Tess. Lotta Photography

“You find peace . . . by realizing who you are at the deepest level” – Eckhart Tolle

Kitchen Witch: Uncle Tessa’s Bruschetta

Yum! Tangy bruschetta and a wedge of sharp cheddar–the perfect nosh!

Uncle Tessa’s Bruschetta 

Prep time: 30-45 minutes

I am posting this recipe in honor of my niece, Jillaine. Now a happily married young woman, Jillaine was growing up at the time in my life when I was well imbedded into the punk scene here in LA.

Like my boyfriend at the time, my hair was cropped short, and my typical ensemble was some version of Levis pegged to fit tight, black leather work boots or black canvass lowrider loafers from Kmart, a handmade band t-shirt or a men’s dress shirt pilfered from a thrift store, and a beater leather motorcycle jacket. To the hilariously sharp, smart, and sassy little Jillaine, I registered as a dude.

Armed with her awesome brand of little kid grit, Jillaine defied all adults who tried to correct her when she referred to me as Uncle Tessa. Of course, all her younger cousins, quite assured that the slightly elder Jillaine knew her shit, followed suit. And, to this day, I am Uncle Tessa. I absolutely would not have it any other way.

One holiday season a few years ago, the now adult Jillaine invited family members to give her our go-to fave recipes. She then compiled these into beautiful scrapbooks that she gave to us as gifts (right?! I told you she is clever). This bruschetta recipe was my contribution.

As an assertive antipasto, I enjoy the tangy pop of the cherry tomatoes against the juicy smoothness of peeled tomatoes. The firm red onions and fresh basil show up nicely due to lemon juice and balsamic vinegar. I like it piled high on crusty bread, as is traditional bruschetta. But, being punk rock and all, I add a wedge of sharp cheddar cheese, instead of an Italian variety.

Enjoy! And, cheers to you, Jillaine! I will always be your Uncle Tessa.

 

 

Ingredients:

4 large tomatoes – peeled, seeded, and chopped in chunks (when priced right at the grocery store or farmer’s markets, I use heirloom varieties. In general, I use the organic tomatoes-on-the-vine variety).

1 cup cherry tomatoes – halved then halved again and seeded

11 large basil leaves – chiffonade (how to below)

3 large cloves garlic finely chopped (1-2 tablespoons to your liking). Reserve 1/2 tablespoon

1/2 cup diced red onion (or more if you, like me, dig onions)

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Juice from 1 small lemon (2 tablespoons)

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Coarse sea salt

Fresh ground pepper

Loaf of crusty bread

Ready to peel! Super juicy…

Make:

To peel tomatoes: prepare a bowl with ice and water. Bring a pot of water to a boil and, one at time, add the tomatoes with a slotted spoon. Watch them closely and, once the skins split, spoon them out into the ice bath. They are now ready to peel, seed, and chop.

Slice the cherry tomatoes in half, halving them again to make quarters. Remove seeds.

 

Basil – the queen of fresh herbs!

Chiffonade: pile up basil leaves, roll the pile together, and chop into thin ribbons.

Combine tomatoes with cherry tomatoes in a large bowl. Add remaining ingredients and gently toss/stir until all ingredients are well distributed, adding coarse salt and fresh pepper to taste.

Refrigerate for 30 minutes to let flavors develop.

Bread prep: If you are experienced with your chef’s knife, create a garlic paste by piling the reserved garlic on a cutting board with a pinch of coarse salt. Mash the salt & garlic combo by sliding chef’s knife over it, dragging the combo along the cutting board, using a bit of pressure to mash it together. Scoop garlic mash back into a pile and repeat. Combine mash with olive oil in a small bowl and mix with a fork to distribute garlic into oil. Brush on wedges of crusty bread and toast.

Alternatively, if you are not as confident with your chef’s knife, just rub a whole garlic clove on toasted bread and drizzle with olive oil.

Recipe & photography by Tess. Lotta

Beltane: They are Us

Dandelion in the Sequoias

Here’s to wishing….remembering that we are human. We suffer, love, lose, win, hurt, heal, push, acquiesce. We get crushed by sadness and are transformed by joy. We live. We die. Together. Inevitably.

Though our experiences are vastly different, we are each one of a species. Yet, as we use our differences to create lines between an us and a them, we forge an egoic position, as Eckhart Tolle would say, that weakens the bond of our common humanity. In that moment, we sacrifice our Higher Selves to strive for an identity that casts us as superior, more important, right.

Beltane, a fire Sabbat, reminds us to celebrate life with each other and ignite within ourselves our instinctual need to create and nurture love and friendship—community.  It seems an act of the Universe my weekend has shaped up to include a Beltane ritual tonight and parties with friends on Saturday and Sunday. Hells yeah!

I feel grateful and excited to celebrate my humanness with other humans under the fire of sun, stars, and moon. No lines drawn. No us or them. Just a circle cast in which all are welcome. Here’s to wishes come true.

Happy Beltane!

 

#RadWomenUnite: Courtney Cook

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Courtney as Debbie Harry

For the second installment of the Rebel Beauty Project, I am excited to share my photography collaborations with the talented actress, singer, and writer Courtney Cook. I met Courtney through a friend, and, instantly, I wanted to shoot her.

Cook’s charm is part sharp intelligence, a dash of girlish toughness, easy humor, and a good amount of earned confidence, qualities that speak to her life experience. After our first headshot shoot, I knew Cook was the perfect model for Debbie Harry, one of the women I pay tribute to in my female icons series.

A lifelong singer, Cook has lived and performed in New York and Los Angeles, but set aside singing to focus on acting, a move that netted her roles on shows that include “Parks & Recreation,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” and “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story.”

Pulled by the need to sing again, Cook recently performed her first solo show in LA. As a writer, Cook has not only written an award-winning romantic comedy, but also writes a food blog.

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Pursuing a creative passion in the entertainment industry is not for the weak-kneed. What draws you to singing and acting? Does it drill down to simply a career choice, or does the drive come from somewhere deeper?

The drive most definitely comes from somewhere deeper! I’ve tried doing other things, and I always come back to singing and acting. I think it’s programmed in my DNA!  Performing feeds my soul, and it’s something I have to do no matter what.

With acting, how do you deal with the vulnerability of putting a piece of yourself into a character? Is there a cathartic moment that somehow makes it worth it?

There’s always part of me in the characters I play. I think playing a role gives you permission to be vulnerable; whereas, sometimes in life, we don’t always feel we have permission, and it doesn’t feel safe. It’s fun to let go in a role because it also feels like you’re working through something for yourself.

Shifting artistic focus can bring up a ton of things—fear, liberation, joy. Tell me about your recent choice to shift a chunk of your focus and energy into singing. What tough and/or good pieces have come up for you and how do you feel those are motivating you?

I quit singing for almost 10 years, and fear was one of the reasons. I was a perfectionist, always singing to get something: an agent, a job, a role, etc. I was fearful that I wouldn’t be perfect and get what I wanted from it. It got to where it wasn’t fun for me anymore.

When I started singing again last year, it filled me with such joy! I’m now singing for me and not for an end result, and it’s completely changed things for me! Perfectionism still rears its ugly head sometimes, but I’m trying to not let it take control. I force myself to sing in situations that take me outside of my comfort zone and it’s exhilarating! Usually. Ha!

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Click here for my artist statement on The Rebel Beauty Project. Like the Tess. Lotta Photography Facebook page for a heads up on the next Rebel Beauty post, as well as my photo projects. Thanks for supporting indie artists!

Dial In:

Courtney Cook:

Find her food blog at www.happybellywholeheart.com

IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm2422874/?ref_=nv_sr_1 

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCLZCjugQtH85MuimUFzqbWA

 

Kitchen Witch: Bullet Pesto

© Tess. Lotta

Bullet Pesto

Prep: 30 minutes

I grow monster amounts of basil on our back porch garden, and this rad little recipe is my killer pasta sauce version! Super easy, freaking crazy delicious, and nutritious with whole wheat or a quinoa-rice pasta.

I love my food processor, but, some days, I just don’t have it in me for the clean up. Also, though I have worshipped a Vitamix from afar, I keep opting for photo gear for the money (but, my dream will come true, someday).

So, for crazy busy days when I need an easy clean-up sauce, marinade, or dressing, I opt for my juicing blender—mine happens to be a NutriBullet. I have dedicated the larger container that came with it for marinades, soups, and sauces. I love to mark up anything with a Sharpie!

As my father, Joe “Cap” Lotta, would say, “Mangia tutti” – let’s eat!

When blending in a cylindrical juice blender, you may need to add moisture to some ingredients, like nuts, to get them moving.

Ingredients:

Big ol’ bunch of fresh basil (2-3 cups or large size container at the grocery store)

Extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 cup grated parmigiano-reggiano (fresh or the classic off-the-shelf mix)

Juice of 1 large lemon

1 cup raw almonds (1/4 cup if not saving-see below)

1 cup raw pumpkin seeds (1/4 cup if not saving-see below)

Coarse salt

Black pepper

Room temperature water

2 cloves garlic roughly chopped (less or more, to your taste)

Dry pasta—I prefer rotini to grab the sauce in the ridges

Make:

Roast the almonds and pumpkin seeds together in a toaster oven or stove top in a skillet, stirring frequently until the aromas are released and the nuts turn a richer, slightly darker color. Don’t go too far, as they get bitter. Set aside to cool. Divide out about 1/4 cup of the mixture for pesto and save the rest to add to salads, etc.

Wash and pull basil leaves off stem. I am not a purist on this; if there is some stem, no big deal.

Pre-blend roasted seed/nut combo into small pieces—add a bit of water, if needed, to get it moving thru the blender. We don’t want nut butter—just chunks.

Add all remaining ingredients, starting with a 1/4 cup olive oil and 2-3 tablespoons water. Blend until you have the consistency you like. You can add more olive oil and/or water, S&P, or cheese to your liking.

Refrigerate for about an hour to let flavors develop.

Cook up pasta and ladle out 2 cups of cooking liquid into bowl or measuring cup just before draining the pasta. Drain pasta and return about half of it to the now dry pot. Add back in about a 1/2 cup of reserved liquid. Stir in pesto to coast pasta, adding more pasta as you stir. I like my pasta thick with sauce. If I have any left, I freeze for another recipe.

Recipe & photography by Tess. Lotta

Spring Equinox – Ostara

Balance.

This is the genius of the Vernal Equinox. Day & night are approximately the same length.

For me, this astrological manifestation of the middle is a reminder of how powerful an impact a pause to suspend thought, breathe, and listen can have in one’s life.

Here’s to taking a deep breath!

#RadWomenUnite: Rachel Kann

One of 7 panels for my Eve Mandate series. The Rachel Kann Eve is about confronting the viewer with a woman that radiates a confident and comfortable authority of her body and sexuality, rather than a body sexualized for the male gaze.

The Rebel Beauty Project starts with LA-based poet-Priestess Rachel Kann, a longtime collaborator of mine over multiple lit/poetry & photography projects. Rachel is a super-nova talent and soul-filled human of the highest order.

I asked Rachel to respond to what I have always admired as her seemingly fearless ability to put her work out into the world. From teaching at UCLA Extention, to live poetry and spoken word, video, and her new book, A Prayer on Behalf of the Broken Heart (on Finishing Line Press), Rachel brings her all—fully and without any hesitation.

So, Rachel, for many artists, putting the work out there is a fucking scary experience, at minimum, and can be downright soul-crushing. What is your secret? Is it simply ninja-level courageousness? What compels you to move your work into the world and how do you deal with the emotional aspects of getting your shit out there?

OK, so the answer to this is alarmingly practical and simple. First of all, I do suffer from soul-crushing fear and all the rest. Do I ever! There is only one thing that keeps me consistently creating: deadlines. Yep, I said it. Just good old-fashioned accountability and deadlines.

Even in the creative writing workshops I teach for UCLA Extension and the like, I notice that it’s really the deadlines that lead to the generation and creation of new work. It’s that accountability that my students have to their fellow workshoppers.

And the same thing goes for me. I’m very grateful to write for Hevria. I have a deadline I have to meet. And that is how and why I create new poetry. There is so much fear, so much baggage, so much BS to try to hack your way through… Or hack my way through, I should say… having a deadline you’re accountable for is the only way I have found for myself to circumvent all that.

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Click here for my artist statement on The Rebel Beauty Project. Like the Tess. Lotta Photography Facebook page for a heads up on the next Rebel Beauty post, as well as my photo projects. Thanks for supporting indie artists!

Dial In:

 

Rebel Beauty Project

Welcome to the Rebel Beauty Project!
Putting to work my research training and freelance journalism background with my photography practice, my Rebel Beauty Project is a visual qualitative research study: I’m speculating that Rebel Beauty translates to a personal bravery to Be in a way that resonates with the truth of who you are, the authenticity of your core self, out loud and with your soul, heart, and passion.

Fred Los Angeles – rock drummer, urban cyclist, bad-ass!

I want to know and share what drives Rebel Beauties to push through the blocks, emotional pitfalls, victories, and losses.
Whether we are parents, philosophers, plumbers, or artists, I believe there is Rebel Beauty in all of us. I’m excited to see where my research takes me!
I’m starting the project with photo-profiles of the incredible women I’ve collaborated with in my photography work.
Look for the first post this week!

New Beginnings

Welcome the first blog post on my new website. I’ve managed a few blogs and websites over the years, and I am excited to bring together in one place my devotions to a lifelong rebellious art practice, esoteric mysticism, and the fearless pursuit of a self-defined beauty aesthetic. I look forward to sharing my art and journey!