Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Enjoying: scallops

Scallops are under-appreciated. I rarely buy scallops. Why? I really don't know. They are so quick, easy and versatile - they should be on my menu more often. Raw, they smell just like the sea with a touch of sweetness. They cook in minutes. They don't need much dressing. They have a wonderful, meaty texture. They're easy to portion.

The trick is to avoid over cooking them by cooking them until they are just on the cusp of turning opaque, realizing that they will continue to cook off the heat. The other trick is to give them a nice sear by making sure they are completely dry before they hit the pan. One way to help this is to dust them lightly with Wondra flour.

I made a wonderful, quick meal of seared scallops on top of a raw, shredded red cabbage and kohlrabi salad last week. I dressed the salad in olive oil and yuzu rice vinegar (one of my favorite dressings), and sprinkled some sea salt and freshly ground black pepper on the top along with some black sesame seeds. I put the scallops on top and drizzled a little more of the dressing on the scallops. Couldn't have been easier and it was crunchy, delightful and completely satisfying.

Red cabbage and green kohlrabi salad

1 small head red cabbage
2 small green kohlrabi
2 tbs good olive oil
2-3 tbs yuzu rice vinegar
1/2 tsp sesame oil (optional)
Sea salt and black pepper
Black sesame seeds to garnish

Thinly slice cabbage and kohlrabi or shred in a food processor. Combine dressing ingredients and seasonings. Sprinkly with most of the black sesame seeds, reserving some for scallops. Lightly dress cabbage and kohlrabi. Portion among plates.


6-8 jumbo scallops
Wondra flour
Olive oil (approximately 1 tbs)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Pat scallops dry. Dredge in Wondra flour. Season with salt and pepper. Heat olive oil to coat pan over medium-high heat. Sear scallops in batches on both sides until barely opaque (will take between 1 - 2 minutes per side depending on size and heat, watch closely). Remove from heat. Place 2-3 scallops on each plate. Sprinkle with black sesame seeds.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Happy holidays!

Happy holidays everyone. May your holiday be filled with good food (and rich hot chocolate!). Back after the holidays with more recipes and photography!


Monday, November 23, 2009

First (annual?) holiday gift guide for foodies

I am not a big fan of shopping but I love thinking of gifts for people. It's always fun to think about what someone might enjoy and to try to be original at it. As long as I start long enough in advance, and relegate most of the shopping to the internet, I find the experience very enjoyable. A lot of my gift ideas are food-centric. This is partly due to the fact that I am a food-centric person, and partly due to the fact that something related to food gives pleasure to the recipient. In the spirit of the upcoming holidays, I thought I'd share a few thoughts and ideas.

Always reliable: a cookbook

The printed page might be suffering but it's still great to have a beautiful physical cookbook for reference and inspiration. There are many new ones on the market that your foodie likely does not yet own. Here are a few that I've been looking at:

And for the new cook (or anyone who doesn't already have it), a broad reference like Mark Bitman's How to Cook Everything is essential.

For the gourmand (and gourmet), a food delivery

A gift of edibles is always appreciated. You can put together a gift that matches your passion and budget. A gift could be as simple as a nice olive oil and vinegar. Or, consider a few other ideas:

1. Order from an artisanal producer via Foodzie. Foodzie is the Etsy of food and a great way to support small purveyors and artisans.

2. Send a gourmet product directly from one of your favorite producers. Three I've sent from before include Niman Ranch, Salumi (the artisanal salumeria run by Mario Batali's father), and a true favorite, Rancho Gordo (also has a cookbook out that showcases their heirloom beans)

3. Support a local business by giving a gift certificate. In Manhattan, consider Manhattan Milk that sources from local Amish farmers and will accommodate with a gift delivery.

The Treats Truck will deliver an assortment of treats in their cute vehicle.

For your vegan foodie, Babycakes will deliver vegan-appropriate sweets both locally as well as ship.

4. Assemble a gift basket from a favorite retailer like Formaggio Kitchen in New York's Essex market.

For the gift that keeps on giving: a magazine subscription

Support the publishing industry by offering a unique magazine subscription that your recipient is unlikely to have, such as Donna Hay's wonderful, inspirational (albeit costly to order from the U.S.) magazine

or, at the other extreme, for the locavore on your list, a magazine from Edible Communities Publications (which products great local content for ~53 different areas in the United States, Canada, and Europe)

For the person who appreciates design: a beautiful kitchen item

Help someone upgrade basic kitchen items with something more pleasurable to use, like Cuisipro's gorgeous measuring cups and spoons.

Offer rustic luxe in the form of a hand-made wooden spoon from Live Wire Farm that is sure to put their old wooden spoons out of business . . .

. . . or a beautiful Irish linen apron from Teresa Green (she also has beautiful tea towels here)

If she/he already has everything - consider a Salter kitchen scale. I use mine constantly and don't know what I did without it.

For the foodie who has everything: something fun

Not an everyday item but tons of fun and well-priced, Kitchenaid's ice cream maker attachment is sure to broaden a culinary repertoire

For a gift that will allow you to spend time together: a cooking class

You could offer a gift certificate or class for two at your local culinary school, or, to get more extravagant, arrange for a cooking class (and dinner) in your home

For the neat freak: a special treat to clean with

While odd, I've had my eye on these snazzy artful sponges available at Korin trading.

Savon de Marseille's Liquid soap is a staple in my kitchen. Available in scents like grapefruit, fig and olive oil, they will fit right in on your counter.

And of course, how could I not mention:

For the art lover: a beautiful photograph from Sabra Krock photography

A limited offer for the holidays, any print from my portfolio, or photographs you've seen on my site, $55 for 11x17 (please inquire via email).

I hope this gives you some gift-giving "food for thought". I'd love to know what you are gifting this season.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Pomegranate love: PAMA contest

I'm preparing a fun food-centric holiday gift guide for you. Stay tuned . . .

In the meantime, wanted to share a recipe I submitted to the PAMA pomegranate liqueur recipe and photo contest (grand prize is a trip for two to the food and wine festival in Aspen!). If you have time, please have a look at the submissions and vote for me if you think I deserve it : ) (public vote now until December 15th).

PAMA pomegranate granita

2.5 cups pomegranate juice
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup PAMA pomegranate liqueur
Juice from one lime
Pomegranate seeds and a sprig of mint for garnish (optional)

Heat pomegranate juice and sugar over medium heat in a medium, non-reactive saucepan until sugar is dissolved. Allow to cool to room temperature. Stir in PAMA pomegranate liqueur and lime juice. Pour into a freezer-proof shallow baking dish or other flat, shallow container. Freeze for six hours or overnight, using a fork to break up large crystals every few hours. Garnish as desired, and serve immediately in small, chilled glasses.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Crisp and fresh: radish and celery root salad

Flipping through a recent Donna Hay magazine, I came across a radish and celery root salad that looked divine. I adore celery root - its crunchy, sweet, essence-of-celery taste is divine. I love it in soups but I'd never tried it raw. Donna's recipe called for a thick, heavy dressing of largely full-fat mayonnaise. Donna - what were you thinking? So I made my own interpretation. This is fresh from the farmer's market - hope you are inspired.

Radish and celery root salad (inspired by Donna Hay)

8 radishes, thinly sliced with a mandoline
One large celery root, peed and cut into pieces a bit larger than matchsticks
Chopped chives (note: you can also used other herbs instead or in addition to the chives, such as chopped Italian parsley and chopped chervil)
One cup plain low fat Greek yogurt
One clove garlic, minced
1 Tbs good olive oil
1 Tbs champagne vinegar
1 wedge of lemon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Combine yogurt, garlic, olive oil and vinegar with a couple of pinches of salt and pepper. Squeeze lemon wedge into mixture. Adjust seasonings as necessary. Set aside.

Put a portion of celery root on each plate and top with radish slices. Drizzle with dressing. Sprinkle with herbs. Serve immediately.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Winter vegetables: kale, white bean and pasta soup

I just shot the cover for a cookbook on winter vegetables. I created a vegetable still life for the shoot and, in order to do so, bought quite a few vegetables. I always cull through all the options to find just the ones I think will photograph well and then add many for backup - just in case. The result was that after the shoot, I ended up with a refrigerator literally teaming with vegetables including onions, carrots, potatoes, turnips, and winter greens including kale and cabbage. I am always determined not to waste the food I shoot and I quickly devised a list of dishes that could make best use of the hearty photography models. A series of winter soups were obvious candidates. The first creation? A kale, white bean and pasta soup seasoned with Parmesan and spicy Harissa. I have since made a beef stew (a take on this one), and today, a celery root, potato and leek soup - all so delicious and in the spirit of the season. What do I have left? Russet and fingerling potatoes, beets, more cabbage and kale. Any suggestions?

Kale, white bean and pasta soup

1 lb+ Kale, thick center stems removed, chopped roughly
1 lb dried cannellini beans (note: for faster cooking time, soak beans overnight)
1 26 oz can chopped tomatoes (I like Pomi brand)
1 large onion, diced
3 medium-sized carrots, diced
3 turnips, diced
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus rind
1 cup small pasta
1 Tbs Harissa
2 Tbs olive oil
8 cups water (or half water, half vegetable stock)
1 small bunch Italian flat leaf parsley, leaves chopped roughly
Salt and pepper

Sweat carrots, onions and celery in olive oil with a healthy sprinkling of pepper until translucent. Add turnips and saute for a few minutes.

Add water, tomatoes and dried beans and bring to a boil. Reduce temperature to a simmer. Add Parmesan, Parmesan rind and Harissa (note: Harissa is very spicy - if you do not enjoy spicy soup, reduce quantity or omit Harissa).

Simmer for 45 - 90 minutes until beans are just tender (timing will depend on whether you soaked the beans overnight). Add additional water, cup by cup if soup is too thick. Add pasta, kale and sprinkle liberally with salt. Add additional Harissa or pepper to taste.

Cook until pasta is barely tender (it will continue to cook once you have removed the soup from the heat). Again, add additional water if thinner soup is desired. Remove and discard parmesan rind. Add Italian parsley. Serve with some nice, rustic bread.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Photography update

Wanted to let you know of two new photography offerings: kids portraits and holiday cards. I don't think I've mentioned the former on this blog. Inspired by my friends' children, and most recently, my own child, I have started offering portrait sessions and packages for little ones. You can read more about it on my website here. I am excited about this expansion to my business and hope you will spread the word to anyone who lives in the New York City area.

Secondly, I am offering three sets of "sweet" holiday cards this year. Cards are 4x6, professionally printed on thick card stock, and come in packages of 25 for $55. The outside features adorable sugar cookies and the inside of the card can be printed with the default greeting of "May your holiday season be sweet" or another greeting of your choice. This is a great value for a custom card and hope many of you will take advantage. Please email me at skrockodile [at] gmail [dot] com to place your order.

Hope all of you are well. Thanks so much for your continued readership and support!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Second life: banana bread

When I don't finish a bunch of bananas before they turn mushy and limp I welcome the lucky opportunity to give the spoils a new life in banana bread. I have a tried an true recipe that I recently started dressing up with an idea from Donna Hay: placing sliced bananas on the top, brushing with melted butter and sprinkling with sanding sugar (my tweak). Because it's always hard to devour an entire loaf (well, at least without guilt), I like baking several in smaller paper loaf pans. That way, I can keep one for breakfast and gift the others. I've had this recipe for ages and have no idea where it came from!

No fail banana bread

1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1 cup sugar or brown sugar
2 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 mashed bananas
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Optional garnish (one large banana, melted butter to brush on top and sanding sugar to finish)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat butter and sugar until light and creamy. Add eggs, one at a time and blend thoroughly.

In a separate bowl combine dry ingredients (except nuts).

Gradually combine butter mixture and dry ingredients. Stir in bananas. Stir in vanilla extract. Add nuts, if using.

Pour into 2 large loaf pan or thee small loaf pans (greased or non-stick). If desired, arrange banana slices on top, brush with melted butter and sprinkle with sanding sugar (note that topping will only "keep" for a day or so).

Bake for 1 hour, ten minutes if using a large loaf pan and 50 minutes if using small pans (or until a cake tester comes out clean). Let cool before serving.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Sexy fruit: figs

Don't you think figs are the sexiest fruit out there? I love figs and it's a treat when they are finally in season. I recently bought a fig tree for my apartment. I might be over-confident in thinking I can grow a healthy fig tree in a Manhattan apartment, but it's worth a try, no?

Figs are here and will be gone soon. While they're around, I'm taking advantage. I recently made a batch of David Lebovitz's fig ice cream. David is the master of frozen desserts so I figured I couldn't go wrong with his fig ice cream recipe. The ice cream has a lovely fig flavor and a deep purple color. It such an unusual flavor for ice cream that it is worth the effort to make a fresh batch while figs are in season.

For other fig dessert ideas, see my friend Jennifer Davick's recipe for Fresh Fig Frozen Yogurt here on her blog, and her feature on Design*Sponge with a recipe for
Fresh Mini Fig Pies with Honey Mascarpone Cream, here.

Fig ice cream (from Perfect Scoop: Ice Creams, Sorbets, Granitas, and Sweet Accompaniments by David Lebovitz)

2 pounds fresh figs
1/2 cup water
1 lemon
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice or more to taste

Remove the hard stem ends from the figs, then cut each fig into 8 pieces. Place the figs and water in a medium saucepan. Zest the lemon directly into the pan. Cover and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until the figs are tender (8 to 10 minutes).

Remove the lid, add the sugar, and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the figs reach a jam-like consistency. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature. Once cool, puree figs in a blender with the cream and lemon juice (puree quickly so as not to whip the cream). Taste and add more lemon juice as desired.

Chill thoroughly, then freeze the mixture in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer's directions.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Hearty and healthy: farro salad

I have been loving whole grain salads lately. One new favorite is farro. It is nutty and has a wonderful, firm texture. Load it up with finely chopped vegetables, some cheese and a drizzle of olive oil and vinegar and it's a beautiful, perfect salad. The specific ingredients are up to you. Lately, I've added diced ricotta salata, some micro greens, scallions (thinly sliced diagonally). I've also been known to add fresh fava beans and / or avocado. I like to add olive oil, vinegar (red wine or balsamic), juice from 1/2 lemon, salt and pepper while the farro is still warm so that it is soaked up by the grains, and then the other ingredients when the farro is at room temperature so they retain their crunch). Serve for lunch or as a side for dinner.

On another note, I still have a few sets of folded greeting cards remaining from my print run earlier this summer. There are 5x5 egg and feather cards as well as 5x7 fruit cards. Both sets are blank on the inside and come in sets of 12 for $24. They are professionally printed on thick card stock. Please email me if interested!

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Tomatoes: summer salads

August is certainly a celebration of tomatoes. It is such a treat to have sweet, farm-fresh tomatoes to enjoy. All of the colors and varieties are eye candy as well as a feast for the taste buds!
Heirloom cherry tomato, feta and red onion salad with oregano

I have just finished shooting images for a cookbook of tomato-oriented recipes - due out this winter. One would think three weeks of shopping for, styling and shooting tomato recipes would turn me off of tomatoes for a while. On the contrary, it has inspired me to think about ways to incorporate fresh tomatoes in foods that allow them to shine.
Caprese with mozzarella balls, heirloom tomatoes and chives

Lately, I've been playing with small heirloom tomatoes - cherry tomatoes and other varieties and incorporating them in salads that play with their scale and color. No need for recipes - just fresh tomatoes, perhaps some cheese, a sprinkling of herbs or some onions, a splash of olive oil and vinegar and a sprinkling of pepper and sea salt.


"Miniature" Caprese with tiny mozzarella balls, currant-sized cherry tomatoes and a chiffonade of basil

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Berry summery: berry ripple mousse

I’ve been slowly getting back to cooking. The markets are teaming with wonderful, fresh fruits. Berries have been calling my name. I've had my eye on a recipe for a blackberry ripple mousse from Michel Roux’s Eggs. When I saw fresh blackberries, raspberries and black raspberries in the Union Square farmer’s market I decided it was finally time to try the recipe. The recipe takes a bit of time as you first need to make a crème pâtissière (pastry cream) and both the crème pâtissière and the berry coulis need to be cool before the dessert is assembled. The assembled dessert then rests in the refrigerator for 2-3 hours before served. None of the components is difficult to make, however, and the result is delightful. The recipe calls for blackberries but you can certainly use any berries you like – just adjust the sugar according to the sweetness of the berries.

Crème pâtissière (adapted from Eggs)

6 egg yolks
½ cup plus 2 tbsp (125 g) superfine sugar
¼ cup all purpose flour
generous 2 cups milk
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise

Combine egg yolks and one-third of the sugar in a bowl and whisk to a light ribbon consistency. Whisk in the flour.

Heat the milk and remaining sugar along with the vanilla bean in a pan. Once it comes to boil, pour it into the egg yolk mixture, stirring constantly. Mix well and then return the mixture to the pan.

Bring mixture to a boil over medium heat, whisking constantly. Allow mixture to bubble, still stirring, for 2 minutes. Remove the vanilla bean.

Pour onto a half sheet pan and cover with foil (touching the crème pâtissière to prevent a skin from forming). Cool in the refrigerator.

Berry ripple mousse (from Eggs)

¾ lb blackberries or other berry (plus extra to serve if desired)
2/3 cup superfine sugar
juice of 1 lemon
generous 1/3 cup heavy cream
1/3 quantity crème pâtissière
2 egg whites

Put the berries in a pan with ½ cup sugar and heat gently, stirring occasionally. When the mixture comes to a simmer, cook gently for another 10 minutes and then puree in a food processor or blender. Strain through a fine-holed sieve or a colander lined with cheesecloth. Let coulis cool, stirring occasionally. Add lemon juice.

Whip cream to a ribbon consistency, then fold into the cooled crème pâtissière.

Whisk the egg whites in a clean bowl to a thick foam, then add the remaining sugar and whisk to soft peaks. Gently fold in the pastry cream mixture, without overworking.

Very delicately, mix in the cold berry coulis to create a ripple effect (note: you will likely need only a portion of the coulis.). Divide the mouse between 6 glass dishes and refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours before serving. Ideally serve the same day the mousse is made – the mousse does not hold up well.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Just in time for summer: apricot tea cakes

Enjoying some quiet time with Max. Be back soon. In the meantime, wanted to share part 3 of the design*sponge "In the Kitchen With" features. The piece came out the day Max was born. Thanks again Grace for having me! You can see the photos and a great recipe for an apricot tea cake on design*sponge here.

I'll also post the recipe below.

In addition, wanted to let you know that I am selling two sets of limited edition greeting cards. Both contain 12 folded cards (2 copies of six different images). The first set is a pairing of eggs and feathers from the bird that laid them (5x5). The second is a set of summer fruit images (5x7). Each set sells for $24. I am accepting pre-orders for the next two weeks. Please contact me if you are interested! See here for a larger view.

Note: My recipe calls for baking the cakes in disposable tartlet cups (approximately 4 inches in diameter and ¾ inch high). The cups are just the right size to ensure that the pretty fruit pokes out of the top at the end.

Apricot tea cakes (heavily adapted from Oven-Roasted Plum Cakes in Baking with Julia)
(makes approximately six cakes using cups described above)

1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
2 Tbs light brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp minced lemon zest
½ tsp pure vanilla extract
¾ cup all purpose flour
¼ cup almond meal
¾ tsp baking soda
¼ cup buttermilk
3 ripe apricots, halved and pitted
Sanding or sparkling sugar (for dusting the tops)

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

Using an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars at medium/medium-high speed until light and fluffy and sugar is dissolved. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Add lemon zest and vanilla and beat until incorporated. Reduce mixer speed to low and add in flours and baking soda until just combined, taking care not to over-mix. Add buttermilk. Stir a few times with a rubber spatula, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl, to ensure all ingredients are well combined.

Place six tartlet cups on a baking sheet and fill half way with batter. Press an apricot half, cut side up, into the center of the cup. Sprinkle batter and fruit with sanding sugar. Bake for 25 minutes or until tops are golden brown and batter is just set (springs back to the touch). Enjoy with tea!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Not food: Max B is born

The reason why I have been neglecting this space:

Max B
Born June 12
7.5 lb, 20 inches

We are so thrilled!

Be back soon.


Thursday, May 21, 2009

The delectable word: noteworthy cookbooks

I’ve been a bit lazy about cooking lately. Partially driven by heavy dietary restrictions as I round corner on the last month of pregnancy, and partially driven by being very busy styling and shooting for others (all good!). I thought that instead of going radio silent, I’d share some great inspiration from cookbooks I’ve been enjoying recently.

My stash of cookbooks is ever growing. Lately I’ve been more interested in cookbooks with high visual appeal than ones that simply offer great recipes. I love flipping through photos and leaving books out on the table as display pieces. I need that extra special something to draw me in to a new purchase. Here’s what I’m enjoying right now.

Tartine by Elizabeth Prueitt and Chad Robertson (from the San Francisco bakery)

I love the recipes in this book – every one I’ve tried is fool proof and special. But in addition to the recipes, the book itself is a pleasure. It is printed on thick, matte paper and the images it has inside are artful (wish there were more). Every time I browse through the book I get the urge to bake! (note: try the pots de creme!)

Hot Sour Salty Sweet by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid

This one is a “culinary journey through southeast Asia” by a husband and wife team of cooks, travelers, writers and photographers. It is as much a coffee table book as it is a cookbook. It is about an inch thick and printed on a beautiful semi-gloss paper. It is choc full of images, some which span two pages. It is part travel log, part cookbook and inspires one to be more adventurous with spices and flavors.

The Book of New Israeli Food: a Culinary Journey by Jana Gur

An Israeli friend gave this book to me long before I had ever been to the country. The book is a beautiful, modern, over-sized cookbook with vibrant photos and lots of background information. Having now been to Israel I am motivated to go through this book and try to re-create some of the absolutely wonderful cuisine we had there. I only wish our fruits and vegetables were as fresh and flavorful as what is available there.

Turquoise: A Chef's Travels in Turkey by Greg and Lucy Malouf with photos by William Meppen and Lisa Cohen

I don't own this one but I’ve given it as a gift twice. It’s a gorgeous coffee table book presented in a photo journalistic style that talks about food, culture and history. It is breathtakingly beautiful. I have been following Lisa and William’s work with great admiration and the combination of the two makes for a stunning book.

Ottolenghi: the Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi

This is a cookbook from London-based restaurateurs Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. It is fully of fresh recipes with a middle-eastern influence. The focus is on the ingredients and the food is unfussy and full of flavor. Lots of healthy salads as well as decadent desserts – but all rustic and street-food influenced: nothing overly complicated or precious. Just the way I love to eat! Note: order this from Amazon UK, not U.S. or you might be in for a long wait (I know from experience!).

Eggs by Michel Roux

Last, but not least - a highly specialized cookbook: Eggs. It's virtually an encyclopedia of what to do with eggs. It ventures well beyond egg-centric dishes to desserts containing eggs. Roux is a master of explaining recipes in great technical detail so that recipes are fool-proof and you learn a ton in the process. This is a great reference book from basic to sophisticated preparations. Definitely worth a spot on the shelf.

In addition to these, there are many others I am tempted by – particularly foreign cookbooks with a different aesthetic point of view. I saw this one written up recently. Looks beautiful.

What are you reading / cooking from?