Cleansing and a Recipe for Salmon Cooked in Parchment

Ingredients for Salmon Cooked in Parchment with Tarragon and Peas (c)2013 La Domestique

I’m stubborn. I don’t like to be told what to do. Try to push me and I’ll probably do exactly the opposite. Luckily, my husband finds this quality endearing. Was I born this way? Is it genetics, birth order (I’m the eldest), or ingrained in my Southern roots? Maybe my obstinate nature became stronger after I was diagnosed with leukemia at the age of nineteen. The chemo, the radiation, the doctors – I had to follow orders or die. I fell ill over the course of a weekend and was transported on an emergency jet from a tiny college town in Arkansas to MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. The next day I got a diagnosis of cancer and my first round of chemotherapy. Like a dog backed into a corner, I had no choice but to do what I was told. Months of chemo, radiation and a bone marrow transplant followed. The doctors handed down mandates. Because of the treatment, I would never be able to bear children. My chances of survival would be 20% at best. The treatment would destroy my body and cause lifelong side effects. If the treatment was successful, my body would heal and I would survive.

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Roast Chicken Legs with Mushroom Sauce

Roast Chicken Legs with Mushroom Sauce (c)2013 La Domestique

These photographs of Roast Chicken Legs with Mushroom Sauce were part of the series from my last post featuring Roasted Carrot Soup. I photographed this series  for a client and none of the recipes are my own. I cannot share the recipes here, but I thought you might enjoy the photos and a few tidbits I learned during the project. I don’t think I’ve ever bought chicken legs (meaning thigh and drumstick all in one piece), and I was pleasantly surprised by them. First, chicken legs are cheap – even cheaper per pound than buying a whole bird. Second, there’s a lot of meat on those bones. Third, the meat is quite tasty.

For this recipe, the chicken legs were simply roasted in a pan with onion wedges, a drizzle of oil, and a sprinkling of salt and pepper.  Once cooked through and golden brown, I set the chicken and onions aside and made a quick pan sauce. Sautéed onions and mushrooms simmered in a mixture of pan juices, red wine, milk, and flour until the sauce thickened. While the sauce simmered my husband and I nibbled at the roast onion wedges, which were the best part of the dish! Following the recipe, I served the roast chicken on a platter with a generous handful of fresh parsley and mushroom sauce on the side. After cooking this recipe, I think I’ll be using chicken legs more often, especially in braised or stewed dishes that call for a whole bird broken down into 8 pieces.

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Roasted Carrot Soup

Roasted Carrot Soup (c)2013 La Domestique

A few weeks ago I photographed this Roasted Carrot Soup recipe for a client and I’ve been on a pureed vegetable soup kick ever since. Root vegetables like carrots, beets, and squash add a pop of color to the soup bowl that’s most welcome during the grey days of winter. Try potato, celery root, or cauliflower for an elegant bowl of silky cream-colored soup. For years I’ve used the base recipe for How to Make Pureed Vegetable Soups from Martha Stewart’s Cooking School cookbook. Martha’s method involves three steps: sauté the aromatics (like onion and garlic), add the base vegetable and simmer in stock, puree the soup. The technique is simple and open to endless variations. You can use homemade vegetable or chicken stock in the soup, but I find water works just fine and lets the pure vegetable flavor shine. I can’t share the Roasted Carrot Soup recipe here, but I can tell you that the technique for slicing the carrots and roasting them in the oven (along with a head of garlic wrapped in foil) really pumped up the flavor. To make the puree I placed the roasted garlic cloves in a blender with the carrot, sautéed shallots and fresh ginger, and water. You can always thin a pureed vegetable soup if it’s too thick, so be judicious with the liquids until you’ve got the right consistency. The beauty of pureed vegetable soups is their ability to be rich and velvety without any cream or added thickeners. Finish the soup with a garnish of fresh herbs, good olive oil, or a few drops of aged balsamic vinegar.  

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Wheat Berry Salad with Roasted Fennel and Red Bell Pepper

Wheat Berry Salad with Roasted Fennel and Red Bell Pepper (c)2013 La Domestique

Hello there! We’re halfway through January, can you believe it? To be honest, the past couple of weeks have been a blur for me. Has it been that way for you too? After taking a little time to relax and enjoy the holidays, I’ve been completely overwhelmed getting back in the swing of things. It’s a good overwhelmed, though. I’ve been blessed with a lot of freelance photography and writing work, but as these things go I’m sure things will slow down come February. The freelance life is feast or famine. It’s been bitterly cold here in Colorado (daytime temperatures have hit a high of 5°F!), and I’ve been working from home trying to keep from getting the flu. How are you coping with the winter blues? I’ve seen a lot of bloggers organizing their pantries and whipping up brightly colored juices to boost the immune system. This time of year I kind of enjoy the challenge of cooking from the pantry (while the garden hibernates). One can only eat so much citrus, and so I try to find creative ways to infuse my meals with healthy produce. Today I’ve got a pantry meal for you that’s based on hearty, filling grains and relies on roasted red bell peppers from the jar for color and nutrition. Bon appétit!

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Winter Salad with Grapefruit and Seared Scallops

Winter Salad with Grapefruit and Seared Scallops (c)2013 La Domestique

I love a fresh start. A clean slate. A chance to begin anew. I don’t make resolutions for the New Year, but I do become quieter and more thoughtful. After all the holiday parties and visiting, it’s nice to retreat to my nest with the husband. I’ve been thinking a lot about where I’ve been and where I’m headed in the next year (haven’t we all?). 2012 was my first year earning an income as a freelance writer and photographer, and it’s been a tough (but rewarding) learning curve. I leapt before I looked most of the time, which made for many unique experiences that helped me grow quickly, maybe even too quickly. Because of this I can see I need to go back and attend to the details. I’ve got to slow down and focus on the quality of my work, rather than the quantity. That’s ok, though. I wake up with bright eyes and an open heart, because I still have SO MUCH TO LEARN. My thirst for life cannot be quenched.

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