Thursday
Mar122015

penne sorrentino

I’ve learned a lot about the practice of photographing food and documenting the entire process from start to finish because of this little blog. I’ve realized that it’s the little things, the fine details, the props and linens and silverware that bring a story to life and a lot of the time, it’s the scenes behind the finished product that really tell the story. It brings authenticity to the experience and makes the story come alive since it often verifies what we all know to be true- that cooking can be chaotic and incredibly untidy and full of crumbs and splatters and spills. 

A couple of months ago, I travelled to the north shore for a creative retreat with three wonderful women that I've gotten to know over the last year. We shared stories and experiences and had informative discussions about writing and picture-taking and the panache involved in narrating through photographs. There was a lot of wine-drinking and cheese-eating and oyster-shucking and conversations unfolded that really solidified our newfound friendships. I think what draws people together sometimes isn't only the common interestes that seem to just fit, but rather the desire to learn from each other. To gather information from our trusted friends and be open to new methods and new discoveries and new ways of thinking.

And now, these three lovelies have become cherished friends. We do all the food fest circuits together. Attend food film festivals. Meet for prosecco and burgers in the middle of the afternoon. Brainstorm about special projects that make us want to scream with excitement. (Only real food nerds do that apparently. Who knew?) And the best part, is that they are all self-taught which makes them so approachable because they've learned through trial and error and hands on experience. Real life experience. That's pretty marvelousl I think.

Truth be told, I didn’t think I had room in my adult life to nurture new friendships. To commit and foster and take the time to cultivate the kinds of relationships that have come to mean so much to me.

But I was wrong.

Check out these remarkable Halifax-based artists and the spectacular work they bring forth every single day. Gabby, Kathy and Kelly are writers, stylists and photographers but most importantly, wonderful people with explosive hearts and creative minds and an eye for truly beautiful things.  

Wednesday
Feb182015

Daniel Boulud's Madeleins- adapted from bon appetit 

A couple of weeks ago, while I was on my way to visit my dear friend Emily, I found myself on a little north end street stuck in an enormous pile of snow. I ignored the fact that the street had not been plowed and believed that with some gentle force, I could get through the thick blanket of snow. This was about 20 minutes after I had gotten into a very minor fender bender.

It was just one of those days.

The back seat was as follows: Niko sitting on one side holding two cups of scalding coffee, Raphaelia in the middle, holding a box of squished muffins, complaining about how hot it was in the car and my little 10 month old niece, peacefully sleeping in her car seat on the other side.

The grinding and spinning of the tires must have caused people to stop and stare and most likely, feel a bit sorry for me because before I knew it, a lovely young woman came out with a shovel and a pail of salt. We shoveled around the car and underneath it. We sprinkled salt along the perimeter and under the tires. Her mother came out with another pail, this time, filled with gritty sand. At this point, the hot coffee had spilled all over Niko’s new jacket, Raphaelia had taken off her hat and coat and was fanning herself, the muffins had fallen to the ground and had been accidentally stepped on and the baby started to wake up- hungry. And just when I thought things couldn’t possibly get any worse, I realized I was going to run out of gas. Why hadn’t I stopped 10 min before like I had planned? 

Emily arrived just in the nick of time and whisked all three children to her home. She also has two little ones of her own so I can only imagine the fun that ensued while she was alone with all five. Thanks Em.

The sweet mother-daughter team, realizing there was nothing more they could do, retreated to their home but left the salt and sand buckets as well their shovel. Another elderly neighbor saw my struggle and tried to assist by using his snow blower to create a path around me. But nothing dear friends. I was stuck on a snowy little island with no hope of getting off. (A bit dramatic yes, but it really was awful at the time.) Other residents on the street stopped and tried to push the car. They got on their hands and knees and used miniature hand- shovels to try and loosen the tightly packed snow under the car.

A Leaheys Landscaping sidewalk plow stopped to help.

The postman stopped to help.

A tow truck stopped to help.

An enormous street plow stopped to help. (Thank you to the bearded driver of a G & R Kelly truck who plowed the entire street and guided me to rock the car back and forth.)

All of these strangers took time out of their busy day to help me and with their collective effort, I was finally able to free myself.

Lessons learned: Keep a shovel and a bag of salt with me at all times.

Do not allow your children to hold hot coffee. Ever. Ever. Ever.

Never liken your small car to a massive 4x4 that can make it through anything.

Have food readily available for teeny tiny nieces who might wake up  starving.

Never leave the house in anything but water-proof boots on stormy days. Goodbye exepensive, stylish booties.

Good people exist everywhere. Honest to goodness, wonderful, helpful, good people.

Thank you residents and friends of Roome Street. You are all gems. I’m thinking of making dozens and dozens of muffins for all of you so if any of you read this, be sure to let me know what your favorite kinds are. I promise they won’t be squished or stepped on. Or, alternatively, these French madeleines perhaps? They taste like a ray of sunshine.

People of Halifax, I love you. xo

Thursday
Feb122015

old school doughnuts

Almost daily, I find myself writing down recipe ideas in a little notebook I keep tucked away in my purse. Most of them are savory, family-style meals because that's what I'm drawn to the most but every once in a while, a recipe for something sweet and decadent sneaks in. Doughnuts seem to pop up quite often. The old fashioned variety, with cinnnamon-sugar sprinkled on top, were my grandmother's favorite. 

I'm pretty good at providing my little family with healthy, no- fuss dinners but as far as my culinary exploration goes, I rarely venture out of my comfort zone (which is to say, make complicated pastries.) Items requiring fancy piping techniques and biscuits filled with oozing custard or croissants that require elaborate folding and twisting. I've always believed my tolerance just wasn't built for intricate recipes. This stems from my inability to adhere to strict measuring which, by all accounts, is a requirement for baking. I try to resist the urge to add just a touch more sugar/lemon/vanilla/honey/maple syrup and remember that those cups of flour should be sifted and leveled and not just added haphazardly without regard for accuracy.

If you've ever felt intimidated by the idea of making homemade doughnuts, don't be. For most people, ones who are used to making bread for example, this recipe will seem simple and straightforward. It took me a while to get the dough just right and I found them a bit finicky when it came time for frying. Leaving them in the hot oil for even a few seconds longer than they should, yielded donuts that were too dark for my liking. The recipe I used was adapted from one of my mom's old Woman's Day magazines (listed online here.) 

Oh, Happy ( early) Valentines Day! We're not big V-Day people but we do enjoy a nice dinner and wine and this year, if there's any left, homemade doughnuts.

xoxo

Friday
Jan302015

yiayias pound cake

I am happy to report that I am back dear friends. After having the most dreadful cold for nearly three weeks!? I finally see the clouds parting and a bit of sun peering over the horizon. It's amazing how much we take for granted. Being able to actually taste food or sleeping comfortably without an intermittent cycle of vicious coughing. There only seemed to be enough energy to accomplish really important tasks like climbing into bed while balancing a hot cup of tea and a box of tissues in one hand. I'm not 100% just yet but there is improvement and for that, I am grateful. Being at home for the last little bit, trying hard to nurse myself back to health with an influx of soups and stews and homemade ginger/lemon/honey tea has given me the opportunity to read some amazing books, skim through my grandmother’s old recipes, tear through the latest issue of Bon Appétit ( the perfect Christmas gift from my darling Ellina,) watch a marathon of Game of Thrones and snuggle in tight to read with my children. A new library recently opened in our little city and it is magnificent. Over Christmas, we spent the day there and signed out a stack of great little reads. They are certainly old enough to read by themselves but they still enjoy piling under a fluffy blanket and having me read to them. And I love it too.

While flipping through my grandmother’s book, I found her recipe for citrus pound cake. It’s perfect in every way and is quite possibly the easiest cake recipe I’ve ever come across. She explicitly states in her notes to NOT USE A MIXER OF ANY KIND. Everything is to be blended using a whisk and wooden spoon.

Two bowls. One pan. 7 ingredients (all of which I bet you have in your house right at this very moment.) Topped with a sprinkling of icing sugar, it’s the perfect snacking cake but also  forms a wonderful base for baby trifle cups filled with fruit and cream and citrus zest.

Now that I am feeling better, I've been busy preparing for a catering job I've taken on for this coming weekend. I’m undecided if this pound cake will make an appearance. Maybe? The fine details are all-consuming. Those teeny tiny things nobody but me would really notice but are important nonetheless. Anyway, I hope this small party of 10 enjoys it all. It's certainly something I've given a lot of thought to and I've come up with a menu I think will be quite lovely. Fingers Crossed?

Thursday
Jan152015

coconut- curry cauliflower soup

Interview with Nikolas ( age 8)

I think a lot about being the mom of a little boy. I've learned to wiggle my way into his little life by throwing myself in hour-long Lego-building projects. By saying yes when he wants to kick the soccer ball around in the middle of our busy, bustling kitchen. By immersing myself in books about Clone Wars when I really just want to snuggle in and read The Little Prince. By committing whole-heartedly to the little boy he is and to the young man he's becoming. I want to be a part of his adventures and that means accepting Spiderman sneakers when I really wish he'd want a cool pair of hipster high tops. Trying desperately to plunge into monster trucks and ice hockey and games of wrestling when some days, I wish he'd like to sit and just talk. But the truth is, Nikolas has brought so much joy into our lives. So much beauty and wonder and amazement. A different perspective on absolutely everything.

I loved interviewing him for this little project. I loved how thoughtful and intentional his answers were. How much he paid attention to what I was really asking and tried, with utmost effort, to answer my questions honestly and purposefully. I loved the way he gripped his hands together from time-to-time. The way he gazed into my eyes with intensity and seriousness and then, in the next moment, giggled and blushed unapologetically. This is the eight year old I want to remember. This spunky, self-assured, "plays by- all- the- rules" little boy who has a whirling sense of humor. Mesmerizing chocolaty eyes. He's contemplative and pragmatic and is governed by logic and reason. A perfectly imperfect little boy with a heart so beautiful and pure and golden to the core, the very thought of him makes me recite a silent prayer of gratitude.

So, happy birthday my dear Nikolas. I'm so glad you're mine.

I’m going to make a special birthday dinner for you. What would you like?

Baked wild salmon with roasted sweet potatoes and carrots. Caesar salad too but I want the bottled dressing. I like it better than yours. Sorry mom.

( Uh. Thanks.)

Wild salmon? Do know the difference?

Wild salmon has skin on it. That’s how I know it’s wild. 

( Laughed a little at this one.)

 What is your favorite sport?

Soccer and hockey. But you want me to pick one. Soccer then.

( I bet it's actually tied.)

Favorite book?

The Invisible Boy

( Such a great story.)

Favorite song?

Papa Americano

( He's going to be one of those kids who dances on the speakers someday. I'm sure of it.)

Favorite ice cream?

Chocolate but not MINT chocolate. I hate mint.

( This is true. He hates toothpaste and candy canes too.)

What do love most about your sister?

( He shuffled and smiled and shrugged. And when I said I'd move onto the next question he blurted out..)

My favorite thing about her is that she always includes me in games. Like when Katie comes over and they’re doing a musical. She always finds a job for me. A superhero or a dragon.

(Totally teared up on this one.)

What do you want to be when you grow up?

A Lego Engineer!

What is that?

Someone that creates new Lego Star Wars characters. And new space ships and new stories. 

( He lives and breaths Lego Star Wars  so this is bound to come true.)

 If you were stranded on a dessert island, what 3 things would you want to have with you?

  1. A boat
  2. A life jacket
  3. Food

( Practical. What did I tell you?)

Number one bedtime snack?

Vector cereal. We don’t always have that so….rice krispies is my second choice.

(He’s forgetting his constant pleas for purple popsicles.)

Do you want to get married someday? Do you want children?

Married? Probably. Yes I think! Yes I do. I want four kids like yiayia had. 2 boys and 2 girls. Jack. James. Olivia and Julia.

( He is so nurturing and loving and gentle. He'd be a great little dad.)

What is one word you would use to describe yourself?

ONE word? One word is hard. Happy.

( He is. He's such a happy, sweet little boy.)

Why do you like being a kid?

Kids have more fun than grown ups I think. They don’t have to work so there's more time to play.

(Trying not to read into this one. Trying not to think he’s saying we don’t have enough fun around here.)

What country do you want to visit the most?

Sweden because I love the flag!

(And I love Swedish design Niko so this will work out PERFECTLY.)

What are you most afraid of?

Spiders. Daddy Long Legs. Tarantulas. 

(Indeed. We have a special anti -spider spray that we use -really, it's Meyers Lavender Shower Spray and an anti-spider serum we put on the soles of our feet at night -really, a 5 ml sample of Avon night cream. Whatever. It. Takes.)

How tall do you think you are?

Super tall. Like, 8.5 feet maybe. Somewhere around there.

( 53 inches more like it.) 

What is your most favorite place on earth?

The cottage. Because we have a beach and we can collect sea glass and search for hermit crabs and play washer toss and swim.  And the water isn’t always deep so it’s easy for me. I’m not a very good swimmer.

(This is the very reason we built this place. )

Where do you want to live when you grow up?

Maybe Paris. Or Maine. 

(He probably noticed I looked a bit sad...)

I can’t live with you forever mom. But when you’re a little old lady, you can live with ME.

( It's a deal my boy.)