Sunday, September 26, 2010

Fruits of the Earth, Fruits of Longing

Moroccan Lamb and Asian Pear Tajine. Freehand Embroidery and Watercolor on Paper

Friday I was in a class all day, so i didn't get the news that I had advanced into the next round of "Project Food Blog" until 4pm that afternoon. How exciting!

The challenge: To cook a dish from another culture that is out of my comfort zone.

My initial thought was something Greek, or Turkish, because I love the cuisine, but I knew that it was also important to stay true to my purpose and my cleanse. I sat on my front stoop in the sun, in cut off jean shorts, sipping mint iced tea, the weather tricking me back to summer. I think of myself as an intuitive cook, rarely using recipes, but for this challenge I knew who to look to for inspiration, what tome would guide me on a spice tour that was delicious, nourishing body and soul, and honoring the ground rules that I have been following for the past 5 weeks.

An additional and self imposed challenge to go along with the cooking is to embroider and sometimes paint all of the food that I make. This time it proved very challenging! How does one embroider rice! I think I did a pretty good job, considering the time frame...
Preserved Lemon Rice. Freehand Embroidery and Watercolor on Paper

I decided to embroider this one last minute! The paint was still wet on the scanner! Freehand Embroidery and Watercolor on Paper
Diana Henry is my new favorite cookbook author. She is my foodie muse. Her book, "Crazy Water, Pickled Lemons" is, as one of my diners said: food porn. I browsed the many delectable North African, Mediterranean, and Middle Eastern dishes, and arrived at a perfect late summer menu:


The rice isn't traditional. Couscous is, but that is a grain I just can't eat right now, so I substituted rice. Also, the recipe called for Quince, but there weren't any at the store, so I opted for asian pears instead.

My car was in the shop, so my boyfriend said I could borrow his:
My beau's awesome 1976 BMW 2002. Freehand Embroidery and Watercolor on Paper

I picked up the groceries, and arrived at his house to cook at 7:45. oops! dinner was planned to be at 9, but the recipes called for at least 1.5 hours of cooking, plus all the prep. He had at the very last minute gathered a party of 6 together, and I was excited and nervous to cook this meal, lamb shanks being something I had never prepared before.

the ingredients for everything:

olive oil
cinnamon stick
preserved lemon
stock(used homemade from a chicken I had made the week previous)
lemon rind
lamb shanks
asian pear
fresh figs: turkish and black mission
manouri sheep cheese (for the figs)
salt and pepper

A pretty simple list of ingredients for a delectable and complex meal...and no wheat! no dairy! (except for the manouri sheeps cheese, but that was for the other guests...)
Chilled Avocado and Cilantro Soup. Freehand Embroidery and Watercolor on Paper

The lamb was fairly easy to cook! hooray! I braised it briefly in my favorite Le Creuset pot (the one I found at the Goodwill for $2), and let everything simmer, stirring the spices into the butter, mixing the garlic, onions and rich spices and letting it cook for what seemed like hours, while the fruit reduced in water, filling the room with perfume. I could almost imagine the heat, scents and colors of the far away lands where this food was born.
The soup chilled in the fridge, and I took a hand blender to it. I love these things. The ease in which they blend!
Fresh Figs, Manouri Cheese, Chestnut Honey. Freehand Embroidery and Watercolor on Paper

Everything took a little longer than I expected, we didn't sit down to eat until 10:30, and I made a huge mess chopping onions for some reason...but the guests arrived and played cards, drank wine, ate dates, and joked, as the darkness grew around us, and the evening breeze tangled with the sweet heady scent of the stove.

The end result was a table of smiling, too full people, and one happy cook. Excited that I had challenged myself with a dish that was foreign to me, I tasted success with every taste bud, felt deep gratitude for and from the room of friends, and best of all, I didn't have to clean up the mess...

Vote for me here: Project Food Buzz


Karen said...

Wonderful embroidering work.
I'm in love with the cilantro-avocado soup... and I have yet to try fresh figs. Inspiring, I will probably pick some up this week.

The lamb shanks look amazing. $2 Le Creuset! What a find!

Stay-At-Home-Chef said...

Beautiful all of your artwork! Good luck in the competition.

Gina Ruiz said...

Beautiful drawings! Loved the post and I have to try that soup. Good luck in the competition. You have one of my votes.

Russell at Chasing Delicious said...

I love the embroidery and watercolor. Very unique! The soup sounds delicious too. Good luck!

onlinepastrychef said...

Wowie! All that food + all that painting + all that embroidery + wonderful writing = you've got my vote! Best of luck in Round 2!!

Lori Lynn said...

Your work is charming!
Good luck!

Kelly Lenihan said...

Your meal sounds wonderful and the artwork is so special. I love your blog. (I voted for you too).

Sommer J said...

Loved this! How refreshing and creative! I love the colors and the textures. Good luck!!

Lane aka DinnerandConversation said...

What a cool post! And totally jealous of the $2 le creuset. Good luck in PFB!

Alesia, the home cook said...

Beautiful drawings! Reminds me of Jamie Oliver's Jamie at Home, and I've always loved that kind of approach towards food.

All the best with the contest!:$

Ed (Weekend Food Projects) said...

Wow! Something truly unique! You have my vote!

The Cuisinerd said...

Absolutely loving your blog! Best of luck in #PFB2010!

Amelia PS said...

lovely watercolors. Voted.

Magic of Spice said...

Excellent...Love the art work as well as the dishes :) Plus you got Le Creuset pot for $2, you are now my hero :)

Anna said...

That dinner sounds fantastic and I'm totally jealous of your $2 Le Creuset find. Also, I'm super impressed by your embroidery skills, that's very cool! You definitely get a vote :D

Oh, and if you'd like, stop by and take a look at my entry too:

Skylar Wolfe said...

Looks great, and I love the art! I voted for you

You can see my entry at

Hope you vote for me!

riceandwheat said...

Wow! Painting and embroidering for a post takes some serious dedication - I love your creativity and dedication. Voted!

Lick My Spoon said...

More than one challenge; cooking and embroidery, wonderful and well deserving of a vote! Wish to be at this dinner!
Lick My Spoon

sweet swallows said...

Your embroidering work is gorgeous, in particular the figs. I can't believe I didn't find your blog in the first round, but I'm so glad I found it this time. you've got my vote, hands down.

Tomato Snob said...

Love that you use so many different mediums in your posts. The water colours are splendid. I had to vote for you. Check me out @

Heena @ Tiffin Tales said...

I LOVE the quirky illustrations. My vote is in! Best of luck.

the said...

You do all of this embroidery and watercolor work and cook???? You should win this competition for that reason alone! Beautiful art...both on the page and on the plate. Definitely voting for this one!

Artistta said...

Very cool and inspiring. Greatly enjoyed your post. Good luck in PFB!

Amy (Shiny Cooking) said...

What great art + food. Got my vote with no hesitation. :)

jacobskitchen said...

Great post! Looks delicious, and I LOVE the embroidery. I voted for you!

Good luck! =)

You can check out my PFB post at :

umommy said...

wow! blogging, cooking, painting, embroidery - impressive! you have my vote!

Casey Angelova said...

Your embroidery is amazing. I love the way you capture the food! Best of luck in round 2.

Lauren Fister said...

Wow, I really love your post!!

Ruby said...

Wow - do you have more than 24 hours in the day where you live? How on earth did you find the time to shop, cook, photograph, embroider and watercolour? And write?! Very vote-worthy!

Lindsey @ FRESH AIR + FRESH FOOD said...

Whoa Baby! Your embroidery is beautiful! Foodart. You have my vote!

Stephanie said...

Beautiful art! The food looks delicious too. Good luck - just voted for you!

ohonemorething said...

You've got my vote! First off, I have to say that I loved your work! You are so talented and it was such a nice and refreshing way to read something :) It made me smile a lot. Also, the way your night ended after the challenge is a great finish. I felt the same way afterwards too :)

XOXO Best of luck!

p.s. I think it's also really neat that you stayed true to yourself as well during this challenge. It's such an important quality to have with anything in life really.

Shelly Borrell said...

Very cool -- A double whammy to cook and draw your food. Your photos are beautiful alone and then the artwork, omgosh. Great work! Another vote goes here for sure. I'm glad we get a lot of them. Good luck.

Shelly, Nibbles of Tidbits

Life on Nanchang Lu said...

Your blog is a wonderful discovery, thanks to PFB.

And the incredible Diana Henry? Why isn't she more well-known?? I can't wait for the tomatoes to get really ripe each year so I can make my favourite dish from that cookbook, Crazy Water, over and over again.

Your artworks are exquisite.

All the best,


Speakeasy Kitchen said...

Brilliant embroidery and wonderful blog. You've got my vote!

Butter said...

You are an incredible artist - I love your work in and out of the kitchen. So glad to have found your blog. I will be back often and I am certainly voting for you!

(from Running On Butter)

Libby said...

Your machine embroidery/watercolor work is so well done and such an original approach to the challenges. I'm so impressed!

danasfoodforthought said...

Looks like you created a wonderful meal! I love that you documented it through so many mediums - photography, embroidery, and watercolor! Great post... good luck on round 2!

Anonymous said...

nice opinion.. thanks for sharing....