Macro Monday | Flowers from Mars

Neely Wang Photography

Neely Wang Photography

Neely Wang Photography

Neely Wang Photography

Neely Wang Photography

Neely Wang Photography

Neely Wang Photography

Neely Wang Photography

Neely Wang Photography

Neely Wang Photography

Neely Wang Photography

Neely Wang Photography

Although I believe they have yet to find living organisms on Mars, if flowers grew on Mars, this is what I’d imagine them to look like. These flowers are actually quite ordinary — lilies, daisies, mums, but when viewed at the macro level, coupled with some beautiful blur and shallow depth of field, they take on an other-worldy form. Creation never ceases to amaze me. Happy Monday!

Nom Nom Paleo | Michelle Tam

Neely Wang Food Photography

This past month, I had the privilege of photographing the April event hosted by Fresh Starts Chef Events, a project to support Homeward Bound of Marin, a homeless shelter in Marin County, California, providing food, shelter and job training for those in need. I was super excited for this event because the teacher for the evening was Michelle Tam of Nom Nom Paleo. I’ve been a big fan of Michelle Tam ever since I tried following a paleo diet once upon a time and received her cookbook from a friend. Although becoming paleo didn’t stick, I still love cooking from her cookbook, “Nom Nom Paleo: Food for Humans,” app and blog. It was also through her blog that I decided to buy an electric pressure cooker, which I love for stews and pot roasts — basically whenever I’m feeling in a meaty mood (although I’ve heard you can make a mean pot of beans in this thing). I’ve also used my instant pot pressure cooker to make soup, steam eggs and make congee. I’m not a pre-planner when it comes to dinner, so being able to make pulled pork at 5pm for dinner is pretty awesome.

Neely Wang Food Photography

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Paleo Diet, it’s roughly a diet based on the types of foods that were supposedly eaten by early humans (or cavemen), consisting primarily of meat, fish, vegetables, and fruit, and excluding dairy or grain products and processed food. The hardest part of the Paleo Diet, in my opinion, is the exclusion of grains. You can’t eat grains! No bread, flours, baked goods, rice, pasta, chocolate croissants — ouch. And no beans! But, you can eat lots of meat…and bacon. But what I’ve taken and learned from the Paleo Diet that I truly appreciate is: 1) Modern grains often lead to modern diseases, 2) Eat meat – but grass-fed and organic, and 3) Eat as little processed foods as possible. Plus, throwing a little fish sauce into everything to boost umami is a cook’s best friend, but I think those are more Michelle Tam’s words of wisdom than anything strictly Paleo.

But I digress. Getting back to the event, itself… The menu for the evening began with a tasty Mango & Avocado Salsa with Tostones

Neely Wang Food Photography

The tostones, otherwise known as plantains, were a delicious grain-free alternative to chips. After the event, I tried making the salsa at home, and everyone loved it, except my oldest son who will not touch avocados for the life of him, let alone something that is both sweet and savory. Does anyone else have kids like that? I simply love dishes that are sweet and salty! Except for maybe coconut shrimp. There is something about coconut and shrimp that just does not sit well with me.

I did serve this yummy salsa (mango, red onion, avocado, cilantro, extra virgin olive oil, red pepper flakes, lime) with tortilla chips instead of tostones because I’m a bit deep-fryer phobic. You can find Michelle’s Mango & Avocado Salsa with Tostones Recipe on her website.

The next course of the night was Prosciutto-Wrapped Asparagus Spears with Sunnyside Salad.

Neely Wang Food Photography

I especially enjoyed the prosciutto-wrapped asparagus, although I think just about anything wrapped in prosciutto would be delicious. Prosciutto has become a huge favorite in our household as we’ve pretty much banned all deli-meats due to nitrates. However, all that prosciutto contains is salt and pork – yay!

Neely Wang Food Photography

Here Michelle is wrapping the asparagus around the proscuitto, and then carefully cracking the egg.

Neely Wang Food Photography

Who doesn’t love a fried egg – yum!

Nom Nom Paleo Michelle Tam Fried Egg

Michelle adds the egg to the salad ever so gingerly as to not disturb that precious gooey yolk.

Nom Nom Paleo Michelle Tam Sunnyside Salad

I just like this picture below because she looks so happy — fun to see people enjoying cooking and making others happy with their food!

Neely Wang Food Photography

Recipes for Michelle’s Sunnyside Salad and Proscuitto-Wrapped Asparagus can be found on her website, as well.

The main course of the evening was Slow-Cooker Korean Grass-Ged Beef Short Ribs with Cauliflower Fried “Rice”.

Neely Wang Food Photography

These short ribs were absolutely delicious! So fall-off-the-bone tender and moist. They were made with Asian pear, coconut aminos (similar to soy sauce, but a little bit sweeter and without the soy), garlic, scallions, ginger, fish sauce, vinegar, chicken broth and garnished with cilantro.

Neely Wang Food Photography

I would love to try this recipe in both a slow cooker and a pressure cooker to compare the difference in taste when using each of these appliances, as in this test.

Neely Wang Food Photography

The Cauliflower Fried Rice is actually not really rice; however, in an attempt to replace the grains with vegetables, cauliflower that is finely chopped in a food processor is used instead.

Neely Wang Food Photography

It was hard to love the cauliflower fried rice because fried rice for me just has to be fried rice to truly be fried rice – ha! I think the cauliflower idea is a great way to incorporate more veggies into our diets, which I think most of us could definitely use, but if I’m going to indulge on carbs, I’d rather eat the real thing. My husband really enjoyed it, but he had no idea that she was making a version of “fried rice” and just thought it was some other interesting concoction. I do love how there is cauliflower that is already “riced” and conveniently sold fresh and frozen at Trader Joes, perfect for lazy cooks like me. I’ve added it to soups, and my kids gobbled it up with everything else, having no idea what it was — success!

Neely Wang Food Photography

Bacon in fried rice? Most definitely!

Neely Wang Food Photography

Michelle’s recipes for Korean Short Ribs and Cauliflower Fried Rice can both be found on her blog.

Finally, for dessert, we were served Mexican Chocolate Pots de Creme.

Neely Wang Food Photography

Michelle didn’t have time to prepare this recipe, but I loved that it was made only with dark chocolate (70% cacao or higher), coconut milk, egg yolks, chile powder, salt, cinnamon and vanilla extract. Besides the dark chocolate, there was no additional sugar in this dessert, which I really appreciated, although it’s bitter chocolate flavor is not for the faint of heart. I’ve been know to down 88% cacao dark chocolate like nobody’s business, so I found it to be quite delicious and felt less guilty about eating it than other pot de cremes I’ve had in the past. You can find the Mexican Chocolate Pot de Creme recipe on the Nom Nom Paleo website. I loved how each of her recipes could easily be found on her blog — pretty pictures, witty comments and all! 

It was a wonderful evening, and the students did a great job, as usual! Check back next month for Chef David Lawrence of 1300 Fillmore in San Francisco. I can’t wait to enjoy his southern cooking again

Have any of you tried the Paleo diet? Any success? I’d love to hear about it!

Fresh Starts Chef Events | Chefs John Ash, Mei Ibach, Joanne Weir and Janet Fletcher

Neely Wang Photography

Each month, I have the privilege of photographing the cooking classes hosted by Fresh Starts Chef Events, a project to support Homeward Bound of Marin, a homeless shelter in Marin County, California, providing food, shelter and job training for those in need. In an attempt to streamline my posts about the events, I decided to share with you some highlights from the chef events from the past three months.

Neely Wang Photography

The new year began with the January event, “Revel in the Magic of Mushrooms” presented by Chef John Ash and Chef Mei Ibach. Chef John Ash, renowned chef, author, and food and wine educator, is best known as the “Father of Wine Country Cuisine” and is the owner of John Ash & Company, in Santa Rosa, California. Chef Mei Ibach is one of the wonderful teaching chefs for Fresh Starts Culinary Academy. The entire menu of the evening revolved around mushrooms, including the dessert! I’m a big mushroom fan, so I was excited to see what these world-class chefs would come up with. The four-course menu was accompanied by wines from famed Merry Edwards Winery.

Neely Wang Photography

The menu began with Zen Lemongrass Coconut Soup with Clamshell Mushrooms. So flavorful and tasty! Chef Ibach does a wonderful job mixing sweet, salty, spicy and sour in her dishes.

Neely Wang Photography

 

Neely Wang Photography

The soup was followed by Grilled Trumpet Royale Mushroom Salad with Peppered Maple Walnuts and Redwood Hill Farms Bucheret.

Neely Wang Photography

I love how that honey is slowly oozing out and everyone is patiently waiting for that sweet goodness!

Neely Wang Photography

The main course was a Pan-Roasted Verlasso Salmon with Beggar’s Purse of Maitake Mushrooms

Neely Wang Photography

Neely Wang Photography

These little purses made for a beautiful presentation — and who doesn’t love to receive a present with their meal!

Neely Wang Photography

And the finale, Candied Nameko Mushrooms with Thai Basil-Infused Panna Cotta.

Neely Wang Photography

The dessert was garnished with dried lotus root — a wonderful crispy complement to the creamy panna cotta and chewy candied mushrooms.

Neely Wang Photography

The February Event featured Chef Joanne Weir, who presented dishes from her new book, “Kitchen Gyspy.” Chef Weir is a wonderful storyteller, and just like her book, her teaching is infused with charming stories of how her recipes came about. She is the owner of the restaurant, “Copita Tequileria & Comida” in Sausalito, CA and is the host of the show, “Joanne Weir Gets Fresh.”

Neely Wang Photography

Her menu began with a creamy Carrot Soup with Anise.

Neely Wang Photography

I have never had carrot soup before, so it was fun to try this silky, sweet and savory soup.

Neely Wang Photography

The main course was Sea Bass with Ribbon Squash Skewers and Pistachio-Mint Salsa Verde, accompanied by Pearl Couscous with Lemon and Parsley.

Neely Wang Photography

Pearl or Israeli couscous is one of my favorite accompaniments to meat dishes. I used to have to go to mediterranean grocery stores to find it, but I love how you can now get it at your local Trader Joe’s.

Neely Wang Photography

The salsa verde can be used not only with fish, but also chicken, beef or shrimp.

Neely Wang Photography

The dessert was a delicious Chocolate Pave with Mint Creme Anglaise.

Neely Wang Photography

Once again, Chef Weir auctioned off the tray of dessert she made with all the proceeds going to Homeward Bound.

Neely Wang Photography

March’s Chef Event featured Chef Janet Fletcher, a multiple James Beard award-winning cookbook author and former Chez Panisse chef.

Neely Wang Photography

She shared her love of yogurt, which is showcased in her new cookbook, “Yogurt: Sweet & Savory Recipes for Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner.”

Neely Wang Photography

Chef Fletcher’s menu began with Warm Flatbread with Whipped Feta, Radishes and Spring HerbsSo pretty with all the edible flowers and herbs!

Neely Wang Photography

The salad was Escarole with Avocado and Blood Oranges.

Neely Wang Photography

The secrets ingredient in the salad was fish sauce, which is akin to liquid anchovy, which gives the dressing a wonderful umami flavor. I throw fish sauce in everything — scrambled eggs, soups, even my chili!

Neely Wang Photography

The main course was a delicious Harissa-Roasted Chicken with Chick Peas, Red Onions and Carrots. Harissa, which is a hot red pepper paste, added a wonderful spicy kick to the chicken, and the yogurt makes a great marinade as the lactic acid tenderizes the chicken and the sugar encourages browning.

Neely Wang Photography

Neely Wang Photography

And finally, a simple Yogurt Mousse with Orange Marmalade and Toasted Almonds

Neely Wang Photography

This was one of my favorite desserts from all the chef events — creamy and light with the tartness of the orange marmalade. As I’m getting older, I find it harder to eat rich, heavy desserts, especially late in the evening (yes, 8:30PM is late for me nowadays!), so this was a perfect ending to a delicious meal!

Neely Wang Photography

Whew – that’s a lot of eating! I love all the wonderful stories and recipes these chefs shared with us — these truly are great events for a wonderful cause! Check back next month for Michelle Tam, author of the popular, Nom Nom Paleo! What are you eating nowadays that you simply can’t get enough of? Please share — I’d love to hear!