I really need to work on my portrait photography skills.
You see, as good as this apple galette was, the company I shared it with was ten times better.
I have to say, this batch of pâte brisée was my third attempt in the past four or so months, and it finally came together well enough to serve without apologies.
I may not be so confident in my painting skills right now, and the details of early 20th century architecture and furnishings may be alluding me, but at least I can make a mean pâte brisée. So all is well with the world, right? Wrong, but let's just pretend for a moment.
This weekend I'm heading out of town, and I'm looking forward to the wonderful company I'll get to share, which I'm sure will be accompanied by wonderful food. But it's the people who will make each meal memorable.
I can't wait to see you, Lauren!
Thursday, January 29, 2009
I really need to work on my portrait photography skills.
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Today I meant to share an exciting new project with you, but it will have to wait. I figure sleep is better than a press release at this point. Right?
Soon enough you'll know what I'm talking about.
In the meantime, Abilene's ice has melted. Here's my last bit of proof of it, taken while freezing my butt off on the cement stairs outside my apartment as I did some research for this new project (the one I'm so excited to tell you about!).
Oh, and I had a little photo shoot with my favorite ol' Honeywell because the lighting was beautiful and all those nobs and clicky sounding buttons make my heart want to sing.
Posted by Lael Meidal at 10:08 PM
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
My shoes crunched their way up the stairs to my front door tonight. Not because of dried leaves or snow but because a strange layer of whiteness has covered the land. It is not snow and it's not hail or sleet. Just fine shavings of ice that are unable to melt in the winter chill.
This very chill kept the temperature in the 20s today and called off all classes.
What better way to embrace winter weather at its truest, than making use of the oven, reading on a couch, and gazing outside through steamy windows at trees branches haloed by their icy encasement? And this is exactly what I did for the better part of the day.
This bread was an adaptation of an old standard. The only thing I did differently was to roll it out before shaping it into a loaf, then I rubbed it with a thin layer of butter and sprinkled cinnamon, cocoa, sugar, and raisins evenly across the top. I just rolled it up and tucked it into its loaf pan for one final rise from there. Delicious.
Monday, January 26, 2009
Yesterday I mentioned that I baked a cake, and I feel that I simply must bring it up again.
From the moment my eyes finished grazing the ingredient list, I knew I'd like it. So it only seemed appropriate to spend some time on Sunday afternoon baking a cake with my roommate, who is very eager to learn how to bake and has elected me as her know-it-all resource (eek!).
One of my favorite cakes has an almond flour base, so I knew Nigel Slater was on to something when he added pistachios and rosewater to his cake.
I know you might not all agree when you hear the word "rose water" (ahem, Mom, I'm thinking of you) because roses and lavender and such are supposed to be smelled and not digested, but I have been enjoying every drop of my bottle of rose water. And that's the key. Just a drop or a splash can add a sweet undertone to a dish. It reminds me of English tea gardens and baklava and lassi and corners of the world I'm wishing to see.
While I'm getting all dreamy, let me tell you about a dreamy book I've been thumbing through lately. It's Nigel Slater's The Kitchen Diaries, and it earns its "dreaminess" through each turn of the sturdy warmly cream-colored pages. Photographs are smoothly printed in a matte finish throughout the book, and they include plenty of shots of Nigel's equally dreamy garden. The layout and font choices are clean and simple, which matches his casual and inviting writing style perfectly. Not to mention the recipes.
Oh, the recipes. Some of them, frankly, I don't think I'll ever attempt (no thanks, oxtail) but I've also been surprised to find myself drawn to a radish, mint, and feta salad (I'm still learning to appreciate radishes). And then there is a countless number of winners. From simple salads to pastas to trifles that make my mouth water, I'm reluctant to hand this book back over to my local library.
But let's not forget about that cake.
Rose and Pistachio Cake
Adapted from Nigel Slater's The Kitchen Diaries
1/2 lb. (2 sticks) and 2 tablespoons butter
1 cup sugar (fair trade, please)
3 large eggs
2/3 cup shelled pistachios
2/3 cup ground almonds
2 small lemons
1/3 cup white grape juice
1-1/4 teaspoons rose water
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
3/4 cup confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice (can be squeezed from lemons above)
Preheat oven to 325°F. Line the bottom of a non-stick 9-inch cake pan with parchment paper.
Prepare by grinding your pistachios into fine crumbs in a food processor (or in small qualities in a coffee grinder, as I did), and zest and squeeze your lemons dry.
Now, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating between each addition. Add almonds, pistachios, butter, and sugar to bowl and mix. Set aside 2 tablespoons of lemon juice for icing and add remaining amount along with white grape juice and rosewater to mixture. Lately, fold in flour with a large spoon or spatula.
Scoop mixture into the lined baking pan and bake for 45-50 minutes, covering lightly with foil for the last ten minutes.
Check cake by inserting skewer into center. If it comes out fairly clean, then take out and let it cool completely in the pan. Run a knife around the edge and turn it out.
For icing, sift sugar into lemon juice and mix together with a fork until smooth. Pour over cake and leave for half an hour to set.
Sunday, January 25, 2009
I am telling you, I would be such a better student if my homework could be done in a kitchen. I tend to spend my spare hours in that room.
Maybe that's how food photography became a hobby of mine. Surely, making food is an art in itself, but the opportunity to satisfy a guilty conscience by also turning my energy toward photographic exploration has proved to be a good compromise.
Today this compromise worked out quite nicely. As I baked a cake with my roommate and persevered in the dream of a perfected pâte brisée, I took some shots from a new perspective. It reminds me of a shy little peek or an abstract promise (i.e. there is more to come, and it seems to be beautiful; the-whole-picture-just-doesn't-get-to-be-revealed-yet sort of thing).
What do you think?
Saturday, January 24, 2009
I love it when pictures say enough that words aren't needed.
Tonight I have a picture taken from practically climbing on top of my friend's table around noon today. Sorry, Jess. I hope I'm still welcome in your home.
That's all. Sweet dreams. (More for me than for you, I guess, since you won't necessarily be reading this before slipping under the covers.)
Friday, January 23, 2009
I realized that my camera had sat in my drawer all day long when I looked out the window less than half an hour ago and the round yellow lights outside each apartment in my complex had started to glow.
The flood lights from the university's baseball field (just across the fence) defied the setting sun.
I took a look at the bowl of soup I had just warmed up and headed out onto the landing to take advantage of the last moments of daylight, but it was a struggle holding the camera steady enough in my hands. I ran inside for my trusty tripod and memories flooded back as I twisted the small device into the bottom of my camera.
This isn't just any tripod. It's plain and simple and probably cost me $5 at Fred Meyer, but it was purposefully bought in the weeks leading up to my college semester abroad. At nineteen years old I was gearing up for four months in Oxford, England and saying I was excited doesn't even begin to describe it.
Sure, life follows you wherever you go, and the trials it brings certainly found me in Oxford too, but that place was beautiful. It wasn't just the old brick homes, the cobblestones along Cornmarket, the slew of pedestrians that I kept company with on the sidewalks (politely ignoring each other, of course), or the lush green landscape maintained by drizzly rain (reminding me of home) that made it this way. It was the close friendships with my housemates and the more informal ones with my fellow volunteers at Oxfam. It was the adventure of surfacing from the underground in a new city (often across the Channel) and finding our way.
And it was specific moments like when my friend, Erin, and I spent sunset at the ruins of the Temple of Apollo. It sits on top of a hill off the coastline of the city of Naxos, on the island of Naxos, Greece, and the wind from the sea whips up and over it as the sun silently but dramatically sets in shades of pink and purple.
That particular night my little tripod came out of my purse once again so we could set up the self timer, huddle on the ground, and attempt to hold our hair down for the camera. It was at least the hundredth time we had chosen to entertain ourselves in this way since becoming friends back in Oxford, and along the way we had decided our faithful travel companion (yes, the tripod) deserved a name. I really don't know where it came from, but Trevor was one of our first ideas and it stuck.
Trevor the tripod.
Trevor continued to go everywhere with us, and we looked for opportunities to drop statements like, "I need some Trevor in my life" and other nonsense. Though the Trevors I've met (the people-type) haven't necessarily been tall, dark, and handsome, somehow the little tripod took on that persona.
So tonight I just thought I'd introduce you to Trevor. He helped me get this shot of my cup of soup, after all. And it's meant just for you.
Thursday, January 22, 2009
It was another sunny day.
Around noon, my roommate and I had the luxury of some downtime to sit in the living room together and randomly started digging into a box scooted tightly underneath the end table. I don't know what we expected to find but certainly not what came out...
A map of Indonesia*. (Okay, cool. Bright colors. Geography. We like this.)
A travel book on Indonesia. (The cover was bold and plain with early '90s coloring. But why Indonesia?)
Another book, this one entitled Ideas and Realities of Islam. (Seriously. Who was stalking this country?)
And, lastly, a Bible in Indonesian.
So unless someone comes back for this map, we're keeping it. The books...? Well, there's not a country in the world I wouldn't mind going to, but right now I'm focusing my energy more southeast of Indonesia. (Hint, hint! More to come.)
Meanwhile, I hope you enjoy seeing the new company on our couch. Until we figure out where to hang him, Indonesia's staying propped right there.
I don't think we'll keep the books out on the coffee table, though. It might look a bit shrine-like.
*1/23/09: I confess ignorance here. I just assumed this map was of one of the main islands of Indonesia when I saw it...I was picturing Sumatra in my head, though I didn't know its name at the time. It only took one look at a map of Sumatra to know I was wrong, and so after some googling this morning, I have some more accurate information for you. Apparently "my" map is of an island off Sumatra. It is called Pulau Nias...which would make sense with the word "Nias" (another name for the island) in big, bold all-caps at the top of the map. :)
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
The golden sunlight was too inviting this evening.
(Staying inside just wouldn't do.)
I happened upon a favorite little corner of this world,
but I only have a glimpse to offer you tonight.
Next time I won't let the whirring wash machine pull me away,
and you'll understand why this place helps me breathe
when I am pitying myself in Abilene.
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
I have something a.ma.zing to share with you today. It comes in the form of an innocent little cookie and looks quite unremarkable sitting on its cooling rack fresh out of the oven.
Come to think of it, the poor dear is still not much to look at twenty-four hours later. But let's not be superficial.
Molly has raved about this cookie recipe, and when Molly raves about something, my head starts nodding in agreement before I even take a bite of my own replication. She's a sly one in that way.
So, these little buckwheat cookies with the crunch of raw chocolate have been filed away in the back of my head for a while, and they finally came into being last night. The nibble we all agreed to take last night was pleasant enough, but today their flavor is deeper and yet gentler. The buckwheat isn't so abrasive, and the cocoa nibs have released their aroma throughout the crumb.
You might get some strange looks when you nonchalantly ask someone, "Do you want a buckwheat and cocoa nib cookie?" But if they've got any sense in them (okay, and an ounce of adventure), you'll have many pleased palates before you.
Now here's the recipe I just know you're itching for...
Buckwheat Butter Cookies with Cocoa Nibs
Monday, January 19, 2009
Sunlight through a glass and a scrap of paper turned shopping list.
I love it when the simple things become beautiful...
That's been a gift from this blog recently. If something doesn't present itself to me during the day, I have to set out in search of "it."
Each picture is taken on the day it is posted. Each picture is a reminder that life can indeed be beautiful.
Sunday, January 18, 2009
If I have successfully fooled you into thinking that I'm forming new hobbies and leaving the old ones (i.e. cooking/baking) behind, the "fooled" part is right. Not as if that was really my intention.
Take today as an example:
I made my sourdough bread sponge before heading off in the morning;
came home to form the dough;
cooked up apples, onions, and bratwurst;
kneaded my bread and set it to rise;
made cookie dough for an office party later this week;
formed the dough into loaves;
and set out a bowl of dried beans to soak overnight.
In the midst of these projects, I slipped away to the art building to prep a canvas for my painting class. I also took the time to shoot some pictures for you. Enjoy.
Saturday, January 17, 2009
When I was about thirteen, I listened to Sarah Masen a lot.
The opening verses to one of her songs has always stuck with me, especially when a day has kept me distracted, and at the end of it, I happen to glance up at the sky. Somehow clouds or clear blueness can help things fall into place, and these words start playing in my head...
tuesday after a reckless and used day
i was running and running without a chance
to stop and chat at the sky
finally i stopped for a breath in the evening
suddenly i was caught by the scenery
painting a picture of You
Friday, January 16, 2009
Aren't we always our own worst critic? I know I'm that way with my art, my cooking, my baking, and the list goes on.
Over the Christmas holiday my friend's grandmother declared numerous times that she was through with baking for the rest of her life. Yet another one of her recipes was a disaster, in her opinion, and she might as well just stop.
Though the above muffins were truly tasty, the flip side of my roommate's note of "help yourself!" had a blunt explanation for why they shouldn't be enjoyable. Down to half a muffin and large crumbs, it looks like the note wasn't too convincing.
Thursday, January 15, 2009
Even though I do not live in a particularly biker-friendly town, I often wish I owned one.
Since moving into my apartment a year and a half ago, a charming old bicycle has leaned against the side of the building where I climb the stairs to our door. At first I looked at it longingly, but then I started to notice dust and cobwebs settle and coat the surfaces. Apparently it didn't do much pedaling.
Recently, my roommate and I were walking up our stairs together and she mentioned, "Oh, that's my bike."
With a giggle she said, "Yeah, but I can't use it. I put a lock on it and forgot the combination."
Today I was walking home with my chin tucked down into my scarf and my sleeves pulled down into my fisted hands and noticing how everything around me matched. The tan bricks stacked into buildings, the stringy parched grass, the cracking dirt, and the few remaining fall leaves, now as crisp as Coffee Crunch Bars (which are amazing, by the way).
And then there was the bike. Muted to the hue of old red velvet by its collection of dirt, but still providing a pleasant contrast to its landscape, it welcomed me home.
I'm grateful for some constants in life, even if right now one of them is a bicycle whose immobile back wheel keeps it stationed at the foot of my staircase. At least it's pretty to look at. At least it's got some color.
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
How did I miss out on capturing the image of crinkled and torn foil chocolate bar wrappers scattered on my friends' living room floor tonight?
The last hours of this day were spent in the best of ways.
a good ol' classic movie.
Sorry no picture. Can you use your imagination?
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
One last afternoon of pleasure reading before the textbooks take over my life, complete with a mug of cool water spiked with rose water.
This was my company as the sunlight turned golden and another sunny January day passed:
The Art of Simple Food, Alice Waters*
The Kitchen Diaries, Nigel Slater
The Lemon Tree, Sandy Tolan*
Toast, Nigel Slater
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, Barbara Kingsolver
*I particularly recommend these.
Monday, January 12, 2009
Sometimes art just won't get done without creating a mess too.
Maybe this is why I shy away sometimes. I'm an orderly person most of the time, but after all the time spent listening to art-talk in my classes today, I went ahead and spilled scraps all over my bedroom floor and pulled out scissors, a marker, watercolor palette, paint brush, water cup, and x-acto knife.
I stole the water bottle scrubber from the kitchen too. It's just abrasive enough to scratch up a smooth photograph surface.
...today I'm grateful that going to university classes means making prints, painting, taking photos, talking architecture, and singing songs about Napoleon in French.
Sunday, January 11, 2009
Hello? Is anyone still here?
I hope so because, boy, I've missed you guys. Thank you so much for your comments on my last post (and archived ones) while I was away. I read them all, and my heart was warmed.
About a week ago I got a real itch to head back to blogging. The desire had never completely left me, but as a new year was heralded in with champagne glass clinking and blue flames of rum, my heart picked up speed in anticipation of 2009. This is one big year, folks. And if it comes that in August all I have to show for myself as I head into the big, wide world is a BFA diploma and a humble portfolio, at least I'll have this blog. Not that it will get me a job, but it will at least be a testament to a few things I love:
Words, photography, and food.
What's new this time around is that food is going to take the back burner. I just don't feel like this season is a time to pour myself into its creation and documentation, at least not extensively, like a good food blog requires.
Today I'm presenting you with a taste of what's to come. I'm still a self-proclaimed Hungry Soul in search of beauty and satiety in this life, so I'm hoping to continue to use this blog as a canvas for satisfying that hunger.
I'll be looking for the little details in life and try to bring them forth on a daily basis through photography and words.
This afternoon the sun is shining warmly and brightly on the monochrome landscape of Abilene, Texas. However, its brownish, tannish, yellowish palette was brightened as I walked home from the grocery store with a big bunch of vibrant green carrot tops flowing over the top of my bag.
My roommate and I squinted down at the bleached-out sidewalk as we carried our groceries back. One more thing off our checklist before the semester starts. But I wasn't thinking of the beginning of spring semester. Rather, I was imagining that the January sun was casting its face on a late summer day and was even able to almost, almost convince myself we had just been to the farmer's market.
A girl can dream, can't she?