Fun with Fuji Color

When I went to K and B's wedding a couple weeks ago, I decided to shoot some color film, which is something I hardly ever do, and have never done in the medium format clunker I was warming up. (My preeeecious Mamiya 645e.) The results? Very, very nice. The scanning does detract a little from the color, but I still think they're quite pretty.
Of course, it does help to have pretty things around to take photos of.

*All shot on 12 Fuji Velvia 100 or Provia 400 with my Mamiya 645e. The rest of them are here.

The Haul

Yes, they're scrawny and imperfect, but I grew them myself and I love them.Also, they'd better taste DAMN good, since they're clocking in at, oh, about $4,000 a pound.


Summer winding down

The last few days of Summer are still ahead of us, but with the semester (and teaching duties and looming research) starting next week, I find myself prematurely nostalgic. It seems like just minutes ago that it got warm and only a couple of weeks ago that I finished grading and put away my teaching persona for the year. But today I went and excavated my desk in preparation for another Fall and I can feel the last few minutes of freedom slipping away.

Unfortunately, the copious free time I granted myself this Summer is slipping away with the last few weeks of warm weather. And with that free time goes the time I've spent cooking and baking and developing film and scanning negatives and writing these blog posts. Doesn't mean I'm not coming back, though. It just means that the recipes will be more carefully chosen and the photos worth a few more than 1,000 words on average (hopefully).

This past weekend was the last big hurrah of the Summer, featuring my best friend's wedding to a lovely guy. I was busy doing bridesmaid duty, so I've no recipes to share. However, I appointed myself the unofficial photographer of the three days' events and took a few hundred photos. Here's a selection of the best ones. Hopefully a few more posts and recipes before work descends and it's all to-do lists and moaning about the waning afternoon light. Don't give up on me!


Plum perfect

Yesterday I found myself (after many failed efforts and near-misses) in the same place as a farmer's market at the right time. I had trekked over to campus to use the computer lab (to scan negatives - very exciting), only to find said lab to be closed for the rest of the summer. However! The Harvard Farmer's Market was just setting up and it seemed that everyone had harvested everything all at once this week. Tomatoes and dahlias and beans and lettuce and greens and squash and berries and peaches, oh my! I'm a lover of farmer's markets and let me tell you, this one was spectacular.
My haul: three adorable patty pan squash, a handful of heirloom tomatoes, some cherry tomatoes, a quart of plums, a pint of lovely, juicy intensely-flavored blueberries, and two heads of fresh lettuce (approximately the size of MY head). Luckily we were having my sister and her betrothed over for dinner or I'm afraid much of this would have gone to waste. Dinner ended up being 1) a big, big salad with lettuce, tomatoes, pepper, Spanish tuna (canned in olive oil!), and a little balsamic; 2) Pasta with a fresh batch of my own homemade pesto (now with garlic!); and 3) Two delicious clafoutis(es?) that I whipped up with the help of the decadent produce I brought home with me. I made blueberry (delicious) and plum (transcendent).
You all may remember that I had a dubious encounter with clafoutis before. I say dubious not because the result wasn't delicious or the recipe didn't work (in fact, Sweet Amandine's recipes never seem to fail), but because I was so uncertain of the whole process, not having eaten, seen, or heard of a clafoutis until very shortly before I made that one. My previous effort at this delicious dessert was tasty, but I like my desserts to have either a little more tooth or a little less substance. Alas, that clafoutis landed right in the textural middle ground that makes me so uneasy. I searched around and found another recipe that seemed promising and gave it a whirl. The results were spectacular.

Fresh fruit clafoutis (adapted from epicurious.com)
  • fruit of your choosing (I used about 15 plums, halved and pitted for the plum one and about half a pint of blueberries for the blueberry one)
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch (for each batch of fruit)
  • 1/3 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup almonds, toasted (I toasted mine in a pan on the stove as if they were pine nuts)
  • 4 large eggs
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract (I used amaretto)
  • Powdered sugar
  1. Preheat oven to 325°F.
  2. Generously butter two deep dish pie plates.
  3. Combine the fruit, 1 tablespoon sugar and cornstarch in medium bowl; toss to coat.
  4. Arrange the fruit in pie plates.
  5. Blend the flour and almonds in food processor until the nuts are finely chopped (ideally until they almost disappear).
  6. In another bowl, whisk the eggs, salt and remaining 1/2 cup sugar together.
  7. Whisk in the flour and nut mixture.
  8. Add milk, melted butter, vanilla extract, and amaretto; whisk until smooth.
  9. Pour custard over fruit.
  10. Bake clafoutis until set in center and golden on top, about 55 minutes.
  11. Cool slightly. Sprinkle powdered sugar over and serve warm.
**Notes: The ground nuts in this recipe give it a really nice occasional crunch. Also, the (scant) leftovers made a delicious breakfast this morning.

**Warning: The original recipe purports to serve SIX people. There were four of us and we almost polished it off. Bear this in mind if you're inviting big eaters. Better yet: keep it ALL to yourself. You'll thank me.


Bad mood food

Sometimes it's really hard not to let the little shit get to you. Whether it's a quibble with a spouse or a sibling, creeping dread about much-procrastinated work, or an ongoing battle with various vermin (in my case: mice), it's just really hard sometimes to keep perspective. What do you do to bring yourself back to earth in these situations?

I turn to food in any kind of extreme mood (doesn't matter if it's euphoria, stress, or the depths of depression) - this explains the many, many pounds I gained during college and in the first couple years of grad school. I've been trying to think of something to eat that will refocus my excess energy in a positive direction, but all of my comfort foods are really just too warm to eat in this weather. (The ridiculous humidity and high temperatures of this week are contributing to my mood, no doubt.) So, what's a girl to do?

Looking in my fridge and taking stock of what I have handy, I note: mushrooms, corn, eggs, bacon, and not much else in the way of raw potential. Alas.

Corn chowder sounds delicious, but I don't have the requisite central air to make soup palatable in this weather. Corn fritters would really hit the spot - the thought of the creamy delicious insides and the crispy fried outside makes me weak in the knees, but the last thing I (or my dreadful summer skin - another thing to stress about given my upcoming bridesmaid duties) need is to stand over a pan of hot oil to make them. Succotash? Would be delicious, but no lima beans are handy. One thing's for sure - today is a day for waiting until it's dark to eat and maybe for eating on the roof.

What I discovered a few hours after writing the foregoing is that a few things can go a long way toward fixing that kind of pre-semester, late-Summer malaise: roof lounging (as suggested above) as the sun sets and the air begins to cool, corn on the cob, quiet conversation with my lovely husband, cuddle time with the sweet dog, and good, not-too-heavy/not-too-light black beans. Good hearty food and pretty determined relaxation. Oh, and a fan (recently brought back from Spain as a gift from my parents). I highly recommend all these things next time you find yourself in a snit. I'll get you started on the black beans. They're delicious.

Bad mood black beans
  • dried black beans (I used about half a pound that I had left over)2 bay leaves
  • about a liter of chicken broth (can be combined with water to taste OR veggie broth can be substituted)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • spices of your choosing (I used ground cumin and some Ras al-hanout that was a gift from Morocco)
  • bacon to taste (can be omitted)
  • cheddar cheese to taste
  1. Soak the black beans for at least an hour before cooking.
  2. Heat a little olive oil in a pot. Add the bacon (chopped up) and cook until crispy. Add the (drained) beans and cover with broth.
  3. Throw in whatever seasonings you want to use.
  4. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cover. Simmer until beans are tender and soup has thickened. You will need to stir often and add more broth/water to keep it from burning and to make sure the beans get sufficiently softened.
  5. Once you're happy with the consistency (it can be soupier or thicker depending on your taste), turn off the heat and stir in the cheese (shredded works best).
  6. Serve with couscous and with a dollop of sour cream on top.
So, what are your bad mood foods? Oh, and hello, Cape Town!


A taste of Southern Indiana

Every year in my home town they have this fundraiser for the American Heart Association called the Taste of Southern Indiana. It's just what you would expect: samples from all the local restaurants with a bunch of cardiologists on hand. While I can't give you a taste of all my favorite restaurants at homes (Jaya's, Jimmy Jeng's Szechuan, Los Bravos, DiLegge's, Turoni's), I can give you a little taste of what I like to do and where I like to go when I'm in my old home town. This is just a small taste... many many more photos are here. More are coming soon. In the meantime, enjoy!P.S. I'm totally digging Google Analytics telling me where my readers are! A big hello to Melbourne, Montevideo (do I know someone in Uruguay?), and Birmingham! An equally big hello to Falls Church, South Bend, and Los Angeles! And Bloomington! And, naturally, Boston! You're all most welcome here! Leave me a comment and let me know what's going on in your corner of the world!

Simple pleasures

While I was home last week, I daily indulged in the treats of the season. Farm-fresh produce is abundant in Indiana throughout Summer, but I was extra lucky to arrive when the corn, blackberries, and melons were all reaching the height of their juicy, colorful, fullness. This type of tasty, natural beauty is great fun to photograph as well, so here's a little taste of late Summer in
IN.Figure 1. Zucchini.Figure 2. Corn.
Figure 3. Blackberries with Greek yogurt and honey.


So many odds and ends... and a wee clip show

Figure 1. They like straight lines in Indiana.

Yesterday I winged my way home to Indiana for a brief, but much-needed visit. Since then, I've been wallowing in puppy-love, eating too much good Mexican food and my mom's mushroom soup (Stay tuned for THAT recipe. It will make you weep.), going to the movies (which is the official pastime of my home town), and sleeping in my old bed. All in all, the perfect first twenty hours home.

Figure 2. The Liberty Hotel. Perfect place to toast your own personal ball-and-chain.

But! Before I came home, there was an anniversary to be celebrated. My dear Brit and I have been married (legally, though not with huge, froufy fanfare) for one year and two days now and it still seems like the best decision we could ever have made. To celebrate on Saturday I did not cook. So I have no nuptially-themed recipe to share. But we did go to Clink at the Liberty Hotel and eat a lot of really delicious food, drink a couple of delicious cocktails, and some really delicious wine. Figure 3. Seared scallops with lobster, mushrooms, parsnips (puree), and dates. Holy. Crap.

This all followed a lovely day
spent at the ICA and wandering downtown and snapping photos. You can see the initial results here, with medium format goodness to follow when I'm home and developing again.Figure 4. Boston view from ICA.

For now, though, I'll share with you the recipe for the World's Best Banana Pudding, courtesy of my mom. Again. She's getting accustomed to my frantic, last-minute "Please tell me how you make x dish!" emails and is responding with aplomb. I only hope one day I have the memory for recipes that she does.

(The occasion for this recipe was my sister FINALLY coming back to town after being away for altogether too long. She's always been a sucker for banana pudding and I thought it might be appropriate for some welcome back comfort food. She approved of the end result, as I'm sure you all will, too.)

Banana Pudding (courtesy My Mom)
Figure 5. I used miniature trifle dishes.
  • Combine 2 small packages of Instant Jello pudding—French Vanilla Flavor (sometimes hard to find—but def. better than regular vanilla) with 3 cups of milk (I use skim milk!)
  • Add 1 can of Eagle brand condensed, sweetened milk and beat with mixer until it starts to thicken.
  • After you stop beating and as the pudding thickens add a 9 ounce container of Cool Whip (I use the light variety) Fold this in gently to avoid deflating The Cool whip (the purpose of this is to lighten the pudding).
  • Layer Vanilla wafers, sliced bananas, and the pudding mixture to create the finished product. It looks pretty to do in a trifle bowl. I usually crumble some vanilla wafers on top for panache! Do not leave bananas on top—as they will darken when exposed to air.
As ever, I suggest you note the ingredients (and quantities) before going shopping. If, however, you find yourself at home with, oh, I don't know, only one (1) package of French Vanilla Instant Pudding, you can halve the recipe. The proportions are very approximate and really, short of using stale vanilla wafers or rotten bananas, I'm not sure how you could screw this up. I recommend it for hot-weather colds, broken hearts, or warm welcome-backs. Also, as my mom suggests, pot-lucks.


Culling Time

I have, as you all know, a little window-box herb garden. Unfortunately, my basil (beautiful flat-leaf Italian basil from Pemberton Farms) grew a little out of control and was choking out my thyme and sage. There was only one thing to do. I trimmed and cut back and culled and ended up with a pile of fresh basil that just didn't know what to do with itself.

So, I pulled out my food processor, grated up a big chunk of parmesan, threw in some pine nuts, added the basil and processed until it smelled nutty and cheesy and fresh. I then added olive oil until I liked the color and consistency. My best guess as to quantities: 1 cup basil leaves, 3 T pine nuts (all I had left), and about a cup of oil. Also, salt and pepper.**I tossed some of the pesto with penne (which we ate alongside some delicious chicken sausage), but there was a lot left over. What to do? I pulled out an ice cube tray, discarded its cubes and filled up six of the little wells with pesto. I left them in the freezer overnight and am now left with six delicious little green cubes, just waiting for a craving to hit. I highly recommend you all kill some basil today. The results are stunning.**Note: I did not add garlic. This was simply an oversight, but it did result in a mild and versatile pesto.


For the bride

It's not every day a girl's best friend gets married. That is an occasion that simply must be marked. Yesterday I and the other women in my dear K's life converged on Rhode Island for a shower to celebrate the bride's impending happy occasion. I volunteered to do a little baking and took with me (on the train) some cupcakes with ever-so-melty frosting (do NOT try to make cream cheese frosting in August if you don't have air conditioning) and the olive oil cookies I've been raving about for weeks now. Last time I just quoted cookbook's tweeted recipe, but this time I did some tweaking and will give you a full blow by blow.

Olive Oil Cookies
  • 1 egg
  • 7 T olive oil
  • 5 T wine (this time I used amaretto)
  • 1 c flour
  • 6 T sugar
  • 1/2 t minced fresh rosemary (I used more than that.)
  • 1/4 t baking powder
  • salt & pepper
  1. With a mixer on medium speed, beat the egg, oil, and wine together.
  2. In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients.
  3. Add the dry to the wet and mix until smooth and doughy. Full disclosure: last time I complained about the dough being too wet, so this time I probably used more like 1 1/2 c.
  4. Pinch off and form about 20 cookies. I made them quite small this time and it turned out to be 34. As to the question of "forming" the cookies, I rolled the dough into balls thinking they would spread more or less evenly in the oven. They didn't really spread and, instead, came out as delicious little golden nuggets.
  5. Bake for 12-15 minutes at 375° or until golden brown. Be sure not to burn the bottoms.
**Note: the original red wine in the recipe does give the cookies a slightly more complex flavor, but the amaretto makes them more decisively sweet. Consider your preferences and venue and just go with your gut.

A slice for a friend

There's this girl I'm thinking about a lot today. She's an incredibly strong, talented, happy, generous, and generally fantastic person who's coming to the end of what I understand to have been a really, really rough year. She's also an absurdly good writer and a creative and talented cook. And she takes good photos. What I'm trying to say is that she's quickly ascending my list of Inspiring People.

One thing that makes her blog memorable (among many many memorable things) is the occasional post she dedicates to someone she's thinking of or who has a birthday or needs cheering up. So, I'm going to unashamedly copy her and say, Jess, this post is for you!

Jess is creative and thoughtful in just about everything she does and she definitely doesn't seem to be the type to be afraid to try something new. So, I thought, wouldn't it be fitting to pay her a little tribute and do something creative and new and be unafraid about it. So I decided to make quiche.

Yes, this is not a new dish. I'm not inventing something earth-shattering (Don't get me wrong, quiche is earth shattering, but I can't take credit for it, alas.), but I've never made it before and I've always been slightly intimidated by the prospect of it. But today I closed the book of fraidy-cat-ness and plunged right in. Thanks, Jess, for the inspiration. We're thinking lots of warm thoughts for you and we'll save you a slice till you're back to the blogs. Happy Humpty Dumpty Day!

Quiche with all the goodiesIngredients:

for the crust
  • 1 1/4 c flour
  • 1/2 c (1 stick) butter, chilled
  • 4 T ice water
  • 1/4 t salt
for the filling
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 c whole milk
  • 1 c half and half
  • salt and pepper
  • handful fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 2 small onions
  • 1 small head broccoli
  • 5 slices prociutto
  • small block feta
  1. Make the crust. As with pie crust, process the flour, salt, and butter in a food processor until crumb-like in consistency. Add ice water and process until dough ball starts to form. Form dough into flattened ball, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for an hour.
  2. Meanwhile, slice the onions thinly, either by hand or in the food processor. Heat olive oil and 1 T butter in a pan and stir in the sliced onions, salt to taste and a spoonful of brown sugar. Cook on medium heat, stirring frequently, until the onions have fully caramelized and are dark brown in color. Set them aside.
  3. Chop the prociutto, broccoli, and feta quite finely, either by hand or in the food processor.
  4. Roll out the pie dough and press into a quiche or pie pan (I used a glass deep dish pie plate).
  5. Bake the pie dough for 5 minutes at 375.
  6. Meanwhile, beat together the eggs, milk, half and half, rosemary, salt and pepper.
  7. Remove the partially baked crust from the oven and spread dry fillings (cheese, prociutto, broccoli, onions) in the crust.
  8. Reduce oven temperature to 350. Place the filled crust back onto the middle rack of the oven and pour the egg mixture over fillings up to about 1/4 inch from the top of the crust.
  9. Bake the quiche for about 45 (40-50) minutes or until a) crust is golden brown, b) a knife inserted about 1" from the edge comes out clean, and/or c) the middle is set, but still a little jiggly, like jello.
  10. I like to let it cool a little and serve it up while warm.


July's End Dinner Party, Part the second

In addition to the heavenly Gelato, I made a little appetizer for my friends.

I've long been on a quest to educate my Yankee friends in the ways of Southern food (I realize this is a bit rich coming from someone who hails from a Northern State, but hey, it's the Southern end and I grew up eating family recipes from Kentucky, so there.). I've made attempts with my mom's chili recipe (which cannot be eaten with a fork and does not resemble the tex-mex mess they serve around here), her famous orange-pineapple fluff, biscuits and gravy (pearls before swine, as Danny would say), and so forth.This time, determined to hit one out of the park, I settled on whipping up some Benedictine, which is a venerable old Kentucky Derby recipe. I admit, I hadn't had this divine goop until a couple years ago but it may be the Prime Reason I got a food processor. Googling around looking for a recipe, I found that there are MANY different variations (benedictine sandwiches served on buttermilk biscuits, benedictine with food coloring, baked benedictine...), but I wanted the stuff I've been dreaming of. So, I went to the source and got my mom's "recipe."

What you need to know about my mother is, 1. She is The Best Cook In The World and 2. She is Not the Kind of Cook Who Writes Precise Recipes. The latter may sound frustrating to some, but I like the flexibility it gives me to tweak things how I like them. (You'll see in this Recipe Suggestion that she anticipated my tweakings and preemptively shot them down. I guess she knows me.)

With no further ado, here's my mom's Recipe for Benedictine. Make a double batch. You'll thank me after you polish of the first box of crackers and are heading to the store for more.


"I peel, and seed English cucumbers and shred those in the food processor—then place them in a kitchen towel and squeeze the heck out of them to get them as dry as possible—this is really an important step. I also grate a small mild onion with the cucumbers in the food processor and squeeze them along with the cucumbers.Once the cucumber-onion mix is DRY combine that with softened cream cheese and 1-2 tablespoons of mayonnaise. You can do all of that in the food processor---salt to taste—and it really does need salt. Do not be tempted to omit the mayonnaise (because I know you don’t like it!) because it is important for the texture. Quantities of everything just depend on how much you want to make. For 2 cucumbers and 1 small onion—I use 2- 8 ounce blocks of cream cheese and 2 tablespoons of mayo. But you can adjust any of that to your taste preference and consistency preference."

**Note: I did depart from this and add a couple dollops of Sour Cream after seeing a number of recipes did call for it in order to make the benedictine more dippy and less spready. And anyway, how could a little sour cream hurt any dish? (It didn't.)

July's End Dinner Party, Part the first

Whenever I'm invited to dinner, I ask, "What can I bring?" like a dutiful guest. I then proceed to forget about it until the day of and then go way, way overboard. This time, I was asked to bring "something to drink or something nibbly." "Okay," I thought to myself, "I'll figure something out."

I decided yesterday to go way overboard.

It's important that you know that I have a passionate love of gelato. And avocados. Maybe, in fact, it's a thing for all food-stuffs ending in -o. In any case, when I saw this recipe for Avocado Gelato, I was intrigued. I set out to the grocery to procure missing ingredients (avocados, corn starch) and on the way decided that a pure avocado flavor might be good, but wouldn't it be better with a little something to jazz up/brighten up the flavor and make it a little sunnier? So, I got to thinking about other O-ending foodstuffs and landed on mojitos, which also make me very, very happy. I concluded that I would make Avocado Mojito Gelato. (I'm also of the opinion that an Avocado Mojito - in beverage form - is a very good idea.)

The result was, perhaps, my best kitchen effort yet and, perhaps, the cooking product of which, to date, I am most proud. At the dinner party for which I whipped up this gelato, we served it in green teacups with a sprinkle of fresh blueberries, which added a lovely tang. It could also be served with a sprig of mint as garnish or with a dash of rum over top, for that mojito experience.

Here's what I did.

Avocado Mojito Gelato

  • 2 c Whole Milk
  • 3/4 c Sugar
  • zest of (approximately) half a lime - in strips
  • 2 T cornstarch
  • 2 ripe avocados (approximately 1 pound)
  • 1 vitamin C tablet, crushed to powder (I used 1000 mg, but less would probably work just as well)
  • juice of 1/2 lime
  • generous handful of fresh mint leaves
  • pinch salt
  1. Combine sugar and mint leaves in a food processor. Process until mixture is homogeneous and pieces of mint are very small.
  2. Bring 1 3/4 c milk, 1/2 c of the sugar/mint mixture, lime zest, and salt to a simmer in a heavy saucepan over medium heat.
  3. Meanwhile, whisk together the remaining 1/4 c milk and 2 T cornstarch until smooth. Once combined, stir this mixture into the simmering milk, whisking continually.
  4. Bring to a boil (while whisking) and boil for one minute.
  5. Transfer the hot milk mixture into a metal bowl and place that bowl into another bowl filled with ice and cold water. Let the mixture cool completely and mix frequently.
  6. Meanwhile, quarter, pit, and peel avocado. Place in food processor with the remaining mint sugar, juice of 1/2 lime and the crushed vitamin C tablet. Puree until smooth.
  7. Add cooled milk mixture and puree until smooth.
  8. Freeze avocado mixture in an ice cream maker. Transfer to airtight container and freeze until hard (1+ hour).
My gelato took a quite a while to freeze and after the subway trip to the dinner party, was a little runny, but set up again quite nicely upon being put in the freezer there. It's a pretty low maintenance gelato, so don't worry. The beauty of this recipe is that the avocado is creamy and rich enough that you can skip the heavy cream and eggs that would be necessary to get that texture otherwise. And anyway, avocado fat isn't bad for you. The vitamin C tablet is necessary, according to the recipe I adapted, to keep the avocado's color. The lime would proably take care of this on its own, but who wants to run the risk of producing brown Avocado (Mojito) Gelato? Not me.