The light in the kitchen was nice today.
Life is a big ball of stress at the moment. I’m handling things as best I can. Today I retreated to my back yard for some sun.
I’m grateful that the house next door is currently unoccupied. That means I can pick fruit from the trees in their yard that hang over into mine. Bowls full of lemons and blood oranges. The blood oranges are weighing down the three to such a degree that soon I’ll have bowls and blowls of them too. I haven’t decided what to do with these yet, but give me time. The down side is that they are working on the apartments and soon people living there may have something to say about my pilfering. For now, I’m grateful for the bounty.
They were part of my house mate’s CSA box. I’m not really a fan of them since in my mind they’re the Kim Kardashian of vegetables…prickly and a lot of work for very little pay off. There’s a reason artichoke dip has a litany of other ingredients to make it palatable.
Yet they look great. That color and texture is hard to resist.
I had pulled them out of the fridge and tossed them on the kitchen table so I could get access to something else. I looked up and saw them sitting there and the photographer in my head starting making obscene comments about my lack of produced work lately. It’s a simple shot but it says what I wanted to.
It’s been a crazy week. Two interviews and a lot of side work. The recruiter inteview went fine and, unlike with several other recruiters, this one actually went through my resume with me and gave me her response and listened to what I’m looking for. I meet with her temp placement colleague on Tuesday. The big interview of the week was for a Catering Manager job. While it was the kind of work that I really wish I was doing, it was clear even to me that I wasn’t a good fit. That being said they seemed to like me and there may be other opportunities to pursue.
I came home from that interview and stood in the kitchen and just started cooking. I do that. I hide behind the processes and the knife work and the fire. It’s give my brain just enough of a pause to begin to process better. This was no different. Soon I have meatballs and tomato sauce simmering away and in another pot, red chard and bacon reducing. Two friends came to dinner and were good enough to sit ad talk over a very nice Pinot. A quickly improvised Apple and Raisin crumble with an oatmeal and butter and oliveoil topping ended things sweetly.
Finding a job is hard for anyone. My resume is pretty eclectic and many recruiters or HR people really don’t know what to do with it. I’m often asked if I’m a caterer or an office manager. With my long term plans nebulous at times, finding an answer that will get me the job is hard. Getting the interview in the first place can often be harder.
So I’ll keep looking and keep applying and keep networking and just keep going. I’ll come up with new plans and new ways to get things done. In the end as long as I can come home and retreat into the kitchen and cook, I’ll be ok.
It really hadn’t sunk in how much I resented losing my previous living situation until someone recently asked me why I wasn’t posting about food and why I wasn’t’ presenting any photography. I partly lied and said I wasn’t feeling creative and I was too busy looking for full time work.
The truth is I missed, and still do for that matter, my old apartment on Pierce St. The 14-foot west facing windows in the dining room had been my primary light source for several years. I developed my skills there and I was struggling in my new home to replicate them. Besides that, my kitchen was smaller, darker and less conducive to spur of the moment food photography.
When my friends and I agreed to move in here, there was an agreement that the garage would become my studio. That was delayed at first as we tried to merge two households into one and purge things we didn’t need any more. Storing our stuff became a creative process that took precedence over taking pictures.
Sure, I could have wandered around my new neighborhood and thrown myself into documenting that (and I still should), but losing the previous space had left me feeling really put out. I resented losing it and more so felt like there was no point in trying. I wasn’t clear exactly how angry I was until I found myself seething about it after a few innocent questions. Something was clearly wrong. As I found myself languishing in bed one day with no sense of creativity and a looming sense of failure, I realized that the only thing standing in my way of getting the studio going in the garage was me.
I went down that day and started moving things around. I realized that I had been sulking and mourning the loss of a good space and was letting that stop me. If I was going to be happy here at all, I needed to adapt and relearn and recreate There’s still more stuff to get rid of, or at least organize better. Yet after an hour of dealing with it head on, all of a sudden I could see space where a paper seamless back drop could go and I could see where I could use some natural light from the back door and I could see where I could get power for my lights.
Today I went down and did some quick and dirty self-portraits. Nothing ground breaking but it was exciting and invigorating to dig out all the equipment and make it work together and begin thinking about process again. I’m not where I was, but I may be on my way to somewhere new.
A quick and dirty self portrait in the new studio.
Like many people, I am still faced with a pile of Thanksgiving leftovers several days after the event. I’ve had turkey sandwiches and Brussels sprouts for lunch and midnight snacks of stuffing. And yet despite all that, I still have a ton of food to use. Rather than let them go bad or try to throw them in freezer where they would sit for months, I opted to make a unilateral use of them. It was just a matter of being honest that, no, I wasn’t going to have time to make something with all that turkey meat AND make something with all the left over side dishes AND make something with all the left over turkey stock. So I made an easy turkey stew by throwing everything (Yes, everything) in the crockpot and beefing it up with rice . The cranberry sauce added a pleasant citrus note and the chopped giblets that never made it in the gravy added richness. The left over bread stuffing dissolved and thickened the stew along with a roux.
This really is an easy dinner to make while doing weekend housework and will feed everyone (at least in my house) for several days. This will be especially good on a series of days where we are expecting some serious rain and chills. A quick batch of biscuits to go along with the stew makes things perfectly filling and enjoyable. Sure it’s not exactly a low fat salad, but you can go to the gym later when it stops raining.
Approximately 8-12 oz of chopped turkey
Approximately 16-24 oz of left over side vegetables like squash and potatoes.
1 large onion
3 stalks of celery
1 large carrot
2 large bay leaves
1 tsp poultry seasoning
2 tsp rosemary
2 tsp tarragon leaves
Olive oil as needed
3 cups turkey stock
3 cups water
1 cup of rice
1 stick butter
½ cup flour
1) Dice onion, celery and carrot. Season with salt and pepper and sauté until translucent.
2) Add turkey and mix well and then add poultry season, rosemary, tarragon and bay leaves. Mix well.
3) Add liquids and bring to boil.
4) Add everything to a crackpot and then add rice. Allow to simmer for 2-3 hours.
5) Melt butter and add flour and stir frequently over medium heat until roux begin to color to light brown. Add to crick pot and allow to thicken.
Whether you pick your own or snag a few baskets of strawberries at the farmers market doesn’t matter. What does count is that this time of year in San Francisco, some of the best fruit available is local and, more often than not organic, as opposed to the anemic and bruised fruit you’re likely to find at a supermarket. Making the effort to buy your berries from a local farmer pays off not only in terms of flavor but also in size and quality.
Look for berries that are scarlet red without being too dark or with too much white still showing. They should also be firm and smell fruity. Pick up the basket and try to look inside. If you see mold, skip it. One moldy berry will infect a whole basket quickly. If you get them home and discover a moldy berry inside, discard it and give the rest a thorough washing. Let them dry on a lined baking sheet.
In this recipe the berries are left to their own strengths while introducing complimentary flavors in the garnish and in the custard. The Thai basil adds a subtle anise and lemon flavor that compliments the fruit well, but feel free to use standard basil as well.
1 4-inch round of vodka pie dough
1 cup heavy cream
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup sugar
1 pinch salt
1 cup roughly chopped Thai basil leaves
Approximately 6 large basil leaves cut into chiffonade
Approximately 2 cups strawberries sliced ¼” thick
½ cup apricot jam
1 tbsp water
1) Preheat oven to 325. Blind bake pastry shell and then set aside. Reduce oven to 300.
2) Bring cream to a boil and add basil leaves. Remove from heat and let steep for 20 minutes. Strain completely. Return cream to pan and bring to a simmer.
3) Whisk eggs, vanilla and sugar together until bright yellow. Place bowl on a folded towel and then slowly drizzle in warm cream, whisking the entire time. Return to low heat and continue stirring gently until mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon.
4) Pour mixture into shell. You may have some left over. Bake for at least 45 minutes or until custard begins to brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
5) Arrange strawberries in rows or rings.
6) Mix jam and water in a small sauce pan and melt. Brush over fruit. Garnish with chiffonade.
I love peas and always have. As a kid I’d get a can of British baby peas for my birthday and I thought how special that seemed. With time I’ve grown like the peas right out of the pods and look forward to spring when they become available.
One of the signs that spring has gotten firmly entrenched is the arrival of spring peas at the farmers markets. The piles of bright green pods might still be a few weeks away in other parts of the country but here in San Francisco, we are lucky to have them now. While it’s great to have them, the peas inside may not have had time to fully mature yet. Certainly most pods have large peas inside, but some may need another week or so before they are at their best.
Despite that minor issue, you shouldn’t put off buying them now. The peas right out of the pods are sweet and grassy in flavor and have a pleasant crunch to them. A quick dunk of shelled peas in some salted boiling water and then dressed with butter is how most people serve them. Most people unfortunately just toss the pods in the compost. The pods shouldn’t be wasted because they have an equally pleasant crunch and flavor. This recipe uses both with a spring onion bought form the same vendor at the Galleria farmers market in the Financial District. Instead of cooking them fully, this recipe just barely lets the heat from the other ingredients warm them so they retain their fresh crunch and flavor to contrast with the other flavors.
• Approximately 1 pound snap peas
• 1 small spring onion with half the stalk
• 4 slices or 2 oz bacon
• 1 tsp fennel seeds
• 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
• Olive oil as needed
• Salt and pepper
1. Shell peas from pods. Stack pods and cut into ¼” slices. Set both aside.
2. Cut onion into ¼” dice. Slice stalk as you would a leek.
3. Cut bacon into ½” pieces. Over medium heat, render the fat out of the bacon with a tablespoon or two of olive oil. Take your time here so the bacon doesn’t burn.
4. When the bacon has started to brown, add the onion and stalk and sauté until just translucent.
5. Add vinegar and deglaze the pan with the liquid. Continue to cook until reduced by half.
6. Turn off heat and add pea mixture. Toss quickly and taste and adjust for salt and pepper. Transfer to a serving bowl and serve.
A version of this article also appears at http://www.examiner.com/article/spring-peas-and-pods-with-spring-onions-and-bacon