citrus & chicken

it’s been an overwhelming few months.

ginger-snapped | citrus & chicken pasta salad

getting through the end of winter and welcoming spring with open arms. beginning a photography class and trying to boost my resume, fantasizing about working with food and drinks and words and photographs and social media and all those lovely things all day, every day. trying to come to terms with ginger-snapped | citrus & chicken pasta saladthe death of my long-ill grandmother and a bombing in my city, all in the same week. running a half marathon in dc a week and a half after the marathon bombers were apprehended, and being overwhelmed by support and love and refusing to give in to fear.

i haven’t known what to say here. too much has happened, and it feels like i’ve been struggling to keep my head above water. but as well as not writing, i haven’t been cooking either. and i miss both. these things keep me grounded, keep me together. they remind me of who i really am, what i want. and these things that i often take for granted, getting lost in a beautiful novel or letting my words spill out into the universe or playing with old ingredients to create something new – i need them. even if my dream job doesn’t exist, even if i end up doing something completely unrelated to food or visual media or writing – i need to keep doing this.

this blog is a selfish thing, really. sometimes it keeps me sane. it reminds me to take joy in small victories, to continue writing and taking pictures and staying in touch with other food-loving people in my life. it makes me happy, even when it’s not easy.

ginger-snapped | citrus & chicken pasta salad

so does this recipe, actually. except that unlike my blog entries, this recipe takes about twenty minutes to prepare.

ginger-snapped | citrus & chicken pasta salad

the story of this dish is a little strange. i’m taking a photography class at the new england school of photography with a delightful photographer named keitaro yoshioka, and it’s absolutely wonderful. and after classes on the basics, on light, portraits, sports, families, and landscapes, we finally got to my bread and butter (pun only partially intended) – still life photography.

naturally, after playing with some other objects, i just had to start shooting food. wanting to play more withginger-snapped | citrus & chicken pasta salad natural light, as well as use studio lighting and some other techniques we’d learned in class, i chose several vivid citrus fruits, cut them into various shapes, and spent a delightful afternoon playing around with my camera.

of course, i was left with some images that i really loved…and a large tupperware bursting with fresh-cut citrus, just waiting to be used in some bright, tart, addictive dish.

what else could i do but start cooking?

ginger-snapped | citrus & chicken pasta salad

the great thing about cold pasta salads like this is that you can adapt them to whatever you have on hand. try adding capers, or bell peppers, or a little red onion. leave out the feta or switch it up for another cheese that you like. use greek yogurt with lemon juice instead of the vinaigrette if you’re pressed for time or want it to be creamier or simply aren’t in the mood to dice up a shallot. and if you don’t happen to have a refrigerator full of cut-up fruit, you can use whatever you like. try all lemon, add some more lime, or focus more on the grapefruit. it’s completely up to you – think of this recipe as more of a rough guideline.

ginger-snapped | citrus & chicken pasta saladcitrus chicken & pasta salad with honey-citrus vinaigrette

1 1/2 lbs chicken breast or chicken tenders, shredded
12 ounces pasta, cooked al dente
1 large tomato, diced
6-8 basil leaves, finely diced
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
salt and pepper, as needed to taste

vinaigrette
(this recipe makes more than you’ll need for the pasta salad – use the rest on greens, veggies, or as a marinade for fish or poultry!)

1 medium shallot, finely diced
2 tablespoons honey
3/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 cup fresh grapefruit juice
4 tbsp fresh lime juice
salt and pepper to taste

in a large bowl, combine shredded chicken (this is my preferred method of preparing the shredded chicken), cooled pasta, tomato, basil, feta cheese, and red pepper flakes. in a mason jar or reusable container, combine shallot, honey, olive oil, white wine vinegar, orange juice, grapefruit juice, lime juice, salt, and pepper. toss as much dressing as you like in with the chicken and pasta mixture, then add extra salt and pepper as needed. you can serve this warm and eat it immediately, or chill it until you’re ready – it’s yummy either way.

ginger-snapped | citrus & chicken pasta salad

a more exciting saturday

i admit to not always taking full advantage of my weekends. sometimes, i spend half the day lounging around reading or watching movies. sometimes, brady and i go for a long walk. sometimes, i just take a hot bath and drink wine. dog walking is a fun way to spend the day, but i’m rarely left with enough energy to do anything productive, which seems to overflow into the weekend. fortunately for me, my bosses are two fantastic women who happen to love food and beer just as much as i do. and the other weekend, a big group of us headed to barleycorn’s craft brew in natick to brew our very own beer. having never actually participated in beer brewing before, in spite of studying the process and having multiple friends that brew, i was beyond excited to get started. i know a lot of people are great at full-out home brewing, but for my first attempt i was really glad to have experienced brewers around to answer questions and keep us on the right track. the staff at barleycorn’s was patient and helpful, and we also had a few guys in our group that knew exactly what they were doing – very helpful with a bunch of newbies, especially since we were sipping beer and hard cider through most of the process.

rather than rewriting the beer-making process in my own (probably undereducated) words, i’d rather tell our little story through my photographs. if you want the nitty gritty details, i’ll refer you to this delightful and simple explanation, or this more thorough, scientific version.

you can always bring your own recipes to follow, but barleycorn’s provides a number of recipes to choose from. (thank goodness.)

milling the grains took some teamwork.

steeping the grains…

next, we measured out extracts to provide some extra flavor and speed up the brewing process…

…along with hops and sugar. since we made saison and schwarz beers, we also got to add bitter orange to the mix.

stirring involved giant paddles.

after measuring the estimated alcohol content of our beer, we cooled and strained the wort and then transferred it into fermentation tanks, where yeast was added.

after a few more beers, we left our beer behind to ferment and have been waiting with anticipation ever since. and this upcoming weekend, we’ll all head back to bottle our beers and take them home. i can’t wait to taste the final product – i have a handful of friends that all brew their own beer, and i have a feeling that after tasting beer i helped to make, i’ll want to try it again…and again.

thanks so much to barleycorn’s for letting me wander around with my camera!

edible boston

sometimes, an amazing opportunity comes up that you just have to go for. as a food writer and photographer, getting an original recipe published in a local magazine is an incredible honor – one that i experienced for the first time several weeks ago.

if you don’t already read edible boston (or any of the other edible community magazines), do yourself a big favor and go pick up a copy today. they’re available at farmstands, natural food markets, whole foods stores, and local businesses around town, and feature stories, photographs, and recipes from the greater boston community. i was privileged to hear ilene bezahler and michael piazza speak about their publication at the international conference of food styling and photography last summer, and have long admired the beautiful images, inspiring stories, and authentic representations of our food community here in boston.

when edible boston began promoting a recipe contest on their facebook page, seeking recipes featuring the tomato, i knew that i just had to submit my recipe for tomato, cheddar, and basil summer pie. the simple but incredibly satisfying recipe features layers of heirloom tomatoes, sharp cheddar, basil, vinegar, and oil, all wrapped in light, flaky biscuit crust. it’s easy to make and just oozes late summer, and is a beautiful way to feature those gorgeous tomatoes you grow in your backyard (or, if you’re like me and don’t have a garden, bought at the farmer’s market!).

i was thrilled when my recipe, along with several others, won the honor of being featured in edible boston’s fall 2012 issue. our recipes were prepared by the team and photographed by the talented michael piazza, and i’m so honored to have been chosen among these other delicious-looking recipes. thank you, edible boston!

in other news, things have been busy for me – i recently began working during the day as a dog walker, which i’m absolutely loving. it’s so fun to be outside, working with animals all day, and it gives me great opportunities to snap photos of our incredibly photogenic dog clients. it’s also given me time and inspiration to create a new online photography portfolio, which i’m delighted to debut today.

things are looking up! i made some incredible meatloaf the other day that i promise will make an appearance soon. enjoy these last beautiful days of summer!

 

two years

two years ago, i was working in retail and wondering where my life was heading. i had a great husband and a gorgeous apartment, but my technical theatre dreams weren’t panning out and i wasn’t really sure what i wanted to do as a career. i was feeling incredibly discouraged, confused, and directionless.

two years ago, i knew i loved to cook, but didn’t want to be a chef. i knew that i wanted to learn more about food, but i didn’t want to study food science. and i knew that i loved beautiful images, but i didn’t know how to create them myself.

two years ago, i applied for a master’s degree, dusted off my old point-and-shoot camera, and started this blog. and i haven’t looked back.

not gonna lie, those first food photographs were hardly gorgeous. it took a lot of time and patience (and some handy online tutorials), but eventually i got the hang of it. and now i can create photographs that i’m pretty proud of, with a camera that’s a bit more professional. i’ve graduated with a master’s degree in gastronomy. i’ve landed a job as a food writer and photographer for an online magazine startup. and i feel like i’m finally doing something that i love, something that gives me a purpose, something that makes me incredibly happy.

i have to say a huge, HUGE thank you to my readers and supporters these last two years. my blog has always just been a way for me to express myself through food, and your support and kind words have meant more to me than i can ever say. as a small token of my appreciation, it’s time for me to host my very first giveaway!

what’s the prize? a gorgeous photo puzzle from shutterfly, featuring one of my food photographs. i’ve given these puzzles as gifts before, and they come out absolutely beautiful. this may seem like a bizarre giveaway for a food blog, but i grew up doing puzzles with my grandparents at their cabin on the lake in ontario. the cabin was simple and beautiful, with no tv or other distractions, so we’d play cards and do puzzles, ride the boat across the lake for ice cream, and catch teeny tiny frogs on the shore. puzzles are so nostalgic for me, and they always bring me joy and remind me of spending time with my family.

some of my favorite images are in this post, but the winner can choose whichever photo they want from my blog to be turned into a puzzle. to enter, all you need to do is leave a comment on this post with your favorite recipe from my blog – either one that you’ve made yourself before or one that you want to try. the contest will be open for one week (until the end of july 18th), and the winner will be selected using random.org’s number generator and notified by email.

thanks again for reading, and good luck!

eta: this giveaway is now closed. thanks so much to everyone for participating and spreading the word, and a big congratulations to kimmy from lighter and local!

road trip: europe – paris

what hasn’t already been said about paris? the food, the architecture, the sights, the crowds, the pastries, the snooty french citizens that seemed to hate us…paris is a lot to take in.

like probably every american girl in history, i’ve always wanted to go to paris. the city is huge, so alive, and always seems to be the ultimate romantic, beautiful, life-changing destination.

and don’t get me wrong – it is. paris is gorgeous. but it’s also… overwhelming. the city is absolutely huge, and as a two-night stop in an eight-day road trip, it’s hard to feel like we saw even a hint of what parisian life is like.

after a lovely morning in prague, we ducked into the car, struggled with our gps, and finally set off on our ten-hour drive through germany and the french countryside to arrive in paris. by the time we arrived at our hotel just outside the city, it was past midnight, and it was all i could do to crawl into bed and sip some wine from the minibar…

…but the next morning, we were finally, finally in paris. beautiful paris. crowded, bustling paris. cold, rainy, springtime paris.

i’m sure it didn’t help that we were there on easter sunday, and everywhere we went was absolutely crawling with tourists. with only one full day in the city before we had to head to our next destination, i resigned myself to joining them and went to see the notre dame cathedral, the louvre, the arc de triumph, the eiffel tower…all the typical sight-seeing spots. we rode in a motorbike, enjoyed croissants and espresso by the river, and stood on the edge of the huge crowd gawking at the mona lisa.

and if you’ve never braved the terrifying crowds to see this beautifully small painting, here’s a quick (shaky!) video to give you an idea of what we faced.

hardly the way to study this magnificent work of art…but i suppose we can say that we (sort of) saw it.

but there were some definite highlights. wandering french alleys, having some kind american stranger give us his used tickets to the louvre so that we could skip the line and get in for free (thanks again!), eating incredible cheeses and enjoying local wine with every meal…and being able to drive around in such a huge city was a lot of fun. all the guidebooks tell you not to, that americans can’t handle it, but my husband did a great job. we got to drive through some beautiful neighborhoods and see things like the moulin rouge that we probably wouldn’t have otherwise seen.

while paris was actually not my favorite french destination from our trip, it was a delight. and i hope to someday spend a bit more time in this magnificent city.

want more? check out my initial posts on our eight-day, eight-country road trip through europe, our first night in prague, and watch my short video with some of the highlights. next up later this week? lyon, the gastronomic capital of paris – and one of the most beautiful, relaxing places we visited in europe.

barcelona, marathons, and tapas

have you ever stepped off a plane in a brand new place, and immediately felt like you were home?

i’ve been lucky enough to experience this feeling twice in my life. once when i moved to san diego to work with an amazing theatre company in coronado…and once this weekend, in beautiful barcelona.

i know i’ve been gushing a lot recently about gorgeous cities. part of it is because i love to travel, and this is my first time in europe and i’m a little overexcited. another part is because it doesn’t quite seem real. i feel very blessed to have the opportunity to spend several months living in and traveling through europe.

but mostly, i carry on because these cities are breathtaking. and for me, barcelona is right at the top of the list of amazing places that i’ve visited.

sun-drenched, sandy beaches. bicycles, skateboards, and brightly-colored taxi cabs. sparkling sea water. spanish architecture covered in bright street art and graffiti. tapas and sangria. palm trees and gardens everywhere. huge outdoor sculptures. fresh seafood. wide streets and narrow alleyways. friendly, smiling people. 100-year-old construction projects. tiny bars and cafes. clear skies and warm sunshine. and these deliciously addictive little steak sliders called pepitos.

i know, i know. i just wrote multiple blog posts about how i don’t want to eat meat on a daily basis, and here i am carrying on about steak sliders. i’m sure you must all think i’m a dreadful hypocrite. i don’t have much of a defense – i absolutely love food, and it’s hard for me to rationalize limiting my eating choices when i’m in a new country for only a few days. but honestly, i only ate a few – and they were totally worth it. and i enjoyed them enough that it won’t be hard to avoid red meat for awhile, since nothing will compare to those little burgers.

spanish food is just too delicious to ignore. enjoying tapas is a wonderful way to eat – you get to try tiny bites of everything, and it forces you to eat at a more leisurely pace. you sip your sangria, chat with friends, share bits of everything, and laugh your way through delightfully relaxing meals. and trust me: nothing gets you ready for several days of sight-seeing like a pitcher of sangria. 

we walked all over the city, making friends and finding beautiful hidden corners and side streets.

we visited a huge indoor market, with every fruit, vegetable, fish, meat, juice, honey, jam, candy, oil, and pastry you can possibly imagine.

we made friends in this tiny, ridiculous place that only served cava and burgers, who introduced us to leche de pantera, a deliciously strong cocktail with a ridiculous name.

and we spent almost an hour walking around and staring at gaudi’s basilica de la sagrada familia, a staggeringly huge cathedral that’s incredibly detailed and absolutely beautiful.

even the craziness of a 15,000-person marathon didn’t diminish the beauty of this city. watching my husband and friends finish the race was a blast, even if they did abandon us at the finish line. at least we had beer to keep us entertained. and really, when you’re sitting on the grass by a huge, gorgeous fountain in spain, it’s hard to stay mad for long.

and that seems to be the magic of the city. the people seem so contented, and when you get to wake up to gorgeous water, beautiful architecture, and delicious food every morning, it’s easy to understand why. i’ve enjoyed living in budapest, but i absolutely loved my brief time in barcelona.

and if i get my way, maybe one day i’ll live there too.

luck o’ the irish

while my family isn’t actually irish, my super pale skin, auburn hair, and green eyes mean that everyone assumes that i have a coat of arms* and a castle somewhere. but since my favorite beer is guinness and my preferred drinking experience is sitting in a pub with friends, going to ireland has always been a dream for me. i have always dreamed that i would fit right in.

i don’t think i was wrong.

having lived in boston for almost ten years, i can say with confidence that i know my way around an irish pub. spending saint patrick’s day running around in dublin truly felt like being at home, and made my husband incredibly homesick. i admit to having a few pangs myself. (hello, family and friends! we’ll be back soon!)

but a fair warning for my fellow travelers: while i was thrilled to be in dublin, and it was a blast to see the gorgeous, colorful streets and sights like saint patrick’s cathedral and trinity college and (naturally) the guinness factory, spending st patrick’s day in dublin isn’t exactly the ideal setting to enjoy ireland. for one thing, pretty much all the irish people leave.

can’t say i blame them. the streets were absolutely overrun with drunk tourists, wearing all manner of red beards, leprechaun hats, and shamrock paraphernalia, shouting at their friends and shoving their way through the crowd to get a better view of the parade. the best times for sight-seeing were in the morning, while everyone was still sleeping off their hangovers and we were free to wander the quiet streets without interruption.

one thing we didn’t get to do nearly enough of is eat irish food. traveling to a foreign country and back is a lot to do in a weekend, and this was our shortest trip yet – we only had one full day in ireland, which really limits the number of meals (especially when lunch is basically just a lot of guinness). it seemed appropriate, upon arriving back in budapest, to put together a simple irish dish to enjoy with our evening meal: irish potato torte. this (non-photogenic, but delicious) dish is like a cross between a lasagna and a gratin – layers and layers of potatoes, cabbage, cheddar cheese, bacon, and onions, baked to bubbly perfection.

need i say more? the only adaption i made to this recipe was adding a diced white onion and sauteing it in butter, then adding it to the bacon and cabbage mixture. feel free to omit this if you’d rather follow the original, but the onions give it a touch of sweetness that i really enjoyed with the bacon.

enjoy with corned beef and a perfectly-poured glass of guinness – and i hope you had a wonderful (and safe) saint patrick’s day.

*jones does have a coat of arms – because it’s welsh. but that sort of ruins my point.

sweden, denmark, and the plant-based diet

this weekend, steve and i were fortunate enough to be able to visit two countries i never thought i’d get to see: sweden and denmark.

i did not bring warm enough clothes. but these countries are absolutely gorgeous, particularly the city of copenhagen, where we met up with a few of steve’s friends and got to view the city through a local’s eyes.

of course, on our way to copenhagen (taxi, plane, bus, train, metro, train), we stopped in the swedish city of malmo for lunch at a little place called victors, and had a chance to wander around a bit before our train to copenhagen arrived.

when we finally arrived in denmark, we were fortunate to be able to stay with two different and wonderfully kind couples, who showed us around the city, brought us to fabulous restaurants, and put up with my constant photo-taking.

copenhagen is beautiful. buildings can only be built to a short height of six stories, so the city has an open, breezy feel to it. every street has wide bike lanes that are slightly raised from traffic, and absolutely everyone seems to ride their bicycle around town. while this dynamic makes things a bit hectic when walking for hours, it also gives the city a delightfully charming feel.

one of steve’s triathlete friends, david deak, was even kind enough to cook a few meals for us with his girlfriend, sharing his plant-based diet and food philosophy with us. one of our meals were these absolutely delicious buckwheat and quinoa pancakes. you must try them, immediately.

despite the cold wind that refused to die down, we were able to see all of the major copenhagen sights: the little mermaid, the opera house, the royal palace…

…and the free town of christiania, one of my favorite sights from the trip. there’s nothing quite like seeing hash and marijuana for sale in a display case. of course, i couldn’t take pictures inside this autonomous, rebellious little community, but i did get a photo of the gate separating the commune from the rest of the city:

love it.

we even visited the carlsberg brewery, and saw the largest collection of unopened beer bottles in the world.

as we took our hundred and one trains, buses, and planes back to budapest, steve and i couldn’t help talking constantly about how many animal products we consume on a daily basis. it’s easy to think that i eat a well-balanced diet because i like fruits and vegetables, but i’ve realized just how many quick sandwiches and bowls of pasta i often eat in my hurry to get out the door and explore the city. as much as i love veggies, i’m not consistently eating in a healthy way.

as a girl who finds it hard to imagine a day without smelly cheeses, crusty bread, or rare steaks, i was intrigued by the idea of plant-based eating. and while i’m not sure that i could completely give up meats, fish, and dairy for good, it seems like my diet could use a change. hungarian food is mostly chicken, with serious amounts of pasta, dumplings, and cream-based sauces on the side, and i’ve been struggling a lot with finding a healthy balance between the veggies i love and the rich, delicious local cuisine. but i think it’s time for me to stop eating meat and cheese at every single meal and get healthier, especially if i’m serious about eventually completing a marathon. it may even help my knee to heal completely and let me finally start running on a regular basis. and if limiting my intake of meats and cheeses will also help me lose weight, how can it be a bad thing?

so we’ll see what the future holds. going fully vegetarian over the summer wasn’t a completely successful experiment, but it did show me that if i want to try limiting my weekly intake of animal products, i need to spend more time and research planning my daily meals – something i tend to avoid. perhaps something as simple as meatless mondays is just what i need to get me on track.

would love to hear thoughts from some of my fellow foodies! how much meat, fish, and dairy products do you typically eat during the week? would you ever consider a vegetarian, vegan, or plant-based diet, or have you ever followed one? and am i nuts to think about starting this while still living in europe?

roman holiday

is there another place as beautiful as italy?

we’ve taken a few weekends away to travel so far while we’ve been here (and we have a number of weekends planned), but this was the first where i felt like i barely scratched the surface of what the city had to offer. two days isn’t long anywhere, but in a city as ancient, historical, and enormous as rome, it’s hard not to feel like we didn’t see anything.

but in reality, we saw a lot. much of our time was spent walking around the city, trying to soak in as much italian culture as possible without being trampled by herds of tourists. we had pizza and handmade pasta and plenty of wine, wandered through wide piazzas and tiny alleys, made friends with lots of (very friendly) italian dogs, and walked about 15 miles in two days. and how can you not love a city that greets you in the morning with this view from your hotel window?

of course, we also did the obligatory tourist things, visiting the vatican museum, st. peter’s basilica, the colosseum, roman forum, etc. and though we were in awe much of the time, it was just as incredible to simply walk around, since around every corner there would literally be ancient ruins, just sitting in the middle of a hillside or city square. to quote eddie izzard, “there’s tons of history, just lying about the place.” ridiculous.

the vatican museum and sistine chapel make you feel a little crazy – there’s just so much to see. we looked until our necks cramped, and then looked a little more.

and the colosseum is absolutely staggering, inside and out. there aren’t words.

we may have gotten lost a few times…but it meant we got to see some great hidden corners of the city.

i loved everything, but my favorite thing (naturally) was the food! i had the most incredible veal-stuffed ravioli, delicious street cart panini sandwiches, crispy margarita pizza, tender lasagna on handmade noodles…and of course, tiramisu gelato. it’s a good thing we did so much walking.

arrivederci, italy. i promise, i’ll be back.