Monday, January 24, 2011

Pears, Peter, White

Peter (AKA Mr. Souvlaki for the Soul) is my flickr/blogging/photographer friend. We met in a flickr photography group years ago and have been chatting over email ever since. He's in Australia, I'm in NY, and neither of us ever had occasion to be in the same part of the world until recently. Despite this, we've had a regular, lovely dialogue over email for years, chatting about blogging, photography, seeking advice on client challenges, photography equipment and of course, gossiping and talking about nothing at all. Even though we never met in person, I felt a real friendship with him. When my son was born, he sent a beautiful baby blanket from Donna Hay's store, knowing what a huge fan of her I am. It was very touching to say the least. A few months ago his "day job" took him to New York.  I've never had the experience of having a virtual friend become an in-person one and it could have been incredibly strange to meet face-to-face.  But it wasn't - in fact - it was comforting to see that he's exactly the same person live as on email - and exactly who I expected him to be.

Fortunately he's been in town twice since and we've been able to have short visits each time.  It's been fun getting to know him better.  He does different work than I do, with a different approach and it's been nice learning from each other.  I don't know that many photographers, and it's always wonderful to spend time with someone who shares the same passion.

Just after Christmas, Peter was in town and brought gifts not only for me, but also for my husband and son - so sweet.  Mine was a copy of Donna Hay's latest.  I could not wait to get my hands on it!  There are so many simple, great recipes in there that I didn't know where to start.  The poached pears grabbed me because they are winter-inspired and also because they are not poached in the typical wine, but rather in a vanilla syrup which preserves their color and makes them a beautiful white-on-white which is always such a nice, graphical aesthetic, isn't it.  In fact, maybe it's because the cityscape is a snowy one but I've been loving all things white on white lately.  It's soft and comforting, isn't it?

Thanks, Peter, for the book - I am really going to enjoy it!

Poached Pears ("Vanilla Pears") from Donna Hay's Fast Fresh Simple
(serves 4)

2 cups water
1 cup caster (superfine) sugar
1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
4 firm brown pears, peeled, halved and cored
Vanilla ice cream or whipped cream to serve

Place the water, sugar and vanilla bean and seeds in a deep frying pan over medium-high heat and bring to boil.   Add pears and simmer for 3 minutes each side or until just tender.  Serve with some of the poaching syrup and vanilla ice cream/whipped cream.

Friday, January 14, 2011

In love with sprouts

I love Brussels sprouts.  We've been eating Brussels sprouts in abundance this winter.  I have a few recipes that I love: this one using just the leaves is wonderful.  I also love shredding them in the Cuisinart, sautéing them quickly in olive oil and garlic, removing them from the heat, squeezing half a lime on them and shaving Parmesan on the top.  Just thinking about it makes me hungry!
The fastest, simplest way to prepare them is to trim the brown ends off, cut them in half and then saute them in a cat-iron skillet to really get them to develop wonderful color and flavor.  I like to render some thick-cut slab bacon in the pan first to add flavor and kick it up with some crushed red pepper.  Last weekend, I made them for my sister-in-law, who is not a huge fan of greens - I think they passed the test.

My camera is having some problems and is in the shop.  I feel completely naked without it and rented a replacement until my baby is fixed.  I decided to treat myself and rent a better camera than my usual one: this is so much fun!  Can you notice a difference?  I feel like I can, but maybe it's just my imagination!  I'm looking forward to wandering around snowy New York this weekend and clicking away.  It's all mine until Monday morning!

Brussels sprouts with slab bacon

1 lb Brussels sprouts, brown end trimmed, sliced in half
1 thick slice slab bacon, cubed
1 Tbs olive oil (chili-infused if you want extra flavor)
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
Sea salt

Heat oil in a cast-iron skillet over medium-low heat.  Sauté bacon until fat renders.  Add sprouts, toss them to ensure they are well coated in the bacon fat and oil, season very generously with salt and sauté (turning them only occasionally so they brown nicely), until fork-tender.  If they brown more than you would like before tender, simply add a few Tbs of water or chicken stock, cover and allow to steam until tender.  Enjoy!

By the way, I couldn't resist picking up persimmons in the store today.  I am really not sure what to do with them, although my first thought was jam?  What would you do?