easter appetizers: crème fraîche deviled eggs + pear, prosciutto and honied chèvre bites

Spring is now slowly sauntering it's way across the mid-atlantic. Flowers are blooming, the sun actually provides a modicum of warmth, and it just smells better (what, you don't notice the absence of ice on the breeze with a tinge of goose poop?). I'm convinced I'm a solar-powered person, and I've certainly been much happier and much more productive in the last week. Being able to walk outside and have a wave of warm air with the soft scent of blooming magnolias overtake me is generally a +5 to my mood.

magnolias are my absolute favorite flower, I wish they bloomed for more than a few weeks out of the year...

Anyways, I blame the abundance of fresh-squeezed valencia and pineapple mimosas on Easter Sunday for not having this post ready on the day of. Better late than never? I decided to tweak some traditional dishes and see what the family thought: I played on deviled eggs (adding the creamy richness of crème fraîche instead of mayonaise and topping it with gravlax) and the staple of honey-baked ham (salty prosciutto balancing with the creamy tartness of chèvre, while honey and sliced pears bring the sweet to the savory).

In case you aren't aware, I could eat salmon all day, every day. I kid you not, I am addicted to the buttery-soft texture of sushi-grade salmon, the perfect balance of pungent onions, smooth cream cheese and salmon you get with bagels + lox, the rich and intense taste of smoked salmon--oh god. I'm drooling again, aren't I? Gravlax was something I've had before, but only as a dish unto itself. Gravlax isn't smoked, but rather it's salt-cured with dill and sugar. Way back yonder in the middle ages, some genius fishermen in the region of the world where reindeer and vikings ruled the roost decided to bury salted salmon in the sand (say that five times fast) and let it ferment. In many nordic languages, the word grav means grave, where the more familiar term lax means salmon. Over the years, we've stopped fermenting the fish in order to prepare gravlax, and we're left with a more mild version. Wait, did I really just spend a half an hour of my time researching the history of salt-cured salmon? No regrets!

I purchased Grindstone Neck of Maine's gravlax not only because they are awesome and support sustainable seafood harvesting practices, but also because I'd tried their smoked clams a few months ago and they were absolutely delicious.

Woof, that was a lot of preamble. Anyways! Without further ado, I give you my pre-game tasties for Easter:

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crème fraîche deviled eggs with gravlax

  • 1.5 dozen hard-boiled eggs
  • 4 oz of gravlax
  • 4 oz of crème fraîche
  • 3 tablespoons of mustard (if using dried, be careful! it tends to be stronger than prepared mustard)
  • chives and fleur de sel, for garnish

if you're getting your eggs straight from a chicken like I'm lucky enough to, make sure you're using OLD eggs (2+ weeks), or they'll be a pain in the booty to peel.

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Peel your hardboiled eggs and slice them in half length-wise. Arrange the whites on a plate, or a fancy egg-dish if you've one at your disposal.

If you have some where the yolk is extremely close to the white, you can get creative with your cutting and make differently staggered cups instead of having to throw them in the discard pile (discard pile = the waiting mouth of any of our dogs).

Place the yolks in a large bowl and mash them until they are as homogenous as possible.

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Add the crème fraîche (it may separate--but don't pour out the liquid on top. It's whey, and it's got lots of protein in it) and the mustard. Depending on how big of a mustard fan you are, I wouldn't hesitate to add more if you'd like to really get a tart punch in. But be careful! The mustard can easily overpower the gravlax, so do your best to find a good balance. You may need to add water in small increments to the mixture in order to achieve a consistency that is easily piped.

Fill a piping bag with the yolk mixture, then pipe in to the cavities of the egg whites.

this is our chive-chicken. get it?! like...chive turkey!? ahhhhhahahahaha, I'm so funny and clever.

Slice the gravlax in to approximately one inch scalene triangles (and you said you'd never use geometry in the real world. ha!). Gently roll the slices to create a spiral shape, then place atop the yolk mixture.

chives, eggs, gravlax

Coarsely chop the chives, then sprinkle them atop the eggs. Give them a light dusting of fleur de sel, and voila! A tasty little labor of love popping with bright colors.

On to the other! This a very simple recipe that yielded great results. Do you know the Rice Krispies commercial from the 90s that's always aired around the Winter holidays? The one where the mother whips up a batch of Rice Krispie treats, then sprinkles flour on her face before feigning exasperation before delivering the plate of goodies? This is pretty much the same situation, except you've no miserably stubborn and sticky pan, and the preparation takes about 1/4 of the time. 

pear, prosciutto and honied chèvre bites

  • 4 oz. of chèvre (plain will do just fine, but I scooped some honied cheese from Trader Joe's)
  • 1 bartlett pear
  • 4 oz. of prosciutto
  • 1 package of 34° Wholegrain Crispbread (any mild cracker will work)
  • honey, to be drizzle atop

Arrange the crackers on a plate or platter. Tear or slice sheets or prosciutto in half, then lightly fold and place atop the crackers. Cut the chèvre in to approximately 1/4 inch slices and place atop the prosciutto. Wash and slice the pears and (you guessed it!) place atop the cheese. Drizzle crackers with honey (I'd suggest using a generous amount if your chèvre isn't of the honied variety) and watch as your guests fight over the sweet and savory concoction.

I used my leftover chèvre to make a quick little cheese platter. Fresh pineapple, buckwheat honey, pears and strawberries made for a sweet version of the pre-meal cheese party.

All-in-all, we had a great variety of food; smoked meats, fruit, green and potato salad, lasagna (that'll be my next food post!) chocolates, and cookies. I've good reason for getting up at the crack of dawn and going to the gym all last week--let's hope that's a new habit I can keep up.

Before I go off to bed, here's some photos of an amazing detour I took yesterday on my way home from this shoot. I spent close to half an hour walking around in awe at the amazing abundance of Purple Deadnettle. Apparently, it's a good source of early pollen for bees!

check out the fat gopher!!

check out the fat gopher!!

And this is what I look like when I'm STOKED to be surrounded by so much purple.

And this is what I look like when I'm STOKED to be surrounded by so much purple.

Hope everyone had a great weekend and is ready for whatever nonsense Monday morning is going to be throwing at us. Until next time! -Mary

mediterranean quinoa​ everything-but-the-sink salad + spicy lemon sage baked chicken

Hooray, a food post! If you'll remember in my last edible entry, I lamented the fact that there wasn't bountiful, swirling snow on the ground to accompany my day of cooking. Well, jokes on me, right? After being comfortably aware of impending spring (read: dying for sunlight and dresses and flowers etc.etc.etc.), the first thing I saw this morning was snow caking the skylight above my bed. Womp-womp.

snow, slush, sleet.

I suppose I should do a quick recap of the past few weeks, in that I've done lots of fun stuff. The three most notable of these are that I 1.) got a super hipsteryawesome haircut, 2.) visited Savannah, Georgia for the debaucherously green holiday of Saint Patrick's Day, and 3.) took an overnight trip down the Eastern Shore purely for the sake of exploring via cameras.

Savannah was, as always, full of welcoming arms, familiar faces, and bottomless cups. It was in the mid-70s every day, and the azaleas and other flowers threw splashes of riotous color everywhere. It was a pleasure to be barefoot by the ocean, even if it was too cold to jump in, and to be in the company of people who make me laugh until my head hurts. A mark of true friendship is the ability to consume Waffle House at 4 a.m. and make conscious menu choices based on sharing one bathroom between seven people. 

azaleas! | photo-booth adventures | Tybee Island, Georgia

I spent two whole days at my desk job before taking off for the overnight adventure with my fellow photographer and adventure buddy, Mike. We'd talked multiple times in the past about the urge to stop and take photographs while travelling, but how this generally tends to irk travel companions. The other issue with just stopping to photograph whatever catches your eye is that you can come up with a million reasons why you shouldn't do so. Spending two beautiful (but cold) days doing nothing but photographing whatever caught our fancy was not only incredibly rewarding, but it also helped to revive inspiration and confidence in my shooting style. I really enjoyed the challenge of shooting landscapes (and eating chicken & waffles for the first time, ever!) I am so excited to see the 4x5 and 35mm work that Mike shot, and to share what I captured once I'm finished the post work on it.

one of the many barren corn fields in Delaware | Mike tinkering with the 4x5 camera | somewhere outside of Easton, Maryland

So, about that food post, huh? (Sorry, I was just excited to share my cool adventures!) Almost two weeks worth of food on the road coupled with the vastly contrasting scenery has had me absolutely d.y.i.n.g. for some veggies. My chilly booty decided to cook up some of the super-grain quinoa, and clean out the fridge to add accompanying veggies for a "everything-but-the-sink" salad. Lemon sage (dried and from our garden) is a rare find for most pantries, but it's worth the hunt to acquire--it smells potently of citrus, but adds a delicate and non-acidic lemon flavor to whatever dish it is used in.

Whoa. Wait! Quinwhat? If you've never heard of it before, here's a quick few facts (if you've been enlightened, then feel free to skip over this little section). Quinoa is a seed that is considered a super-food; it is a chenopod, which means it is in the same sub-family as spinach and beets. It was domesticated and considered the "Mother of Grains" by ancient Incans (think: ~3000 years old!), but has only recently become a more globally-available good. But Mary, that's only mildly interesting. Why should I care about this little seed? Okay, I'll get to the point! 1.) 14% protein by volume AND is a complete protein (meaning it contains all nine essential aminos that your body so loves) 2.) It's a great source of fiber, and is packed with phosphorus, iron and calcium 3.) it's gluten-free, and 4.) it is prepared exactly like rice, and you can do so in a rice-cooker, if you are so equipped. If you're not sold yet, get outta my blog! If you are, head over here for some more info on Quinoa, and keep reading for a tasty, healthy, and super simple recipe. 

mediterranean quinoa everything-but-the-sink salad + spicy lemon sage baked chicken

salad ingredients

  • 1.5 cups uncooked quinoa.
  • 0.5 cup of Balsamic vinegar.
  • 2-3 red, yellow or orange peppers, diced.
  • 1 cup of button mushrooms, diced.
  • 1 medium broccoli floret, coarsely chopped.
  • 1 medium cauliflower floret, coarsely chopped.
  • 1 block of feta, crumbled/chopped.
  • 1 cup of Kalamata olives, pitted and diced.  
  • 0.5 tablespoon of garlic powder.
  • 0.5 tablespoon of mustard powder.
  • salt + pepper, to taste.

note: as this is a clean-out-the-fridge recipe, any variety of veggies would work well here. spinach, cucumbers, onions, asparagus, tomatoes, etc. go crazy, get creative! 

chicken ingredients:

  • 1.5 pounds of chicken thighs
  • 1 teaspoon of dried lemon sage
  • 1 teaspoon of dried mint
  • 1 teaspoon of dried garlic
  • 0.5 teaspoon of crushed red pepper
  • 0.5 teaspoon of Italian seasoning
  • 0.5 teaspoon of dried cilantro
  • 0.5 teaspoon of oregano
  • 0.75 tablespoon of sea salt
  • 0.5 tablespoon of coarse ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon of honey

Italian seasoning, ground Mustard, crushed Red Pepper, Cilantro, Oregano, Garlic powder.

Prepare your quinoa (1.5 cu) as noted by the harvesters--some quinoa requires soaking beforehand. Generally, quinoa takes about as long as rice to cook, and will need about 30-40 minutes of regular stirring to cool to room temperature, so you can use that space of time to marinate your 'shroooms, and to prep your chicken and get the dry-rub going.

When your quinoa is done cooking (it should be soft, but still a little firm and chewy), transfer it to a large bowl and fluff/stir frequently to help cool.

herb-rubbed chicken | itty, bitty beautiful lemon sage leaves

Mix all dry ingredients for chicken thoroughly (lemon sage, mint, garlic, red pepper, Italian seasoning, cilantro, sea salt, pepper), then rub in to thighs. Drizzle olive oil (1 tsp) and honey (1 tsp) on to chicken, and mix thoroughly again. Set aside to soak up all the herby-oily-honey goodness for 10-15 minutes. Pre-heat oven to 400º and get to chopping your veggies.

marinating mushrooms | pretty peppers

Dice mushrooms (1 cu), then place in a wide, shallow bowl or high-walled plate, and pour Balsamic vinegar (.5 cu) on. Add garlic powder (.5 tbsp), mustard powder (.5 tbsp), and salt and pepper; stir and set aside. Dice/chop other vegetables, and olives + feta and set aside.

kalamata olives + feta | broccoli + cauliflower

Once you've reached your allotted marinade time, place chicken in 9x12 glass dish, tightly cover with aluminum foil and bake for 25-30 minutes. Your quinoa should be warm to the touch at this point, so go ahead and mix in all of your diced/chopped veggies and cheeses. There should be a bit of balsamic vinegar that the mushrooms did not absorb, but if not, pour another 0.5 cup in to the quinoa mixture. Mix well, and voila! Eat it up.

The quinoa salad is a tasty as a warm accompaniment to the chicken, but it can absolutely stand alone as a filling main-plate. It's also great as a cold leftover (guess what I'm having for lunch tomorrow!?), and as it's a "grain" and raw vegetables, it will keep well for several days. If you've never had quinoa before, I do hope you'll give it a whirl. It's incredibly good for you, and very versatile--I do have a recipe for quinoa pancakes if you ask nicely. 

Cheers to you, dear reader, and to Spring...as reluctant as it is to get here! -Mary

p.s. there is exactly two weeks between these two photographs...what a chilly contrast. can I be back on the beach, please!? no? okay. I'll just cry in to my quinoa...