The East River, on Film

March 25, 2014

I just got four roles of film developed ranging from over three years ago to last fall. Procrastinator? Maybe. I’m not going to deny it. But there’s something kind of magical about being transported back in time to a specific moment I had forgotten about. And with film, much more than digital, I remember those feelings very acutely, how it felt taking that picture, what was going on around me, what I was thinking at the time. Like these six photos I took last June on a walk along the East River to the financial district to meet my sister for a picnic. I remember I made a giant sandwich on a loaf of ciabatta stuffed with fresh tomatoes and basil, red onion, tuna, capers, anchovies and olives. We ate that with potato salad (green onions, fresh dill, dijon, olive oil, white wine vinegar, green beans & walnuts) and cold beer on her friend’s rooftop in Brooklyn.

More memories to come as I sift through these pictures.

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Photos I Like

March 13, 2014

Yesterday it was 65 degrees, today it’s 45 with a whisper of snow on the ground. I took these photos at the end of summer last year, right around the time when you begin to feel a faint whiff of fall in the air.

I’m ready for Spring. There’s nothing quite like it in the South.

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Celebration is Contagious

January 30, 2014

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This was the last picture taken at a wedding I shot back in December, a few weeks before Christmas. It was a little past 8pm when we left, Drew and I had been shooting photos since 11am that morning, dodging through icy, bone chilling rain that poured down relentlessly for hours, thankfully letting up in the early afternoon. As the party continued on we said our goodbyes, packed up our gear, walked out to the car buzzing with adrenaline and exhaustion, when we turned around and saw this. There’s something about this picture. I can’t exactly put my finger on what it is, but it feels like the perfect end of a story, the last page of a really good book.

It’s a pretty special thing shooting weddings. To be a casual on-looker, a complete stranger really, trying to figure out who belongs to which family, who’s friends with whom – is that her grandma, is that his cousin, her sister, stepmom, friend? – all the while attempting to be a ninja with my camera so as not to intrude on the moment. I take very seriously the task of creating memories, those sincere moments between people that don’t happen everyday, that only happen on this day, memories that will last far into the future.

Without fail, by the end of the night, I feel transformed. Like I was a real part of the day, not the fly-on-the-wall I started out as. There’s always a moment near the end where I want to put down my camera, grab a piece of cake, a glass of champagne and hit the dance floor. Celebration is contagious. But I like my role as the casual observer, to be able to slip quietly away into the frigid december night, looking out at the cabin all lit up, listening to the faint echoes of music, people laughing, dancing. Savoring the end of a really great night. I pretty much dig it.

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Memorable Meals of 2013

January 2, 2014

At the beginning of the year I started writing down our Awesome Dinners/Lunches/Breakfasts of 2013 in a small notebook. I had tried a year or two before to write down every single dinner we ate but then I got bored and stopped after about 6 months. I didn’t really care about the nights we ate leftovers or didn’t feel like going to the store and made something from whatever was in the pantry, or if that was even too much work, the dinners of popcorn and beer. I’m only really interested in the highlight reel.

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In June my grandfather passed away and while my mom, aunt and I were cleaning out his closet I found this unused notebook of his from  back in the day, back when they used the term currency and people wrote letters. So I transferred all the meals I had written in the other notebook, not too many as it turns out since I was in quite the cooking slump the first half of the year, and now I keep it in my purse as my awesome meal journal. I think he would’ve liked that.

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I’d have to say 2013 was the year of Brothy Asian Noodle Soups, made most of the time by Drew. I crave it just writing that sentence. He has a great, simple recipe where you make a broth of ginger, garlic, star anise, soy sauce and fish sauce and then you add whatever you feel like to it. My personal favorites are bean sprouts, kimchi, peanuts, cilantro, lime and really good ramen noodles from the asian market. Over Thanksgiving weekend we ate this three days in a row.

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I also ate a lot of tacos this year, one of my favorite food vehicles. For a few months this summer, every other week I’d help my friend sling tacos at the farmers market using whatever was in season, straight from the farmers. One of the most memorable was when we topped the tacos with a quick pickle of radishes, every color of carrots and green onions. They were so beautiful and vibrant.

In September we went to Nashville for the weekend and while playing scrabble one night with our friends, according to my notebook we ate a dinner of snacks that consisted of brie, bread, triscuits, hummus, grapes, baby carrots, gin and tonics, reeses peanut butter cups and chips and salsa. Quite the medley.

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My notebook also says that on Monday, July 1st we cooked two dishes from the Jerusalem cookbook for dinner that night. Swiss chard with tahini, yogurt and buttered pine nuts which I made a note that it was super delicious!, and turkey zucchini burgers with green onion and cumin.

A few days later our friends came to visit for the Fourth of July and it seems that I went all out and made two more recipes from Jerusalem; pasta with yogurt, peas and chile (this is one of my favorite recipes) and a baby spinach salad with apricots, almonds, toasted pita and sumac. Then for dessert, banana cake with chocolate chips and crystalized ginger.

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I already miss tomato and peach season, there are so many recipes I never got around to making since for the most part this summer I ate tomatoes raw on top of open faced sandwiches, I made tomato basil risotto from the New York Times three times one week, gazpacho pretty much every week for as long as tomato season held out, and other than eating peaches dripping over the sink, I made peach jam twice with the idea that we’d save it for a gloomy winter day like today, but it was just too delicious for that kind of patience. Maybe next year.

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I also ate a lot of pretty spectacular meals while camping this year, since everything tastes better outside. In August Drew and I spent a couple nights in South Carolina where we made fried rice with bacon, kale, carrots, green onion, eggs, garlic, ginger and homemade cilantro mint herb salt. I remember that trip because we bought a whole bunch of peaches at a roadside stand on our way back and made peach jam for the first time that afternoon.

In October we camped with our friends in West Virginia and on the very first night we made a dinner of steak cooked over the fire inside of corn tortillas with sautéed zucchini and onions. Even though we never really plan it that way, every time we camp with them we always seem to eat steak cooked over the fire. It is one of my most favorite camping meals. The absolute best was when we carved sticks into sharp points and skewered super thin slices of steak onto them and cooked it that way over the fire. Like meat marshmallows.

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The one thing I know with absolute certainty that I will make again this year is my mom’s recipe for Irish Soda Bread, the same recipe she’d make every year on Saint Patrick’s Day. I haven’t yet tackled the corned beef and cabbage and boiled potatoes part of the tradition, and maybe 2014 will be my year for that, but I just love knowing that every year on March 17th I can make this bread and it will taste exactly as I remembered.

So here’s to another year of delicious meals, epic feasts with friends and more time spent cooking outside. Happy 2014 everyone!

Manney Irish Soda Bread

Mix together:

3 1/2 cups flour

3/4 cup sugar

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

3 tsp baking powder

Add:

2 eggs

1 1/4 cup buttermilk

1/4 cup oil

1 cup raisins

Grease bread pan and dust with flour. Bake at 325 degrees for one hour.

The Year in Photos: 2013

December 31, 2013

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I took this photo back in January, on film, a few weeks after the new year, right around the time I fell in love with Kodak Ektar. I took a lot of photos like this over the next few months, the behind-the-scenes action of a cooking school that opened up in early 2013.

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The next five months were a bit of a roller coaster. I have a notebook where I write down our Awesome Dinners/Lunches/Breakfasts and there are seven entries for January, mostly meals from when my friend Kim was here to visit when we made pasta with pine nuts, greek yogurt, feta and peas from the Jerusalem cookbook and turkey meatballs with smashed chickpeas from The Smitten Kitchen. There was the meal we cooked the night before she left, steak with goat cheese and chimichurri and a side of kale with garlic and toasted sesame seeds. The next entry after that is for June 1st, a few days after I quit my job at the cooking school.

Quitting my job was the nicest thing I’ve ever done for myself and I bought these strawberries the very next day at the farmers market. I remember thinking I’d never tasted anything so delicious in my life and it made me feel like I was on the right track.

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In June I was out in New York for a couple days when my grandfather passed away. While my sister was at work I made us a picnic for later that evening consisting of a giant sandwich filled with tuna, roasted peppers, fresh basil, tomatoes and lots of other delicious stuff I can’t remember, and potato salad with green beans, walnuts and a dijon/olive oil/green onion dressing. I loaded up my backpack with the goods and walked along the East River to the financial district where we met for beers then took the train to somewhere in Brooklyn where we ate our picnic on her friend’s rooftop. This was the view. It was a great night.

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The next day I walked to Port Authority where I took the train to Rutherford, NJ to spend the night with my Aunt Jean, the greatest aunt a girl could ever have. On the way, somewhere in the East Village, I passed by all these succulents peering up at me from the sidewalk.

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We’ve taken a lot of drives along the Blue Ridge Parkway this year. There’s nothing that grounds me like nature.

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One of the first photos I took at All Souls Pizza. Eggplant patiently waiting to be roasted.

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On August 19th we celebrated our 7th wedding anniversary. Time sure flies when you’re having fun. 

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In September we drove a couple hours to South Carolina where we camped near this Wild and Scenic River. We were the only people around for miles.

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And in October we met up with our friends to camp in West Virginia for a weekend. It was there that they showed us how to make sausages wrapped in pillsbury crescent dough. It’s quite possibly the most unhealthy thing you could ever eat, but man, they sure hit the spot after a long afternoon hike. One of the things I love about camping cooking is that there are always those recipes you’d never make at home, but when you’re outside for a couple days, the rules no longer apply.

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One of my favorite photos from the morning I went out to the mill at Farm & Sparrow Bakery.

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My second favorite picture from that same day.

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And to round out the year in photos, I give you one of my favorite recipes, this frittata with roasted potatoes, green onions and feta. It’s originally from the Smitten Kitchen cookbook, but I don’t always have that cookbook with me when I make it so I’ve adapted it to whatever I have on hand. Sometimes I add fresh spinach or sautéed mushrooms, but most of the time I just keep it simple. I also love a slice of this for dinner with a bowl of brothy soup on the side.

Frittata with Feta & Green Onions

2lb yukon gold potatoes, sliced into 1/4 inch rounds

6 eggs, lightly beaten

About 5 green onions, sliced thin

About a half a block of feta, crumbled

Salt & pepper

1. Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Put the sliced potatoes on a roasting sheet, drizzle with about a tablespoon of olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 35 minutes.

2. Place the potatoes in a cast iron skillet or some type of oven proof dish, sprinkle with green onions and feta. Pour the egg mixture evenly on top, being sure to get it in all the nooks and crannies. Cover with foil and cook for 20 minutes. Remove foil and cook for another 15 minutes until the eggs are set. Cut into wedges. Serve hot or at room temperature. Enjoy!

Kimchi Fried Rice

November 18, 2013

I’m not sure where it started with me and nature. Growing up my family was not all that outdoorsy. Sure, we’d go canoeing down the Huron River a few times each summer, there was a bit of dabbling in camping once or twice, my dad or brother would take me fishing sometimes at Argo Park. We never took it to the next level or anything, like with gear or synthetic shirts or hiking boots. But who knows, maybe that was all it took, maybe that was just enough to give me the itch for more.

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In high school I adorned my walls with pictures I cut out of magazines like Outside, Backpacker and Powder. I imagined myself scaling huge cliffs, whitewater rafting, backcountry skiing, writing for National Geographic, going on extreme adventures. When I was 22 years old Drew and I moved out west to Boulder, Colorado where we hiked and camped all the time for four years. It was there that I started to realize I’m not so much of an extreme sport sort of person. I barely even like waterskiing. I would much rather snowshoe or cross-country ski than downhill. The thought of scaling huge rock walls with hundreds of feet of nothing below scares the shit out of me. What I like most of all about being in nature is the stillness, the quiet. That when I camp all I have with me is a good book, stuff to cook with, and a camera.

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Last month we met our friends Kim and Ryan at Bluestone State Park in West Virginia to camp for a couple nights. We’d never been to this campground before and when we got there the cool, rustic tent camping area was closed and the vast, nearly treeless, someone’s-playing-a-radio-a-few-sites-over RV campground was the only place open. So after setting aside our disappointment and our vision for a secluded, backwoods getaway, we sucked it up and found the best spot we could from our limited options. We cooked food, drank wine, caught up on life and then the next day, right around lunchtime, the whole campground cleared out and we had the place to ourselves. Suddenly it became the best place ever.

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It was one of those long, lingering afternoons where it feels like it should be 5 o’clock but instead it’s barely one. It was early October, the afternoon was windy and sunny after a foggy morning, the leaves just starting to turn, wisps of burnt red and orange. We sat at the picnic table for hours, played Euchre, drank coffee, went on a long hike, took pictures, Drew and I made kimchi fried rice for dinner, Kim and Ryan built a fire. Then the next day, sometime in the early afternoon, after a breakfast of potatoes and eggs, we went our separate ways, Kim and Ryan back up to Thomas, West Virginia and us, home to Asheville. It had poured down rain in the middle of the night and as we drove through the Virginias and Tennessee, you could see the changes in the trees, the leaves getting closer to their peak.

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Somehow I need more of that in my life, and I’m on a quest to find a way to make it happen. There is nothing that calms me to the core like being outside away from everything. When I was 19 years old I spent nearly three months working at a summer camp in northern Wisconsin and on the long drive home back to Michigan, after weeks of sleeping in a cabin, waking up at sunrise to swim or sit alone on the dock and read, watching the sunset every evening, I cried, feeling homesick for what I was leaving behind. I’ve always been conflicted, wondering if I’m a city girl or a country girl, since I feel at home in both and fear isolation, in both. But for now, with the colder nights, shorter days and holidays approaching, I’ll have to let my ideas simmer and embrace the city girl in me a bit more. With a good book to read, a camera and stuff to cook with.

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Kimchi Fried Rice

Serves 4

I love making this recipe at home or camping. It takes hardly any time at all, uses barely any ingredients and is so very, very satisfying. Unless of course, you hate kimchi, in which case I don’t think you’ll like this at all.

 

A few tablespoons of canola oil

About 2 cups of kimchi

About 4 cups of leftover cooked rice

4 fried eggs, or poached would be super delicious too if you’re feeling ambitious

 

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the kimchi and sauté for about 5 minutes or so, until a little bit crispy. Add the rice, cook until heated through. Divide onto plates and top with a fried egg. Enjoy every bite.

 

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This past weekend Drew and I drove an hour north to Hot Springs, NC for an overnight camping trip. We weren’t so organized this time around. Our stuff was still all over the place after camping in West Virginia a few weeks back, plates in one bag, pots and pans in another, the leatherman, somewhere. I’m in the midst of starting to get super organized with our gear so that it’s easy to just throw in the car and not worry that you’ve forgotten a headlamp or dish soap or god forbid, salt and pepper, but I’m not quite there yet.

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Our original camping spot was closed for the season which is how we ended up camping in a treehouse, Swiss Family Robinson style.  We hiked down about 800 ft to the creek bed where there were little tree houses speckled throughout a few acres, each spaced a nice distance away from one another.

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Drew built a fire while I set up the kitchen. We thought we’d be car camping so we brought the most un-backpacking friendly meal ever, our double burner stove, my Le Creuset Dutch Oven, a chicken carcass for stock, a giant bottle of olive oil, a six pack. But man was it worth it.

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I cut up an onion, sautéd it for a while, added chopped up chicken carcass pieces, sautéd those for about 10 more minutes until they let their juices out, poured enough water to cover everything, then let it simmer for another 10 minutes. Meanwhile I cut up another onion, finely diced this time, some carrots and sautéd those in another pan until soft. Then I discarded the chicken parts and onion, added the carrots and the other onion, a sprinkle of thyme, leftover shredded chicken, including some smoked chicken from the night before which brought the whole meal up a notch, a couple handfuls of egg noodles and let it cook until the noodles were done, about fiveish minutes.

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We ate our chicken noodle soup sitting on a rock in the creek looking at this view. Everything tastes better when you’re camping, especially when you’ve lugged a cast iron pot down the side of a hill. Backpacking gear is next on the list.