary professionals.
The bakers also share knowledge of specialty breads from their home countries. Things like Persian Nan-e Barbari, Moroccan Msmen, and Ethiopian Injera are baked and sold by the bakery. Between all of this hands-on knowledge, and the writing expertise of Rodriquez and Turshen, it’s no wonder reviewers and judges have been describing the book as a transformative baking tool.
I spent two weeks photographing the bakery, bread, and the mostly-women bakers for this book. I worked with food stylist Erin McDowell, and prop stylist Barb Fritz. It took me about a year to work off the bread-pounds I gained from all of my snacking. And now I just want to bake more. One thing I know for sure: there is nothing so delicious as a buttery, flaky Msmen, hot from the griddle.
This morning I woke to the sound of chirping birds outside my window. The chirps made me think of spring. Spring made me think of summer. Summer made me think of picnics, grilling, and camping. And then I thought of this shoot I did recently for the Applestone Meat Company, showcasing their meats in all of those settings. This was all from beneath a heavy quilt in my bed, mostly with my eyes closed. The reality of the day is that the trees are bare, and the roads are icy. But the birds are returning, and it was a beautiful waking dream.
Salad rice bowls are taking the place of bread and cheese sandwiches in my kitchen this week. I am looking for a lunch formula that is fast and nutrient-dense. The inspiration came from two places. First, I spent a day photographing a new cafe at Google headquarters. In this cafe, plant based foods are the star, with meat & dairy as highlights. Nibbling and tasting through the shoot was one of the healthiest and restorative food days I’ve had in months. Then there was the Healthy-ish January issue of Bon Appétit. There is an article about preparing an exciting mise en place, and then mixing it up all week. It’s so simple. It got me thinking.
I do not like cooking when I’m hungry, I like cooking in advance of hunger. So this weekend, I prepared the pieces. They could be anything, really, but I wanted four distinct sections: protein; fresh veg; flavor-packed sauce or dressing; and rice or other whole grain carb. All the components are pre-prepared, except for the rice. I will drop that into the rice cooker an hour before I eat, so it’s fresh.
Above is what my mise en place looked like, and below are some of the star components. What I love about this system, is the potential for variety. I love making flavor-packed sauces, and often have a bit of something left over in the fridge. The proteins could be chopped chicken, or bacon bits, any kind of fish, tofu, any other kind of bean, or any kind of roasted nut or seed. The carb could be any kind of rice, quinoa, or millet, or rice noodles. You see where I’m going. It’s a formula, but it doesn’t have to get repetitive.
This is what I had on hand, or cooked specifically, for my first week’s rice bowls (appropriately seasoned with salt & pepper).
The proteins: black beans marinated in white wine vinegar, olive oil, shallots; hard boiled eggs; dry roasted peanuts
The fresh: arugula; lettuce; cabbage; roasted orange slices; white onion
Sauce 1: salsa verde – a grinding and a chopping of shallots, arugula, parsley, toasted almonds, Castelvetrano olives, olive oil, white wine vinegar & lemon juice (found on DesignSponge)
Sauce 2: ginger scallion relish made with ginger, garlic, scallions, oil (a recipe by Bar Chuko in the forthcoming Brooklyn Bar Bites cookbook, which I photographed, and worked from my advance copy)
Sauce 3: quick scallion kimchi made with scallions, salt, garlic, brown sugar, grated ginger, red pepper flakes, sesame oil, sesame seeds, tamari, rice vinegar (a staple in our fridge, adapted from a recipe by David Tanis)
The rice: a wild rice blend, cooked for one hour in a rice cooker
And below are two distinctly different salad rice bowls – one with Asian flavors, and one with Mediterranean flavors. I’m just getting started.
Chop, chop, chop, stir, stir, stir… a stop motion video showing how to make a raw kale salad. For this recipe, I used two bunches of lanceolate kale (but any kale works), olive oil, fresh lemon juice, white wine vinegar, grated parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, and toasted pine nuts. It is the perfect antidote to whatever ails you.
Today I did a studio visit with ceramicist Kelli Cain. I fell in love with Kelli’s work this fall, when I saw it at Field + Supply. She had invited me to visit in person one day, and I had been waiting for the right time. My dad is visiting from out of town this week, and what better than a long drive to show him more of the area. We drove deep into the Catskill Mountains. The traffic all but disappeared. The landscape became hilly farmland. The studio is located down a long dirt driveway, in a converted farmhouse. Kelli had made us tea and cookies, and we chatted while I picked through dozens of her beautiful handmade pieces. I love Kelli’s palette. I love her glazing techniques. Each piece is more beautiful than the last. It was a lovely day, rewarded with a bag full of beautiful treasures that I can’t wait to use in life and in pictures.
With the end of the holidays, winter salads are on my mind. The more vegetables I eat, the better I feel. I miss the salad bowls of summer, but it doesn’t feel quite right to eat mesclun greens and lettuce in the depth of winter. Here are three of my favorite winter salads, using winter vegetables. I have been chopping and serving these all week.
Raw kale salad – so easy, except for the chopping. You really have to chop, and it has to be done by hand. After that, mix in a dressing of olive oil, fresh lemon juice, salt, pepper, garlic if you like, shaved parmesan and toasted pine nuts. As a side, my daughter and I made Indian puffy bread – Poori – which was entertaining to watch puff up in hot oil.
Raw shaved Brussels sprouts salad – this is a variation of a recipe I found on Food52. Thinly slice some purple onion and soak in a bowl of water to mellow the sharp onion flavor (drain after about 30 minutes). Peel away the outer layers of a couple of large handful of Brussels sprouts. Slice the cleaned sprouts thin on a mandoline. Make a dressing with olive oil, fresh lemon juice, honey, whole grain mustard, salt & pepper. Toss together along with some grated Pecorino Romano. Eat straight away.
Shaved raw carrot salad – I found this one in Nigel Slater‘s Tender. Thinly slice raw carrots, mix in fresh grapefruit & lime juice, olive oil, shaved hot peppers, salt, pepper, and toss in some torn leaves of cilantro.
Wishing everyone a happy and healthy 2016. It’s been a whirlwind of cooking and entertaining, with just a little bit of traveling to and from the mountains of Quebec. There have been bonfires, and food cooked over bonfires – in Hungarian stew pots and cast iron cauldrons. And now, back to work. Somewhat refreshed, full of new ideas.
The Blue Mountain Cookbook Club met again, and this time featured The Cocktail Party: Eat, Drink, Play, Recover. We met at Paul & Anthony’s house, and between us I think we cooked just about every recipe in the book. Our hosts made infused vodkas (cucumber, apple, dill, raspberry) and a make-your-own taco bar. The rest of us brought eggnog, black bean cakes, arancini, mac-n-cheese cupcakes, pastrami sandwich muffins, mini meatballs, spicy pigs-in-blankets, and champagne Jell-o shots. And then we had a secret Santa cookbook gift exchange. I scored a vintage 1982 copy of Martha Stewart‘s Entertaining, and an autographed copy of Simply Nigela from Woodstock’s Golden Notebook. Another prize was a 1997 issue of Cooking with the Young and the Restless. I would say cookbooks have really changed over the years, but another contemporary book was the as-seen-on-tv Dump Cakes cookbook. (“Stop mixing & measuring…Just Dump. Now you can make homemade cake for your family in minutes!”) Nice.
The holiday spirit took over this November. We invited 14 people for a 3-course dinner at our cottage in the Catskills, and it was the most successful party we have ever hosted. I have so many memories of Thanksgiving pasts where frenzied hosts burn themselves on steam and pot-handles, curse over last-minute gravy and cold vegetables, and knock over piles of pans in the sink. This time, we accepted the offers of everyone who wanted to contribute. And, we cooked almost everything in advance. I am a list-maker, and I set to it.
A week before the day, we built our menu around what we knew people would be bringing. One brought pumpkin pies & green beans, one brought a box of wine and a strawberry cheesecake from Junior’s, one brought home-made cranberry sauce and a tray of roasted vegetables, one brought 120 oysters & two sauces, one brought bite-sized smoked salmon & creme fresh blinis and a salad, and to round out the house-cocktail we had planned, another surprised us by showing up with his entire bar and bar-tending tools.
In the days leading up to the feast, Chris dry-brined two 12-pound turkeys in salt, rosemary and lemon, according to a recipe by Melissa Clark. I followed Mark Bittman’s recipe for make-ahead gravy (make a killer turkey stock, make gravy, store in fridge, reheat before serving and whisk in the turkey drippings = no stress and delicious). We had a vegetarian coming, and I made a vegetarian mushroom-thyme gravy from Food52. We made two vegetarian dips from Martha Stewart’s Appetizer‘s book. We made Alton Brown’s pickled beets. I stored it all in glass mason jars in the fridge. The morning of, Chris made a vegetarian stuffing (with all the bread, butter, mushrooms, apple cider, apples, and celery & sage, no one missed stock or sausage).
The day before, we rented bar tables, chairs & table cloths. The living room became the dining room, and the dining room became the bar. The bonfire in the forest became the oyster station. I picked a bouquet of dried flowers and berries from the yard, counted cutlery, chose serving dishes and stuck post-it notes all over them. I raided my boxes of pretty glassware, silver, and platters that I use on photo shoots. I boiled the napkins and ironed them, and at that point I knew I was about to go too far.
The day of, guests arrived at 2pm, we started with oysters & cocktails. Dinner unfolded seamlessly. As hosts, we were able to enjoy the party with a minimum of last-minute details. Chris and I agreed on a bar-limit to adhere to before the turkey was carved.
At the end of dinner, guests helped load the dishwasher and rinse for the next load. We had coffee and sweets, and went back out to the bonfire beneath the moon. The party was over by about 10 p.m., which served us well, because we did it all again the next day, and the next…. Oysters, and turkey sandwiches at Jon & Juliet’s house the next day, and on day three back to our house for turkey soup and bruschetta.
I snapped photos here and there. Mostly I seem to have taken photos of drinks. I was probably a little bit busier than I remember. But it’s a rare feeling after three days of hosting to feel more refreshed than tired, and I want to remember the keys, and repeat.
I visited a friend‘s garden this week, and as we walked, he dug root vegetables. I left with a bag full of produce, including a whole bunch of Jerusalem artichokes. I transplanted a bunch of the tubers into my garden. They will grow into 10’ plants next year, topped with yellow flowers.
For the rest, I found this recipe for Palestine soup, which inspired me. It is so simple: Sweat an onion in olive oil, add peeled & chopped Jerusalem artichokes and salt, cook until soft, blend, stir in cream, garnish with chopped hazelnuts.
A little while ago, my friend Peter asked me to write an essay for Fish & Game Quarterly, a newsletter he edits for Fish & Game, a restaurant in Hudson, NY.
I wrote about the gardens my families have planted. My dad and his girlfriend grow enough food to dehydrate, preserve, and fill their deep freeze. My step-dad used to do the same. Currently, my brother is determined to turn the soil of an entire farm single-handedly. He says he will use only a shovel and a pickax. If you know my brother, you know it’s possible.
My own garden is low-maintenance and child-friendly. Link to essay here.
“Anybody interested in starting a cookbook club?” Chas posted a FB message. The idea was to get together at one of our houses, with everyone bringing a dish cooked from a previously selected cookbook. A dozen friends signed up immediately.
Chas & James hosted the first meeting, and we cooked from Mario Batali’s Farm to Table. I have admired the cover to this book many times, with Mario standing in front of a barn, holding a pitchfork and a rooster. It’s an arresting image. I ordered a copy from Woodstock’s Golden Notebook (conveniently, just another FB message, as James is a co-owner).
Three weeks later, we met. We drank. We feasted. We started with tempura green beans and melt-in-your-mouth jalapenjo poppers (“Thirty dollars in cheese!”), rigatoni with lamb ragout, stuffed acorn squash, roasted beet salad, and a fig tart.
I made chicken saltimbocca, and sang a little song to myself as I speared bamboo skewers through individual packages of chicken, wrapped in prosciutto and fresh sage leaves, “Rockin’ da house, rockin’ da house…” They were finished in a reduction of Marsala wine, shallots, and mixed mushrooms.
We ate very well, and it was even more fun in that it was a group project. I have a new recipe that will make a regular rotation for special occasion dinners. But best of all, it was a great excuse to spend an evening with friends. Some I hadn’t seen since my daughter was born, and I have missed them.
These past couple of weeks have been a gift from the gods of autumn. It appears we have been spared a hurricane this year. The leaves have been brilliant, and without strong winds, they drop at a reasonable rate. In the years of Hurricanes Sandy and Irene, they are gone overnight. And I mean gone, probably swirled away to Ohio.
I have been doing a garden clean up with my daughter. The leaves above our terraced hillside are a blaze of cadmium yellow. They make us stop in our tracks.
There is a hilly road by my house that I try to walk every day. That translates into a few times per week. I love this walk in all seasons, when I walk, my mind is filled with only good thoughts, I don’t know why, probably endorphins, but it has been especially beautiful this past week. I broke my no-touching-the-cel-phone-for-instagram-email-or-step-counting rule and took a photo. It was just too breathtaking.
As the leaves start to fall, we get serious about the yard clean up. Every fall, we take a day and rent a leaf blower. Chris blows the leaves into heaps, and then he shreds them with the lawn mower. I cart them over to the garden. According to Mike McGrath (the former editor of Organic Gardening magazine, and now host of a podcast on organic gardening) shredded, composted leaves are all the added nutrients a garden needs. I’m into this rather grueling day for the sake of the garden. Chris is into it because we are also obliterating a habitat for ticks. He enjoys that.
It is the end of the season for our CSA farm shares. It has been a bountiful year. I’m going to be sorry to rely on supermarket produce, flown in from Mexico, Florida, and Venezuela. I so enjoy focusing our meals on seasonal produce. But there are a bunch of winter farmer’s markets in the Hudson Valley to get us through. Last weekend we visited the outdoor market in Rhinebeck, and I look forward to getting to know the vendors.
For a start we bought bunches of beautiful fresh scallions, and big chowder clams, potatoes, celery. My daughter spotted the colorful, twisted carrots. I made scallion kimchi from David Tanis’s One Good Dish. The recipe in the book is game-changer and will become a staple condiment in our house. (Here is a variation of the recipe, if you don’t have the book.)
At least once a month I make lentil soup. It’s so easy, and full of iron & protein. I make it a little bit differently every time, and don’t use a recipe anymore. My favorite these days is an Indian-spiced red lentil variation. I would share the recipe, but I made it up as I went. Suffice to say, this was the best one I have ever made, and I just added a bunch of fried mustard seeds, cumin seeds, fresh ginger, and a generous amount of fresh tumeric – about 3 grated root nodules.
Finally, these last beautiful days of warm autumn weather have inspired us to cook outside. If you can call it cooking. A food-writer friend we invited called it a “weenie roast” and I’m not just a little bit proud to say that we hosted the very first one he had ever attended. And this is someone who knows food. He had spent the previous night out on the town eating and drinking with Anthony Bourdain. How does this happen? How does someone grow up in America, develop a full fledged career as a food writer, and yet never roast hot dogs over a bonfire? “I’m from California,” he said. “We don’t have a lot of fires in California.”
Of course, he loved it. Because, let’s face it, hot dogs around an open fire in the Catskills is the perfect day-after antidote to boozing with Bourdain in Manhattan.
We ate the hot dogs with pickled green tomatoes I made from a NYTimes recipe. A few weeks ago my daughter and I had gathered the last of the green cherry tomatoes from the garden. We got to them just before the first frost. It’s a great recipe, and paired well with hot dogs. Although next time I would make them with my new best friend, fresh tumeric.
And today, the warmth of this fall is still here. The days are sunny. It’s downright warm. The shredded leaves wait for me in piles around the yard. I will move them into the garden over the next week. And I’ll keep cleaning up the garden with my eye looking all the way across winter, to spring. Not that any season could be better than this one, right now.
For the woman who wondered what to do with a bulb of celeriac, here is a winter soup made of vegetables from this week’s CSA vegetables. Ingredients: celery root, leek, potatoes, apple, garlic, olive oil, salt, pepper, and water or vegetable stock. Directions: soften chopped leeks in hot oil, add the chopped root vegetables, garlic and apple. Heat. Add stock or water. Simmer until ingredients are very soft. Blend. I topped with frizzled leeks, but you could also sip it from a mug.
The first frost came. This season’s CSA farm box deliveries are almost done. I am picking as many herbs from the garden as possible, before they wither and fade away. I am also using up the root vegetables I have been neglecting from my CSA’s farm share. Today, in the bottom drawers of the fridge, I found celeriac, candy striped beets, a few knobby carrots, and a couple of kohlrabis. With this collection, I turned to Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem.
His recipe for root vegetable slaw calls for just these ingredients. The vegetables are sliced thin on a mandolin, then cut into matchstick-sized widths. They are marinated for a while in vinegar, oil, lemon juice, sugar, and salt, and then tossed with hand fulls of chopped cilantro, parsley, dill, and mint.
And that’s it. The marinade softens the vegetables, and the herbs excite them. It’s a seasonal and bright salad on a cold day.
Below are some snapshots of my garden this morning. I will keep cutting herbs, for as long as they keep growing. I’m trying to use up every last bit of summer’s goodness. It’s a race against the cold.
I don’t know if I ever bit into a crunchy, salty sea bean when I lived on the shores of the Pacific. I certainly remember walking on them. I remember the crunch and pop of them underfoot.
This summer, while walking with my dad along a rocky beach, near where he lives in British Columbia, I asked him if he knew of any local, wild edibles. “Well, there is sea asparagus,” he said. He gestured down beneath his shoes. He hadn’t eaten it either, but his girlfriend, a poet and a kayaker, knew that if she ever found herself stranded and starving on the Pacific coast, she could eat them. It would be a mighty salty survival food, and my lips still pucker when I think of my first taste. They taste like a sea water reduction.
Chefs love them. And if they love them, there has to be something going on. I set to work harvesting a bowl full with my dad and daughter, and then I looked up recipes. We parboiled them, and flash fried them in butter, garlic and lemon. We did not salt them. I used them to garnish a beautiful wild Pacific salmon my husband cooked. The meal made so much sense, but they are still something of an acquired taste.
Then, because we had far more than we could eat as a garnish, I continued my research. Hunter, Angler, Gardener, Cook wrote of an experiment dehydrating them. Since my dad just happened to be driving around with a dehydrator in his truck, we gave it a whirl. I have yet to complete the final step in the mortar and pestle to make sea bean salt. I can’t quite imagine ever wanting so much ocean flavor in a dish.
I had one other sea bean experience this year. Days after I returned from the west coast, I found myself shooting a campaign for Neuman’s Kitchen, a high end catering company in NYC. They feed the corporate crowds, and they create extraordinary feasts for benefits. Chef Robb Garceau is a pleasure to work with, and for each of the photoshoots we have done, he visits the Greenmarket early in the morning for inspiration. Imagine my surprise, when one afternoon he suddenly appeared with an herb-salt encrusted Arctic char, a whole variety of beautiful shellfish preparations, and a bowl of pickled sea beans. I do think this is the best way to go. The salt, crunch, and pop of them is just meant to blend with vinegar, and is why sea beans are also known as pickleweed.
As for the dehydrated sea beans in a little baggie on my desk, they await grinding. I keep wondering what to do with the salt once I make it. Could I rim a glass in sea bean dust for an updated version of a Caesar (a classic Canadian cocktail made with clam juice)? How about sea bean salted wine for steamed clams? A dusting on white fish? And then I take a nibble of the now dry (but still very salty) sticks, and I’m right back on the shores of Hornby Island, picking them with my dad.
Three cookbooks I photographed over the past year have October 2015 release dates. They are all published by Clarkson Potter, and I love each of them for different reasons. Very soon, the Hot Bread Kitchen cookbook launches. This is an amazing non-profit bakery in Harlem that teaches low-income, foreign-born women the craft of artisan bread baking. These women learn a profession, business skills, and English. It was inspiring to spend the time I did with them. And I always chuckle when I think about waiting for the train above the bakery to rumble by, when my camera was set for slow exposures, in fading light.
Earlier this month, Michael Symon‘s 5 in 5: Seasonal was published. This is the third book I have photographed for Chef Symon, and working with him is always a high point of my year. Chef Symon loves what he does, and he has a great team around him. It is a true pleasure and a joy to collaborate with him, and I’m eagerly awaiting getting my hands on this book. His fast, flavorful recipes are just the thing for my daily schedule.
Another of my favorite authors is publishing her second cookbook this month. Alana Chernila and I have worked together on both of her books, and it has been such a pleasure meeting at her home in the Berkshires through the seasons. We photograph her children, her family, her friends, and her in the kitchen. Whenever I spend time with Alana, I can’t wait to get home and cook for the people I love.
We just returned from an extended visit to my homeland on the west coast of Canada. A few years ago, when our daughter was born, my husband & I started an annual tradition of renting a big house on the ocean and inviting friends and family to stay with us. It is the most beautiful place I could ever imagine, and we love to share it. It is a place where food literally falls from the trees – apples, walnuts, hickory nuts, grapes, and any number of berries. We cook, eat, and drink. We walk and swim. I photograph everything. It’s refreshing to be in a new place, with different light, and surrounded in ocean-weathered textures.
From where I live in the Hudson Valley, NY, it takes two travel days to reach these Northern Gulf Islands that I love. But it is worth it. Miles and miles of shoreline are uninhabited. And the people who live there are island-folk. They make pottery, they paint, they farm. I will follow up in coming posts with some of the fun cooking projects we did. But for now, a glimpse to the remote islands of Cortes and Hornby.
We signed up for a fruit share grown by Hanna Bail of Threshold Farm and had yellow plums in our first delivery. I have been buying Hanna’s delicious apples for years, but the plums, peaches, and pears are only available to their CSA members. This year we decided to go all the way.
Chris picked up the first share last week, while I was away shooting food for a client in New York. On the shoot, we had the most extraordinary and unusual vegetables to work with. The chef had gone to the Union Square Greenmarket and bought dozens of different kinds of heirloom tomatoes, tiny Mexican cucumbers, red currants still on their stems, Alpine strawberries, and multi-toned carrots with dirt still clinging to their delicate root hairs.
Spending two days with this beautiful produce put me in the mood for more. Happily, when I returned home, there on the counter was a bowl full of the daintiest, jewel-like yellow plums, grown not too many miles away, on Hanna Bail’s biodynamic farm.
For this first pickup, I adapted a recipe for plum crumble from Nigel Slater’s Ripe. I didn’t have ground almonds, so I used shredded coconut, and the texture was a lovely compliment. An even better compliment was a scoop of vanilla ice cream – especially notable because it was my toddler’s first. We don’t eat a lot of processed sweets, and I think we are better off for it. But something about those juicy golden orbs made me feel like last night was the night for the introduction.
As toddlers do, she loved it, and then forgot it. After four thrilling bites, she set the nearly full bowl down and declared, “It’s too sweet for me,” and ran off to her sandbox.
To me, the juicy flesh of the plum, and its semi-tart skin, paired with sweet vanilla ice cream is a visceral childhood memory. In the Hudson Valley, local organic plums are a rare treat. In British Columbia, the single yellow plum tree that grew in our front yard produced more plums than we could eat, and more than we could reasonably give to all of our neighbors. My dad had the entire block making jam for weeks, and still the ground beneath the tree was a soggy mess of over-ripe, fallen fruit.
I thought of that tree and those plums last night, as we ate with friends in the backyard. The night had become dark, my daughter had gone to bed, and a candle flickered on the table. This morning, my girl requested ice cream for breakfast. Denied, she gathered up a bowl full of plums and brought them over to her Nana’s house. Plums – even a single bowl – are meant to be shared.
I am making creme de cassis from black currants we grew in our garden! The recipe for the sweet, dark elixir is hands down the simplest recipe I have ever attempted. It is: fresh black currants + vodka + time. Soak together for a few months, strain, heat, add more vodka, water and some sugar. The exact proportions I used can be found in Amy Thielen’s New Midwestern Table cookbook, although I added a step and smashed the fresh berries.
And now I wait, and try to forget about the berries steeping in the cupboard. It should be ready by the holidays.