Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Day at the Races

I miss my Hasselblad. I realized how much I missed shooting with it when I recently dusted it off to shoot a cyclo-cross race in Palos Verdes. Not to mention, I really miss using film and experimenting with all the different kinds. You don't really get that option with shooting digital. Sure, you can mess around with your image in PhotoShop but it's not the same. You're changing the image after you've already taken it.

So I've decided to give myself an assignment and take my Hasselblad out to the races. Cyclo-cross races, that is. In the coming months, I'll be posting some portraits and action shots of the 'cross events in an effort to document what the cyclo-cross culture is all about. I think I'll stick with shooting B&W film to diminish any distractions - cycling kits can get pretty colorful.

Here's my first shot using an 80mm lens and Fuji Neopan. My boyfriend, Wendel, rides for the super-fast and super-stylish team called Palos Verdes Cyclissmo (sp?) and here's a portrait of him along with his teammates. He's the second guy from the left - the poor guy broke his collarbone a few weeks ago so he couldn't participate in the race. Hopefully my pictures will get him super pumped for when he can get back into race mode. :-)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

November Objects of Desire

These are some things I've got my eye on for the month of November....

A box of chocolate from Jacques Torres

A subscription to Donna Hay magazine now that Gourmet has sadly folded.

a frosty November day
(Photo by Anatoly Kraynikov on Flickr)

A Touch of Color to my "winter" wardrobe. Boden USA always has bright and cheery clothes to spice up your closet.

A Pair of stylish leather slippers from a shop in Australia:

A Top 10 spot in one of my Cyclo-cross races!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Decisions, decisions

I love red cabbage and I probably love photographing it more than eating it after seeing these images I took. I'm very happy with the outcome - so happy that I can't decide which one I like the best. You decide and let me know.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

'Tis the Season

Work has been crazy so I haven't had much time to devote to blogging until now. A few months ago I finally bought my first cast-iron skillet. I've been wanting one for so long and I'm not even sure of the reason for my delay. I'm holding out on purchasing the high-end Le Creuset cookware but I found a great skillet by Lodge.

Seasoned cooks may already know about the merits of cast-iron skillets, but for those of you newbies, it's one of the most versatile pieces of cookware available. You can cook almost any food in cast iron cookware. It has great cooking properties - Heat is evenly distributed and held, making it ideal for deep frying, searing, and even baking. I like it b/c it can go directly from stove-top to oven. And it gets better with age compared to your non-stick pans which can scratch easily.

But before you get too excited and start whipping up frittatas, be sure to properly season your pan. Seasoning ensures that you've created the base of your non-stick layer. Start by pre-heating your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Take your skillet and lightly coat the inside of the pan with bacon lard, vegetable oil or shortening. Place the pan in the middle rack of the oven, turned face down. Place a cookie sheet in the lower rack to catch any grease that drips from the pan. Season the pan for 1 hour, remove and let cool. You may need to repeat the process a few times especially if you want to start out with cooking eggs.

When you're ready to clean the pan, use soap and water or try kosher salt. Many people are against using soap but you don't want rancid grease to spoil your next meal. .

Place the cleaned cast-iron frying pan on the heated burner of your stove for a minute or two to make sure that it is bone dry. While the pan is still hot and on the stove burner, lightly oil inside of pan (I mean a light coat) with a neutral cooking oil. I use a paper towel to spread the oil lightly over the pan.

Leave frying pan on the hot burner of stove for a few minutes. Remove from hot burner and wipe excess oil off the pan with a paper towel.

And that's it. I'd love to try and bake a cake with it so it may be the subject of a future blog post.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Dual In the Sun

A few weekends ago my boyfriend and I competed in a cycling relay to get amped up for racing season. The race we participated in was called "Dual in the Sun", a relay race for mountain/cyclo-cross enthusiasts in Simi Valley. It was an hour-long race around a 2.5 mile course that took you on fire roads, single-track and a couple hill climbs with rock outcroppings. It was fun but tough and I was thankful that it was a relay. :-)

We aptly named our team the Lucky 13 Hellcats and made some cool t-shirts. I have to thank Hieu Luong who created the logo - it's exactly how I imagined it would turn out.

Anyway, enjoy these pictures of the race and natural surroundings.

Go Hellcats!


Thursday, September 3, 2009

Labor Day

It's hard to believe that Labor Day is upon us. As I child, I always greeted it with mixed emotions. On one hand, it signaled the beginning of a new school year and the end of summer vacation. On the other hand, it meant I got to wear corduroys and sweaters, buy a backpack full of school supplies and anticipate Mother Nature's new wardrobe bedazzled in amber, scarlet and gold.

These days it comes as a solace - an extra day off, a day to sleep in, a time to catch up on things. My plans? I'll be heading off to a BBQ and bike race. And I definitely plan to take some photos. Speaking of which, I was looking through my archives and recently stumbled upon these shots of a cherry tree in my mom's backyard that remind me of Labor Day. The cherry them isn't particularly synonymous with Labor Day but I guess it reminds me of dining on burgers and BBQ treats underneath this tree.

I also included some pictures of one of my favorite spots to visit at the height of summer - Stonybrook Park in upstate NY.


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

My 50th Birthday Party

When I turn 50, I hope to have my dear friends and family celebrate the occasion with a big party and lots of wine. I hope that I'll be able to look back on some terrific accomplishments and look forward to many more.

Why all this talk about the future? My boyfriend and I recently had the pleasure of attending a friend's 50th b-day party and to me, it was the ideal scenario. We celebrated at a local yacht club in Redondo Beach and the evening included lots of delicious food, drinks and even a live band.

The birthday boy also happens to own Castle Rock Vineyards in CA so we were each given a tasty bottle of Pino Noir. The labels were designed for the special occasion and his birthdate was cleverly noted as the vintage year. Even the back of the bottle was inscribed with the a description of how the vintage had pleasantly matured through the years. :-)

Anyway, I guess it's something fun to think about - much better than thinking about whether or not I'll still have a job in the next two weeks. Oh well.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Art Center College of Design Portfolio Review

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending Art Center College of Design's portfolio review. I've been attending the reviews for the past couple years and it's been such an honor and pleasure to have the opportunity to check out work from some very talented, emerging photographers. Each semester brings a new group of fresh talent, eager to get their feet wet in the commercial and fine art photography industry. It's always really uplifting to see photographers at this point in their careers because they've got a raw energy that seems boundless. And I get excited b/c I look forward to seeing how their work will progress in the years to come!

I only hope that my insight was encouraging and useful! :-)

One of the students recently emailed to thank me and let me know about an interview that a few of them participated in on The Candid Frame: A Photography Podcast. The Candid Frame's host, Ibarionex R. Perello, interviewed a handful of the students to get their perspective on their new careers.

If you want to check out the interview and the 16 sweet photography websites, here are links to the podcast and their websites below. You may just find your next favorite photographer! - Go to the Candid Frame #78 entry.

Mary Amor -

Maurice Salazar -

Joe Euihyun Kim -

Anthony Cobos -

Jordana Sheara -

Clement Jolin -

Stephanie Kay -

Andrew Richard Hara -

Joseph Escamilla -

Kathryna Hancock -

Amber Gress -

David Holden Smith -

Adrianne Techasith -

Cecilia Gavia -

Marco Walker -

Teresa Lojacono -

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Visiting California Wine Country

My boyfriend and I recently took a trip to the Russian River Valley/Dry Creek Valley to explore the wine country and cheer for our friend who was competing in the "Vine-man", which is regional-speak for Ironman. We stayed at a lovely house/cabin right on the river and the weather couldn't have been better.

If you have a chance to visit the area, specifically the charming town of Healdsburg, I recommend eating lunch at the Healdsburg Bar & Grill. No, it's not your ordinary bar and grill b/c their menu includes ingredients like shaved fennel, fiscalini cheddar, housemade pickles, local rock cod, etc. synonymous with the area's passion for sustainable farming. The BBQ pulled-pork sandwich is fantastic and so are the sweet potato fries with chipotle aioli.

If you're looking to picnic at one of the vineyards or are want to purchase some unique sundries, check out the Dry Creek General Store. It's an old-timey kind of store chock full of artisanal snacks, preserves, desserts, salads, beer/wine, and sandwiches made-to-order. Kick back on one of the rocking chairs outside while you enjoy a local micro-brew and toasted panini.

And of course, a trip to wine country wouldn't be complete without visiting the wineries. Listed below are a bunch of vineyards we visited. Only one of these vineyards happen to be on our itinerary - the rest we just stumbled upon which I thought was a really fun way to discover some new wines, most of which were small, family-owned establishments.

Dry Creek General Store

Healdsburg Bar & Grill


Tasting cost around $10 I believe and we were offered about 6-7 wines. The man who poured our wine was actually the owner which added a nice touch. He was a jovial sort of fella who told us a salacious story about the annual grape stomp. We brought home one of the Zinfandels and are looking forward to enjoying it with something hearty.

Bella Vineyards & Wine Caves

$15 got you 6 tastings w/ two food pairings. We started with a Rose that was paired with 2 Fanny Bay oysters (served with a tasty minionette). We then ventured over to the wine cave where we had the opportunity to browse the cave and taste a few Zinfandels and a Syrah intended to be paired with the paella that was simmering outside. Lastly, we enjoyed a Late-Harvest Zinfandel, a dessert wine and perfect accompaniment to vanilla ice cream.

Zichichi Family Vineyards

Another small family-owned and operated vineyard in Dry Creek Valley. I believe tastings cost $5-10. The thing that I liked about this place was that they offered a barrel tasting which I had never done. We tasted two futures from the barrel and enjoyed a Petite Sirah and a few Zinfandels in the tasting. My favorite was the Petite Syrah which we bought and plan to enjoy with a beef stew or pot roast.

Peterson Winery

A $5 wine tasting got us about 8 tastings, one of which even included a 1989 Cabernet. My favorite was the Bradford Mountain Vineyard Zinfandel. Loved the pepper and berry flavors. We ended up buying a few different bottles. Service was really friendly and it had a family-owned vibe to it. They're into the time-honored wine-growing traditions (as in their philosophy of Zero Manipulation) and practice sustainable farming.

Mauriston Vineyards

Complimentary tasting that includes about 4-5 wines. Surprisingly, my favorite wine was the 2007 Chardonnay and I'm not usually a fan of Chardonnay. It wasn't very oaky but was rich and buttery with pear/apple flavors and a bit of citrus. This vineyard also takes advantage of one of the newest appellations in CA, called Rockpile which has proven to produce some fine Zinfandels.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Post It Note

Just a quick note that I will resume posting again this week. My recent travels took me to Vegas and the Russian River Valley and I got backed up on downloading and touching up images. Stay tuned for more.....

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Raising the Bar

At my boyfriend's request, I sought out to find a tastier, less manufactured alternative to Power Bars and the like. After searching the web for hours (not really, I was just trying to add some drama), I came across a recipe for Peanut Energy Bars. They're full of nuts, seeds, fruits and oats, adapted from Amy Harrison's prize-winning submission in the Plains (Georgia) Peanut Festival recipe competition sponsored by The Peanut Institute. The bars include protein thanks to the generous amount of peanuts and peanut butter, and they're a great pre-workout snack or breakfast on-the-go.

Peanut Energy Bars

1/2 cup(s) dry roasted salted peanuts
1/2 cup(s) roasted sunflower seeds, or other chopped nuts
2 cup(s) raisins, or other chopped dried fruit
2 cup(s) rolled or instant oats
2 cup(s) toasted rice cereal, such as Rice Krispies
1/4 cup(s) toasted wheat germ (optional)
1/2 cup(s) creamy or crunchy natural peanut butter
1/2 cup(s) packed brown sugar
1/2 cup(s) honey
1 teaspoon(s) vanilla extract

1. Coat an 9-by-13-inch baking pan with cooking spray.
2. Combine peanuts, sunflower seeds (or other nuts), raisins (or other dried fruit), oats, rice cereal and wheat germ (if using) in a large bowl.
3. Combine peanut butter, brown sugar and corn syrup (or honey) in a large microwaveable bowl; microwave on High until bubbling, 1 to 2 minutes. Add vanilla and stir until blended. Pour the peanut butter mixture over the dry ingredients and stir until coated.
4. Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan. Press down firmly. (It helps to coat your fingers with cooking spray.) Let stand for about 1 hour to harden. Cut into bars.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Fudge Brownies

It's Monday and I couldn't think of a catchy headline to my post about brownies. "Fudge Brownies" should be enticing enough. I got this recipe from Martha Stewart Everyday. Don't overbake these brownies - otherwise they won't be as moist.

Fudge Brownies

8 oz. semi-sheet chocolate, chopped
1 stick of butter
1 1/4 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 cup flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch baking pan. Line bottom and two sides with parchment paper - cut it to make sure about 2 inches hangs over the 2 edges. Butter the parchment paper. In a large bowl, microwave chopped chocolate and butter about 2-3 minutes. Mix until smooth. Add sugar and mix until combined. Add eggs. Sift and mix dry ingredients in a separate bowl. Add dry ingredients to wet and mix just until combined. Don't overmix. Pour into pan and bake on the middle rack for 50-60 minutes, until a toothpick comes out nearly clean (it should have a few moist crumbs).

Cool 20-30 minutes. Take two edges of parchment paper and pull the brownies up and out of the pan. Slice however you choose. Eat and enjoy.

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Longest Day

Yesterday was the longest day of the year so my boyfriend and I decided to celebrate by taking an early evening walk on the beach and chowing down on some tasty BBQ. Here are some pictures of the beach we live a few blocks away from - reminds me how fortunate I am to live so close to such beautiful surroundings.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A Picnic Essential

My friend Jennifer gave me this recipe a while ago. It's a popular item on the menu at the restaurant Houston's. If you're looking for a cold salad to serve at a BBQ or picnic, try this. It's delicious and pretty healthy.

Houston's Cous-Cous Salad

1 box plain cous-cous
a small handful of fresh flat-leafed parsley, chopped very fine
1 small bunch radishes, chopped very fine
2 large carrots, peeled and chopped very fine
a handful of raisins, chopped
2-3 green onions, chopped (the whole thing is fine)
a handful of raw peanuts, without the skin (not roasted), chopped very fine

8 oz. container plain yogurt (1 cup)
2 T. olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 T. honey
2 T. lemon juice

Prepare the entire box of plain cous-cous according to the directions provided on the box. Meanwhile, very finely chop all the vegetables. The recipe doesn't really state how much of these veggies are required so I improvised and provided you with my recommendations. If you like it crunchier, by all means, add some more nuts or veggies. Once all the veggies are chopped and your dressing is mixed, combine all the ingredients including cous-cous in a large bowl. Let the flavors meld in the fridge. Serves about 6 portions.

Friday, June 12, 2009

The Eco Fashionista

I was just checking out Topshop's website when I found a cute little piece they created for how to cycle in style. Cute, current and oh-so bike-friendly. So now you can look good while helping save the planet.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The New Public Market

Here's a great article in today's NYT Dining & Wine section about a new fruit exchange movement. Web sites have been cropping up to connect folks willing to exchange their home-grown produce with other fellow fruit seekers. So if you've been eyeing the plum tree in your neighbor's yard for those fresh-baked plum tarts you've been wanting to make, they may be willing to exchange a pound or two for some of the meyer lemons in your backyard.

Check out the article below to learn more....

Monday, June 8, 2009

When the Living is Easy

As you may know from my previous post, I recently took a vacation to Rochester, NY to visit my family. Rochester weather is known to be unpredictable but I was lucky and spared the clouds/rain. With a whole week off I finally had time to take some photos and, pardon the cliche, stop to smell the roses. Here are some photos I took at Highland Park (aka Lilac Park). It's a lovely park up the street from my mom's house and is home to hundreds of lilac trees. Every year they hold a Lilac Festival that draws a boat-load of tourists. Many of the shots were taken inside the Park's Conservatory which recently got renovated.

I'll be posting more images periodically through the week....

Monday, June 1, 2009

Vacation Hangover

I am back from vacation and it's taking a while to get re-adjusted to living like an adult with a 9-5 job again. Yes, I have vacation hangover. Thankfully my boyfriend has played the dutiful role of making life after vacation more enjoyable simply by being his usual cute self. :-)

I visited my family back in Rochester, NY where I easily (and willingly) fell back into the mode of BBQ'ing in the backyard, raking grass clippings and digging up flower beds, walking barefoot in the grass and not having to worry about stepping on glass/dog poop/cigarette butts, eating my mom's spectacular food, visiting Wegman's, lounging dockside on Canandaigua Lake, waking up early b/c I have the energy, running through Lilac Park, breathing fresh air, smelling the acacia tree in our neighbor's yard, getting my hair highlighted b/c it's doesn't cost a fortune, having zero access to email or a computer....I could go on.

I didn't take as many pictures as I had hoped but I'll be posting a bunch in the next few days....

Monday, May 18, 2009

Tis the Season

The past two weeks or so have been quite busy in my world - layoffs plus a heavy workload has taken its tole. I haven't had much time to focus on taking pictures but I wanted to share a bunch of sites/articles that I though might be enjoyable. If you're a follower of Alice Waters you're already familiar with her popular movement of eating sustainably/seasonally. I think it's also pretty cool that she convinced President Obama and the 1st Lady to create a garden in the White House.

So aside from checking our her cookbooks and website, here are a few interesting links to eating locally and seasonally.


Monday, April 27, 2009

Crunch Time

In an effort to eat healthier, my boyfriend and I have started toasting our own pita chips. The store-bought versions are healthier than some other greasy counterparts like potato chips, but it's sort of a fun way to make your own flavors. And they're tasty dipped in hummus. Here's a simple recipe for starters. To spice it up, vary the ingredients by adding cumin, chili pepper, herbs, garlic powder, etc.

Toasted Pita Chips

-1 bag of pita bread (whole wheat or white)
-Assorted spices
-Extra-virgin Olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Cut up pita bread into triangles - make sure you split the pita bread so it no longer forms a pocket. Brush bread with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and fresh ground pepper. Add any other spices you may like. Arrange on a large cookie sheet and place in middle rack of oven until crispy - about 15-20 minutes.

Serve with your favorite hummus or dip. Serves about 4.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Why the world is better with chocolate

I've written several odes to chocolate in my day so I'll spare you the poetry but every now and again (read: everyday) I have a hankering for chocolate and have to share my fondness for it with friends and co-workers. If my boyfriend is reading this, he's probably having a good chuckle right now b/c I tend to start talking about how I want chocolate 5 minutes after every meal.

Am I addicted? Most definitely. But I suppose it could be worse. It's particularly satisfying if you've had a lousy day/week and it's generally a crowd-pleaser at parties. Doesn't matter what form it comes in (cookies, brownies, cake, etc), I just prefer it dark or semi-sweet. I made these cookies for my friend's BBQ last weekend and everyone said they tasted like heaven. They actually taste more like brownies. Even the batter resembles the consistency in brownies/cakes. Let it sit for a bit so it thickens up. And don't thank me, thank Martha for this great recipe.

I admit this picture is not my favorite but we had to leave for the BBQ so I only had a few minutes to find a semi-decent place to shoot the cookies.

Outrageous Chocolate Cookies

Makes 2 dozen
8 ounces semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2/3 cup all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 package (12 ounces) semisweet chocolate chunks

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat chopped chocolate and butter in a microwave-safe bowl in 20-second increments, stirring in between, until almost melted; do not overheat. In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.
In a mixing bowl, beat eggs, brown sugar, and vanilla on high speed until light and fluffy. Reduce speed to low; beat in melted chocolate. Mix in flour mixture until just combined. Stir in chocolate chunks.

Drop heaping tablespoons of dough 2 to 3 inches apart onto baking sheets. Bake, rotating sheets halfway through, until cookies are shiny and crackly yet soft in centers, 12 to 15 minutes. Cool on sheets 10 minutes; with a thin metal spatula, transfer to racks to cool completely.

Friday, April 17, 2009

A Smashing Spring Recipe

It's another sunny day in Southern California as I write this entry. Those of you East Coasters may scoff at that statement because sunny days sure aren't as common as they are here. Folks from my hometown of Rochester, NY often joke that the sky can sometimes be compared to a gray card (the standard reference object for determining exposure in photography). Rochester is, after all, home to Kodak.

Anyway, if you're looking for a sunny, lemony Spring-time recipe that's perfect when dining al fresco, try this one courtesy of FoodNetwork and renowned chef Tyler Florence. We paired it with filet mignon and crab legs but I'm sure it's mighty tasty with some grilled chicken.

By the way, I couldn't decide which pictures I liked best so I posted a few....if you have an opinion, let me know!

Smashed New Potatoes with Peas, Lemon, and Pearl Onions
Recipe courtesy Tyler Florence


1 1/2 to 2 pounds red bliss potatoes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 (10-ounce) box frozen pearl onions, defrosted
Pinch sugar
Splash freshly squeezed lemon juice
5 slices lemon
2 (10-ounce) boxes frozen peas, defrosted
1 lemon, zested
Kosher salt and freshly-ground black pepper
1/4 cup roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 heaping tablespoons roughly chopped fresh dill
1 bunch watercress, stems trimmed just above the rubber band

Put the potatoes into a large pot, cover them with cold water, and add a large pinch of salt. If they're large, cut them in half. Bring to a boil and simmer until the potatoes are fork tender, 20 to 30 minutes. Drain. Stick a fork into the potatoes, 1 at a time, lift them out of the colander and peel with a paring knife. Toss the potatoes into a bowl and roughly crush them. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil with the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat until the butter melts. Add the pearl onions, sugar, and lemon juice and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are browned, 5 to 6 minutes. Add the lemon slices, peas, and lemon zest and continue cooking until the peas are hot. Season with salt and pepper. Dump the vegetables over the potatoes in the bowl, drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil add the parsley and dill and taste for salt and pepper. Scatter the watercress over the top, fold it in just until it wilts and call it a day.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Latvian Easter Eggs

If you're looking for a unique and natural way to "dye" Easter eggs this weekend, look no further than the Latvian way. Growing up, it was the only way my family and I colored our eggs. Check out the article in the link below for directions. The recipe included calls for wrapping the eggs in aluminum foil but we always use cheesecloth or remnants of an old (but clean) t-shirt, tied and secured with kitchen string or white thread.

By the way, the photograph in the article was taken by none other than your truly. Very exciting.

Happy Easter!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Curly Kale & Potato Soup

If you're looking for a healthy soup that is open to interpretation, look no further than Alice Water's recipe for Curly Kale and Potato Soup. Adapted from one of my favorite cookbooks, The Art of Simple Food, this soup will leave you warm and toasty on a gloomy day. I've never cooked with kale before so I was pleasantly surprised to find out that it bared no resemblance to how I imagined it - tough, bitter and hard to swallow. Instead, it mellowed out and became a delectable companion to the potatoes. Not to mention, I've heard it's really good for you!

If you're not a vegetarian and want to serve this soup as a main course I suggest sauteeing some italian chicken sausage and tossing bite-size pieces into the soup.

Curly Kale and Potato Soup
Adapted from The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 onions, sliced thin
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch of kale, tough center stem removed and leaves chopped
1 lb. Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and sliced into 1/4″ rounds
2 quarts chicken broth
Kosher salt, to taste
Fresh nutmeg, to taste (optional)
Shaved Parmesan Reggiano cheese, for garnish

1. In a heavy soup pot or enamel cast iron Dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onions, stir to coat with oil, and cook for 10 to 12 minutes, until soft and just starting to caramelize. Stir in garlic and cook for another minute. Add kale and potatoes, and stir to coat with oil. Cook for a couple minutes, then add broth. Bring broth to a simmer, reduce heat and cook for 30 minutes, or until potatoes are cooked through.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Not Just for St. Patty's Day

So last week was a crazy week and not in particularly great way - some last minute projects at work but thankfully I'm heading into calmer waters now. My intention was to blog about the merits of a Irish soda bread, just in time for St. Patrick's Day. Though I'm a week late, I still think it's a great recipe that needs no occasion.

I found the recipe on Incidentally, they had a big article that talked about what makes Irish soda bread so special. What makes it special to me is that it's easy to make by hand and doesn't take 3 hours to bake (like it would in my bread machine). Not to mention, it's a lovely looking loaf, lightly browned and dusted with sugar.

Irish Soda Bread with Raisins
from Bon Appetit, February 2005

Nonstick vegetable oil spray
2 cups all purpose flour
5 tablespoons sugar, divided
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3 tablespoons butter, chilled, cut into cubes
1 cup buttermilk
2/3 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 375°F. Spray 8-inch-diameter cake pan with nonstick spray. Whisk flour, 4 tablespoons sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in large bowl to blend. Add butter. Using fingertips, rub in until coarse meal forms. Make well in center of flour mixture. Add buttermilk. Gradually stir dry ingredients into milk to blend. Mix in raisins.

Using floured hands, shape dough into ball. Transfer to prepared pan and flatten slightly (dough will not come to edges of pan). Sprinkle dough with remaining 1 tablespoon sugar.

Bake bread until brown and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Cool bread in pan 10 minutes. Transfer to rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

I'll Take Seconds, Please

One of my favorite vegetables these days is butternut squash. I used to be afraid of buying any kind of squash b/c all I could imagine was the major kitchen accident that would ensue because my knife slipped after trying to split and pry the darn thing open. After successfully dismembering several butternut, acorn, and spaghetti squashes I have yet to lose a finger (knock on wood). If you're a slave to convenience and your grocery store already carries bags of pre-cut squash, you may want to throw in the extra buck. Regardless, I have a great side recipe that I wanted to share. It's a good accompaniment to roast turkey/chicken maybe even pork. Or I'm sure you could add it to pasta for a vegetarian dinner.

Butternut Squash w/ Shallots and Sage

-About 4 cups peeled, diced butternut squash (Trader Joe's carries handy pre-cut bags, 2 bags would be needed)
-1/2 shallot, peeled and finely chopped
-dash of nutmeg
-chopped sage, to taste
-extra-virgin olive oil, about 1-2 T.
-salt & pepper

Split, peel skin and clean one buttternut squash. Remove seeds. Dice into bite-size pieces. Heat about 1-2 T. olive oil in pan.
Saute shallot until soft. Add squash and saute until soft but not mushy. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Add dash of nutmeg and chopped sage. Cook for 1-2 minutes until flavors meld.

Serves 3-4.

P.S. You can also roast the squash on a baking sheet at 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Just toss squash and shallots in a bowl and brush them with extra-virgin olive oil. Put them on a sheet in the middle rack and roast until soft but not mushy. Add the spices in the same manner as above.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Cheat to Win

Okay, so I'm a big believer in cooking and baking from scratch. Why? It not only tastes better but it's much healthier - you don't have to worry about nasty chemicals and preservatives. However, at times I am willing to bend the rules to prevent slaving in the kitchen for an entire evening. So when you have to make a dessert at a moment's notice (or you're lazy), I recommend a recipe that I discovered in Sandra Lee's Semi-Homemade Cookbook. It's called Chantilly Cream and it tastes as good as it sounds without the guilt you may experience after eating anything with cream! I'm not usually a fan of swapping out full-fat for low-fat ingredients when baking b/c more often than not, if effects the taste and texture. And seriously, when's the last time you really enjoyed those cookies made with applesauce or prunes instead of BUTTER. Yes, yes I enjoy eating healthy but it's okay to enjoy treats occasionally. But I digress.....

Anyway, so here's the recipe for Chantilly Cream. The recipe serves the cream atop sliced pears but that didn't sound appealing to me in the least, so I bought some angel-food cake, blackberries and blueberries.

Chantilly Cream

1 container Cool Whip, thawed (the recipe says the regular flavor but I bought Vanilla and loved it)
4 instant packs of vanilla-flavored pudding (the kind you find in the dairy aisle that's already pre-made in the 6-pack plastic cups)
1 t. almond extract
1 loaf of angel-food cake (or pound cake)
1 container of blackberries
1 container of raspberries (or any other fruit)
toasted sliced almonds for garnish

Mix the thawed Cool Whip and pudding packs in a bowl till smooth. Add almond extract. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Slice cake, add berries. Spoon or pour cream over berries and cake. Sprinkle toasted almonds on top.

Serves about 6.

P.S. I plan to experiment next time and try this recipe with rum extract or some other kind of liquor - maybe Grand Marnier. And I'm sure the recipe would work well with different kinds of fruit.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Spiced Cauliflower

So as I mentioned in my previous post, I've been trying out some of the recipes from The Art of Simple Food. One of my favorites thus far is the sauteed cauliflower. What's nice about the cookbook is that many of the recipes offer variations that one can try to further spice up the dish. I opted for a variation that includes a dash of turmeric, cumin, salt, pepper and fresh chopped cilantro that is added in the last few minutes of sauteeing. The result: a pleasantly-spiced side dish that brings new life to a vegetable that I often describe as bland and boring.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Art of Simple Food

One of my favorite chefs lately is Alice Waters - she's celebrates the sustainable food movement and is an advocate of farmer's markets. Needless to say, I've become a fan of her recent tome, "The Art of Simple Food." I'm not a book reviewer nor a professional chef but I like it's format and enjoy reading her guidelines about food. And it's one of the few cookbooks I like that doesn't have pictures (Gourmet Garage and Dean & Deluca's cookbooks are a few others). Anyway, I'll be featuring some photos of recent recipes I tested in the next few days. It's amazing how a few well-chosen ingredients can make a tasty dish.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

My Fashion Inspiration

Some of my favorite things are random but become trendy at one point or another - owls and other birds, for instance. While I would never want to own a bird as a pet, I love things adorned with birds - a peacock-print blouse awash in royal blues and greens, Anthropologie dishtowels embroidered with wide-eyed owls, a dainty enameled sparrow charm on a necklace.

I seem to have the same fondness for Queen Ann's Lace. Some people may consider it a filler flower but how lovely would it look etched on some stationary or screen-printed on a fitted t-shirt. I could even see it splashed over a full cotton skirt ala Betty Draper. So here is my ode to Queen Ann's Lace in a photo...maybe it will inspire me to bring back some color to my wardrobe. As a former NY'er and current Angeleno, I have yet give up the standard uniform of black-on-black.