Friday, November 25, 2011

The Beauty of Fall

As I write this, the year is slipping away faster than ever. I can't believe it - there are still so many dishes to make and share, and experimentation to get lost in. At least I have the day-to-day provenance of coziness in making - and eating - so many of the results!

This food you're about to see was all SO good. That's what I mean - I want to make it all again and yet, I have adventures waiting in the queue, new stories tugging at me to make them. I guess there are tougher problems to have, right?

* 29 November - Updated with recipes - scroll down to view!

The  goodies from our anniversary adventure

I was informed by the kind folks at The New Amsterdam Market to stop by one particular Sunday, so that I could swoon at crazy, gorgeous mushrooms. I know that doesn't seem to qualify for "kid in a candy store" material, but it was exactly that. While there, I met Les Hook and Nova Kim and learned about their wild foods - harvested on Saturday in Vermont, driven to NYC for Sunday's market. I made the acquaintance of mushrooms I never knew existed.

Had we shown up at the very beginning we would have found an even greater selection, but I left happy, with many paper bags filled with earthly delights: Lobster mushrooms (those bright red-orange beauties, and they do taste quite like their namesake); White Matsutakes, lower left; Chicken of the Woods, at lower right (they taste exactly like chicken); and the most unusual, Blue Alb mushrooms, at top right (they are a gorgeous sparkly blue-black hue, and bitter - an acquired taste, ultimately).

With these, I made a fantastic mushroom ragout adapted from those great ladies at Canal House. Served with creamy polenta, it made for the perfect comfort food.

The pretty squash we brought home got some loving from the organic elixirs shipped to me from Crown Maple Syrup... I painted their grade A medium amber syrup (mixed with some olive oil) all over their surfaces, sprinkled with some sea salt and cracked pepper, and let them roast away in the oven. The result was caramely-savory, soft, delicious squash. Perfect autumn. I used some as a side dish and then pureed the rest in a soup. 

Then, there were the apples. Oh, those apples. So many sweet, tart, crisp and juicy apples. We ate plenty straight out of the sack, but I wanted to have fun with them and so hollowed a bunch out and stuffed them with spiced goodness. Worth doing many times over.

Lastly was the pie. It was my first attempt at a shingled crust. I tossed the apples in nutmeg, brandy, and lemon juice. It's so nice to try something out for the first time and for it to become a smashing success!!! Know that you have to be patient as a saint for all the cutting-out of those shapes for the crust, but it too was absolutely worth it.

I hope I have tempted you all well enough to return, so you can make these treats for you and yours. Happy, cozy days..... :-)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Winter Cooking, Chocolate Mousse & Sweet Paul Holiday Edition

Sweet Paul Magazine came out yesterday, and we all agree that it looks fabulous. I had so much fun working on the issue! There is photography by me throughout, including this and that. But the real show-stoppers are my Winter Cooking story, and the Fave Photographers' feature. So cool!!!

Here is another look at the tasty morsels...

I can attest that each and every item is sensationally tasty. Please click here for the recipes and tell us what you think!

When Paul asked me about my signature holiday dish for his favorite photographers story, my mind went racing. I could do the leg of lamb I love so much or different cookies that sing the holiday-tune, but as I thought further, I knew my Kahlúa chocolate mousse had to be it. In an ad torn from the pages of a really old issue of Gourmet, this recipe is what I make to surprise neighbors and colleagues with (and when I don't make it, you can believe I hear about it).

Here's a pairing I fancy that didn't appear in the magazine. The plum garnish is a playful adaptation from the famous "Twas the Night Before Christmas" poem, where it says "...while visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads"... The glistening sugar coating offers a nice crunch, and the flesh makes for a bright and juicy accent in all that chocolatey depth!

A sublime treat to enjoy whenever, and especially nice to share with loved ones. This has been another great adventure. More on the way soon!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Sneak Preview to Holiday Treats

Good day! It appears the holidays are upon us, and what better way to celebrate than with sneak previews to tasty goods that anyone would love to have? Michaela Hayes of Crock and Jar was just featured on Clean Plates. Her kraut blends are amazing and zingy, with all the crunch you can handle. After shooting her products for Sweet Paul Magazine, she sent me home with jars of her Spicy Kraut (think delicious kimchi, with a twist), and the Pickle Kraut (tangy, assertive, wonderful). These unusual treats make a great and thoughtful gift for anyone who loves a food adventure.  :-)

Speaking of Sweet Paul, the holiday issue comes out tomorrow! Here's a sneak peek - including photos by yours truly - over at Bright. Bazaar. I photographed a number of things for this issue, and I am so excited to see how it all has come together. Paul says we can see the full spread after 8 am. I'll be there with a warm cup of coffee to keep me company! Here is a teaser from a story I shot:

There's lots more great bits on the way. The nice people at Crown Maple Syrup sent me some of their fantastic, organic syrups for me to play with, and Gilt Taste thought to include me (thanks, Ruth!) in their new bloggers list to receive products and share stories. So look forward to more treats, coming soon. :)

Friday, November 4, 2011

Making Pasta

I was invited to take a class at the Institute for Culinary Education, and after browsing various options, decided on a pasta and sauce making course. I love a good fresh pasta, and am a total sucker for the process.

It was a grey, wet day, but I was energized to cook! Our chef instructor reviewed several pasta variations we would attempt as groups: a saffron-based dough, a whole wheat version, and one formed using spinach (or other similar greens). We were also going to create sauces to accompany these delicious noodles: a fresh tomato sauce (and another, with the addition of meat), an alfredo, a fresh herb-style, a Bolognese, and a roasted pepper-cream sauce.

We made our way into smaller groups and Chef Loren demonstrated each process to insure a success of our efforts. After all, we were going to eat the results.... :) I had so much fun photographing everything, I had to remind myself to stop and actually perform each process so that they would gel for later (in real life!). I hope you all enjoy the photographs.  Note: you can click on each series to see them larger! It's worth it.

Measuring flour and making a well

Incorporating the egg into the flour, bit by bit

Incorporating the mixture using a bench scraper, then by hand

Loren describing the gluten network