Sunday, November 28, 2010

Pizza for lunch (with spicy chili oil!)


Is everyone in as big of a tryptophan coma as I am?  Pfew - that was a lot of turkey - and leftovers.  It was a great holiday (my favorite).  Hope you enjoyed yours too.  I thought I'd provide a little inspiration to move back into the kitchen with something simple, and not about turkey leftovers: homemade pizza.  Have you ever made pizza at home?  The trick is buying the dough - it makes cooking a snap.  Whole foods sells a wonderful refrigerated dough that comes in several varieties including multi-grain.  Unlike the others doughs you find in the market, this one doesn't need to be defrosted - it's fresh and ready to go.  Your local pizza store will probably sell you dough - and if they're nice, they'll even sell you one of their rolled out doughs which will save you even more time.  Top with some roasted garlic, fresh ricotta, a sprinkling of shredded mozzarella, some fresh grated Parmesan,  some fresh shredded basil leaves and tomatoes, season with salt and pepper, and bake at 450 degrees F on a hot pizza stone or the back of a cookie sheet for to minutes until crust is golden and cheese is bubbling.  There are a couple of tricks: 1) once you roll out your dough, allow it to sit for 10 minutes sot that it settles and won't bounce back.  2) Pull it out or press it out with your fingers to stretch it back out if it shrinks back after your initial shaping.  3) Do this on parchment paper so that you just slide it into the oven when you are ready and 4) heat your stone for 30-60 minutes before you are going to use it - this will ensure the crust crisps nicely.

And what better to season your pizza than some spicy chili oil?  Heat olive oil (needn't be your best) in a pan with dried chilis, allow to cool, and then pour into sterilized jars.  It will get better the longer you let it sit.  This would make a nice little homemade holiday gift for someone who loves to kick it up a notch. 

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

I've been cooking all day.  Bet you have too!  So far, I've made Gourmet's cranberry grappa mould, a pumpkin pie, verjuice dessert bars, made stracciatella gelato, four cranberry-pumpkin loaves (for breakfast the next day - to give to my guests in take-home bags), brined the turkey, prepared the brussels sprouts, sauteed apples for apple crisp and shopped for everything else that's getting prepared tomorrow!  Pfew!  I was lucky to have my sister-in-law chopping and stirring today, and then my mom arrived and immediately started cooking a stock to be used for the gravy tomorrow (gravy's her specialty).  My aunt is uptown in another kitchen cooking sides.

Tomorrow I have potato and onion cakes to make, brussels sprouts, and the turkey, of course. I'll bake the topping on the crisp right before dessert. Looking forward to it all!

My pumpkin pie go-to recipe appeared on today. If you are a last-minute baker, hop on over and check it out.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

A date with some cows and a romp in the woods (oh - and apple crisp)

A couple of weeks ago after a somewhat difficult week, my husband and I decided to treat ourselves with a mid-week drive up to the Hudson river valley for a long walk with our dog and a visit to a local orchard to pick apples.  Apple picking is one of my favorite Fall treats and we were just in time to catch the very end of the season and the last of the beautiful Fall foliage.  I looked up an orchard I hadn't been to before and we decided to make it the last stop on our drive.

About an hour out of the city the drive becomes beautiful.  Toward the end, we pass scenic horse farms and grazing dairy cows.  The area is woodsy and the trees are old and majestic.  Fall is a wonderful time to visit: the leaves paint the woods a fire-y orange and at high points, the fallen leaves allow for peppered views to the Catskills in the distance.

There's always somewhere fun to stop for lunch.  We usually seek out a wholesome sandwich shop and a local coffee shop that takes its individuality (but not much else) seriously.  This time, we stopped in Rhinebeck and remembered how much we like the town.

We followed directions to the orchard and were surprised when we found an empty parking lot and happy to smell apple pie wafting out of a barn-like structure in the distance.  As we approached we were greeted and told that we had come to the "offices" and that pick your own was several towns away - too far away to enable is to make it back to the city in time for our commitments.

Needless to say I was very disappointed.  It was my first and last chance at apples picked (myself) from a tree for the season.  I sadly vowed to continue on with at least some of the lofty plans I had for my pick-your-own bounty.  Buying apples at the farmer's market is not nearly as personally satisfying - but at least I know that someone else picked them for market from exactly the same area.

This crumble is so delish, it will take the sting out of whatever disappointment you might be facing ...

Apple crumble (serves 4) (adapted from delicious magazine)

5 granny smith apples, peeled, cored and cut into thin wedges
4 Tbs unsalted butter, chopped
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1 vanilla bean, split and seeded


1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup plain flour
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/3 cup sliced almonds
6 Tbs chilled unsalted butter, cubed
pinch salt
confectioner's sugar for dusting, if desired

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Melt butter and brown sugar in a pan over low heat until sugar is dissolved.  Stir in apple slices, cinnamon stick, vanilla bean pod and seeds.  Partially cover and cook, stirring occasionally until apples are fork-tender.  Discard vanilla pod and cinnamon stick.  Divide apples among four oven-proof bowls.

With your fingers, combine crumble ingredients, rubbing butter into other ingredients until it is evenly distributed and creates pea-sized crumbs.  Distribute crumble over bowls.  Drizzle with some of the cooking liquid and bake for 8-10 minutes until crumble is golden and apples are bubbling.  Dust with confectioner's sugar if desired.

Sunday, November 14, 2010


The holiday edition of Sweet Paul Magazine is out now.  There's so much fun stuff in there, I can't wait to spend some time with it to see what everyone else has contributed (btw: check out Paul's very clever pendant lamp - I am in love with it).  My piece is on cranberries and begins on page 104.  Paul wrote the cake recipes and I wrote the sugared cranberry recipe.

I adore cranberries and love this time of year when they are available fresh.  This year, try dressing your turkey with a raw cranberry "sauce" versus the traditional kind - you will be surprised about how crunch, fresh and flavorful cranberries can be.  Paul's version is in the article, and another great, savory one to try from an old post on this blog can be seen here.

Have you ever tried sugared cranberries?  They are a delight to the eyes (the perfect decoration for a cranberry mould or a cheese plate) and a surprise to the tongue - they become completely crunchy like a hard candy.  They are a cinch to make - just have them ready no more than a day ahead.  Humidity is not their friend.  Enjoy!

Sugared cranberries

2 cups sugar
2 cups water
2 cups fresh cranberries, rinsed, patted dry and picked over
1 cup+ medium-grained sugar for dusting

Create simple syrup by heating 2 cups sugar with 2 cups water until sugar is completely dissolved.  Allow mixture to cool off-heat for a few minutes so that cranberries won’t pop when simple syrup is poured over them.  Put cranberries in a large heat-proof bowl and pout simple syrup over them.  Allow to cool completely, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Drain liquid from cranberries.  Roll cranberries in sugar (note: one simple way to do this is to pour sugar onto a baking sheet and place a handful of cranberries on sheet and move back and forth to coat.  If sugar clumps replace with fresh sugar.  Repeat handful by handful until all cranberries are coated.  Spread coated cranberries onto two baking sheets and allow to dry for a couple of hours.  Sugar will dry and cranberries will turn into a crispy candy.

Best used same day 

Saturday, November 06, 2010


One of the reasons that I changed the name of my blog was to have a forum for sharing not only my food/still life work and ideas but also my portrait photography work.  I've been photographing more and more children/families and have had such a great experience sharing a moment with some wonderful clients. 

When you do portrait work, you really develop a relationship of sorts with your subjects (albeit a very short one).  There's the hours involved in the sitting where you have an opportunity to talk to and get to know them, and then so many hours involved in processing the images and turning them into family memories and display pieces.  I love that the moments captured become a documented part of a family's history.  It's rewarding to be able to provide something so important to them.  From my experience, the people who spend the time and money to capture and memoralize these moments are truly lovely people.

I thought I'd share a few of my favorite newborn images from this year.  There are so many - it's hard to whittle them down to just a few.  I have been favoring black and whites lately.  They are so quiet and peaceful - there is nothing to distract.  If you are interested, more can be seen here.

One very different aspect of my portrait business from my food/still life business is that I turn the images into final products, producing prints, albums, canvasses and other display pieces.  I've really developed a point of view about how to display images in a way that you can really appreciate them.  I'll share some learnings here soon.  I recently went to the PDN photography expo at the Javitz center in NY - it was a huge expo of the different vendors of printing services available to professional photographers.  I left with a lot of materials to comb through and a lot of new ideas.  It is all very fun and exciting.

Let me know what types of things you might be interested in - it will help me shape posts on this subject.