Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A tale of 2 salads & Charleston outtakes

After all the overindulging Thanksgiving typically brings, it is nice to have a few healthy, but satisfying & delicious recipes in your repertoire.  Especially as we move into the busy holiday season, it is important to take care of ourselves!

In my last post I shared many photos of the Charleston Photo Workshops. But, I also wanted to share a few of my favorite non-workshop images (caution, there are a good number of images), along with two participant-requested salad recipes.  

Charleston Outtakes
I truly believe part of my heart will always live in Charleston.  I don't know if I really realized how much I have missed the area until I came back (this time as a visitor).    Charleston will always be a special place to me.   I appreciated being able to visit the familiar sites of my favorite city, as well as being able to reconnect with dear friends whom I greatly miss!

The Isle of Palms Beach in the morning(s), when I probably should have been sleeping....  But there is something almost therapeutic about the beach, especially in the morning....

The Isle of Palms Beach in the afternoon...

Lunch at 181 Palmer (the downtown CIC restaurant) with Helene & Clare (and then at Relish in North Charleston with Sandra & Ashley, though I only took cell phone pictures there).

Lunch with Liz at Butcher & Bee 
(I may forever dream of the chicken liver mousse with blackberry jam).

Visiting Kudu Coffee (yay for an actual coffee house!).

Lentil Salad with Roasted Beets & Apricots; Greek Quinoa Salad 
And now back to those salads, as previously mentioned.  When you're preparing food for an all-female group, there's bound to be a few salads.  But we didn't want any run-of-the-mill salads...  They needed to be different (not just lettuce based) & beautiful & above all, tasty. 

This Greek quinoa salad and lentil salad with roasted beets & apricots were two of my favorites.  I enjoyed them so much that I re-created them at home, both so that I would not forget the recipe, and also so that I could eat them again!  

Both salads are easy to make (and easy to modify to your taste preferences).  They last well in the refrigerator, if they aren't eaten immediately.  Each salad works as a side dish or as a main dish--since they're quinoa and lentil based, they have good levels of protein. They are both vegan, until you add the optional cheese, but that does not make them any less delicious!  

After all the Thanksgiving indulging, I believe salad lunches are quite perfect :)  Everything in moderation (including moderation).  And I promise, these salads won't feel like moderation.!  

Lentil Salad with Roasted Beets & Apricots
To roast the beets, I simply wash and peel the beets before cutting them into cubes, tossing them with olive oil & salt and pepper, and roasting them in a 375 F oven for approximately 30 minutes (or until they're caramelized & soft).  

1/2 c French lentils, rised & picked over
1 c water
1 c roasted beets (see note above) 
1 whole scallion, coarsely chopped
1/2 c dried apricots, chopped
1 Tbl chopped parsley
7 Tbl simple vinaigrette (recipe follows)
crumbled goat cheese (optional) 

1.  Combine the lentils and water in a sauce pan.  Bring to a full boil, then reduce the heat and let them simmer, uncovered, for approximately 18 minutes.  When they are done, they should still have a bit of "bite" & not be mushy at all.  Remove from the heat and cool completely.  

2.  Once the lentils have cooked and cooled, add the beets, scallion, & apricots.  Toss well.  Add vinaigrette & parsley.  Gently stir to combine.  

3.  Serve room temperature or chilled.  Crumbled goat cheese may be added on top, if you wish.  Store leftovers in the refrigerator.  Additional vinaigrette may be necessary after the salad has sat in the refrigerator.  

Greek Quinoa Salad
When I created this salad for the photo workshop, it was for a picnic/lunch-themed photoshoot.  I had several goals: 1) to make a salad using things we already had, 2) to make a salad that would be tasty for participants to eat after they finished photographing, and 3) to make a salad that would be colorful and photogenic.  The result was this spin on a greek salad.  In the original salad, I included chopped olives, but to be completely honest, I HATE olives.... So I left them out of my re-creation :) If you like them, feel free to add olives yourself.

1 c Dry Quinoa, rinsed
2 c Water
1.5 c Cucumber wedges
1.5 c red & yellow grape or cherry tomatoes, cut in half if grape tomatoes or in quarters if cherry
1.5 whole scallions, chopped
2 Tbl chopped parsley
6 Tbl simple vinaigrette (recipe follows)
1/2 c crumbled Feta Cheese (optional) 
Black olives, chopped (optional)
1.  Cook the quinoa and water according to the package directions.  Once cooked, remove from heat, fluff with a fork & allow to cool completely.  

2.  Once the quinoa is cooled, add the cucumber, tomatoes, scallion, parsley & vinaigrette. Gently stir to combine. 

3.  Serve room temperature or chilled.  Add the crumbled feta cheese & optional olives just before serving.  Store leftovers in the refrigerator.  Add additional vinaigrette as needed.  

Simple Vinaigrette 
Once I learned how to make simple vinaigrette, I completely stopped buying store-bought salad dressing.  Instead, I keep small mason jars of variations on this vinaigrette in my refrigerator.  All I do is let it warm up a bit and shake it before serving.  This recipe makes enough for both the lentil and quinoa salads, with a little leftover as well.  

1 tsp Dijon Mustard
2 Tbl Red Wine Vinegar
4 Tbl Olive Oil
Pinch of Salt & Pepper 

1.  Combine all ingredients in a mason jar.  Tightly screw on the lid & shake to combine.  

2.  Pour over salad (less is more).  Store any leftovers in the refrigerator.   

Note: most of the time, I just eyeball the measurements in the jar.  1/3 of the jar gets vinegar, 2/3 of the jar gets olive oil.  Add a squirt of dijon and a little salt & pepper.  Shake the jar well & it's ready to serve.  So simple.  Sometimes, I add a little grated garlic or shallot to give it some extra zip...  

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Honey Pecans & Charleston Photo Workshops Recap

Honey roasted pecans  

For the past nearly 3 weeks, I've been back in Charleston at a beautiful beach house on Isle of Palms.

our beach house for the workshops

I've been working as the kitchen manager/chef for two photo workshops taught by food photographers Helene Dujardin, Clare Barboza, with the second workshop also featuring food stylist Tami Hardeman.
For each workshop/retreat, we had 12 women staying under one roof, and eating/sleeping/breathing/learning the ins and outs of food photography.   These women, although strangers to begin, formed tremendous bonds & great friendships throughout the course of the weekend.  While we had a few "local" participants, most flew in from places as far away as New Zealand, Hungary, Japan, and Canada!  

TL: Workshop 2 Ice Cream Bar; TR: Melissa, Stacy & Alysha at the Workshop 1 First Dinner
BL: Kriszti, Karen & Tiffany Picnic shoot WS 1; BR: WS 2 First Dinner

during the intro information sessions

My role was to keep them well fed (heaven forbid anyone should attend a food photography workshop and be hungry), as well as to assist with coordinating food for the food photo shoots.   I had some help  from a few Culinary Institute of Charleston students who volunteered their time.  I couldn't have done it without them!
TL: Dina setting up a shot; TL: Helene holds a reflector for Danielle
BL: Helene & Clare assist students at WS2; BR: Maggie checks her image at the Farmers' Market

TL: Claire's Antipasto Shoot set up; TR: Eggs and Radishes from the Farmers' market
BL: a student's dessert shoot set up from WS 1; BR: Tami helps Chiaki with a wrap for the picnic photo shoot 

Outside of the food photo shoots set up in the beach house, there was also down time to visit the beach (we were staying at a beach house, after all!)...

Top: Shadows of Dina & Tiffany as they take photos at the beach
BL: Christina & Julie walk towards the beach; BR: Liz captures a few shots of the foggy beach

...a chance on Saturday morning to document the bounty of the Charleston Farmers's Market...

TL: a barista making my mocha; TR: part of the market
BL: Nigel, the ENORMOUS bullmastif we met at the market; BR: my finished mocha 

 TL: heirloom tomatoes; TR: beautifully colored radishes
BL: lovely beans ; BR: cheerful zinnias 

...and the opportunity to photograph & eat an amazing meal at Lana in Downtown Charleston...  We were given free reign to take photos in the restaurant (anywhere we wanted) before sitting down to a fantastic meal.

TL: Lots of cameras at this restaurant! TR: Kyle gets a shot of the bar
BL: Libby takes a photo; BR: a self portrait

interior shots at Lana

T: Helene talks to the guys on the line
BL: Chef John Ondo; BR: table set & special menu for our group 

T: Bread sliced for table service
B: Appetizers for the first workshop

The amazing vegetable plate at the first workshop's dinner

TL: Gelato (Gluten Free!) from WS 1; TR: Olive Oil Cake from WS 1
BL: Honey Panna Cotta with Figs from WS 2; BR: Gelato consumed from WS 1

 TL: Bill, Helene, & Julie from WS 2; TR: Tami from WS2
B: Kyle & Stacy from WS 2

T: Great laughs from Stacy, Alysha, Libby, Kriszti, and Tiffany from WS 1
B: Claire, Amy, and Anna from WS 1 

 T: Liz & Lisa from WS 2
M: Liz, Lisa & Maggie from WS 2
B: Chiaki from WS 2 (with back of Sylvie & Kyoko's heads)

Helene and Clare make it their mission at these workshops to have each participant develop their own food photography style, rather than just copying how Helene and Clare shoot.  At the end of the workshop, due to participant request, Helene and Clare did demonstrate how they set up a shot (with Tami assisting at the second workshop).  Tami also brought out her styling tweezers (where her blog gets it's title) and showed us how to style (usually not beautiful) beef stew and how to construct a sandwich for styling.  

 TL: The tweezers come out for styling beef stew during WS 2; 
TR: Helene makes a poached egg for Anna to shoot during the brunch photo shoot of WS 1; 
BL: Helene sets up a test shot for her shrimp and grits demo with Tami
BR: Tami puts the finishing mustard garnish on the sandwich she built for Clare to shoot

Clare's rustic picnic set up, with the sandwich built & styled by Tami

To close the workshops, we had one final 3-course dinner on Sunday night. One last celebration before everyone parted ways....  

TR: 2nd course of Roasted Steelhead Trout over Rosemary Thyme Roasted Potatoes with a green salad
B: Coriander Lemon Pot de Cremes with Black Pepper Shortbread 

I am so very thankful for the opportunity to work and learn alongside such amazing, talented women.  It has warmed my heart to have these new friendships & to see how their photos (and confidence) improved throughout the course of the workshops.  I look forward to seeing their future work!   

Much of the food I prepared during the course of the workshops were things of Helene's creation.  These honey pecans, which we served on the opening night's ice cream bar, are one such item.  Except, we made them without a recipe (*gasp*).  Several participants have requested a formula for the honey pecans, so I have come up with one.  

While they are really quite simple to make & wonderful to eat on their own, they also make a wonderful addition to an ice cream sundae already topped with homemade sauces.  Or, like the Japanese ladies did during the second workshop, sprinkled on top of a freshly toasted, cream cheese smeared bagel.  Enjoy!  

Honey Pecans
with Thanksgiving in just a couple of days, these versatile nuts could be a welcome addition to any menu.  Eat them on their own.  Toss them into a green salad.  Top a sweet potato casserole or pumpkin with them.  

3/4 c Pecans (approx. 2.8 oz)
1 Tbl Honey (approx. 19 g)

1.  Preheat oven to 350 F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2.  Mix the pecans and honey together until the pecans are well coated.  Pour out onto the prepared baking sheet.
3.  Roast for approximately 10 minutes, or until dark, but not burned.  Cool & chop, if desired.
4.  Store in an airtight container.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Olive Oil Cake with Orange & Chocolate

While I’m back in Charleston working with Helene Dujardin, Clare Barboza & Tami Hardeman for two photo workshops, I thought I’d share a couple items from  LAST Fall.  This olive oil cake is actually one that I made (and photographed) to celebrate my parents’ birthdays last year.  With all the craziness of my work schedule & wedding planning in the fall of 2011, the images & recipe never made it into a post.  I’m remedying the situation now.  This cake is too good not to share.  Better late than never, right?

I was fortunate to have my parents and my sisters fly to Charleston for a whirlwind weekend of wedding dress shopping last autumn.  The weekend happened to take place just before my parents’ birthdays, so we used this unusual occurrence of togetherness to have an early celebration.  Our celebration included this cake for dessert.

The recipe for this slightly unusual cake comes from one of my favorite “healthier” baking books Good to the Grain by Kim Boyce.  I wish I had the means to make every recipe from this amazing book.  In fact, we utilized a few of her recipes during the Healthy Baking course I taught last year.  This olive oil cake, whether made according to the original formula or my variation, remains one of my personal favorites.


Originally both rosemary & dark chocolate are added to the cake batter.  The flavor combination of rosemary and chocolate may not be one you have tasted before, and yes, it is a bit unique.  While my family does have fairly adventurous palates, I didn’t want to serve them a cake (especially a birthday cake) that may not suite their preferences.  Instead, I substituted orange for the rosemary.  The orange and the slightly fruity flavor of the olive oil, coupled with the dark chocolate, and the nuttyness of spelt flour all culminate into a delicious, though slightly exotic cake flavor.

Thanks to the olive oil, the cake is most enough on it’s own to not require any icing, but I did still feel the need to adorn it with a dusting of confectioners sugar, a garnish of orange slices & a small side of whipped cream.  It is a birthday cake after all!  

Olive Oil Cake
adapted from Good to the Grain by Kim Boyce

3/4 c Spelt Flour
1 1/2 c AP flour
3/4 c Granulated Sugar
1 1/2 tsp Baking Powder
3/4 tsp Fine Grain Sea Salt
3 eggs
1 cup olive oil (nice fruity flavored oil, if you have one)
3/4 c Milk (or see note below)
1 1/2 Tbl Orange Zest (or finely chopped fresh rosemary, if you’re feeling adventurous)
5 oz dark chocolate (around 70% cacao), chopped
Confectioners sugar, for garnish
Orange slices, for garnish

  1.  Preheat oven to 350 F.  Grease an 8” pan with additional olive oil.  Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper.  
  2. Combine the flours, sugar, baking powder and salt in a bowl.  Whisk to combine.  Sift of the mixture remains lumpy after the whisking.  Pour back any bits that may remain (from the Spelt flour) after the sifting process.  
  3. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs to break up the yolks & whites.  Add the olive oil, milk, and orange zest.  
  4. Use a spatula to fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients.  Mix until nearly combined, then add the dark chocolate.  
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan & smooth the top
  6. Bake about 40 minutes, until the top is domed and the color is golden with darkening around the edges.  Test it in the center with a skewer (it should come out clean) to ensure done ness.  
  7. Cool & garnish with the confectioners sugar and orange slice.  Store any leftovers (without orange garnish) well wrapped at room temperature.  

Note: If you’d like to make this cake completely dairy free, it’s pretty easy.  Simply substitute soy or almond milk for the whole milk.  I've made it dairy free and no one could ever tell!