Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Homemade Pralines and Cream Ice Cream

The only ice cream flavor I like as much as plain old vanilla is pralines and cream.  Sometimes in the store-bought versions, the ice cream is a little bland, or the praline/caramel-to-ice cream ratio is not ideal.  I'm so picky.  So I thought I'd find a recipe that had a ton of egg yolks and I would just double the amount of mix-ins.  It turned out to be a really fun way to spend a rainy afternoon--nibbling on all those little praline bits and dipping my fingers into the caramel.  Sometimes, you gotta make your own sunshine.  And just in time to serve with persimmon pudding for Thanksgiving dessert.

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Thursday, September 26, 2013

Adventures in food styling

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This recipe was absolutely delicious, though putting it together was a bit of a head-scratcher at first.  The yogurt "cheese" is just regular yogurt strained through cheesecloth overnight.  Then you mix in a syrup made from reducing apple cider and spices. The yogurt cheese has a thick, creamy texture and takes on a lovely warm hue from the syrup.  But with all those apples on there (top left photo), you can't see any of the goodness.  That wouldn't do.  So I took everything apart, rinsed (um, or maybe, licked) the apple slices clean and reassembled everything in some new bowls (bottom pic).  I like the syrup-drizzle, but that shot didn't make the cut.  Here's how it looks on the site:

Monday, April 29, 2013

Cinnamon rolls X 6

I got this assignment from Epicurious. I use their website practically every day trying to decide what to make for dinner, so it was exciting to work for them. Of course, it had to happen when I had half a dozen other projects going, so I had one day to buy props and supplies, then prep and shoot the rolls. That's cutting it close even for me! But don't you think cinnamon rolls would be a cinch to make? So did I. Actually, now that I've made them a total of 6 times, yes, they are a cinch. But those first three times were pretty painful. Due to general Lara-Hata-ness, the first 3 batches turned out, let's just say, less than perfect. That's over 9 hours of work down the drain (the dough needs to proof for 3 hours)! Finally I learned my lesson and made 2 batches at once, and they looked great. Then a couple days later, I tried it one last, triumphant time. Here's how it looks on the Epicurious site, baked, styled, propped and photographed by me. Awesome! And delicious.

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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Meyer Lemon Tart with Salted Shortbread Crust

 photo IMG_1389_zps4b864820.jpg People with meyer lemon trees always have a hard time using up all those lemons and I am more than happy to take them off their hands. I have a huge lemon tree in my backyard that is seriously in need of maintenance. And while the lemons taste ok, they are lumpy, thick-skinned and very difficult to pick off those too-tall, overgrown, super-thorny branches. I should really take care of that s**t. But for now, I'd just as soon leave it alone and rely on my meyer lemon hookups. Luckily, a pile of beautiful meyer lemons just fell into my lap so I made them into this tart with a salted shortbread crust.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Sometimes Valentine's Day Doesn't Suck

 photo vadi_zps76003862.jpg I really like my guy, but I still hate Valentine's Day. I don't like to have to be 'romantic' when told. Besides, I'd make him a fabulous dinner any night of the week. And is it me or is the word 'romantic' a little icky? Nevertheless, it is our first Valentine's Day together, and it doesn't seem like the right time to make a stand. So the conventional approach wins.

Dinner for Ian on Valentine's Day:

I know that's only four items, but there were sub-recipes! And because I fell asleep right after dinner the night before, I had to get up and prep from midnight to 3am. Doh!! But when you realize you want to spend many Valentine's Days with someone, you want that first one to be perfect. So peeling brussels sprouts, making candied walnuts and mashing sweet potatoes until 3am seemed a small price to pay. It was so worth it. I didn't think I liked duck, but oh, it was good! He was in charge of the wine. The pinot carried the flavors of the duck and cherries seamlessly from one bite to the next. And the late harvest dessert wine was like sweet, silky honey with the figs and stilton. It was a perfect night; everything was sparkly, new, hopeful and enthralling, for no reason in particular. Not something I experience very often. As a bonus, the leftover duck breast, brussels sprouts and sweet potato made a hella tasty flatbread a few days later. Valentine's Day 2013 FTW.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Next Restaurant, Chicago
The Hunt

 photo nrsmt_zps54b2a299.jpg Schwa was Friday night. Saturday night: Next Restaurant's The Hunt menu. Robyn and I were a little apprehensive about it being too meat-centric, but they used the term 'hunt' loosely to include foraging. So the first course was a glass box filled with maitake (hen of the woods) mushrooms and a few courses later, a preserved carrot, sliced and fanned out to create a lacy, fringey mini-sculpture. True, we were served some meaty things that I wouldn't have thought were edible. For example, the venison heart tartare, which was delicious, and squab brain, which we were instructed to suck out of a tiny squab skull. Oh yeah.  Most of us agreed that the Sturgeon and Caviar was the highlight, food-wise: a butter-poached medallion of sturgeon atop a bed of sunchoke, with caviar beurre blanc drizzled around the plate. But the quote of the night? When course #7, the Woodcock Jolie, was announced, Andra blurted out: "How much cock can a woodcock cock if a woodcock could cock wood?" I almost did a spit-take. I'm so classy. Even our server Jen couldn't surpress her giggles; it was like seeing one of the actors start laughing during an SNL sketch. We then had a discussion with the sommelier about California, Oregon and French pinots and then our photo op in the kitchen. Then, sadly, after 4 hours, another dinner at Next had come to an end.

Next: The Hunt
Full Course List
Hen of the Woods
Catch of the Great Lakes
Cellar Aged Carrots & Onions
Duck Tongue, Cider Vinegar
Sturgeon & Caviar
Woodcock Jolie (Ba-hahaha!)
Pressed Squab
Fallen Leaves & Kidney
Bison & Bearnaise
Marrow Brulee
Maris Otter
Tire D'erable

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Schwa Restaurant, Chicago

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"Put it in my mouth!" were Andra's first words when we got to our table at Schwa. Even with Jay-Z playing loudly in the background, her words hung in the air, like a challenge. I think we got a raised eyebrow from our server/chef/host/future dance partner. Schwa is one of the top 5 hardest reservations to get in America. In America! Yet, somehow Amanda scored us a table. This article in GQ explains a bit about the food and air of intrigue surrounding chef/owner Michael Carlson (he wasn't there that night). So after 10 courses, 4 bottles of wine, 8 shots of Jameson's and some beers we turned the dining room into our own private foodie nightclub. You can see from this tiny, embarrassing photo that questionable behavior is tolerated and perhaps even encouraged at Schwa. And that's one of the tame pics. Other people were actually still eating while we were donning aprons and getting our freak on. I got the feeling that wasn't the first time this happened, though probably not on the nights when Michelle Obama and Thomas Keller ate there. Then there was that quail egg yolk in my mouth. The four of us agreed: most fun dinner ever.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Retroactive First Date

 photo rfd4_zpsb24a6214.jpg After cooking ten pounds of pork for your guy, it might be a good idea to dial it back a little...and go on an actual date. Apparently, I do a lot of things backwards. My mom likes to tell people that when I started to crawl, it was backwards and upside-down, like a baby doing some kind of freaky crab walk. I'm sure that doesn't surprise anyone who knows me.

 So Backwards Date Night starts at Savoy Tivoli, in North Beach, drinks with colleagues. He arrives late. I'm chatting with fellow artists, then I see him and light up, like flood lights at a night game at AT&T park. Yeah, I'm subtle like that. We finish our drinks then cab over to Hog and Rocks in the Mission. A hot 'first' date with someone you're already seeing calls for a dozen oysters. Then four tequila-mezcal-lime-pepper cocktails. Hot. And spicy. So in between slurping and sipping brine and tequila you can trade stories about growing up in disparate parts of the world and then imagine what your sofa would look like in his living room. I love that feeling of being tentative and hopeful, not exactly sure what you're feeling, but liking it; not sure where it's going, but following it. Excited to be on the threshold of something unknowable that is, so far, rather good. Also good: the burger done just right, the heirloom beet salad, the molasses-cookie-and-beer-butter-ice-cream sandwich, all those flirty looks and...him.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Nothing says 'I kinda/really like you' like porchetta

 photo p1_zpsd7b93f92.jpg I could be better at expressing myself verbally. I'm an introvert and sometimes I just can't get the words out. Also, I grew up with grandparents who seldom said out loud that they loved me, but if there were steaks, sashimi or sukiyaki on the table when I got home, I knew what that meant. I learned this sort of culinary language and sometimes express affection with an upside down pear and crystallized-ginger cake, cherry almond trifle or beef tenderloin stroganoff. Sure, it gets the point across, but I'm really trying to get better with actual words. In the meantime, I made this porchetta: 3 lbs of pork rubbed in spices and then wrapped in 5 more lbs of pork. As a meal or culinary statement, it's huge and difficult to ignore. Just don't read too much into it...unless you want to.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Blood Orange Crostata

Photobucket I love working with blood oranges. I'm a little obsessed, and as soon as they are available I run to the store and buy a whole bunch, without even knowing what I'll do with them. They're just so graphic and evocative. The bright red sections are as eye-catching as traffic lights and the red juice all over my cutting board and counter top is beautiful, messy and sticky, like love. This crostata looks so luscious and sinful with all that that ruby red juice and pulp bubbling away. Actually, though, it's pretty healthy and full of antioxidants. So there, everyone wins!

Friday, January 4, 2013

I know it's already the 4th, but happy new year everyone! I like to hit the ground running, so while I'm working on my taxes and counting up every last receipt from last year, here's a new-year-themed pic. I shot this for Dolby Labs a few years ago, but I think it still holds up, not to mention it's so seasonally appropriate. I'm not bothering with resolutions this year; I know what I have to do. So, back to work and happy 2013!