Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Artichoke and Feta Tarts

I like a photography challenge, especially if it's food related.  I've participated in a few on Flickr in the past. I came across a monthly food styling and photography challenge by Jungle Frog Cooking via a Google+ contact and decided to participate in this month's challenge. Each month a recipe and photo are provided from Donna Hay Magazine and the challenge is to make the recipe and duplicate the photo. Minor alterations are ok but it should look similar to the photo used in the magazine. Sounds like fun right? You can get more details/rules for the contest on the Donna Hay Styling and Photography Challenge page.

Artichoke and Feta Tarts is the 7th challenge and it appears to be an easy one compared to some of the ones they've done in the past. The recipe was very simple.  It's always the easy recipes I seem to mess up.  I did read through all of the instructions before starting but didn't follow the instructions as carefully as I should have.

My first goof was putting the peas and tomatoes on the puff pastry before baking it.  I was thinking they would be baked too but I was wrong. Luckily I realized this mistake just before putting them in the oven so I was able to scrape off most of the tomatoes and peas but didn't get all of peas.  You'll notice a few brown wrinkled peas in the photo, sure I could have picked them off but I figured it would add to the photo and be a little different than the other submissions.

My second goof was on the temperature of the oven.  I saw 200 degrees in the recipe and so I set my oven to 200 degrees, baked the puff pastry for 14 minutes as suggested but it was not puffing up. at. all.  I checked the recipe again to make sure I got the temperature right and sure enough it said 200 degrees but wait what is that after 200?  Yeah that's a C meaning Celsius. Doh!  So I cranked up the heat to 400 and cooked it a while longer and it puffed up and was nice and golden brown and flakey like it should be. Whew!

I made some minor changes to the original recipe.  I used grape tomatoes rather than cherry tomatoes.  I left out the white balsamic vinegar and I used much less feta cheese than instructed.  250g is more than a small tub of crumbled feta and I only used about half of one.  I wasn't sure how 62g would even fit on one square of puff pastry. Cheese isn't really in my diet and neither is the puff  pasty so I did cheat a little for this little project.

I styled the tarts pretty closely to how they were styled in the original photo.  I used a two light setup on my dining room table.  I used Metz strobes on each side of the table, both set at 1/4 power.  One was shot through an umbrella and the other bounced into an umbrella and triggered them using Pocket Wizard Plus II's.  I put my tripod on the table and carefully weighed down two of the legs with diving ankle weights so it wouldn't tip over from the weight of the camera.  I used a step ladder to frame the shot in live view and triggered the shutter with a remote.

Camera Equipment: Olympus E-5 with 12-60mm lens
Settings: 30mm, F5.6, 1/60, ISO 200.
Setup Shot
Artichoke and Feta Tarts Recipe
Serves: 4
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
Total time: 25 minutes

  • 1 sheet store bought puff pastry (thawed)
  • 250g feta (crumbled)
  • 4 artichoke hearts (marinated and halved)
  • 1 egg (lightly beaten)
  • 100g mixed cherry tomatoes (halved)
  • 120g frozen peas (thawed)
  • 1/4 cup mint leaves
  • olive oil (for drizzling)
  • white balsamic vinegar (for drizzling)
Preheat oven to 200 C (390 F). Cut the pastry into 4 squares and score a 1 cm border around each square. Place the square on a baking tray lined with non stick baking paper and top with feta and artichoke. Brush the pastry borers with the egg and bake for 12-14 minutes or until golden
Place the tomato, peas and mint in a medium bowl, drizzle with olive oil and white balsamic and toss to combine. Top the tarts with the tomatoe salad to serve.

Original Magazine Photo
Artichoke and Feta Tarts
My Version
Artichoke and Tomatoes Tomatoes and Peas

Monday, March 12, 2012

Whole Foods Lynnwood Opening

It's always exciting to hear about a new market opening. Whole Foods isn't a 100% organic grocery but it does carry quite a bit of organics and prides itself in not carrying products with any artificial colors and flavorings.  Their meats come from animals raised on vegetation and without antibiotics or growth hormones.  The quality of their products are much healthier than what you'd find at a regular grocery store.  This new store is located where the old Circuit City was, on 196th Street and 28th Ave W.

I had the opportunity to take a tour of the new store a week before opening with a few other people in the community.  We talked to several people from each of the different departments to hear about the high quality products they will be offering and answer any questions we had.

This particular store is a little different than some of the others.  It is geared more toward families.  Here's a list of some of the unique things you'll find:
  • some bulk products for families
  • a butter station where you can grind nuts to make your own nut butters 
  • kids play area near the front of the store
  • Saturday Kids Club with activities like cooking, gardening and recycling
  • a demo station by produce where cooking demos and classes will take place
I gotta be honest, I don't usually pay that much attention to the decor of grocery stores. I kind of get tunnel vision and go in for what I need and get out as quickly as possible.  Since I didn't do any shopping during the tour I was able to take time to really look around and I gotta say it was pretty impressive.  There are a lot of fun colors throughout the store. Much of the store was decorated with reclaimed Douglas Fir and is lit with LED lighting.

There will be a grand opening celebration on Thursday, March 15th. Festivities will begin at 8:00 with a bread breaking ceremony.  The first 100 people will get a free baguette and a reusable shopping bag.  The Lynnwood High School band will be performing, free coffee, breakfast and lots of samples from vendors will be served.  So if you are free on Wednesday stop by and check out the new store.  You won't be disappointed.

Here are a few photos I took during the tour I went on last week.

Lynnwood Whole Foods Market Ceiling Decor Produce Bins Bulk Bags Dairy Deli Salad Bar Snacks Mt Townsend Creamery Cheeses

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Pork Belly Roast

Roasted Pork Belly RecipeI think I've only had pork belly once in my life but I can't think of where it was.  I saw some at PCC last week and decided to get some, not knowing what I was going to do with it.  This is the same cut of meat that bacon is made from. As you might imagine, it is a very fatty piece of meat. But don't let that scare you.  Most of the fat melts while roasting and keeps the meat nice and juicy.  Next time I get some I might try making my own bacon.

I spent just a few minutes looking for a recipe online and came across Jamie Oliver's Pork Belly recipe.  I followed it pretty closely.  My belly was a little smaller than the one in his recipe so I reduced the cook time by a little.  The only thing I didn't use from his recipe is celery. I even had some but forgot about it.  You can use any vegetables or fresh herbs you want and I'm sure it will turn out fine.

It turned out nice and tender with a crispy crust on it.  If it doesn't get crispy enough for you, you can always put it under the broiler for a few minutes. It's best fresh from the oven because you lose that crispy crust once it's refrigerated.  Below is a slightly modified recipe to Jamie's.

• 3 lb pork belly
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 1 large red onion, quartered
• 2 carrots, peeled and halved lengthways
• 1 bulb of garlic, skin on, broken into cloves
• a small bunch of fresh thyme, leaves picked
• 600ml water or stock

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Place pork belly on a clean work surface, skin-side upwards. Make scores about 1/2 inch apart through the skin into the fat, but not so deep that you cut into the meat. Rub salt into all the scores, pulling the skin apart a little if you have to. Brush any excess salt off the surface of the skin and turn it over. Season the underside of the meat with a little more salt and black pepper. Place skin side-up in a roasting tray big enough to hold the pork and vegetables, and place in the hot oven.

Roast for about half an hour until the skin of the pork has started to puff up and you can see it turning into crackling. Turn the heat down to 350 and roast for another hour.

Take out of the oven and baste with the fat in the bottom of the tray. Carefully transfer pork to a chopping board. Add all the veg, garlic and thyme to the tray and stir them into the fat. Place the pork on top of the vegetables and place back in the oven. Roast for another hour. By this time the meat should be meltingly soft and tender. Carefully move the meat to a serving dish lined with aluminum foil and fold the ends up the sides of the pork but don't cover or you'll lose the crispy skin.

Spoon away any fat in the tray, then add the water or stock and place the tray on the stove.  Bring to a boil and simmer for a few minutes, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon to scrape up all brown tasty bits on the bottom of the tray. When you’ve got a nice, dark gravy, pour it through a sieve into a bowl or gravy boat, using your spoon to really push all the goodness of the veg through the sieve. Add a little more salt and pepper if it needs it. Serve the pork with the crackling topped with the gravy.
Veggies Roasted Pork Belly

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Foodspotting at Hitchcock

Hitchcock RestaurantHitchcock restaurant seems to be Bainbridge Island's best kept secret.  This local farm to table restaurant has been open for about 2 years and is a nice 15 minute walk from the ferry terminal. They just recently opened a deli and charcuterie next door with house cured fish and meats.  But it doesn't stop there, they also have butchered meats, poultry, seafood and even serve soups, salads and sandwiches. The word is starting to get out about how good this place is as they are getting more and more customers coming over from Seattle.  If you're up for a little adventure and some good food, this place won't disappoint.

I went to Hitchock with a group of 10 Foodspotters from the Seattle area.  Foodspotting is a website where you can post photos of food you eat at restaurants using your phone.  It's available for Windows, iphone, Android and Blackberry.  You can also use it to find restaurants or just look at what pictures people have posted at a particular restaurant.  I like taking photos with my camera so I post my pics from my computer to their website: http://www.foodspotting.com/311654-paula-thomas.  There's usually a foodspotting eatup at least once a month in the Seattle area.  You can follow @foodspottingsea to find out where the next one will be.  Invites are usually sent via Facebook and depending on the location may be open to a limited number of people.  Valentina Vitols has been a wonderful organizer for these events.

Getting back to Hitchcock. We were seated in the back room near the kitchen and were all able to sit at the same table which made conversing with each other much easier.  Hitchcock put together a special Foodspotting menu just for us.  I am currently on a strict diet of no sugar, sweeteners, alcohol and gluten so there were a few things on the menu I wasn't able to try but there wasn't anything we were served that didn't go uneaten.

After our appetizers of oysters, mussels, a charcuterie plate and cotechino, we had two options for dinner.  I went with the root vegetable soup and pacific albacore.  The other choice was heirloom chicories and wood-fire Mad Hatcher chicken.  I admit I haven't eaten tuna besides the canned stuff or the raw stuff that's on sushi very often and wanted to try something new.  I was not disappointed with my choice.  The sear on the tuna was just perfect. I don't know how they made it so crispy without overcooking it but they did and it was the best tuna I've ever had.  Those that had the chicken claimed it was some of the best chicken they've had too.

Then there was dessert.  We ordered a variety of desserts, all 6 of them, to try out.  Unfortunately due to my diet, I was unable to try any of them.  They all looked so good.  The prosecco sorbet seemed to be people's favorite but they seemed to enjoy them all because there wasn't anything left on any of the plates.  I hope to make another visit after my health issues clear up so I can try some of those desserts.

*Click on the photo to see a detailed description of the food.*
Armondo and Valentina Foodspotting Menu Oysters Mussels Charcuterie steelhead and albacore Cotechino Foodspotting Behind the Scenes Root Vegetable Soup Pacific Albacore Desserts Hitchcock on Urbanspoon